Apple is reportedly reinventing the iPhone’s fingerprint reader

Future iPhones may revolve around more than just an eye-catching curved display. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who frequently (though not always) has a knack for hardware scoops, believes that Apple is designing a whole new Touch ID fingerprint reader for future iPhones and iPads. In order for Apple to virtually eliminate bezels, it needs a reader that sits under the screen — and that means a brand new optical sensor. Development is underway, the analyst says, but development is still early enough that the technology might not be ready in time for the 2017 iPhone.

You might not even need a fingerprint sensor in the future, though. Kuo claims that Apple is looking at using face recognition (not just iris recognition) as a part of the next iPhone’s features, and may even scrap Touch ID in the long run. Face recognition isn’t new (just ask anyone using Android since 4.0), but it would have to be advanced if people are going to ditch fingerprint reading entirely. It couldn’t be fooled by a photo, for instance, and would have to be both very fast and adaptable to a wide range of conditions. You don’t want to have to enter your PIN just because it’s too dark.

Biometrics might not be the only area getting an overhaul thanks to the reported new screen. Kuo understands that the iPhone 7’s existing approach to 3D Touch won’t work with the next iPhone’s curved OLED panel, prompting a switch to a “film sensor.” The change would lead to greater sensitivity and more pressure levels, so you might not have to jab the screen quite so authoritatively as you do today.

As always, it’s important to take these claims with a grain of salt. Analysts can have the inside track on future products thanks to suppliers, but they may have incomplete info or discuss features that are subject to change. Don’t be alarmed if these features don’t make the cut, or if they show up in ways you didn’t expect. If there’s any credibility to the reports, though, unlocking and interacting with your iPhone may be much easier in the near future.

Source: 9to5Mac (1)

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Apple hikes UK App Store prices by 25 percent because Brexit

If you’re an iPhone, iPad or Mac user in the UK, prepare yourself: App Store prices are on the rise. As 9to5Mac reports, developers are being notified that their software will soon be bumped up in price. Apps worth 79 pence before will soon cost 99 pence, while those priced at £1.49 will rise to £1.99. Similar increases will be seen at higher price points too — video games with a £7.99 price-tag, such as Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, will soon shoot up to £9.99, for instance. The reason? Almost certainly Brexit, and the negative impact it’s having on the pound at the moment.

An Apple spokesperson said: “Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business. These factors vary from region to region and over time.”

The timing couldn’t be worse for UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who will announce later today that Britain is leaving the European single market. The pound slipped to a 31-year low against the dollar last week, and today dropped below the euro too. These fluctuations are tied to the ongoing uncertainty around Britain and the trade deals it will be able to negotiate once May triggers Article 50, the political starting pistol for the nation’s exit from the European Union.

Apple isn’t the only technology company adapting to Brexit uncertainty. Last year, the OnePlus 3 and HTC Vive received small, but significant price increases in the UK. Tesla announced a similar move for its electric vehicles in December — the implementation was pushed from January 1st to 15th, however — upping sticker prices by 5 percent to accommodate for the shifting currency. Apple has been doing the same, albeit quietly, for some of its key hardware, including the iPad Pro and iPhone 7. We wouldn’t be surprised if more companies follow their lead in the next few months.

Source: 9to5Mac

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Apple TV app changes pave the way for better gaming

Apple has drastically increased the size of apps that developers can submit to its Apple TV App Store, paving the way for more media-heavy apps, especially games. Up until now the limit was 200 MB, but apps can now be as large 4GB, the same as for iOS devices. The change should provide a “complete, rich user experience upon installation,” Apple says, noting that as before, apps can host up to 20GB of additional content from the App Store.

The change has led some to speculate that a new Apple TV might come along soon with more storage than the current 32 or 64GB offerings. As it stands, downloading a few large apps now would fill up the devices pretty fast, compared to, say, a 256GB iPhone 7.

As developer Steve Troughton-Smith points out, apps that large are generally games, so future Apple TV models might soon be more console-like. “Fun thought: If Apple TV gets a modern A-series CPU/GPU upgrade [like the A10 fusion chip used in the iPhone 7], it’ll be more powerful than one of the ‘real’ games consoles in the market,” he tweeted, referring to Nintendo’s new Switch.

Via: Steve Troughton-Smith (Twitter)

Source: Apple

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Apple faces a price-fixing suit over App Store purchases

Apple is in court once again. This time, the company is part of an anti-trust lawsuit over the strict limitations over where users can buy iOS applications. Specifically, the requirement that all apps be purchased through the Cupertino company’s App Store. The suit alleges that by not allowing customers to buy apps from third-party services, Apple was price fixing and that customers could sue as a result, according to Bloomberg.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because this was originally filed back in 2011. Apple’s defense is that it isn’t directly selling software to consumers, but that its 30 percent cut of an app’s price amounts to renting space on its digital storefront, Reuters writes.

The US Appeals Court thinks otherwise. “Apple’s analogy is unconvincing,” it said. “In the case before us, third-party developers of iPhone apps do not have their own stores.”

Currently, the suit covers apps purchased from 2007 to 2013. Attorney Mark Rifkin says that while the case hasn’t hit class-action status yet he might expand the scope of it to anyone who’s bought iPhone apps to this day. All of which could cost Apple a boatload of cash; “hundreds of millions” of dollars in damages by Bloomberg‘s estimate.

Rifkin says that if the court sides with users that Apple should let people buy apps from anywhere they desire, a move that could lower the price on apps. However, that doesn’t take into account that third-party app stores (and folks with jail-broken iPhones) often have to contend with rafts of malware, or the risk of compromising their phones and security.

Source: Bloomberg

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Apple is looking to make its own Netflix-beating TV shows

Apple is planning on investing in original TV shows, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. With iPhone sales on the decline, people close to the company have revealed that it will attempt to gain Apple Music subscribers by adding original video content to the service. While this move has been rumoured since the relaunch of Apple TV, the company has apparently now started reaching out to Holywood producers, planning to offer original video content by the end of 2017.

Instead of investing in a full library of scripted content, however, Apple is initially setting its sights on a few high-quality original concepts. The same sources claim that Apple is seeking to rival the quality of shows like HBO’s Westworld and Netflix’s Stranger Things, with original movies possibly coming further down the line.

The report claims that Apple is still yet to buy any scripts due to internal debates about how to handle its business model. While Netflix refuses to share any kind of viewer figures or demographic data, Holywood producers believe that Apple will be far more open about how its original content performs.

While surprising, this wouldn’t be Apple’s first foray into publishing video content. Seeing the phenomenal success of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, Apple Music recently bought the rights to broadcast its own 30 minute version of the series. The company also revealed that it’s creating a semi-autobiographical documentary series called ‘Vital Signs’ starring Dr. Dre, due to premiere on Apple Music later this year.

While significant, both confirmed shows are firmly rooted in music. This rumoured expansion could mark Apple’s first step into non-music-related video content. Despite that, this seems to be a way to lure subscribers away from Apple Music competitor Spotify, rather than serving as a rival to purely video streaming services like Netflix. At last count, Apple Music had 20 million subscribers and Spotify double that.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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The iPhone 7 may not be selling as well as Apple hoped

Traditionally, new iPhones sell pretty well in their first few months — often outperforming the previous model’s sales during the same quarter. That might not be the case with Apple’s latest handset: according to Nikkei, sluggish sales are forcing the company to cut back production of iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus devices. Based on data received from suppliers, Nikkei expects Apple to slow stock production by about 10 percent.

Apple saw an early sign of this reported slowdown in March, when its Q2 earnings showed that while iPhone 6S upgrades were outpacing the previous year, they still weren’t up to snuff with sales from users who upgraded to the iPhone 6 is 2014. It’s too early to say if the iPhone 7’s slower sales are enough to make it the company’s first device not to outsell the previous model, but we’ll know soon enough: Apple’s next quarterly earnings are set to drop sometime at the end of next month.

Via: AppleInsider

Source: Nikkei

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2016 was a hard year to be an Apple fan

Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s leadership will probably not look back fondly on 2016. iPhone sales declined for the first time, and Apple’s profits followed suit. There are still bright spots, like the company’s growing services business, and the company is still making insane amounts of money. Even so, the stalled growth has to be concerning to both the company and its investors.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to pity Apple. I’m here to commiserate with its fans, the ones who Apple shafted this year. Particularly those of us who waited all year long for a substantial update to the Mac lineup only to be offered a pair of intriguing but compromised new laptops. Or those of us who bought an iPhone 7 and can’t use the headphones included with it in our new MacBook Pro, or even those of us trying to figure out which iPad to buy.

Across the board, Apple has confusing product lineups with weird and unnecessary compromises. And if you believe the wailing of aggrieved fans across the internet, it seems like plenty of loyal Apple supporters might be contemplating life outside the company’s ecosystem. How did we get here?

Apple fans: 2016 Year in Review

The product that most exemplifies Apple’s difficulty in 2016 is the Mac. The Mac may only compose a small part of Apple’s overall business, but that doesn’t excuse the neglect it’s endured recently. For 10 full months, the only update was a processor refresh on the 12-inch MacBook. (OK, you can also buy it in pink now. Thanks, Apple.) The company’s main three machines — the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and iMac — went untouched. That’s still the case for the iMac and MacBook Air; it’s hard to recommend that anyone buy them right now. And we all know what happened when the MacBook Pro was finally updated: A portal to the dongleverse was opened.

I’m not here to pity Apple. I’m here to commiserate with its fans, the ones who Apple shafted this year.

Yes, Apple had already released the 12-inch MacBook with just a single USB-C port. But that computer was designed with extreme portability in mind; it was a laptop inspired by the iPad. It’ll likely take the aging MacBook Air’s place in the lineup as the company’s entry-level Apple laptop. That was fine when the MacBook Pro and its many ports existed, but Apple has now made it clear it’s not interested in keeping any legacy I/O around, even for its “pro” customers. That’s an aggressive move, and one that has been met with widespread displeasure.

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In a vacuum, there are plenty of things to like about the new MacBook Pro. The screen is excellent, the reductions in size and weight are welcome improvements, performance and audio quality are both improved, and even the controversial Touch Bar has potential. Other things, such as the redesigned keyboard, are a matter of personal preference, not a definitive drawback. But reduced battery life, the loss of physical function keys and only one type of port mean that many of the professionals Apple is targeting will need to change their workflow.

And that’s not even mentioning the price increases: It’ll cost you at least $ 1,799 to get a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar. History suggests that prices of the new MacBook Pro will eventually drop as the old models are phased out, but there’s still some significant sticker shock here.

This confusing middle ground between old and new makes it hard to decide which MacBook Pro is the best for a given shopper. Is your $ 1,499 better spent on the previous-generation model or the new one? If you opt for the new model, you get a piddly two ports and no Touch Bar, while opting for last year’s computer gets you all the ports you could want but in a heavier package with an older processor and worse screen. My guess is that lots of people will decide not to make a purchase instead of being forced to compromise one way or another. The new entry-level MacBook Pro would be a great step up from the MacBook Air for a lot of users — but the $ 500 separating the two computers is a difficult gap to close.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that Apple could have silenced its critics by simply including a USB 3 port and not removing the SD reader. Space may be at a premium on this new device, but I’d be willing to bet that many potential buyers would be happy to give up two of the four USB-C ports in exchange for those legacy connections. But that wouldn’t be a “courageous” move now, would it? Hell, Apple could even throw us the smallest of bones by including a USB 3 to USB-C dongle in the box so users can charge their iPhones without any further hassle.

Speaking of the iPhone, let’s go over that headphone situation one more time. Putting aside Schiller’s ridiculous “courage” line, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if we can evolve beyond the headphone jack. No other port has been immune to the march of time, and Apple probably has the data to show that most iPhone buyers use the included headphones. In theory, switching to the included Lightning headphones wouldn’t be a big deal, and there’s a dongle in there if you have a nice pair you want to keep using. What’s the harm?

Just as with the MacBook Pro, the problem is making consumers change their routines without a clear benefit. Apple executives gave a few rare interviews about the headphone jack decision when the iPhone 7 first came out, but the rationale mostly came down to using the limited space inside the iPhone for more useful technology, such as water resistance, a bigger battery and better cameras. Those are indeed great features to add to the iPhone. But they’re also table stakes at this point. It’s easy to forget that before the Galaxy Note 7 started exploding, Samsung had closed basically all the hardware gaps between its offerings and the iPhone, which means these updates were necessary, not revolutionary. And without also presenting an improved headphone solution, it’s hard to not feel like something was lost in this move.

Adding insult to injury, Apple did come up with an improved wireless-headphone experience: AirPods are much simpler to use than your average Bluetooth headset. But the price and mediocre audio quality make them a tough sell, and Apple didn’t even manage to have the headphones out on time. They only just hit the Apple Store a few weeks ago, and they’ll be in short supply for a good long time. They should have been ready to go alongside the iPhone 7, but Apple’s latest handset has been on the market for nearly three months without its companion wireless earphones. That’s a major tactical blunder.

Many of Apple’s more fervent supporters have scoffed at the notion that Apple is floundering a bit. After all, the company’s bottom line grew for 15 years: It clearly knows how to build products that resonate. But there’s been a growing chorus of unhappy fans who say that Apple doesn’t have the same eye for detail as it used to. Some point to the goofy charging experiences for the new Apple Mouse and Pencil as design decisions that Steve Jobs never would have allowed.

For me, it’s this new world of dongles that I’d have to use to make a new MacBook Pro work the way I need it to. Something isn’t right when the MacBook Air, which hasn’t substantially changed in design for five years, is still better for my needs than the brand-new MacBook Pro. I’d happily open my wallet and pay $ 1,799 for that new computer if it had an SD slot and a full-sized USB port. Part of me feels like those are tiny things to quibble over when weighed against the improvements — I’m dying for a better display at this point — but we all have to draw the line somewhere.

For others, that line might be the missing headphone jack, the late AirPods, the lack of substantial Mac updates (the Mac Pro hasn’t been touched for three years), the confusing iPad lineup, the lackluster Apple Watch reception or any other chink in Apple’s armor. Apple fans were sold on the promise that “it just works.” When that stops being the case, it’s much easier to start looking at competitors like Microsoft and Google. And that won’t help Apple make 2017 a better year.

Check out all of Engadget’s year-in-review coverage right here.

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Apple will replace a lost AirPod for $69

Following a slightly delay, Apple’s wireless AirPods are ready to order. They’re small and sleek, but the lack of cords has put a nagging thought in the back of my mind: I am guaranteed to lose one, if not both within a few weeks. If you’re equally forgetful, or happen to commute in jam-packed subway carriages, you’ll be happy to hear that Apple will replace a single AirPod for $ 69 (£65). Given a fresh pair costs $ 159 (£159), that seems like a reasonable fee. Similarly, a new AirPod charging case will set you back $ 69 (£65), for the inevitable “I threw it out thinking it was floss” stories.

To Apple’s credit, your music will stop as soon as one AirPod leaves your earhole. It serves two purposes: so you don’t have to press pause when someone starts talking to you, and to give you a heads-up whenever one AirPod drops out of your ear. If you’re somewhere busy, like a crowded train platform, that immediate notification could be vital to retrieving it. Otherwise, the allure of Apple’s AirPods is a tangle-free lifestyle, convenient pairing and charging. It’s doubly useful if you have the iPhone 7 with its non-existent 3.55mm jack. (Yeah, I’m still annoyed about it.)

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Apple (US), (UK)

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Square Cash plugs its virtual card into Apple Pay

The Square Cash service added a “virtual debit card” feature back in September, and tonight during the Code Commerce event, CEO Jack Dorsey announced that it’s integrating with Apple Pay. The virtual Visa debit card lets Square Cash users spend their balance anywhere Visa is accepted (legitimately), and starting today, its iPhone app can enable the card for use on Apple Pay too. If you’re not using an iPhone or Apple Watch, Dorsey said that the company does have plans to support other platforms like Android Pay and Samsung Pay.

Source: Recode, iTunes

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iPhone classic ‘Tiny Wings’ gets new levels and Apple TV app

Tiny Wings is one of the best iPhone games ever. It’s a great example of a developer making something that wouldn’t make sense on any other platform, and it’s a game equally suited to playing quick bursts or for extended sessions as you try to beat your high score. And after more than two years without an update, developer Andreas Illiger has finally released a pretty major update. Tiny Wings is now available for the Apple TV, and the iPhone / iPad version has five new levels.

Unfortunately, the Apple TV app requires a separate $ 2.99 purchase — but if it is as good as the iOS game, that’ll be money well spent. The Apple TV app features split-screen multiplayer; players can either use the Siri remote, a dedicated game controller or an iOS device to control the big-screen action. The Apple TV app uses iCloud to sync progress with your mobile devices, and it feature the same array of game modes and levels as the iOS version — including the five new “flight school” levels.

If you bought the iOS app years ago, you’ll get those new levels, and Illiger also finally upgraded the graphics to support the higher screen resolutions Apple introduced with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There’s nothing else new here, but if you haven’t tried the game before now’s a perfect time to give it a shot. The adorable graphics, procedurally generated levels and excellent music are all as charming now as they were when the game launched way back in 2011. If you want to give it a shot, the update is live in the App Store now.

Via: The Verge

Source: iTunes

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