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Apple Watch Banned From U.K. Government Cabinet Meetings Over Hacking Fears

Government ministers in the United Kingdom have been banned from wearing the Apple Watch to cabinet meetings over fears the device could be hacked, according to The Telegraph.

Several cabinet ministers reportedly wore the device to meetings while serving under former Prime Minister David Cameron, however new PM Theresa May has apparently banned the smartwatches over fears that they could be used by Russian spies as listening devices. One source told The Telegraph: “The Russians are trying to hack everything.”

The Verge notes that the Apple Watch has been banned from Australian cabinet meetings as well. An advisor for the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull said that more attention needed to be paid to communications security as an increasing number of devices, from glasses to running shoes, offered internet connectivity.

The bans follow serious concerns over the potential reach of clandestine state-sponsored hacker groups, after U.S. officials pointed the finger at Russian hackers following the release of confidential emails from the Democratic National Congress during the U.S. election.

Russian hackers have also been implicated in the release of private medical files of some of the world’s most famous athletes. Smartphones have also been barred from the Cabinet because of similar worries that the devices could be used to listen in on meetings.
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BioWare’s ‘Jade Empire’ gets another shot at life on iOS

BioWare is virtually synonymous with Mass Effect and Dragon Age these days, but it has had its share of experiments. Remember Jade Empire, its China-inspired (and critically well-received) action role-playing title? Aspyr does — it just released versions of Jade Empire: Special Edition for the Mac and, crucially, iOS. You can now relive the story of a martial artist restoring balance to the world using your phone or tablet, not just your computer at home. There are simple controls in the iOS version if you’re not comfortable with a touchscreen, but you can also switch to an expert mode when you’re comfortable with using taps and swipes to defeat other warriors.

Both versions are available now for $10, which isn’t too shabby for a game that combines fast-paced fighting with signature BioWare elements like moral dilemmas. You’ll want to make sure you have plenty of free space, though. The iOS release chews up just short of 4GB, so you probably won’t be playing on a 16GB device unless Jade Empire is going to dominate your mobile life for the next while.

Via: Kotaku

Source: App Store, Mac App Store, Aspyr


The CW’s New Apple TV App Doesn’t Require a Cable Subscription to Watch

As promised last week, The CW network today released a new Apple TV app that allows all fourth-generation Apple TV owners to watch new episodes of shows on the network for free with no cable authentication or login required.

All of the shows on The CW, including Supergirl, The Flash, Jane The Virgin, Arrow, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, iZombie, Supernatural, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The 100 Vampire Diaries, Reign, and The Originals are available to watch, with ads. Users simply need to download the app and click play on a show to watch, with no other hoops to jump through.

The CW’s iOS and Apple TV apps focus on only the newest episodes, with no archived content available from past seasons. Only five episodes from the most recent season are available to watch, but it’s all free and should be welcome news to cord cutters who are hoping other television networks might adopt similar policies.

On iOS devices, an update to the CW app introduces support for both AirPlay and Chromecast, allowing content from the iOS app to be streamed to a television set as an alternative to using the Apple TV app or as a way to watch The CW’s content on television sets without owning a fourth-generation Apple TV.

The CW can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]
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App Store Search Ads Go Live October 5, Developers Now Able to Purchase Ad Spots

Back in June, Apple announced some major changes to the App Store, including the addition of ads to App Store search results. App Store Search Ads have gone live as of today, and Apple is allowing developers to purchase ad spots. Ads from developers will be displayed starting on October 5.

Search Ads have been in beta testing since the feature was announced, and developers were previously able to participate in a beta testing program to provide ads that were visible to App Store users.

With Search Ads, developers can bid to have their app listed as the top result when certain keywords are used, improving app discoverability. Ads are available through an auction system, with one ad displayed to customers on each search result page. Ads are clearly marked and ad content is the same content that’s available on the App Store app description pages as it uses App Store metadata and imagery.

According to Apple’s Phil Schiller, Apple “thought about how to carefully” do search ads in a way that “customers will be happy with.” Apple also believes the ad auction system is fair to developers, including indie developers.

Developers do not need to pay a minimum amount to use Search Ads, so it’s possible to buy ads for a small sum of money. Apple prices Search Ads based on a cost-per-tap model, so developers only pay when a user taps on an ad. Apple displays ads based on a combination of bid amount and an app’s relevance to the search query, with ad matching done automatically.

Developers who sign up to offer Search Ads are being given a free $100 credit to get started with the program.
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Google adds an Incognito search mode on iOS

Sometimes you need to find something that you don’t want to see listed in your Google search history, even while you’re on the go. Chrome’s Incognito browser sessions can be good for that, but a new tweak for the Google Search app on iOS makes it easy to open up disposable sessions there too. Additionally, it’s set up so that if you leave the app and need to come back to the search, you can lock it using TouchID, so even on a shared device like an iPad, someone else can’t easily see what was in there.

Google says that other changes have made the app more stable with 50 percent fewer crashes, increased compatibility with iOS 10 and added the ability to watch YouTube videos within the app. If you find Incognito searching useful, then you can jump straight into it with 3D Touch by hard pressing the search icon.

Source: Google Search Blog, iTunes


Apple’s iOS 10.1 Beta Includes Promised Portrait Mode for iPhone 7 Plus Users

Today’s new iOS 10.1 beta, available now to developers, includes a new “Portrait” camera mode for iPhone 7 Plus users, which was shown off at the iPhone’s debut event but wasn’t quite ready for release.

Portrait mode is designed to mimic the kind of shallow depth of field images that can be taken with a high-end DSLR, with a front subject that stands out over a blurred background.

To achieve this look, Apple’s built-in image signal processor scans a scene, using machine learning techniques to recognize the people in the image. From there, it creates a depth map of the image from both of the two cameras included in the device, keeping the people in focus while applying an artful blur or “bokeh” to the background.

According to TechCrunch, Apple’s Portrait option was built on technology acquired from camera company LinX. Portrait mode is using the 56mm lens to capture the image while the wide-angle lens gathers perspective data to build the depth map and divide the image into layers.


Once it has this 9-layer slice, it can then pick and choose which layers are sharp and which get a gaussian (randomish) blur effect applied to them.

Once the telephoto lens detects the subject, using autofocus and other stuff we’ll talk about in a second, the image processor inside the iPhone 7 will then apply blur in greater and greater amounts to the layers that are further away from that subject.

It’s in beta, so there are some quirks Apple will need to work out. Apple has said that Portrait won’t be used all the time, and it does appear to require good lightning and the right focusing distance between objects to function properly. It will take some experimentation to get good shots with Portrait.

Portrait mode is a new feature in the camera app that can be found alongside other video and photo taking options like “Video” and “Panorama.” It even includes a Live Preview effect that lets you see what the image will look like before you take it, something that’s unique to the iPhone.
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Apple Joins Global Renewable Energy Initiative RE100

Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson today announced that Apple has joined global renewable energy initiative RE100, a campaign that’s dedicated to getting the world’s most influential companies committed to 100 percent renewable power.

Jackson shared the news at Climate Week in New York City, where she also shared some details on Apple’s recent environmental progress. In 2015, 93 percent of Apple’s worldwide operations were powered with renewable energy, and in the U.S., China, and 21 other countries, Apple uses renewable energy for 100 percent of its operations.

According to Jackson, Apple just completed work on its 50-megawatt solar farm in Arizona, which will power Apple’s global data command center in Mesa, Arizona, the former location of Apple sapphire partner GT Advanced.

Jackson also gave an update on Apple’s commitment to helping its suppliers use renewable energy, announcing that Apple supplier Solvay Specialty Polymers, which makes the antenna bands used in the iPhone, has pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy for all Apple production.

Catcher Technology, a supplier that provides aluminum enclosures for iOS and Mac devices, is also aiming to reach 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2018.

“Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” said Jackson. “We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we’ve been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain, and look forward to partnering with RE100 to advocate for clean-energy policies around the world.”

Other major companies who are members of RE100 include IKEA, Adobe, BMW, Coca Cola, GM, Google, HP, Microsoft, Nike, Philips, Starbucks, and Walmart.
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Photos, Videos, GIFs, and More No Longer Count Towards Twitter’s 140-Character Limit

Twitter today announced that its long-awaited changes to the Tweet character limit have been implemented, giving Twitter users more room for text when sharing media.

Photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count towards the 140-character limit, freeing up character space. Previously, media content took up approximately 24 of the 140 available characters.

Twitter originally said that all @names, such as @MacRumors, would also no longer count towards the 140-character limit, but that change does not appear to have been implemented. There is no mention of it in Twitter’s announcement and @names are still counting in the character limit.

Say more about what’s happening! Rolling out now: photos, videos, GIFs, polls, and Quote Tweets no longer count toward your 140 characters.

— Twitter (@twitter) September 19, 2016

It is not clear if Twitter plans to eliminate @names from character count in the future, but the company has said it is exploring additional ways to allow people to better express themselves, so more changes could be in the works.
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iTunes and App Store Down for Some Users

According to Apple’s System Status page, both the iTunes Store and the App Store are down for some users. The iTunes Store has been experiencing issues since just after 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time this afternoon, and while the App Store outage period is not listed, MacRumors has seen several complaints about accessing it going back an hour or two.

Apple’s System Status site says some users may be unable to sign into the App Store and the iTunes Store, an outage that comes at an inconvenient time as the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus were just released, so many people are trying to set up their devices and download new apps.

There’s no estimate given for when services might return to normal.
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iOS 10 review: Apple evolves

With iOS 10, Apple is basically polishing a pearl. iOS 8 introduced a vibrant and “flat” new aesthetic. iOS 9 was focused on refinement. So by this point, we should get something completely fresh and new, right? Well, not quite. Just like the iPhone 7, Apple’s latest mobile OS doesn’t look that much different on the surface. Instead, the company once again chose to focus on improving the overall experience. In particular, this year’s refinements collectively make the OS a lot more convenient (and help Apple play a little catch-up). If you’ve longed for some of the features you’ve seen on your friends’ Android phones, iOS 10 is more than enough to keep you under Apple’s spell for another year.

Getting started

iOS 10: review

At this point, moving to a new version of iOS probably feels routine. While there were widespread reports of the update “bricking” devices during its launch day, it looks like most of those issues have been ironed out. As always, though, be sure to back up your device before doing any sort of major upgrade. Even if you have your current iOS device set to automatically back up on iCloud, it’s still worth making a local copy through iTunes in case all hell breaks loose. (Also, restoring your phone from the cloud is much slower than with a local copy.)

There’s a good chance you’ve already been prompted to upgrade, but if you’ve procrastinated, head to the “General” section in the Settings app to manually initiate the update. Then just wait for the installation file to download (it’s over 1GB, so it takes a few minutes), and proceed with the installation. You’ll want to have your phone connected to a charger while you’re going through this process, unless your battery is almost full.

A revamped lock screen

Assuming all goes well, you’ll be presented with the all-too-familiar lock screen. This time around, though, it brings some new tricks. Swiping left bring you to the Today screen, which is now far more customizable than before. It’s basically a quick way to access widgets, which can do things like show you the weather, the latest news and your upcoming appointments. Naturally, there’s a bunch of built-in Apple widgets, but plenty of third-party developers are building them as well, including The New York Times, The Weather Channel and yes, even Google.

Swiping right from the lock screen brings up the camera, something that happens almost instantly on my iPhone 6S. Previously, you had to drag up from the bottom right of the screen to open the camera, which was a bit more difficult. I often missed the touch target completely, which left me swiping up a few times in futility. And, come to think of it, I’ve missed out on a few great photo opportunities because of that. Swiping right (get your jokes in now) has turned out to be a much more accurate gesture.

You can also do a lot more with the notifications that appear on the lock screen. If you have a 3D Touch-capable phone like the iPhone 6S or 7, you can interact with things like text messages without even leaving the lock screen. Some notifications will require you to unlock the phone to use 3D Touch features, but that’s just good security. Swipe down from the top of the lock screen to get your full list of notifications, all of which are also interactive using 3D Touch.

A more useful Control Center

If you swipe up from the lock screen, and indeed anywhere else in iOS 10, you’ll bring up the ever-useful Control Center. Instead of cramming all of its functionality in a single screen, it now spans two separate pages. The first houses all of the quick settings you’re familiar with — toggling on and off Airplane mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and screen rotation lock — along with buttons for managing AirPlay Mirroring, AirDrop and Night Shift. And of course, those handy quick tools like the flashlight and timer are still at the bottom.

But, you might be wondering, what happened to the media controls? All of that is handled in the second page of the Control Center, which has room for more options. In addition to merely playing and pausing songs and skipping tracks, you can jog through your location in a track without leaving the Control Center. That’s particularly useful for longer files like podcasts and audiobooks. The bottom of the screen lets you easily switch between all available AirPlay devices on your current WiFi network.

The redesigned Control Center has ended up being one of the highlights of iOS 10 over my past few months of testing. I don’t have to jump into my iPhone’s settings or music/podcast apps nearly as much anymore. What’s the word for that? Oh right: convenience.

3D Touch (and Taptic Engine) finally feels useful

Apple introduced 3D Touch in last year’s iPhone 6S as a new method of smartphone interaction. Sure, it basically just replicated the “right-click” from PCs, but there was a lot to like in theory: What if you could just quickly access the most popular features of your favorite apps? Who wouldn’t want that? Even I was sold on Apple’s pitch back at the time, and over the past year I’ve grown to rely on it for apps like Swarm and Evernote.

The problem, though, is that Apple didn’t pay nearly enough attention to 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine in the 6S. While a handful of built-in apps and some third-parties adopted it, Apple almost seemed to distance itself from the feature after the 6S launch. Perhaps it was focusing its energy on the more powerful Taptic Engine that would be coming in the iPhone 7, but whatever the reason, many iPhone 6S owners felt like there was a lost opportunity to tap into 3D Touch (heh).

That’s less the case in iOS 7, where 3D Touch works in almost every part of the OS. There’s the notification integration I mentioned earlier, but I also learned to love the smaller additions, like using 3D Touch to change the brightness of my iPhone’s flashlight. Thanks to its more powerful Taptic Engine, the iPhone 7 also brings haptic feedback to simple things, like scrolling through the time in the Clock app, or scrolling through your library in the Music app. It gets to a point where you almost feel like you’re scrolling through a physical book, or a pile of CDs.

The Messages app takes on Snapchat

Apple really focused on improving its core apps in iOS 10, and the Messages app got the bulk of the upgrades. You can now change the intensity of iMessages (the chats labeled in blue that you’re having with other iMessage users), from a huge “Slam” effect that almost takes up the whole screen, to an obscured “Invisible Ink” message that has to be swiped to be read. The latter is particularly useful if you’re in a public place with lots of prying eyes. There are also screen effects that can accompany your notes, including a bunch of balloons, falling confetti, laser lights, fireworks and a shooting star. They’re fun at first, but they’ll be particularly useful for annoying your friends endlessly.

Just like the Apple Watch, you can send hearts (but of course, not your actual heart rate) and other symbols from within Messages using Digital Touch. You can also react to things people send you with “tapback” responses by double-tapping on them. You can also send a handwritten message by turning your iPhone into landscape mode (of course, you can also bring up the keyboard if you prefer typing this way). In the iOS 10 beta, you had to manually enable the handwriting mode, but it was also a bit hard to find.

The biggest change in Messages is that it now has an ecosystem of its own apps and sticker packs. By default, it includes apps for image and video searching (hooray easy-to-find animated GIFs!), as well as for sharing your most recently played Apple Music tracks. But you can easily add even more apps by hitting the icon of four dots at the lower left of the screen. (If that sounds confusing, you’re not alone. Apple’s interface around the entire Messages App experience needs some work, especially once you start piling in more software. It’s one area where I seriously began to feel the limits of the iPhone’s 4.7-inch screen, though it doesn’t seem much better on the 7 Plus either.)

Once you’ve made your way to the Messages App store, you’ll see a plethora of stickers, games and software that will appear right within your chats. It works just like the normal app store, except this time whatever you download shows up in the Messages app section. There’s also a good chance you’ve already installed apps that have brought along their own Messages apps, like Yelp, Evernote and Venmo.

Messages apps are similar to Apple Watch apps: They’re typically focused on a few functions that will work well within a chat. Yelp, for example, lets you share restaurants that you’ve recently viewed. Similarly, you can share specific movie times and locations with Fandango. One of the more interesting app implementations comes from OpenTable, which allows you to pick five restaurants and vote on them with your friends. Once you decide on a restaurant, you can complete the reservation process right from within Messages. (Eater has a good overview of how the whole process works.)

The games selection in the Messages app store isn’t huge, mostly consisting of simplistic board games at the moment. But it’s still cool to be able to play a quick game of chess with friends right from a text conversation. I suspect we’ll see plenty of multi-game entries like GamePigeon, which currently packs in pool, poker, sea battle, Go and a Scrabble-esque anagram title.

The Message app’s Stickers are merely that: Images that get sent to anyone, even friends on other platforms. Much like ringtones, they’ll likely end up being an easy way for Apple to get a few bucks from its users more often. But I’ll admit, the stickers are a lot of fun to use. I dropped $2 on the first collection of Pokémon pixel art. No regrets.

Apple’s intent with all of Message’s upgrades is pretty clear: It wants you to leave the app as seldom as possible, even if that means working even closer with third-party companies. Given the fast rise of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, it’s not surprising that Apple is actually trying to cultivate its one successful “social network.”

Smarter Photos

So, about those other core iOS app upgrades: The Photos app now uses computer vision technology to make some sense of your piles of pics. For example, searching for “cats” brings up a healthy dose of my obsessive feline photography. It’ll also automatically detect the most common faces in your photos. While it’s up to you to actually name those faces, it’s still a big help if you hate organizing photos as much as I do.

Photos also creates “Memories,” or auto-generated slideshows of pictures from your library. It’s similar to the way Google Photos slideshows work in that they’ll typically focus on a single person or photos taken around a specific event. The Memories themselves are a combination of stills, Live Photos and video in your library. You can also set the music mood and length of each Memory, which will likely be useful if you’re throwing them over to an Apple TV to watch with a group.

Memories usually turned out well, though they’re still clearly a work in progress. Sometimes the software would choose photos with fingers blocking them, or pictures that I know for a fact have a better duplicate in my library. Still, it’s useful if you don’t want to build a slideshow on your own.

Refined Music

The new Music app actually looks very different from what came before, which isn’t the case for the rest of iOS 10’s updates. The new interface is all about large fonts, bold colors and disc art wherever possible. Those of you who were annoyed by Apple focusing more on its streaming music service than your own collection of tunes will likely be pleased, as your local library is the first thing to pop up. The “For You” section also does a better job of recommending tunes (as well as explaining why you might want to listen to them).

I’ve seen both praise and criticism of the Music app’s redesign, but personally I dig the clean aesthetic. But really, anything is better than the last iteration. One nifty addition: You can quickly access lyrics of songs on Apple Music from within the Now Playing screen. It’s not there for every song, but it’s an easy way to get prepped for karaoke.

Siri gets smarter, again

After launching to much fanfare, it’s almost as if iOS users have grown to hate Siri. She had a penchant for not hearing you properly, and her actual capabilities were fairly limited. That’s changing with iOS 10, as Apple has — you guessed it — opened up Siri to other developers. I was able to book Uber and Lyft cars, as well as send cash to a friend using Venmo, with only voice commands. You’ll still have to deal with some accuracy issues, but at least now Siri is actually starting to get useful.

Siri also powers contextual awareness in iOS 10’s predictive keyboard. So, on top of just trying to guess what word you’re typing next, it can do things like fill out contact information if you start chatting about someone’s phone number. And if you’re trying to schedule something, it can also tell you when you’re available by looking at your calendar. This feature still seems to be in its early stages, but it’s a fascinating way of implementing predictive intelligence.

Odds and ends

  • I didn’t talk much about iOS 10’s design because, honestly, nothing really changed. The home screen still looks like the same old wall of icons you’ve seen before.
  • Yes, I know we’ve seen plenty of these features in Android already. But at this point, everyone in the mobile industry is shamelessly getting “inspired” by the competition.
  • While iOS 9 offered up some big changes for iPad multitasking, iOS 10 doesn’t add much. The Control Center has a bit more room to breathe, but that’s about it.
  • You can finally remove built-in Apple software, like the much-maligned Stock app. But, to be clear, the app basically just disappears, it doesn’t actually get uninstalled.
  • It really feels like iOS 10 breathed new life into my iPhone 6S, and I’m hearing similarly good stories from people installing it on the iPhone 5. It also runs well on my first-gen iPad Air.
  • I didn’t have any HomeKit-equipped hardware to test out the Home app, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Apple tries to unify the messy IoT space.

Ultimately, iOS 10 is a collection of small, but important, changes to an already solid mobile OS. I would have liked to see a whole new design too, but what matters more is that actually using the OS is a significantly better experience. The combination of the new Today screen and Control Center has already saved me plenty of time.

We’ll probably end up seeing a major facelift next year, but for now, iOS 10 is an upgrade that Apple users should look forward to.

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