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printed June 26, 2016
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Walmart Pay Now Available In 16 States

Friday, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart this week expanded the reach of its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, to a total of 16 states. Walmart Pay was already available in Alabama. This week, the service went live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Walmart Pay works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart said it expects to complete its rollout by the end of summer. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own.


Verizon Adds Casting Support to iOS go90 App

Jun 21, 2016, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless updated its go90 mobile video app this week, making it possible to push content from the iPhone to TVs via Apple TV and Chromecast. Verizon says the app has a new design with simplified navigation, and now more visibly curates video content based on category, such as action, comedy, drama, or reality. go90 for iOS is more social than ever, allowing iPhone owners to share clips or full episodes via email, text, Facebook, and Twitter. Users willing to register the app will be able to save favorite shows and actors, as well as leave comments on episodes and clips. Verizon Wireless' go90 app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon hasn't said if a similar update is on deck for the Android version of go90. The service is free to most smartphone users, regardless of carrier.


Ultimate Ears Adds Google Now and Siri to UE Boom 2 Speaker

Jun 21, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ultimate Ears' high-end Bluetooth speakers now allow Android and iPhone owners to use voice prompts to control their music. Ultimate Ears is rolling out a firmware update for the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom that adds Google Now and Siri support. The update must be installed via the Ultimate Ears mobile app. Once added, smartphone users can ask Google Now or Siri to play their favorite songs, albums, or playlists. According to Ultimate Ears, its speakers are simply acting as a microphone. Voice commands are based on those already supported by Google Now or Siri, which means people can address Google Now and Siri via the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom using any language those services support. Similarly, people can interact with any music apps Google Now and Siri support, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music. A quick press of the Bluetooth button on the speaker itself puts the speaker in listening mode, allowing people to use voice commands to change songs. Ultimate Ears says its mobile app does not need to be running on the associated phone in order to use the feature. The Ultimate Ears mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The UE Boom 2 costs $180 and the UE Megaboom costs $250.


Walmart Kicks Off Walmart Pay Trial In Alabama

Jun 16, 2016, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today launched its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, at 120 of its retail stores in Alabama. The service, announced late last year, works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart initially expected to deploy the technology around the country by mid-year, but Alabama is the first statewide deployment so far. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. CurrentC, another mobile payment app developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange, was recently cancelled. Apple and Google have both outlined plans to expand their mobile payment services to the web in the months ahead.


Samsung to Buy Cloud Company Joyent

Jun 16, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to acquire Joyent, a U.S.-based cloud services provider. Samsung will use Joyent's assets to support various products, including mobile devices, internet of things, and its own cloud-based software. Samsung's competitors, such as Apple and Microsoft, offer cloud services like iCloud and OneDrive to help tie together their respective ecosystems. Joyent will help Samsung fill that gap in its online services. Joyent will continue to operate as a standalone company and will retain its current client base. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.


iOS 10 Won't Work on Older iPhones

Jun 14, 2016, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has indicated which iPhones and iPads will be able to run the newest version of iOS, and as always older devices are left out. iOS 10 is compatible with all versions of the iPhone from the 2012 iPhone 5 through the 2016 iPhone SE. The iPhone 4S and older models will not be able to run iOS 10. Similarly, iOS 10 will run on all models of the iPad from the 2013 iPad 2 Mini through the 2016 iPad Pro 9.7. The original iPad, iPad 2, iPad 3, and original iPad Mini will not be able to run iOS 10. Only the sixth-generation iPod is compatible with iOS 10. iOS 10 will be available to the public in beta form starting in July, with the full release expected in September.


Apple Steps Up Privacy Protections In iOS 10

Jun 14, 2016, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple said it took steps to improve privacy in iOS 10, which adds a number of tools to help protect end users. With iOS 10, iMessage, FaceTime, and HomeKit will use end-to-end encryption, which makes data unreadable by anyone other than the sender/recipient. Apple said one of iOS 10's best new features, the revamped version of Photos, uses on-device intelligence to identify people, places, and things, but does not use that data to build profiles of users. Moreover, iOS 10 adopts what Apple calls Differential Privacy. This method allows Apple to analyze the usage patterns of large groups of iPhone and iPad users without providing Apple or its partners with any individually-identifying factors. Apple says Differential Privacy will help with the QuickType keyboard, Spotlight link suggestions, and Lookup Hints in Notes. Apple claims Differential Privacy will allow it to collect useful and shareable data that can't be tied to any one person.


Apple Unbundles Huge Number of Apps from the iPhone, Allows Users to Delete Them

Jun 13, 2016, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 3:35 PM

Apple today pulled a number of its own, core apps out of iOS and dumped them into the iTunes App Store. Apps such as FaceTime and Mail — made by Apple — have only received updates once per year when Apple updates the entire iOS. Now, these and other apps populate the iTunes App Store and will presumably see more frequent updates apart from OS-level updates. The apps added to iTunes include Calculator, Calendar, Compass, Contacts, FaceTime, iCloud Drive, Mail, Maps, Music, Notes, Podcasts, Reminders, Stocks, Tips, Videos, Voice Memos, Watch, and Weather. Apple did the same with a handful of iPad apps. The company didn't say if or when these apps might begin to receive updates. Perhaps more importantly, iOS 10 allows iPhone users to delete unwanted stock apps for the first time. For example, the Stocks, Notes, Watch, and Weather apps can all be removed at will. This should help people free up space on their iPhone, as well as make it easier to manage app arrangements on the home screens. Apple notes that removing built-in apps may impact other system functions. For example, removing the Weather app means Weather won't be available via CarPlay or in the widget tool.


Swift Playgrounds App Meant to Teach Kids to Code

Jun 13, 2016, 1:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced Swift Playgrounds, an app targeted to help kids learn how to code using Swift. Swift is the newer iOS programming language Apple introduced last year. The Swift Playground app is available to the iPad. It pairs instructions with actions and helps kids see how code generates viewable actions. Lessons are presented in series, but can be consumed at will. It includes code libraries to easily insert code to set repeat actions, for example. Swift Playground also works with the iOS SDK and can handle more advanced coding. Swift Playgrounds will be part of the iOS 10 developer beta. It will be available through the public iOS 10 beta in July, and to all via the App Store in September.

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Apple Overhauls iMessage to Compete with Snapchat and Messenger

Jun 13, 2016, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 1:43 PM

Apple today showed off a new version of iMessage bound for iOS 10 that should help the app compete with the likes of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. The new iMessage app makes it far easier to find and use emoji, which now appear bigger on the screen. A tool can automatically find every word that can be "emojified" and a simple tap will convert those words to the corresponding emoji. iMessage gains new emotion bubbles that convey the intensity of messages with small, medium, large, and huge text/animations. Users can create new stylized photos, and recipients can now react to those photos with "likes" and such. Apple Music previews shared through iMessage are playable without leaving iMessage. Most importantly, iMessage is now open to third-party developers. Apple believes developers can do really interesting things by adding their own extensions and functions to iMessage. For example, iMessage can support stickers that can be moved around and placed on photos before they are shared. Apple also showed off an app that makes it possible to collaborate on a lunch order through iMessage. The new iMessage is available on the iPhone and iPad, while the Mac and Apple Watch can receive (though not create) the richer messages.

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Apple Home App Ties Together Home-Based Tech

Jun 13, 2016, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today showed off Apple Home, a new app based on HomeKit to help control connected devices around the home. Apple Home will work with any HomeKit-compatible gear so people can adjust lights, open garage doors, and adjust the thermostat, and even interact with video doorbell apps. Apple Home will be part of iOS 10, which should be available in the fall.

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Apple Retunes Apple Music

Jun 13, 2016, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced an entirely new version of Apple Music. Apple redesigned the app from the ground up to improve the user experience. It includes new navigation tools, bigger buttons, richer artwork, and more functional playback controls. Users will be able to find locally stored music much quicker, search for new artists, and share playlist with ease. Apple says Apple Radio will include more stations that are simpler to search through and listen to. The new Apple Music will be available to the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Android Devices at some point in the future.


Apple to Make Siri Available to Third-Party Apps

Jun 13, 2016, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said third-party developers can now access Siri and add Siri to their own applications. This means iPhone and iPad owners will be able to ask Siri to perform a much wider range of actions. For example, WeChat has added Siri and users will be able to say, "Hey Siri, send a WeChat messages to Mom." Some of the apps prepared to add Siri include Snapchat, Shutterfly, Internet, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, Runtastic, AliPay, SquareCash, Vonage, Skype, and many others. Apple didn't provide specifics about the APIs involved, but Siri can handle followup questions and understand a conversation thread better than before. All of Siri's new features will be available to iOS and MacOS devices, as well as through CarPlay, later this year.


Apple Reveals iOS 10 Features

Jun 13, 2016, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 1:30 PM

Apple today showed off iOS 10, what it calls the biggest release of iOS ever for both end users and developers. To start, the platform changes up the lock screen, making it easier to access the camera, notifications, Control Center, and widgets. A shake-to-wake feature lets people turn on their phone by shaking it as they raise it up. Widgets have gained the power to show dynamic content, including live video. Many of the improvements center on the 3D Touch functionality, which will only be available to newer iPhones. Siri in iOS 10 will be much more advanced because Apple is opening Siri up to developers. Siri can now handle more conversational language requests and interact with apps such as Skype, WeChat, ShutterFly, and others. iOS 10 brings Siri's smarts to the QuickType Keyboard, too. For example, Siri can automatically schedule a lunch date based on comments in iMessage regarding restaurants, dates, and times. The QuickType Keyboard supports current location, contact information, calendar availability, and more. iOS 10 makes changes to Photos, including better organization based on location data. Moreover, Photos adds advanced visual calculations so the app can automatically find and organize photos based on faces, objects, and scene recognition. Apple also uses new AI to cluster photos related based on people, scene, and location to automatically create albums. Apple says a new user interface makes the collections easy and engaging to use. Photos gains new editing tools, too, allowing people to add filters and to photo and video galleries. Apple Maps sees a design refresh, with simpler search tools. Navigation has been simplified so it is quicker to understand and access route details, such as gas stations or restaurants. Apple is opening up Maps to third-party developers, so others can add extensions to Maps to book reservations or hail Uber rides. iOS 10 features a new version of Apple Music. Apple News has been refreshed to include a new design, subscriptions, and breaking news alerts. iOS 10 adds an app called Apple Home, which integrates with HomeKit-comaptible gear around the house to control connected gear. The revised platform from Apple also now plays better with VoIP apps, permitting incoming calls from any app to reach the lock screen. Last, the iMessage app gains rich links, so users will see previews of links directly in iMessage. The app works better with the camera, as well. Emoji will appear three times bigger in conversations, and the keyboard can predict which emoji best fits the convo. People can easily control the size of text bubbles to convey volume. Apple is previewing iOS 10 to developers starting this week. A public beta will be available soon, with the final release expected in the fall.


MacOS Sierra Works Better with iOS and Adds Siri

Jun 13, 2016, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says the next version of its desktop operating system, renamed MacOS, will work better with iPhones and iPads. Apple has made improvements to its Continuity feature so its is easier to pass stuff between iPhones and Macs. For example, Apple says a universal clipboard will allow you to paste text copied from an iPhone onto a text field on a Mac computer. Changes to iCloud give people more free storage (150GB), which Apple believes will allow people to sync more personal files and content between Mac and iOS devices. MacOS will also take advantage of Apple Pay, which will soon be available across the web. It will allow iPhone owners to verify purchases via TouchID on their smartphone or on their Apple Watch. Apple says a large number of online retailers are prepared to add Apple Pay support to their sites. Other new features headed to MacOS Sierra include tabbed apps, picture-in-picture support for online videos, and Siri. Siri is accessible directly from the MacOS dock, and includes search history with savable results that can be shared with others. Siri is able to handle many of the same tasks as on the iPhone, such as performing searches, sending messages, and setting reminds. MacOS Sierra is available to developers starting today, a public beta will launch in July, with general availability scheduled for the fall.

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Apple TV Gains New Remote App, Single Sign-On

Jun 13, 2016, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 2:08 PM

Apple today talked about new features headed to the Apple TV. To start, Apple is refreshing the Apple TV remote application so that it mirrors the tools and functions that are available to the Siri Remote for Apple TV 4.0. This will allow iPhone owners to access Siri and the same navigation functions directly on their handset. Siri has been improved for tvOS, too. For example, Siri can now search for movies via category. Siri can also be used to search through YouTube for videos via keyword. The new build of tvOS solves a major pain point for Apple TV users: signing into cable-based apps or television stations. The refreshed tvOS will provide a single sign-on process that allows people to register with their cable TV provider once and then automatically access all cable-controlled content in any app on the Apple TV. Apple is releasing new tools for developers, too, such as ReplayKit for streaming and recording games, and PhotoKit for better photo/video management. The developer preview of tvOS is available starting today and the general release is scheduled for the fall.


Apple WatchOS 3.0 Focuses On Speed Improvements

Jun 13, 2016, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 12:28 PM

Apple today announced WatchOS 3.0, a forthcoming update to its wearable platform that will provide speed and usability improvements throughout. Chiefly, Apple says WatchOS 3.0 will allow apps to launch instantly. Moreover, apps will update quickly both in the background and when launched so they display new content as soon as opened. The UI includes a new dock accessed by the side button, and a new control center accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the screen. These new tools make it simpler to access apps and control toggles. Replying to messages offers new options, including smart replies and scribbling directly on the screen. WatchOS makes it easier to switch and change watch faces; initiate workouts; and access notifications. WatchOS 3.0 adds an SOS function that will automatically call 911 with a long-press of the button in times of need. When the call concludes, the Watch will alert emergency contacts complete with medical status and map details about the wearer's location. The revised platform allows users to share fitness data throughout the day, sort of how FitBit lets people see one another's step counts and other progress. The company worked with disability fitness organizations so wheelchair-bound Apple Watch owners can track their activity, too. A new app included in WatchOS 3.0 called Breathe can be used to schedule and perform deep-breathing and calming exercises throughout the day. Last, Apple is making new APIs available to developers to expand the functionality of their own apps, such as including Apple Pay, or accessing speaker audio, embedding inline audio, and more. WatchOS 3.0 will be available to the Apple Watch later this year.


Apple Making Changes to App Store

Jun 8, 2016, 2:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today informed developers that some changes are headed to the iTunes App Store. Developers will be able to offer auto-renewable subscriptions that don't require subscribers to constantly re-up. Developers are being given more control over subscription pricing, and will be rewarded when customers enter the second year of a subscription with a grate share of the revenue. Moreover, developers will be able to pay for search ads that appear when consumers search for apps in the App Store. Apple said these changes will arrive at some point in the fall months, likely close to the arrival of iOS 10.


MCX to Discontinue CurrentC On June 28

Jun 7, 2016, 6:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Merchant Customer Exchange said that its CurrentC mobile payment service will be shut down in its current form later this month. "We will be concluding our beta on June 28, 2016," said the MCX web site. "Please stay tuned for new information on CurrentC as our future plans evolve." CurrentC is a mobile payment service created by a collection of retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, Dunkin Donuts, Kmart, Old Navy, Kohl's, Lowes, and others. It was meant to compete with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. The service was initially beta tested in Columbus, Ohio. Last month, MCX delayed the national rollout of CurrentC and said it planned to evaluate its future. Now, according to the MCX web site, the organization said it has "not yet determined the future timing of CurrentC, but we will keep you posted." None of the retailers that supported CurrentC have announced plans to support the other mobile payment services being used by today's smartphone owners.


Google's 'Motion Stills' Makes GIFs from iOS Live Photos

Jun 7, 2016, 2:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released an app for iPhones called Motion Stills. Google created the app in order to take advantage of Apple's Live Photos, as captured by the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Live Photos can be shared with other Apple devices and through Facebook, but not other social networks. With Motion Stills, Google uses its own video stabilization technology to freeze the background portions of Live Photos while allowing the subject/foreground to move independently. The end result is a looping GIF that can be shared easily via most social media apps. The app also allows iPhone owners to merge looping GIFs into a larger moving picture. Motion Stills is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Immersion Files Patent Complaint Against Apple

Jun 7, 2016, 11:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. International Trade Commission today said it plans to investigate allegations made by Immersion that Apple and AT&T are violating its patents. Immersion develops touchscreen and haptic technology and says Apple and its partner AT&T are infringing on those patents. Companies often use the ITC to file patent lawsuits due to the agency's ability to ban products from entry into the country. Apple and AT&T did not respond publicly to the complaint.


KFC to Accept Android, Apple, and Samsung Pay

Jun 1, 2016, 2:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

KFC said its U.S restaurants will soon support Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. Some stores will accept the three mobile payment services beginning today, and KFC expects all stores to support Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay by the end of the summer. KFC's deployment is notable in that it supports multiple services at once. Android Pay and Apple Pay require NFC-equipped retail terminals, while Samsung Pay can use NFC- and MST-based terminals. KFC said it will accept mobile payments at the drive-thru as well as in-store. The deployment is part of a series of investments that KFC is making to improve its stores.


Caltech Sues Broadcom, Apple Over WiFi Patents

May 31, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Caltech has filed a lawsuit against Broadcom and Apple and alleges the two firms are using its patented technology without permission. The patents in question, granted to Caltech between 2006 and 2012, cover 802.11n and 802.11ac WiFi technologies, which improve transmission speeds and reduce the hardware needed for WiFi radios. Caltech says the iPhone 5 and all subsequent iPhones violate the patents. It is seeking to halt sales of the devices and recover monetary damages. The WiFi modules in question were made by Broadcom. Neither Apple nor Broadcom commented on the matter.


Spotify Debuts New $15-Per-Month Family Plan

May 23, 2016, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify today reduced the cost of its family plan and made it competitive with offerings from Apple and Google. Moving forward, the Spotify family plan costs $14.99 per month and supports up to six individual users. Each user is able to create and manage their own playlists. The old plan cost $30 per month for five users. Spotify's family plan now costs the same as the family plans sold through Apple Music and Google Music. The Spotify family plan offers on-demand, ad-free, and offline music. Spotify is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


AT&T Adds More Phones to Extended BOGO Promo

May 20, 2016, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added a handful of new handsets to a buy one, get one free offer the carrier has had in place since February. The extended BOGO promotion now applies to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the Microsoft Lumia 950, the HTC One A9, and the Kyocera DuraForce. The other handsets already included in the offer are the Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G5 and V10. The offer lets new and existing customers buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 months. The offer is available through June 30.


Sprint Rolls Out BOGO Offer for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

May 20, 2016, 9:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today launched a buy one, get one free promotion for Apple's latest iPhones. The offer includes both the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. Customers must have an eligible upgrade and initiate at least one new line of service in order to qualify for the offer. Sprint said customers may purchase the iPhones on a monthly installment plan, lease the iPhones, or lease one and buy the other. However customers choose to pay for the iPhones, the cost of the second handset will be offset by a service credit applied each month. Sprint is also offering to cut $200 from the price of the latest iPads for customers who buy a new iPhone and iPad together on an installment plan. Sprint didn't say how long the buy one, get one offer will be available. It has offered similar programs for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 smartphones.


CurrentC, an Apple Pay Competitor, Is Delayed

May 17, 2016, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 17, 2016, 2:23 PM

MCX, the consortium of retailers including Walmart and Target, has postponed the national rollout of its mobile payment service, called CurrentC. MCX tested CurrentC in several markets and has decided to step back from the roll out for the time being. "Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the immediate term on other aspects of our business including working with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to enable and scale mobile payment solutions," said CEO Brian Mooney in a statement provided to TechCrunch. The company plans to lay off some staff in the meantime. Walmart, Target, and other retailers have shied away from Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay as they worked to develop CurrentC. It's not clear if any of these retailers will adopt competing mobile payment services to fill the gap.


Apple Releases iOS 9.3.2

May 16, 2016, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 9.3.2 available to iPhones, iPads, and iPods. The update mainly addresses bugs. For example, it resolves an issue that impacted Bluetooth audio quality on the iPhone SE. It also fixes a problem that prevented people from searching through the dictionary. The update adds one new function, allowing people to use Night Shift and Low Power Mode at the same time. iOS 9.3.2 is free to download and install over the air.

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FCC, FTC Query Carriers and Phone Makers Over Security

May 9, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.


Apple Partners with SAP for Business Apps

May 5, 2016, 2:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it has partnered with SAP to help developers create better business apps for the iPhone and iPad. The idea is to combine the tools offered by Apple and SAP so developers can create native iOS apps that are able to reach into SAP's business intelligence systems. "Millions of SAP users will have access to critical data with more ease, speed, and efficiency than ever before," explained Apple. The companies are preparing a new SAP HANA Cloud Platform SDK that will give businesses the ability to quickly and efficiently build their own iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad based on SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Apple believe this new partnership with SAP will help it win over more business customers and convince them to adopt the iPhone or the iPad.


Dish Will Send a Tech to Your House to Fix Broken Phones

May 3, 2016, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dish today launched a new service called Smart Phone Repair that involves technicians making house calls. Smart Phone Repair is available to Dish and non-Dish consumers. Dish charges a $35 travel fee to send a tech, who can replace broken screens or dead batteries for the Apple iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus. Dish says techs can fix one or many phones once on site, and pricing for the repairs will be the same nationwide. Dish plans to expand the service to other handsets over time. Dish mentioned that it uses "respected third-party replacement parts," which means it does not use genuine Apple screens or batteries. Dish offers next-day appointments, available seven days a week, in all 50 states. The company is pitching the service as a more convenient way to deal with phone repairs. Pricing varies by model.


Apple Music for Android Adds Music Videos

Apr 29, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform and added access to music videos. Apple says thousands of music videos are now available to Android users, allowing subscribers to browse through new videos or search for specific songs or artists. The updated app also makes it possible to sign-up for or upgrade to a Family Membership, which supports up to six family members. Apple Music costs $10 per month for a single user or $15 for families. The app itself is free to download from the Google Play Store.


First Apps Created with Apple's CareKit Make Their Debut

Apr 28, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and partners are making the first wave of CareKit apps available today. Apple announced CareKit at a media event last month. It is similar to ResearchKit and helps healthcare providers and organizations create health-focused applications for the iPhone. The first four apps include Glow Baby for maternity, Glow Nurture fertility tracker, One Drop diabetes monitor, and Start depression medication tracker. CareKit is composed of four modules that interact with one another. It can be used to help people manage wellness, track disease symptoms, log fitness metrics and/or statistics and then share that data directly with their healthcare provider. On the backend, the health data can be managed and viewed through customizable dashboards. While these four CareKit-based apps are being made available to consumers via iTunes, CareKit itself is a developer tool. Apple plans to release CareKit to developers via GitHub.


Apple Extends iPhone Upgrade Program to Online Sales

Apr 26, 2016, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple is now offering consumers the option to select its iPhone Upgrade Program when purchasing an iPhone via the Apple web site. Apple first rolled out the program last year with the debut of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. It packages together the price of an iPhone and AppleCare into a single monthly device payment. After 12 months, consumers can trade in the iPhone for a new one. Pricing for the 16 GB iPhone 6s starts at $32.41 per month, while pricing for the 16 GB 6s Plus starts at $36.58 per month. Prices for higher capacity models are a bit more. The iPhone SE is not included in the iPhone Upgrade Program, but Apple is accepting trade-ins toward the SE that can knock the monthly price to as little as $10.


Apple to Require All Watch Apps Run Natively

Apr 23, 2016, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple warned developers that by June 1 all apps submitted to the App Store for the Apple Watch must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK or later. Native apps run on the Apple Watch itself, rather than on an iPhone. Apple added support for native apps to watchOS last fall. Native apps perform better on the wearable.


Gov. Unlocked iPhone In NYC Drug Case without Apple

Apr 23, 2016, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Justice Department said it received help unlocking an iPhone involved in a drug case in New York City and has withdrawn its lawsuit against Apple. The government originally sought to compel Apple to unlock the device. In March, a magistrate judge sided with Apple and ruled the government can't force companies to hack their own products. The government initially appealed that decision. This week, however, the case took a turn. "[Thursday] evening, an individual provided the passcode to the iPhone at issue in this case," said the Justice Department in a letter sent to the presiding judge. "The government used that passcode by hand and gained access to the iPhone. Accordingly, the government no longer needs Apple's assistance to unlock the iPhone, and withdraws its application." Federal prosecutors didn't say who provided the passcode. The owner of the phone, who has already been convicted, claimed he didn't remember the phone's passcode. This is the second time the government was able to unlock an iPhone after initially saying it couldn't. The other, more prominent case involved the device owned by the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting. Apple declined to comment.


HTC Brings AirPlay to Older Phones Via HTC Connect

Apr 15, 2016, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The HTC 10 may be the first Android smartphone to ship with support for Apple's AirPlay protocol, but HTC is adding the feature to its older handsets, too. HTC has updated its HTC Connect application for devices such as the One A9, M9, and M8. With the updated app aboard, these older phones are now able to stream audio content to AirPlay connected speakers. HTC is licensing AirPlay from Apple. HTC Connect supports a wide range of streaming protocols, including Chromecast, DLNA, and Miracast. Consumers who own HTC phones can update HTC Connect for free from the Google Play Store.


HTC 10 First Android Phone to License Apple's AirPlay

Apr 12, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The HTC 10 smartphone, which runs Android, is the first to officially license Apple's AirPlay media streaming technology. The phone ships with a wide range of media streaming protocols as part of its HTC Connect software feature, including Google's ChromeCast, Qualcomm's Miracast, DLNA, and DisplayPort. AirPlay is one of the options in HTC Connect, which can be accessed quickly with a three-finger swipe. HTC said its AirPlay license allows the 10 to stream audio to AirPlay-connected speakers. Apple hasn't said if other Android phone makers plan to offer similar functionality.

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Gov to Continue Fighting Apple Over iPhone in Drug Case

Apr 8, 2016, 12:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. Department of Justice says it has appealed a ruling that prevents it from forcing Apple to unlock an iPhone in a New York drug case. The Justice Department said, "The government continues to require Apple's assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant." It has filed the appropriate paperwork with the court overseeing the case in Brooklyn. This matter is different from the case the FBI brought against Apple over the San Bernardino shooter's phone. In that case, a third party helped the FBI decrypt the contents of the device. The FBI says, however, the method used to access the San Bernardino phone does not work on the New York phone. A magistrate judge ruled in February that the court can't force Apple to assist in the New York case. The Justice Department has already asked a more senior judge to review the decision. Today's appeal is in addition to that action.


Bill Would Compel Companies to Break Encryption

Apr 8, 2016, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A new bill introduced by members of the House and Senate would force smartphone makers to crack encryption on devices any time law enforcement asks. A draft of the bill, submitted by Senators Diane Feinstein of California and Richard Burr of North Carolina, says tech firms "must provide in a timely manner responsive, intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information." Feinstein and Burr have been threatening such legislation since last year, but the notion has taken a new direction ever since the FBI asked Apple to help decrypt an iPhone and Apple refused. The bill doesn't spell out criminal or civil penalties that might be involved for companies that refuse. If passed into law, the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 would largely negate the benefits of using encryption on mobile devices, which are meant to protect personal information.


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