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Apple's Rumored 2018 6.1-Inch Lower-Cost iPhone With LCD Display Could Feature Metal Back

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 00:20
Apple will release three iPhones in 2018, including two OLED models and one LCD model that could feature a metal back like the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, reports Nikkei.

Citing a source "privy to the company's product designs," Nikkei says the LCD model will feature a 6.1-inch display, while the two OLED models will measure in at 5.8 inches and either 6.2 or 6.3 inches.


The LCD model with a metal back will "come in several colors," much like existing aluminum iPhones, and the body for the device could be manufactured by Casetek, a Pegatron subsidiary.

Nikkei's information is in line with previous details shared by KGI Securities Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who often has accurate insight into Apple's plans, though there is some variance in size predictions for the three devices.

Kuo believes Apple will introduce three iPhones in 2018: an OLED model that measures in at 5.8 inches like the current iPhone X, an OLED model that measures in at 6.5 inches that will serve as a sort of "iPhone X Plus," and a 6.1-inch model that features an LCD display.

Kuo's 2018 iPhone predictions
Kuo has said that all three models will feature a full-screen edge-to-edge design and a TrueDepth camera system like the current iPhone X, but he made no mention of a different casing material. The current iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus all feature glass backs to support wireless charging.

A 6.1-inch LCD model with a metal body presumably made of aluminum would not be able to work with wireless charging, and it is not clear if Apple is willing to take a step back and remove a new key feature from future iPhones.

The 6.1-inch LCD model has thus far been described by Kuo as a lower-resolution model that will be more affordable than the two OLED models, with the aim of targeting the low-end and midrange markets.

Since earlier this year, we've been hearing hints of a two device lineup next year, with Apple planning to introduce a larger-screened OLED iPhone to sell alongside a new 5.8-inch model, which seems like the next logical iteration of the iPhone X. The first rumor of a third device with an LCD display came from Kuo in November.

Related Roundup: iPhone XBuyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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Hands-On With the New Amazon Prime Video App for Apple TV

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 23:46
The long-awaited Amazon Prime Video app for the Apple TV finally debuted today after a wait that spanned six months since it was first teased at WWDC.

Apple's set-top box is one of the last platforms to support the Amazon Prime Video app, which is now available on third, fourth, and fifth-generation Apple TV models. We spent the afternoon checking out the new app for a hands-on look at its feature set.

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If you've used the Amazon Prime Video app on an iOS device or on another platform like a console, the interface will be immediately familiar, organized into sections that include Originals, Movies, TV, Kids, Video Library, and more.

Content available from Amazon Prime Video includes TV shows like "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and movies like "The Big Sick," with Amazon adding new options on a regular basis. Amazon Prime Video requires an Amazon Prime subscription, priced at $99 per year or $10.99 per month.

Movies and TV shows in Amazon Prime Video can be added to your Watchlist, which is synced across all of your devices, and the Apple TV's Siri Remote can be used to search for Amazon content from within the app.

Universal Search is also supported, so Amazon Prime Video content will come up in systemwide searches on the Apple TV, and integration with Apple's dedicated TV app is included in countries where the TV app is supported, with access to Up Next syncing and content recommendations.

Integration with the TV app is nice, as is Universal Search, because both features let you access Amazon content without needing to use the Amazon Prime Video interface.

For the 4K Apple TV and supported television sets, supported Amazon Prime Video content plays in 4K HDR.

Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV is available in more than 100 countries, and it is also available on iOS devices. [Direct Link]

Related Roundup: Apple TVTag: Amazon Prime VideoBuyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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Apple Releases iTunes 12.7.2 With Minor App and Performance Improvements

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 22:13
Alongside of the release of macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, Apple today released an updated version of iTunes for Mac machines.

iTunes 12.7.2 is a minor update, and according to Apple's release notes, it introduces minor app and performance improvements.

Today's iTunes update can be downloaded from the Mac App Store for free using the Software Update function.

iTunes 12.7.2 follows iTunes 12.7.1, an October update that also focused on minor improvements. iTunes 12.7, released in September, was the last major update to iTunes, eliminating the built-in App Store to focus solely on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks.

Tag: iTunes
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Comparison: Mophie and Belkin's Wireless Chargers for iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 20:30
With the release of iOS 11.2, faster 7.5W wireless charging is available on the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.

Currently, there are two chargers that Apple has confirmed support 7.5W wireless charging: the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad and the Mophie Wireless Charging Base, both of which are sold by Apple.

Now that 7.5W wireless charging has been implemented, we thought we'd take a look at both charger options for those of you who are considering a purchase following the update.

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Both the Mophie and Belkin wireless chargers are priced at $60 and offer the same charging speeds, but there are some distinct design differences between the two. The Mophie charger is smaller in diameter and is available only in black, while the Belkin model is larger and available only in white.

There are dozens if not hundreds of less expensive wireless chargers available, but it's not yet entirely clear which of these - if any - support 7.5W wireless charging in Apple's new devices at this point in time. It looks like there may be an Apple-controlled factor that prevents some existing higher-watt chargers from offering 7.5W charging speeds on the new iPhones, but that's something we're still investigating in a forthcoming post comparing wireless charging options.

We tested the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad on both an iPhone X running iOS 11.1.2 with 5W charging speeds and on iOS 11.2 with 7.5W charging speeds, and we did notice a small difference, but wireless charging speed is dependent on many different variables and it can vary.


In our current testing, 7.5W wireless charging was faster than both 5W wired and 5W wireless charging, so iPhone owners who are looking for faster wireless charging speeds may be interested in considering one of the chargers offered by Apple.

Both the Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Pad and the Mophie Wireless Charging Base can be purchased from the Apple Online store and in retail shops around the world.
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Apple's Greg Joswiak Talks iPhone X Face ID, Display and A11 Chip

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 20:12
Tom's Guide today shared its list of "2017 Innovation Award Winners," which of course includes the iPhone X, among other products like the Nintendo Switch, the DJI Spark, and the Amazon Echo.

Apple's iPhone X took the Tom's Guide "Best Overall" award for its Super Retina Display, Face ID, and A11 Bionic chip, and the site's iPhone X writeup includes some interesting commentary from Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of product marketing.

For the iPhone X's Super Retina Display, which incorporates the first-ever OLED panel in an iOS device, Joswiak says Apple had to "do a lot of engineering" to come up with "panels that were better" to address traditional OLED issues like oversaturated colors.


The iPhone X is using its own color management system, a folding panel design that stacks circuits for minimal bezel, and other technology improvements to outshine competing smartphone displays.

Reiterating previous comments from Apple executives on Face ID, Joswiak says Touch ID was never planned for the iPhone X. Prior to the launch of the device, there were rumors suggesting Apple had tried and failed to embed Touch ID both under the display. Apple execs say Face ID was planned for the iPhone X from the beginning. "We had a line of sight on how to do real facial recognition, in a way never done before," said Joswiak.


The "notch" on the iPhone X, which some believe is a questionable design decision, houses what Joswiak says is "one of the most densely packed technology areas" Apple has done. The notch includes a 7-megapixel camera, an infrared camera, a flood illuminator, a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor, a speaker, a microphone, and a dot projector, all of which powers the TrueDepth system that enables Face ID and other features like Animoji.

At the heart of the iPhone X, there's an A11 Bionic chip with two performance cores and four high-efficiency cores that work together to make the iPhone X incredibly fast. An included neural engine powers Face ID and other machine learning tasks, while an embedded M11 Motion coprocessor captures motion-based data.

Apple's chip team "worked hand in glove" with the rest of Apple's hardware and software teams to design chips that are "perfectly suited" for the iPhone X's feature set. "That's huge," said Joswiak. "No one else can match that," he added.

Josiwak's full commentary on the iPhone X, which includes additional details about each feature, can be read over at Tom's Guide. The Innovation Award list also highlights multiple other products across categories like Augmented Reality, TV, Graphics, Design, Game, Entertainment, CPU, Tablet, Peripheral, and more.

Related Roundup: iPhone XTag: Greg JoswiakBuyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)
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Exclusive Offer: Get 15% Off Any Full-Priced Items From Nomad Through December 18

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 20:02
MacRumors has partnered up with accessory maker Nomad to offer our readers an exclusive promotional code for 15 percent off any full-priced items on the company's website. To receive the promotion, all you have to do is enter the code MRUMORS15 during checkout and any full-priced items will get marked down by 15 percent. Note that this offer excludes any Nomad accessories already on sale.

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.

If your cart includes both full-priced and sale items, the promo code will automatically apply to the correct items and exclude any that are already discounted. The offer will be live from today through Monday, December 18, which should provide enough time for any items to arrive to your home in time for Christmas. Since this promo code can be used across most of the Nomad storefront, we've rounded up some the company's products to give you a few browsing ideas.

Anyone browsing Nomad's site will also notice that the company has a sitewide 10 percent off coupon that you can obtain by entering your email address, but this will not stack with our exclusive offer. Head over to Nomad to see more of the company's products, and be sure to place any orders before December 18 to take advantage of the promotion.

Check out our Deals Roundup for more sales going on throughout the holidays, this week including a 25 percent off coupon at eBay on select orders in Tech, Home, Fashion, and more totaling $25 and over. Also don't forget about the ongoing Apple TV 4K offer from DirecTV Now, which nets you a free $180 32GB Apple TV 4K when you pay for four months of the over-the-top streaming service upfront at $140. You can find more information on that deal in our blog post here.

Related Roundup: Apple DealsTag: Nomad
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Review: Ultimate Ears' New Blast and Megablast Speakers Bring Alexa Integration But Sacrifice Features

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 18:55
Ultimate Ears is known for its line of rugged, waterproof speakers that come in bright colors and offer high-quality sound at prices that aren't exorbitant.

In October, Ultimate Ears expanded its product lineup with two new flagship devices, the Blast and the Megablast, successors to the Boom 2 and the Megaboom, with revamped designs and, for the first time, Wi-Fi support with Amazon Alexa integration.


I tested the new Ultimate Ears speakers, and I liked the addition of Alexa integration, especially in a wire-free device. There were, however, some limitations and caveats that may not make this the best speaker for everyone.

Design
Blast and Megablast don't look too different from previous-generation Ultimate Ears speakers, but they do sport a new, more modern design with a flatter top and less rounded edges for a decidedly cleaner and sleeker appearance.

They use the same cylindrical design as past speakers, offering 360 degree sound. The top and the bottom of the Blast and Megablast feature a soft rubber material with bluetooth/power/Alexa buttons and access to a charging port, while most of the rest of the speaker is made from a matching mesh.


Both speakers continue to feature prominent "+" and "-" buttons that are used for controlling volume. Some people don't like these buttons because of the resemblance to a cross, but I've always been a fan of the bold look and easy-access volume controls. The speakers each come in a range of colors, including Blue Steel, Merlot, Blizzard, and Graphite. The Megablast I have on hand is Blue Steel, while the Blast is Merlot, and both colors are subdued and even elegant, able to match well with any decor.


Blast is about 7.4 inches tall and as thick as a soda can, while Megablast is about 9.3 inches tall and a good deal thicker, closer in size to a coffee can than a soda can. Blast fits well in a bag for travel, making it ideal for the beach or the pool, while Megablast is less portable. There's nothing stopping you from lugging the Megablast around, though.


All of Ultimate Ears' speakers are IP67 water resistant, which means they can be immersed in liquid up to 1m deep for up to 30 minutes. I took both speakers in the shower several times with me over the course of the testing period, and had no problems. Ports are well protected with a rubber covering at the bottom, but it's worth noting that this rubber cover makes charging a chore. There are no other points of ingress for water to get into.


Charging ports are located on the bottom of the speakers, so the rubber covering needs to be pulled back while the micro-USB charging cord is inserted, and it can take a few seconds to get it oriented correctly. This isn't new to the Blast and Megablast, though, and it's a small price to pay for water resistance. Bottom charging ports means these speakers aren't going to sit upright when charging, so it isn't the most convenient port location.


Volume is controlled through the aforementioned large volume buttons, and the speakers can be turned on using a power button at the top. There are no physical controls for pausing music or changing songs -- these things must be done using Alexa integration or your connected iOS device. No on-device control is something of a step back, because both the Boom 2 and the Megaboom have tap gestures for skipping and pausing songs, and I think that's something a lot of people are going to miss.


Some may also miss the 3.5mm aux-in port that was present in the Megaboom. It's been removed in the Megablast.

The Blast is meant to last for 12 hours on a single charge, while the Megablast is supposed to last for 18 hours. I got about that amount of battery life from the Blast, but the Megablast I had on hand seems to drain a good deal faster than that, and I'm not sure why.

Sound Quality
I've used several Ultimate Ears speakers over the years, and I'm a fan of the sound quality for the price. Evaluating sound is always tricky because there's so much preference involved, but objectively, these speakers sound crisp and clean.

For my tastes, and with the Megablast especially, there's too much bass and I do feel that with some songs, the bass can overwhelm some of the other notes.


These speakers are loud, and the sound absolutely fills a room. They're so loud, in fact, that the maximum setting is too high for my apartment. The Blast has a maximum sound level of 90 dBC with a frequency range of 90Hz to 20kHz, and it comes equipped with two 35mm active drivers and two 81mm and 39mm passive radiators.

In comparison, the Megablast has a maximum sound level of 93 dBC with a frequency range of 60Hz to 20kHz. Inside, there are two 25mm tweeters, two 55m active drivers, and two 85mm and 50mm passive radiators. In practice, this means the Megablast is noticeably louder and clearer than the Blast. That's not to say the Blast is lacking - it still offers great sound, but it's not quite on the level of the Megablast.


To power the Alexa features, the Blast and Megablast have several built-in microphones to enable far-field voice recognition. I had a hard time getting the speakers to listen to me when music was playing except for when I was fairly close to them. Without music playing, they had an easier time understanding me.

Features
Alexa Integration
Blast and Megablast support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and with a Wi-Fi connection, the two speakers work with Amazon Alexa, a first for an Ultimate Ears product. Alexa integration is somewhat limited on third-party devices, though, so it's worth noting that these can also be used as standard Bluetooth speakers.

With Amazon Alexa integration, when connected to Wi-Fi, you can use Alexa to play music and answer simple queries, much like using Alexa on an Amazon Echo device. Alexa works with Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, and that's it. Ultimate Ears says Pandora and Deezer are coming soon, though, with more to follow in the future.


There is no support for Spotify or Apple Music, so if you subscribe to one of these music services, you're going to need to use Bluetooth. I am an Apple Music subscriber, which only works over Bluetooth, so I signed up for a few months of Amazon Music Unlimited for testing purposes. Ultimate Ears includes a code for a free three month trial.

Alexa integration in Blast and Megablast is useful because you can just ask Alexa to play a particular song, music genre, album, or playlist, but unless you're already a subscriber to an Amazon music service or willing to switch, it's of limited utility as a way to play and control music.

I'm in the Apple ecosystem and use HomeKit, so I don't get the full range of use out of Alexa, but the speakers can be used to control smart home products, offer weather and traffic information, set alarms, create to-do lists, offer up conversions, find recipes, get news updates, and more.


You don't need to connect to power to use Alexa with Blast or Megablast, but you do need a Wi-Fi connection. Because power isn't necessary, the Blast and the Megablast will go to sleep after a short period of time, so the Alexa feature is not always listening. You'll often need to push the power button to wake the speaker back up when you want to use Alexa if it isn't connected to power.

You can, however, enable an always-on Alexa mode through a standalone charging dock that charges the new speakers inductively.

Alexa features are limited to countries where Alexa is available, aka the United States, the UK, and Germany. An Amazon account is also required.

Bluetooth
When not connected to Wi-Fi, the Blast and Megablast function as standard Bluetooth speakers, and this is the connection method you're going to need to use to play music from Spotify, Apple Music, or other sources. Connecting via Bluetooth is done in the Settings app, like any other Bluetooth device.

You can listen to music over Bluetooth and use Alexa, but expect some delays. When I listen on Bluetooth and then ask Alexa a question, there's a long pause before my music resumes.

App
With previous Ultimate Ears speakers, the Ultimate Ears app enabled a lot of neat features like PartyUp/DoubleUp, which let multiple Ultimate Ears speakers be linked together. You can't link Blast or Megablast with other Ultimate Ears speakers or even with each other. These are standalone speakers that can only be controlled separately, with no option to sync them.


There was also a Block Party feature for letting your friends queue up music with you, and that's also unavailable in the Blast and Megablast. This is less of a loss when used with Alexa, though, because you can request songs vocally with a compatible music service.

A speakerphone feature was available with the Megaboom, allowing it to answer calls from a connected smartphone. That's another feature that's not available with Blast and Megablast.

Charging Dock
Ultimate Ears is offering a standalone "Power Up" charging dock that works with the Blast and the Megablast, and while it's not required for charging, if you want always-on Alexa functionality that's not completely inconvenient, you're going to need the dock.


The dock is basically a simple white puck-style device that charges a speaker inductively. It's the best way to merge always-on Alexa functionality with the portability of a battery-powered speaker, but it does cost an extra $40.


This is an almost necessary accessory for customers who want to get the most out of Alexa, so it's disappointing that it wasn't included in the price of the Blast and the Megablast, neither of which are cheap.

Bottom Line
I like the addition of Alexa functionality to the Ultimate Ears lineup, but I do wish Ultimate Ears hadn't sacrificed so many features to add it. People accustomed to Ultimate Ears products are going to miss the auxiliary input, the ability to pair two or more speakers together, and the other fun features that used to be available.

Hopefully some of these missing functions can be re-added with software updates over time, but whether or not that will happen remains to be seen.

For someone like me who primarily uses Spotify, Apple Music, or another music service that's not supported by Alexa, you're not going to be able to get a lot out of this speaker's Alexa integration unless you simply want it for non-musical functionality. Being able to request songs via voice is most of the appeal of these speakers, and not being able to use that feature puts Blast and Megablast on par with any other Bluetooth speaker.


I have Apple Music and HomeKit, as do many of us who have iOS devices, so while Alexa is fun to play with, it's not something that I can up and use without tweaks to the products in my home. With HomeKit and Apple Music, I'm instead eagerly awaiting HomePod.

If you're going to be using Blast or Megablast like a Bluetooth speaker, it's probably a better choice not to shell out the extra cash and to get something like the Boom 2 or the Megaboom instead, which are as low as $124 and $188, respectively, on Amazon.

If you do have a supported music service and want to get into the Alexa ecosystem, this speaker is a great choice. You get all of the benefits of Alexa in a portable package that can go absolutely anywhere. I do recommend budgeting for the charging dock if you're picking up a Blast or Megablast to use with Alexa, though, as it's a must-have for always-on functionality at home.

How to Buy
The Blast is priced at $229.99, while the Megablast is priced at $299.99. Both can be purchased from the Ultimate Ears website, or from Amazon.com (Blast/Megablast).

Note: Ultimate Ears provided MacRumors with a Blast and a Megablast for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: Ultimate Ears
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Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 45 With Bug Fixes and Feature Improvements

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 18:33
Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced more than a year ago in March of 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into future release versions of Safari.

Safari Technology Preview release 45 includes bug fixes and feature improvements for Rendering, JavaScript, CSS, Web API, Media, Web Inspector, and Accessibility.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple's aim with Safari Technology Preview is to gather feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while designed for developers, it does not require a developer account to download.
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Apple Releases macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 With Compatibility Improvements for Third-Party USB Audio Devices

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 18:27
Apple today released macOS High Sierra 10.13.2, the second update for the macOS High Sierra operating system available for Apple's Macs. macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 comes a little over a month after the release of macOS High Sierra 10.13.1, the first update to High Sierra.

macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 can be downloaded directly from the Mac App Store or through the Software Update function in the Mac App Store on all compatible Macs that are already running macOS High Sierra.


No major outward-facing changes were found in macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 during the beta testing period, but according to Apple's release notes, it offers security and feature improvements. The update improves compatibility with third-party USB audio devices, it introduces better VoiceOver navigation when viewing PDF documents in Preview, and it improves the compatibility of Braille displays with Mail.The macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 update improves the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, and is recommended for all users.

This update:

- Improves compatibility with certain third-party USB audio devices
- Improves VoiceOver navigation when viewing PDF documents in Preview
- Improves compatibility of Braille displays with MailFor more information on the macOS High Sierra operating system, make sure to check out our dedicated macOS High Sierra roundup.

Related Roundup: macOS High Sierra
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Apple's 'The Rock x Siri' Cracks Top 10 Most Watched Ads on YouTube in 2017

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 17:54
Apple's short film "The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day" was the eighth most watched ad on YouTube around the world in 2017, according to Adweek.


Adweek says the ad has been viewed more than 25 million times, although that figure is based on Apple's channel for India rather than the United States, where the video has amassed nearly 18 million views.

With the views from all of Apple's regional YouTube channels combined, the ad has actually received over 80 million views to date, but that includes the possibility of some duplicate views from the same users.

"The Rock x Siri Dominate the Day" stars actor and professional wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who uses Siri throughout an eventful day in which he pilots an airplane, floats in space, prepares fine cuisine, acts on a set, and more.


The theme of the short film, released in July, is that Siri can be used for a wide variety of tasks, such as checking calendar appointments, setting reminders, starting a timer, reading emails, starting an Apple Music playlist, and more.

The ad was certainly unorthodox for Apple and had mixed reception, with some finding it funny and others feeling it was cringeworthy.

The most watched YouTube ad of the year came from Samsung, promoting its customer service vans in India, according to Adweek. The four-minute video has received over 150 million views on the Samsung India channel.


Other ads that made the top 10 were shared by brands such as Adidas, Budweiser, Levi's, Mr. Clean, Oreo, Clash Royale, and Miss Dior.

Tag: Apple ads
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Apple's Video Team Gains TV Programming Veteran Michelle Lee

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 17:31
The latest addition to Apple's video team is Michelle Lee, who is taking on a role as a creative executive, reports Variety. Lee will report to Matt Cherniss, the former president and general manager of WGN America who now leads development of Apple's worldwide video unit.

Prior to joining Apple, Lee worked with Jason Katims at the Universal Television-based True Jack Productions, where she helped develop and produce several series. "Rise," "The Path," "About a Boy," and "Pure Genius" are some of the shows that she worked on. Prior to that, she worked with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci on "Sleepy Hollow" and "Fringe."


Apple started building its new video division in June with the hiring of Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, two former Sony executives who now report to Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue. Erlicht and Van Amburg helped produce shows like "Breaking Bad," "Better Caul Saul," "The Crown," and more.

Erlicht and Amburg have made several hires since then, bringing on Matt Cherniss in August and former Amazon Studios executive Morgan Wandell in October, along with other television executives.

Apple's video team is currently pursuing two shows, including a reboot of Steven Spielberg's sci-fi series "Amazing Stories" and an untitled "morning show drama" that will star Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.

Related Roundup: Apple TVTag: Apple's Hollywood ambitionsBuyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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Valve Reveals Portal Spin-Off 'Bridge Constructor Portal' Coming to macOS and iOS December 20

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 17:10
Valve, Headup Games, and ClockStone Software today announced that the next iteration of the popular Portal franchise is launching later this month, in the form of a spin-off game tied into the Bridge Constructor puzzle series (via TouchArcade). Bridge Constructor Portal will launch on December 20 for macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux, and then console versions will follow in 2018.

Image via TouchArcade
The companies said that the new game "fully embraces the Portal license" while primarily focusing on the puzzle and physics elements of Bridge Constructor. Similar to past Bridge Constructor games, players will have to build bridges to connect pathways and safely traverse across chasms without falling to their death.
"Hello and welcome back to the Aperture Science computer-aided enrichment center."

We welcome all lucky applicants to Bridge Constructor Portal with our new vehicle-based test chambers, Quantum Tunnels and patented Aperture technology! For the last year we've been secretly working in our underground labs on the next iteration of the million-selling Bridge Constructor series. This new stand-alone title will release on PC, MacOS, Linux, mobile devices, and console, and fully embraces the Portal license, one of the most beloved video game franchises of the last decade. The Portal elements come in with the gaming being set in Aperture Laboratories, as well as various in-game items that players can use to solve puzzles, like the companion cube and the repulsion and propulsion gels from Portal 2. GLaDOS will also narrate your progress and failure as you make your way through the new vehicle-based test chambers.


The price of Bridge Constructor Portal hasn't yet been disclosed, but those interested can expect more information ahead of the game's release. Bridge Constructor's paid iOS app is currently priced at $1.99 [Direct Link], so players can likely expect a price point above $2, considering that the game will also be launching simultaneously on Mac and PC as well as eventually coming to consoles, like the Nintendo Switch.

Tag: Valve
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Here's How Apple Improves the iOS and Mac User Experience While Protecting Your Privacy

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 16:29
Apple has added a new entry to its Machine Learning Journal with in-depth technical details about how it uses differential privacy to gather anonymous usage insights from devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs.


At a high level, differential privacy allows Apple to crowdsource data from a large number of users without compromising the privacy of any individual.

There are two types of differential privacy: central and local. Apple has chosen to use the local setting, which means that data is randomized before being sent from devices, so that its servers never see or receive raw data from users.

When users set up their device, Apple explicitly asks users if they wish to provide usage information on an opt-in basis. If a user declines, no data is collected by Apple unless they choose to opt in at a later time.

The toggle for sending usage information can be found under Settings > Privacy > Analytics on iOS 10 and later and under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Analytics on macOS Sierra and later.

Apple says the data it collects helps to, for example, improve the QuickType keyboard's predictive words and emoji suggestions, and to help identify problematic websites that use excessive power or too much memory in Safari.

An opted-in user who types an emoji, for example, may trigger usage information to be collected based on the following process:

• The data is immediately privatized via local differential privacy.

• The data is temporarily stored on-device using a technology called Data Protection, which is explained on page 11 of Apple's iOS Security Guide.

• After a delay, a random sample of the data is collected and sent to Apple's server.

The data sent to Apple does not include device identifiers or timestamps of when the events in the usage information occurred. The communication between a device and Apple's server is encrypted using TLS.


In iOS, information being shared with Apple for the categories of data that are protected using Differential Privacy is visible under Settings > Privacy > Analytics > Analytics Data, in entries that begin with "DifferentialPrivacy."

In macOS, users can launch the Console app and view the information under the Differential Privacy category of System Reports.

On a side note, the blog post reveals that "Face With Tears of Joy" is the most popular emoji, used by more than 25 percent of English-speaking users of Apple devices. We saw this chart before, but now it's labeled along the y-axis.


For a detailed explanation of the mathematical algorithms that Apple is using, the Learning with Privacy at Scale entry in its Machine Learning Journal is a worthwhile read.

Tag: Differential privacy
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Apple and Amazon Confirm Amazon Prime Video on tvOS Supports 4K HDR and 'Up Next' in TV App

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:11
Following the early morning launch of the long-awaited Amazon Prime Video tvOS app, both Apple and Amazon have now posted press releases about the launch, each confirming a few details about Prime Video on Apple TV.

Firstly, Apple's PR officially confirms that Amazon Prime Video does support Apple's centralized TV app. This means that users can use Siri Universal Search to find Amazon Prime Video content, and add it to their "Up Next" queue of shows and movies. Prime Video content will then appear within the TV app and users can immediately jump into their shows without needing to navigate to the Amazon app itself.


Some MacRumors staff members were able to get this working this morning, but it appears that Siri Universal Search and playback of Amazon shows within the TV app are not entirely rolled out yet, so you may have to wait a little longer to see these features functional on your own Apple TV. In total, Apple said that Prime Video brings the amount of TV episodes and movies that Siri can search on Apple TV to 1.3 million.
“Amazon Prime Video is one of the most eagerly anticipated apps to come to Apple TV, so we’re excited to bring all of that great content to customers,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. Importantly, Apple also mentioned that Prime Video is integrated into the TV app "where available," so users outside of the United States, Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden will still not be able to use the TV app.


Apple also confirmed that Prime Video for Apple TV "further expands the library of TV shows and movies available in 4K HDR on Apple TV 4K," so owners of the latest Apple TV will gain access to Amazon's 4K content with the new app.
“There is nothing that excites us more than delighting our customers, and we are thrilled for them to stream Prime Video on Apple TV,” said Mark Eamer, Vice President of Prime Video. “The app arrives just in time for the highly anticipated new season of The Grand Tour, which launches on December 8th, and Prime Video members streaming on the Apple TV 4K will have the exceptional viewing experience of 4K HDR.” Apple went on to discuss the newly added Live Sports section of the TV app, as well as further touting the "hundreds of 4K HDR titles" that users can discover on iTunes. Additionally, the company pointed out that tvOS 11.2 now allows Apple TV 4K users to choose between having their video playback converted to the best format their TV can support, or outputting the video in its original frame rate and dynamic range. Check out more information on the tvOS 11.2 update right here.

Related Roundup: Apple TVBuyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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'ProtonMail Bridge' Brings Encryption to Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 14:58
Swiss-based encrypted email provider ProtonMail today announced Bridge, an app for premium account holders that aims to bring easy-to-use email encryption to desktop email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird, and Apple Mail.

One of our goals has always been to bring easy-to-use encrypted email to desktop. The problem is formidable. Desktop systems encompass multiple operating systems with dozens of popular email clients with their own adherents, and virtually none of them natively speak PGP, the email encryption standard upon which ProtonMail is built.

Around two years ago, we created a small task force to tackle this challenge. Today, we are finally ready to present ProtonMail Bridge.Basically, the downloadable Bridge app enables ProtonMail users to access their encrypted email accounts using their favorite email client, without compromising on the security provided by the end-to-end encrypted service, and without needing to modify their email application. At the same time, local copies of the emails are stored on the user's computer, allowing them to use the search features of their email client as normal.

To achieve this, the Bridge app functions like a local IMAP/SMTP email server capable of communicating with the remote ProtonMail server to encrypt and decrypt incoming/outgoing messages locally. In this way, it translates end-to-end encrypted email data into a language that any email client can understand, thus "bridging" the gap between ProtonMail's end-to-end encryption and a user's standard email client.

The Bridge app aims to fit right into email clients with standard pre-existing multiple accounts, such as Gmail, enabling users to drag and drop emails into ProtonMail as encrypted versions. It's also possible to have multiple ProtonMail addresses and accounts in a single email client, and move messages between them.

It's important to note that while the Bridge preserves end-to-end encryption, it does not protect emails at the end-point – a compromised laptop could still allow an attacker to read emails in the third-party client app, for example.

Currently, the officially supported email clients are Thunderbird, Apple Mail, and Outlook. However, according to the developers, many other IMAP email clients were shown to work with the Bridge.

ProtonMail Bridge is available for macOS to ProtonMail users with paid-for accounts, and can be downloaded here. The Bridge code is open source and will be released early next year.

ProtonMail launched in March 2016, led by a group of scientists from CERN and MIT who aimed to deliver an easy-to-use end-to-end encrypted email service with freely available open source code. Earlier this year, the team launched a Tor-based site to make ProtonMail available to users in regions under the oppression of strict state online censorship, and also launched its own VPN service called ProtonVPN, which includes a free user tier in its pricing plan.

Tags: security, Encryption
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Apple Plummets to Lowest Ranking Ever in Glassdoor's Annual List of Best Places to Work

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 14:16
Apple has ranked 84th on Glassdoor's annual list of the best companies to work for in the United States, after finishing no lower than 36th every year since 2009. In fact, heading into 2012, Apple was 10th on the same list.


It is Apple's lowest-ever finish over the decade that Glassdoor has published these Employees' Choice Awards:

• 2018: 84th
• 2017: 36th
• 2016: 25th
• 2015: 22nd
• 2014: 35th
• 2013: 34th
• 2012: 10th
• 2011: 20th
• 2010: 22nd
• 2009: 19th

Apple trailed well behind several other technology companies in the rankings, including first-place Facebook, fifth-place Google, 21st-place LinkedIn, 31st-place Adobe, 39th-place Microsoft, and 65th-place Yahoo.

It's not just technology companies that are on the list, with fast food chain In-N-Out Burger and Southwest Airlines among others that made the cut.

Glassdoor said the rankings are based on its proprietary awards algorithm, which calculated the quantity, quality, and consistency of company reviews submitted by employees between November 1, 2016 and October 22, 2017.

Apple earned a 4.3-star rating out of five during that period, compared to Facebook's leading 4.6-star rating. Glassdoor says the average company rating is 3.3 stars among the more than 700,000 employers reviewed on the jobs site.

Apple has an overall 4.0-star rating on its Glassdoor company profile. Apple CEO Tim Cook was ranked the 53rd best CEO of an American company on Glassdoor last year, with a 93 percent approval rating.

The rankings mirror a recent survey of the most ideal employers for tech professionals in the United States, in which Apple ranked fourth, behind Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. In that survey, however, Apple was ahead of Facebook.

We've reached out to Apple to see if the company has any comment about the results, and we'll update this article if we hear back.

Tag: Glassdoor
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Amazon Prime Video App Launches on Apple TV

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:41
It's been six months since Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Amazon Prime Video would be coming to Apple TV later this year, and now that app is officially beginning to roll out to tvOS devices in the U.S., and possibly other regions.

Similar to other versions of Amazon Prime Video, the Apple TV app allows Prime subscribers to sign into their accounts and watch Amazon Prime exclusive TV series, as well as browse a collection of movies. Users can add shows and movies to a watchlist, sync their watchlist across devices, and use Amazon's X-Ray feature to look into the actors and crew members behind each show and movie.

Universal Search is now supported in the updated iOS app, allowing users to search for Prime videos using the native Search function on their devices, while the app also supports iPhone X displays. The Prime tvOS app is obviously a separate download, and should work on third-generation and later Apple TVs, according to the release notes.

Prior to its official launch, there were numerous release date rumors surrounding the Amazon Prime Video tvOS app. The first pointed to its launch on the day of the iPhone X keynote event, and then a separate report from Recode countered that rumor with sources that claimed the app would not be ready at that time. Later in September, the next rumor predicted its launch alongside Thursday Night Football, and when that date came and went the most recent rumor -- sourced from a Redditor claiming to work for Amazon -- predicted an October 26 debut.

Yesterday, a redditor opened up the App Store and saw an Amazon Prime Video story as the top feature in the "Today" section, after he had manually turned his device's clock forward by a day. He linked the section on reddit, which other users were able to see temporarily before the content was pulled by Apple. The "Today" App Store description in question specifically referenced Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV, which was finally launched today.

Amazon Prime Video was one of the last remaining streaming service holdouts to release a tvOS app, so users will now be able to rely on the 4th and 5th generation Apple TV devices a little more without having to use a PlayStation 4, Fire TV, or Roku to jump to Amazon's video catalog. In terms of other Apple products with Amazon Prime Video apps, users can also watch Prime shows on iPhone and iPad with the company's iOS app [Direct Link], which also supports downloading select videos to view offline.

Tim Hardwick contributed to this article.

Related Roundup: Apple TVTags: Amazon, Amazon Prime VideoBuyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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Google Maps 'Two-Wheeler' Mode Launches In India, More Countries to Follow

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 11:30
Google debuted a new "two-wheeler" mode for Google Maps on Tuesday as part of its Google India media event in New Delhi. The biker-based feature joins the existing driving, walking, and public transit modes for Google Maps users in India looking for the fastest possible directions to their intended destination.

Image via India Today
The new mode for motorcycle and scooter users shows trip routes that use "shortcuts" not accessible to other vehicles, and provides customized traffic and arrival time estimates.

The two-wheeler mode also shows major landmarks along the planned route to help riders who rely on them for navigation, as is often the case in India.

#LookBeforeYouLeave to get where you need to, faster with directions and voice navigation mode for two-wheeler riders in @googlemaps#GoogleForIndia pic.twitter.com/TkktD4T9s0

— Google India (@GoogleIndia) December 5, 2017
Like offline maps when they first launched, the two-wheeler mode for Google Maps is only available in India to begin with, but Google says the feature will roll out to more countries in the coming months. It's unclear at present where "two-wheeler" mode will sit in relation to Google Maps' existing cycling directions, but rider safety, speed, and designated routes are sure to differ.

Tags: Google Maps, India
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Apple CEO Tim Cook Hopes Apps Pulled From China's App Store Will One Day Return

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 10:34
Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Wednesday he is optimistic that some apps pulled from China's App Store to comply with regulatory rules will eventually be reinstated (via Reuters). Cook made the comments at the economic Fortune Forum in the southern city of Guangzhou, in the latest stint of his week-long China visit.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at World Internet Conference in Wuzhen (Image: Reuters)"My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that's been pulled, come back. I have great hope on that and great optimism on that," Cook said, adding that he always tries to find areas to work together and if he gets criticized for that, so be it.Apple has come in for criticism from local users and rights groups for acceding to government requests that it pull some apps from its Chinese App Store, including VPN services used to gain access to online services banned in China.

During the Forum, Cook also said that he believes strongly in freedoms – a comment that has been interpreted as response to a U.S. democratic senator's remarks on Tuesday that Apple had a moral obligation to promote freedom of expression.

"[T]ech companies must continue to push back on Chinese suppression of free expression," Vermont senator Patrick Leahy told CNBC. Leahy said he believed Apple was in danger of not fulfilling its "obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights."

In October, senators Leahy and Ted Cruz wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China.

Apple responded in a letter, explaining that it had "questioned the legal basis of the request" and had provided formal comments on Chinese cybersecurity law through trade associations. However, Apple stopped short of condemning the Chinese government's censorship, instead telling the senators that "actions are our most powerful statement."

Cook kicked off his China visit on Sunday, at the country's state-run World Internet Conference, which aims to develop an "open" digital economy, despite its regular practice of online censorship and regulation.

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: China, Tim Cook
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Apple Accidentally Promotes Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV in App Store, Launch Could Be Imminent

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 03:18
There are 26 days left until the end of the year, which is the deadline for when Apple said the highly-anticipated Amazon Prime Video app would be coming to the Apple TV. A launch could perhaps come as soon as this week, and maybe as even as early as tomorrow, based on an App Store leak spotted on reddit.

After setting his iPhone date to December 6, a redditor opened up the App Store and allegedly saw an Amazon Prime Video story as the top feature in the "Today" section. He linked the section on reddit, which other users were able to see temporarily before the content was pulled by Apple. The "Today" App Store description in question specifically referenced Amazon Prime Video for Apple TV.

Apple pulled this a few minutes ago. (Hi Apple?)

As said, my time/date is set to tomorrow. That is relevant because I saw the story at the top of the "Today" tab when I opened the App Store. That is how I obtained the link.

Thus my guess is that the story is ready for launch on the App Store tomorrow, and sometime around midnight Eastern or PST, both the story and the updated app itself will go live. That's approx 9-12 hours from now. We'll see.If the App Store leak is genuine, and it appears to be based on multiple reports from different reddit users, it means Apple already has content written up for the Amazon Prime Video release. That the content was visible on December 6 suggests a launch could be imminent.

Apple first announced the Amazon Prime Video app for Apple TV at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. At the time, Apple said the app would be coming later this year, but months have passed since then with no sign of it. There have been continual launch rumors, though, all of which have been incorrect.

Amazon Prime Video is one of the only major streaming video services absent from Apple's set-top box. The service is provided as a benefit to Amazon Prime members who subscribe to Amazon's $99 per year Amazon Prime service. Amazon Prime Video features thousands of TV shows and movies, along with original content produced by Amazon.

Related Roundup: Apple TVTags: Amazon, Amazon Prime VideoBuyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)
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