The new Apple TV app is: TV

The rumored TV guide app for Apple TV is here, just unveiled at the company’s event. It brings TV and movies from the box’s various apps into one browsable location. As demonstrated on stage by designer Jen Folse, pressing play within the guide can immediately start a video stream in an app like HBO Now, without any intervening menus. The main “Watch Now” menu knows which apps you’ve signed into with its unified login feature, and will show options that you have access to. “TV” isn’t just for Apple TV either, as the app is also accessible from iPhone and iPad.

Another new wrinkle for Apple TV, is the ability for Siri to tune into live video streaming apps, and control third-party apps. Live tune-in with Siri is available now, while single sign-on and the TV app will arrive through a software update in December.

Key Features Within the TV App Include:

• Watch Now: Watch Now is where viewers will see their collection of available shows and movies from iTunes® and apps. From Watch Now, viewers can then go to Up Next or Recommended to choose what to watch.

• Up Next: Users can enjoy the shows and movies they are currently watching, including recent iTunes rentals and purchases — all presented in the order they are most likely to watch first. For example, when viewers finish an episode, the next one will automatically appear at the start of the Up Next queue, as will any new episodes as they become available. At any time, users can simply ask Siri to continue watching a show and immediately pick up where they left off.

• Recommended: Viewers can explore a great selection of curated and trending shows and movies, including collections handpicked by Apple’s curators, and dedicated categories and genres such as kids, sci-fi and comedy.

• Library: Viewers can access their entire collection of iTunes movies and TV shows that they have rented or purchased on iTunes.

• Store: If users are looking for something new, they can check out the Store to discover great new content across video services that they have not yet downloaded or are not yet subscribed to, along with the latest releases on iTunes.

Developing…

Click here to catch all the latest news from Apple’s “Hello again” event.

Source: Apple (Businesswire)

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Pay transactions surge by 500 percent

Mobile payments are all the rage among tech companies, but how successful have they been, really? Quite successful, if you ask Apple. While discussing its latest earnings, the Cupertino firm revealed that Apple Pay purchases were up 500 percent year-over-year in the third quarter. In fact, there were more transactions this September than in all of Apple’s fiscal 2015 — not bad for a tap-to-pay service that’s still unavailable in many parts of the world, not to mention many stores. Apple didn’t say what prompted the spike, but there are a handful of factors beyond any increases in popularity.

One major component: regional expansion. The launch of Apple Pay in China may have played the biggest role, but there was also a steady stream of expansions to key markets like Australia, Canada and swaths of Asia and Europe. Also, there were simply more people with Apple Pay-capable devices. You had to buy one of two high-end iPhones (the 6 and 6 Plus) to use Apple Pay throughout most of fiscal 2015, but the service was an option across all of Apple’s phone lineup by the time the iPhone SE arrived in March of this year. That’s also excluding those people who may have an iPhone 5 or 5s and are using an Apple Watch for their payments.

Whatever is involved, it’s likely that Apple Pay will see continued growth for at least a while. The payment system reached both Japan (as of iOS 10.1) and Russia in October, and there’s still room for both more countries as well as additional cards and stores in existing regions.

The question is whether or not Apple still has a lead in this fledgling industry. The company hasn’t divulged its latest transaction numbers, you see. Samsung was quick to boast about having 100 million transactions for its own service in August, but the lack of context makes it difficult to say whether it’s catching up (Apple is estimated to have racked up $ 10.9 billion in purchases in 2015) or trailing behind. About the only certainty is that Google’s Android Pay will need to grow faster if it’s going to latch on. It only just reached the UK in May, and card support isn’t as broad as you get with its rivals.

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple releases iOS 10.1, adds Portrait mode to the iPhone 7 Plus

The Portrait mode for Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus has been in the works for months, and now it’s ready for the masses… sort of. People with the 7 Plus who are running beta software have been able to shoot photos full of artificial bokeh for over a month now, but Apple just pushed out its iOS 10.1 update, which means Portrait mode is here (along with a bunch of bugfixes and support for transit directions in Japan).

Now, here’s the thing: Even though you don’t need to be enrolled in the iOS beta program to use the feature anymore, the feature itself still isn’t completely done. Once the update is installed, the camera app asks if you’d like to “try the beta” when you swipe into the new Portrait position.

Our professional recommendation? Dive right in. Portrait mode might not be completely complete, but it’s still capable of producing seriously nice headshots. In case you missed it the first time around, the feature uses the iPhone 7 Plus’s two cameras in tandem; the primary 12-megapixel sensor captures the image as normal, but the second, wide-angle sensor is used to determine how far away the subject is.

All of that data gets mashed up into a nine-layer depth map, providing the context needed to artfully blur out backgrounds while keeping faces and subjects closer to the phone remain crisp and intact. Apple’s goal was to build a dead-simple photography experience that yields pictures that look like they were shot on expensive SLR cameras, and for the most part, Apple did an impressive job.

This photo represents well the sort of quality you can expect out of Portrait mode. The focus stays locked on the face and hands, and the windows in the background are blurred pretty dramatically. Thanks to that nine-layer depth map, you can see areas where blurring is very subtle, like the top of the subject’s head and the bottom of her scarf.

You don’t need to take photos of people to get some mileage out of Portrait mode either. Have cats prancing around? Or a sweet new mug you need to share? In my experience, as long as you’re within proper range (the app tells you when you are) and there’s enough contrast between the foreground and background, you’ll get that pleasant background blurring.

It’s when you’re in well-lit environments with lots of similar colors that Portrait mode seems to have trouble — that’s often when you’ll see edges blurred when they shouldn’t be. Just check out this photo of a cactus precariously perched on a railing. The camera didn’t have trouble differentiating between the cool blue of the pot and the trees in the background, but it obviously had some difficulty telling where the cactus ended and the trees began.

These disappointments are rare, though, and will probably become less frequent as people continue to put Portrait mode through its paces. Most of the big problems have been solved — now Apple has to focus on the fine-tuning (which is obviously easier said than done). At this point, Portrait mode is still imperfect, but there’s nonetheless a lot to like about it, starting with how simple it is to use. It’s fast, it’s impressive and it’s only going to get better with time. Interested in taking it for a spin? Jump into your iPhone 7 Plus’s settings and hit that software update button. It’ll show up sooner or later.

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple will finally update its Mac lineup on October 27th

It’s been a very, very long time since Apple has updated its Mac lineup — the new Macbook is the only computer that Apple has seen fit to upgrade in 2016. That should all change next week, though: We just received an invite to an event in Cupertino on Thursday, October 27th. With the yearly iPhone refresh in the rearview mirror and macOS Sierra out in the wild, it’s time — well past time, in fact — for some new Mac computers. The event’s tagline — “Hello again” — is a pretty clear nod to the Mac, which debuted with a big old “hello” on its screen way back in 1984.

Headlining the event should be a totally redesigned MacBook Pro, which has existed in its current form for a good four years now. Rumors point to a touch-capable OLED strip on the keyboard above the number row that can adapt to whatever app you’re using. Touch ID might be making its way to the Mac for the first time, as well. Of course, the computers will likely be thinner and lighter and will probably see many of the innovations Apple first rolled out in the MacBook in 2015. The butterfly keyboard mechanism, tiered battery design and reliance on USB-C all seem likely to come on board at this point. We’re hoping the MacBook Pro will be available in a variety of colors for the first time, too.

Beyond that, spec bumps for the iMac and MacBook Air seem like good bets, as does the inclusion of USB-C on those models as well. Looking beyond the Mac line, it’s also possible the iPad will get some love. The iPad Air 2, while still a very capable tablet, is now two years old. And the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is just about a year old and lags behind the smaller iPad Pro in a few key ways. It wouldn’t surprise us to see both of those devices get some updates.

Whatever Apple has to show off, we’ll be there live to bring you all the news as it happens when the event starts at 10AM PT.

Source: Apple

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple hires a Carnegie Mellon professor to improve its AI

Apple isn’t letting Samsung’s acquisition of Viv go unanswered. The Cupertino crew has hired Russ Salakhutdinov, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, as a director of artificial intelligence research. Interestingly, he isn’t giving up his school work — he may well be publishing research at the same time as he’s upgrading your iPhone or Mac. It’s not certain what he’ll be working on, although Recode observes that his recent studies have involved understanding the context behind questions. We’ve asked Apple if it can comment.

The hire could make a big difference for Siri, which has been criticized for evolving relatively little compared to services like Google Assistant. The AI helper may develop a better understanding of what you’re asking, and could be better at handling less-than-explicit or follow-up questions. However, Apple’s use of AI isn’t limited just to voice commands. Remember how iOS 10 uses machine learning for object and face recognition in its Photos app? You could see Salakhutdinov’s influence across many products, giving weight to Apple’s claims that it considers AI a key part of its future.

Carnegie Mellon might not be entirely happy. Uber spent a while poaching from the school’s robotics lab, and now the university has to worry about Apple luring top talent. While that may not be such a bad thing if it leads to more practical applications for AI, it may limit academic studies in the near future.

Source: Russ Salakhutdinov (Twitter)

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple will build an R&D center in China’s Silicon Valley

Apple needs China a little more than China needs Apple, which is why the company is bending over backwards to show some love to the Middle Kingdom. VentureBeat is reporting that the iPhone maker will open a research and development center in Shenzen, the Silicon Valley of Hardware. The site quotes Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock saying that the facility will help Apple’s engineers work “even more closely and collaboratively with our manufacturing partners.” Given that Shenzen is home to Foxconn City, the site where several Apple products are assembled, it makes sense that Apple would push for an official presence in the region. The site quotes local news sources as saying that Tim Cook held a meeting with Shenzen officials while at a Chinese innovation event, and was joined by Foxconn chief Terry Gou. It’s not the first time that Apple has pledged to build facilities in the country this year, with Cook pledging cash for a research and development building in Beijing back in August. That project is designed to increase cooperation with a country that’s been increasingly wary of Apple’s presence.

China very quickly became a key driver of iPhone growth for Apple, but as the smartphone market has stalled, those figures have begun to droop. The firm wants to demonstrate that it’s in for the long haul, however, and is using its financial muscle to put down roots in the country to assuage twitchy regulators. As well as pledging to build two facilities, the company pumped $ 1 billion into Uber-rival Didi Chuxing (which subsequently merged with its frenemy). That sort of cash should go some way in easing the fears of officials who want to protect local companies, which is one of the reasons China banned the iTunes Movie and iBooks stores earlier this year.

Source: VentureBeat

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Maps displays nationwide Amtrak train routes

Prefer to travel cross-country by rail? If you’re an iPhone owner, you no longer need to fire up a third-party app to plan your trip. Apple Maps has introduced support for Amtrak train routes across North America — if you want to navigate all the way from Los Angeles to Toronto while seeing the sights, you can make it happen. You’ll need to live in an area where Apple’s mass transit directions are available, of course, but this remains a big deal if you’re more interested in how you travel than the time it takes.

Source: MacRumors

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple logs your iMessage contacts and could share them with police

Apple’s iMessage had a few security holes in March and April that potentially leaked photos and contacts, respectively. Though quickly patched, they are a reminder that the company faces a never-ending arms race to shore up its security to keep malicious hackers and government agencies out. But that doesn’t mean they will always be able to keep it private. A report from The Intercept states that iMessage conversation metadata gets logged in Apple’s servers, which the company could be compelled to turn over to law enforcement by court order. While the content of those messages remains encrypted and out of the police’s hands, these records list time, date, frequency of contact and limited location information.

When an iOS user types in a phone number to begin a text conversation, their device pings servers to determine whether the new contact uses iMessage. If not, texts are sent over SMS and appear in green bubbles, while Apple’s proprietary data messages appear in blue ones. Allegedly, they log all of these unseen network requests.

But those also include time and date stamps along with the user’s IP address, identifying your location to some degree, according to The Intercept. Like the phone logs of yore, investigators could legally request these records and Apple would be obliged to comply. While the company insisted that iMessage was end-to-end encrypted in 2013, securing user messages even if law enforcement got access, Apple said nothing about metadata.

Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it does comply with subpoenas and other legal requests for these exact logs, but maintained that message content is still kept private. Their commitment to user security isn’t really undermined by these illuminations phone companies have been giving this information to law enforcement for decades but it does illustrate what they can and cannot protect. While they resisted FBI requests for backdoor iPhone access earlier this year and then introduced a wholly redesigned file system with a built-in unified encryption method on every device, they can’t keep authorities from knowing when and where you text people.

Source: The Intercept

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Watch could soon track your sleep and fitness levels

The Apple Watch is billed as a fitness-focused device, but it doesn’t really make sense of fitness data — you’re supposed to interpret the numbers yourself. However, Apple might soon give its wristwear some added smarts. Bloomberg sources claim that the Apple Watch will get apps that track sleeping patterns and fitness levels. It’s not certain how the sleep tracking would work (most likely through motion), but the watch would gauge your fitness by recording the time it takes for your heart rate to drop from its peak to its resting level.

It’s not certain when you’d get the apps. Apple, for its part, hasn’t commented. However, neither of these new features would require new hardware. Sleep tracking wearables have been around for a while, and the fitness measurement would just be a matter of parsing the heart rate data you can get from any Apple Watch.

If real, the move would be part of a broader effort to transform Apple’s overall approach to health. Reportedly, it wants its HealthKit framework to help “improve diagnoses,” not just collect data. You and your doctor could watch out for telltale signs of a condition, or measure your progress on the road to recovery. This would undoubtedly help Apple’s bottom line (you’d have to use at least an iPhone to get this information), but it could also help you make important life decisions.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Bloomberg

Engadget RSS Feed

Mysterious Apple device surfaces in FCC filing

What is the A1844? We don’t know, but an FCC filing for the Apple-built hardware popped up, revealing a few interesting details that raise more questions than answers. Revealed by the French website Consomac, the device is similar in size to an Apple TV 4th-gen box (the new one with the Siri voice remote), but there are no full pictures or other details to explain exactly what it does. AppleInsider points out that tests reveal Bluetooth and NFC (which is not currently included in the Apple TV) capabilities, but didn’t note WiFi, which could be a result of re-used hardware or that it’s not present. The diagram included in the filing shows a shape and screws that appear to be similar to the current Apple TV.

A1844 FCC diagram

Speculating based mostly on what I’d like to see from Apple next, the release of the iPhone 7 makes this the perfect time to drop a refreshed Apple TV with 4K and HDR capabilities that can display those wider color gamut photos. Also, hardware revisions could happen that don’t include much change at all, but the power specifications of this device are different from the current model. Other, possibly more realistic options, could include a device meant for retail use in Apple Stores or elsewhere that’s compatible with Apple Pay, or even some kind of home automation hub. Your guess is as good as ours, feel free to dig through the currently available documents here.

Via: AppleInsider, Consomac

Source: FCC

Engadget RSS Feed