Apple reportedly buys an AI-based face recognition startup

Those rumors of Apple exploring facial recognition for sign-ins might just have some merit. Calcalist reports that Apple has acquired RealFace, an Israeli startup that developed deep learning-based face authentication technology. The terms of the deal aren’t public, but it’s estimated at “several million dollars.” Cupertino would mainly be interested in the promise of the technology than pure resources, in other words.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the reported deal and will let you know if it has something to add. However, RealFace recently took its website down and left nothing but a skeleton server behind.

Apple is no stranger to buying companies with some form of facial recognition tech. However, a focus on authentication would be both new and logical. If Apple wants to reduce its dependence on fingerprint readers for password-free iPhone logins, it needs a face detection system that will quickly and consistently sign you in across most situations, not just ideal conditions. RealFace’s AI tech is supposed to be highly accurate, so it might not be as finnicky or easily duped as some implementations.

Via: Times of Israel

Source: Calcalist (translated)

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The best bluetooth headsets

By Marianne Schultz and Nick Guy

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

If you’re hopping on and off the phone throughout the day, or if you’re typically talking on the phone while driving (despite the safety concerns), the Plantronics Voyager Edge is the best Bluetooth headset for most people. After putting in 50-plus hours of research and testing more than 15 models over the past three years—including 12 hours of testing and three new models for the latest update—the Voyager Edge continues to lead the pack with its combination of stellar sound quality, long battery life, excellent Bluetooth range, and comfortable fit.

Who needs this

If you don’t do much talking on your mobile phone, but you prefer to talk hands-free, you’re probably fine using the earbuds that came with it. But a good mono (one-ear) Bluetooth headset is a great accessory if you speak on the phone frequently and want the convenience of having your hands free—you don’t want to stay tethered to your handset by a wire, or to have to hold the phone with your shoulder while you talk, which is terrible for your neck and back. A headset is also appealing if you need to be sure that your voice sounds clear to the person on the other end, even when you’re talking in an environment with a lot of wind or other background noise.

If you have a new iPhone 7, which lacks a headphone jack and has only a single Lightning-connector port for headphones or charging, a Bluetooth headset lets you charge your iPhone while you take calls hands-free.

How we picked and tested

Three headsets we tested for the 2016 update to this guide, from left: Jabra Steel, Plantronics Voyager 5200, and Plantronics Voyager Edge. Photo: Marianne Schultz

For our 2016 update, we looked for any newcomers to the market since the previous iteration of this guide. Consulting reviews on sites such as PCMag and ComputerWorld, and user reviews on Amazon, we narrowed the options down to two new models from major manufacturers that seemed worthy of hands-on testing.

You shouldn’t expect exceptionally long battery life, but you at least want your headset to last through a workday. We consider five hours of actual talk time to be the minimum. Some headsets, including our top pick, come with a charging case—a battery-equipped storage case that charges the headset when you put it inside—to extend battery life significantly, but the headset itself should still be able to last a good while alone.

In terms of functional design, you want a headset that charges via Micro-USB rather than with a proprietary cord or charger. You probably already have at least one or two other gadgets that use Micro-USB cables, so it’s nice to be able to use the same cable and charger for everything.

We tested for battery life, comfort, sound quality, and Bluetooth range. We also looked for headsets with excellent controls that allow you to answer calls and adjust the volume easily and intuitively. We gave bonus points to models that allow you to perform some of these functions hands-free, using just your voice. For more on our testing procedures, see our full guide.

Our pick

The Voyager Edge sits comfortably in your ear. Photo: Marianne Schultz

The Plantronics Voyager Edge remains our pick for most people because it’s a solid all-around performer. As in the past two years, it came out on top in our latest batch of audio-quality and comfort tests. In terms of battery life, it came in second out of the three headsets we tested this year, with a talk time of 6 hours; however, its included charging case gives it a total of 16 hours of talk time, the longest of the bunch. The Plantronics Voyager 5200 bested the Edge in Bluetooth range, but the Edge’s range is more than sufficient for most people. The Edge also has simple pairing, easy-to-use controls, and a smartphone companion app that makes it easy to adjust the headset’s settings.

The Voyager Edge supports Bluetooth 4.0, plus NFC pairing with compatible smartphones. We found pairing with an Apple iPhone 7 Plus to be quick and easy, and using the headset is just as simple. In addition to voice control, the Voyager Edge has sensors to determine whether you’re wearing it. The headset has physical buttons for on-off, volume level, call answer, and voice command, each of which are easy to find and press.

Call quality is the most important aspect of any Bluetooth headset, and the Voyager Edge excels here. In our tests of call audio quality, it was edged out slightly by the more-expensive Voyager 5200 in a quiet office environment, but performed better than the 5200 in a busy coffee shop and a windy car—the Edge was a solid, all-around performer, particularly given its compact size. The Voyager Edge is usually around $ 30 cheaper than the Voyager 5200, so the minor differences we heard in audio quality makes the Edge a better overall value.

Runner-up

The Voyager 5200 fits over the ear for a more secure fit, but it’s more of a hassle to put on. Photo: Marianne Schultz

The Voyager 5200 is a beefier headset with more features. It has an additional microphone for noise-cancelling (for a total of four, compared with three on the Voyager Edge), and its Bluetooth range is the most impressive of the bunch. Plantronics says the 5200 can reach 98 feet without audio dropping out; in our tests we noticed dropouts in voice calls at just over 70 feet, but streamed music didn’t get choppy until around 150 feet.

A budget alternative

Photo: Marshall Troy

The Plantronics Explorer 500 is a good choice for people who don’t want to spend a ton and are willing to give up some audio quality. The Explorer 500 is smaller than the Voyager Edge, but its battery lasts about an hour longer. It also has great Bluetooth range: In our tests, audio didn’t drop out until around 54 feet for voice and 95 feet for music. In our quiet-office and coffee-shop tests, however, our listening panel didn’t love the audio the 500 transmitted. One panelist in an earlier test described voice as sounding “blobby” in the office, and in another test the Explorer picked up more background noise than other units did. In the coffee-shop test, it lost some audio whenever plates clinked in the background.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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The Morning After: Thursday, February 16 2017

Welcome to the return of iPhone rumors. It’s already that wonderful time of the year as leaks, rumors and supply chain-side intel offer a glimpse into what Apple’s cooking. Or not. Global gaming show E3 is starting sooner this year, with Xbox set to reveal its new console on the weekend before it begins. And like Pokémon? How about more of ’em?


iPhone Touchbar?
iPhone 8 ‘function area’ rumored to replace home button

Since MWC 2017 can’t grab all the mobile hype, the iPhone rumor machine is already off and running. We’ve already heard that Apple may be planning to release two iPhone 7s models this fall, plus a pricier iPhone 8 with an edge-to-edge OLED screen. Now, a note from analyst Ming-chi Kuo suggests that while dropping the traditional home button, the iPhone 8 will dedicate part of its display as a function area, with controls that switch based on what you’re doing (similar to Apple’s Touchbar on the new MacBook Pro).


No, not the coffee!
‘Prey’ makes you fear everything

Prey is all about deception. The first-person shooter starts off simple enough: You’re a scientist beginning a new job at your brother’s massive research company. You wake up in your bedroom, do some exploring and board a helicopter on top of your roof to head to work, where you’re then subjected to some first-day testing. Then all hell breaks loose. Aliens run rampant in the compound, and you black out. Then you wake up in your bedroom again, just like before, as if the first 30 minutes of the game were a bad dream. Then things get weird.


Because competition works
Why is Verizon offering unlimited data again?

After a few years of running from unlimited data plans, Verizon is offering them once again (with a 22GB asterisk). So what makes now the right time? Nathan Ingraham digs into why T-Mobile’s ‘Uncarrier” pitch has become compelling enough that Verizon felt forced to open the gates.


Its E3 event is moving to Sunday.Microsoft will unveil Xbox Project Scorpio on June 11th

Last year at E3, Microsoft pre-announced its big hardware upgrade for this year’s show: Project Scorpio. The new box should bring true 4K gaming capability to the Xbox platform, but will that be enough to narrow the gap with Sony? We’ll find out what the company has planned for 2017 on Sunday night ahead of E3 at 5PM ET.


It’s like a snorkel for your Shamrock shake.
McDonald’s has re-engineered drinking straws

McDonald’s thinks the humble drinking straw needed a redesign. It drafted in a team of robotic and aerospace engineers to make something to help push its new two-flavor Chocolate Shamrock Shake. It has two holes and looks like a snorkel. But there’s science here. Almost too much.


Yes, people are still playing
‘Pokémon Go’ adds 80 creatures from ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver’ this week

The first big Pokémon Go upgrade for 2017 is rolling out this week, bringing new monsters from the Johto region, like Chikorita, Cyndaquil and Totodile. Their addition will also mean some new evolutions for old monsters, while the gameplay for collecting monsters has been tweaked slightly. It’s still the same game, though, and as the weather warms up once again, we’ll see if it can lure players back to their local Pokéstops.


This discovery could lead to smarter robots.
Your brain always has a backup plan

You may not always be consciously considering a Plan B when you’re making a decision, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Queen’s University researchers have discovered that the human brain’s motor neurons will prepare for multiple actions before making a decision. The findings suggest that the brain interprets the environment as a range of potential actions, and that you’re always considering options even if you only ever settle on one.

But wait, there’s more…

  • IMAX opens first VR theater in Los Angeles
  • Verizon reportedly reduces its Yahoo offer by $ 250 million
  • Republicans call for investigation into EPA use of encrypted chats

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Analyst rumor: iPhone 8 ‘function area’ to replace home button

While we’re still months away from finding out exactly what’s what with any new iPhone, the rumor mill is already running at full tilt. Following up on earlier reports of a 5.8-inch edgeless OLED screened device arriving as the “iPhone 8,” well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is telling investors more about what its home button-less front screen could be like.

As explained by AppleInsider and 9to5Mac, the analyst notes that this presumed OLED iPhone with its $ 1,000+ pricetag will be similar in size to the current 4.7-inch iPhone. However, instead of the home button, it will include a “function area” that can also display controls for video or games.

That would keep it matched in style with the recently-released MacBook Pros and their OLED TouchBar, and, the analyst says, reduce the screen size used for everything else to about 5.15-inches. Last year the New York Times reported that the next iPhone would ditch the home button for virtual buttons built into the screen, and this rumor explains how all that could work. Losing the home button could indicate a lack of TouchID, which could be replaced by a fingerprint reader embedded in the display itself, or other biometric technology like face recognition.

Source: Apple Insider, 9to5Mac

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Russia-backed malware can now target Macs

The state-backed Russian group accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee appears to be expanding its repertoire. Bitdefender Labs researchers have obtained a sample of a Mac-native variant of Xagent, the backdoor malware linked to Russia’s APT28 (aka Fancy Bear or Strontium). The code not only allows swiping passwords and capturing screenshots, but includes a module that can swipe iOS device backups created by iTunes. While it’s easy to encrypt those backups, this theoretically gives intruders a chance at snooping on iPhone data without having to compromise the iPhone itself.

As for the evidence? The modules in the Mac variant of Xagent show a “number of similarities” to the components for Linux and Windows, Bitdefenders says. The malware’s command-and-control addresses are also eerily similar to the ones APT28 uses for another malware tool, Komplex.

There’s still a lot left to be uncovered. The security team only has the malware itself, not a full picture of how an attack works — Komplex, which infects Macs through a hole in the notorious MacKeeper antivirus kit, is one possible vector. It’s also unclear what other modules are available. Either way, this isn’t exactly comforting for Mac users who may find themselves in Russia’s crosshairs. It’s possible to protect against Xagent (Bitdefender says its AV software will work, and others likely will too), thankfully. The concern is that Russia might have already used the malware, or that it may target people who are unaware of the threat.

Via: CSO

Source: Bitdefender Labs

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Jaguar and Shell partner for in-car fuel payments

Luxury automaker Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with Shell to make fueling up a touch more convenient. That’s because everyone who owns a vehicle equipped with the company’s InControl Apps will be able to pay for gas without ever leaving the driver’s seat. All you need is the Shell mobile app, either a PayPal or Apple Pay account and at least $ 40,000 for one of the supported cars and you too can take advantage of the new feature.

As the video below shows, it looks like all you need to do is connect your iPhone (Android support arrives sometimes later this year) to your Jag’s infotainment system via USB. From there, everything is handled via the car’s touchscreen. How this differs from other mobile payment tech, Jaguar says, is that this one uses geolocation in concert with PayPal or Apple Pay for transactions.

The functionality launches February 15th in the UK and additional availability will roll out over the course of this year. Jaguar says that additional applications of the tech could include drive-through restaurants and parking services. Which, to be honest, sound far more convenient than paying for gas. I mean, you still have to get out of your car for the former. The latter? It should eliminate the awkwardness of digging your wallet from a back pocket while you’re seated.

Source: Jaguar

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The Morning After: Tuesday, February 14 2017

The unlimited data battles of yesteryear are back as T-Mobile and Verizon offer all the data you might need (with fair usage caveats), and silly Nintendo party games are also making a return on the Nintendo Switch.


Big Red vs. MagentaVerizon & T-Mobile do battle over unlimited data

Over the weekend, Verizon revived the “unlimited” tier for mobile customers, promising all the data (potentially throttled after 22GB), calls and texting you can handle for $ 80 per month. In response, T-Mobile tweaked its One plan to include HD video and 10GB of LTE data for tethering, making for an even better deal. Whichever you choose, it looks like competition is heating up and the offers are getting better.


Get sillyA closer look at Nintendo’s ‘1-2 Switch’ mini-games

The Nintendo Switch’s silliest launch title is closer to a party game than a console title. But will 28 games be enough to keep you playing months later?


Not a good ideaPewDiePie loses Disney deal

YouTube star PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, decided to publish videos with anti-semitic messages and imagery. As a result, Disney-owned Maker Studios has canceled its joint venture with him.


‘That’s it! I’ve come up with a new recipe!’Kitchen inspiration courtesy of ‘Final Fantasy’

Cooking and food are surprisingly significant in Final Fantasy XV. But can you really cook (and eat) these fictional recipes? And are they any good? Mat Smith gains some cooking experience (points) and tries it out.


Nier, far, wherever you are.How ‘NieR’ was brought back from the dead

Taro Yoko, director of NieR: Automata, might not have much confidence in the story he’s telling in Nier’s latest iteration. It’s a cult favorite that’s being brought back courtesy of PlatinumGames: a Japanese studio that has a reputation for producing high-caliber action games such as Bayonetta, Vanquish and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Nick Summers plays through the latest preview.


Power padApple takes a step towards wireless charging for iPhones

Rumors have suggested the next iPhone revision will support wireless charging, and Apple’s new membership in the Wireless Power Consortium seems appropriately timed to make that happen. This group governs the Qi standard most devices use; however membership isn’t a guarantee the tech will show up, or that if it does, Apple will stick with the standard.


Not exactly NetflixApple TV show trailers for ‘Planet of the Apps’ and ‘Carpool Karaoke’

Apple Music is getting closer to including Apple Television, with some exclusive shows for subscribers. Yesterday we got our first peek at trailers for two original shows, and… well, how much do you like James Corden and Shark Tank/The Voice? They don’t get many points for originality, but the effort is there — expect the first episodes of Planet of the Apps in spring.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Nikon cancels DL compacts
  • What’s on TV: ‘Planet Earth II,’ ‘Doctor Strange,’ ‘Chef’s Table’ and ‘Halo Wars 2’
  • Democratic senators push for details on Trump’s smartphone use
  • Latest Razer Blade laptop packs a 4K screen, Kaby Lake CPU
  • Watch the latest ‘Ghost In The Shell’ trailer. It has some story this time.

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The LG G6 promises superior sound with an upgraded quad-DAC

Details continue to emerge about LG’s upcoming G6 smartphone, and today the company revealed that the device will feature a 32-bit quad-DAC system promising improved sound quality.

The technology gives superior control over each earbud independently, resulting in a clearer, more balanced sound, LG claimed in a press release. The analog output means that while devices like the iPhone are going aux-free, it’s likely the G6 will include a headphone jack, according to GSM Arena. High-performance audio chipset specialist ESS is producing the DAC. All told, the technology is being touted as an improvement over the similar quad-DAC featured in last year’s LG V20 phone, which we praised as being “great for audiophiles.”

The G6 will be unveiled at a press event on February 26th, and will feature an unusual 18:9 aspect ratio screen, according to LG. The device is also water-resistant G6 and reportedly uses Google Assistant, which we expect to become a standard feature on Android flagships this year. Meanwhile, Android Central reports that LG is promising to address the shatter-prone screens and bootloops that plagued previous devices.

Source: The Verge, LG

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The Morning After: Thursday, February 9 2017

Welcome to Thursday morning. Android Wear 2.0 lands on two new LG smartwatches, Adidas has beef with Tesla, and the next iPhone could be expensive. I mean, more expensive.


Faster and easier to use.Android Wear 2.0 was worth the long wait

Google’s wearable update is the platform’s biggest one since the birth of Android Wear, three years ago. “With 2.0, we really looked hard at what people are using their watches for,” said Android Wear VP David Singleton. “We saw that usage was really focused around watch faces, messaging and fitness. So we really optimized 2.0 for those things.” But Google improved a lot of other aspects of Wear as well, including the user interface, navigation and notifications. We took a closer look.


Stripes and gripes.Adidas thinks Tesla’s old Model 3 logo is a little too familiar

Would you confuse the Tesla Model 3’s three-bar logo with Adidas’ signature stripes? No? Did you know that was the upcoming Tesla’s logo? Maybe not. But don’t tell that to Adidas. The apparel giant has filed a challenge to prevent Tesla from registering the Model 3’s logo as a trademark. It’s similar enough to Adidas’ stripes that it’s “likely to cause confusion” and suggest the two brands are connected, according to the filing. That said, the EV maker quietly changed the logo to the numeric “3” weeks ago, well before Adidas filed its notice.


You could be an NBA playerNBA and 2K team up for the first eSports league owned by a US pro league

Next year, you could realistically expect to become an NBA draft pick. We weren’t expecting that either, but it’s a possibility because the NBA and Take Two have teamed up to create the NBA 2K eLeague. It will launch with 8 – 12 teams that are all owned by existing NBA franchises, and recruit online players to go 5-on-5 in the NBA 2K video game. NBA commish Adam Silver says there will be broadcasts via internet and TV, as it seeks to attract people who otherwise might not think they could ever play in the league.


iPhone XSpecial edition ‘anniversary’ iPhone could be pricey

Since this year will be the tenth anniversary for Apple’s iPhone, people are expecting something special. The latest rumor from Fast Company indicates that while an incrementally upgraded iPhone 7s is on the way in 4.7- and 5.5-inch sizes, there will also be an iPhone 8 with all new features like an OLED screen, no physical home button and maybe even 3D-sensing technology. All of those parts come at a cost, however, and its price (unlocked) could start above $ 1,000.


The latest ultrathin “metalenses” can now handle multiple colors.Lenses made from nanomaterials get closer to replacing glass

Researchers recently showed off breakthrough nanomaterial “metalenses” that could replace bulky glass optics. Unfortunately, these only worked on a single color at a time, meaning your hypothetical smartphone camera of the future would only be able to do arty, monochromatic photos. However, the same team at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has now unveiled a new material that works on a spectrum of colors from blue to green — making it a more realistic proposition for substituting in for lenses and other optical tech. The material is lighter and thinner than glass, meaning that metalenses could change cameras, smartphones and even our own specs in the future.


Sporty swipesReview: LG Watch Sport with Android Wear 2.0

LG’s Watch Sport is the more impressive of the two smartwatches launching with Android Wear 2.0, and for the most part it’s a very respectable showing. Beyond the seriously snappy performance, the big Android Wear update brings a load of design tweaks and new features that the platform has needed for a long time. It’s not perfect, but the software helps soften some of the watch’s shortcomings: the body will be still too chunky for some, and we wish the battery lasted much longer


(Not so) Posh swipes Review: LG Watch Style with Android Wear 2.0

The LG Watch Style is sadly underwhelming in comparison to the pricier Sport. Despite its name, the Style has a bland design and only meets Android Wear 2.0’s minimum hardware requirements. On the bright side, Google’s new operating system is faster and more intuitive than before. Too bad the Style isn’t a great vehicle for showcasing said new software.


It’s putting all the pieces togetherCorsair teases its first whole computer

You probably know Corsair as a computer parts and peripherals manufacturer. It makes all those DRAM modules, flash drives, PC cases, SSDs, keyboards, mice and the rest. Now it’s trying to put it all together. An ad published in Maximum PC’s March issue, revealed that the company has become a full-fledged PC maker. Its first ever whole computer is fittingly called Corsair One.


Pink because love.Pink creatures will invade ‘Pokémon Go’ this Valentine season

Pokémon Go‘s latest seasonal promotion is all about Clefairies, Jigglypuffs and other pink-hued monsters. Like prior promotions, you’ll also bag double the amount of candy when you catch, hatch or transfer a Pokémon to the Professor. Oh, and you may want to hold onto those lures until the event begins — each one will keep attracting Pokémon for six hours instead of the usual 30 minutes.


It might use the likes of Twitter and Facebook to vet visitorsDHS could demand social media passwords of US visitors

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, told Congress on Tuesday that his agency is considering a new vetting measure for US visitors from Trump’s banned nation list: forcing them to hand over passwords for their social media accounts.”We want to get on their social media, with passwords: What do you do, what do you say?” Kelly told the House Homeland Security Committee. “If they don’t want to cooperate then you don’t come in.”

But wait, there’s more…

  • Trump’s Nordstrom tweet isn’t illegal, but it’s still a problem
  • Wikipedia decides Daily Mail is ‘too unreliable’ to be a preferred source
  • Netflix is making a ‘Castlevania’ animated series
  • Job listing reveals Netflix will soon sell merch tied to its original shows
  • Six Flags and Samsung made a mixed-reality rollercoaster

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Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone could cost over $1,000

To mark 10 years of metal and glass slabs, Apple is expected to debut an ultra high-end version of the iPhone alongside its next scheduled update. According to a report from Fast Company, Tim Cook and company will likely roll out three new phones this year: the incremental iPhone 7S in the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes, as well as a slightly larger, even more expensive 5.8-inch iPhone 8 with an edgeless OLED display and a few completely new features.

To really play up the 10th anniversary bit, Apple may even call the new flagship model the “iPhone X,” and the price is expected to shoot up past the $ 1,000 mark. That’s not too far-fetched by Apple’s standards, considering a maxed-out iPhone 7 Plus already costs $ 969 unlocked. We’ve heard rumors of an OLED iPhone before, but Fast Company‘s sources seem to confirm its existence. They higher-end screen alone is expected to cost Apple twice as much as the LCD displays it currently uses and with only Samsung’s OLEDs meeting Apple’s strict tolerances, the company is reportedly hogging up manufacturing capacity as well. There’s also a chance the iPhone 8/iPhone X will eliminate physical buttons entirely by incorporating the Home button into the screen itself and replacing the side buttons with touch-sensitive inlays in a metal frame with a glass back.

Probably the most interesting rumor about the next-generation iPhone, however, is Apple’s partnership with Lumentum. According to Fast Company‘s sources, Apple plans to incorporate Lumentum’s 3D-sensing technology into the flagship phone in some way — which could mean anything from better camera performance to advanced augmented reality features or even a facial recognition system that could supplement Touch ID. Of course, these features are just rumors at this point, so take them with a big lick of salt for now.

Source: Fast Company

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