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Expercom Debuts Black Friday Sale on High-End Configurations of MacBook Pro and iMac

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 18:13
Apple premium reseller Expercom this week launched a few discounts on high-end build-to-order configurations of the iMac and MacBook Pro. All of these selections include models that have the best sale prices in comparison to the other Apple resellers, and many configurations aren't on sale anywhere else this week, allowing those planning on making a big purchase to save a bit of money on a new Apple computer this holiday.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Below we've listed the Macs on sale, along with their price at Expercom and any relevant comparison to the same or similar configurations sold at B&H Photo, Adorama, MacMall, and Apple's own refurbished online store.

13-inch MacBook Pro
  • Late 2016, 2.4GHz i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD - $1,499.00 at Expercom

15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
27-inch Retina 5K iMac
Expercom's sale includes many more Macs and ends on November 25. For more of the latest savings heading into the holidays, be sure to check out our Black Friday Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Black Friday
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Macy's Launches Apple Watch Series 1 Black Friday Discount: 38mm for $180 and 42mm for $210

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 14:42
The latest Black Friday deal has gone live today, and this time it's for the Apple Watch Series 1, which debuted alongside the Series 2 in September 2016. The Series 1 models lack the advancements of 2017's Series 3 -- like LTE and a faster processor -- but the older Apple Watch is still a reliable device, and now with a cheaper entry price over at Macy's, it makes for a great holiday gift.

The retailer has the Apple Watch Series 1 discounted by $70 beginning today, with 38mm models running for $179.00 and 42mm models priced at $209.00. In terms of overall Black Friday deals, we know that Target will match this $70 off Series 1 deal beginning tomorrow when sales there go live. So if you're looking to get some shopping done a little early, Macy's offer is the first notable Apple Watch Series 1 deal happening this holiday season.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with LivingSocial. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

Here's every Apple Watch Series 1 device available in Macy's sale:

As a point of comparison, the new non-LTE Apple Watch Series 3 models are priced at $329 (38mm) and $359 (42mm). Sales on Series 2 models have been appearing frequently throughout the fall, with the most recent dropping 38mm cases to $229 and 42mmm cases to $259. Until Black Friday sales, no notable deals had yet to arrive for the Series 1 devices following the launch of Series 3 in September.

If you purchase the Series 1, be aware that in comparison to higher-cost versions it has a slower S1P processor, lower water resistance (so it is not suitable for swimming), a display that doesn't get as bright, slightly lower battery life, and no LTE or GPS support. Otherwise, you'll be able to access all of the expected Apple Watch features like activity tracking, notification and phone call support with a connected iPhone, and more.

Also of note is an Apple Music deal going on at LivingSocial, where you can get a four month subscription to Apple's streaming music service for free. This deal essentially adds one extra month (priced at $9.99/month) onto Apple Music's existing three month free trial, and is only available to new subscribers signing up for an individual membership plan.

As always, you can visit our Black Friday Roundup to keep track of the latest deals going on heading into Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Some sales will begin going online a bit early today, but the bulk will see activation when retailers first open their doors tomorrow night between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. local time.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, Apple Black FridayTag: Macy'sBuyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
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iPhone SE 2 Again Rumored to Launch in First Half of 2018

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 13:48
Apple will release a second-generation iPhone SE in the first half of 2018, according to China's Economic Daily News.


The report claims the tentatively named iPhone SE 2 will be assembled exclusively by Taiwanese manufacturer Wistron at its factory in Bengaluru, India, where some assembly of the current iPhone SE occurs.

The rumored release date window lines up with an earlier report from Focus Taiwan claiming a new iPhone SE will ship in the first quarter of 2018, which encompasses January through March of next year.

Apple introduced the current iPhone SE at a media event on March 21, 2016, and the device launched later that month. Given the rumored launch dates, the iPhone SE 2 could certainly be unveiled in March too.

Indian website Tekz24 previously reported that the next-generation iPhone SE will be powered by Apple's A10 Fusion chip, with 2GB of RAM, 32GB and 128GB storage capacities, a 12-megapixel rear camera, a five-megapixel front camera, and a slightly larger 1,700 mAh battery.

Tekz24 isn't a website we're familiar with, and it doesn't have an established track record of reporting on Apple rumors, so don't place too much faith in those tech specs until if and when they are confirmed by other sources.

The current iPhone SE looks much like the iPhone 5s, including its smaller four-inch display preferred by a subset of customers. The device is powered by Apple's A9 chip, like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and it has 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and Touch ID.

Apple hasn't entirely refreshed the iPhone SE since it launched, but it did double the available storage capacities to 64GB and 128GB in March. It also dropped the device's starting price to $349 a few months ago.

Related Roundup: iPhone SETag: udn.comBuyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Caution)
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Apple's Jony Ive to Speak at Washington, DC's Hirshorn Museum on November 29

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:39
Apple chief designer Jony Ive is scheduled to give a talk on the "future of design" at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, DC, next week.

Beginning at 3 p.m. local time on Wednesday, November 29, the one-hour speaking engagement has been arranged in collaboration with Smithsonian Magazine, with free places being offered on a first-come, first served basis.[Ive] has been described as one of the most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company and is a 2017 honoree of the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Awards (the "Golden Globes of intellect"), which honor revolutionary breakthroughs in the arts and sciences, education and social progress. Ive will be joined in conversation by Rick Tetzeli, Editor At Large of Fast Company and author of the bestselling biography Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.All advance tickets for the program have been claimed, but anyone interested in attending can join the waitlist online or walk up on the day for a chance to get a seat. Any open seats may be released to walk-up visitors 10 minutes before the program.

The Future of Design. #OneMoreThing https://t.co/bOwcxQDwdB pic.twitter.com/qHNycsNrPb

— ᶰᵒᵗ Jony Ive (@JonyIveParody) November 22, 2017
Ive's last public talk was at October's TechFest 2017, an event held in New York City. Earlier this month, Ive also sat down for an interview with design, architecture, and fashion magazine Wallpaper* to discuss the Apple Park campus, which he had a hand in designing, as well as the iPhone X. Most recently, TIME interviewed Ive about the smartphone, after the device appeared in its 25 Best Inventions of the Year list.
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Google Allows YouTube to Return to Amazon's Echo Show Smart Speaker

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 12:00
Google has seen fit to return YouTube to Amazon's display-based Echo Show smart speaker, two months after the video service was pulled from the device. The original removal angered Amazon and led to conflicting public statements by on both sides over the move, but the two companies appear to have resolved the dispute.

The return of YouTube is particularly timely for Amazon, which is expanding its video services on the Echo Show with additional support for Vimeo and Dailymotion. An Amazon spokesperson gave the following statement to The Verge:

"We're excited to offer customers the capability to watch even more video content from sources such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Dailymotion on Echo Show. More video sources will be added over time."According to Google, the reason for the service's removal on Echo Show devices back in September was because "Amazon's implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience."

That issue now looks to have been resolved with a UI change – the new version of YouTube on Echo Show has a completely different interface that is much more in keeping with how the service appears in a desktop web browser, as shown in a video uploaded by VoiceBot.ai, embedded below.


YouTube account holders accessing the device using an Echo Show can now see their subscriptions, video recommendations, and control autoplay – all of which were missing in the Amazon-designed, voice-control optimized interface.

However, The Verge reports that there are now issues with YouTube's voice-control integration, and the Echo Show still doesn't automatically play videos fullscreen, with an "Alexa, zoom in" voice command required to display videos in that way.

Tags: Google, Amazon, YouTube
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Vivaldi Web Browser 1.13 for Power Users Gains New Multi-Tab Management Features

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:34
Vivaldi web browser, the spiritual successor to Opera 12, released version 1.13 on Wednesday, introducing an easier way of managing multiple tabs, as well as new file download features and other improvements.


In line with the Norwegian-based team's aim to make Vivaldi the most feature-rich and customizable browser available to power users, the developers have created the new Window Panel. This opens a tree-style view of tabs to the side of the browser window, offering an easy overview of all open tabs as a list.

From there, users can conveniently manage tabs by dragging them to change their order, grouping tabs by topic to save space, tiling Tab Stacks to compare several web pages side by side, and hibernating unused tabs or Tab Stacks for better performance.

Within the new Panel, it's also possible to mute sound in specific tabs and pin tabs to ensure they always stay open. The Vivaldi team says it is planning to bring even more functionality to this feature in the near future.


The latest release of the Vivaldi browser also brings a number of improvements to file downloading, based on community feedback. Users now get a warning dialog when closing the browser before a download is complete. It's also now possible to pause and resume downloads, while a download speed indicator has been added to the progress bar.

Elsewhere, Vivaldi's window handling code has been rewritten, providing performance benefits that are especially noticeable on older, slower hardware.

Vivaldi browser is a free download for Mac available directly from the Vivaldi website.

Tags: Opera browser, Vivaldi
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Apple Shares Research into Self-Driving Car Software That Improves Obstacle Detection

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 11:01
Apple computer scientists working on autonomous vehicle technology have posted a research paper online describing how self-driving cars can spot cyclists and pedestrians using fewer sensors (via Reuters).

The paper by Yin Zhou and Oncel Tuzel was submitted to online independent journal arXiv on November 17, in what appears to be Apple's first publicly disclosed research on autonomous vehicle technology.


The paper is titled "End-to-End Learning for Point Cloud Based 3D Object Detection", and describes how new software developed by Apple scientists improves the ability of LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems to recognize objects including pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.

Self-driving cars typically use a combination of standard cameras and depth-sensing LiDAR units to receive information about the world around them.

Apple's research team said they were able to get "highly encouraging results" using LiDAR data alone to spot cyclists and pedestrians, and wrote that they were also able to beat other approaches for detecting 3D objects that rely solely on LiDAR tech. The experiments were limited to computer simulations and did not advance to road tests.

Apple famously has a secretive research policy and has kept its work under wraps for many years, but over the last 12 months, the company has shared some of its research advancements with other researchers and the wider public, particularly in the area of machine learning.

In December 2016, Apple said that it would start allowing its AI and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, with the first paper appearing just a few weeks following the announcement.

Additionally, in July of this year, Apple researchers initiated the "Apple Machine Learning Journal", a blog detailing their work on machine learning, AI, and other related topics.

This new policy of openness could help Apple retain employees who do not want to keep their progress a secret, but the latest research into autonomous vehicle technology also lets regulators see that the company is making progress in this area. Last December, Apple told federal regulators it was excited about the technology and asked them not to restrict testing. In April, the company also filed a self-driving car testing plan with California regulators.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has called autonomy "the mother of all AI projects". During an August 2017 earnings call, Cook re-emphasized Apple's deep interest in the technology, and even hinted Apple's work on autonomy could be used for more than vehicles.

Apple has presumably been working on an autonomous driving system since 2014, when rumors of its efforts to create an electric vehicle first surfaced. Apple has now moved away from creating a full vehicle and is said to be focusing on self-driving technology instead.

Tags: Apple Car, machine learning, artificial intelligence
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2018 iPhones to Feature Upgraded Antenna Design to Boost LTE Transmission Speeds

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 02:10
Apple's upcoming 2018 iPhones will feature upgraded liquid crystal polymer (LCP) antenna modules that will contribute to faster LTE transmission speeds, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said tonight in a note that was sent out to investors.

Kuo says new iPhone models will use at least two LCP LTE antenna modules, much like the iPhone X, but with improvements to support 4x4 MIMO standards.

Antenna design upgrade a key factor in anticipated boost to LTE transmission speed in new 2H18F iPhone models. As a LTE antenna FPCB material, LCP is superior to PI in properties related to high-frequency, thermal performance and moisture resistance. We predict 2H18 new iPhones will be equipped with two LCP LTE antenna modules same as iPhone X or more, but with higher specs to support 4x4 MIMO standards.Last week, Kuo said Apple is expected to use Intel XMM 7560 and Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 modems in its next-generation iOS devices, enabling faster LTE transmission speeds. Both of those chips support the previously mentioned 4x4 MIMO technology, compared to 2x2 MIMO in the current iPhone models.

4x4 MIMO, or Multiple-Input Multiple-Output has the potential to significantly improve LTE transmission speeds by increasing the number of data paths between a cellular tower and an iOS device to four.

In previous notes, Kuo has said Apple is working on a total of three iPhones for 2018, including a 5.8-inch OLED model that's similar to the current iPhone X, a 6.5-inch OLED model that can be thought of as a sort of "iPhone X Plus," and a new 6.1-inch LCD model, designed to sell at a lower price point. All three, says Kuo, will include edge-to-edge iPhone X-style displays and Face ID support.

Kuo believes Apple will ship an estimated 100 to 120 million iPhone units in the second half of 2018, something he has previously said will fuel an upgrade "supercycle" during the year.

Related Roundup: iPhone XTags: KGI Securities, Ming-Chi KuoBuyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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Apple Bought Augmented Reality Headset Company Vrvana

Wed, 11/22/2017 - 00:00
Apple recently purchased Vrvana, a company that developed an augmented reality headset called Totem, reports TechCrunch.

Two sources with knowledge of the deal confirmed the acquisition, but Apple declined to comment and did not provide its usual acquisition statement. TechCrunch says Apple did not deny the story, though, and several employees who were previously with Vrvana are now with Apple.


Apple is said to have paid $30 million for Vrvana, and the deal may have taken place this summer. Vrvana's website is still up and running, but social media accounts ceased updates in August.

Vrvana developed a sort of mixed reality headset called Totem, which was never released. It was designed to combine both augmented and virtual reality technologies in a single headset, merging full VR capabilities with pass-through cameras to enable screen-based augmented reality features.

Essentially, Totem used a set of cameras to project real world images into its built-in 1440p OLED display, a somewhat unique approach that set it apart from competing products like Microsoft's HoloLens, which uses a transparent display to combine virtual and augmented reality. With Totem's approach, much richer virtual experiences were available, as full VR objects could be combined with a real-world view.

The built-in cameras were used to track the device's position in space, and additional infrared cameras were used to detect a user's hands. Several media sites were able to check out the Totem last year, and it received largely positive reviews.

Totem's technology could be built into a future Apple device, as multiple rumors suggest Apple is working on some kind of augmented reality headset or smart glasses product.

Apple is said to be building an AR headset that features a dedicated display, a built-in processor, and a new "rOS" operating system. The company is aiming to finish work on its augmented reality headset by 2019, and a finished product could be ready to ship as soon as 2020, should the project progress on schedule.

While Apple has acquired other augmented reality companies like Metaio, Faceshift, Flyby Media, and SensoMotoric Instruments, this is the first dedicated AR/VR headset hardware company Apple has purchased, signaling a deep interest in developing some kind of AR/VR wearable device.

Related Roundup: Apple VR ProjectTag: Apple acquisition
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Hackers Stole Data From 57 Million Uber Drivers and Customers, Uber Paid $100K to Hide Attack

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 22:42
Uber suffered a massive data breach last year that exposed the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers, reports Bloomberg. The attack occurred in October of 2016 and included personal information from 50 million Uber riders and 7 million Uber drivers.

Two hackers reportedly accessed a private GitHub repository used by Uber's software engineers and then used those credentials to breach an Amazon Web Services account that contained an archive of rider and driver information.

Email addresses and phone numbers were stolen from riders, while hackers were able to obtain email addresses, phone numbers, and driver's license numbers from drivers. Uber says social security numbers and trip location data were not accessed in the attack.

Rather than disclosing the attack when Uber learned of it in November of 2016, the company instead paid hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep quiet about the breach. Uber did not disclose the identity of the hackers, but did say it believes the information was not used or otherwise sold.

Uber's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, says the attack and the coverup should not have happened, and that Uber is "changing the way we do business." Khosrowshahi says he is aiming to change the way Uber operates, and as part of that effort, Uber informed the FTC and attorney general about the attack this morning."At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals," Khosrowshahi said. "We also implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts."Uber's efforts to conceal the hack were led by chief security officer Joe Sullivan, who has been ousted from the company. Uber also let go of Craig Clark, a senior lawyer who worked with Sullivan.

In light of the attack, Uber has hired Matt Olsen, who previously served as general counsel at the National Security Agency. Uber says Olsen will help the company restructure its security teams.

Tag: Uber
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MacMall Begins Black Friday Savings on MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini, iPad, and More

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 20:29
Following B&H Photo and Adorama, MacMall today has started its Black Friday savings a few days ahead of the shopping holiday. While there are exceptions, many of MacMall's deals are matching the discounts for the same products over at B&H Photo and Adorama. We've listed some of the best sales below, so be sure to look them over, and you can also check out MacMall for the full array of Apple products and accessories that are being marked down for Black Friday.


Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with MacMall and Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

MacBook

iMac

Mac mini
  • Mac mini (Late 2014): 1.4GHz (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz), 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive - $399.00, down from $499.00

  • Mac mini (Late 2014): 2.6GHz (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz), 8GB RAM, 1TB Hard Drive - $599.00, down from $699.00

  • Mac mini (Late 2014): 2.6GHz (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz), 8GB RAM, 256GB Flash Storage - $799.00, down from $899.00

  • Mac mini (Late 2014): 2.6GHz (Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz), 16GB RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive - $999.00, down from $1,099.00

iPad


If you're a member of My Best Buy, it's also worth heading over to the retailer's Early Access Black Friday sale event, which is marking down select MacBook and iMac models by as much as $250, leading to some of the best Mac-related savings so far this week. The Early Access part of the sale ends later today, after which it will open up for everyone.

Keep track of all the best sales hitting Apple products this week by reading our Black Friday Roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Black FridayTag: MacMall
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Nearly Completed Apple Park Campus Shown Off in New Drone Video

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 20:04
Work on Apple Park is nearing completion, and the latest drone video shared today by drone pilot Matthew Roberts shows off recent progress and finishing touches that are being put in place on buildings and outdoor areas.

Today's video features the now-completed Apple Park Visitor's Center, located across the street from the main ring-shaped building. The Visitor's Center, which boasts a huge carbon fiber roof and is made from the same materials that were used for the main building, opened last Friday.


The Visitor's Center features an indoor area with a replica of Apple Park that comes to life using an augmented reality app, a rooftop viewing deck that gives some obscured views of the main campus, a cafe that serves coffee, tea, and snacks, and an Apple Store that sells standard Apple products and some exclusive Apple Park gear like t-shirts, hats, tote bags, and postcards.

Progress has been made on the landscaping, with lush grass now planted outside of the cafeteria's enormous glass double doors, and the pond at the center of the campus has been filled with water. Outdoor food stations are nearing completion, and the solar panels on the roof of the ring-shaped building have all been installed. Apple Park will run entirely on renewable energy provided by the solar panels on the roof.

While much of the campus is complete, there's still some work to be done. Landscaping is still ongoing in the area near the employee fitness center, for example. Even though landscaping work is not finished, employees are already moving into Apple Park. At this pace, it appears construction could be largely wrapped up by early 2018.

Tag: Apple Park
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FCC Expected to Repeal Net Neutrality Rules in Vote Next Month

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 17:40
FCC chairman Ajit Pai today announced that his controversial Restoring Internet Freedom order is headed to vote on December 14.


The order, proposed in May, would roll back the Barack Obama administration's classification of internet service providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.

As common carriers, internet providers are required to act as neutral gateways to the internet. In other words, companies like Comcast are not allowed to speed up or slow down content passing through their networks.

If the order passes, ISPs will be reclassified as "information service" providers, as they were between February 1996 and February 2015.For almost twenty years, the Internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress. This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an Internet economy that became the envy of the world.Apple and dozens of other large technology companies urged the FCC to reconsider its proposal. The FCC also received a record-breaking 22 million comments from the public during a feedback period that ended in August.

Those against the order believe that the FCC rolling back the internet's classification as a public utility will hurt net neutrality, as it could eventually divide internet users into so-called "fast lanes" and "slow lanes."

In a letter submitted to the FCC in August, Apple warned that paid fast lanes could result in an "internet with distorted competition."Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet. Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider's content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.Pai, who was designated as FCC chairman by Donald Trump, insists the Obama-era internet regulations are a "mistake." Under the new rules, he said the FCC will "stop micromanaging the internet" to foster innovation.Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades. Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet. Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.Despite the significant backlash from tech companies and the public, it is widely expected that the FCC will vote in favor of the order next month.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: net neutrality, FCC
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Apple Watch Wearers Can Earn Thanksgiving Day Badge on Thursday

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 16:35
Apple today announced that Apple Watch users can earn a special Thanksgiving Day badge and accompanying iMessage sticker by completing a walk, run, or wheelchair workout with a distance of at least 5K (3.1 miles) on November 23.


As with the Veterans Day badge, this achievement is only available on devices that have United States set as the region. The distance can be recorded with the Workout app or any third-party app that adds workouts to the Health app.

Apple Watch users can view a history of achievements via the Achievements tab in the Activity app on a paired iPhone.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4Tag: Activity ChallengeBuyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
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Apple's Early Version of HomePod Stood Three Feet Tall and Packed Dozens of Speakers

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 15:34
While the HomePod was only unveiled five months ago, a team of Apple audio engineers developed several speaker prototypes as a side project over the past five years or so, according to Bloomberg.

HomePod was originally a side project cooked up about five years ago by a group of Mac audio engineers, who wanted to create a speaker that sounded better than the ones sold by the likes of Bose, JBL, and Harman Kardon. Side projects aren't uncommon at Apple, where employees are encouraged to follow their muse so long as their day jobs come first.The report claims one of the prototypes stood three feet tall, roughly five times as tall as the current HomePod, and was equipped with dozens of speakers. Another supposedly looked like a flat panel with a mesh screen on the front.

The side project was reportedly canceled and revived several times. It wasn't until 2014 that development of the speaker began to ramp up within Apple's accessories division, which also worked on the wireless AirPods.

Apple's focus was on creating a speaker with premium sound quality through the use of beam-forming speaker technology. The report claims Apple tested many variations of the speaker in specially designed audio chambers.

That same year, the report adds that Apple engineers were "blindsided" when Amazon launched its Echo speaker integrated with its voice-activated personal assistant Alexa, which is considered a hit with customers.The Apple engineers jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together. They quickly deemed the Echo’s sound quality inferior and got back to work building a better speaker.Despite the Echo launching, Apple has maintained its focus on the HomePod being a high-quality speaker, which is exactly how Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller positioned the product at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.The Siri team was told that the HomePod was about music and quality sound, one of the people said. Yes, the speaker would be voice-activated but it wouldn't be positioned as a personal assistant.As of this year, the report claims the HomePod was just one of four or five areas that Apple's Siri team was working on, given the company apparently sees it as more of an accessory than a core product like the iPhone.

Given the HomePod will be mostly limited to streaming Apple Music, controlling HomeKit accessories, and sending messages through an iPhone, the report claims Apple will be "playing catchup" with Echo-like devices.Apple could still eventually add features to the HomePod. These might include its own app ecosystem and support for competing music services. Even so, until that happens, Apple will still be playing catchup in a category invented by a company better known for e-commerce than hardware.Apple will be even further behind after it delayed the HomePod's release until early 2018, after originally promising it would launch in December. The delay means the $349 speaker won't be ready in time for the holiday shopping season, which could lead customers to purchase an Echo or Google Home instead.

Related Roundup: HomePodTag: Amazon Echo
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Apple Has Removed Skype From App Store in China to Comply With Local Law

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:59
Microsoft has confirmed that Skype has been "temporarily removed" from the App Store on iPhone and iPad, according to a statement given to The New York Times.

Apple told The New York Times that it was forced to remove a number of voice and video calling apps from the App Store in China to comply with laws in the country.We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China. These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business.Skype has been unavailable on the App Store since at least late October, according to users on Twitter and other websites. The service appears to function normally still for users who have already installed the app.

Skype is the latest victim of China's strict internet filters, colloquially known as the Great Firewall. Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove many VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulations, while other apps affected in the past or present include WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Microsoft wouldn't comment on why Skype is also unavailable on at least a few major third-party Android app stores. Many of Google's services, including Gmail and YouTube, have been blocked in China for several years.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tags: App Store, Skype, China
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Apple Taking Action After Students Worked Overtime to Assemble iPhone X at Foxconn

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 13:03
Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn have confirmed instances of students working overtime to assemble the iPhone X, and both companies are now taking remedial action, as reported by the Financial Times.

A technician inspecting iPhone components at a factory
Apple conducted an audit and confirmed "instances of student interns working overtime at a supplier facility in China," according to the report. "We've confirmed the students worked voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but they should not have been allowed to work overtime," it added.

Foxconn said that "all work was voluntary and compensated appropriately," but admitted that the interns "did work overtime in violation of our policy," which reportedly prohibits interns working more than 40 hours per week.

The statements from Apple and Foxconn come after six high school students told the Financial Times they routinely work 11-hour days assembling the iPhone X at Foxconn's factory in Zhengzhou, China."We are being forced by our school to work here," said Ms Yang, an 18-year-old student training to be a train attendant who declined to use her first name for fear of punishment. "The work has nothing to do with our studies." She said she assembled up to 1,200 iPhone X cameras a day.The students, aged 17 to 19, reportedly said they were told that a three-month stint at the factory was required "work experience" that they had to complete in order to graduate from Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School.

Foxconn is believed to hire a significant number of seasonal workers each year to assemble the latest iPhone models in time for the busy holiday shopping season. The report, citing an anonymous Foxconn employee, said there can be up to 300,000 workers producing up to 20,000 iPhones per day.

As part of its supplier responsibility efforts, Apple requires its manufacturing partners like Foxconn to limit working hours to no more than 60 hours a week, with a mandatory rest day once every seven days.

Related Roundup: iPhone XTags: Foxconn, supplier responsibilityBuyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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'Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp' Begins Early Worldwide Rollout on the iOS App Store

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 12:35
One month after its announcement during a Nintendo Direct in late October, Nintendo today has begun rolling out Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp onto iOS [Direct Link] and Android devices worldwide, following a limited soft launch in Australia. The game was announced to be coming out tomorrow, November 22, but it has begun appearing on the iOS App Store for some users in the United States and France, and potentially other markets where it is launching.

The new game is Nintendo's fourth mobile app created in partnership with developer DeNA and follows Miitomo (launched March 2016), Super Mario Run (December 2016), and Fire Emblem Heroes (February 2017).

Similar to the latter two games, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is a mobile-optimized version of its franchise's larger console games, and introduces a few new features into the traditional Animal Crossing gameplay to streamline certain actions for one-handed smartphone sessions. For example, both fishing and bug hunting are as simple as tapping on the screen, and the world that the player occupies -- centered around a campsite -- is scaled down from the villages of games like New Leaf and Wild World.

The main mechanic of Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp centers on convincing animal villagers to stick around at your campsite by foraging for materials and crafting their favorite furniture. Outside of the camp, there is also a beach, river, island, and other areas that are accessible through your camper, which you can also customize and decorate to your liking. Additionally, you can visit your real friends to check out their camps to give them "kudos" on their decorations and see what items they're selling in their Market Box.

Any time you visit Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, the game will reflect the time of day and current season of the real world, and Nintendo has said it will be launching seasonal events over the holidays with exclusive furniture, outfits, and item decorations for players to collect.

Images via Touch Arcade
Nintendo's latest smartphone game is free-to-play and uses optional "Leaf Tickets" as in-game currency, but our sister site Touch Arcade got hands-on time with the game in October and found very little reason to spend real money in the game, thanks to gameplay systems that eventually reward players with the items they want if they put in the time to get them.
You can also spend Leaf Tickets to craft any furniture you might not have the materials for, but again, the first session of the game sprays so many of these different things at you that you're really going to need to play the game for a while before you're running low on anything.

There's other "cheater" items (and I'm saying "cheater" with the absolute most exaggerated air quotes imaginable) that you can buy with Leaf Tickets too like fishing nets and honey, which are used to catch loads of fish or bugs in one go- But, it seemed like if I wanted to invest the time I could just fish and catch bugs all day, so this seems like a real weird way to spend premium currency. Players should note that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp requires a "persistent internet" connection -- mentioned in the game's "digest" trailer -- which seems to be similar to the always online requirement of Super Mario Run. At the time of Super Mario Run's launch, Shigeru Miyamoto said that Nintendo's reasoning behind this move is to "support security" and prevent piracy.

Looking ahead, Nintendo's next mobile game is rumored to be set within The Legend of Zelda universe, although it's still unclear exactly what the gameplay would be for that app.

For more information on Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, head to Nintendo's website, and you can download the game on the iOS App Store for free beginning today [Direct Link]. For those playing on iPhone X, the game has been optimized to support the 5.8-inch display of Apple's new smartphone.

Tags: Nintendo, Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
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iMac Pro Could Include Mobile Connectivity for 'Always On' Theft Protection

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:58
A new blog post over at Pike's Universum, a site known for digging deeper into Mac firmware files, claims to have found data relating to some form of mobile connectivity in the upcoming iMac Pro that could be used for "advanced theft protection" similar to Apple's Find my iPhone service.

Even the cheapest iMac Pro costs $4999 and is thus far more expensive than any other iMac model that is now available, let alone the top of the line one with a price tag north of $15K, and it is so easy to walk away with a 27-inch computer, and that may be why Apple is going to introduce a new kind of “Find my iMac Pro” type of theft protection. One that phones home to report the exact GPS location. And there’s no way of switching it off…The post goes on to suggest that the data could alternatively relate to a new feature in the iMac Pro that uses a SIM card to make phone calls. "Or perhaps the data that I found has to be a leftover from iOS for the iPhone," ends the post, qualifying the claims as speculation at this point.

No further details on the uncovered data in the iMac Pro firmware were forthcoming, but Pike's Universum has offered relevant information in the past. The site revealed some of the iMac Pro's tech specs back in April, two months prior to it being announced, including that it would have Xeon processors, ECC RAM, faster SSD storage, AMD graphics options, and Thunderbolt 3 ports, although some of the specific details were inaccurate.

Later, in June, the site claimed that files in a macOS High Sierra developer beta suggested the iMac Pro could be powered by Intel's next-generation server-grade Skylake-EX and Skylake-EP processors, which are based on a platform codenamed "Purley." The blog added that the new iMac Pro also appears to be coming with a Secure Enclave, suggesting it will have an ARM coprocessor like the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for added security.

Over the weekend, several developers discovered data in Apple's BridgeOS code that suggests the upcoming iMac Pro will feature an A10 Fusion chip with 512 MB of RAM. While the full functionality of the A10 chip isn't yet known, the chip will enable support for "Hey Siri" functionality, potentially even when the iMac Pro is turned off.

Unveiled at WWDC in June, the iMac Pro is scheduled to launch next month, but Apple has not yet provided a specific launch date for the high-end desktop.

Related Roundup: iMac ProTag: Pike's Universum
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Overhauled Scrivener 3 Writing Suite for macOS Now Available

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 11:18
Popular long-form writing suite Scrivener reached a significant milestone late on Monday, with the long-awaited release of its third major iteration since its debut on Mac over a decade ago. Scrivener 3 brings a host of new features and improvements, including an overhauled interface with a more modern look, and a Compile system that is easier to use but also more flexible.


The Compile window has been redesigned to present users with formatting options for exporting their project, a preview pane, and settings for the project, offering a more streamlined system for regular users but also quick access to more advanced options. In addition, support for ePub 3 and enhanced compatibility with the Kindle format are also now available.

Meanwhile, a new bookmarking feature in Scrivener's Inspector pane works as a powerful cross-referencing tool, by allowing users to link individual documents in a project to other documents, to other locations on a Mac, or even to locations online.

The application's metadata fields have also been improved, so that users can now use multiple-choice lists, customizable checkboxes, and dates to help organize their documents and research. Both the metadata fields and the aforementioned new bookmarking feature integrate into Scrivener's existing outliner view as well as its search function, making both features more powerful than ever before.


Elsewhere, there's a new, more comprehensive system for styling text in documents, additional writing statistics for keeping track of progress, and a new "Copyholder" feature that enables users to refer to up to four documents in the main window. Draft and session progress bars have been added to the toolbar, while a new "Dialogue Focus" function highlights only dialogue in text. Lastly, the entire app codebase has been re-written for 64-bit, and extensive Touch Bar support has been added.

Scrivener 3 is available now on macOS for $45 from the Literature and Latte website. Customers with an earlier version of Scrivener for macOS that was bought through the web store are eligible for an upgrade discount. Users who purchased Scrivener 2 on or after August 20, 2017, can update to Scrivener 3 for free. Scrivener 1 or 2 users who purchased before that date, can update to Scrivener 3 for the discounted price of $25.

Tag: Scrivener
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