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Apple seeds fourth developer betas of iOS 12, tvOS 12 + watchOS 5

Apple has released a fourth set of betas to registered developers for iOS 12 and tvOS 12, following the usual two-week cycle after the release of the last betas earlier this month. iOS 12 beta 4 features a build number of 16A5327f and is accompanied by release notes outlining resolved issues from the last beta, including fixes to the Activity, Calendar, Phone, and FaceTime apps, as well as fixes to Screen Time, Siri, and Spotlight, among other smaller under-the-hood improvements.

Former Apple engineer pleads not guilty of stealing trade secrets

Former Apple Project Titan engineer Xiaolang Zhang has pled not guilty on the charge of stealing trade secrets from Apple, Reuters reports. Zhang was formally indicted last week on a single count of trade secret theft on the allegation that he had stolen a 25-page blueprint for an autonomous vehicle circuit board. The indictment followed an investigation by Apple’s Product Security Team and the FBI reported last week, with an FBI agent filing describing the circumstances around the charge and Zhang’s arrest as he was boarding a flight to China. At a hearing yesterday in San Jose, Zhang pled not guilty, and has retained his own lawyer who has declined by comment on the case. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California also declined to comment beyond simply acknowledging the indictment.

Lumen releases world’s first pocket-sized ‘metabolism hacking’ device

Digital health and wellness company Lumen has announced a new pocket-sized device that promises to deliver weight management and performance data simply by analyzing a user’s breath. The new pocket-sized device monitors a user’s metabolism by analyzing the amount of CO2 and other gases exhaled by the user, sending the data to a companion iOS app that uses an AI engine to determine whether users are burning carbs or fat for energy and provide immediate nutritional guidance and real-time insights from that data, building a nutrition plan that’s personalized for each user’s metabolism. Plans can be customized to help users lose weight, optimize workouts, or reach other health and fitness goals. Lumen’s eponymous product was developed in partnership with renowned design company frog to provide a premium luxury user experience in a portable device that can be taken anywhere for use on-the-go, and has been in testing since 2017, where the company notes that more than 300 beta testers hav already lost an average of 6.8 pounds in 30 days by following Lumen’s tailored recommendations.

Instapaper parts ways with Pinterest to go it on its own

Popular offline reading and bookmarking service Instapaper has announced that it will be leaving Pinterest to go its own way, only two years after the social media platform acquired it in August of 2016. Instapaper was one of the first apps on the App Store back in 2008, developed by Marco Arment who is more recently best known for the very popular podcasting app, Overcast. Arment sold Instapaper to Digg parent company Betaworks in 2013, and the service was later acquired by Pinterest a few years later. Today’s announcement notes that ownership will be transferred to a new company, Instant Paper, Inc., which is owned and operated by the development team that’s been building and supporting the app since it left the original developer’s hands in the 2013 acquisition. In the announcement, the Instapaper team emphasizes that not much will change in terms of the user experience, since the same team will be working on it, but now separate from the umbrella of Pinterest.

Apple shows off new emoji coming in iOS 12

In honour of World Emoji Day, Apple is providing a teaser of the new emoji that will be coming in iOS 12 as part of the Unicode 11.0 spec. Among the more than 70 new emoji characters being introduced will be a whole slew of additional options for representing people, including red hair, gray hair, curly hair, and no hair, new smiley faces that will include a cold face, party face, pleading face, and a face with hearts. New animal emoji will include a kangaroo, peacock, parrot, and lobster, and new food emoji will include a mango, lettuce, cupcake, and moon cake, alongside many others, including sports emoji, symbol emoji, superhero emoji, and more.

Apple loses key executives in India

Apple has recently lost three key executives in India, slowing down efforts to grow its business in the country, Bloomberg reports. Specifically, the head of national sales and distribution, the head of commercial channels and mid-market business, and the head of telecom carrier sales have all left Apple in recent weeks, reflecting Apple’s continuing struggle to expand its iPhone business in India. Sources familiar with the matter say that Apple’s Indian sales team is now being restructured to try to refocus its strategy. Apple has struggled with Indian regulators and high import tariffs since it began selling a locally produced iPhone SE last year, and while the Indian government has more recently relaxed its rules, Apple’s market share remains in the single digits, despite the fast-growing Indian smartphone market. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly made very positive comments about the inroads Apple is making into India, however the numbers themselves seem to be growing at a much slower pace than many had expected, which according to sources is a result of struggling to build business relationships in the country and gain a better understanding of the Indian consumer market.

Adobe launching full Photoshop for iPad next year

Adobe is planning to shift its mobile app strategy once again with a full release of Photoshop for iPad, Bloomberg reports. The move, which is part of an effort to make its products available across as many device as possible and thereby boost subscription sales, would see a new full-featured Photoshop app unveiled at Adobe’s MAX creative conference in October, with the app scheduled to be released in 2019. The information comes from undisclosed sources, and engineering delays could still alter the timeline, however Adobe’s Chief Product Officer of Creative Cloud, Scott Belsky, did confirm that the company is working on a new cross-platform iteration of Photoshop, but declined to comment on when the new versions would be launched. “My aspiration is to get these on the market as soon as possible,” Belsky said in an interview. “There’s a lot required to take a product as sophisticated and powerful as Photoshop and make that work on a modern device like the iPad. We need to bring our products into this cloud-first collaborative era.”

Apple joins with suppliers to create China Clean Energy Fund

Apple has announced that it will be joining with its Chinese suppliers to create a $300 million investment fund for a new environmental project to connect suppliers with renewable energy sources. The China Clean Energy Fund will work over the next four years to invest in and develop clean energy projects with a goal of producing more than one gigawatt of renewable energy in China — equal to the energy required to power about one million homes. The new fund will help suppliers deal with the complexities of transitioning to clean energy by leveraging greater purchasing power, and will be managed through a third party, DWS Group, a company specializing in sustainable investments. ”At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We’re thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet.”

Apple patent suggests enhanced ‘Find My AirPods’ feature

A new patent reported by AppleInsider reveals that Apple may be working on a way to improve the technology in its “Find My AirPods” feature to allow users to better locate where lost peripherals may be located. Currently, the Find My AirPods feature, which was introduced in iOS 10.3, plays a sound through the AirPods that will help a user locate the lost earbud, but still requires the user to hear it. A new patent application filed last year, titled “Locating Wireless Devices,” would expand on the pinging function by using an array of two or more microphones on a device such as an iPhone to estimate the direction that AirPods are located in, and point the user in that direction. The patent also describes methods for using other sensors to determine the device’s physical location and using sound readings to determine the approximately location of the accessory, guiding the user to the spot with a compass-style user interface. Other possibilities include using audio in areas of the spectrum not normally audible to human ears, allowing for “silent” pinging that would provide location estimation without disturbing nearby users and avoid issues with noisy environments. As with most patent applications, the mere existence of a patent filing doesn’t guarantee that Apple is even working on a feature, much less that it will see the light of day, although this one seems like a logical extension of Apple’s current Find My AirPods technology.

Plex adds Grid View on Apple TV

Last month, Plex announced a new Grid View for its DVR and Live TV feature, allowing users to browse a programming guide in the more familiar user interface. While the new layout was originally only available in the Plex web app, the company has now brought it to the Apple TV platform, allowing Plex fans to take advantage of a more traditional DVR-style experience. Plex added Live TV support to the Apple TV last year, although the original user interface for the feature only allowed users to browse by show, similar to navigating Plex library content.

Apple axes photo printing service, points users to App Store Photos extensions

Apple is shutting down its long-running Photo Print Products service, 9to5Mac has discovered, directing users instead to third-party apps on the Mac App Store that provide Photos extensions — a capability first introduced in macOS High Sierra. The service, which has been available since Apple first launched iPhoto in 2002, began by offering simple prints, later expanding to albums, photo books, and even calendars. Later this year, however, Apple plans to discontinue the service altogether, with a note in the macOS 10.13.6 Photos app that indicates final orders must be placed by Sept. 30, 2018, and pointing users to third-party apps on the Mac App Store that include Photos Projects extensions. The Projects section has also disappeared entirely in the macOS Mojave betas by default, with the File, Create menu now only providing links to a page on the Mac App Store that provides an overview of available extensions.

Apple announces 2018 Back to School Promo offering free Beats headphones with an iPad Pro or Mac

Apple has announced its annual Back to School Promotion for 2018, once again providing free or discounted Beats headphones with select Mac or iPad Pro purchases. This year’s promotion is similar to the deal Apple offered last year, although it notably excludes the iPhone from the list of eligible products. This year, qualifying educational customers purchasing just about any Mac model can choose to receive a free pair of Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones, or BeatsX Earphones, while those purchasing an iPad Pro can receive a free pair of BeatsX Earphones, or alternatively choose to purchase a pair of Beats Solo3 headphones for $100 — basically receiving a discount equal to the price of the otherwise-free BeatsX Earphones.

Apple faces patent lawsuit over ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ feature

Apple is being sued for patent infringement for its “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature that was introduced in iOS 11 last fall, according to a report by Patently Apple. A company by the name of SMTT Technology has filed a formal complaint in the California Northern District Court in San Francisco, alleging that Apple infringes upon a patent that it acquired from inventor Nick Bovis titled “Mobile device inactive mode and inactive mode verification” and claiming that Apple’s “Do Not Disturb while Driving” features mirrors the patent in question, accusing Apple of willful and deliberate infringement of the patent by “[gambling] that SMTM and Mr. Bovis would not have the business acumen or the capital to vindicate their claims under the Bovis Patent.”

Jason Momoa to star in upcoming Apple sci-fi series

Jason Momoa has been cast in a lead role in a new Apple original series, Variety reports. Titled “See”, the series is described as an “epic, world-building drama set in the future.” Momoa, who is known for his five-year role on Stargate Atlantis as well as a one-season stint on Game of Thrones, will play Baba Voss, a fearless warrior, leader, and guardian. Little else is known about the new series, which was written by English screenwriter Steven Knight, who will also serve as executive producer alongside director Francis Lawrence, and Chemin Entertainment’s Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and Kristen Campo. Momoa is the latest in an expanding lineup of big to sign on with Apple, following others such as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Octavia Spencer.

Former Apple engineer charged with theft of trade secrets

A former Apple engineer has been charged by the FBI with theft of trade secrets related to Apple’s autonomous car project, MacRumors reports. Xiaolang Zhang was hired by Apple in late 2015 to work developing software and hardware for Apple’s Project Titan team, which gave him “broad access to secure and confidential internal databases” containing trade secrets and intellectual property for the project. In April 2018, Zhang took paternity leave from Apple and visited China, later telling his supervisor that he would be leaving Apple to work for a Chinese autonomous vehicle startup XMotors. Suspicions raised during Zhang’s resignation meeting led Apple’s Product Security Team to investigate, discovering that he had accessed a significant amount of confidential information just prior to his departure, including information on prototypes such as power requirements, low voltage requirements, battery system, and drivetrain suspension mounts. The FBI affidavit for the criminal complaint notes that “the majority of [Zhang’s] activity consisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from various confidential database applications.” The team also reviewed recorded video footage showing Zhang visiting the Apple campus on April 28 — the time period of the data download — and leaving the labs with a box of hardware.

U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee questions Apple on privacy policies

U.S. lawmakers are asking Apple to clarify its privacy policies, specifically how it handles users’ personal information, speech, and location data, The Wall Street Journal reports. A letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook from the House Energy and Commerce Committee cites several recent media reports as raising concerns about how personal data is collected and used, particularly when users take “active steps to prevent being tracked by their device.” Specifically, the letter sent to Cook notes a November 2017 report that revealed that Android phones “collect information on nearby cellular towers even if location services, WiFi, and Bluetooth capabilities are disabled” and there are no third-party apps installed or even a SIM card inserted into the phone, and requests “Apple’s assistance in understanding whether these reports could apply to Apple products” such as the iPhone, and particularly whether data is being used in “ways that consumers do not expect.” The Committee also sent a similar letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

Security researchers discover method to stall USB Restricted Mode

Security researchers at a well-known security firm have discovered a loophole that can be used to prevent Apple’s new USB Restricted Mode from activating without needing to unlock an iPhone. USB Restricted Mode is a new feature that Apple added in iOS 11.4 that locks down an iPhone’s Lightning Port when it hasn’t been used for a certain time period, requiring the user to unlock the device before they will be able to use Lightning to USB accessories. By blocking all data connections through the Lighting port, the new feature aims to foil many of the recent hardware hacking tools that have emerged to bypass iPhone security, and while iOS 11.4 introduced the feature with a seven-day timer, this was reduced to only one hour in the iOS 12 betas, and in iOS 11.4.1 released this week.

iTunes gains AirPlay 2 support in macOS High Sierra 10.13.6

Apple has added AirPlay 2 support into iTunes as part of this week’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 update. While iTunes has long supported multi-room audio using the standard AirPlay protocol (and AirTunes before that), the addition of AirPlay 2 support for iTunes will allow for faster performance when switching between and streaming to multiple speakers, better audio synchronization, and, perhaps most significantly, multi-device control, allowing you to begin streaming audio from your Mac or PC and then subsequently control it from an iPhone, iPad, or even an Apple Watch. AirPlay 2 support is also naturally included in macOS Mojave, currently in public beta, but will be a welcome surprise for those users who are still on High Sierra. [via MacRumors]

Apple releases iOS 11.4.1, tvOS 11.4.1, watchOS 4.3.2, and HomePod 11.4.1 updates

Apple has released iOS 11.4.1, tvOS 11.4.1, and watchOS 4.3.2, following a quiet beta cycle that involved five relatively uninteresting test releases. The minor bug fix release comes out in the midst of a series [iOS 12 public betas], although it presumably addresses enough minor issues with the prior versions, released in late May to make them worthwhile updates for those experiencing problems. While the release notes during the beta cycle didn’t provide any information on what the new versions would address, the final release notes for iOS 11.4.1 indicate that today’s update fixes an issue that prevented some users from viewing the last known location of their AirPods in Find My iPhone and improves the reliability of syncing data with Microsoft Exchange accounts. With iOS 12 expected to arrive in September, it seems likely this will be the last iOS 11 update that we’ll see. Release notes for tvOS 11.4.1 and watchOS 4.3.2 are considerably more vague, suggesting only minor fixes. An 11.4.1 update for HomePod also appeared today, similarly listing only unspecified bug fixes and performance improvements.

Microsoft bringing Windows Movies & TV to iOS

Microsoft is planning to release an iOS app for its Windows Movies & TV service, according to a new report by Windows Central, in a move intended to bring more of Microsoft’s presence onto the iOS and Android platforms following its own departure from the mobile space. This latest news follows the company’s rollout an iPad-optimized version of its Edge browser earlier this year, along with continuing advancements in its Microsoft Office suite of mobile apps for iOS. While Microsoft’s Movies & TV service isn’t a frontrunner compared to iTunes, an iOS app will be welcome news for users who have invested in Microsoft’s video content ecosystem, as well as helping Microsoft gain more customers for the service, which is currently available on Windows 10 PC and Xbox.

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