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Apple's Machine Learning Has Cut Siri's Error Rate by a Factor of Two

Steven Levy has published an in-depth article about Apple's artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts, after meeting with senior executives Craig Federighi, Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, and two Siri scientists at the company's headquarters.

Apple provided Levy with a closer look at how machine learning is deeply integrated into Apple software and services, led by Siri, which the article reveals has been powered by a neural-net based system since 2014. Apple said the backend change greatly improved the personal assistant's accuracy.
"This was one of those things where the jump was so significant that you do the test again to make sure that somebody didn’t drop a decimal place," says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services.
Alex Acero, who leads the Siri speech team at Apple, said Siri's error rate has been lowered by more than a factor of two in many cases.
“The error rate has been cut by a factor of two in all the languages, more than a factor of two in many cases,” says Acero. “That’s mostly due to deep learning and the way we have optimized it — not just the algorithm itself but in the context of the whole end-to-end product.”
Acero told Levy he was able to work directly with Apple's silicon design team and the engineers who write the firmware for iOS devices to maximize performance of the neural network, and Federighi added that Apple building both hardware and software gives it an "incredible advantage" in the space.
"It's not just the silicon," adds Federighi. "It's how many microphones we put on the device, where we place

Fake 'iPhone 6 SE' Packaging Surfaces Online

A handful of photos claimed to show packaging for a device called the "iPhone 6 SE" have surfaced online today, presumably countering rumors that the next iPhone will be called the iPhone 7, but the photos have quite clearly been digitally altered.

The photos have circulated on a number of sites with varying amounts of redaction, but the highest quality, least edited versions we've found were shared by frequent Weibo leaker "KK", who notes he collected them from other users and doesn't believe Apple will use the "iPhone 6 SE" name.

On the rear of the box shown in the photos, multiple lines of text have been Photoshopped, including both mentions of the name "iPhone6 SE," placing the six on the tail end of "iPhone" with none of Apple's traditional spacing. There are also font and background color discrepancies in the areas of the crucial text, telltale signs of manipulation.

In addition to the iPhone 6 SE name, other text lines appearing to be Photoshopped include a 2016 copyright date at the very bottom and an A1758 model number halfway through the large block of text at the top.

The other angles of the package have slightly skewed typography for the iPhone 6 SE title, further confirming the name's blend of text and logos from the iPhone 6 and iPhone SE packaging, which would be easily obtained online and used to edit a photo of an older model box.

The front of the box is also curiously omitted from the images shared today. Although the front-facing part of the iPhone 7 is expected to be largely similar to the iPhone 6 and 6s, subtle clues like glimpses

Tim Cook Reaches Five Years as Apple CEO, Unlocks Over $100 Million in Bonuses

Today marks the fifth anniversary since Tim Cook was named Apple CEO on August 24, 2011, the same day that late co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down as chief executive for the final time and recommended the board of directors appoint Cook as his permanent successor.

Upon reaching the five-year mark, Cook has today unlocked previously awarded stock bonuses currently worth over $100 million. The bonuses are tied to both his tenure and Apple's performance under his leadership, including its total shareholder return relative to the S&P 500 index.

Cook's bonus includes 700,000 tenure-based restricted stock units that vested today as part of a larger compensation package of over 4.7 million shares awarded on August 24, 2011, in addition to his first of six annual installments of 280,000 tenure-based restricted stock units that vested today. The combined 980,000 shares are valued at nearly $106.7 million based on AAPL's closing price of $108.85 on Tuesday.

Cook's bonus could be even higher if Apple's total shareholder return is in the middle third or top third relative to other companies in the S&P 500 from August 25, 2013 through August 24, 2016. He will receive another 140,000 RSUs for middle third performance, or 280,000 RSUs for top third performance. AAPL has risen around 52% since August 25, 2013, while the S&P 500 has risen around 32% in the same time period, making at least a middle third finish a strong possibility.

A restricted stock unit, or RSU, is a form of compensation valued in terms of company stock, but the stock is not issued at the time of the grant.

Australian Retailers Back Banks' Right to Negotiate With Apple

Australian retail giant Coles, the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA), and the Australian Retailers Association have all expressed their support to allow some of the country's banks to collectively negotiate with Apple over access to its NFC-based digital payment technology (via ZDNEt).

Last month, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank (NAB), and Westpac lodged a joint application with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to negotiate with Apple because they want to be able to use digital wallets they have already financed and developed, rather than be tied into using just Apple Pay.

Apple lambasted the banks over the application, and last week the request was denied by the ACCC to give the antitrust regulator more time to consult and consider the views of all the parties involved.

However, in a letter of support sent to the ACCC, retailer Coles argued that giving the banks the ability to negotiate with Apple will enhance the experience for customers, as well as improve the transparency of costs related to credit card processing fees.
We believe the ability to tailor solutions for customers and provide them with greater value should be the driver for customer choice and not a technical lockout that many consumers may not have realized would be imposed when they purchased their mobile device.
The APCA also backed the banks, claiming enabling them to negotiate will encourage greater innovation and enhance competition in the payments markets, and ultimately deliver benefits to consumers and merchants.

"We consider that the

Apple's Deep Pockets Affecting Spotify Contract Renewals

Several of Spotify's contracts are up for renewal and the high rates Apple pays record labels are affecting Spotify's negotiations, reports MusicBusinessWorldwide. As it considers a future IPO, Spotify is aiming to strike long-term deals with record labels at lower rates, while labels want Spotify to pay as much as Apple does.

Spotify reportedly pays record labels 55 percent of its revenue, while Apple Music pays 58 percent (Apple is also said to pay more to publishers than Spotify does). Spotify was initially given a "marketing discount," but now record labels want Spotify to pay what Apple pays. Meanwhile, Spotify, in an effort to become profitable, wants to pay less.
The major labels, unimpressed with some of Spotify's recent spending decisions, believe that now's the time to up this figure. So where do they want to take it?

Well, it's common knowledge that Apple Music is paying 58% of revenue to labels - after users' free trial periods have finished. The majors want Spotify to move its revenue share up towards that point.

Loss-making Spotify, though, is attempting to push this revenue share down, say MBW's sources. Yup: that means paying labels and artists a smaller slice of the proceeds.
Spotify is arguing that Apple's revenue share rate only applies after a three-month free trial and that it simply doesn't have the spending power of Apple, Google, or Amazon, three of its main competitors all with deep pockets, large user bases, and other sources of revenue.

Negotiations remain "optimistic" according to MBW's sources, and the "likely outcome" is a licensing

Growing Number of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Devices Affected by Insidious 'Touch Disease'

As the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus approach their second birthday, a growing number of users are suffering from what appears to be a latent manufacturing issue that presents as a gray flickering bar at the top of the screen and a display that's unresponsive or less responsive to touch.

In a new blog post and video, repair site iFixit says a number of third-party repair outlets have seen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models affected by the bug, which appears to be very common. STS Telecom owner Jason Villmer says he sees faulty iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models multiple times a week, while another repair tech in Louisiana sees up to 100 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices that don't respond well to touch.

"This issue is widespread enough that I feel like almost every iPhone 6/6+ has a touch of it (no pun intended) and are like ticking bombs just waiting to act up," says Jason Villmer, owner of STS Telecom--a board repair shop in Missouri. [...]
iFixit is calling the problem "Touch Disease," and says Apple appears to be aware of the issue based on dozens of complaints on Apple's support forum, but isn't "doing anything about it." Multiple people who brought their iPhones to Apple Stores were told that Apple doesn't recognize it as an issue and nothing could be done as their iPhones were out of warranty.

Putting pressure on the display of an affected iPhone or twisting the device appears to reverse the issue for a short period, but the gray bar returns and touch functionality grows worse and worse until the touchscreen stops functioning entirely.

Replacing the display doesn't work as the problem

Kanex's 'GoPower Watch' Portable Battery for Apple Watch Now Available for $100

Kanex today made its GoPower Watch, one of the first MFi-certified portable batteries for Apple Watch, available for purchase for $99.95. The cordless, portable 1A/3.70V charging solution has a built-in 4,000 mAh lithium-ion battery that can charge an Apple Watch up to six times before it needs to be recharged itself.

GoPower Watch has a built-in magnetic charging puck, the same one that comes with the Apple Watch, and a USB port for simultaneously charging an iPhone with a Lightning cable. It has pass-through charging while connected to power via Micro-USB, meaning that Apple devices charge first, and then the battery pack recharges.

To charge an Apple Watch or iPhone, simply press the button on the front of the GoPower Watch. The LED indicator displays battery levels and charge status.

GoPower Watch is available in Space Gray for $99.95 on Kanex's website. The portable battery works with all 38mm and 42mm Apple Watch

Apple Seeds Seventh Beta of macOS Sierra to Developers and Public Beta Testers

Apple today released the seventh beta of macOS Sierra, the newest operating system designed for the Mac, to developers and public beta testers. macOS Sierra beta 7 comes one week after the release of the sixth beta and two months after the software was first unveiled at Apple's 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Developers and public beta testers can download today's update through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store. Developers can also download the beta from the Apple Developer Center.

macOS Sierra is a major update that brings Siri to the Mac for the first time, allowing users to conduct voice searches to quickly find files, look up information, and more. New Continuity features offer an "Auto Unlock" option for unlocking a Mac with an Apple Watch and a "Universal Clipboard" for copying text on one Apple device and pasting it on another.

Deeper iCloud integration allows files stored on the desktop or the Documents folder of a Mac to be accessed on all of a user's devices, and Photos features deep learning algorithms for improved facial, object, and scene recognition. There's also a Memories feature for displaying photo collections, and Messages has rich links, bigger emoji, and "Tapback" response options.

Apple Pay is coming to the web in macOS Sierra, with payments authenticated through an iPhone or Apple Watch, and new features like multiple tabs, Picture in Picture multitasking, optimized storage, and revamped emoji are also available.

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macOS Sierra is currently available

iPhone 6s Bests Samsung's New Galaxy Note 7 in App Speed Test

Earlier this month, Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note 7, its newest smartphone with a 14-nanometer Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core 64-bit processor, 4GB RAM, a 12-megapixel camera, waterproofing, and wireless charging.

Spec wise, the Galaxy Note 7 seems to best the dual-core A9 processor and the 2GB RAM of the iPhone 6s, but based on a new speed test, it's clear raw hardware can't quite match superior hardware and software integration when it comes to real world usage.

In the performance comparison in which the two phones simultaneously launched the same apps, Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 was thoroughly defeated by the iPhone 6s, despite the Note 7's cutting edge hardware and the fact that it's a year newer than Apple's latest iPhone.


The iPhone was able to launch apps in succession at a much faster rate than the Galaxy Note 7, launching 14 apps (including rendering a video) in one minute and 21 seconds and eventually lapping the Galaxy Note 7, which took two minutes and four seconds to complete the same tasks. The iPhone was able to cycle through two laps of the app test in one minute and 51 seconds, while the Note 7 took two minutes and 49 seconds, almost a full minute longer.

This is just a single test that compares an unusual usage scenario, but it does suggest Apple's efforts to deeply integrate hardware and software give the iPhone some significant benefits compared to even the latest Android devices.

Apple will be announcing a new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in the near future with improved hardware that includes a faster, more efficient A10 processor

Apple Announces 2016 Apple Music Festival in London

Apple today announced its 2016 Apple Music Festival, a free annual concert series that will see big name artists performing at the London Roundhouse. This year's event will take place from September 18 to September 30.

Apple Music Festival 10 returns to London in September for 10 exhilarating nights of live music. Residents of the UK can win tickets to the gigs. Apple Music members around the world can watch the performances for free. Ticket applications will be opening soon. Follow @AppleMusic on Twitter and Snapchat for up-to-the minute information and join the #AMF10 conversation.
In 2015, Apple made some significant changes to the festival, which was called the iTunes Festival in the years before the launch of Apple Music. Prior to 2015, the event lasted for a full 30 days, but was scaled down to 10 days with the revamp. Apple also now offers the music festival performances live and on-demand in the Apple Music App.

Though this is the second annual Apple Music festival, Apple has been holding the festival for a total of 10 years, so 2016 marks the 10th anniversary music event.

For the 2016 Apple Music Festival, Apple has not yet announced the acts that will be performing. Unveilings will be done gradually in the weeks leading up to the event, with most new information coming from Beats 1

Apple's 2017 Curved OLED iPhone to Be a New Premium Model

Apple is planning to release at least three new iPhones next year, including a high-end model with a 5.5-inch-or-larger OLED display that is curved on both sides like Samsung's Galaxy S7 edge, according to Nikkei. The other two models are said to be 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models with flat LCD displays like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, corroborating previous reports.

The report reiterates that Samsung is expected to be Apple's primary supplier of OLED displays, but it may be unable to fully keep up with demand for both iPhones and its own Galaxy smartphones. Recognizing the opportunity, Apple manufacturer Foxconn has been developing glass casings and OLED displays over the past year, in hopes of securing orders from its biggest customer next year.

Apple's widely rumored transition towards OLED in 2017 is requisite for curved displays, while the technology also provides improved contrast, faster response times, better viewing angles, better power efficiency for typical mixed image content, and other benefits compared to LCD technology. Samsung's Galaxy S7 makes a compelling case for Apple's rumored switch to OLED technology.

Today's report corroborates KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who earlier said Apple may launch an all-new iPhone with a curved 5.8-inch AMOLED display and glass casing in 2017. Kuo's research note outlined three new iPhone models, including LCD-based 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models and a high-end OLED-based 5.8-inch model, as one possibility providing supply of AMOLED displays is sufficient.

When applied to the height of an existing

Apple Acquires Personal Health Data Recording Platform 'Gliimpse'

Apple has acquired personal health and wellness startup Gliimpse, continuing its push into the health and fitness landscape that it began focusing on with the launch of the Apple Watch.

The company made the acquisition earlier in the year, according to Fast Company, but Apple has now confirmed the purchase with its usual response: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Gliimpse is a personal health platform that collects various fitness-related pieces of data for its users "to collect, personalize, and share a picture of their health data" at different stages of their personal journey. The company was funded by entrepreneur Anil Sethi and was founded in 2013, following Sethi's inspiration to create an easy way to track health data as he watched his sister battle breast cancer.
Gliimpse™ began with a simple idea – everyone should be able to manage their health records, and share them securely with those they trust. Currently in stealth, Gliimpse is healthcare’s platform for building patient-centric apps. By unlocking hospital silos, we aggregate fragmented data into Medicare mandated patient summaries. Gliimpse is your personal health history, in the palm of your hands.
As seen on the company's website, Gliimpse also lets users make daily journal entries to chronicle their emotional state of mind, track lab results, record levels of pain to inform a physician, and other privacy features that ensure each user's data stays secure. These features mark Gliimpse as a more healthcare-focused