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Apple Continues to Recruit Talent to Join Secretive Automotive Team

Apple continues to recruit talent to bolster its "Project Titan" team, which is rumored to be researching an electric vehicle. Over the past several weeks, the company has hired multiple employees from Tesla Motors, Texas Instruments, and other companies in the automotive and technology industries, likely to join hundreds of others already working on the so-called "Apple Car."

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Apple hired former Tesla Motors engineering manager Hal Ockerse last month to join its own software engineering team, according to his LinkedIn profile. Ockerse was employed at Tesla between July 2014 and August 2015, working on hardware architecture and advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) components, including cameras, radars, LiDAR, and engine control units (ECUs).

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Ockerse does not list his responsibilities at Apple, but it is likely that he is working on Apple's car-related project. His experience prior to Tesla includes an eleven-year stint at Gentex Corporation, where as a research manager he worked on advanced driver assist solutions, a three-axis automotive electronic compass, custom designed HDR image cameras and sensors, and more.

Apple also recruited former Texas Instruments design engineer Subhagato Dutta to join its in-house technologies team in July. Dutta is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, known for its research on self-driving vehicles, and worked on an automotive algorithm and imaging algorithm development team at Texas Instruments between July 2012 and November 2013.

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Yakshu Madaan joined Apple as a technical program manager in July, according to his LinkedIn profile. Madaan previously served as an operations manager at Tata Motors, the largest Indian automotive manufacturer, between July 2012 and August 2014. Madaan also designed and developed fuel injection strategies as a research assistant at the Indian Institute of Technology and UBC in early 2011.

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Apple has been recruiting automotive experts since at least February for its automotive-related project, including former Tesla, Ford and GM employees, but there still remains some uncertainty as to whether Apple is working on its own vehicle or building upon its CarPlay platform for an enhanced in-car experience. As expected, the project remains highly secretive in Cupertino.

Last week, it was reported that former Tesla firmware engineer Jamie Carlson left the company to join Apple's "Special Projects" group in August, alongside several other autonomous vehicle experts. Apple also hired Doug Betts, former Senior Vice President of the Chrysler Group, and Paul Furgale, a researcher who specializes in autonomous vehicles, according to a report in July.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
Tags: linkedin.com, Tesla, Texas Instruments

Apple Watch Could Launch in Austria, Denmark and India This Month

Apple is expected to provide additional details about watchOS 2 at its September 9th media event in San Francisco. Alongside that announcement, a trio of rumors hint towards Apple expanding Apple Watch sales to Austria, Denmark, India and possibly other countries later this month.

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Austrian website MacMania claims that the Apple Watch will be available in Austria starting September 15, citing information it received over Facebook Messenger from a reputable source working for an undisclosed large electronics chain in the country. Apple does not have an official retail presence in Austria.

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MacMania reports the Apple Watch will launch in Austria on September 15

Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark, also recently issued a press release stating that its MobilePay service will support the Apple Watch when the device launches in Denmark next month (via Rec.dk), but the bank has since backtracked and now cites "rumors" about a September launch.

Danske Bank has a large presence throughout the Nordic region of Europe, with locations in Denmark, Finland and Norway, three countries where the Apple Watch is slated to launch before the end of the year per Apple's website. The bank also operates in Sweden, where the Apple Watch launched in July.

Indian website iGyaan claims that the Apple Watch will launch in India in September, starting at Rs. 24,999 for the entry-level Apple Watch Sport. "However we have some good news for those waiting to get their hands on the device," the report said in late August. "It arrives in the country next month."

The full list of countries where the Apple Watch will be "available in 2015" includes Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, India, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Apple also has an Apple Watch preview website live in Latin America, but no launch date is provided.

Apple has launched the Apple Watch in 22 countries to date in four waves:

  • April 24: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, U.K. and U.S.
  • June 26: Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan
  • July 17: The Netherlands, Sweden, Thailand
  • July 31: New Zealand, Russia, Turkey

    It should be noted that all four dates listed above were Fridays, so there is a possibility that Denmark's rumored Apple Watch launch date of Tuesday, September 15 is inaccurate. But with "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" pre-orders expected on Friday, September 11, ahead of a Friday, September 18 launch, and watchOS 2 expected midweek, Apple could go for an unusual date.

    Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
    Tags: India, Austria, Denmark
    Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
  • Apple Reportedly Exploring Producing Original TV Shows

    Apple has been having early discussions with Hollywood executives about producing original video programming in a bid to potentially compete against companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, according to a new report from Variety.

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    Sources indicate the Cupertino, Calif. colossus has held preliminary conversations in recent weeks with executives in Hollywood to suss out their interest in spearheading efforts to produce entertainment content. The unit putting out the feelers reports into Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s point man on all content-related matters, from its negotiations with programmers for Apple TV to its recent faceoff with Taylor Swift.
    It's currently unclear how large Apple's ambitions and commitment to producing original video content are, as sources have told Variety contradictory things about the Cupertino company's plans. One source says Apple wants to create development and production departments that could create long-term content like Netflix does with original TV shows and movies. Another source says Apple is "flirting" with the idea, and launched an "unprecedented bid" to sign Top Gear stars Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond when they left the BBC. However, Amazon ended up winning that bidding war.

    In recent years, Apple has hired independent film content experts to shore up iTunes Movies' independent offerings with exclusive windows on films and a broader selection of content, including offering movies available for rent before or during their theatrical runs.

    More recently, Apple has expanded into original content with its worldwide Beats 1 Radio station and music videos for artists like Drake, Eminem and M.I.A., which are reportedly produced in-house. With Apple's rumored live TV-over-the-internet service coming in 2016, it's likely the Cupertino company could be looking for original and exclusive content to lure customers to its service rather than its competitors.

    Related Roundup: Apple TV
    Tag: variety.com
    Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

    Samsung Announces Round 'Gear S2' Smart Watch

    Samsung today unveiled its newest smart watch, the Samsung Gear S2, which is the company's first watch that includes a round display instead of one that's square or rectangular.

    Positioned as Samsung's seventh smart watch release, the Gear S2 comes in three varieties: Classic, standard, and 3G. The Classic version includes a black case with a black leather band, while the standard version includes a dark gray case with a matching rubber band or a silver case with a white rubber band. According to Samsung, the Classic model is for users "who prefer a more timeless watch design," while the standard model is "ideal for those who are on-the-go and have an admiration for minimal and modern design."

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    The third model, the 3G Gear S2, features the same design as the standard model but includes a 3G radio to connect to 3G cellular networks. With dedicated 3G capabilities, the 3G Gear S2 can be used without a phone, unlike the Apple Watch and most other smart watches on the market.
    "For the past several years, Samsung has pioneered and advanced the wearables category, bringing brave new concepts to the smart wearables market," said JK Shin, CEO and Head of Samsung's IT & Mobile Business. "The Samsung Gear S2 reflects Samsung's most progressive innovation. It is the perfect complement for any occasion, easily taking you from day to night, from work to workout--and ensuring that you get more out of every moment in your day, by making it smarter and ultimately more personal and fun."
    Each of the 11.4 millimeter thick Gear S2 watches includes a 1.2-inch diameter touch display with a resolution of 360 x 360 (302 pixels per inch), a 1 GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of storage space. It charges wirelessly, has two to three days of battery life, and includes NFC, WiFi, and Bluetooth. On the battery front it outshines the Apple Watch depending on use, but it has less storage space than the Apple Watch's 8GB.

    The bezel of the Gear S2 rotates, a feature that's used to navigate through the operating system to interact with apps, and it also uses dedicated Home and Back buttons. Samsung plans to release apps and watch faces designed specifically for the circular display of the Gear S2. Taking a cue from Apple, Samsung designed a new 24-hour fitness activity log for the Gear S2, which will let users view daily progress and get reminders to help them stay on track with fitness goals.

    Samsung's Gear S2 watch runs the Tizen operating system instead of Android, making it incompatible with the Android Wear app for iOS that Google launched earlier today.

    Samsung has not yet released pricing details on the Gear S2 or provided a release date, but the company plans to provide more information at the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin, which starts later this week.

    Apple TV Gains Updated NFL Channel With Game Pass Integration

    The Apple TV's existing NFL Now channel was today revamped, changing the name to "NFL" and adding support for Game Pass subscriptions. Through the updated channel, NFL fans who have a Game Pass subscription can watch on-demand NFL games and live out-of-market preseason games on the Apple TV for the first time.

    In late July, the NFL did away with its existing NFL Game Rewind program, which previously gave customers in the United States access to on-demand NFL games after they aired on broadcast television. Game Rewind was replaced with Game Pass, with access being added to the Apple TV and the NFL Mobile app on the iPhone and the iPad.

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    The prior NFL Now channel that was on the Apple TV was limited to historic videos, breaking news, and game highlights rather than complete games as the NFL's contracts with television providers have previously prevented it from showing full game content on the television through the Apple TV.

    Game Pass includes live access to most out-of-market preseason games, aside from those that are nationally broadcast, plus on-demand regular season, playoff, and Super Bowl games that are available after they air on broadcast television.

    Game Pass is available in the United States, Bermuda, Antigua, the Bahamas, any U.S. territories, possessions and commonwealths (including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands), and Mexico. An NFL Game Pass subscription is priced at $99.99 and access to content will last until July 31, 2016.

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    NFL fans outside of the United States also have access to an international "Game Pass" service that offers up live games and on-demand content, which confusingly shares the same name as the new service available in the United States.

    (Thanks, Dale!)

    Related Roundup: Apple TV
    Tags: NFL, NFL Game Pass
    Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

    University of Oklahoma Becomes First School to Accept Apple Pay Across Campus

    applepayoklahomaAs of this week, the University of Oklahoma will begin accepting Apple Pay across its entire campus, becoming the first university to widely embrace Apple Pay. Students attending the University of Oklahoma can use Apple Pay at any of the campus's 400 point-of-service locations, including bookstores, restaurants, and more.
    Starting this week, Sooners are now able to pay for items at any one of OU's 400 point-of-service locations -- everywhere from Couch Restaurants to the One University Store and the OU Bookstore. That's right: Buying textbooks, technology and food on campus has never been easier -- or more techy.
    In a quirky post announcing Apple Pay, the university created a list of reasons why "having Apple Pay campus wide is so awesome," ranging from being able to pay without a wallet to the security of the transactions.

    The University of Oklahoma appears to be the first college to begin accepting Apple Pay campus wide, but in the near future, more than 700 universities and colleges will adopt the payments service. Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement during the company's third-quarter earnings call, specifically naming the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kentucky, and Auburn University, Cook's own alma mater.

    Since its October 2014 debut, Apple Pay has steadily grown in popularity. Apple Pay works with hundreds of debit and credit cards in the United States and it is accepted at more than 1 million locations across the country.

    (Thanks, Joshua!)

    Related Roundup: Apple Pay

    Apple and Cisco Team Up for iOS Enterprise 'Fast Lane'

    Apple today sent out a press release announcing a new partnership with Cisco, which will see the two companies teaming up to create a "fast lane" for iOS business users through the optimization of Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps. The partnership will allow iOS devices to work more efficiently in workplaces that use Cisco technology.

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    iOS is the world's best mobile platform, and nearly every Fortune 500 and Global 500 company today has put iOS at the center of their mobile strategy," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "iPhone and iPad have become essential tools for the modern workforce and are changing the way work gets done. Together with Cisco, we believe we can give businesses the tools to maximize the potential of iOS and help employees become even more productive using the devices they already love."
    Through the partnership, iOS devices and Cisco networks will be optimized to work together to enhance productivity for enterprise users. Apple and Cisco are aiming to make the iPhone a better business collaboration tool for use with Cisco's voice and video environments, "providing employees with a seamless experience between their iPhone and their desk phone."


    Cisco will create "experiences" tailored to iOS devices across mobile, cloud applications, and collaboration tools like Cisco Spark, Cisco Telepresence, and Cisco WebEx to improve collaborative interactions and "reinvent the meeting experience.

    Apple Seeds Eighth Beta of OS X El Capitan to Developers, Sixth Beta to Public Testers

    Apple today released the eighth beta of OS X El Capitan to developers for testing purposes, nearly two weeks after releasing the seventh El Capitan beta and more than two months after unveiling the operating system at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference.

    Today's update, build 15A279b, is available through the software update mechanism in the Mac App Store and through the Apple Developer Center. There's also a new sixth beta for public beta testers, which is identical to the eighth developer beta.

    It is not clear if this update will add any outward-facing changes to El Capitan, as many of the prior betas have focused on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes to optimize the operating system ahead of its public release, but beta 7 did add some minor cosmetic updates to El Capitan.

    As an update complementary to OS X Yosemite, OS X El Capitan builds on the myriad features introduced last year. Behind-the-scenes improvements in El Capitan make a number of apps and processes on the Mac faster, and the introduction of Metal makes system-level graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient.


    El Capitan introduces a new system-wide font, a revamped Mission Control feature, a split-view feature for using two full-screen apps at once, deeper functionality for Spotlight, and improvements to Safari that include Pinned Sites and a universal mute button.

    OS X 10.11 El Capitan is currently available to both registered developers and public beta testers. Apple plans to release El Capitan to the public in the fall.

    Related Roundup: OS X El Capitan

    Android Wear Now Compatible With iPhone, iOS App Launches Today

    Google announced today that Android Wear is now compatible with the iPhone 5 or later running at least iOS 8.2. An official Android Wear for iOS [Direct Link] companion app is rolling out on the App Store today worldwide.

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    Android Wear for iPhone has several features familiar to Android users, including third-party watch faces, fitness tracking, notifications, Google Now and voice searches. Android Wear for iPhone will also have Google apps such as Weather and Translate preinstalled, but third-party iOS apps are not supported due to Apple's restrictions.

    Google has attempted to work around Apple's limitations, but Android Wear for iPhone still has some locked-down functionality compared to what is possible with a paired Android smartphone. Rich notifications, for example, are only supported for a handful of stock Google apps, while the selection of watch faces is limited due to the lack of third-party app support.

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    Android Wear for iOS is compatible with the new LG Watch Urbane, upcoming Huawei Watch and Asus ZenWatch 2 and all future Android Wear smartwatches out of the box. Android Wear for iOS does not officially support existing Android Wear smartwatches such as the Moto 360 or Samsung Gear, but most users find that older models do work after a factory reset.


    The Verge has published an extensive hands-on of Android Wear for iPhone alongside the announcement.

    Related Roundups: iPhone 6, iPhone 6s (2015)
    Tags: Google, Android Wear
    Buyer's Guide: iPhone (Don't Buy)

    The Weeknd Stars in Two-Part Apple Music Ad During MTV VMAs

    Apple debuted a new two-part Apple Music ad featuring The Weeknd during the 2015 MTV VMAs on Sunday night. The one-minute spots show The Weeknd walking backstage after performing at the VMAs, getting into a limo driven by actor John Travolta and listening to Beats 1 Radio while scrolling through his artist page on Apple Music Connect.


    The Weeknd then arrives at an VMAs afterparty with his single "The Hills" playing and shuffles through additional songs from an Apple Music playlist, followed by the tagline "It's all in your head. Create your own party. Unlimited music for $9.99."

    The Weeknd was one of the most played artists on Beats 1 since the radio station went live on June 30, alongside Drake, Disclosure, Fetty Wap, Jamie xx, A$AP Rocky, Years & Years, Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala and Major Lazer.


    Apple launched a worldwide advertising campaign for its new streaming music service earlier this month, with billboards, posters and other signage appearing in cities including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto and Mexico City. Later in August, Apple released three artist-focused Apple Music ads starring James Bay and Kygo.

    Next-Generation Apple TV Said to Launch in October for $149 or $199

    Apple's fourth-generation Apple TV will be released in October with a starting price of $149 or $199, according to 9to5Mac. The report claims that Apple will also continue selling the third-generation Apple TV for $69 as an entry-level device, although the set-top box is not expected to have support for an App Store or Siri.

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    The report adds that Apple's much-rumored streaming TV service will be available "as soon as next year" through a software update for both the third-generation and fourth-generation Apple TV. The web-based TV service is expected to deliver a lightweight package of about 25 channels for around $40 per month.

    The new Apple TV is rumored to feature a dual-core A8 processor, an App Store with a native SDK for developers, Siri voice control, HomeKit integration, a new user interface and a redesigned remote control with motion sensors, a touchpad on the top, physical buttons on the bottom and a microphone.

    Apple is expected to announce the new Apple TV at its September 9th media event.

    Related Roundup: Apple TV
    Tag: streaming TV service
    Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

    Apple TV Said to Have Motion Sensitive Remote Control Targeted at Casual Gamers

    appletvremoteIn a report corroborating several oft-rumored features of the next-generation Apple TV, including an A8 chip and a native SDK for creating apps, TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino has revealed that the set-top box will also have a motion sensitive remote control with multi-axis sensors, a touchpad on the top, physical buttons on the bottom and a microphone for Siri.

    Panzarino claims the redesigned remote control will likely be targeted at casual gamers:
    A game controller with a microphone, physical buttons, a touchpad and motion sensitive controls would be extremely capable. While Apple is likely going to target the broad casual gaming market, I would not be shocked to see innovative gameplay blossom from that type of input possibility. Think, for instance, of multi-player gaming with several people using voice input, or many popular genres of party games that would do far better on the TV than on an iPad or iPhone.
    A new Apple TV with an App Store and easy-to-use controller could lure a significant number of casual gamers away from competing platforms such as Nintendo, in the same way that smartphones have undermined other handheld gaming devices. Coupled with on-demand movies and TV shows, home automation and a streaming TV service, the new Apple TV could dominate the living room.

    Almost instantaneously, the Apple TV will no longer be Apple's "hobby" product.
    If Apple did indeed ‘delay’ the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.
    Apple is expected to announce the new Apple TV at its September 9th media event.

    Related Roundup: Apple TV
    Tag: techcrunch.com
    Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)