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Apple Working on Amazon Echo Competitor, Opening Siri Up to Developers

Apple is actively developing a product that would compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports The Information. Citing a source with direct knowledge of Apple's plans, the report suggests Apple is working on a Siri-based device that would include a speaker and microphone that could be used for features like listening to music, getting news headlines, and more.

In addition to developing such a device, Apple is planning to improve Siri by opening the voice assistant up to outside developers. Apple is said to be preparing to release a Siri software development kit that would allow developers to make their apps and their app content accessible through Siri voice commands. Apple plans to require developers to use the tool responsibly.

Opening Siri up to third-party developers will go a long way towards expanding the capabilities of Apple's virtual assistant. Right now, Siri only works with a handful of apps like OpenTable and Yelp, and Apple has been hesitant to develop a Siri API and improve Siri's functionality because of privacy concerns.

According to The Information, a Siri SDK could be introduced as soon as WWDC, meaning third-party Siri access would be built into iOS 10 and perhaps OS X 10.12, which is also rumored to be gaining Siri support.

Both Amazon and Google have developed robust in-home personal assistant devices built around their respective AI platforms, which Apple hopes to compete with. The products are able to perform a wide range of features, from giving weather reports and answering queries to controlling smart home devices like light

Apple Seeds First iOS 9.3.3 Beta to Public Beta Testers

Apple today released the first beta of an upcoming iOS 9.3.3 update for public beta testers, one day after seeding the first iOS 9.3.3 beta to developers. iOS 9.3.3 comes one week after the release of iOS 9.3.2, an update focusing primarily on bug fixes.

Beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program will receive the iOS 9.3.3 update over-the-air after installing the proper certificate on their iOS device.

Those who want to be a part of Apple's beta testing program can sign up to participate through the beta testing website, which gives users access to both iOS and OS X betas.

As another minor 9.x.x update, iOS 9.3.3 appears to include mainly under-the-hood bug fixes and performance improvements to address issues that have been discovered since the release of iOS 9.3.2. iOS 9.3.3 is not yet available for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro due to an iOS 9.3.2 issue that has caused some 9.7-inch iPad Pro devices to be bricked.

No outward-facing changes or immediately apparent bug fixes were discovered in the first developer beta of iOS

Apple Rehires Security and Encryption Expert Jon Callas Following FBI Dispute

Following its very public encryption battle with the FBI, Apple has rehired software engineer and and security expert Jon Callas, reports Reuters. Callas, who has previously worked at Apple, is known for co-founding encrypted communications services Silent Circle, Blackphone, and PGP Corporation.

Apple's decision to rehire Callas comes amid rumors the company is working on improving the security of its iOS devices. Apple has said it will continually improve security to keep ahead of hackers, and its dispute with the FBI is said to have spurred the company begin work on implementing security measures "even it can't hack."

Earlier this year, Apple was ordered to assist the FBI in the unlocking of the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, an order it fought because the FBI was asking for new software that would bypass iPhone passcode security measures. Apple insisted the software was "too dangerous to create," setting dangerous precedents that could lead to a weakening of overall device encryption. The FBI eventually dropped the case after finding an alternate method to breach the iPhone, but the fight over encryption is far from over.

According to Reuters, Callas supports Apple's position and is opposed to companies being compelled to break their own encryption by the government, but he believes law enforcement officials should be able to take advantage of software vulnerabilities, the method the FBI ultimately used to get into Farook's iPhone 5c.
Callas has said he is against companies being compelled by law enforcement to break into their own

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Health Industry is 'Ripe for Simplicity and a New View'

Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke this morning at Startup Fest Europe, a festival geared towards helping startups grow, where he gave some sage business advice and shared some insight into Apple's future plans in the television and healthcare industries.

Some of Cook's most interesting comments were on healthcare, which has been a focus for Apple in recent years with ResearchKit, HealthKit, and the Apple Watch. According to Cook, healthcare could be significantly improved through the use of apps and it's one area where the App Store has potential for growth.


Cook went on to say that health is something that interests Apple because it's an area where hardware, software, and services can come together into "something that's magical." Apple said health is a "huge problem in the world" that's ripe for a revamp.
The things that interest us the most are things where we can bring our ability to integrate hardware, software, and services into something that's magical and enriches people in some way. If you look at some of the things we're doing that do not drive revenue but they have massive interest in them from our teams - health is very much one of those. [...]

The net of that is we believe that health is something that is a huge problem in the world, a huge issue, and we think it is ripe for simplicity and sort of a new view and we'd like to contribute to that. So that's an area where we're very focused.
He also made some predictions on the Apple Watch, once again stating that people will one day look back at the watch and wonder how they lived without it. The "holy grail" of

Pebble 2, Time 2, and Pebble Core Launch on Kickstarter

Pebble today launched a Kickstarter campaign for two new fitness-focused smartwatches, and an all-new cellular-connected wearable.

Pebble 2, the first major upgrade to the original Pebble smartwatch, features new built-in sleep, step, and heart rate tracking functionality alongside existing phone, text, and information notification capabilities.

The iOS- and Android-compatible smartwatch retains an always-on high contrast black and white display that is readable both indoors and outdoors. The watch also features an anti-scratch lens coating, built-in microphone, up to weeklong battery life, and water resistance up to 30 meters.

Pebble 2 is compatible with over 13,000 existing apps and watchfaces, and runs an updated version of its Timeline operating system that enables customizable one-click actions that, for example, make it easier to send a text message, call an Uber, or check your calendar right from your wrist.

Time 2 is Pebble's premium smartwatch featuring a stainless steel design, built-in heart rate monitor and microphone, and color e-paper display that is more than 50 percent larger than its predecessor and has up to 80 percent more pixels to see twice the text. The battery lasts up to 10 days on a single charge.

Time 2 adopts many other Pebble 2 features and is compatible with iOS and Android.

Pebble Core is an all-new Android-based lightweight, cellular-connected clip that allows runners to leave their smartphones behind, yet still conveniently stream music from Spotify, track their pace, distance, and location with GPS, record voice

2016 MacBook Pro May Include OLED Display Touch Bar and Touch ID

Apple plans to introduce a revamped high-end MacBook Pro this year that'll include a thinner and lighter form factor, Touch ID and a new OLED display touch bar above the keyboard, according to a new report from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The new MacBook Pro would come in 13- and 15-inch variations and arrive in the fourth quarter of 2016.

While long overlooked, the MacBook line is the brightest spot for Apple’s 2016 rollouts. This is particularly true of the two new MacBook Pro models, to be introduced in 4Q16, as they will have a thinner and lighter form factor, Touch ID, use OLED display touch bar (to replace physical function keys, located above the keyboard) and adopt USB- C / Thunderbolt 3.
Kuo calls the new MacBook Pro updates the "most significant upgrade ever undertaken by Apple." The new "thin and light" design will be helped by new metal injection mold-made hinges and the butterfly-mechanism keyboards that debuted in the 12-inch MacBook. There has been speculation Apple would introduce Touch ID to MacBooks and, in the meantime, Apple engineers are working on a way users could unlock their Macs with Touch ID on iPhone.

The 12-inch MacBook will also be joined by a 13-inch MacBook, according to Kuo. The analyst believes that Apple will move forward with all three MacBook lines this year, with the MacBook Pro occupying the high-end slot, the MacBook will replace the Air as the medium-level model and the MacBook Air will serve as an entry-level model with comparatively low prices.

In April, it was reported that the new MacBook Pros would see slimmer

OLED Supplier Sees Fourfold Leap in Orders as Apple Gears Up for 2017 iPhone

As Apple gears up to introduce OLED displays in the 2017 iPhone, the impact is already being felt in the company's supply chain. During a recent earnings call, Applied Materials, a company that creates equipment for making displays, reported a fourfold increase in orders.

According to Bloomberg, the growing demand for new display manufacturing equipment from Applied Materials serves as evidence that display makers are retooling their processes to produce OLED displays for Apple's line of iPhones in 2017.

Edge-to-edge iPhone concept image via ConceptsiPhone
Applied Materials executives did not mention Apple by name during the earnings call, but CEO Gary Dickerson dropped some hints in a statement given to Bloomberg, pointing towards long term, sustainable growth and naming the "leader" of mobile products.
"It's not a peak or a one-time event," said Applied Materials Chief Executive Officer Gary Dickerson. "This is going to be sustainable growth. We all know who is the leader in terms of mobile products."
Applied Materials says it takes as long as three quarters to build, deliver, and install its machines, so a ramp up in purchases now means display suppliers are preparing to make some major changes in the coming months.

There are a wealth of rumors suggesting Apple will debut OLED displays in the 2017 iPhone. Apple has already inked a deal with Samsung to secure 5.8-inch OLED displays for future iPhones, and the company may also be preparing to purchase displays from suppliers like AU Optronics, LG Display, and Sharp. Apple is the largest customer for Sharp, LG

Possible iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Molds Confirm Camera Layouts, Lack Smart Connector

With the launch of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus creeping closer, rumors about the two devices have been leaking out at a rapid pace, offering a lot of conflicting information that makes it difficult to narrow down the features that might be included.

Images of a set of molds and schematics said to be for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have surfaced on Chinese site Baidu and were shared by HDBlog, but as with all the alleged iPhone 7 renderings, schematics, and dummies floating around, the authenticity of the parts in the images cannot be confirmed.

iPhone 7 mold on left, iPhone 7 Plus mold on right
According to the source on Baidu, the molds in the images are plates used during the finishing process of creating the aluminum casing for the devices. There are plates for both the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, confirming multiple rumors of a dual-lens camera for the larger-screened device and a single camera for the smaller device.

In line with past rumors, the iPhone 7 plate appears to depict a larger camera, perhaps to accommodate an improved sensor to boost image quality in the 4.7-inch iPhone. The 4.7-inch iPhone will not include dual cameras, but we expect Apple will introduce some significant single camera advancements to make up for the lack of dual cameras.

Schematics depicting design of iPhone 7 Plus mold
Not pictured on either plate is a Smart Connector, a feature the iPhone 7 has been rumored to be adopting from the iPad Pro. Early on in the rumor cycle, a device said to be the iPhone 7 Plus depicted a Smart Connector, and it was featured in design

Apple Seeds First OS X 10.11.6 El Capitan Beta to Developers

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming OS X 10.11.6 El Capitan update to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing OS X 10.11.5, the fifth update to the OS X 10.11 operating system.

The OS X 10.11.6 update, build 15G7a, can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store.

We don't know what improvements the sixth update to OS X El Capitan might bring, but like prior updates, it's likely to focus mainly on performance improvements and bug fixes to address issues that have popped up since the release of OS X 10.11.5. According to Apple's release notes for the update, OS X 10.11.6 improves the stability, compatibility, and security of Macs.

OS X 10.11.5, the previous update, was also minor in scale and offered only bug fixes with no obvious outward-facing

Apple Seeds First Beta of iOS 9.3.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming iOS 9.3.3 update to developers for testing purposes, one week after the public release of iOS 9.3.2, a minor bug fix update.

The first iOS 9.3.3 beta, build 13G12, can be downloaded immediately from the Apple Developer Center.

We don't yet know what changes iOS 9.3.3 will bring to iOS 9, but as a minor 9.x.x update, it's unlikely to introduce any major tweaks. There is no iOS 9.3.3 update available for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, suggesting the new beta does not fix an issue that bricked some 9.7-inch iPad Pro devices. Apple has also pulled the iOS 9.3.2 update for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and has not re-released it.

The previous update, iOS 9.3.2, introduced support for using Night Shift and Low Power mode simultaneously and fixed a Bluetooth bug that caused iPhone SE devices to experience poor audio when connected to a Bluetooth device.

We will update this post with any changes that are found in the new

Conflicting Supplier Report Now Says iPhone 7 Orders Higher Than Expected

Directly contradicting a previous claim of projected weak demand for the iPhone 7, Apple has reportedly asked its Asian suppliers to prepare for the highest iPhone production target in "about two years", according to Barron's Asia.

Citing a story in the Taiwanese Economic Daily Times this morning, the financial news publication said Apple has requested between 72-78 million units of the new iPhone, which is much higher than the 65 million handsets that Wall Street analysts previously predicted.

Supply chain sources claim that Foxconn will remain the key manufacturer for Apple's next-gen handset, while competing contractor Pegatron will also be involved in the assembly process. Additionally, it is claimed that both companies are expected to get more market share this year, as they participate in dual camera and glass casing components production in addition to being assemblers.

The glass reference contradicts recent reports by iPhone casing supplier Catcher Technology and KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, both of which claim that Apple is planning to use glass for the casing of the 2017 iPhone, in order to differentiate it from aluminum-bodied smartphones on the market.

Earlier this month it was reported that Apple would rely on multiple manufacturing partners to assemble the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to aim for a smooth launch in September, with Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron at the center of the assembly process.

Rumors suggest the iPhone 7 could retain a 6s-like design with a faster TSMC-built A10 chip, slightly larger battery, waterproofing and

Apple Offers to Replace iPads With MacBooks in Maine State Classrooms

Apple and the Maine Department of Education have offered to swap school iPads for MacBooks at no additional cost, after it emerged that students and teachers overwhelmingly favor the use of laptops in class.

According to a report in the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, schools in Auburn and other districts in Maine are set to benefit from the "Refresh" swap, following surveys of students and teachers across grades 7 through 12, which revealed that 88.5 percent of teachers and 74 percent of students preferred laptops over iPads.

An Edward Little High School senior works on her iPad during class (Image: Sun Journal)
iPads were perceived to have poor educational value in the classroom and were often used to play games in class, while laptops allowed students better opportunities for school work. The preference gap widened even more when it came to older students, who saw laptops as better devices for coding and programming tasks.

"The results are pretty darn clear," said Auburn School Department Technology Director Peter Robinson, who conducted the survey. "The findings made the decision for us." Robinson said that three years ago, after seeing success with iPads in primary grades, he thought iPads were absolutely the right choice, but now he realized iPads have shortcomings for older students.

One teacher wrote in the survey that iPads "provide no educational function in the classroom. Students use them as toys. Word processing is near to impossible. I applaud this change."

"The iPads are largely students' gaming devices," another teacher wrote, while one called