Apple acquisition could help Siri make sense of your data

If it wasn’t already clear that Apple is committed to improving AI, it is now. The tech giant has confirmed that it recently bought Lattice Data, a company that uses AI to make sense of unorganized “dark” data like images and text. It’s not discussing what it plans to do with its acquisition, but a TechCrunch source claims that Apple paid $ 200 million. It’s not a gigantic deal, then, but no small potatoes when only 20 engineers are making the leap. And if that same source is correct, it could be important for Siri — Lattice had reportedly been talking to tech firms about “enhancing their AI assistants.” But what does that mean, exactly?

AI assistants frequently depend on structured data to provide meaningful answers, such as the latest scores for your favorite team or your upcoming calendar events. It’s harder for them to parse the massive amounts of data you generate outside of those neat-and-tidy containers. Lattice could make that data usable, helping Siri handle more of your commands. Need to find some obscure piece of information? You might have a better chance of finding it.

That could be important in the long run, and not just for the usual voice commands on your iPhone or Mac. If you believe rumors, Apple may be close to unveiling a Siri-based speaker. While that device would be unlikely to benefit from any of Lattice’s know-how in the short term (certainly not at WWDC 2017), any eventual upgrades to Siri would improve its ability to compete against rivals like the Amazon Echo series or Google Home. Lattice may not sound like an exciting company on the surface, but its work could be crucial to Apple’s visions for the smart home and beyond.

Source: TechCrunch

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The Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $70 on an Apple Watch Series 2

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, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot — some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Garmin Forerunner 230 Running Watch

Street price: $ 190; MSRP: $ 250; Deal price: $ 155 with code AFFEMFIT

This is the lowest price we’ve seen on this GPS running watch at $ 155 after applying coupon code AFFEMFIT. While the street price of the Forerunner 230 has fallen under $ 200 in recent months, this is still a new low by a nice margin and a good opportunity to pick one up if you’re a runner looking to up your game. Black, Yellow, and Purple colors are available at the $ 155 price. Shipping is free.

The Garmin Forerunner is our pick for the best GPS running watch. Jim McDannald writes, “The Garmin Forerunner 230 (FR 230) has everything we were looking for in a great GPS running watch. It takes the accuracy and long battery life of our previous pick, the Forerunner 220 (FR 220), and makes the screen larger and more readable during activities, while retaining a light and small profile that won’t feel weird wearing as an everyday watch. The FR 230 can pass along smartphone notifications and track your steps and other casual activities. The interface and data syncing are easy enough to use if you are new to GPS watches, but the FR 230 also contains deep features and optional app downloads that experienced runners and statistics wonks can dig into. It can track some advanced running metrics we’ve only seen in higher-priced models and can also work with separate cycling monitors for speed and cadence. All of these features rest on top of Garmin’s unparalleled reputation for making reliable GPS watches; adding up to a watch that, while right in the middle of the pricing curve at about $ 250, feels many product cycles ahead of its competitors.”

Fitbit Flex 2 Fitness Tracker

Street price: $ 100; MSRP: $ 100; Deal price: $ 60

Here’s a nice drop on our new budget pick for best fitness tracker, the Fitbit Flex 2. This is the first sale we’ve seen on the Fitbit Flex 2 since making it one of our picks and marks a $ 40 drop from the usual street price. Most of the sales we see on this Fitibit only drop the price $ 20 down to $ 80, so this is a great price to pick it up. Since the only other time we saw this Fitbit at $ 60 was last year during Black Friday sales, it’s unlikely that this deal will stick around for too long. The deal is currently available in black, lavender, magenta, and navy.

The Fitbit Flex 2 is our new budget pick in our guide to the best fitness trackers. Amy Roberts wrote, “If you just want a simple way to monitor and track your daily activity (including workouts), nightly sleep habits, and get reminders to be more active, the Flex 2 is a great choice—especially if all your friends are on Fitbit. Unlike other Fitbits, it’s water resistant to 50 meters so you can track swimming and shower with it. However, there’s no screen—just five status LEDs to track progress towards your daily step count goal. It also doesn’t track heart rate, but Fitbits in general continue to struggle with heart-rate accuracy, so we don’t see this as a major issue; it helps the Flex 2 maintain its slim profile and lower price. The Flex 2 syncs wirelessly to the Fitbit app on a smartphone or the Fitbit website on a computer to keep a record of your activity and link you to other Fitbit users—a real highlight, as research shows that friendly competition can be very motivating.”

Apple Watch Series 2 – 38mm Aluminum

Street price: $ 370; MSRP: $ 370; Deal price: $ 300

This is the first big drop we’ve seen on our upgrade Apple smartwatch pick. We haven’t seen many (or any) really worthwhile sales on the Apple Watch Series 2, so if you’ve been waiting for a decent sale, now is the time. This deal is available in space gray, rose gold, and white, as well as the 42mm size for $ 30 more.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best smartwatch for iPhone owners. Dan Frakes wrote, “The Apple Watch Series 2 has three features that make it far more useful than the Series 1 for outdoor or water exercise: onboard, no-phone-required GPS, a waterproof design (up to 50 meters in fresh or salt water) that can handle swimming or surfing, and a brighter screen that’s easier to see outside. Combined with the watchOS 3’s improved Health app, these improvements mean the Series 2 watch can compete with fitness trackers and running watches while also being stylish enough to wear in casual and work settings.”

Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet

Street price: $ 90; MSRP: $ 90; Deal price: $ 65

This comes in $ 5 below the previous sale we featured last month and is one of the best sales we’ve seen on this tablet. Since those sales tend to be pretty short, it’s safe to assume that this one won’t last longer than a few days. Outside of the occasional lightning sale, this is likely the new best price you’ll find on the Fire HD 8.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is our budget pick in our guide on the best Android tablet. Chris Heinonen wrote, “If you want a cheap tablet for watching videos, reading, or browsing the web, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet is great. It doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store or any of Google’s apps, but it costs less than $ 100 and makes it easy to access Amazon content (especially for Prime members). Amazon’s Fire OS (based on Android) runs very well, and the Fire HD 8 offers better battery life than the Shield K1 or Pixel C. The display is only 1280×800, but that’s fine for a budget media tablet. Amazon’s app store is not as extensive as the Play Store, but it does have free versions of many apps and games that cost money on other Android tablets. The Fire HD 8 also has more extensive parental controls than other tablets, making it a great family device.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursdays, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

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Apple TV will reportedly get Amazon’s Video app this summer

The squabbling between Amazon and Apple might soon be over — at least, on the TV front. Amazon’s Video app might finally be heading to the Apple TV this summer, giving consumers an easy way to watch Amazon’s streaming content on the set-top box, Recode reports. Up until now, you were forced to use AirPlay to send Amazon’s streaming video titles to the Apple TV. That’s been one of the Apple TV’s biggest downsides since it debuted in 2015, together with a lack of 4K support.

The deal between Apple and Amazon might also lead to other changes. Amazon, for example, stopped selling the Apple TV in 2015 because it didn’t support its Prime Video service. That likely made a big dent in sales for Apple, especially as newer devices from Roku hit the market with 4K support. If Apple actually plans to release a newer 4K Apple TV this year, as rumors suggest, then landing back on Amazon would be essential.

At this point, it’s unclear if anything will change for Amazon’s Video apps on iOS. You can currently use them to watch Amazon Prime videos, as well as things you’ve already rented or purchased, but you can’t actually make those transactions within the app. That’s similar to how Amazon handles digital purchases on its Kindle and Comixology iOS apps. By forgoing in-app purchases on Apple’s ecosystem, Amazon avoids having to give the iPhone maker a cut of the revenue.

Source: Recode

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Splitting up with Apple is a chipmaker’s nightmare

Apple is such a powerful company that, for third-party suppliers, it’s hard not to become reliant on the cash that it pays you. But when Apple says that it’s done, choosing to move whatever technology you provide in house, the results can be really painful.

Imagination Technologies is one such supplier, famously designing the iPhone’s PowerVR graphics as well as pushing MIPS, a rival to ARM. But back in March, Imagination publicly announced that Apple was ditching it in favor of its own graphics silicon.

Now, Imagination has revealed that it’s going to take Apple to dispute resolution, maintaining that the iPhone maker used Imagination’s IP without permission. It’s the second chipmaker in recent months who believes Apple isn’t playing fair, with Qualcomm counter-suing Apple in its own licensing dispute.

Secondly, Imagination is going to have to sell off MIPS and Ensigma, two parts of its business that aren’t as profitable as PowerVR. Gamers with long memories will remember that MIPS designed the CPUs that lurked inside the PlayStation, PS2 and Nintendo 64. Imagination bought the company in 2013 in an attempt to turn the company into a mobile chip rival to ARM.

But since ARM chips are now the world’s “most used consumer product,” MIPS never stood a chance of competing. As a consequence, the technology remained vital only in the embedded device markets such as set-top boxes, routers and automotive systems.

MIPS was also pushed to hobbyists under the Creator platform, which Imagination described as a “Raspberry Pi, on steroids.” When MIPS is sold, however, it’s possible that any attempts to sell MIPS to hobbyists will be put on ice.

Then there’s the fact that PowerVR’s graphics have been slowly ditched by other members of the mobile industry in favor of ARM’s Mali alternative. As a consequence, Imagination began pushing PowerVR to budget smartphone suppliers, like MediaTek.

The decision to go public with the news was extraordinary, since Apple’s partners are often subject to the same vows of corporate silence Apple itself observes. But it also heralded doom for a small British company that had been involved with Apple since the iPod and, for too long, relied on those licensing dollars for the bulk of its profit.

It’s likely then that, if Imagination survives, you’ll see PowerVR go from a premium brand to one attached to $ 50 and $ 100 devices. The company will also serve as a reminder that, if you get too deeply involved with Apple, there’s always the risk that the party will end.

Source: Imagination Technologies

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Merriam-Webster’s idea of ‘sheeple’ are Apple fanboys

I’ll admit it: I’m an unabashed Apple fanboy. I spent far too much on a Macbook Pro with specs that would cost half as much in the Windows world, I love my pair of ridiculous-looking and easily misplaced AirPods and I may or may not have a box full of old Newtons and Mac 512K parts. There’s a term for folks like me, and Merriam-Webster just made it official: “Sheeple.” The dictionary’s editors just added the term, calling out its sick burn to Apple fans in a tweet.


The new entry says that sheeple are those “people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced: People likened to sheep.” Which sounds fine until you read the final contextual sentence. “Apple’s debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone — an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $ 99 for.” This lovely quote comes from CNN’s Doug Criss back in 2015 as part of his “5 Things” column. Thanks, Doug. The word sheeple itself, though, has been in use since 1945, according to the dictionary page.

Merriam-Webster’s Twitter account has become a surprise hit with the shade it keeps throwing at Trump and his administration. It’s subtweeted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ use of the word “historical,” confronted Kellyanne Conway’s use of “alternative facts” and schooled Sean Spicer with an explanation tweet defining “claquer,” or a group of people paid to applaud a speaker.

Being a fan of Apple’s well-designed consumer devices isn’t too tough a row to hoe, of course, but it is a little grating to know that even the dictionary thinks you’re too easily influenced by Apple’s shiny gadgets. I’ll just have to console myself by grabbing one of those neat Smart Battery Cases.

Via: MacRumors

Source: Mirriam-Webster/Twitter

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Apple and Qualcomm’s license dispute is getting nasty

Qualcomm’s ongoing legal dispute with Apple today took a new turn after the chipmaker accused its device-making partner of further withholding patent royalties. According to a statement, Apple recently stopped paying licensing revenue to manufacturers of the iPhone because it believes it’s been overpaying for important 3G and 4G patents.

The legal battle started back in January when Apple sued Qualcomm for $ 1 billion for “abusing its clout” in the industry. Because the semiconductor giant enjoys a monopoly over important modem chips that connect devices to cellular or WiFi networks, it’s required to licence them under “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms. Apple argues it hasn’t done that, going as far as to claim that Qualcomm charges five times more than all of its other licensors combined.

Qualcomm hasn’t taken the issue lightly. Earlier this month, it responded to Apple’s lawsuits with one of its own, accusing the iPhone-maker of underutilizing its modem chips in the iPhone 7 and misrepresenting the performance disparity between Qualcomm basebands and those of its rivals.

Now, Apple is holding back money it owes to manufacturers of the iPhone. Qualcomm, for the most part, directly licenses its patents with partners, but Apple does things a little differently and pays partners like Foxconn that have their own agreements. It now expects to get no royalties during its current quarter.

“Apple is improperly interfering with Qualcomm’s long-standing agreements with Qualcomm’s licensees,” said Don Rosenberg, EVP and general counsel of Qualcomm. “These license agreements remain valid and enforceable. While Apple has acknowledged that payment is owed for the use of Qualcomm’s valuable intellectual property, it nevertheless continues to interfere with our contracts. Apple has now unilaterally declared the contract terms unacceptable; the same terms that have applied to iPhones and cellular-enabled iPads for a decade.”

The move has forced Qualcomm to amend financial estimates it published only last week. The company now sees third quarter revenue reaching between $ 4.8 billion and $ 5.6 billion, instead of $ 5.3 billion to $ 6.1 billion.

Source: Qualcomm (PDF)

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It looks like Apple is resurrecting its Venmo competitor

Apple began considering its own peer-to-peer payment system back in 2015. Since then, however, nothing seems to have come of it. Today, however, Recode reports that Apple is again in negotiations to launch its own money-transfer system to rival competing services like PayPal’s wildly popular Venmo. Apple’s new service, likely a feature for Apple Pay, could enable you to send money to a friend’s iPhone from your own.

Apple Pay is doing well for the tech giant, but extending its influence into the peer-to-peer space could encourage more consumers to actually use it. Mobile payments between peers are hot right now, with companies like PayPal, Square, and even Facebook getting into the act. While businesses like Square aren’t making much from peer-to-peer payment systems, the ease of sending money to friends and local service providers is bound to become more ubiquitous as more people try it out. Venmo itself continues to grow rapidly, with a reported $ 6.8 billion in transactions through its app. US banks have also launched their own competing service, Zelle, thereby cutting out third-party middlemen.

While one source told Recode that Apple may announce its new payment service this year, another noted that the launch date and announcement may not be set as of yet. Whatever the timeline for the new Apple service, having the ability to pay rent or split a dinner bill with just your iPhone could be just the thing to convince many of us to use it.

Source: Recode

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Apple sees its redesigned retail stores as community spaces

Apple’s retail stores have long had a social side. You might not visit just to hang out, but the combination of free workshops and an abundance of connected devices gives you a reason to stay besides gawking at the latest products… if just to check up on Facebook. And now, Apple is banking on that social aspect as a selling point. The company is both redesigning its 100 largest stores and launching new “Today at Apple” workshops to turn its stores into community spaces of sorts. The shops are still very much geared toward sales, but you’ll have more reasons to swing by on a frequent basis.

The bigger stores are now changing their Genius Bars into “Genius Groves,” complete with lines of trees. We doubt the flora will help you feel better when your iPhone is broken, but they’re at least more inviting. You’ll also see new conference and meeting spaces alongside new video screens.

The workshops, meanwhile, revolve around new in-store Creative Pros who host free sessions based around Apple tools and Apple-friendly devices. There are 90-minute Studio Hours that let you bring in your own project for advice (or simply work outside of your usual space), music and photography labs, a Kids’ Hour with programmable Sphero robots and pro-specific sessions. You’ll even see photo and sketch walks that take you outside of the store. All stores are getting new mobile screens to help present “Today at Apple” sessions, as well as the seating and sound systems to match.

The new workshops will be available by the end of May. As for the larger stores’ upgrades? That’s likely to vary by location, but it’ll likely be impossible to miss.

Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts tells CBS that this isn’t so much a reinvention as a logical extension of what the tech giant has already been doing in its stores. And yes, she imagines that people might soon decide to meet at Apple instead of the nearby coffee shop. That may be a tad optimistic when the workshops are clearly tailored to rookies and niche pros. However, the shift is still important — it suggests that Apple will fight retail competition from Microsoft and even Amazon by turning stores into regular destinations rather than strictly functional shopping hubs. If you keep coming back, after all, it increases the odds that you’ll buy an iPhone or Mac for your next tech upgrade.

Via: The Verge

Source: Apple, CBS

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Apple threatened to drop Uber’s app over iPhone tracking (updated)

Uber is no stranger to trouble, but it may have landed in some especially hot water two years ago. New York Times sources claim that Apple CEO Tim Cook held a face-to-face meeting in early 2015 to call out Uber’s Travis Kalanick (and threaten to remove his app from the App Store) after learning that Uber was not only violating iOS app privacy guidelines, but was trying to cover it up. Reportedly, the ridesharing outfit had been “fingerprinting” iPhones with permanent identities so that it could prevent drivers from cheating by creating fake accounts and accepting rides from these bogus customers. The IDs would last even after the app was deleted or the entire phone was wiped. While this helped keep drivers honest, it was clearly a privacy violation — and it was made worse by Uber’s bid to hide the tracking from App Store reviewers.

Reportedly, Kalanick told staff to “obfuscate” the Uber app’s fingerprinting code for anyone operating from Apple’s current headquarters in Cupertino. As far as the people at Infinite Loop could see, it was business as usual. However, the trick didn’t work for long. Apple workers outside of the headquarters eventually spotted the shady behavior, leading to the meeting with Kalanick. The approach isn’t that uncommon for Uber (it recently admitted that it used location-based techniques to fool regulators), but it’s particularly brazen given the risk of being dropped from the App Store and losing millions of customers.

Apple isn’t commenting on the meeting with Cook, and we’ve reached out to Uber for its take on the allegations. However, it’s safe to say that Uber would like to leave an issue like this in the past. The company is trying to turn a corner, and Kalanick himself is looking for a second-in-command to keep his boundary-pushing tendencies in check. This revelation certainly won’t help matters, though. It reinforces the notion that Uber is all too willing to break rules in the name of money, even if it’s motivated by honest concerns like fraud.

Update: Uber has responded to Engadget, and maintains that its staff “absolutely do not” track individual users after they’ve deleted the app. The company adds that fingerprinting is a “typical way” of preventing people from using stolen phones for joyrides, and otherwise thwarting “known bad actors.” You can read the full statement below. It’s good to hear that the company isn’t tracking people, but the heart of the story revolves around hardware fingerprints — those still violated Apple’s privacy guidelines, even if Uber couldn’t definitively associate phones with specific customers.

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users’ accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”

Source: New York Times

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Apple is on a mission to only use recycled materials

With the release of its new environmental report, Apple is looking to push the envelope of what it can do for the good of the planet. Last year, it boasted about how much cash its recycling efforts had saved it, including $ 40 million worth of gold re-used from old devices. This year, it’s talking about “closing the loop” on its use of raw materials, potentially redefining how gadgets are made altogether.

Apple believes that it’s now on the road to being able to use only recycled materials to build its next generation of products. It’s not there yet, of course, and there’s still much to be done in order to ensure secondhand iPhones come back to Apple, rather than the scrap heap. Still, if the company can make good on its admittedly lofty goals in the next few years, it’s good for everyone.

The company also believes that its experiments with material reclamation — embodied by its Liam robots that disassemble 2.4 million iPhone 6 models a year. Apple says that the two lines that have a Liam on it have salvaged 1,900 kg in aluminum for every 100,000 phones taken apart. In fact, the company has built a secret run of Mac Mini units with materials recovered by Liam, which are used to run iPhone production lines.

The rest of the report is the usual self-congratulation, although it does make a big point about saying that its data centers are wholly renewable. Apple is probably mindful of Greenpeace’s recent public shaming of companies like Netflix, Amazon, HBO, ASUS and Acer for using coal and gas power to run their servers. By comparison, iMessage, FaceTime and Siri “run on 100 percent renewable energy.”

Apple, famously, wants to own and control every part of its computers, and that attitude carries over to its energy. The company is aiming to own as much of its power generation as it can, rather than buying juice on the wholesale market. So, where it can, it’s building, running and /owning/ its solar and wind facilities rather than partnering with a third party.

By 2020, the company is hoping to have 4 GW of power generation capacity by 2020, enough to power 725,000 homes. That will be spread between Apple owned and operated sites and those that it has helped bankroll with partners. It’s entirely plausible that Apple could start selling its excess power as a side hustle without anyone realizing.

As always, most of the credit goes to Lisa Jackson (pictured), a former head of the EPA that joined Apple way back in 2013. She’s been spearheading the company’s efforts in switching to renewables, cutting carbon emissions and generally being a good citizen of the world. Her work has ensured that Apple went from the bottom of Greenpeace’s rankings in 2011 to the top for the last three years running.

Source: Apple (.PDF)

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