As part of Apple’s revamp of its recently acquired Beats Music streaming service, the company plans to bundle Beats directly into iOS, reports Financial Times.
Apple will bundle the subscription music service it acquired from Beats into its iOS operating system early next year, instantly making it available on hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads – and ramping up pressure on Spotify, the market leader in music streaming.
The inclusion of the paid-for Beats service in an iOS software update could happen as early as March, according to people familiar with the situation.
The report notes that Beats will continue to be a paid service and will likely be rebranded under the iTunes umbrella. The move could come alongside the launch of the Apple Watch, with users able to push Beats music from their iPhones to the wearable device.
While Apple has praised the Beats Music model, highlighting the curation aspect of the service as a major reason for acquiring the company, Beats has struggled to gain subscribers. Estimates put Beats’ subscriber base at just 110,000, dwarfed by several other services such as Spotify that offer both free and paid options. Apple’s acquisition of Beats has been seen as major avenue to boost interest in the service, but so far cross-promotion has been fairly limited. A revamp of Beats under the iTunes banner and including access directly in iOS may, however, substantially improve customer interest.
Still, Apple has struggled with streaming music in its first foray with the ad-supported iTunes Radio. The service is still available only in the United States and Australia despite rumors of a significant international expansion for early 2014, and the service has reportedly underperformed Apple’s goals of driving listeners to purchase tracks from the iTunes Store. But with a three-pronged strategy of traditional iTunes Store purchases, ad-supported iTunes Radio streaming and a subscription Beats service all integrated on iOS, Apple may finally be in a position to satisfy many music listeners.
The previously announced SteelSeries Stratus XL has officially launched today on the Apple Store. Following in the footsteps of the original Stratus controller, the beefed-up Stratus XL provides a larger frame that gives it some parity to console controllers in terms of relative size and button layout.
The Stratus XL connects to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using a wireless Bluetooth connection, and the large design fits all of the expected control inputs: two joysticks, a pressure-sensitive directional pad, four action buttons, and four shoulder buttons that include two analog trigger buttons.
Our sister site TouchArcade got a hands-on with the controller at E3 this past summer, and found the new device favorable over the diminutive size of the original Stratus. They noted, “Instead of curling your hands around the tiny SteelSeries Stratus, holding the SteelSeries Stratus XL is more similar to having an Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller in your hands.”
The Stratus XL uses AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack. SteelSeries says the batteries should last for 40+ hours of playtime, and a switch on the back of the device should help users prevent heavy drainage of the batteries when not in use.
The SteelSeries Stratus XL can be purchased now from the Apple Store for $69.95, which is about $10 over the price tag of the PS4 DualShock 4 and the Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Stratus XL will be available for direct purchase from the SteelSeries official website, and for hands-on demos at select Apple Stores, on December 6.
Apple today revamped its online store and sent out emails to customers in preparation for the upcoming holiday shopping season. The new holiday promotion emphasizes gift ideas with a focus on iOS devices, Macs and Beats audio hardware.
Immediately below the tagline “From one gift come many,” Apple places its focus on its iPad line of tablets, which recently were refreshed with the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. The company promotes the utility of the devices, noting how people can use the tablets to complete a variety of tasks, including choreographing a recital or exploring the North Pole.
Apple next highlights the Mac with an advertorial that entices people to create the next holiday classic in a subtle reference to last year’s award-winning “Misunderstood” holiday commercial. Other showcased products include the Apple TV, new Apple Store gift cards, the iPhone and Beats by Dr. Dre audio accessories.
Apple traditionally offers a Black Friday sale to kick off the holiday shopping season with modest discounts on its product lineup. Apple has yet to announce its 2014 Black Friday promotion, but the company last year offered Apple Store gift cards with the purchase of select items including iOS devices, Macs and various Apple-related accessories.
Facebook today announced a new Facebook Groups app, which is designed to let Facebook users access and interact with the Facebook groups that they have joined.
Facebook has long had a groups function, where families, clubs, workplaces, and more can band together for a custom sharing experience. The groups feature lets people post and share content that is exclusive to the group, which can be open, closed, or private.
According to Facebook, its new dedicated Groups app is designed to help people “share faster and more easily” with all of their groups, as group interactions are typically buried under other functionality in the standard Facebook app.
This app gives you a dedicated space for you and your groups.
See all of your Facebook Groups in one place. Discuss, plan and collaborate easily and without distractions. Follow your groups here or on Facebook, whichever is easier for you.
– Create a group for just about anything.
– Share information, post photos and links, and stay in touch.
– Discover and join new groups for whatever you’re into.
The main view of the Groups app displays all of a user’s groups, with the most recently visited group listed at the top. New groups can be created from within the app with the “Create” button, and the app also delivers notifications on group activity. There’s also a discover feature to suggest new groups to people based on pages that they’ve liked.
While Facebook removed messaging functionality from its main app to redirect its users to the Facebook Messenger app, the company says that groups will continue to be accessible from the main Facebook app as well as the new Groups app.
Logitech today announced a new AnyAngle protective case designed for Apple’s iPad Air 2 and iPad mini, which includes an “any-angle” foldable cover that can be adjusted to multiple viewing positions for reading, watching movies, and more.
Designed to “complement the thin and light aesthetics” of the iPad Air 2, the AnyAngle case includes a rubberized frame that wraps around the edges of the iPad to protect it from drops and bumps, and the adjustable front cover protects the display from scratches and cracks. The back of the case is entirely clear to show off the iPad’s design while still protecting it from damage.
The AnyAngle case has a hidden hinge built into it that enables the front cover to be adjusted to any angle within a 50-degree range. A set of magnets secures the cover to preserve the chosen angle even when the iPad is being moved, and the hidden hinge ensures that the cover remains in place as a stand with no tipping or sliding. The convertible cover stand has been designed to fold up behind the iPad for a minimalist look in both stand mode and when laying flat for reading.
Logitech’s AnyAngle case for the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini comes in multiple color combinations to fit a wide range of personalities, including classic black, gray, yellow, violet, and teal. It will be available in the U.S. beginning later this month for $59.99.
Adobe today updated Lightroom to version 5.7, bringing a number of new features including a built-in importer tool for users migrating their content from Aperture and iPhoto. The update follows the release of a separate plugin last month which contained similar functionality. The update also allows users to view comments and feedback from collection on Lightroom’s web interface and contains bug fixes.
Adobe has also updated its Camera Raw plugin to version 8.7, bringing raw file format support in Photoshop and Lightroom for cameras like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Fujifilm X100T, and the Samsung NX1. The update also adds new lens profiles for Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Adobe Lightroom 5.7 is a free update for existing users and can be downloaded through the “Help” section in Lightroom. Adobe Camera Raw 8.7 can be downloaded through the “Help” section in Photoshop.
“Apple Watch is our most personal device ever, and WatchKit provides the incredible iOS developer community with the tools they need to create exciting new experiences right on your wrist,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “With the iOS 8.2 beta SDK, developers can now start using WatchKit to create breakthrough new apps, Glances and actionable notifications designed for the innovative Apple Watch interface and work with new technologies such as Force Touch, Digital Crown and Taptic Engine.”
WatchKit is being released as part of the iOS 8.2 and Xcode 6.2 beta, both of which have been made available to developers today.
Both the iOS 8.2 Beta with WatchKit and the Xcode 6.2 beta can be downloaded from Apple’s developer site, which also has Apple Watch development resources for developers. WatchKit can currently be used to create Glances, actionable notifications, and Apple Watch apps that are powered by the iPhone. Many Apple Watch apps will be driven by code that runs on the iPhone, with a UI that displays content on the watch itself. According to Apple, “fully native” Apple Watch apps can be created “later next year.”
As described by Apple, actionable notifications are notifications that allow users to take an action or respond directly from their wrists with the Apple Watch, turning off the lights when they’ve left the house, for example, or accessing flight information at an airport. Glances are somewhat simpler, aiming to give users quick information at a glance like news, weather, sports scores, and more.
In its press release, Apple highlights several developers who have already begun working with WatchKit, giving some additional insight into how the WatchKit tools can be used. The ESPN app for Apple Watch delivers live scores and information on teams, according to ESPN VP John Kosner, and it offers snapshots of live games through Glances and alerts on score changes through actionable notifications.
Instagram has used WatchKit to develop actionable notifications that let users instantly like a photo or respond with an emoji, plus there’s an Instagram news and watch list to let users see their friends favorite photos and get an overview of likes and comments. American Airlines has used Apple Watch to create pre-trip notifications, updates for gate changes, gate connection information, and alerts when a flight begins boarding, all of which can be accessed directly from the wrist.
In addition to sharing these use cases for the Apple Watch, Apple has also created a dedicated Apple Watch site for developers, outlining the difference between full apps, Glances, and actionable notifications, offering download links to the iOS 8.2 beta with WatchKit SDK, and providing design guidelines and templates.
Apple has said that its Apple Watch will be released in “early 2015,” but an exact launch date remains unclear. At the lower end, the device will retail for $349, with estimates placing pricing for the higher-end solid gold version at thousands of dollars.
LittleBits today introduced a new Smart Home Kit, which is designed to turn any household item into an Internet-connected smart device. Rather than buying various smart products, the Smart Home Kit encourages users to “reinvent” the things that they already own.
Using the tools in the kit, users might build curtains that open at sunrise, a remote controlled pet feeder, a doorbell that sends a notification when it’s pressed, or a toilet paper roll that alerts users when it’s empty. The LittleBits website has several different video examples of how the kit can be used, along with tutorials.
“Our mission is to put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, and to break down complex technologies so that anyone can build, prototype, and invent. Democratizing the smart home industry is one more step in delivering on that promise,” said Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits. “The Smart Home Kit is giving people the power and opportunity to take the Internet of Things movement into their own hands, and bring their home to the 21st century, on their own terms ￼ recreate a popular smart device, retrofit an old appliance, or invent something entirely new that may be the next big thing.”
The Smart Home Kit comes with 14 “Bits,” including the cloudBit for connecting things to the Internet, an MP3 player, a temperature sensor, a light sensor, a speaker, an IR transmitter, and more. It also comes equipped with project ideas and 11 accessories, like an AC switch, which can interface with wall outlets for connected fans, lights, and more.
The Smart Home Kit can be pre-ordered from the LittleBits site for $249. Kits will begin shipping in early December, and LittleBits also plans to sell its Smart Home Kit in RadioShack stores next month.
Back in August, Google launched a beta build of 64-bit Chrome for Mac, following the public release of 64-bit Chrome for Windows. After several months of testing, Google today launched Chrome 39, its first stable-release 64-bit browser for OS X.
As Google said when it launched a beta version of 64-bit Chrome for Mac, 64-bit support will bring several speed and security improvements to the browser, in addition to decreasing the amount of memory that it uses.
Chrome 64-bit Chrome has become faster as a result of having access to a superior instruction set, more registers, and a more efficient function calling convention. Improved opportunities for ASLR enhance this version’s security. Another major benefit of this change comes from the fact that most programs on a modern Mac are already 64-bit apps.
In cases where Chrome was the last remaining 32-bit app, there were launch-time and memory-footprint penalties as 32-bit copies of all of the system libraries needed to be loaded to support Chrome. Now that Chrome’s a 64-bit app too, we expect you’ll find that it launches more quickly and that overall system memory use decreases.
With the release of Chrome 39, the 32-bit version of Chrome will be retired, left on Chrome 38, which means that some users of older Macs will not be able to use the new Chrome 39.
Along with 64-bit support, the new Chrome update includes new apps and extension APIs, plus improvements to stability and performance. There are also 42 security fixes for various vulnerabilities, which resulted in $41,500 in bounties that Google paid out to the individuals that reported the issues.
Chrome 39 can be downloaded from Google’s Chrome website or installed using the Chrome browser’s built-in update functionality.
Apple is not planning to abandon its now-defunct Mesa, Arizona sapphire facility, reports Bloomberg. The company has told city officials that it remains committed to bringing jobs and manufacturing to Mesa, Arizona, following the bankruptcy that caused hundreds of GT Advanced employees to be laid off.
“They’ve indicated their commitment to us: They want to repurpose that building and use it again,” Mesa City Manager Christopher Brady said in a recent interview. Apple has said it’s focused “on preserving jobs in Arizona” and promised to “work with state and local officials as we consider our next steps.”
Back in October, Apple confirmed in a statement that it would look for other ways to utilize its Mesa, Arizona facility, stating that it “remained committed to the city” and planned to help GT Advanced employees who had been impacted by the bankruptcy to find new jobs.
Apple initially chose Mesa, Arizona as the site for its sapphire facility after city officials agreed to expedite permitting approvals, build out power infrastructure, and cut property taxes. Apple insisted on 100 percent renewable energy for the facility, which required the city to construct a new power substation.
GT Advanced sapphire facility image via Cult of Mac
Mesa also planned to leverage Apple’s presence in the city with the creation of a new technology corridor in the area, with several other companies having already expressed interest in being located near Apple.
“Apple could’ve invested in a facility literally anywhere in the world,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles, who is planning to visit Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, to show the city’s support. “There’s a reason they came here, and none of those reasons have changed.”
Apple and GT Advanced reached an agreement to end their partnership back in October, and under the terms of the deal, GT Advanced will wind down operations at the sapphire plant in Arizona before officially closing up shop in December. At the current time, most of the company’s employees have already been laid off, while remaining staff cleans and decommissions sapphire furnaces to be sold.
It is unclear how Apple will repurpose the facility, but the company has been working hard to bring more Mac production to the United States. Apple’s Mac Pro, released in late 2013, was the first Apple product line to be assembled in the United States as a result of the company’s efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country.