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Eye Tracking Coming to iPhones

May 16, 2024, 10:42 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has announced several new accessibility features coming to iOS and iPadOS later this year. Eye Tracking will let you control your iPhone using just eye movements. Dwell Control will let users activate elements and access "additional functions such as physical buttons, swipes, and other gestures solely with their eyes." Eye Tracking uses the front-facing camera and on-device machine learning. Another feature called Vocal Shortcuts will let users "assign custom utterances that Siri can understand to launch shortcuts and complete complex tasks." Finally, Music Haptics lets users who are deaf or hard of hearing experience music via taps, textures, and refined vibrations generated by the iPhone's Taptic Engine. The feature will work in Apple Music and third-party apps can support it with a new API.

iOS 17.5 Out Now with Cross-Platform Unwanted Tracking Protection

May 13, 2024, 4:01 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has released the final version of iOS 17.5 to the public. The most notable new feature is support for the new Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers cross-platform specification. This anti-stalking technology will let you know if a Bluetooth tracking device is moving with you that is not yours. iOS previously had this feature for its own AirTags, but now it will work with trackers designed for Google's ecosystem as well. iOS 17.5 also brings a number of important security fixes, so most iPhone users should upgrade as soon as possible. iPhone users can update to 17.5 by going to Settings, General, Software Update, and choosing "Update Now".

Beats Launches Smaller, More Affordable Earbuds

Apr 30, 2024, 2:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Beats today announced the all-new Beats Solo Buds true wireless earbuds, as well as an update to its iconic headphones, the Beats Solo 4. The Beats Solo Buds are the brand's smallest earbuds yet, and will sell for just $80. They have Class 1 long-range Bluetooth, one-touch pairing for both iOS and Android, and Apple Find My. The earbud buttons are customizable. Unusually, the only batteries are in the buds themselves; the case is for charging the buds via USB-C but does not have a battery itself. The buds can provide up to 18 hours of battery life and a five-minute charge gives up to one hour of play time. They come with four sizes of ear tips. The Beats Solo Buds will be available in June in Matte Black, Storm Gray, Arctic Purple, and Transparent Red. The Beats Solo 4 bring Personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking to the iconic over-ear headphones. They also support wired audio via USB-C or 3.5mm ports. Battery life has been improved to 50 hours. The Beats Solo 4 are available for order starting today for $200. They come in Matte Black, Slate Blue, and Cloud Pink.

IHG Rolls Out Hotel TVs with AirPlay

Apr 18, 2024, 1:32 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Apr 18, 2024, 3:56 PM

IHG has flipped the switch on Apple AirPlay at 60 of its North American hotels. The wireless media-casting feature is now available in hotel rooms via LG TVs with a special implementation designed just for hotels. Guests scan a unique QR code displayed on their room TV, and this connects their Apple device to the hotel Wi-Fi and directly to the TV in their room. AirPlay works for video, music, photos, workouts, games, and more. Multiple Apple devices can be paired to the same hotel TV at once. The pairings are automatically deleted when the guest checks out of the hotel. 60 hotels under various brands — including Kimpton, Indigo, Candlewood, and InterContinental — are launching the feature today, "with others to be added in the coming months." IHG first announced its AirPlay plans in June of last year, originally promising to launch it before the end of 2023.

Apple Expands Repair Program with Support for Used Parts

Apr 11, 2024, 10:46 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Apr 11, 2024, 4:19 PM

Apple is expanding its third-party and self-repair programs to allow the use of used genuine Apple parts when repairing iPhones. The company will also no longer require a device serial number when ordering parts. A new feature will prevent used parts from working fully if they came from a device reported lost or stolen (a device with Activation Lock or Lost Mode enabled). Apple's unique Parts and Service history, located within Settings on iOS, shows repair information and will soon "show whether a part is a new or used genuine Apple part." The use of used parts will come to "select iPhone models this fall". In the interest of "iPhone user's privacy, security, and safety", there are still restrictions on biometric sensors used for Face ID or Touch ID, but "future iPhone releases will have support for used biometric sensors." Apple apparently still uses some form of "parts pairing", a controversial practice. But "beginning this fall, calibration for genuine Apple parts, new or used, will happen on device after the part is installed", a new process that should significantly streamline third-party repairs and self-repair.

Apple Brings Qi2 Support to iPhone 12

Apr 3, 2024, 10:34 AM   by Rich Brome

The iPhone 12 launched with support for fast 15-watt wireless charging, but only with Apple MagSafe chargers. Macworld reports that iOS 17.4 quietly introduced support for fast wireless charging with third-party chargers using the Qi2 standard.

Oregon Right-to-Repair Law Bans Parts Pairing

Mar 28, 2024, 10:11 AM   by Rich Brome

Oregon has officially passed its own "right to repair" law, joining California, Minnesota and New York. Oregon's law goes further than other states', however, by banning "parts pairing", a practice where components are linked to a specific device serial number. Apple has increasingly deployed this practice with its devices, including iPhones, making them more difficult to repair. Even when properly replacing a part with a genuine replacement, that the device may refuse to use that component, or use it with limited functionality, or throw up a warning to the user that the part is "unidentified". This part of the law goes into effect with products made after January 1, 2025. Other parts of the law take effect sooner. Companies will have to provide parts, tools, and documentation necessary for repairing smartphones made starting July 1, 2021, a date that aligns with the new California and Minnesota right-to-repair laws.

Google and Apple Announce Next Big Keynote Events

Mar 26, 2024, 5:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple both have big annual developer events coming up in the next few months. As usual, each will kick off with a major livestreamed keynote. Major new software is typically revealed at these events, including for smartphones. First up is Google I/O, which kicks off on May 14th at 10am Pacific. Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) follows on June 10th.

US Justice Dept. Sues Apple for Monopolistic Behavior in Smartphones

Mar 21, 2024, 11:19 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Mar 21, 2024, 11:19 AM

The US Justice Department, joined by 16 other attorneys general, today filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Apple for illegal monopolization of smartphone markets. The move comes after the EU forced Apple to change the way it operates in Europe, for similar reasons. Specifically, the Justice Dept. claims several specific offenses:

  • Disrupting the growth of "super apps" with broad functionality that would make it easier to switch platforms.
  • Suppressing streaming game apps and certain other cloud-based applications.
  • Making cross-platform messaging worse, less innovative, and less secure to create platform lock-in.
  • Limiting the functionality of smartwatches when used with other platforms.
  • Limiting third-party apps from offering tap-to-pay functionality.
The complaint further alleges that Apple's illegal conduct also extends to web browsers, video communication, news subscriptions, entertainment, automotive services, advertising, location services, and more. The Justice Department is "seeking equitable relief on behalf of the American public to redress Apple's long-running, pervasive anticompetitive conduct."

Tap to Pay on iPhone Comes to Venmo, Zettle

Mar 7, 2024, 11:33 AM   by Rich Brome

PayPal announced that it now supports Tap to Pay on iPhone for Venmo business profile and PayPal Zettle users in the US. This allows small businesses to accept NFC tap payments directly with just an iPhone; no extra hardware required. Customers need only their usual contactless payment method, be it a physical card or their phone (Apple Pay or Google Pay); customers do not need the Venmo app, for example. In both apps, the new feature fully supports taxes, tips, receipts, and refunds. Apple announced Tap to Pay on iPhone in early 2022, and Square added support for it in late 2022.

iOS 17.4, Out Today, Brings Transcripts to Apple Podcasts

Mar 5, 2024, 2:33 PM   by Rich Brome

iOS version 17.4 is officially available for iPhones starting today. One major new feature of the update is podcast transcripts in the Apple Podcasts app. The feature improves accessibility and gives users a new option in other scenarios where listening to audio may be difficult. Text stays in sync with audio, highlighting the current word. Crucially, it also includes a search feature, which lets you search for any word or phrase and tap it jump to that part of the podcast. Starting today, transcripts are available for English-, French-, Spanish-, and German-language podcasts with iOS 17.4. Transcripts will automatically be available for new episodes shortly after episodes are published; previously released episodes will be transcribed over time.

Apple Upgrades iMessage Encryption for Quantum Threat

Feb 21, 2024, 11:48 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple announced that it is upgrading the end-to-end encryption in iMessage to guard against the threat that future quantum computers may be able to easily defeat today's traditional encryption. Although no such quantum computer is known to exist today, it is possible that today's encrypted messages could be intercepted, stored, and decrypted by a future quantum computer; hence the need to move to post-quantum cryptography (PQC) today. Apple's new "PQ3" messaging protocol does this, along with several other security enhancements. The protocol includes periodic "rekeying", to ensure that even if a one key is compromised, only part of a conversation could be decrypted. It also utilizes a hybrid approach that combines PQC and a more traditional ECC algorithm, so that if flaws are found in the new PQC algorithm, content is still protected by proven ECC encryption. Support for PQ3 is included in iOS 17.4. PQ3 will fully replace the existing protocol within all supported conversations this year.

Apple Launches its own Free Sports App

Feb 21, 2024, 11:19 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple today launched Apple Sports, a free iPhone app for tracking sports scores and related info. Users can customize their scoreboards by following their favorite teams, info that is synced with the Apple TV app and Apple News. Besides scores the app also shows upcoming games, play-by-play information, team stats, lineup details, and live betting odds. For in-progress games, tap to watch the game live, via Apple TV and "connected streaming apps". It currently includes MLS, NBA, NCAA basketball, NHL, Premier League, and more. It will also support MLB, NFL, NCAAF, NWSL, and WNBA as those leagues start their upcoming seasons. The app is available today for the US, Canada, and UK.

Apple Changes Position, Will Allow Streaming Games in App Store

Jan 25, 2024, 1:42 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple is changing its App Store rules to allow game-streaming services as well as "mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins" in iOS apps. "Developers can now submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog." Apple previously prohibited this type of app, requiring a whole separate app to be submitted for each game. Apple will still apply all of its other App Store rules to all experiences available from within the app. Such apps will need to carry the age rating of the highest age-rated content available within that app, so a single game rated 17+/Mature available could cause a whole game platform to be rated 17+, for example. The changes will also permit scenarios such as one app that offers individual chatbot subscriptions via Apple's in-app purchase mechanism. Apple also promises to "provide enhanced discovery opportunities" for these new experiences within apps.

Apple Resumes Watch Sales with Blood Oxygen Features Disabled

Jan 18, 2024, 11:38 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple is once again selling its Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 in the US, but with the blood-oxygen monitoring features disabled. Apple is in the middle of a legal battle with Masimo over a patent on blood-oxygen monitoring technology. The most recent ruling was against Apple, but the company is appealing. A separate ruling affirmed that Apple could sell the watches with the disputed features removed or disabled. Apple was forced to pause sales of these models for a period that included some of the holiday shopping season. The feature is only disabled in new watches; existing watches are unaffected by this import and sales ban.

Apple Passes Samsung in Phone Shipments

Jan 16, 2024, 4:12 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple shipped more phones than Samsung for the first time ever in 2023. Samsung had led the sales charts since 2010, when Nokia was #1. The shipment numbers have not been not confirmed by the companies, but two different research companies that track this information — IDC and Canalys — have reached essentially the same conclusion. IDC claims that Apple managed to grow both total shipments and market share in 2023, a year when most competitors saw a drop in phone shipments.

Apple vs. Epic Battle Over App Store Comes to an End

Jan 16, 2024, 12:34 PM   by Rich Brome

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of Epic Games vs. Apple, leaving in place the most recent rulings of lower courts and effectively ending the years-long legal battle over Apple's App Store rules in the U.S. The end result is that Apple will not be forced to open iPhones to competing app stores and payment systems within iOS. However Apple is being forced to allow app developers to direct their customers to alternative subscription and payment options outside its ecosystem, such as on the web. Central to the issue is the 30% commission that Apple collects on in-app purchases in iOS apps.

New Case Adds Keyboard to iPhone Pro

Jan 5, 2024, 2:39 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 5, 2024, 3:19 PM

Clicks is a new case accessory for recent iPhone Pro models that adds a full physical QWERTY keyboard to the bottom of the phone. By disabling the software keyboard when in use, it frees up the lower half of the display for content while typing. It also provides faster access to shortcuts, including Home and Search. The keyboard is backlit and the device provides pass-through Lightning or USB-C connections for easy phone charging. The wired connection also offers a reliable link between the keyboard and the phone, and doesn't require a separate battery for the keyboard. Clicks is a creation of Michael Fisher (known as MrMobile), and Kevin Michaluk (known as CrackBerry Kevin), "together with a team with mobile experience from companies including Apple, BlackBerry, and Google." Clicks is available for order starting today two colors: yellow and gray. Three models are available: Clicks for the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro sell for $139 and ship on Feb. 1 and mid-March, respectively. A model for the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max ships in early spring for $159.

Beeper Mini's Newest (Cumbersome) Workaround Will be its Last

Dec 21, 2023, 1:29 PM   by Rich Brome

Beeper Mini has a new solution for using iMessage on an Android phone, but it requires a jailbroken iPhone left plugged in and turned on, as well as a Mac or Linux computer. Apple has found ways to shut down previous versions of Beeper Mini that did not require this extra hardware. Beeper says of its new solution: "we believe we’ve created something that Apple can tolerate existing." However, if Apple does shut down the new version of the service, Beeper says it will abandon the project.

Apple to Allow Discounts for Competing Subscriptions

Dec 18, 2023, 2:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has announced to developers a new feature of its App Store that will enable companies to "give customers a discounted subscription price as long as they're actively subscribed to a different subscription". The feature is being rolled out slowly to select developers.

Apple to Pause Apple Watch Sales

Dec 18, 2023, 2:18 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple will pause sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 starting December 21st, in order to preemptively comply with an order from US International Trade Commission. The issue stems from a finding that the blood oxygen sensor in those watches infringes on a patent held by medical tech company Masimo. The US President has an option to veto the order, and there are multiple paths to appealing or resolving the issue. Apple will pause online sales on the 21st, and in-store sales on the 24th. Other retailers may continue seling the watches, and Apple will continue to sell the Apple Watch SE, which lacks that specific sensor. Apple promises more information after a Presidential Review Period expires on December 25.

Apple and Google Launch Phone Diagnostic Tools

Dec 15, 2023, 12:45 PM   by Rich Brome

Within days of each other, Apple and Google have both announced new diagnostic software that allow users to troubleshoot common issues with their own iPhones or Pixel phones. The new Apple Diagnostics for Self Service Repair tool starts with a web site where users enter their device's serial number. On Google Pixel phones, a Pixel Diagnostic App can be accessed by entering a special code (*#*#7287#*#*) in the Phone app. The tool is already available on all Pixel phones, but Google now seems to be supporting consumer use of a tool previously intended only for qualified technicians. Both Apple and Google have relatively new programs that enable technical-minded consumers to order parts and tools, and repair their own phones. These new software tools should help users diagnose issues, identify the correct parts to order, and verify repairs.

iPhone Gaining Protections Against Phone Thieves That Know Your Passcode

Dec 12, 2023, 2:50 PM   by Rich Brome

The new beta version of iOS rolling out today includes a new feature called Stolen Device Protection, designed specifically to help iPhone owners retain control of their online accounts after their phone is stolen, even in cases where the thief knows the phone's passcode. Because a passcode can serve a fallback when biometric unlocking fails, thieves can use it to unlock a stolen phone and change the Apple ID password, prevent password resets, block Find My features, and access saved passwords for third-party apps, including some banking and financial apps. The new feature — which is optional and turned off by default — requires two successful biometric scans one hour apart to make those critical changes, and does not accept the passcode as a fallback. The extra protections apply only when the phone is away from known locations like "home" or "work". The new feature should help prevent thieves from causing financial damage beyond the stolen phone, but also make this particular type of phone theft less attractive as more people enable this feature.

iOS 17.2 is Available Now

Dec 11, 2023, 4:10 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple's latest update for iOS — version 17.2 — brings support for Spatial Video capture on iPhone 15 Pro models. It also adds Qi2 wireless charging support for certain older models.

Apple and Beeper Face Off Over iMessage-on-Android App

Dec 11, 2023, 11:03 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Dec 11, 2023, 3:19 PM

Beeper Mini — an app that successfully implemented iMessage on Android phones — stopped working after just a few days, but has now started working again. Apple effectively claimed responsibility for the outage over the weekend, saying: "We took steps to protect our users by blocking techniques that exploit fake credentials in order to gain access to iMessage. These techniques posed significant risks to user security and privacy, including the potential for metadata exposure and enabling unwanted messages, spam, and phishing attacks. We will continue to make updates in the future to protect our users." Beeper's CEO Eric Migicovsky responded: "if Apple truly cares about the privacy and security of their own iPhone users, why would they stop a service that enables their own users to now send encrypted messages to Android users, rather than using unsecure SMS?" The Beeper team has now delivered a promised update to restore service, although it requires an Apple ID account and is tied to the user's email address instead of phone number as before. The app will be free for the time being, instead of the $2/fee (after free trial) originally announced. These developments potentially set up a game of cat-and-mouse that could make Beeper Mini service intermittent. Apple would seem to have the upper hand, being in control of the iMessage servers. However Beeper has been very transparent about how Beeper Mini works, and insists that Apple's options are limited, short of restructuring the iMessage protocol and requiring all Apple devices to receive an update to continue using the messaging service.

Governments Demand, Receive Push Notification Data from Apple, Google

Dec 6, 2023, 11:38 AM   by Rich Brome

A US Senator has written a public letter bringing to light the practice of governments demanding smartphones' push notification records from Apple and Google, and receiving that information. The US government has prevented Apple and Google from disclosing this practice, but Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is asking the Department of Justice to allow Apple and Google to disclose information about this to their customers. Already, in response to the letter, Apple has acknowledged the practice and pledged to include information about it in its next transparency report. On both iPhones and Android phones, app push notifications are routed via Apple or Google servers.

Apple Bringing Qi2 Support to iPhone 13, 14

Dec 6, 2023, 11:24 AM   by Rich Brome

iOS 17.2 adds support for the new Qi2 wireless charging standard to the previous two generations of iPhones. Qi2 is based on Apple's proprietary MagSafe, which itself is based on the older Qi standard. MagSafe and Qi2 both feature magnets to ensure proper alignment, as well as faster charging speeds compared to Qi. The iPhone 15 series already supports Qi2. iOS 17.2 also includes a fix for wireless charging issues that some iPhone 15 owners have experienced in certain models of cars.

Apple, Goldman Sachs to End Apple Card Partnership

Nov 28, 2023, 6:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple plans to part ways with Goldman Sachs — the financial giant behind the Apple Card credit card — in the next 12–15 months, according to the Wall Street Journal. It is not clear if Apple has another financial institution lined up to take over, or how the Card might change, or possibly be discontinued.

Sunbird Pulls its iMessage App for Android

Nov 21, 2023, 12:40 PM   by Rich Brome

Sunbird has pulled its app from the Google Play Store, and Nothing has pulled its version of the app, following significant privacy issues. Sunbird offered a way for Android users to communicate with iPhone users via Apple's proprietary iMessage platform. However several researchers and journalists discovered that the app wasn't encrypted in ways Sunbird promised, and other people's private messages could be accessed with relative ease. Services like Sunbird will become less necessary in a year, when Apple adds support in iOS for the RCS rich messaging standard already used by most Android phones.

Apple Caves on Messaging, Will Support RCS Industry Standard

Nov 16, 2023, 1:26 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Nov 17, 2023, 10:45 AM

Apple has issued a statement announcing that it will support RCS — the industry standard for enhanced messaging — in late 2024, which likely means in iOS 18. This will enable features like read receipts, typing indicators, and high-quality media with users of other platforms, including Android. Android already supports RCS as its default enhanced messaging platform. Green bubbles on iPhones won't be going away, though. Apple confirmed that blue bubbles will continue to be exclusive to iMessage messages. Google and some governments have been pressuring Apple to provide this kind interoperability in recent months. The full statement from Apple, provided to 9to5Mac, reads: "Later next year, we will be adding support for RCS Universal Profile, the standard as currently published by the GSM Association. We believe RCS Universal Profile will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS. This will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users."

Apple Won't Charge for Satellite SOS Service Before 2025

Nov 15, 2023, 11:46 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Nov 15, 2023, 12:11 PM

iPhone 14 owners who activated their phone prior to today will receive three free years of Emergency SOS via Satellite service instead of the usual two. Other iPhone 14 and 15 owners will continue to receive two free years of service. The move implies that Apple's plans to start charging for the service in late 2024 have been delayed. Apple's Emergency SOS via Satellite service lets users reach emergency services when out of cellular range. It can also be used to share the user's location with friends and/or family while off the grid.

Nothing Brings iMessage to its Phone (2)

Nov 14, 2023, 11:40 AM   by Rich Brome

Starting Friday, owners of the Nothing Phone (2) will be able to download a new app that will let them access Apple's iMessage platform. The Nothing Chats app is based on the Sunbird service, an app that currently has a 150,000-person waitlist. Nothing's deal with Sunbird lets Nothing Phone (2) users cut the line. According to Sunbird CEO Danny Mizrahi, "for the next few months the only way to get Sunbird is to have a Nothing Phone (2)." The app is a beta version, and indeed the Washington Post found several limitations, such as no message editing, limited Tapbacks and group chat support, and occasionally unreliable message sending. Still, the effort marks the first time an Android phone maker has attempted to support Apple's proprietary messaging platform.

EU Could to Force Apple to Open iMessage

Nov 8, 2023, 12:48 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and a group of European mobile operators are petitioning the European Union to force Apple to open up its proprietary iMessage platform. The EU has a new Digital Markets law going into effect next year that seeks to regulate "gatekeeper" services of a certain size. Apple is arguing that iMessage falls outside the scope of the law due to the variety of alternative messaging options available. Google, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and others have written a letter arguing that iMessage qualifies as a "core platform service". The decision could hinge on whether iMessage is an important channel for businesses to communicate with their customers.

Apple Watch Series 9 Detects Finger Gestures, Brings Siri On-Device

Sep 12, 2023, 3:17 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has announced Apple Watch Series 9, a major upgrade of the internal components to enable new features. The new S9 chip includes a quad-core neural engine with twice the machine learning performance. This enables the Siri voice assistant to run locally on the device instead of relying on the cloud. This, in turn, allows Siri to query and update personal health data. Another major new feature is the finger double-tap gesture. Using the new neural engine and nearly all of the Watch's sensors, the Series 9 can detect when you touch your thumb to your index finger. Doing this twice quickly can trigger certain actions, such an answering a call, pausing music, snoozing an alarm, or taking a photo with the Camera Remote app. The new neural engine also enables a new dictation engine that's 25% more accurate. A new UWB chip (the same second-gen chip as in the new iPhone 15 series) enables precision finding for locating a lost iPhone. The UWB also allows the Watch to automatically pop up media controls when you approach a HomePod. The display has been improved to reach 2000 nits of brightness, twice as bright as before. It can also get as dim as 1 nit, for dark environments like a theater. The Apple Watch also now supports NameDrop (which lets you share contact info by bringing two Apple devices close together.) The new Apple Watch Ultra 2 brings all of these improvements and features to the Ultra, and further boosts display brightness to 3000 nits, making it the brightest display Apple has ever put in any product. Apple says the new watches are its first products that are 100% carbon neutral (depending on band choice). Apple is eliminating leather from its lineup, including watch bands. Instead it has come up with FineWoven, a "luxurious and durable microtwill" that has "a suedelike feel". All new Apple products are being designed to incorporate more recycled material than ever, including watch bands, and Apple has partnered with Nike and Hermès on several new non-leather bands that are more environmentally friendly. As usual, the standard Apple Watch comes in two sizes. The Series 9 starts at $399, while the Apple Watch Ultra 2 starts at $799. All of the new watches are available for order today, with full availability next Friday, Sept. 22nd.

iPhone 15 Series Goes All-In on USB-C and Dynamic Island

Sep 12, 2023, 2:19 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has revealed the iPhone 15 series, which moves to a USB-C connector and brings several key features from last year's Pro models to the more-affordable standard models. These include the pill-shaped sensor cutout in the display that Apple calls Dynamic Island, a brighter display that can reach 2000 nits, a 48 megapixel main camera, and the A16 Bionic processor chip. The Pro models move to a titanium outer frame and a new A17 Pro chip that uses a cutting-edge 3nm manufacturing process. The A17 Pro has faster graphics with ray-tracing as well as a 2x faster Neural Engine for on-device machine learning. As with last year, both standard and Pro models come in two sizes: a 6.1-inch display and a 6.7-inch display. The larger models also include a larger battery. The larger iPhone 15 Pro Max also steps up from a 3x tele camera to a 5x. That camera features 3D sensor-shift OIS, a first in a phone. The titanium frame on the Pro models is stronger and lighter, granting them lighter weight and a slightly smaller physical size due to thinner bezels around the display. All models feature durable ceramic shield display glass and a frame with slightly rounded edges for a more comfortable feel in hand. The industry-standard USB-C connector replaces Apple's proprietary Lightning connector. On the iPhone 15 series, it supports charging, data, audio, and video (up to 4K). Apple is launching new wired earbuds and AirPods Pro for the new connector. On the Pro models, the connector supports USB 3 for data rates up to 10 Gbps. The Pro models can even record ProRes video directly to external storage. The 48 megapixel main cameras that are now standard across the lineup have a new default mode that captures both a 48 megapixel image and a higher-quality 12 megapixel image using pixing binning, then combines them to output a 24 megapixel photo with a better balance of quality and resolution. The standard models do not include a dedicated telephoto camera (like the Pros), but still offer 2x tele mode thanks to the higher-resolution main sensor. Video mode supports smooth zooming while filming. In standard Photo mode, the camera app now automatically detects a portrait situation (including of a pet) and captures a depth map. This lets you turn the photo into a portrait with bokeh (blurred background) after the fact, and even choose which part is in focus. Apple has also added a new nano-coating to the camera lenses to reduce lens flare in photos, a common complaint with recent iPhone models. A new, 2nd-generation UWB chip has longer range and enables a precision finding feature for other people you know with iPhones. A new "Voice Isolation" feature powered by machine learning eliminates background noise coming from your side while on a phone call. The emergency satellite features have been expanded to include roadside assistance from AAA; that service is now included with a AAA membership. The Pro models have a few other tweaks, such as a customizable action button replacing the silent switch, and rear glass that's easier to remove for better repairability. The Pro models can also capture 3D "Spacial Video" for Apple's new Vision Pro AR headset, plus log encoding for professional video capture and color grading. Finally, the Pro models support Wi-Fi 6E and Thread. The iPhone 15 starts at $799 while the larger Plus starts at $899, both with 128 GB of storage. The iPhone 15 Pro starts at $999 (128 GB) while the 15 Pro Max starts at $1199 (256 GB). The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus come in black or one of four pastel colors: blue, green, yellow, or pink. The Pro models come in black, white, blue or "natural titanium". Pre-orders start this Friday, with full availability a week later on Sept. 22.

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Apple to Continue Using Qualcomm Modem Chips in iPhones

Sep 11, 2023, 7:27 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has extended its contract with Qualcomm to supply 5G modem chips for iPhones through 2026. Apple has been attempting to develop its own 5G modem chips, and purchased Intel's phone chip business in 2019 for $1 billion to further that effort. While rumors suggested Apple planned to debut its own 5G chips this year or next, the new deal with Qualcomm suggests that project is delayed. Apple could still debut its own 5G chip before 2026, but may phase in the change over time, across different iPhone models and/or different markets. Apple used modems from different suppliers in the iPhone 7 series, with the Qualcomm modems offering superior performance.

Apple Issues Urgent iOS Patch for Major Security Vulnerability

Sep 8, 2023, 7:37 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 8, 2023, 7:43 AM

Apple has released iOS 16.6.1 for iPhones, which fixes an "actively exploited zero-click vulnerability". All iPhone and iPad owners should update their OS software immediately, as this is one of the most severe types of security issues. The vulnerability can be exploited with zero interaction from the victim; the attacker merely needs to send an iMessage with a maliciously crafted image. The Citizen Lab discovered the vulnerability — which they have dubbed "Blastpass" — being actively exploited in the wild and used to install NSO Group's Pegasus "mercenary spyware", which gives the attacker nearly complete access to the target device. Citizen Lab notes that iPhones in Lockdown Mode would not have been vulnerable to this exploit. Lockdown Mode is an existing feature of iOS that cuts off likely attack vectors. It's designed for people likely to be targeted for who they are or what they do. This particular exploit involves "a validation issue" with the PassKit API in Wallet, in combination with a buffer overflow issue in Apple's image-processing framework. Buffer overflows are a common cause of security vulnerabilities across most OSes.

Apple Commits to Arm Through 2040

Sep 6, 2023, 7:30 AM   by Rich Brome

New filings related to Arm's planned initial public offering (IPO) reveal that Apple has signed a deal with the company that "extends beyond 2040". Apple licenses Arm chip technology which it then customizes to create the A-series processor chips that are the heart of iPhones and iPads. More recently, Apple also moved its Mac computers to M-series "Apple Silicon" chips which are also based on Arm technology. Other major mobile chip companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek also license Arm technology as the basis for their chip designs. As Arm prepares to go public, Apple is among the strategic investors who has agreed to buy shares in the IPO.

Qualcomm Invests in Non-Arm Chip Designs

Aug 7, 2023, 9:57 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm is one of several major electronics companies teaming up on a new joint venture to advance the RISC-V architecture. RISC-V is an open-source alternative to the Arm architecture, which is the basis for the chips that power most mobile devices today. Arm is a British company that develops reference designs for the cores at the heart the chips that power most phones. Both Qualcomm and Apple currently license Arm designs for their own chips. Earlier this year, Google announced long-term plans to make Android compatible with RISC-V architectures. Qualcomm says "initial application focus will be automotive, but with an eventual expansion to include mobile and IoT." The new company will be based in Germany. Other partners in the joint venture include Bosch, Infineon, Nordic Semiconductors, and NXP.

iOS 17 Public Beta Now Available

Jul 12, 2023, 1:28 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has released the first public beta test version of iOS 17 for iPhones. The software was announced a month ago and the final version is due this fall. The update brings a long list of small new features, including StandBy, Live Voicemail, Check In, Offline Maps, better auto-correct, and new protections against unwanted nude images. As usual, beta software tends to have bugs and should not be installed on a device you depend on. People wishing to try out the software can head to the Apple Beta Software Program web site to sign up and enroll a specific device to receive the iOS 17 beta.

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