What to expect from Apple’s ‘See You’ iPhone event

It’s that time of year again. It’s the end of summer, and Apple is once again on the cusp of introducing a new iPhone. Only this year, there’s a different buzz. There’s been talk of Cupertino playing it relatively safe with a new smartphone for the second year in a row or even taking away the time-honored headphone jack. What’s the deal with that? And of course, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg. The Apple Watch is getting long in the tooth, new versions of iOS and macOS are nearly ready… and as many will tell you, large swaths of Apple’s iPad and Mac lineups are gathering dust. But just what are you going to see when Tim Cook and company take the stage? We’ve rounded up some of the more plausible leaks, rumors and educated guesses to help set expectations for Apple’s September 7th media extravaganza.

The next iPhone: Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away

Rendering of the rumored “iPhone 7 Plus” by Martin Hajek.

Historically, Apple has introduced a major redesign of the iPhone every two years, with a milder “S” update in between. However, this year is something special: The Wall Street Journal and other sources expect the next iPhones (unofficially known as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus) to play it safe. While there will reportedly be more substantial outward changes than you saw in the iPhone 6s, the Cupertino crew isn’t poised to reinvent the wheel either. It would largely share the same aesthetic that you’ve seen since 2014’s iPhone 6, complete with that curved but mostly featureless aluminum frame. The cleaner antenna lines and possible new colors (rumors have swirled of dark black and blue options) may be the only conspicuous ways to show that you have a new phone.

That’s not to say that the changes would be purely cosmetic — far from it. The standard-size iPhone is expected to get a larger camera that will offer improved light sensitivity while the larger Plus variant may tout dual cameras that offer better focusing and low-light photography, much like what you find on the Huawei P9. There’s also talk of a Force Touch-style home button, a speedier A10 chip, an increased 32GB of baseline storage (with a 256GB option) and even possible dual-SIM support for countries like China and India. One rumor has claims we’ll see higher-resolution displays, but the jury’s still out on that report.

There’s one big thing you probably won’t get this year, though: a headphone jack. As with the Moto Z and LeEco’s latest phones, you’ll have to either plug into the data port (in this case, the Lightning port) or go wireless to listen to your tunes. This doesn’t mean that your favorite wired headphones will instantly become obsolete, mind you. Some leaks have suggested that Apple may offer a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter to accommodate the legions of headphones on the market today. There’s no guarantee that this connector will come in the box, but you’ll probably have some kind of fallback if you’re not quite ready to embrace Bluetooth.

There’s one last, looming question about this iPhone: When will it arrive? An AT&T retail leak hints that the carrier may be bracing itself for an in-store launch on September 23rd, but that’s an unusually long wait for Apple. It typically prefers a release on the second Friday following the event, which would be the 16th. Well-known leaker Evan Blass has heard that the retail launch is slated for the 16th, so it seems like the more probable date.

The first Apple Watch refresh

Unless you count new bands and case colors as hardware upgrades, the Apple Watch has gone untouched since it arrived almost a year and a half ago, in April 2015. That makes it ripe for an upgrade… and many suspect that it’ll get its first big revision at the September event. From a logical standpoint, that makes sense. WatchOS 3 has been in testing all through the summer, existing supplies are running low, and Apple likes to showcase major platform revisions with new hardware. Besides, rumors originally had the new wristwear showing up in March. If it wasn’t quite ready then, it may well be ready now.

So what will you get if it does show up? Much like the iPhone 3G, this second model may be more about addressing the first model’s glaring issues than a complete revolution. Early rumors of a camera have died, and cellular data isn’t expected to make the cut due to battery-life concerns. Instead, the big deal may be GPS: You could get accurate navigation and run tracking without relying on your iPhone.

After that, it may be a matter of refinements. KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who is often on the ball about Apple plans, believes that the next Apple Watch will have a barometer for altitude tracking, stronger water resistance, a larger-capacity battery and a faster processor. That last part is particularly important. While WatchOS 3 will speed up many tasks all by itself, a CPU upgrade could further reduce those annoying wait times that plague the Apple Watch today.

The real mystery is when you’ll see the second-generation smartwatch. There haven’t been any credible leaks, and there’s no extensive history to rely on. The six-week gap between the March 2015 Apple Watch introduction and launch day isn’t typical for the company. If the hardware is ready to go, though, we could imagine it arriving side-by-side with new iPhones in mid-September.

Software upgrade release dates: iOS 10 and more

iOS 10 on an iPhone 6s

Software usually plays as big a role in Apple’s September events, and this year is likely no exception. Given that Apple always ties new iPhone hardware to new iOS releases, we’d expect to see a date for the iOS 10 upgrade at the event. The firm tends to ship those updates at least days before the new iPhones arrive.

As for other software? That’s harder to determine. WatchOS 3 seems like a shoo-in for a release date announcement (it’s been in developer testing as long as iOS), especially if there’s a new Apple Watch unveiled at the same time. A tvOS software update is less certain when there’s no word of a matching Apple TV hardware upgrade, although it could happen when Apple TV software updates have sometimes arrived alongside new versions of iOS. And a macOS Sierra launch? Well, that’s up in the air. Although Apple delivered El Capitan in late September last year, there’s no certainty that Sierra will be ready in a similar timeframe. It may have to wait until there’s new Mac hardware. On that note…

Wild cards: new Macs and iPads

Martin Hajek's concept for a MacBook Pro with OLED strip

Conceptual rendering of a MacBook Pro with an OLED touch strip.

If you ask devotees about what Apple needs to upgrade next, many of them will shout “Macs.” It’s for good reason, too. Outside of the 12-inch MacBook and iMac, the majority of the Mac lineup hasn’t been updated in more than a year. Some of this is due to Intel’s slowing refresh cycle and diminishing performance returns, but it’s still true that Apple’s computer line could stand an overhaul.

But will it get that overhaul in September? It doesn’t seem likely. A recent Bloomberg leak claims that a MacBook Pro with a fingerprint reader, an OLED control strip and USB-C is in the works for the fall but won’t show up on September 7th. And mum’s the word on other Mac revamps. Apple did recently stop selling the Thunderbolt Display and is rumored to be building a stand-alone 5K screen that would go well with new Macs, but the mill has been silent on its fate in recent weeks.

You might see new iPads. The iPad Air 2 is nearly two years old, and AppleInsider tipsters have hinted that at least the 12.9-inch iPad Pro may get an upgrade. Like the Mac, though, there’s nothing strongly suggesting that replacements for either will show up in September. Any updates might end up waiting until a separate October event, if not next year. Just keep an open mind — few would have expected the iPad Pro to be introduced alongside the new iPhone last year, and Apple may be content to introduce modestly improved tablets in September rather than save them for later.

Images: Martin Hajek (iPhone render); Reuters / Andrew Kelly (Apple Watch); Martin Hajek (MacBook Pro)

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Apple launches 2TB iCloud storage for $20 a month

Apple has introduced a way to stop that annoying “full storage” iCloud message from popping up in the near future: a new tier that offers 2TB of space. The company has updated its iCloud pricing list ahead of its September event to include the new option, and it will cost you $ 20 a month in the US. 9to5mac, which first reported on the new tier, noted that there are rumors swirling around that Cupertino is launching a 256GB iPhone 7 during the event. If that’s true and you decide to get both, then you won’t have to worry about deleting photos and videos for quite sometime. The bigger storage option would also allow you to save more folders on iCloud when macOS Sierra comes out.

Of course, if you don’t need that much space, you can continue paying for iCloud’s lower tiers, starting at 50GB for $ 1. You can check out how much the 2TB option will cost you on Apple’s website, but take note that it could be available in your country even if it isn’t in the list. Just go to the iCloud menu in your device’s Settings app and tap on “Buy more storage.”

Via: 9to5mac

Source: Apple

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Pebble’s latest update adds quick views and more shortcuts

When Pebble announced its latest Pebble 2 and Time 2 watches earlier this year, it also revealed several software improvements that would roll out not just to the new models, but to most other existing Pebble hardware. Today, the company is finally releasing that update. Now even old-school Pebble users can get Quick View peeks, shortcut buttons, a revamped Health app plus more email features for iOS users.

Available only to the latest Time edition devices, you can now press down on the watchface to check out upcoming events thanks to a new Quick View peek that takes up just a small sliver of the display. Tap it for more info or hit the Back button to dismiss it. There’s also a new Launcher menu — press Select to see it — plus an App Glances feature that gives you a preview of info without having to open the app.

The update also adds 4-button Quick Launch, which essentially lets you map the side buttons to specific shortcuts — you trigger them by long-pressing each key. You could do this before the Up and Down buttons but now you can do so with the Back and Select keys as well.

Seeing as Pebble is a lot more fitness-focused these days, it also took the opportunity to redesign its Health app. Now you’re able to quickly glance at weekly charts to get a better idea of your progress toward your step or sleep goals. You can also just press the up button on the watchface to access the Health app that much quicker. Pebble Health settings are also now in the main settings area instead of the Apps tab.

Last but not least, Pebble is also giving iOS users a bit more email functionality for those with Google accounts. At long last, iPhone fans can reply, delete and archive email directly from Pebble notifications, be it from Inbox, Gmail or the Mail app.

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Apple iPad, Mac rumors suggest upgrades for power users

While we prepare to see the next iPhone on September 7th, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has delivered another batch of rumors centered around Apple’s iPad and Mac plans. According to his sources, along with a standalone 5K monitor the company is working on with LG (that would surpass even the 21:9 screens just announced) the next step for iMacs are the option of AMD GPUs built-in, while the Macbook Air is expected to get a USB-C upgrade that could mimic the current Macbook.

Otherwise, a thinner (of course) Macbook Pro could take its own notes from the Macbook with a flatter keyboard, plus what Bloomberg says is a “Dynamic Function Row” above the keyboard. Earlier rumors referred to an OLED touch bar, and combined with the upcoming Sierra macOS update, it could handle different functions depending on what software is active, like iMovie or Safari.

Finally, the iPad is expected to get upgraded display tech that zooms and scrolls faster, while a software update would make the Apple Pencil work across more software on iOS. The new iPad software is expected to arrive at some point in 2017, while the new Mac hardware is expected to debut later this year.

Source: Bloomberg

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Verizon’s ‘LTE Advanced’ network promises 50 percent higher speed

Every wireless carrier has various tests that say its network is the best, but most still view Verizon as the best overall choice when looking for that all-important combo of speed and reliability. (That combo doesn’t come cheap, of course.) Today, the company is announcing a new focus on speed: with the rollout of “LTE Advanced,” Verizon claims that users will see “50 percent higher peak speeds.” The new speed bump is available to users in 461 cities across the country. Of course, it’s going to take significant testing to verify the veracity of Verizon’s claims.

Verizon says that LTE Advanced works by combining the multiple bandwidth channels your phone can use into what’s effectively one bigger, faster pipe to your phone. “Typical” download speed will stay around 5 to 12 Mbps, but combining two channels can net peak speeds up to 225 Mbps — that’s a lot faster than most home broadband, let alone what you’ll usually see on your smartphone. The carrier also says that it can combine three channels for speeds close to 300 Mbps.

Verizon’s estimates for “typical” speeds seem low to us, but there’s no question that two- or three-channel speeds are significantly faster than what the carrier currently offers. Even if Verizon only reaches half of what it promises for peak speeds, it’s a pretty significant boost over the status quo.

It’s not at all clear what circumstances will let your phone take advantage of these higher speeds, however. Verizon vaguely says that it’ll kick in “when you need it most,” typically under conditions with “big data use.” Still, the potential for faster download speeds can’t hurt.

To take advantage of LTE Advanced, you’ll need a relatively recent smartphone — Verizon says Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S7 are compatible with the service, as well as various Moto Droids and iPhone models. You can see the full list of compatible devices here, and the full list of LTE Advanced cities can be found here.

Source: Verizon

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Apple patenting a way to collect iPhone thieves’ fingerprints

Apple’s done a lot to curb iPhone theft via the “Find my iPhone” feature and encryption that locks out users if an incorrect code or fingerprint is used too often. However, it’s thinking about getting more proactive, judging by a recent patent application. It claims a method of “capturing biometric information for identifying unauthorized users,” including fingerprints, video or audio. The information could be stored or send to a server, where police could presumably use it to figure out who nabbed your device.

The system is pretty simple. The Touch ID sensor, front camera and microphone are already there, they simply need to be switched on without alerting the bad guy. In one scheme, the system could capture biometric data after a single failed passcode attempt; in another, it would only store it after a pre-determined number of failed attempts. On top of storing video, audio and fingerprint data, it could save and transmit “forensic” info like a GPS location. (The patent doesn’t specifically mention the iPhone or iPad, but those are Apple’s only devices with fingerprint sensors.)

Such a feature might be on shaky legal ground, however. Apple, maybe more than any company, understands the downsides of storing data without notifying users. And while it’s fun to speculate about patents, the tech rarely makes it into actual products, and this one has yet to be approved by the USPTO. Still, Apple can already track thieves, and such a scheme would let you nab them without having to traipse around the world.

Via: Apple Insider

Source: USPTO

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Apple patches three zero-day exploits after activist is hacked

Apple has rolled out a patch for three previously unknown zero-day exploits that were used to hack into the iPhone 6 of Ahmed Mansoor, an award-winning human rights activist based in the United Arab Emirates. Security company Lookout and internet watchdog group Citizen Lab investigated the attack on Mansoor’s iPhone and found it to be the product of NSO Group, a “cyber war” organization based in Israel that’s responsible for distributing a powerful, government-exclusive spyware product called Pegasus.

The hack took advantage of three zero-day exploits that allowed the attackers to jailbreak Mansoor’s iPhone and install spyware to track his movements, record his WhatsApp and Viber calls, log his messages and access his microphone and camera. Given the high cost of iPhone zero-days and the use of a government-specific spyware product, Citizen Lab believes the UAE is behind the hack. The UAE has previously targeted Mansoor.

“We are not aware of any previous instance of an iPhone remote jailbreak used in the wild as part of a targeted attack campaign, making this a rare find,” Citizen Lab writes.

Once Citizen Lab discovered the zero-days, it contacted Apple and says the company responded promptly. Apple released a software update today, iOS 9.3.5, that addresses the three flaws.

Source: Citizen Lab, Apple, Lookout

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Microsoft’s Word Flow keyboard gets a Bing search upgrade

Microsoft’s Word Flow keyboard for iPhone just got a significant upgrade this week, adding a search engine for emoji, GIFs, and more from Bing.

The new search feature will copy GIFs to your clipboard so you can paste them into messages and can even choose GIFs from what you type for contextual searches. If you type something like “yaaaas!” or something inane like that, you can search for matching GIFs of that nature.

Microsoft is planning on adding in additional themes, support for iOS text replacement and cursor placement using 3D Touch.

The new built-in search is obviously meant to compete with Google, after Google previously released the Gboard keyboard for iPhone with built-in search.

There are several different keyboards available for iPhone to choose from, but now that giants like Microsoft and Google have made their own options available, the vanilla iPhone keyboard seems like an afterthought, especially considering Microsoft previously acquired SwiftKey.

It’ll all come down to personal preference, but Microsoft just shot ahead to Google’s level with its addition of these new features.

Via: The Verge

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Prisma’s arty photo filters now work offline

There’s a lot going on behind the curtain with Prisma, the app that turns your banal photos into Lichtenstein- or Van Gogh-esque artworks. The app actually sends your cat photo to its servers where a neural network does the complex transformation. Starting soon, that will no longer be necessary, though. “We have managed to implement neural networks to smartphones, which means users will no longer need an internet connection to turn their photos into art pieces,” the company says. Only half of Prisma’s styles will be available offline at first (16 total), but others will be added in the “near future.”

Running the algorithms locally will speed things up (depending on your smartphone), help folks with poor internet service and free up valuable CPU cycles on its servers. The latter benefit will allow its tech to work with video, in a later release, Prisma adds. “Now that we’ve implemented neural networks right to the smartphones, we have enough servers capacity to run full videos on them in the near future.”

Now that we’ve implemented neural networks right to the smartphones, we have enough servers capacity to run full videos on them in the near future.

Prisma claims it’s the first to implement neural network tech on a smartphone, and that “no team or company has ever done anything close.” That, it says, opens up AI to developers without access to server farms, meaning “we will see [a lot more] new products based on neural networks.” Companies like Google and Apple may beg to differ, as they have already implemented smartphone AI for translation, voice recognition and more.

52 million folks have installed Prisma and 4 million use it daily, according to the company. Much as Snapchat has done, it plans to monetize the app via brand filters, while keeping it free for users. The offline processing speed depends on which smartphone you have — Prisma says “it takes three seconds for the iPhone 6 to repaint a photo and 2.5 seconds for the iPhone 6s.” The new features will arrive to iOS shortly and hit Android after that.

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Samsung Note 7 teardown reveals waterproof components

iFixit, famous destroyer of gadgets for the good of all humankind, has busted out its arsenal of teardown tools to take apart a Samsung Galaxy Note 7. In the team’s quest to see every single component inside the phone, they found several sealed components that make the device waterproof. If you’ll recall, the phone is rated IP68, which means it can withstand being submerged for up to 30 minutes or five feet underwater. The teardown reveals that the company achieved that rating by protecting the device’s headphone jack with a sealing gasket, the speaker with several layers of material and its S Pen chamber with copious amounts of glue, among other measures.

The teardown also confirms what people already know: the Note 7 has its cousins’ (the S7s’) main camera, flash memory and gyroscope. It even has a nearly identical chipset. The newer phone has a third camera, though, that it uses as its iris scanner. When it comes to battery, it’s not quite as good as the S7 Edge’s, but as we mentioned in our review, the difference is barely noticeable. Further, its batter is “significantly more powerful” than the one found in the iPhone 6s Plus. Besides examining the phone itself, iFixit has taken a closer look at the S Pen, as well. The phone’s stylus is apparently more sensitive than both Apple’s Pencil and the Surface Pen.

Overall, the device got a low repairability rating due to its modular components, but iFixit says it still “lives up to the hype.” You can see the whole teardown on the team’s website or watch the highlights below.

Source: iFixit

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