Microsoft has made good on its promise to make Cortana available to iOS devices. The company polled Windows Insiders earlier this month to gauge interest in the idea and received enough feedback that it has begun rolling out Cortana in beta form to those interested in testing. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant, which first debuted in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Eligible beta testers will receive an email with information on how to download the app. The beta software is being distributed through Apple's TestFlight program, which functions apart from the iTunes App Store. TestFlight allows beta-class apps to be installed on iOS devices. Typically, iPhone apps can only be installed directly from the App Store. TestFlight limits beta testers to a maximum of 2,000. Cortana is already available to Android devices.
Vine has updated its iOS app and made it compatible with the Apple Watch. The app lets people watch Vines from creators labeled as favorites as well as featured loops curated by Vine. Users can also like and revine loops from the Apple Watch, as well as see cumulative loop counts. The included Vine watch face lets users jump into the app quickly from the watch's home screen. Vine is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Skype improved its app for the iPhone and iPad today with support for call and calendar actions. Skype 6.6 now highlights phone numbers, addresses, times, and dates. Tapping on highlighted text starts the corresponding action. For example, tapping a phone number within a message will bring up the Skype dialpad with the number preloaded, or tapping an address will open Apple Maps and search for the location. Similar actions are available for the calendar, as well. Skype will automatically set up events and pull in any relevant details from the message thread. The calendar appointment will include a Skype chat URL in the notes, too, that goes back to the message. Last, Skype 6.6 improves multitasking by making it easier to return to Skype audio/video calls from the instant messaging or contact sections of the app. Skype 6.6 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Apple has made a fourth beta of iOS 9.2 available to developers and public beta testers alike. The feature list for iOS 9.2 is small. It chiefly updates the Safari View Controller and adds support for AT&T's NumberSync. The beta can be downloaded over the air.
LG has indicated it plans to offer a mobile payment service called LG Pay. The company has signed agreements with the largest credit card issuers in South Korea, Shinhan Card and KB Bookman Card. LG said LG Pay will work with all its phones, but it did not describe what technology it will use to power the system. Apple Pay and Android Pay use NFC, while Samsung Pay relies on NFC and MST for interacting with retail terminals. LG will launch LG Pay in Korea first, but the timeframe is unclear.
Apple today made Apple Pay available to consumers in Canada. At launch, only cards issued by American Express are compatible with Apple Pay in Canada. The initial set of supporting retailers includes those that use American Express's wireless payment terminals. Some include McDonald's, Petro Canada, and Staples. Apple has not said if or when it will add the Visa or MasterCard payment networks to Apple Pay in Canada. Apple plans to launch Apple Pay via AmEx in Australia on Thursday. Apple Pay is already available through a healthy number of U.S. banks and retailers, with more on the way.
Pandora today said it has agreed to purchase "several key assets" from Rdio for $75 million. Both Pandora and Rdio offer online and mobile music services. Pandora will be picking up Rdio's technology, intellectual property, and select members of Rdio's staff. The transaction does not including Rdio's operating business. The deal is contingent on Rdio declaring bankruptcy in California, and for a bankruptcy court there to approve the Pandora-backed transaction. If approved, Rdio will begin to wind down its branded music service in all markets ahead of the acquisition's closing. Pandora said it expects to use Rdio's assets to offer an "expanded service" by late 2016. Pandora and Rdio compete in a busy market led by Spotify, Google, Apple, Amazon, and others. Apple recently expanded its monthly music service to Android devices, while Google recently expanded its music service through a dedicated YouTube app.
Google is offering iOS users a way to beta test a new version of Chrome thanks to Apple's TestFlight service. The iTunes App Store doesn't support true beta testing, and iOS devices cannot install apps from any source other than the App Store. TestFlight, which Apple purchased last year, helps bridge the gap. iPhone and iPad owners interested in beta testing Chrome need to download, install, and register for TestFlight. Once registered, the appropriate Chrome beta download link will be shared through TestFlight. TestFlight typically limits beta testers to just 2,000, but it's not clear if Google will be held to that same limit. The latest Chrome beta adds support for 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, as well as support for more Bluetooth keyboard shortcuts that help with managing tabs and initiating search. It is free to participate in the beta program.
Beats Music will close the doors to its music streaming service at the end of the month. According to details posted on Beats' web site, all subscriptions will be cancelled as of Nov. 30. Beats suggests subscribers move their music selections and preferences to Apple Music, Apple's replacement streaming music service. Apple says its own music product offers better recommendations, and it includes the Beats 1 global radio station as well as social content shared by artists. Apple Music costs $10 per month for single users and $15 for families. Apple purchased Beats last year and this change has been expected for some time.
Apple today released iOS 9.2 Beta 3 to developers and public testers. The beta operating system further refines the code so it runs smoother. iOS 9.2's biggest feature includes a change to the Safari View Controller, which now supports third-party Action Extensions for pop-up Safari windows. The updated OS also adds support for AT&T's NumberSync calling feature. The beta is free to download and test ahead of the general public release.
Apple today published a beta version of Apple Music in the Google Play Store. The app offers owners of Android handsets Apple's monthly music service. Apple Music includes personalized recommendations, Beats 1 Radio, playlists, and access to iTunes purchases. New customers can trial the service for free for three months, after which it will cost $9.99 for single users or $14.99 for families. Apple says support for music videos is coming soon. The app is the second from Apple for the Android platform, the first being a tool called Switch to iOS to help Android owners move to an iPhone.
Walgreens today made it possible for iPhone owners to add their Walgreens Balance Rewards loyalty card to Apple Pay. Walgreens has 85 million Balance Rewards members. Now, when Balance Rewards users make payments at Walgreens stores via Apple Pay, the transaction will automatically record any relevant rewards information associated with the account. Walgreens says members need to add the Balance Rewards card to Apple Pay on a device running iOS 9. Customers can use the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, or Apple Watch to pay for Walgreens transactions, all while receiving any benefits that might be attached to their credit/debit card. Walgreens claims it is the first retailer to add its loyalty program to Apple Pay. Apple added support for loyalty programs to Apple Pay with the release of iOS 9 in September.
Facebook today announced a change to its iOS app that it hopes will help people discover more music. Facebook users will now be able to share Music Stories, which are 30-second snippets from shared songs or albums. Track samples shared from Apple Music, iTunes, and Spotify are streamed directly within the Facebook app, but users can click through to the respective service to stream the entire song or add it to their own library. Facebook said it hopes to add more music services to its Music Story feature over time. Music Story is available in a new version of Facebook for iOS, rolling out today. Facebook didn't say if it is working on a similar feature for the Android Facebook app.
Apple today made iOS 9.2 beta 2 available to beta testers. The release follows a similar beta made available to developers yesterday. iPhone owners are free to sign up for the public beta program and install the pre-release operating system. Apple said iOS 9.2 beta 2 makes improvements to the Safari View Controller, which can now be dismissed by swiping. The beta brings with it support for AT&T's NumberSync service, as well, which will let iPhone, Mac, iPad, and Apple Watch owners make/receive calls from any of their devices. Like the developer beta, the new public beta also resolves iCloud Keychain and Apple Watch bugs. iOS 9.2 beta 2 is free to download and test.
Microsoft is asking Windows Insiders to give Cortana a whirl on their iOS devices. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant. The company made a beta version available to Android handsets back in August, and now it is the iPhone's turn. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Cortana for iOS is free to download from Microsoft's Windows Insider community, though interested testers need to complete a questionnaire in order to gain access to the program. Microsoft said it will use feedback from these testers to improve Cortana over time.
Apple today made several beta versions of its various operating systems available to developers, including iOS 9.2 beta 2. The iOS 9.2 beta resolves a number of problems, such as bugs impacting audio playback via USB, Apple Watch pairing, and iCloud Keychain. Apple also released second betas of tvOS 9.2, OS X 10.11.2, and Xcode 7.2. These betas are intended for developers only. Apple will probably follow the developer iOS 9.2 beta 2 closely with a new variant for its public testing program, but it hasn't yet said when that might happen.
Apple has made available a new Android app called Beats Pill+. The app has the distinction of being Apple's second-ever for the Android platform, following the Move to iOS app released earlier this year. Beats Pill+ is a companion app for the Beats Pill+ Bluetooth speaker. It lets Pill+ owners manage the speaker's battery, control who can access it, rename the speaker, and link up multiple speakers for stereo playback. Apple owns Beats Audio. The Beats Pill+ app is free to download from the Google Play Store. Apple Music, which Apple promised to release for Android this year, is still MIA.
Apple today made available the first beta release of iOS 9.2. This beta is intended for developers. Apple hasn't yet released iOS 9.2 in beta through the public channel, though it probably will soon.
Samsung today said Samsung Pay will soon be supported by more financial institutions. This means a broader range of consumers will be able to add their credit or debit cards to Samsung Pay. Some of the new banks include Chase, PNC Bank, TD Bank, SunTrust, Fifth Third Bank, First Hawaiian, Key Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Virginia Credit Union, Associated Bank, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, and People’s United Bank. Each of these card issuers will be added to Samsung Pay over the next few months. The American Express, MasterCard, and Visa payment networks already support Samsung Pay, and Samsung said Discover will join early next year. Moreover, Samsung Pay will soon add support for gift cards, loyalty cards, and store-issued credit cards. Samsung Pay is compatible with NFC- and MST-equipped terminals, unlike Apple Pay and Android Pay, which only work with NFC. Samsung says about three-quarters of payments made so far via Samsung Pay have been at MST-equipped terminals. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 on AT&T, Sprint. T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
Google said customer loyalty programs and other consumer-facing benefits are headed to Android Pay. Speaking at a finance conference in Las Vegas, Google's SVP of ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, said the service has signed up "millions" of people since launch. Despite linking a credit or debit card with Android Pay, more than 60% of these newcomers have yet to use the service. In order to entice usage, Google and Coke are rolling out a rewards program. Consumers who use Android Pay to purchase beverages at Coke's NFC-equipped vending machines will earn points towards future purchases. Similar promotions with other vendors are in the works. Google is also looking to its carrier partners to drum up support for Android Pay. Retail reps at AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon stores are expected to mention Android Pay to consumers who purchase Android handsets. Android Pay launched last month and competes with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay relies on NFC-equipped payment terminals at supporting retailers. Android Pay has the support of American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, but lacks support from some of the largest card issuers, including JPMorgan Chase. Chase recently announced its own mobile payment service.
JPMorgan Chase plans to launch a competitor to Apple Pay and Android Pay that will allow cardholders to make payments with their smartphones. Chase Pay is expected to debut on Android and iOS devices soon, though the company won't market it aggressively until next year. In its favor, Chase has signed a deal with the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a group containing some of the country's largest retailers, including Walmart and Best Buy. Many of the MCX retailers have so far shunned Apple Pay, limiting Apple's ability to push into more stores. Chase promised it would cut MCX members' costs if they sided with Chase, and it is also offering higher levels of security for Chase Pay merchants. The financial institution hopes to see merchants offer their own customers benefits for using Chase Pay rather than rival mobile payment services. Chase cardholders may continue to use Apple Pay, which Chase still supports. Chase has not yet added support for Android Pay and Samsung Pay, however, both of which launched in the last month or so. JPMorgan Chase is the country's largest bank and counts about 94 million credit and debit cards.
Sprint today said Apple's iOS 9.1 system update enables single-number calling across Apple devices when connected to WiFi. With iOS 9.1 installed, Sprint's iPhone customers will be able to make/receive calls from their primary number on the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple Watch, or Mac computer. Sprint says the feature requires several steps to enable. Customers must install the latest OS on each device; sign in with the same Apple ID across devices; initiate WiFi calling on the primary device; and assign secondary devices to the account. Calls made over WiFi don't count against plan minutes or mobile data allotments. The feature is free to use. Apple distributed iOS 9.1, watchOS 2.0.1, and Mac OS 10.11.1 earlier today.
Apple today released watchOS 2.0.1 for the Apple Watch. The system update largely resolves bugs, such as those impacting calendar sync, battery performance, and system installs. The update can be applied over the air.
Apple today made the final build of iOS 9.1 available to the general public. iOS 9.1 brings aboard support for Unicode 7.0 and 8.0, which adds more than 150 new emoji. The update provides a fix for Live Photos on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, which will no longer record video when it senses vertical movement of the iPhone itself. iOS 9.1 also smooths out performance and resolves a number of bugs. iOS 9.1 is free to download.
Microsoft is weighing what to do with the mobile wallet app that's part of the Windows 10 Mobile platform. The operating system already has a basic wallet app (since Windows Phone 8) for storing credit card and loyalty card data, but it stops short of making mobile payments. Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft's operating systems group, said, "Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You've seen it on phones before. We're going to continue to iterate it. We're going to think about the range of payment scenarios." Belfiore did not say if or when any type of mobile payment service might launch, nor what technology it might rely on. However, the spec page for the recently announced Lumia 950 says the smartphone includes "secure NFC for payment." When asked exactly what that referred to, Microsoft told Phone Scoop, "We have nothing to share." Belfiore admitted that mobile payments are not easy to implement. "[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, what effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in?" Apple, Google, and Samsung all offer mobile payment platforms that vary a bit in how they function. Despite support from handset makers, carriers, retailers, and financial institutions, mobile payments have yet to go mainstream. Even so, it would behoove Microsoft to make sure its smartphone platform can compete with the industry leaders.
Apple has expanded mass transit directions in Apple Maps thanks to the addition of Amtrak routes along the Northeast Corridor. iPhone and iPad owners can now plan routes that include Acela Express, Northeast Regional, Pennsylvanian, Maple Leaf, and other lines to points between Boston and Washington, D.C. Apple Maps does not yet offer Amtrak routes in other areas of the country. Further, Apple added the T and other mass transit services in and around Boston to Apple Maps. Apple Maps began offering mass transit directions with the arrival of iOS 9. It only supports a handful of U.S. cities, but Apple is adding more over time.
A Wisconsin jury said Apple owes $234 million for using the university's patented technology without permission. Apple was found to violate the patents, owned by the Wisconsin Academic Research Fund (WARF), earlier this week. The technology helps improve the efficiency of chips and is found in Apple's A7, A8, and A8X processors. WARF claimed Apple willfully violated the patents and sought more than $800 million. Apple argued it should pay less than the $110 million amount Intel paid to settle a similar lawsuit in 2009. Apple plans to appeal the verdict.
Apple has released new versions of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for both its iOS and Mac platforms. The iOS apps gain 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and split-screen multitasking on the iPad. The iPad variants earn new selection gestures and a shortcut bar for reaching select tools more easily. Apple applied a significant amount of polish to Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, with improvements to file compatibility, usability, and sharing. The desktop versions of these same apps mostly added new multi-tasking gestures (limited to devices with Force Touch trackpads). Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are free to people who've recently bought a new iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer. They can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store.
Verizon Wireless updated its Verizon Message+ app for iPhones, adding the ability to make phone calls over WiFi. In order for WiFi calling to work, Verizon iPhone owners will need to switch on the advanced calling function of their phone. WiFi calls can only be completed via the Verizon Message+ app. Using the native iOS dialer still passes calls through Verizon's cellular network. The app also adds electronic gifting, improved media search, and scheduled messaging for sending texts at specific times/dates. WiFi calling is available to the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. Verizon hasn't said if or when it might make WiFi calling available to Android handsets. The Verizon Message+ app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon's offering trails that of its competitors. AT&T launched WiFi calling last week, while Sprint and T-Mobile have offered the feature for about a year. WiFi calling is useful for making calls when cellular network coverage is poor.
Apple is facing a massive judgment in a patent complaint concerning processors found in the iPhone and iPad. A jury in Madison, Wisconsin, found Apple guilty of using a patent owned by the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) without permission. The patent involves increasing the efficiency of chips. The technology is found in the A7, A8, and A8x processors, which power the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, and the iPad Air 2. Apple sought to have the patent declared invalid, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Apple's bid. WARF originally filed the lawsuit in January 2014 and just recently filed a second lawsuit concerning the A9 and A9x chips, which are in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and the forthcoming iPad Pro. Apple could be on the hook for up to $862 million. The trial is now moving to the penalty phase to determine how much Apple owes. Apple maintained its innocence.
Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 9.1 available. iOS 9.1 beta five is ready for both developers and for public beta testers to download. The update comes just a week after the last beta, which suggests iOS 9.1 is nearing readiness. iOS 9.1 mostly tweaks features connected to the forthcoming Apple TV and big-screened iPad Pro. It also adds support for Unicode 8, which adds a range of new emoji, such as tacos and select hand gestures. iOS 9.1 beta 5 is free to download, though developers and beta testers need to register to receive the new builds.
Apple has responded to a series of claims that suggest there are palpable differences in battery life produced by the Samsung- and TSMC-sourced A9 processor in its new iPhones. Both Samsung and TSMC are making the A9 processor for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Samsung's version uses a 14nm process and has a slightly smaller footprint than the TSMC 16nm chip. Several benchmark tests (AnTuTu, Geekbench, et al) imply that Samsung's A9 drains the battery up to two hours sooner than TSMC's A9. Apple says such tests aren't realistic and real-world variances are in the order of 2-3% — or about 12 to 15 minutes per day under normal usage. "Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state," said Apple in a statement provided to Techcrunch. "It's a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other." Such variances fall into acceptable norms for most consumer electronics.
Apple Watch owners can now read their incoming Facebook Messenger messages on their wearable. A recent update to the iOS app adds compatibility with Apple's smartwatch. People can also send voice clips, likes, and stickers. In addition to Apple Watch functionality, Facebook Messenger will now reveal contacts and conversations in the iPhone's search tool. Moreover, Facebook Messenger gains support for the iPad's split-screen multitasking capability. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that prohibits the government from snooping on citizens' electronic communications without first obtaining a warrant. The law, called the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, forbids the government from "accessing electronic device information by means of physical interaction or electronic communication with the device." For example, police will no longer be able to use stingrays unless they get permission from a judge to do so. Stingrays act like cell towers and trick phones into connecting with them. Once connected, police are able to pull location, call, messaging, and other data from handsets in bulk. One complaint about stingrays centers on the fact that they collect data on thousands of innocent citizens while police search for specific devices. The law was backed by the ACLU and tech companies including Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Its broad language means it can be applied to future technologies if needed. "Governor Brown just signed a law that says 'no' to warrantless government snooping in our digital information. This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians," said Nicole Ozer, an ACLU lawyer. California isn't the first to enact such legislation. Similar laws already exist in Minnesota, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The law covers California-based law enforcement, but not federal organizations.
Apple has added the option to purchase SIM-free, unlocked iPhones to its web site. The iPhone 6s (model A1633) and iPhone 6s Plus (model A1634) are compatible with a wide range of LTE networks, including those of AT&T, T-Mobile, and can be used on any GSM network in the U.S. or abroad. The devices are sold at full cost, without carrier contracts or obligations.
iPhone owners will be able to pay for purchases at Starbucks shops beginning next year, reports Re/code. Apple Pay exec Jennifer Bailey said Apple and Starbucks will begin trialling Apple Pay in some stores this year, with the broader roll-out to all U.S. stores expected some time in 2016. Bailey did not say if Apple Pay will include Starbucks' customer loyalty program. Apple Pay is available on the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. Apple's mobile payment service launched last October at 700,000 locations and has slowly added more retailers and banks over the last twelve months. Starbucks maintains its own mobile app and mobile payment service through which customers can earn rewards. Chili's and KFC also plan to support Apple Pay in 2016.
Samsung said a recent hack of subsidiary LoopPay did not impact Samsung Pay, its mobile payment service. Samsung purchased LoopPay in February to bolster its Samsung Pay product, which is able to use NFC and LoopPay's MST technology to make mobile purchases in retail stores. "Samsung Pay was not impacted and at no point was any personal payment information at risk," said Samsung in a statement. "This was an isolated incident that targeted the LoopPay office network, which is a physically separate network from Samsung Pay." Samsung Pay launched just a few weeks ago. It allows owners of the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 to pay for goods and services at a wide range of businesses around the U.S. LoopPay's MST technology makes Samsung Pay much more widely available than Android Pay and Apple Pay, which are limited to terminals with NFC.
Apple today made iOS 9.1 Beta 4 available to developers. This is not meant for public use and is intended to help app writers test their code. Apple may follow this developer release with a new version of the iOS 9.1 Public Beta, but has not yet made any such announcements.
Apple confirmed that it has acquired a small startup called Perceptio that develops artificial intelligence software. Specifically, Perceptio lets businesses push advanced AI on smartphones without forcing end users to share too much of their data. The tools use deep learning to power advanced image-recognition software without drawing from external data repositories. Just last week, Apple acknowledged that it acquired a separate AI firm called VocalIQ, though that company's forte rests with natural language recognition.
Sony today said it plans to split its imaging sensor business from the rest of the company. The move is meant to help the unit remain competitive against OmniVision and Samsung, its chief rivals. Earlier this year, Sony committed $374 billion to bolster the unit's manufacturing capacity in order to meet growing demand for high-quality sensors. Sony's sensors are found in a range of smartphones and tablets, including the Apple iPhone. Sony has not set a price for the unit, nor said if there are any initial bidders for the business. Sony will hold onto its smartphone and PlayStation businesses for now.