Apple today revealed its Spring collection of bands for the Apple Watch, which include a variety of new colors and styles. Apple updated the Woven Nylon band with stripes and colors. The Sport band now comes in Denim Blue, Lemonade, and Red Raspberry; the Sport Loop comes in Flash Light, Hot Pink, Marine Green and Tahoe Blue; and the Classic Buckle comes in Spring Yellow, Electric Blue, and Soft Pink. The Nike Sport is being sold separately for the first time and comes in Barely Rose/Pearl Pink, Black/White, and Cargo Khaki/Black. The Nike Sport Loop is available in Black/Pure Platinum, Bright Crimson/Black, Cargo Khaki, Midnight Fog, and Pearl Pink. Last, Apple is offering new variations of the Hermes loop in Indigo and Blanc with painted edges. Apple says the refreshed bands will reach its stores, carrier stores, and other resellers later this month.
T-Mobile is offering customers a chance to access MLB.tv free for a third year in a row. T-Mobile announced that baseball fans will be able to watch every regular season Major League Baseball game on their smartphones through 2018. T-Mobile has partnered with MLB and is providing customers with a free year of MLB.tv and MLB At Bat Premium. T-Mobile customers can stream every out-of-market regular season game to their Apple or Google smartphone and tablet via the MLB.tv app. At Bat Premium is a mobile sports app for watching home and away broadcasts, and it also includes player stats, highlights, and other information. T-Mobile One customers don't need to worry about streaming on their plan thanks to unlimited data. T-Mobile says games will be streamed in standard definition by default, but can be viewed in HD if customers wish. T-Mobile customers will need to redeem the free subscription via the T-Mobile Tuesdays application between March 27 and April 2, and then sign up for MLB.tv Premium no later than April 2. On March 27, T-Mobile Tuesdays is also offering 25% off purchases made at MLBShop.com and 10 cents off per gallon of gas at Shell stations. T-Mobile has made similar offerings to customers the last two years.
Apple has made available iOS 11.3 Beta 6 to both developers and public testers. iOS 11.3 Beta 6 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance the battery life and performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces four more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. Registered developers and public testers can download iOS 11.3 Beta 6 over the air. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Spring kicks off March 20, and Apple has scheduled an event for March 27. It's possible Apple will provide the final version of iOS 11.3 in the next couple of weeks.
Apple recently published a new web site meant to help families manage their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple accounts. The site offers high-level overviews of all the parental controls available, as well as deep-dive tutorials with step-by-step directions on how to enable each tool. Parents have long been able to manage iTunes purchases, control content, set time/usage limits, see location data, share calendars and iTunes purchases, and more. The new Families web page is meant to serve as a central resource. It describes in detail how parents can reduce distracted driving for teens, set family groups and manage communications, find lost devices, and so on. The web site arrives after shareholders published an open letter earlier this year asking the company to address smartphone addiction.
Owners of Samsung's newer high-end phones will soon be able to score same-day repairs for most problems. Samsung has teamed up with uBreakiFix, which has some 370 locations around the country, in order to provide more timely repairs. uBreakiFix offers authorized repairs with genuine Samsung parts. The company says its technicians are all certified by Samsung and repaired devices are restored to factory conditions. uBreakiFix will fix the Note 5 and Note 8, as well as the Galaxy S6, S7, S8, and S9. The partnership officially kicks off March 15. The move helps Samsung become more competitive with Apple, which offers quick iPhone repairs at its Apple Stores.
Google today announced a new version of Google Assistant specifically built for the Apple iPad. Google says Assistant on iPad can do all the same things Assistant can do on the iPhone, and yet it takes advantage of the added screen real estate of the iPad to display more information. Assistant works in portrait or landscape mode and can be used in a separate window when multitasking. Google says Assistant on iPad is rolling out beginning today and will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil) and, Spanish. Google Assistant for the iPhone also picked up a minor update to day that resolves several bugs and adds new skills. Google Assistant is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Apple today added data concerning the availability of public bicycle-sharing services to Apple Maps. The data comes from Ito World and congregates the availability and location of bikes and docking stations for 176 bike share systems in 179 cities around the world. Ito World says it launched its public data set late last year and claims it is the first worldwide feed concerning global bike sharing programs. By incorporating this data, Apple Maps users will be able to discover the availability of bikes such as Citi Bike in New York City, Bicing in Barcelona, Santander Cycles in London, Ford Go Bike in San Francisco, and many more. The details are surfaced by searching for "bike sharing" within Apple Maps.
Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 5 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces four more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. Apple also released developer beta versions of High Sierra 10.13.4 and tvOS 11.3. Registered developers can download the various new betas through Apple's developer portal and/or over the air. The public version of iOS 11.3 Beta 5 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.
Apple today said it has agreed to acquire Texture, a digital magazine subscription service, for an undisclosed sum. According to Apple, Texture powers the digital experience of some 200 magazines on mobile devices. "We're excited Texture will join Apple, along with an impressive catalog of magazines from many of the world’s leading publishers," said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. "We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users." Apple didn't say where Texture will fit into its business, though it is likely to supplement Apple's existing News app and/or book/magazine offerings.
Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 4 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. The public version of iOS 11.3 Beta 4 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Registered developers can download iOS 11.3 Beta 4 over the air.
The current state of mobile device security patches is lacking, according to a new report issued today by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC studied how Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung support their devices over time. "Our report found significant differences in how the industry deploys security updates and that more needs to be done to make it easier for consumers to ensure their devices are secure," said Acting Director Tom Pahl. The agency notes that many devices are updated infrequently, if at all, and that manufacturers often fail to deliver on promises. It wants phone makers and carriers to improve the situation. The agency suggested each does a better job of explaining mobile device security to consumers (i.e., make it clear to them that the updates are important and worth installing). The FTC also recommended that phone makers consider issuing security patches as stand-alone updates, rather than bundled with general OS upgrades. The FTC noted that companies that make their own operating system, in this case, Apple and Google, are often better at providing timely updates for a longer period of time. The FTC is calling for members of the mobile industry to find a way to bring clarity to consumers and more rapid security updates.
Apple today said updated apps for the Apple Watch Series 3 make it possible for winter sports enthusiasts to gather data while carving through some fresh powder. When Apple introduced watchOS 4.2, it gave developers new APIs to access GPS data and the altimeter. Apps from snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks put those APIs to use and can now track vertical descent, horizontal distance traveled, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total activity time, and calories burned. The information is plotted in graphs and charts so skiers and snowboarders can easily gauge the success of their day on the mountain. Apple says activity recorded in these apps will be passed along to the Health app on the iPhone. People who opt for Slopes or snoww will be able to use Siri to start tracking their runs. All the apps with the updated functionality are available on the iTunes App Store.
Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 3 available to those signed up to test pre-release versions of the platform. iOS 11.3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. Other new features of iOS 11.3 include new animoji, new business chat functions in iMessages, and an update version of Apple’s ARKit augmented reality. Of note, the AirPlay 2 features that appeared in the second beta has been removed for the time being. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Apple also released tvOS 11.3 Beta 3 and macOS 10.13 Beta 3.
T-Mobile has a new promotion targeting Apple products. First, T-Mobile is offering a $200 rebate to those who purchase an iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, or 7 Plus. The rebate is being offered in addition to the value of a trade-in. People who trade a device in at T-Mobile stores will be given instant credit for the trade, though T-Mobile will accept trades sent via mail. Further, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one deal on iPhones. Customers who buy two iPhones and port-in or activate a new line of service on at least one device can receive the second device for free (via monthly bill credits). Customers will have to pay tax on purchases at the point of sale. People who cancel service will be responsible for paying the balance of any devices on their account. Last, T-Mobile is offering a deal on the Apple Watch 3. Those who buy one Apple Watch 3 can snag a second for half price ($215). These promotions kick off on February 23 and will be available for a limited time.
Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The public version of iOS 11.3 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs.
Apple today released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Primarily, the minor update tackles an issue where using certain characters could cause apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp to crash. The update also patches a problem where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories. The iOS 11.2.6 is free to download over the air.
Apple says it has a patch in the works that will counter a bug causing iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and even Macs to crash. The bug occurs when people receive a message with certain Indian language characters in apps including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. According to The Verge, Apple will push the patch "soon." This means the bug will be fixed through a minor update (iOS 11.2.x) rather than the larger iOS 11.3 update expected later this spring. Apple also plans to issue patches for macOS and watchOS to resolve the issue on those devices.
Apple today told developers that soon all new apps submitted to the iTunes App Store must support the screen of the latest iPhone. "Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later," said Apple in an email to developers. "All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X." The iPhone X display swaps the 16:9 aspect ratio found on the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 for a 2:1 aspect ratio with a notch at the top. It also boosts the resolution beyond full HD. Apps that haven't yet been updated for the iPhone X often have black bars at the top and bottom, which look unsightly. Developers can find the iOS 11 SDK on Apple's developer web site.
Subscribers to Google's YouTube TV service now have access to more content in more places for more dollars per month. The live TV and video service is adding a number of Turner-owned stations to its lineup, including Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, truTV, and Turner Classic Movies. Sports content from NBA TV and MLB Network will follow soon. The service launched with content from 50 channels. There are still glaring omission, particularly with respect to content for children, such as Nickelodeon. Google didn't say what the full new channel lineup is. YouTube TV has expanded is geographical reach to the top 100 markets around the country. Some of the most recent additions include Burlington, Champaign, Charleston, Columbia, Dayton, El Paso, Harlingen, Honolulu, Lexington, Mobile, Petersburg, Plattsburgh, Richmond, Scranton, Springfield, Syracuse, Wichita, and Wilkes-Barre. These content and market expansions come at a cost. Google plans to raise the price from $35 per month to $40 per month beginning March 15. Customers who sign up before then will be grandfathered in at the lower price. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS phones and tablets, as well as the Apple TV and Roku players. Subscribers have access to live television, six sub-accounts, and unlimited DVR recordings.
Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.
Verizon Wireless plans to lock its handsets in order to cut down on theft. Verizon claims its unlocked phones are a big target, often stolen when in transit to Verizon stores or to consumers. Unlocked phones, particularly Apple iPhones, are easier to sell on the black market because they can be used virtually anywhere. Verizon's devices will be locked when first flashed with the operating system and will remain locked until the point of purchase. When consumers buy the phone, a software update will unlock the device. Later this spring, however, Verizon will keep phones locked to its network for an unknown period of time — even after activation. This move will prevent people from signing up for service with fake identities and then absconding with the device. "We're taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud," said Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, in a statement provided to CNET. "These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals." Verizon claims consumers won't really be impacted by the change in policy. The company says it will unlock phones upon request after the initial locked period expires, even if the phone is not yet fully paid for. It will also continue to allow customers to bring their own unlocked handsets to its network. Verizon didn't say how soon the policy change will go into effect. Verizon has sold unlocked devices since it launched 4G LTE. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all require people to pay the balance of their phone and wait 14 to 60 days before they'll agree to unlock it.
Qualcomm warned investors that two of its most important customers have threatened to take their business elsewhere should Qualcomm be acquired by Broadcom. Qualcomm didn't name the customers, but said together they contribute a combined $1 billion in chip revenue. Qualcomm's most important customers are Apple and Samsung, followed by Huawei, LG, Sony, Oppo, and Xiaomi. The customers in question cited a lack of confidence in Broadcom's ability to lead a combined Qualcomm-Broadcom entity as the impetus for their decisions. Broadcom made a second offer for Qualcomm this week, but Qualcomm's board rejected it. The two companies will, however, meet over the next few days to discuss the possibilities of a merger. Some of the biggest questions Qualcomm wants answered concern how much more is Broadcom willing to spend on the acquisition, and what will it do to ensure the deal is completed successfully. Qualcomm is also worried about antitrust issues, and pointed to several big deals that have taken more than 18 months to clear regulatory hurdles. Broadcom has offered to pay Qualcomm $8 billion should the merger fail to be approved.
T-Mobile today announced a buy-one, get-one deal for service plans. Subscribers to a T-Mobile One family plan (minimum two lines) can add a third line of service at full price and get a fourth line of service for free. The fourth line is free after monthly bill credits. Without auto-pay, each line will carry an additional $5 monthly fee. The free line is available as long as subscribers maintain at least three paid lines. T-Mobile says the BOGO line deal can be combined with its BOGO deals on smartphones, which let people score free or reduced-cost handsets when two are purchased at the same time. The company is offering up to half off an Apple Watch when purchased with another at full price (Digits plan required). Last, T-Mobile is offering discounts on select accessories, such as Beats headphones. The BOGO deal on service lines and discounted Apple Watch deal kick off on February 10 and will be available for a limited time.
Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 2 available to public testers. This build tweaks performance and adds Apple's promised battery health meter. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The new feature is a response to news that Apple slows down the performance of older iPhones to account for the degradation of lithium ion batteries. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.
Apple might give some customers a refund. The company is mulling whether or not it should offer cash back to those who paid full price to replace the battery of their older iPhone. Until December 2017, Apple charged $79 to replace iPhone batteries. The company admitted late last year that it slowed down some older iPhones in order to prevent random shutdowns. Replacing the battery of said older iPhones mitigates the speed/performance issue. Apple has since dropped the price of replacing batteries by $50, from $79 to $29. The company may offer $50 refunds to people who coughed up the full $79 price. The information was revealed in a letter Apple sent to Sen. John Thune, who requested more details about Apple's actions concerning the iPhone slowdown kerfuffle. "Apple has promised the committee some follow-up information, including an answer about additional steps it may take to address customers who purchased a new battery at full price," indicated Thune. Apple says it is seeing strong demand for replacement batteries at its retail stores. The company is also offering a software tool to customers, which will arrive in iOS 11.3 later this year, to help balance speed and battery life.
Apple today made several new beta builds of its various operating systems available to developers. Chief among them is iOS 11.3 Beta 2. This second developer build tweaks performance and adds Apple's promised battery health meter. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The new feature is a response to news that Apple slows down the performance of older iPhones to account for the degradation of lithium ion batteries. Apple also updated tvOS 11.3 to Beta 2. Public versions of these betas will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.
Apple has added refurbished units of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to its online store. Refurbished iPhones are given a new battery, a new outer shell, and are certified by Apple. They carry the same one-year factory warranty available to new iPhones, and can be protected via AppleCare. Savings varies between $50 and $70 off the cost of a comparable new iPhone 7. For example, the refurbished iPhone 7 (32 GB) costs $499 while a new one costs $549. iPhone 7 Plus buyers will save between $70 and $80 if they select a refurbished unit rather than a new one. The refurbished units are only available online. They are sold unlocked and SIM free.
Google has made its over-the-top streaming video service, YouTube TV, easier to access from television sets thanks to dedicated set-top-box applications. Owners of the Apple TV product and select Roku streaming devices will find the new YouTube TV app and service available directly from their TV box. YouTube TV launched during the second quarter of 2017 and only supported television sets via casting from mobile devices. Now, subscribers will be able to bypass their mobile device and use the service more easily. YouTube TV is available in more than 100 markets around the country and offers live TV and unlimited online DVR access. Content is limited to about 50 channels, though several premium add-ons, such as HBO, are available for an extra monthly fee.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations into Apple's treatment of older iPhones, according to a report. Apple admitted in December that it uses software to reduce the performance of select iPhones in order to compensate for aging lithium-ion batteries. iPhone owners have long complained that their devices slow down over time. Apple contends that it limits performance in order to prevent older iPhones from randomly shutting down as their batteries deliver uneven power under duress. At issue is how Apple communicated this behavior to its users. The company did not disclose that it slowed down older iPhones until last month, despite engaging in the behavior for years. The government agencies likely believe Apple should have been more upfront about the practice. Apple said it will allow those who own older iPhones to score replacement batteries at lower costs ($29 instead of $79). Replacing the battery mitigates the performance issue. Apple did not immediately comment on word of the government agencies' investigations.
Virgin Mobile today said customers will be able to buy "Certified Pre-Loved" (aka, used) iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus handsets beginning in February. The company already sells the refurbished iPhone 6s and 6s Plus devices. Prices for the used iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will range from $380 to $420. Virgin reiterates that Certified Pre-Loved iPhones are tested and inspected, given a new battery, and include a one-year Apple warranty. The used handsets also include new Apple EarPods and an Apple charger. The company is still offering six months of its Virgin Mobile Inner Circle service to port-ins for $1 per month for six months. After the initial six-month period ends, the Virgin Mobile Inner Circle costs $50 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data.
Immersion Corporation today said it has reached an accord with Apple concerning touch feedback patents. Immersion sued Apple in 2016 over the iPhone's use of touch and haptic technology. Later, the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed to weigh the case. Immersion now says it has entered into settlement and license agreements with Apple. The terms are confidential.
Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta One available to public beta testers. iOS 11.3 adds a host of significant new features to iPhones and iPads, including control over the battery, new animoji, business chat, health records, Apple Music videos, and improved augmented reality. Apple released iOS 11.2.5 to the general public earlier this week. Apple typically tests five to six betas, distributed every other week, before finalizing iOS releases. iOS 11.3 isn’t expected to reach most users until later this spring.
Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta One available to registered developers. iOS 11.3 adds a host of significant new features to iPhones and iPads, including control over the battery, new animoji, business chat, health records, Apple Music videos, and improved augmented reality. Apple released iOS 11.2.5 to the general public earlier this week. Apple typically tests five to six betas, distributed every other week, before finalizing iOS releases. iOS 11.3 isn’t expected to reach most users until later this spring.
Apple today previewed iOS 11.3, a system update that will give iPhone owners with a significant number of new tools and features. First up, iOS 11.3 provides iPhone users with more control over their handset's battery performance. As promised, people will be able to asses the health of their iPhone's battery, for example, to see whether or not it needs to be replaced. The tool will also allow people to turn off Apple's power management function that is used to prevent battery shutdowns at the expense of speed. iOS 11.3 introduces four new animoji: a bear, lion, dragon, and skull, making for a total of 16. These will only be available to the iPhone X. Apple has updated its augmented reality developer tool, ARKit, to version 1.5. This gives developers even more power to create AR content. iOS 11.3 will improve augmented reality for iPhones by expanding the ability to map surfaces to include horizontal and vertical surfaces. This means AR apps will be able to place virtual objects on walls and doors, in addition to floors and tables. Apple says the iPhone's camera is now able to offer 50% greater resolution when shooting AR, and can take advantage of auto-focus for sharper results. iOS 11.3 adds a new tool to iMessage that will allow iPhone owners to chat with select businesses. Some early adopters include Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo. Through this new business chat feature, people will be able to converse with service representatives, schedule appointments, and make purchases via Apple Pay. Apple didn't say if this tool is powered by bots. iOS 11.3 adds a new Health Records feature that will let health providers share patient health data in an easy-to-digest format. Patients will be able to collect their health records from their various institutions and view them in a single place on the iPhone. The health records support notifications for lab results, medications, conditions, and more. Apple says this data is encrypted and password-protected. Other features headed to iOS 11.3 include the addition of music videos to Apple Music, more video content within Apple News, software authentication for HomeKit devices, and support for Advanced Mobile Location so more accurate location data is made available to emergency services during 911 calls. Apple says iOS 11.3 will be available to developers later today, with the broad rollout expected later the spring.
The European Union has levied a fine of $1.23 billion against Qualcomm, alleging the chipmaking used its influence to score lucrative chip deals with Apple between 2011 and 2016. The EU says Qualcomm gave Apple massive discounts on baseband chips, the components that allow smartphones and tablets to speak to cell towers, so that Apple would not use components from competing firms. The five-year stretch during which Apple used only Qualcomm radios led to the latter's rise as the dominant supplier in the industry, when it achieved 90% marketshare. EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager claims Qualcomm "illegally shut out rivals from the market. In particular it has made a difference because we are talking about the one of the biggest and most important customers in this market," said Vestager, noting that smaller firms looked up to Apple and its business choices. Evidence suggests Apple considered opting for chips from firms other than Qualcomm and yet it didn't because it would have been financially detrimental to do so. Once the deal expired in 2016 and Apple began using baseband chips from other suppliers (in the case of the iPhone, Intel), competition in the space began to turn around. The EU sees the $1.23 billion fine as a deterrent to convince other firms to avoid similar behavior. Qualcomm denied the charges and filed an appeal.
Apple today made iOS 11.2.5 available to iPhones and iPads. The update primarily adds support for Apple's forthcoming HomePod speaker. It also makes it possible for iPhone and iPad owners to ask Siri to read the day's news. The news feature is initially only available in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia. iOS 11.2.5 also fixes bugs and smoothes over performance. The update is free to download and install. Apple also released macOS 10.13.3, watchOS 4.2.2, tvOS 11.2.5, and macOS Server 5.5. The macOS update, in particular, patches significant security holes, while the others perform general bug fixes.
Apple today said its HomePod smart speaker for the home will go on sale starting February 9. Preorders will kick off Friday, January 26. The smart speaker, which relies on Siri to handle voice requests, was supported to reach stores during the fourth quarter of 2017, but Apple delayed it for reasons unknown. Apple says Siri on the HomePod is able to handle natural-language requests, such as "who's playing drums on this track", "play more songs like thins" and so on. The HomePod focuses works natively with Apple Music and lets people tap into their playlists, artists, albums, and songs. Apple says it developed the HomePod to sound good, to understand where it is, and to provide a fun experience. It features a seven-tweeter array to drive audio in multiple directions and a 4-inch woofer that's upward facing. It is powered by an A8 processor with real-time acoustic modeling, audio beam-forming, and multi-channel echo cancellation. It can sense the size of the room it is in and adjust how it performs in order to fill that space with sound. Some core features include reminders, sports, news, alarms, messages, translations, stocks, traffic, and more. It can also interact with HomeKit devices for adjusting the thermostat or controlling lights. The HomePod will compete against the Google Home Amazon Echo series of products. HomePod costs $349.
Apple plans to give iPhone owners more control over their devices, particularly the battery and performance, says CEO Tim Cook. Speaking to ABCNews, Cook addressed the issue concerning older iPhone batteries. The company admitted late last year that it slows down the performance of some devices in order to prevent them from shutting down. End users often complain that their devices feel slow after updating the software. "At the heart of any decision we make is the user, and we felt it would be better to take something off of the performance to prevent [iPhones from restarting]. We deeply apologize for anybody who thinks we have some other kind of motivation," said Cook. Because the problem pertains to the battery, Apple reduced the cost of replacement batteries from $79 to $29. Putting a new battery in an old phone mitigates the issue. Apple plans to take things a step further. It will soon give people more insight into the health of their iPhone's battery. "We've listened to the feedback very carefully and in addition to giving everyone a very low price on a battery if they'd like to get a new battery, we're also going to, in a developer release that happens next month, give people the visibility of the health of their battery. It's very very transparent. This hasn't been done before. We will tell someone we're reducing your performance by some amount in order to not have an unexpected restart and, if you don't want it, you can turn it off." Cook didn't provide specifics as to how the battery tool will work. The company tests new features in developer betas ahead of releasing them to the general public. Apple did not say when the feature might reach all iPhones.
Apple today outlined plans to contribute up to $350 billion to the U.S. economy across various avenues over the next five years. The company will invest some $30 billion in capital expenditures by opening a new campus and creating 20,000 new jobs. Apple already employs about 84,000 people in the U.S. The new Apple campus (location to be announced at a later date) will house technical support for customers. The company will invest $10 billion in data centers around the courtly, such as a new facility that broke ground today in Reno, Nev. Apple will power these facilities with 100% renewable energy. Apple said it is increasing the size of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund, first announced last spring, from $1 billion to $5 billion. The fund will continue to support ingenuity from American manufacturers. Further, Apple said it will work closer with its American suppliers to procure parts and materials for its own products. The company intends to provide more direct support to coding and science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education. For example, it will expand initiatives such as its Swift Playgrounds coding app for kids. The company hopes these efforts will eventually pay off for developers. Apple claims the iOS app economy alone has created 1.6 million jobs and generated $5 billion in revenue for U.S companies in 2017 alone. "Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the U.S. economy," said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. "We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness."
Apple has caught the ire of Sen. John Thune (R) who wants to know more about Apple's throttling of older iPhones. The company admitted last month that it sometimes slowed down older iPhones with aging batteries in order to prevent shutdowns. Apple insisted the strategy was meant to keep phones up and running, rather than allowing them to crash and reboot from overheated batteries. Others don't see it that way and the company has been the subject of harsh criticism. A number of lawsuits have been filed against Apple in the U.S. and other regions. In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Thune said, "The large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency.” Thune serves as the chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues. He believes Apple should have been more upfront with consumers with respect to this business practice. In response to the issue, Apple dropped the price of replacing iPhone batteries from $79 to $29. Replacing batteries in older iPhones mitigates the need to slow down their performance. Apple has yet to publicly comment on Thune's request for more information.