Apple today launched a completely redesigned version of AirPods. The new AirPods 3rd Generation have longer battery life, Spatial Audio (including Dolby Atmos), and a new driver for better sound quality. They also bring the Adaptive EQ feature of the AirPods Pro down to the standard AirPods. Adaptive EQ customizes sound for the unique way your ears hear different frequencies due to differing fit. They are also rated IPx4 for sweat- and water-resistant. The new, shorter buds have six hours of battery life in their own, while the new charging case holds four charges, for 30 hours total. The case can add one hour of battery life to the buds in just five minutes. The case can be charged with MagSafe wireless charging. The new AirPods are available to order today for $179, shipping next Tuesday, Oct. 26th. The old 2nd Generation AirPods will remain available at a new price of $129, down from $160.
Apple has released new versions of its productivity apps for its platforms, including Keynote, Pages, and Numbers for iOS on iPhones. Keynote now lets you place "live video objects" into presentations, allowing "the presenter to appear alongside the content in their slide — ideal for lectures, how-to videos, and remote presentations through video conferencing apps." The feature can use the front-facing camera on an iPhone or other Apple device. The live video objects can be resized or styled with masks, frames, drop shadows, and reflections. Keynote for Mac can also now "show the screen of a connected iPhone or iPad right on a slide for live, interactive demos." Pages for iPhone has a new Screen View mode that re-arranges page layouts into a single column that's easier to read on a small screen, while supporting full editing tools. Numbers now supports pivot tables, including on iPhone and iPad, making it "the first app to bring full-featured pivot tables to mobile".
Apple just released the first non-beta version of iOS 15 as a free update for iPhone models 6s and newer. First announced in June, the update includes revamped notifications, Focus Mode, Live Text, and support for stats ID cards in Wallet.
Apple today announced the iPhone 13 series. All models feature improved battery life, display, cameras, and processor. Although the model options and designs are similar to the iPhone 12 series, the notch for the TrueDepth camera system that powers Face ID is now 20% smaller, allowing more usable display area. The OLED displays on all models are now more efficient and offer greater peak brightness outdoors, while supporting HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The Pro models gain adaptive refresh of 10–120 Hz. The cameras have been updated to let in much more light for better performance, especially in low light. The main camera features a f/1.6 aperture on the standard models and f/1.5 on the Pro models. Apple has also brought sensor-shift OIS to the standard models, a feature previously exclusive to the Pro Max. On the Pro models, the telephoto camera has been bumped from 2x to 3x, for 6x total optical zoom range. The Pro models also feature an all-new ultra-wide camera with an unprecedented f/1.8 aperture as well as true auto-focus, enabling a new macro mode. All three cameras now support night mode. A new Cinematic Mode in the camera app can automatically change focus based on who is looking where in the scene, and lets the user adjust focus in videos after they have been shot. A new Photographic Styles feature offers greater control over Apple's advanced multi-frame image processing. The Pro models can also now shoot and edit Apple ProRes video at 4K (30 fps). The new A15 Bionic chip powers all four models. Apple claims it's 50% faster than the best competing chip. The A15 variant in the Pro models is slightly more powerful with five GPU cores instead of four. Improved efficiency and larger batteries give the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13 Pro 1.5 hours more of battery life, while the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max gain 2.5 hours of battery life. iPhone 13 and 13 mini will be available in pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED in a new entry-level capacity of 128 GB (double last year's starting option), as well as 256 or 512 GB. The standard-size iPhone 13 starts at $799 while the mini starts at $699. iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max will be available in graphite, gold, silver, and sierra blue in 128, 256, or 512 GB, plus a new 1 TB option. The iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999 while the Pro Max starts at $1,099. Customers will be able to pre-order all four iPhone 13 models this Friday, with full availability September 24th.
Apple today announced the Apple Watch Series 7, which features a display with 20% more screen area, in roughly the same size case as previous models. The bezels are now just 1.7mm wide. Apple has tweaked watchOS to take advantage of the larger display, including a new full QWERTY keyboard option for text input, with swipe typing. The new display also fits up to 50% more text, and key buttons have been enlarged. A new modular face fits more, larger complications. The new display is also 70% brighter in idle/always-on mode indoors. The redesigned case has more rounded cover glass (that's more durable) and corners, but still fits all existing interchangeable bands. The new watch also charges 33% faster. New cycling features in watchOS 8 improve Outdoor Cycle workout mode with automatic start, pause, and resume, and now track workouts accurately with e-bikes. There's also a new Fall Detection feature for cycling. Apple Watch Series 7 will come in titanium (2 colors), stainless steel (2 colors) and recycled aluminum (5 colors). It will be available "later this fall" starting at $399. Series 7 replaces Series 6; Series 3 and Apple Watch SE will continue to be available.
Apple today released a set of urgent security updates for iOS, watchOS, macOS, and Safari for Mac. The updates fix a previously-unknown zero-day security flaw that enabled "arbitrary code execution" when viewing a maliciously crafted PDF file, which could be transmitted by visiting a web page and/or receiving an iMessage. All versions of iOS prior to today's 14.8 update are vulnerable. The Citizen Lab, which found the issue and reported it to Apple, claims the exploit is already in use in the wild. It was used to silently install NSO Group's Pegasus spyware on the iPhone of a Saudi activist. All users of Apple devices should install the updates immediately.
A US Federal Judge has ruled that Apple must allow app developers to "steer" customers away from Apple's App Store payment service, which collects a fee of up to 30%. The ruling was part of Fortnite maker Epic Games' lawsuit against Apple for anti-competitive behavior. The case did not completely go Epic's way; the court did not find that Apple's App Store constituted a monopoly, as Epic claimed. "Nonetheless, the trial did show that Apple is engaging in anticompetitive conduct under California's competition laws," according to the decision. "The Court concludes that Apple’s anti-steering provisions hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice." Apple recently announced plans to allow specific "reader" apps to steer customers to third-party payments in response to an investigation by the Japanese government. But this new US ruling could force Apple to open up third-party payments for all apps. Apple does have the option to appeal the decision.
Apple will "take additional time to make improvements" before launching its technology to detect and report known child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in users's iCloud photos. The tools, first revealed a month ago, are designed to preserve user privacy by using sophisticated hashing algorithms that run on the user's device. Only once a threshold of at least 30 CSAM images is detected can photos be decrypted by Apple for manual inspection and potential reporting to authorities. Privacy experts have expressed concern over the feature, as some governments may be tempted to force Apple to search for other types of imagery. Privacy advocates also expressed concern that the system could be abused by third parties to implicate innocent people. Apple has responded to these concerns, stating that its database of known CSAM will never include images reported from just one country, and researchers will be able to verify that all Apple devices are using the same database of known CSAM.
Starting early next year, Apple will allow media player apps like Spotify and Netflix to direct new users to subscribe via their own web sites and third-party payment systems. Previously, Apple required such apps to use Apple's payment system, where Apples takes a cut of up to 30%. Although Apple will continue to require apps that "sell digital services and subscriptions" to use Apple's in-app payment system, apps that "provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video" are now considered "reader" apps, and will be exempt from that rule. The change comes after an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), and was announced as a deal with the JFTC to close that investigation. However Apple will apply the change globally.
Residents of Arizona and Georgia will soon be able to add a secure digital version of their driver's license or state ID to the Wallet app on their iPhone and/or Apple Watch. Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah have also announced plans to support Apple's implementation. The first place people will be able to use these digital ID cards will be "select airport security checkpoints and lanes in participating airports". Apple's implementation of this technology is compliant with the ISO 18013-5 mDL (mobile driver's license) standard. Adding a license or ID to Wallet requires taking photos of both the user's physical ID card and themselves, which are sent to the issuing state for verification. Presenting a digital ID is initiated by simply tapping the phone or watch on a reader device, similar to Apple Pay. The user's device then displays what specific information is being requested. Only after the user confirms their identity using Face ID or Touch ID is the requested information securely transferred. Users do not need to unlock, show, or hand over their device to present their ID. Utah launched a pilot program of standard-compliant mDL technology using a standalone app earlier this year.
South Korea's National Assembly has passed a new law that will require Apple and Google to open up in-app purchases to third-party payments. Apple and Google currently require the use their own payment systems for in-app purchases, from which the companies extract a cut of up to 30%. The law also regulates approval times for new apps, as well as reasons for removing apps from app stores. The new law is similar to ones being considered in the US and EU, but South Korea will be the first major market to implement such a law. The law will go into effect as soon as the President Moon Jae-in signs it, as he is expected to do.
T-Mobile today announced a new promotional perk included with its Magenta and Magenta Max plans: 12 months of Apple TV+ for free. The offer is available to both new and existing customers. Also eligible are customers on the Magenta 55+, Magenta Military, Magenta First Responders, and small T-Mobile for Business customers. Only customers on the most-affordable Essentials plan are ineligible. Legacy Sprint customers on the Unlimited Plus or Premium plans are also eligible. Magenta and Magenta Max customers already receive Netflix for free.
Apple has postponed the launch of SharePlay until after the initial launch of iOS 15. SharePlay was one of the major new features announced as part of iOS 15. The feature allows the sharing of your screen or media with everyone on a group call, including app-specific experiences thanks to a new API for developers. Apple now says "SharePlay will be enabled for use again in future developer beta releases and will launch to the public in software updates later this fall."
A bipartisan group of three US Senators has introduced new legislation that would place major new rules on the app stores run by Apple and Google. The Open App Markets Act would:
- Ensure users could access third-party app stores and make them the default.
- Ensure users could access third-party apps and make them the default.
- Ensure users could install third-party apps and app stores through a method other than the main app store (side-loading).
- Ensure users could hide or delete default apps, the default app store, and pre-installed apps from business partners.
- Ensure developers could use third-party systems for in-app payments.
- Ensure developers could offer more favorable pricing outside of a given app store.
- Prevent Apple and Google from giving preference to their own apps (or those of business partners) in search results and rankings.
- Prevent Apple and Google from giving their own apps special API access not available to third-party apps. This clause has special exceptions for user privacy, security, and digital safety; spam or fraud prevention; and complying with Federal or State law.
A new feature in iOS 15 and macOS will scan users' iCloud photos for known child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The feature preserves privacy by keeping photos encrypted over the network and in the cloud. The new scanning takes place on the user's device, comparing users' photos against a database of known child abuse imagery, provided by child protection organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and others. New technology developed by Apple called NeuralHash can match photos even after a certain amount of editing, and without adding any actual CSAM to the user's device. A cryptographic principle called threshold secret sharing allows Apple to decrypt and examine offending images uploaded to its cloud only after a threshold is cleared for a certain amount of CSAM detected by NeuralHash. When that happens, Apple can "manually verify the contents, disable a user's account and report the imagery to NCMEC, which is then passed to law enforcement." Apple promises that an appeal process will be available. The feature will be active only in the US at first. Privacy experts have expressed concern over the feature, as some governments may be tempted to force Apple to search for other types of imagery. Privacy advocates also expressed concern that the system could be abused by third parties to implicate innocent people.
Apple today launched a public beta version of iOS 15. Adventurous users can test drive the software by signing up at the Apple Beta Software Program web site. Apple announced iOS 15 a month ago. Notifications, FaceTime, Maps, and Siri all get major upgrades in iOS 15, and it introduces SharePlay, Focus Modes, and Live Text. iOS 15 is compatible with the iPhone 6s and newer. Until today, beta versions were officially only available to developers. Making a beta version available to the public is a milestone that typically means the software is more stable and any major bugs have been fixed. However the software is not final; users are still strongly encouraged to make backups before installing, and not use the software on their primary phone. Apple will release a final version of iOS 15 this fall.
Beats has finally launched its first fully in-ear true wireless earbuds: the Beats Studio Buds. These $150 Bluetooth earbuds feature active noise cancelling (ANC) as well as transparency mode to let you hear limited background noise. And even though Apple owns Beats, the Studio Buds are designed to be fully "native" compatible with both Android and Apple devices, including one-touch pairing on Android and a companion Android app. They're are also compatible with the Find My services of both iOS and Android. The buds are rated IPX4 for sweat- and water-resistance. Class 1 Bluetooth offers extended range. Beam-forming mics ensure clear voice calls free of wind and background noise. Each bud houses a proprietary 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver, that's optimized for better ANC performance. The buds also support Spatial Audio / Dolby Atmos when used with Apple Music. Each bud connects directly to the source device, meaning either bud can be used by itself. The buds themselves provide up to 8 hours of listening time, or 5 hours with ANC enabled. The included USB-C charging case boosts total playback time to 24 hours. Beats Studio Buds are available to order today, and come in black, white, and red.
Mophie today announced the Snap+ line of iPhone- and Qi-compatible wireless chargers. They feature magnetic mounting, compatible with Apple's new MagSafe system on iPhone 12. However they also include an adaptor ring that adds the same magnet-mount functionality to any phone with wireless charging using the ubiquitous Qi standard. Available today are the basic snap+ wireless charger, a small disc that can provide up to 7.5W wireless charging to an iPhone, or 15W to other Qi phones. It runs $35. Also available starting today, for $50 each, are a car vent mount model, and the snap+ juice pack mini, a 5,000 mAh battery pack with wireless charging. Also available for $30 is the snap vent mount, which enables magnetic mount to a car vent, without the wireless charging. Later this summer/fall, Mophie will also offer angled stand versions of the desktop charger and battery back. The snap+ wireless stand (shown) is just like the snap+ wireless charger but with an angled stand, for $60. The snap+ powerstation stand will offer a huge 10,000 mAh battery for $70, with a built-in adjustable stand. In addition to wireless charging, it can charge another device via USB-C PD at up to 20W. The new products will be available at mophie.com, as well as AT&T, Best Buy, Staples, and Verizon.
Apple today announced iOS 15, the next version of its core software that powers iPhones. Version 15 is not a major overhaul, but does add a long list of new features. An early beta version is available to developers starting today, with a more-polished public beta coming "next month". The final version will launch in the fall, likely alongside new iPhone models. New features include:
- Revamped FaceTime with SharePlay: FaceTime will now support scheduled calls and web links for Android and Windows users to join calls. New features make it easier to share your screen or streaming media with everyone on a group call.
- Live Text: System-wide recognition of text and objects within images.
- Updated Wallet: Will support digital home keys, driver's licenses, corporate badges, hotel keys, and more.
- Updated Maps: Adds AR mode for walking directions, 3D highway interchanges while driving, and greatly enhanced 3D views in select major cities.
- Focus modes: The new Focus feature will let you create Work, Personal, Sleep, Do Not Disturb, and custom Focus modes. Each mode can have its own notification settings and filters, and even its own home screen with specific apps and widgets. iOS can intelligently suggest personalized settings for each Focus mode, but they can also be customized. The current Focus mode is automatically synced across Apple devices.
- Notifications Summary: Can collapse all "non-time-critical" notifications into a morning summary and an afternoon summary, for example. Messages with contacts are still surfaced as received. iOS prioritizes information in notification summaries using on-device intelligence. Outside of Summaries, notifications will also have a more visual design with large icons.
- On-Device Siri: Siri will now process voice recognition directly on-device by default, instead of sending your voice to the cloud. This change enhances privacy, make Siri much faster, and allows Siri to process certain simple commands without an Internet connection.
A revamped Maps app in iOS 15 will offer a number of new and improved features to better compete with Google Maps. While giving real-time driving directions, the app will now show complex highway interchanges in an accurate 3D view. In certain cities, a new AR mode provides walking directions visually overlaid on your surroundings, similar to a feature Google has offered since 2019. Certain areas will also show enhanced 3D views, including stylized 3D landmarks, illuminated night mode, and accurate elevations. New transit features let you set certain transit lines as favorites, and alert you when approaching your stop. The more advanced city features will be available first in LA, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington DC, and London.
Apple today announced Live Text, a new feature of iOS that provides intelligent text and object recognition for images. In iOS 15, photos (new and existing), screenshots, and images on the wen have a new icon that runs text recognition on that image. All text — including handwritten notes — can easily be copied and pasted to other apps. Text in recognized formats, such as phone numbers, are presented as tappable links. The feature also recognizes certain kinds of objects — including animals, plants, and landmarks — and offers links to more information about that object.
Apple today announced a major expansion of its Wallet app to support many new kinds of keys and cards, getting closer to the goal of fully replacing all of your physical wallet and keys. In addition to the previously-announced digital car key feature, Wallet will now support smart home front door locks, government ID cards — include US state driver's licenses — corporate ID cards, hotel keys, and theme park passes. Hyatt will soon support the feature at over 1,000 hotels. Schlage, Assa Abloy, and HID will support the feature for home and campus access. A number of US states will support digital driver's license in Wallet, and Apple is working with the TSA to accept these digital IDs at US airports. Finally, Walt Disney World will also support access cards in Wallet.
Apple today announced a huge revamp of its FaceTime video-call service, expanding its compatibility to Android phones and PCs via the web, and expanding its features to compete with leading videoconferencing apps like Zoom. Users can now schedule a FaceTime call in advance and invite other people to join with a link, which will work on any web platform, including Android and Windows devices. A grid view facilitates group video calls. Spatial Audio places each user in a 3D audio space, for a more realistic experience. New screen-sharing features let everyone in the group call see whatever is on your screen, with more tailored experiences for video and music. A new SharePlay API lets developers integrate their streaming apps with this new feature. The first apps to support it include Disney+, Hulu, HBOmax, Twitch, TikTok, MasterClass, NBA, ESPN+, and Paramount+. While watching shared media, a new feature also lets you easily take the conversation to a Messages chat.
Spotify has started rolling out a major update for its Apple Watch app. The new version has the ability to download playlists, albums, or podcasts to the watch itself, allowing them to be played back when no cellular or Wi-Fi connection is available, or when using your Wi-Fi-only Apple Watch out and about without your phone. The feature requires a Spotify Premium subscription. Downloads are initiated from the phone app, but a new Downloads section of the watch app lets you see what's available for offline listening.
Apple is updating its Apple Music subscription service next month to support both Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio. The Spatial Audio feature supports Dolby Atmos and reproduces sound so it seems to come "from all around and from above". The Lossless Audio uses the proprietary Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC) to encode audio with much greater fidelity, including higher bitrates, higher sampling rates, and no compression artifacts. Several quality levels are available, starting at "CD quality", on up to "Hi-Resolution Lossless" offering 24 bits and 192 kHz. Lossless audio will be available for "Apple Music's catalog of more than 75 million songs". Spatial Audio will be available for "thousands of tracks, ... with more added regularly". Both new features will be available at no extra cost starting next month.
Apple has released iOS 14.5, a relatively large update that brings several notable new features to the company's operating system for iPhones. The update brings a new mask-friendly version of Face ID for users with an Apple Watch. Most controversial in industry circles is App Tracking Transparency, which requires apps to get the user's permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising. Many users are expected to opt out of the tracking, which companies like Facebook consider a threat to their business model. The update also includes new Siri voices, new emoji, a revamped Podcasts app, support for AirTags, and more. iPhone users can download and install the free update starting today by going to Settings, then General, then Software Update.
Apple today announced that its Apple TV video streaming device can now leverage the sensors in an iPhone to calibrate video output for your specific television. "Apple TV uses the light sensor in iPhone to compare the color balance to the industry-standard specifications used by cinematographers worldwide." The tuning enables more accurate colors and improved contrast without adjusting television settings.
Apple today announced AirTag, the company's widely-expected competitor to Tile. The small circular device comes with several keychain-style holder options, including an Hermes luxury option. AirTag uses Apple's global Find My network to find lost items, and UWB (available in the iPhone 12 series) to help users home in on an exact location. UWB allows the Find My app to show you the exact direction and distance to a nearby AirTag. The devices can be ordered with custom engraving, including emoji. A single AirTag runs $29, or you can get a four-pack for $99. They ship April 30th, with orders opening this Friday.
Apple today announced a purple color option for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. It can be pre-ordered starting this Friday, with availability on April 30th. Purple joins the existing white, black, green, red, and blue color options. Color options for the iPhone 12 Pro models remain unchanged.
Apple has officially opened up the technology behind "Find My iPhone" to non-Apple devices. The first devices using the new program ship next week, including bicycles from VanMoof, true wireless earbuds from Belkin, and a keychain-style tracking tag from Chipolo. If lost, these items can be located using Apple's Find My app. The Find My network uses iPhones and other Apple devices worldwide to find items reported missing. When an iPhone (etc.) comes within Bluetooth range of a device reported missing, the approximate location can be reported back to the owner, and the owner can send a command for the missing device to play a sound. The entire process is end-to-end encrypted and anonymous, so no one else, not even Apple or the third-party manufacturer, can view a device’s location or information.
Apple has introduced changes to the voice options of its Siri voice assistant in the newest beta of iOS 14.5. For US English, there are now two additional voices to choose from. Further, the OS no longer defaults to a female voice, instead presenting users with a choice during setup. In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple says "This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in." The new voices take advantage of Apple's Neural speech engine, for more natural-sounding contextual phrasing.
Google and Apple have teamed with VaccineFinder.org — a project of Boston Children's Hospital — to add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both the Google Maps and Apple Maps apps. iPhone users can find nearby vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu, or by asking Siri, "Where can I get a COVID vaccination?" On Android, users can search for "vaccines near me" or "covid vaccine (city name)" in Google Maps. The data includes over 20,000 vaccine locations in the US.
Following the launch of Apple's "App Store Small Business Program" a few months ago, Google today followed suit by also halving its app store commission from 30 to 15 percent for smaller developers. Starting July 1, 2021, Google will only take 15% for all digital goods or services sold on the Google Play platform for the first $1 million. Revenues above $1 million for any given developer will continue to see a 30% commission. Apple's program differs in that businesses must apply to a special program to receive the 15% rate, and are only eligible if they earn $1 million or less in annual proceeds. Google's 15% rate applies to the first $1 million in revenue automatically, regardless of company size.
Apple has taken the unusual step of making it easier to switch from an iPhone to Android by launching a new web tool that helps you copy photos and videos stored in iCloud Photos to Google Photos. Available at privacy.apple.com, the service supports photos, videos, and basic albums, including a variety of file formats and "some" RAW files. The service does not support Smart Albums, Live Photos, and certain RAW files. Also unsupported are shared albums, photo stream content, and certain metadata. The process takes three to seven days, and Apple renames albums and videos to start with "Copy of ".
Qualcomm has introduced a new initiative called Snapdragon Sound that aims to improve sound quality, battery life, and latency of Bluetooth earbuds powered by new Qualcomm chips when used with phones that are also powered by new Qualcomm chips. Snapdragon Sound also promises to improve the robustness of the Bluetooth connection and make pairing easier. Snapdragon Sound is a suite of many tweaks and optimizations made at nearly every level of hardware and software, from end to end of the phone+earbuds system. Snapdragon Sound seems to be Qualcomm's answer to the improved Bluetooth performance that Apple has been able achieve with its custom Bluetooth chips in AirPods and iPhones. Qualcomm says Snapdragon sound will offer better sound quality in the form of double the sampling rate compared to Apple for both music (96 kHz instead of 48) and voice calls (32 kHz instead of 16). Qualcomm also claims 45% lower latency compared to Apple. Devices bearing the Snapdragon Sound branding must pass a series of quality, performance, and interoperability tests in a new facility Qualcomm has established in Taiwan. The first Snapdragon Sound devices should hit the market "before summer".
Clipper Card — the universal transit fare card for all 24 San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies — will be supported in Apple Pay and Google Pay digital wallets "this spring". Residents and visitors will be able to add a stored-value Clipper card to their digital wallet and tap their phones to ride transit, replacing a physical Clipper card. The system differs from those in cities (such as New York and Chicago) offering "open" fare payments made directly from a credit or debit card in Google Pay / Apple Pay. Apple has launched a page where people can sign up to be notified when Clipper is available for iPhone and Apple Watch. Separately, Google announced a new feature of Google Maps that lets users buy and present transit fare payments — including Clipper, when available — without leaving the Maps app, as part of turn-by-turn directions that include transit.
A beta version of iOS 14.5 introduces the ability for Face ID to unlock your phone even when wearing a lower-face mask, provided the user is also wearing an Apple watch. Face ID by itself offers reduced security in this new mask mode, but the presence of an authenticated, unlocked Apple Watch provides enough of an extra security signal to compensate. In the beta version currently available, the feature must be enabled manually in Settings. The beta software was first made available to developers on Feb. 1st, then to consumers on Friday, Feb. 5th. Apple has not announced when iOS 14.5 will exit beta testing.
Google and Apple have removed social media app Parler from their respective app stores. Both companies are insisting that Parler implement much stronger moderation of user-submitted content — including posts that encourage illegal behavior or incite violence — if it wants its app listed again. Google stated: "We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S. ... In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." Parler was created as a "free speech" safe haven for those on the political right that feel censored by more popular social media platforms such as Twitter. Wednesday's deadly storming of the US Capitol Building was planned in public forums and social media, including Parler. Apple initially gave Parler 24 hours to correct the issue, then on Saturday followed through on its threat to remove the app. Parler is facing an even larger threat from Amazon, which says it will remove the service from its AWS hosting platform, a move that will make it difficult for the company to keep the social network online in any form. Parler has pledged to rebuild, a process that its says will take at least one week, during which time the social network will be unavailable.
Apple is taking on its own iconic Beats over-ear headphones with AirPods Max, a new super-premium over-ear headphone set for $549. Features include Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. The design includes a stainless steel headband frame, breathable knit mesh canopy where it touches the top of the head, and acoustically engineered memory foam ear cups. The right side sports a rotating "digital crown" control — similar to that on the Apple Watch —and a button. The AirPods Max are powered by 10-core dual H1 chips offering advanced computational audio features, including Adaptive EQ "to adjust the sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions by measuring the sound signal delivered to a user and adjusting the low and mid-frequencies in real time". The 40mm dynamic drivers are custom designed by Apple. The headphones include standard AirPods features such as a simplified setup process with iPhones and sensors so music is automatically paused when an ear cup is lifted or the headphones removed. AirPods Max feature up to 20 hours of battery life, even with Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled. AirPods Max will run $549 and come in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink. They're available to order starting today, shipping December 15th.
Both Google and Nvidia today announced that they are bringing their respective cloud-based game-streaming services to Apple's iOS in the form of a Safari web app, following similar announcements from Microsoft and Amazon. Nvidia GeForce Now is available in beta form today. The beta version of Google Stadia for iOS will be available "in the coming weeks". Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming (formerly Project xCloud) will come to iOS next year. Amazon's Luna was the first game-streaming service to launch on iOS as a web app. Apple has made life difficult for game-streaming services by effectively banning each service from offering a native iOS app to access the whole service. Apple's App Store rules require that each game be approved and offered separately, which is generally not how game-streaming services work. Those rules do not apply to web apps that run within the browser, however.