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Apple reveals new Apple Watch bands for spring

Apple has released a series of Apple Watch bands in new colors and styles just in time for spring. A release from Apple showcases the new looks, which start at $49 and include exclusive Nike bands that color-match with the latest Nike running shoes. Apple has also added new high-end Hermès bands and sportier woven nylon bands for those more interested in using the device as an exercise tool than a fashion statement.

Siri bug allows access to hidden messages on iPhone by asking Siri to read them

A bug discovered by Mac Magazine allows users to access hidden messages on an iPhone just by asking Siri to read them aloud. Apple has long allowed users to hide their notification previews in Messages — displaying only that a new message was received and keeping the contents private until the device was unlocked, and more recently extended this capability to third-party apps. The bug — spotted in both iOS 11.2.6 and the beta of iOS 11.3 — doesn’t affect Apple’s own Messages app, but it does allow messages in third-party apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype to be read aloud to anyone who asks Siri to do so, even when the device is locked. Apple has been made away of the bug but hasn’t commented publicly on the issue. [via 9to5Mac]

Technogym, Life Fitness add support for Apple’s GymKit to more gym equipment

After last year’s showcase of Apple’s GymKit syncing the Apple Watch to Technogym equipment in a Fitness First gym in Australia, Technogym has announced a much wider rollout to make more than 5,000 of its machines in hundreds of fitness clubs all over the world. Users simply tap their Apple Watch on the compatible equipment to track active and total calories burned, distance, speed, floors climbed, incline and pace, resulting in the most accurate measurements possible,” according to the company’s press release. Life Fitness has also partnered with Pure Fitness in Hong Kong and Anytime Fitness in Japan to add GymKit compatibility to some of its cardio machines in select clubs, 9to5Mac reports.

Iovine’s expected exit from Apple Music leaves leadership structure, overall strategy in the air

Apple executive Jimmy Iovine is expected to transition to a consulting role in August, stepping back from daily involvement with the Apple Music streaming service he helped create and brand, The Wall Street Journal reports. Of all the celebrity names who migrated over to Apple when Beats was acquired by the company in 2014, Iovine is the last one still actively involved with Apple’s growth of that brand. Iovine is expected to jump ship when his Apple shares fully vest in August, and how his role at the company will evolve is still an open question given the somewhat nebulous status he has enjoyed during his entire stint with Apple. Iovine has been an important part of Apple Music’s successes — smoothing over a public feud with Taylor Swift and securing exclusive deals with artists like Drake — but he’s also been a source of friction with other high-ranking executives, who have been in the middle of negotiations with artists and labels only to find Iovine was conducting his own separate discussions.

Apple up to 45 vehicles in its fleet of self-driving cars as Uber crash casts shadow on the industry

Apple has grown its fleet of self-driving cars from just three when the program started in April 2017 to a whopping 45 as of its most recent filings, The Financial Times reports. Those filings for legal purposes are the only indication Apple has given that the program even exists, and even sources inside the company still aren’t sure what final form of self-driving technology Apple may eventually offer to consumers, if any. Since Apple is so secretive about the project, it’s also unclear if the company has made any changes after a self-driving Uber vehicle killed a pedestrian earlier this week. Like Uber, Apple requires a human operator inside the vehicle during testing for safety purposes, but it’s unclear if the Uber driver even had time to react to the pedestrian who was killed. Uber has temporarily suspended its own testing in wake of the death, but preliminary reports seem to indicate the pedestrian was at fault in the accident.

Apple changes policy to force developers to go through App Review to edit URLs, ‘What’s New’ text

According to a policy update from Apple, developers will soon no longer be able to change support URLs and the text in the “What’s New” section on the App Store without going through the company’s App Review process again, 9to5Mac reports. Changes to that metadata will now require developers to submit an entirely new app update where up until now the app support URL, marketing URL and update notes were able to be edited at any time. The changes go into effect starting next month.

Apple thought to have two-year lead in 3D smartphone sensors

Most android devices won’t have 3D sensors comparable to this in the iPhone X until 2019, giving Apple a two-year lead in the burgeoning field expected to be worth billions over the next few years, Reuters reports. Three major parts producers said Samsung and others are too far behind Apple to get the tech into customers’ hands this year, leaving Apple out ahead on facial recognition, gesture sensing and immersive experiences for gaming and online shopping. Parts manufacturers Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG said Android producers are struggling to get access to the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers that are central to Apple’s Face ID components.

Leaker’s latest photo shows ‘Blush Gold’ iPhone X he claims is in production

Well-known Apple product leaker Benjamin Geskin has posted photos of a “Blush Gold” iPhone X that he claims is in production now. The tweet includes a professional-looking shot of the back of the iPhone X in a copper-gold color and another grainier shot of a SIM tray in a different gold color. But Geskin has already been wrong about the number of colors the iPhone X would feature at launch and others have jumped the gun on speculation about the gold option being released, so we’ll have to see if the prediction materializes this time. The iPhone X currently only comes in silver and space gray.

Democrats interested in Apple’s download records on Trump administration officials

A memo released last week by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee could put Congress on a legal collision course with Apple if Democrats take back the House of Representatives, The Intercept reports. On page 20 of the document protesting the Republican decision to end the HIC’s Russian collusion inquiry, the Democrats proposed the committee go after Apple’s “records reflecting downloaded encrypted messaging apps for certain key individuals” of interest in the investigation. Encrypted communications app WhatsApp is another target of the proposed inquiry, but the Democrats won’t have subpoena power over any of the companies in question if they can’t manage to flip the House in November.

Report: Apple developing its own MicroLED screens in secret California manufacturing facility

For the first time, Apple is developing its own MicroLED screens for testing purposes, Bloomberg reports. Sources claim Apple has made a “significant investment” in the program designing and producing the new displays at a secret California manufacturing facility near the company’s headquarters. MicroLED screens can be built slimmer than OLED displays while still delivering a brighter display that consumes less power thanks to different light-emitting compounds, but that makes them much more difficult to produce. Apple almost pulled the plug on the project a year ago and is still a few years away from putting its own screens in Apple products, but the move further emphasizes the company’s current trend toward trying to bring the design of more of its components in-house. In the meantime, Digitimes is expecting Apple’s screen suppliers to field up to 270 million orders in 2018, which will far exceed Apple’s best annual iPhone sales of all time.

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Apple seeds sixth beta of iOS 11.3 to registered developers

Only a few days after Apple released a fifth beta of iOS 11.3, today the company has pushed out beta 6 to registered developers, featuring a build number of 15E5216a. This sixth beta release is not yet accompanied by a corresponding tvOS 11.3 beta. The release notes for the latest beta contain no significant changes, suggesting that Apple is primarily polishing iOS 11.3 for a final release, which is expected to be available by the end of this month.

Google Maps adds wheelchair-accessible transit navigation

Google has added support for finding “wheelchair accessible” transit routes to its Google Maps iOS app in order to make getting around easier for users with mobility needs. Users can filter transit directions to only include wheelchair-accessible routes by going into the “Options” section where a new “Wheelchair Accessible” route type will appear alongside the options for best route, fewest transfers, and least walking. Google says the feature is “rolling out in major metropolitan transit centers around the world” starting with London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney, however this initial list may not be entirely comprehensive as it also appears to already be available in Toronto as well.

Apple announces education-focused event for March 27

Apple has announced that it will be holding an education-related event at a Chicago high school on March 27, Bloomberg reports. While specific details are vague, the choice to hold this event away from the usual vicinity of its Cupertino campus makes it a particularly unusual one. The invitation for the March 27 event simply notes that Apple will share “creative new ideas for teachers and students” and lists the location as Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. It’s been several years since Apple has made any major announcements specifically targeted at the education market; the company held a similarly-themed education event in New York City in 2012, where it unveiled the iBooks Author tool, digital textbooks from major publishers on the iBookstore, and the advent of iTunes U as a standalone app targeted at handling online courses.

Apple responds to allegations that it is abusing French developers

Apple has responded to allegations that it has been treating app developers unfairly in France, following yesterday’s report that the French government was planning legal action against both Apple and Google over “abusive commercial practices” stemming from the strict controls Apple imposes on pricing, data use, and contract terms with app developers. In a statement to Le Figaro, Apple emphasized the advantages of its App Store for developers, citing strong relationships with “tens of thousands” of developers in France, and emphasizing that it has paid out over one billion euros to French developers alone. Apple also added that many small startups in France have been able to see their businesses grow to reach users in 155 countries, which of course Apple credits to its investment in iOS, app development, and the App Store. The company also emphasized its stance on privacy and security, noting that it has no access to user transactions within third-party applications.

Apple’s new ‘Families’ page provides a unified collection of tips for parents

Apple has set up a new Families page on its website providing a one-stop collection of tips on all of the parental controls and other options that are available to support parents in helping their kids use their Apple devices safely and responsibly. The new page appears following recent concerns from investors that the company hasn’t been doing enough to protect children from the negative effects of increased device use, and the new Families page emphasis the efforts Apple has put into designing its products with families in mind, noting that the company has “put a lot of thought into helping parents choose what their kids can do with their devices.”

Apple expands ‘Apple Music for Artists’ beta, reveals new iTunes promotional graphics

Apple Music has announced an expansion of the “Apple Music for Artists” beta program, allowing artists to sign up for access to data about how often their music is played, how users are finding it, where their listeners are located and more. The roll out of the beta earlier this year was limited to a few thousand artists, but now the program is seemingly open to all artists who have their tracks listed on Apple Music.

France taking action against Apple for ‘abusive commercial practices’ over app developer agreements

The French government is taking legal action against Apple and Google over “abusive commercial practices” related to app developers, Bloomberg reports. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire took issue with the strict controls Apple imposes on things like pricing, data use and the terms of contracts. “All that is unacceptable and it’s not the economy that we want,” Le Maire said. “They can’t treat our startups and developers the way they do.”

HomeKit-compatible ecobee Switch+ smart light switch available for pre-order, ships at end of March

The much-hyped ecobee Switch+ smart light switch will be landing in stores on March 26, ecobee President and CEO Stuart Lombard announced at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. The Switch+ uses far-field voice technology to provide voice control and is HomeKit-compatible, allowing users to control lights, music and other smarthome devices with Siri. The device has motion sensors and daylight sensors so that the lights can be activated by movement in a room or automated based on the time of day, and a remote sensor feature is coming later in 2018 through a firmware update, which will allow the Switch+ to use sensors to report room temperature to ecobee thermostats. It also has a nightlight feature, but sadly no dimming functionality. The switch also doesn’t work with two-way lights, so the light where it’s installed needs to be controlled by a single switch. The Switch+ is available for pre-order now and will ship later this month.

Apple announces WWDC 2018

Apple has officially announced details for its 29th Annual Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held from June 4 – 8, 2018, once again at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California. While this year’s announcement comes about a month late compared to WWDC 2017, registration has already opened today, two weeks earlier than last year. The opportunity to purchase tickets will once again be offered by random selection, and only those who are members of the Apple Developer Program as of today will be eligible to register for the conference, and registration will close on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.

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