The next Apple Watch might not need an iPhone for data

Well, Apple Watch fans have more to look forward to than just a new operating system. According to a new report from Bloomberg, Apple will release a version of its Watch with cellular network support built-in by year’s end, relieving users of the need to carry their iPhones around. Three words: it’s about time.

Rumors of a cellular Apple Watch are nothing new, and the whole concept should sound very familiar by now. After all, Samsung and LG have had LTE-enabled smartwatches for years, and the latter developed one such wearable to help launch Android Wear 2.0 earlier this year. While it’s not yet clear what Apple plans to let people do with these mobile data connections, it’s likely that users will be able to send messages and make phone and FaceTime Audio calls without being tethered to an iPhone.

Interestingly, Intel is said to be providing the modem for the new Apple Watch, which isn’t a huge surprise — Apple tapped the chipmaker for modems used in certain versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Given the Watch’s small size, Apple and Intel may opt to use a digital “eSIM” rather than a traditional plastic SIM card as well. That could signal a similar decision for future iPhones, which would have potentially huge ramifications for how such smartphones (and their data plans) are sold.

If nothing else, though, use of an eSIM would likely preserve the Apple Watch’s compact footprint. Consider LG’s flagship Watch Sport: it was the more powerful of the two smartwatches that debuted alongside Android Wear 2.0, and the space required to fit a physical SIM card inside helped make it big and somewhat unwieldy. That’s not really Apple’s style, especially since the company’s new Watch is said to benefit from an all-new form factor.

If true, Apple’s next step in wearables may be an iterative one. Still, if the company’s most recent earnings release is any indication, demand for the Watch is still going strong. According to CEO Cook, Watch sales grew 50 percent year over year — seriously, Tim, would some hard numbers now and then really kill you?

Source: Bloomberg

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Verizon beefs up its prepaid plans’ data allowance

Verizon’s prepaid plans will look a lot more enticing come June 6th: the mobile carrier has tweaked its current offerings, giving each tier a bigger data allowance. You’ll now get 3GB of data instead of 2GB for $ 40 and 7GB instead of 5GB for $ 50. The 10GB tier will stay, but it will now cost you $ 60 rather than $ 70 — makes sense, considering Big Red recently introduced an unlimited tier for $ 80. Like the new unlimited plan, though, these revamped options come with a downside. You won’t be able to stream videos in their full glory and will be limited to 480p, no matter which tier you choose.

In addition, the company says it “may prioritize your data behind other customers” in case of network congestion. Not to mention, your speeds will be throttled to 128kbps once you’ve used up your data allowance for the month, unless you’re on the unlimited plan. (The good news is that if you still have some unused data left by the end of a billing period, it will carry over.)

If those “gotchas” don’t faze you one bit, you can use any Verizon-compatible smartphone with the plans, including top-of-the-line choices like the latest iPhone and the Galaxy S8. The company is also giving away a $ 100 store credit if you sign up, but only for a limited time.

Source: Verizon

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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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Police seek Amazon Echo data in murder case (updated)

Amazon’s Echo devices and its virtual assistant are meant to help find answers by listening for your voice commands. However, police in Arkansas want to know if one of the gadgets overheard something that can help with a murder case. According to The Information, authorities in Bentonville issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder for the death of Victor Collins next year.

Amazon declined to give police any of the information that the Echo logged on its servers, but it did hand over Bates’ account details and purchases. Police say they were able to pull data off of the speaker, but it’s unclear what info they were able to access. Due to the so-called always on nature of the connected device, the authorities are after any audio the speaker may have picked up that night. Sure, the Echo is activated by certain words, but it’s not uncommon for the IoT gadget to be alerted to listen by accident.

Police say Bates had several other smart home devices, including a water meter. That piece of tech shows that 140 gallons of water were used between 1AM and 3AM the night Collins was found dead in Bates’ hot tub. Investigators allege the water was used to wash away evidence of what happened off of the patio. The examination of the water meter and the request for stored Echo information raises a bigger question about privacy. At a time when we have any number of devices tracking and automating our habits at home, should that information be used against us in criminal cases?

Bates’ attorney argues that it shouldn’t. “You have an expectation of privacy in your home, and I have a big problem that law enforcement can use the technology that advances our quality of life against us,” defense attorney Kimberly Weber said. Of course, there’s also the question of how reliable information is from smart home devices. Accuracy can be an issue for any number of IoT gadgets. However, an audio recording would seemingly be a solid piece of evidence, if released.

Just as we saw with the quest to unlock an iPhone in the San Bernardino case, it will be interesting to see how authorities and the companies who make smart home devices work out the tension between serving customers, maintaining privacy and pursuing justice.

Update: An Amazon spokesperson gave Engadget the following statement on the matter:

“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

As a refresher, Echo only captures audio and streams it to the cloud when the device hears the wake word “Alexa.” A ring on the top of the device turns blue to give a visual indication that audio is being recorded. Those clips, or “utterances” as the company calls them, are stored in the cloud until a customer deletes them either individually or all at once. When that’s done, the “utterances” are permanently deleted. What’s more, the microphones on an Echo device can be manually turned off at any time.

Source: The Information

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iOS update fixes your iPhone’s missing Health data

The iOS 10.1 update addressed a lot of initial gripes with Apple’s latest mobile operating system. However, it also introduced a glaring bug for some users: the Health app might not show your data, which is more than a little troublesome if you’re a fitness maven or need those stats for medical reasons. Don’t fret, though. Apple has released an iOS 10.1.1 update for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch that makes sure you can see Health info. This is a relatively tiny update (the over-the-air fix is well under 100MB for many iPhone users), but it’ll matter a lot if you’re tracking step counts or calories with your Apple gear.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: Apple

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