Apple may have an awkward history of avoiding and then embracing NFC in the past, but new developments at this week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference indicate those days are long gone. Apple already announced new NFC functions coming to the Apple Watch with watchOS 4, but according to documents for the upcoming iOS 11 release, the iPhone’s NFC chip might also be handling much more than just Apple Pay transactions and Passbook check-ins.
Although the feature didn’t get any airtime onstage Monday, iOS 11 Beta adds support for Core NFC to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (And presumably future hardware as well.) In release docs, Core NFC is described as “a new framework for reading Near Field Communications (NFC) tags and data in NFC Data Exchange Format.” At the moment, the iPhone’s NFC chip is useless for anything other than Apple’s in-house payment system, but the new framework appears to let the chip in the latest iPhones read any tags — not just Apple Pay tags — and take action on them based on the phone’s location. NFC could open up more ways for iOS apps to communicate with connected devices and iPhones could also replace NFC-based keycards or transit passes like London’s Oyster card and the Bay Area’s Clipper card. In theory, Core NFC could also enable functions like tap-to-pair Bluetooth speakers — something Android users have been enjoying for awhile now — but it’s possible Apple could block such features to keep the “magic” pairing experience limited to AirPods and other devices with its proprietary W1 chip.
On the other hand, opening NFC could also invite potential privacy issues onto iOS. Like Bluetooth Beacons, NFC tags allow for seamless, location-based interactions for better or worse. While the ability to tap your phone to a movie poster and instantly bring up the trailer might seem magical, even anonymous data gathered from those sorts of interactions can paint a startling clear picture of a consumer.
Apple’s focused on increasing the speed of every new mobile processor generation, most recently pairing its quad core A10 Fusion chips with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models last September. But to keep its devices competitive, Apple is building a secondary mobile processor dedicated to powering AI.
Sources told Bloomberg that Apple is developing the chips to participate in two key areas of artificial intelligence: Augmented reality and self-driving cars. The tech titan’s devices currently split AI tasks between two chips — the main processor and a GPU — but this new one, allegedly known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, has its own module dedicated to AI requests. Offloading those tasks should improve battery life, too.
Unfortunately, it’s unclear if the chip will come out this year. That puts Apple further behind Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon mobile chips, which already have a dedicated AI module, and Google’s Tensor Processing Units available in its Cloud Platform to do AI heavy lifting.
Apple announced it was deploying its own deep neural networks at last year’s WWDC, but that kind of machine learning happens on server racks, not mobile processors. Unlike the company’s differential privacy methods protecting data sent to Apple’s servers, the Neural Engine chip would let devices sift through data on their own, which would be faster and easier on the battery, just like the M7 processors did for motion back in 2013.
After the swanky limited edition Mi MIX, you’d think it’d be pretty hard for Xiaomi to top that with its next flagship phone, but the new Mi 6 unveiled today still had some tricks up its sleeve. First off, the company has revived the Mi 5’s awesome curved glass back design along with a special ceramic edition, and this time it’s complemented by a piece of 2.5D front glass panel plus two new color options: metallic blue and glossy silver. To my surprise, Xiaomi has also gone back to the more expensive stainless steel (as used on the Mi 4) instead of aluminum for the mid-frame: not only is it tougher, but it’s also more luxurious with that high-gloss finish — a much welcomed feature on the blue version’s gold-colored frame.
As per usual, Xiaomi has thrown in pretty much the best essential components for its latest flagship, though this time it’s a bit more generous than before. On top of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset there’s a whopping 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM instead of starting at 4GB, a base storage option of 64GB instead of just 32GB, a denser 3,350 mAh battery and an improved under-glass fingerprint reader on the front (though unlike the one on the Mi 5s, this one is capacitive rather than ultrasonic). Based on the display units at the launch event, the Mi 6 is powered by MIUI 8 based on Android 7.1.1 which is remarkably up to date.
What’s more surprising is that the Mi 6 is Xiaomi’s first splash-proof device thanks to the added internal seals, though the company avoided the word “waterproof” throughout the keynote. Indeed, the Mi 6’s product page states that it has yet been put through such certification tests, so you’ve been warned.
After the Redmi Pro and the Mi 5s Plus, Xiaomi is once again dabbling with a dual camera setup on the Mi 6. Rather than going with the increasingly common RGB + BW sensor pairing, this time Xiaomi has taken a page out of Apple’s book to pair a wide-angle lens with a telephoto lens for this 12-megapixel camera: the former has an f/1.8 aperture plus a 1.25um sensor, whereas the latter — effectively a 2x optical zoom — has an f/2.6 aperture with a 1um sensor. However, unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, the Mi 6’s dual camera is flush with the body; plus its wide-angle lens features 4-axis optical stabilization, meaning it’ll take better photos in low-light conditions.
Xiaomi also boasted its latest beautification algorithm which claims to produce more natural looks, and there’s also a portrait mode which automatically adds a bokeh effect. As for selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front camera which takes advantage of the new beautification software as well.
Much like its two predecessors, the Mi 6 is sticking with the relatively humble 5.15-inch 1080p display spec, which is good news for those who prefer something more ergonomic. It’s a nice LCD, too: like before, you get a 94.4-percent NTSC gamut, a brightness ranging from 600 nit all the way down to 1 nit (with 4,096 levels in between), and an optimized blue light filter mode with reduced color cast.
On the audio side, it’s worth noting that Xiaomi decided to ditch the headphone jack for the Mi 6, with the reason being it wanted to offer a cleaner look (ugh), which is why you’ll find a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter in the box. Similarly, there’s no fancy DAC chip here to satisfy audiophiles, though the phone does have a stereo loudspeaker implementation — using the earpiece as one of the two audio channels — similar to those used on recent HTC and Huawei devices for casual video-watching.
As with pretty much all Xiaomi products, the Mi 6 will only be available in China to begin with as of April 28th, with the 64GB model priced at 2,499 yuan (about $ 360) and the 128GB flavor at 2,899 yuan ($ 420). And for an extra 100 yuan ($ 15) you can get the 128GB ceramic edition with 18K gold rim around the main camera lenses. Alas, CEO Lei Jun said the silver edition isn’t quite ready for mass production; it’ll apparently be months before it’s finally ready.
Someone claiming to be a group of hackers called themselves the “Turkish Crime Family” has apparently been trying to extort money from Apple. As Motherboard reported a few days ago, the group claims to have login details for hundreds of millions of Apple accounts and is threatening to remotely wipe devices via iCloud unless it’s paid $ 75,000 in Bitcoin or $ 100,000 in iTunes gift cards. Today, ZDNet says that it was able to verify 54 accounts revealed by the hackers, although it’s still unclear how many other accounts they have or how they came by them.
In a statement, Apple said its systems have not been breached, and the alleged list appears to have been obtained from other sources. It also says it’s “actively monitoring” to prevent unauthorized access and is working with law enforcement.
There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID. The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.
We’re actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.
Because of shared passwords, hackers frequently use details obtained in other breaches to try and access more valuable accounts, which may be happening here. Previously, we’ve seen hackers try to extort users directly this way, using Find My iPhone to remotely lock devices until they’re paid. We’ve contacted Apple and will update this post if there are any other details.
Now that at least some of the information has been verified, it seems like a good time for anyone who has (or used to have) an Apple or iCloud account to update and lock down their security settings. Even if these hackers (or someone else) has obtained a password for your account, using two-factor authentication should keep them from being able to access details or remotely wipe devices.
Instructions on setting up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID can be found here. Additionally, if you haven’t changed your password in a while, or have ever shared it with an account anywhere else, it’s a good idea to change it to something strong and unique. Visit Apple’s password reset page at https://iforgot.apple.com/ (check for the secure padlock and correct URL in your address bar) to do that now.
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.
January 9th, 2017 is a milestone day in the technology world: It’s the 10th anniversary of Apple’s iPhone. Yes, it’s been a full decade since Steve Jobs took to the stage and introduced the device that many credit with defining the modern smartphone. But was it an overnight revolution? Well, no. Despite all the initial hype, the iPhone actually represents a gradual reinvention strung across many years. It wasn’t the first out of the gate with many basic concepts, but its fresh approaches to those concepts helped smartphones escape their niche business-tool status and become the must-have companion devices they are now.
The most conspicuous improvement is the one that’s likely staring you in the face: the touchscreen. While touch-enabled phones were far from a novelty in 2007 (PalmOS and Windows Mobile had supported it for years), Apple was the first to implement a touchscreen you wanted to use. Most touch displays at the time were resistive (pressure-based), with all the precision and sensitivity of a billy club. Complex gestures were out of the question, and you frequently had to use a stylus with interfaces that simply weren’t meant for your fingers. It’s no wonder why many touch-capable phones at the time still had keyboards and directional pads. Why poke at the screen when it was less painful to tap buttons?
The iPhone’s capacitive screen and multi-finger touch interface were revelations in comparison. Not only could you ditch the pen — you could use intuitive gestures like flicks and pinches. You could focus on actually getting things done instead of fighting with controls, and apps like the web browser (which was the first truly full-featured mobile browser, we’d add) were a joy to use. Even in 2007, it was clear to many that large capacitive touchscreens were the future. Most big phone makers started shifting away from resistive displays and physical buttons, and those that were slow to change (BlackBerry and Nokia in particular) wound up struggling. Apple definitely wasn’t alone in spurring the adoption of modern touch: Android helped it take off in a big way, particularly when the Motorola Droid arrived in 2009. The iPhone got the ball rolling, though, and it’s safe to say that the shift toward touch wouldn’t have happened so quickly without Apple’s help.
It wasn’t just hardware that made a difference, as the iPhone was also crucial to jumpstarting the market for smartphone apps. Mobile software certainly existed before, but the industry was almost hostile to its very existence. You often had to ‘just know’ where to find apps, and those portals that existed either demanded exorbitant royalties from developers or were controlled by carriers eager to exclude apps that competed with their services. Even installation and updates were awkward. It wasn’t uncommon to find smartphone owners who’d never downloaded a third-party app. Why would they when they didn’t know where to go or what to do, and creators frequently shied away?
Enter Apple’s App Store, introduced alongside the iPhone 3G in 2008. It suddenly gave legions of smartphone owners easy access to third-party software. Moreover, the barriers to making and selling those apps were much lower — when there were straightforward tools, better royalties and millions of potential customers, even tiny teams could make blockbuster hits. Mobile apps quickly became much more popular, and in some cases vital. Would social services like Instagram and Snapchat be as big as they are today if the App Store hadn’t made their concepts practical? Would smart homes or wearables exist if you couldn’t easily get the apps that make them work? The app model that the iPhone pioneered made built-in software stores virtually mandatory on smartphones, and those handsets wouldn’t be as dominant as they are today if there weren’t an abundance of apps to fulfill tasks that would otherwise require a PC.
The iPhone hasn’t always changed the game quite so dramatically. In many cases, it was more about nudging technology forward just enough that it became popular. Take video chat, for instance. The concept certainly existed before FaceTime arrived with the iPhone 4 in 2010 (more than a few phones already had front-facing cameras), but it was Apple’s dead-simple approach that made the difference. If you had someone’s phone number, you could start a video call. There were no special carrier fees or complex video conferencing solutions to fight with. While FaceTime didn’t conquer the world the way the App Store or multi-touch screens did, it spurred demand for video chat services and served as the template for extra-simple apps like Google Duo.
You can even argue that some tech wouldn’t have gotten very far without an iPhone boost. Fingerprint readers are the classic examples. Before the iPhone 5s, fingerprint scanners on phones were frequently more trouble than they were worth (ahem, Motorola Atrix). Touch ID simplified it down to a quick and easy tap, and spawned the surge in fingerprint readers you’re seeing in everything from the latest Samsung Galaxy through to the Google Pixel. Recent efforts to get rid of passwords might not be as feasible if fingerprint readers still required multiple swipes.
Mobile payments got a similar bump. There’s no doubt that the iPhone was late to the tap-to-pay party when Google Wallet and other options were available years earlier, but Apple Pay was the first to really get some traction. It didn’t require carrier support, special apps or other convoluted terms — you just had to keep your thumb on your home button while buying your coffee. Android Pay and Samsung Pay certainly do some things better, but there’s little doubt where they got the basic idea for their fingerprint-based shopping.
And let’s not forget voice recognition. Although Google Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana have clear advantages, it was Siri on the iPhone 4S that kicked off the concept of a built-in AI-powered assistant. Before then, voice commands were primarily restricted to direct, robot-like instructions. The iPhone introduced plain-language questions, contextual answers and other concepts that many take for granted today.
To be sure, the iPhone has sometimes been (and occasionally, still is) on the trailing edge. It took until 2014 to get an iPhone larger than 4 inches, well after Steve Jobs was convinced nobody would buy one. You can’t use the near-field wireless for anything but payments. You also can’t add removable storage, swap your battery or get a greater-than-1080p screen. And of course, enthusiasts who insist on choice and customization still have a good reason to prefer Android or Windows 10 Mobile.
Even so, it’s evident that the iPhone has created a vast legacy over the past 10 years. One way or another, the smartphone in your pocket owes a small debt to what Apple has done, whether it’s the basic design or a feature you use every day. And the competitive landscape has forever changed. All the rival smartphone platforms from 2007 either died or lost most of their relevance, and you can trace their downfalls back to their inability to adapt to the iPhone’s breakthroughs in a timely way — even if Android was sometimes the one to sound the death knell. The next 10 years probably won’t be nearly as revolutionary given how mature the smartphone market is these days, but that doesn’t diminish the iPhone’s past accomplishments.
Image credits: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images; David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev
A senior manager at Foxconn, the company that makes Apple’s iPhone handsets, is facing 10 years incarceration after being charged with the theft of 5,700 iPhones valued at nearly $ 1.5 million. According to AsiaOne, the Taiwanese testing department manager, identified only by his family name Tsai, coerced eight of his subordinates to smuggle iPhone 5 and 5Ses out of the Foxconn Shenzhen plant between 2013 and 2014.
Apparently, these phones were designated for testing, rather than sale, which could explain how the gang managed to take so many without tipping off security. However, an internal audit conducted earlier this year outed the group.
If you’ve ever wanted to buy an iPhone straight from Apple but thought that brand new unlocked models were out of your reach, you’re in luck. Apple has started selling refurbished iPhones in its US online store, with hefty discounts depending on what you want to buy. An unlocked 16GB iPhone 6s is selling for $ 449, or $ 80 off the usual price; splurge on a 64GB iPhone 6s Plus and you’ll shell out $ 589, or $ 110 less than usual. The iPhone SE and iPhone 7 are absent, but that’s not surprising given that owners have only had them for several months at best.
This won’t be as big a bargain as you’d get by purchasing an iPhone through a used goods site, an auction or a friend. However, you’ll get both a year-long warranty and the knowledge that there won’t be any rude surprises when you open the box. In short: if the thought of shopping on eBay or Swappa makes you nervous, this is your best bet.
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.
Apple’s iOS 10 just dropped this morning and, less than an hour after launch, the landings haven’t been smooth for everyone. From the get-go, Twitter has lit up with reports of people’s phones (including your humble Engadget contributor) getting bricked or otherwise stuck in the update-restore process.
It appears iPhones weren’t the only devices having trouble with the update, either. As Brianna Wu noted on Twitter, the update has also bricked her iPad Pro.
Do not install iOS 10. It’s also bricked my iPad Pro. iPhone 6S Plus will require PSU wipe. No access to calls, email, or calendar today.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) September 13, 2016
Apple, for their part, issued a statement saying: “We experienced a brief issue with the software update process, affecting a small number of users during the first hour of availability. The problem was quickly resolved and we apologize to those customers. Anyone who was affected should connect to iTunes to complete the update or contact AppleCare for help.”
Of course, that’s cold comfort for someone still staring down the “Connect to iTunes screen.”