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Shazam Brings Always-On Music and TV Recognition to Mac With Free Menu Bar App

Music recognition service Shazam, which was one of the early App Store hits and has continued to see good success on mobile platforms, is now bringing its services to the desktop in the form of the first music, TV show, and ad recognition app for Mac.

Running as a menu bar item, Shazam for Mac quietly monitors audio around the user's Mac and provides not only pop-up notifications of the content being played but also easy access to supplemental content such as lyrics, additional tracks from the album, purchasing options such as the iTunes Store, music videos, social sharing options, and more.

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Once content has been identified by Shazam, a standard Notification Center pop-up appears onscreen, and an entry for the item is added to the running list of Shazam IDs in the menu bar app. Clicking in either location takes the user to a dedicated page on the web for the identified content.

MacRumors spoke with Shazam's Chief Product Officer Daniel Danker about the launch, and Danker highlighted the utility of Shazam for Mac in the context of the popularity of lyrics searches on the Internet. With Shazam's dedicated track pages on the web, Shazam for Mac seamlessly directs users to high-quality lyrics presented in a responsive layout appropriate for various screen sizes and without ads or other distractions.

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Content feature page on shazam.com

In our testing of Shazam for Mac, the app generally did a solid job of picking up audio and quickly identifying the tracks being played. It is of course limited by the number of tracks available in Shazam's database, and on an eclectic mix of tracks Shazam was unable to identify some of the tracks. Identification was generally solid, however, and came fairly quickly after the track began playing.

Beyond music, Shazam also works with television channels in the U.S., and Shazam for Mac was able to identify a number of shows and movies airing on a nearby television. Clicking on the item's listing in Shazam offers quick access to content such as cast information, IMDB and Wikipedia listings, and more. With over 160 U.S. TV channels included in Shazam's database, content can even be identified from the commercials being played between segments. Even ads such as Apple's latest "Stickers" commercial for the MacBook Air can be identified by Shazam.

Shazam for Mac marks the next step in the service's evolution as the company seeks to integrate its platform into users' daily technology experience. Its always-on status builds upon the Auto Shazam functionality added to the iOS app late last year. Shazam has also entered into a partnership with Apple that will see Shazam's music identification services integrated with Siri, allowing users to quickly and easily ask Siri to identify the music playing around them.

As for the future of Shazam for Mac and the service in general, Danker noted the company is working to build seamless connections with streaming music services to aid listeners, and also enhancing the lyrics experiencing with syncing and other features.

Shazam for Mac is a free app launching today in the Mac App Store.

FCC Questions Verizon Plan to Throttle Some Unlimited Data Customers

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today sent a letter [PDF via Gigaom] to Verizon Wireless, questioning its plan to throttle customers that have unlimited data plans during peak usage times. Verizon first announced its intention to throttle high-usage customers on grandfathered unlimited LTE plans last week.

In the letter, Wheeler says that he is "deeply troubled" by Verizon's decision to throttle its unlimited users, as the company described its efforts as necessary for "Network Optimization." Wheeler stated that he does not believe slowing the data speeds for select users falls under the "reasonable network management" umbrella.

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"Reasonable network management" concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams. It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its "network management" on distinctions among its customers' data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.
Wheeler goes on to ask Verizon to answer a series of questions, requesting that the company explain its rationale for treating customers differently based on data plan type and questioning whether Verizon's new throttling policy is justified under the FCC's Open Internet rules. Wheeler also questions the necessity of cutting data speeds on the much more efficient 4G LTE network.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal Verizon said that it would respond to the Chairman's letter following a review of the content.
"We will officially respond to the Chairman's letter once we have received and reviewed it," Verizon Wireless said in a statement. "However, what we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell cites experiencing high demand. The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don't limit capacity for others."
Verizon plans to begin throttling high-usage LTE customers accessing congested network cells beginning on October 1. The company says the change will only affect users with grandfathered unlimited plans not under contract who rank in the top five percent of data users.

At the time of its announcement, Verizon said that the top five percent consisted of customers who used 4.7GB of data each month, and those customers may experience slow data speeds "when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming" when connected to a cell site "experiencing heavy demand."

Verizon, which has long restricted 3G data usage for unlimited users, is not the first wireless carrier that has implemented LTE usage restrictions for customers on grandfathered unlimited plans. Other carriers, like AT&T, have similar policies and restrict key features from unlimited data plan holders in an effort to encourage them to switch to pay-by-usage tiered data plans.

Apple Seeds First OS X Mavericks 10.9.5 Beta to Developers

Apple today seeded the first build of OS X 10.9.5 to developers, one month after releasing OS X 10.9.4 to the public. The new beta is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store and through the Mac Dev Center. The beta has a build number of 13F7.

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OS X 10.9.5 follows new seeds of Safari 7.0.6 and 6.1.6 for Mavericks and Mountain Lion, which were released to developers last night.

It is unclear what improvements the 10.9.5 update will bring to Mavericks, but it is likely to include bug fixes and stability enhancements. Apple is asking developers to focus on USB, USB Smart Cards, Graphics, and Safari.

Along with working on improvements to Mavericks, Apple is also beta testing OS X Yosemite, which is due to be released in the fall. The last Mavericks update, 10.9.4, added several Wi-Fi fixes and improved wake from sleep reliability.

Related roundup: OS X Mavericks

Revamped Apple TV Debut Likely Delayed Until 2015 Due to Negotiation Difficulties

For several months now, rumors have continually suggested Apple is working on a revamped Apple TV, which may include capabilities like support for games and apps and expanded access to television content.

Every rumored release date has come and gone thus far, and according to a new report from The Information, an updated Apple TV is not likely to appear until 2015.

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A source that spoke to The Information has suggested that Apple engineers who are working on the device have been informed that the product will not launch in 2014, largely due to ongoing contractual issues with cable companies and Comcast's pending purchase of Time Warner Cable.
Apple engineers who are working on aspects of the device have been told by their bosses not to expect a launch this year and are working off timelines that assume a launch next year, according to a person familiar with the plans. Apple employees have cited cable companies "dragging their heels" and the pending Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger as reasons the device and accompanying TV service haven't launched.
Conversely, sources in the television industry have denied that cable companies are behind the delay, suggesting Apple has "bit off more than it can chew," and needs permission from many different rights holders to "create the service it wants to offer."

Over the years, various rumors have pointed towards very ambitious plans for the Apple TV, suggesting Apple once aimed to create a subscription television service that would potentially replace cable packages. Due to a continual inability to negotiate a deal with cable companies, Apple is said to have scaled back on its television ambitions, aiming to work with cable companies rather than against them.

The most recent content rumors from February of 2014 have suggested Apple is working to wedge itself between cable companies and consumers, potentially providing content from cable companies through its set-top box, overlaid with an Apple TV-style interface. Apple is also seeking to add DVR capabilities to the service.

In 2013, Apple was said to be close to completing a deal with Time Warner Cable over a possible TWC Apple TV app, allowing Time Warner subscribers to watch live television through the Apple TV, but the negotiations may have stalled due to the pending Time Warner-Comcast merger.

Earlier this year, a product roadmap from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo pointed towards a Q3 2014 launch date for the redesigned Apple TV, but based on The Information's new data, it seems any potential launch plans have now been pushed back.

Related roundup: Apple TV

'Modbook Pro X' Tablet Based on 15-Inch Retina MacBook Pro Debuts on Kickstarter

Modbook, the company with a history of offering pen-based Mac tablets using the internals of Apple's notebooks, is announcing a new Kickstarter campaign today to support the launch of a new Modbook Pro X based on the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The $150,000 campaign will allow users to send in their own machines for conversion at $1999 or reserve complete systems directly from Modbook starting at $3999.

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An innovative computer modification product, the Modbook Pro X incorporates the original hardware of a Retina-display Apple MacBook Pro 15.4-inch base system running the OS X 10.10 Yosemite operating system. The expansive drawing and writing surface of the Modbook Pro X has a scratch-resistant ForceGlass screen with paper-emulating texture that covers a crisp, clear 15.4-inch Retina display with a resolution of 2,880 by 1,800 pixels. Users get highly sensitive pen input with 2,048 pen pressure levels and pen tilt and rotate functionality for producing pro-quality creative deliverables.
Various configurations of the Modbook Pro X are available, including processor options ranging up to the top-of-the-line 2.8 GHz chip launched in the Retina MacBook Pro just yesterday, up to 32 GB of RAM, and up to 2 TB of flash storage.

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Additional options for Modbook Pro X customers include integrated Keybars on the rear of the device providing eyes-free programmable access to key combinations for commands and shortcuts, as well as a Keyboard Stand that serves as a keyboard, adjustable easel stand, and protective cover for the Modbook Pro X.

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Shipping on complete systems is scheduled for January 2015 in limited quantities, with the bulk of orders starting the following month. Send-in-your-own systems are planned to begin shipping roughly a month later.

Given its price, the Modbook Pro X is obviously targeted at a niche market interested in a tablet running full OS X such as creative professionals, but for those people the device may be an appealing option. For others, particularly those who would appreciate an OS X-based iPad, it's at least an interesting example of what can be done.

Backers not interested in a full Modbook system can also support the project through cheaper rewards such as a $59 Modbook Digitizer Pen that is compatible with an array of pen-based tablets or a Modbook Shuttle portable hard drive starting at $139.

'Mid 2014' 27-Inch iMac Also Referenced on Apple Support Page

Following yesterday's spotting of an unreleased "Mac mini (Mid 2014)" on an Apple support page, French site Consomac noticed [Google Translate, via MacPlus] another entry on the same page mentioning a Mid 2014 27-inch iMac model. Both the Mac mini and iMac entries have since been removed from the page, although they are still visible on a cached version of the page from yesterday.

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Apple did release a new low-end Mid 2014 21.5-inch iMac last month, but the remainder of the iMac lineup remained untouched and those machines are still considered Late 2013 models.

While the Mac mini entry has been taken as a hint that an upgrade may be imminent, especially since the machine has not been updated since October 2012, the iMac entry may point more towards the inclusions being an error. With the new low-end iMac having been added just last month, it seems unlikely that further iMac updates will occur in the near future.

It is possible Apple may have planned for a broader iMac update in the middle of the year with the low-end model appearing as part of that refresh, but the company may have changed plans due to a lack of chip availability or other factors. Alternatively, it may simply be an error unrelated to Apple's product launch plans.

Related roundup: iMac

Unreleased 'Mid 2014' Mac Mini Referenced on Apple Support Page

An Apple support page on Boot Camp was updated yesterday to include a mention of a mid-2014 Mac mini, perhaps hinting that a refresh of the desktop computer might be in the works.

First noticed by 9to5Mac, a cached version of the support page suggests yesterday's update also added mentions of the 2014 low-cost iMac and 2014 MacBook Airs. Today's newly released mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pros were not added to the updated page.

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The mention of the mid-2014 Mac mini may be a simple error, but the machine is long overdue for a refresh. Last updated in October of 2012, the Mac mini is the only product in Apple's mainstream Mac lineup that has not seen an update with Haswell processors.

Aside from the mention on Apple's support page, there has been no indication that a Mac mini refresh is on the horizon. Several events, including the unveiling of the new iPads last October and Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference seemed like opportune times for the company to unveil a refreshed version of the desktop computer, but no new Mac mini materialized at either event. It continues to remain unclear when Apple might release a new Mac mini, but the support page does offer hope that the product line might continue to live on.

An updated Mac mini would likely offer some improvements brought to the rest of Apple's Mac lineup over the course of the last two years, including Haswell processors, faster PCI Express-based flash storage options, and 802.11ac WiFi.

Related roundup: Mac mini

15-Inch Mid 2014 Retina MacBook Pro Benchmark Shows Decent Entry-Level Speed Gains

Apple's newly refreshed Retina MacBook Pros, released this morning, have already begun showing up in Geekbench benchmarks, offering a look at the performance boost of the updated machines compared to their predecessors.

A GeekBench 3 result for the entry-level 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro indicates that the new machine is eight percent faster than the entry-level 2013 Retina MacBook Pro, and only two percent slower than the mid-level Retina MacBook Pro released in 2013.

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Single-Core performance for the machine came in at 3050, up from 2811 for the similar 2013 model, while Multi-Core performance was also impressive, at 11586 vs. 10730.

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The new Retina MacBook Pros feature upgraded Haswell processors in 2.6 and 2.8 GHz dual-core configurations for the 13-inch versions, and 2.2 and 2.5 GHz quad-core configurations for the 15-inch models, with build-to-order options featuring a 3.0 GHz dual-core processor available for the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and a 2.8 GHz quad-core processor available for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

All of Apple's 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros now come with 8 GB of RAM standard (upgradeable to 16 GB), while 15-inch models come with 16 GB standard. The high-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has seen a $100 price cut, and buyers now have the option to upgrade to 1 TB of flash storage on both 13 and 15-inch models.

As noted by John Poole of Primate Labs, with the newly refreshed Haswell Retina MacBook Pros, customers are receiving mid-level performance at an entry-level price.

Though the update brings some decent gains to Apple's Retina MacBook Pro lineup, the new Haswell processors are largely a stopgap measure designed to hold customers over until Intel's more powerful and more efficient Broadwell chips are available next year.

Apple's refreshed Retina MacBook Pros are available today at Apple retail locations and its online store.

Apple's Smartphone Market Share Slips as Huawei, Lenovo Make Gains

Apple's growth in the overall worldwide smartphone market continues to slow as it loses ground to smaller Chinese vendors releasing more affordable devices, even as the smartphone market itself grows substantially.

According to IDC's latest estimates, worldwide smartphone sales for the second quarter of 2014 grew 23.1 percent year-over year as smartphones continue to replace feature phones, with a record quarter of 295.3 million shipments.

Apple shipped 35.1 million iPhones during the quarter, up from 31.2 million during Q2 2013, for a share of 11.9 percent, a slight drop from its 13 percent share in the year-ago quarter. The company's growth was at just 12.4 percent.

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Worldwide smartphone shipments in 2Q14 in millions of units (Source: IDC)

Samsung, the vendor that has long held the top spot with the most smartphone shipments, fared even worse during the quarter, with estimated shipments of 74.3 million for a 25.2 percent share of the market, down from 32.3 percent in Q2 2013, and overall growth of -3.9 percent.

Smaller Chinese vendors like Huawei and Lenovo continue to see significant growth, with Huawei shipping 20.3 million smartphones during the quarter for a 6.9 percent share and growth of 95.1 percent, while Lenovo shipped 15.8 million smartphones for 5.4 percent market share and growth of 38.7 percent.
Despite a challenging quarter for Samsung, and to a lesser extent Apple, the strong market demand boosted results for most smartphone vendors. Emerging markets supported by local vendors are continuing to act as the main catalyst for smartphone growth. Among the top vendors in the market, a wide range of Chinese OEMs more than outpaced the market in 2Q14. By far the most impressive was Huawei, nearly doubling its shipments from a year ago, followed by another strong performance from Lenovo.
As noted by IDC, Apple's second quarter is typically its seasonal low of the year due to its release schedule. Apple may see significant growth later in 2014 as it gears up to release the iPhone 6, meeting consumer demand for a larger-screened device for the first time.

Apple has also made efforts towards releasing low-cost devices in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) markets that are ripe for growth, but it is difficult for the company to keep up with the myriad low-cost devices coming from manufacturers like Lenovo and Huawei in those markets.

Ford Transitioning From BlackBerries to iPhones for Employees

Ford Motor Company is planning to transition its corporate employees from BlackBerry to Apple, providing approximately 3,300 workers with iPhones by the end of the year, reports Bloomberg. According to Ford spokesperson Sara Tatchio, Ford is also aiming to get iPhones into the hands of an additional 6,000 corporate employees over the course of the next two years as they transition from flip phones.

To oversee the switch to iOS devices, Ford will hire a mobile technology analyst, with one facet of the job involving the "global deployment of corporate iPhones." In her statement to Bloomberg, Tatchio highlighted the iPhone's ability to meet both the personal and secure business needs of Ford's employees as a reason for the switch.

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"We are going to get everyone on iPhones," Tatchio said. "It meets the overall needs of the employees because it is able to serve both our business needs in a secure way and the needs we have in our personal lives with a single device."

Having all employees on the same smartphone will improve security and simplify information technology management, Tatchio said. Ford is making "no extra investment" to convert to iPhones, other than the cost of replacing the devices, she said.
While the iPhone and the iPad are already used by more than 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies, Apple is aiming to make significant strides in the enterprise market in the coming months to bolster its penetration numbers, and Ford is likely to be just one of many companies transitioning to Apple devices in the near future.

The Cupertino company has recently formed a partnership with IBM to "transform enterprise mobility" through a series of new business apps and services for iOS devices, and the deal will also see IBM selling Apple devices to its corporate customers, which is bad news for BlackBerry.

During Apple's most recent earnings call, CEO Tim Cook suggested the company was aiming to get iPhones, iPads, and Macs into the hands of more people, with enterprise marking a "huge opportunity" for growth.

Rumored iWatch Supplier TPK's Q3 Forecast Falls Flat Amid Reports of Production Issues

Details discussed during a recent earnings conference call by Apple supplier TPK Holdings suggest the production of the iWatch is behind schedule, reports UDN via GforGames. According to earlier rumors, the iWatch may debut in late 2014 with the latest report claiming it will launch alongside the 5.5-inch iPhone 6.

Based on reports from Asian sources, TPK executives spent a portion of the company's Q3 2014 earning conference call explaining why it sees poorer than expected financial projections for the current quarter. TPK is allegedly supplying Apple with flexible displays that use silver nanowire touch screen technology for inclusion in the iWatch wearable.

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iWatch concept based on TRIWA's Havana Nevil Brown watch, by Gábor Balogh

Though the iWatch was not mentioned in the call, pundits believe TPK's shortfall is the result of a slip in the production schedule for the iWatch, which had been expected to be in production and contributing to TPK's bottom line during the third quarter. Now, the company is projecting an increase in profits during Q4 2014, suggesting the iWatch rollout may be slated for closer to the end of this year.

Shares of TPK stock dropped significantly late last week on the outlook.
At an investor conference Thursday, TPK forecast flat quarterly growth, or at best a 5 percent sequential increase, of its consolidated sales for the third quarter, citing decisions by its customers to postpone the launch of their new products. [...]

Sales growth, however, could pick up in September, TPK said, forecasting a break-even operating margin in the third quarter on higher operating costs.
This late start in production may result in Apple shipping fewer iWatch units than expected in 2014, claims analysts at CSLA, a leading Asian investment banking and asset management firm. Instead of shipping 20 million iWatch units by the end of the year, Apple may only be able to deliver a significantly smaller 6 million units. It is unknown if this lowered estimate will translate into a shortage of the device at launch.

Related roundup: iWatch

Apple TV Updated with CNBC and FOX NOW Channels

Apple today added two more channels to the Apple TV, delivering financial news channel CNBC and network FOX NOW to the platform.

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CNBC offers access to a live stream of the financial channel, as well as on-demand clips from news segments and full episodes of the channels "Prime" content original series. Viewing requires authentication with one of a number of cable and Internet providers. Notable cable companies not available for authentication include Time Warner and Charter.

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FOX NOW includes on-demand access to a number of shows from the network, including 24: Live Another Day, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Glee, and more. Authentication through a cable provider is required for full access to content.

Update 7:40 AM: Apple has also added TV2 Sumo [Google Translate], the online version of popular channel TV2, in Norway.

Update 8:48 AM: As noted by The Loop, Brazilian sports subscription channel Esporte Interativo has also been added in that country.

Related roundup: Apple TV

Apple Launches Retina MacBook Pros with Faster Haswell Processors, More RAM Standard

As indicated over the weekend and yesterday, Apple today launched refreshed 13-inch and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros.The new notebooks feature faster versions of Intel's Haswell processors, as all 13-inch models now come with 8GB of RAM standard while all 15-inch models now feature 16GB of RAM. The high end 15-inch model also received a $100 price cut, going from $2599 to $2499.

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New models include:

13-inch:
- $1299: 2.6 GHz dual-core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB flash storage
- $1499: 2.6 GHz dual-core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB flash storage
- $1799: 2.8 GHz dual-core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB flash storage

15-inch:
- $1999: 2.2 GHz quad-core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB flash storage
- $2499: 2.5 GHz quad-core i7 processor, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB flash storage

Build-to-order options now include a 3.0 GHz dual-core i7 processor on the 13-inch model and a 2.8 GHz quad-core i7 processor on the 15-inch model. Users can also now add up to 1 TB of flash storage for both the 13-inch and 15-inch models.

Alongside the refreshed line of Retina MacBook Pros, Apple's 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro received a price cut, going from $1199 to $1099. However, the machine has not been updated with faster internals and remains the same model introduced in June 2012.

Today's minor refresh is primarily a stopgap measure until Apple can launch a more significant update to its Retina MacBook Pro line once Intel's next-generation Broadwell processors hit the market. Broadwell chips appropriate for the MacBook Pro may, however, not arrive until mid-2015. Apple is also rumored to be working on a 12-inch Retina MacBook for 2015 which is said to feature an ultrathin chassis, a fan-less cooling system and a revamped trackpad.

Apple's refreshed Retina MacBook Pros are available today through the company's various retail locations and online store, with all standard configurations showing a shipping avaliability of "within 24 hours." The new notebooks will also be a part of Apple's back-to-school program, which gives qualified educational purchasers an Apple Store gift card of $100 with the purchase of a new Mac.

Update: Apple has issued a press release announcing the update.
“People love their MacBook Pro because of the thin and light, aluminum unibody design, beautiful Retina display, all day battery life and deep integration with OS X,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “The MacBook Pro with Retina display gets even better with faster processors, more memory, more affordable configurations and a free upgrade to OS X Yosemite this fall.”
Apple also highlights the price drop on the non-Retina model, noting the machine is popular with Windows switchers.

Related roundup: MacBook Pro

Hilton to Adopt Digital Check-In, Smartphone-Based Room Keys Worldwide

Hilton Worldwide, a company that operates thousands of hotels around the globe, today announced plans to roll out new mobile-based check-in and room selection tools, as well as digital smartphone-based room keys.

Hilton guests will be able to select their rooms online using their smartphones, which will be able to display floor plans for each available room. Guests will also be able to check-in/check-out using their smartphones, as well as purchase upgrades and make special requests for item deliveries.

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Room selection: At 6 a.m. the day before a booked stay, Hilton HHonors members can sign into their account via their mobile device, tablet or computer to check-in and choose their preferred room through floor plan maps or lists populated from the hotel's available inventory. Photos of rooms are also available to help with their selection. Hilton's digital lobby function is updated in real-time, so guests no longer have to wait until they are physically in the hotel lobby to be assigned a room.
While Hilton's new service is limited to check-ins and room selection at the current time, next year the hotel chain plans to allow guests to unlock their hotel rooms with their smartphones.

Hilton is planning to roll out its digital enhancements to select hotels during the summer and the fall, and by the end of 2014, smartphone-based check-ins and room selection will be available for more than 650,000 rooms across 4,000 hotels. The technology that allows smartphones to be used as room keys will begin rolling out in 2015, with wide availability in 2016.

Hilton is not the first hotel chain to begin allowing guests to enter their hotel rooms with their smartphones, as Starwood Hotels & Resorts implemented a pilot program to test the technology earlier this year. Hilton's eventual rollout will be much larger, however, and it also includes the aforementioned tools for personalized room selections and easy check-ins.

Bare Logic Boards for 4.7-Inch and 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 Compared in New Photos

Following the publication of several photos over the weekend showing what was claimed to be the bare logic board for the upcoming 4.7-inch iPhone 6, Nowherelse.fr now shares [Google Translate] a new set of photos showing the same part reportedly from the even larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 model.

The photos include side-by-side comparisons of the part from both iPhone 6 models and the iPhone 5s, and while it does not appear to be confirmed which iPhone 6 logic board is for which device size, there are now clearly two distinct parts larger than the current iPhone 5s logic board.

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Logic board fronts left to right: newly shown iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, previous iPhone 6
(Click for larger)

The component layout of the logic boards from the two iPhone 6 models appear very similar, but the board design and screw hole layout are somewhat different, particularly on the upper portion of the board including the arm extending across the top of the device above the battery. As with the first logic board, this part allegedly includes support for near field communications (NFC).

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Logic board backs left to right: newly shown iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, previous iPhone 6
(Click for larger)

While the legitimacy of the parts can not be confirmed, they do appear very similar to existing parts and exhibit complexity that would be expensive to fake. They also contain part numbers (820-3675-04 and 820-2486-09) in the pattern followed by Apple.

The iPhone 6 is expected to debut around the September timeframe, although it is unclear whether that launch will include both versions or only the 4.7-inch model. Rumors have been split on whether the 5.5-inch model will launch simultaneously or up to several months later due to production challenges.

Related roundups: iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6

Retina MacBook Pro Updates Reportedly Due Tuesday, July 29: Minor Haswell CPU Updates Expected

Following yesterday's reported spotting of in-store digital signage from an Apple retail store in China showing upgraded specs for the Retina MacBook Pro, MacG.co now claims [Google Translate] the update is set to arrive tomorrow, July 29. The information comes from a reliable source who has accurately predicted MacBook Air, iMac, and iPod touch updates in recent months, although the source was off by a few days on the iPod touch update timing.

Few details on the new Retina MacBook Pros are available from the source other than that the update will include both 13-inch and 15-inch models and that only minor changes to the internal model number (J44a and J45a respectively) point to a simple speed bump.

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The in-store digital signage had shown details on three 15-inch MacBook Pro models, all carrying "Haswell refresh" processors clocking in at 200 MHz faster than their counterparts currently used in the Retina MacBook Pro line. Those new Haswell chips were introduced by Intel last week, and we noted at the time that the list of three dual-core and three quad-core processors appeared almost custom tailored for a Retina MacBook Pro update.

In addition to the processor upgrades, the signage also pointed to a bump in RAM for the low-end 15-inch model, moving from 8 GB to 16 GB.

While the Retina MacBook Pro upgrade appears imminent, the minor update is in large part a stopgap measure as Apple and other manufacturers await Intel's much-delayed Broadwell family of processors. Broadwell chips appropriate for the Retina MacBook Pro may not be ready until as late as mid-2015.

Update 1:22 PM: MacRumors has received word that seven new model numbers are indeed incoming to retail stores, likely corresponding to the three stock configurations of the 13-inch model and two for the 15-inch model, along with a maxed-out "ultimate" configuration of each as is commonly carried in-store.

Related roundup: MacBook Pro

Microsoft Launches New Cortana vs. Siri Ad Showing Off Context-Aware Reminders

Microsoft today launched a new commercial comparing its new Cortana virtual assistant to Apple's virtual assistant Siri, demonstrating how the former is able to perform contextually-aware tasks using a number of services.


Titled "Happy Anniversary", the commercial shows Cortana and Windows Phone 8.1 running on the Nokia Lumia 635 as the narrator makes commands related around a wedding anniversary. First, the narrator asks Cortana to remind him to wish his wife a happy birthday he next time she calls, as the voice assistant schedules a reminder around the call. Meanwhile, Siri does not comply to the request.

The narrator then asks Cortana to remind him to get roses when he comes near any flower shop, while Siri once again does not comply. Finally, Cortana automatically gives a traffic reminder prompting the narrator to leave before traffic delays, as Siri finishes by saying "Now that is a smart phone."

This is the first time that Microsoft has demonstrated its new Cortana voice assistant against Siri, however the company has used Siri's voice to poke fun at the iPad in the past. Cortana was originally announced in April alongside Windows Phone 8.1, as Microsoft touted the virtual assistant's ability to tie reminders and tasks around people and locations. Notably, a Windows Phone manager said last month that the company wants Cortana to be "pervasive" among mobile platforms, perhaps indicating that Microsoft could expand Cortana to iOS and Android.

Apple Close to Acquiring Radio Streaming Service Swell for $30 Million

Apple is close to acquiring talk radio curation service Swell for about $30 million, reports Re/code. Swell's iOS app launched last year and allows users to listen to streaming audio from iTunes, NPR, ABC, ESPN and others through a design that emphasizes simplicity.

As a part of the acquisition, Swell will shut down its iOS app this week as its CEO Ram Ramkumar and other members of its development team will join Apple. Apple will likely look to use Swell's technology to improve its own Podcasts app, which holds a 1.5 star rating and has been widely criticized for performance issues. Users of Podcasts also experienced an outage last month, as the app constantly crashed upon opening.

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Swell's iOS app

Apple's purchase of Swell follows the acquisition of "Pandora for Books" startup BookLamp in April for a reported sum between $10 million and $15 million, as the company also acquired Beats Electronics this past May for $3 billion. It was revealed in the company's Q3 2014 results earnings call that it had acquired 29 companies since beginning of 2013, with 5 coming from beginning of March quarter, not including Beats.

Update 7/29 12 PM PT: Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Swell in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Chart Suggests Speed-Bumped 15-Inch Retina MacBook Pros with 16GB of RAM Standard Coming Soon

Apple may be planning to launch a slightly refreshed line of 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros complete with faster Haswell processors and 16GB of RAM standard, according to a photo said to have come from the company's Chongqing, China store (via BBS Feng, Google Translate).

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The purported pricing chart shows two standard configurations priced at 14,288 yuan and 18,688 yuan, which is the same as Apple's current pricing for its 15-inch notebook line in China. If real, this pricing chart would indicate that Apple would keep its current pricing instead of offering each new model for less as done for the MacBook Air earlier this year.

The first configuration comes with a faster Intel Core i7 2.2 GHz processor and 16GB of RAM standard compared to the current 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 and 8GB of RAM found on the current base model 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the second configuration features a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and the same 16GB of RAM, up from the current 2.3 GHz Intel Core i7 processor. Both models feature the same graphics, with the first configuration coming with Intel's Iris Pro graphics and the second coming with both the Iris Pro and NVIDIA's GeForce GT 750M.

A third high-end configuration priced at 23,688 yuan also appears on the chart, boasting a 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 1TB of flash storage, and Intel's Iris Pro graphics plus a NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M.

All of the processors listed on the chart correspond to Intel's new line of Core i7 Haswell processors launched last week, perhaps indicating that an updated 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro line may be imminent. Apple's line of 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros should also see an update in the near future, as Intel also launched new Core i5 Haswell processors alongside its refreshed i7 Haswell chips.

A minor refresh of the Retina MacBook Pro line was originally noted earlier this year alongside a rumored 12-inch Retina MacBook. According to the latest reports, the 12-inch Retina MacBook may be pushed back to next year because of Intel's delayed Broadwell chips.

Bare iPhone 6 Logic Board Surfaces, Claimed to Support NFC and 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Claimed internal components for the iPhone 6 are beginning to surface with increasing frequency as it is now likely less than two months until launch. In line with those developments, a new set of photos [Google Translate] shared by Nowhereelse.fr reveal what appears to be the bare logic board of the iPhone 6, likely the 4.7-inch model.

According to Nowehereelse.fr, the source who shared the photos of the parts claims the iPhone 6 will include support for both near field communication (NFC) and faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, although neither of those claims can be confirmed from the photos themselves. NFC for the iPhone has been rumored for years, but has yet to come to fruition and rumors are once again split as to whether the iPhone 6 will include the technology. 802.11ac seems to be a natural upgrade for the iPhone now that appropriate chips are available.

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The logic board bears a number of similarities to corresponding parts from other iPhones, although this part includes a much longer piece extending across what would be the top of the device. Given the larger body size of the iPhone 6, however, it is unsurprising that internal components could see some changes to their design and layout.

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Overlay of logic board and rear shell

Screw holes in the board also appear to line up with ones seen in recent leaks of claimed rear shell parts for the iPhone 6, indicating they are indeed likely from the same device.

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Annotation of likely iPhone 6 logic board component locations
(Click for larger)

With the photos showing only the bare printed board and no chips or other components installed, it is difficult to tell much new information from the part, although the locations of some components can be identified based on their similarities to other iPhone logic boards.

The iPhone 6 is expected to see a similar launch timeframe as in recent years, with a September media event introduction followed by a launch shortly after. While the 4.7-inch model is expected to follow this timeline, an even larger 5.5-inch model is said to still be in flux and may not debut until several months later.

Related roundups: iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6