Apple Maps Expands Transit Data in New South Wales, Australia With TrainLink and Bus Routes

Apple Maps has recently been updated with all-new transit data for New South Wales, Australia, allowing iOS users to navigate the area with the new addition of the NSW TrainLink line as well as bus stations. Before the update, only rail directions for Sydney Trains were available. Sydney, and now New South Wales as a whole, are still the only areas in Australia with Transit information available.

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Image via Mac Prices Au

NSW TrainLink provides residents with transportation throughout New South Wales, and even extends above and below the states borders, to cities like Melbourne in the south and Brisbane in the north. The new transit additions should help tourists out, as well, since New South Wales also houses the popular destination -- and most populous city in the nation -- Sydney, Australia.

Transit directions became a helpful feature with the introduction of iOS 9, and has since expanded to be supported in 16 cities around the world. Including Sydney, Transit directions can be found in Seattle, Austin, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montreal, Toronto, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. There are also a few dozen cities in China that include Transit directions in Apple Maps.

(Thanks, DrHampton!)

Intel Wants to Replace 3.5mm Headphone Jack With USB-C Audio

Intel this week announced plans to usher in the adoption of an audio USB Type-C connector that would replace the standard 3.5 millimeter analog jack and eventually be capable of digital audio transmission (via Anandtech).

The plans were announced during the Intel Developers Forum (IDF) in Shenzhen, China, where the semiconductor manufacturer set out its project to develop USB Type-C Digital Audio. Intel remained vague about the digital conversion, but set out broad aims to update the USB Audio Device 2.0 protocol specifications to include up-to-date audio features, while simplifying discovery and improving power management, with plans to release the revised specification in the second quarter this year.

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Intel hopes that the improved USB-C audio specification would eventually amount to a standardized connector replacement and eliminate the traditional audio jack from laptops, smartphones and tablets, eventually ushering in a transition to fully digital audio.

From a consumer perspective, this could mean higher-quality audio output, more remote control possibilities on headsets, potential biometric health data tracking (such as in-ear heart-rate monitoring), and supplied power for features like active noise-cancelling without the need for dedicated batteries.

The news comes amid iPhone 7 rumors suggesting Apple is also looking to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on its future mobile devices, however speculation gravitates towards Apple replacing it with a proprietary Lightning port capable of transmitting audio. With no headphone jack, wired headphones would connect to the iPhone 7 using its Lightning port and Bluetooth headphones would connect wirelessly.

Apple could theoretically implement Intel's USB-C digital audio protocol in future Macs, although details remain unknown. Either way, given that LeEco already offers smartphones with USB-C-only audio, and JBL sells noise-cancelling USB-C headphones, the 3.5mm audio jack appears to be nearing the end of its life in the consumer technology market.

Tags: Intel, USB-C

Google Releases Android TV Remote App for iOS

Google has released an iOS app that enables Android TV owners to control their television using their iPhone or iPad.

The app's migration to iOS means that Apple mobile device owners now have the same ability to control the smart TV Google platform as their Android mobile-owning counterparts, so long as both television and iOS device share the same wireless network.

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The iOS app features a D-pad in the center of the screen for standard remote control operation, while users can also input text or perform a voice search via Google Now, both of which should be a welcome alternative to using a standard remote handset to input to an onscreen keyboard.

Multiple remotes can be linked to an Android TV, meaning iOS device users can also take part in multiplayer games alongside users of standard gamepad controllers.

The Android TV app is a free download for iPad and iPhone from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: Android

Google Maps App Gains Travel Times Widget and Direction Sharing

Google Maps for iOS was updated with a number of new features yesterday, including a Notification Center widget for commuters on the move and an in-app option for sharing directions.

The new Travel Times extension for Google's popular iOS maps app allows users to quickly check a live travel time estimation to their home or work with a simple pull down of the Notification Center.

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The widget includes a toggle for switching between driving and public transit times, but only functions if users have saved their home and/or work addresses in Google Maps' Settings menu. Tapping on either destination in the Notification Center starts direction navigation from the user's current location.

Other additions in the new version of the app include the ability to share directions via the three-dot icon in the top right of the map navigation screen, and a new setting that allows users to select the unit measurement for distance shown during navigation.

Lastly, users now have control over Google Maps' color scheme, with a night mode toggle as well as an "Automatic" setting that transitions between day and night mode depending on the time of day.

Google Maps is a free download from the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]

Philips Launches New 'Hue' App With Revamped Look and Support for Rooms

Philips today launched a new Hue app for its range of Hue HomeKit-connected smart lights and lightbulbs, introducing a fresh, intuitive layout that makes it easier to organize and control multiple lights at one time. While the app does not support third-party HomeKit accessories, it does incorporate HomeKit-style features like organization into rooms and more expansive scheduling tools.

The Hue Gen 2 app now features a main overview screen that separates lights based on what room they're in, making it easier to set scenes by room, adjust the color or brightness of the lights in a room, or turn off all lights in a room at once. Before today, organizing HomeKit-enabled Hue lights into rooms had to be done through a third-party HomeKit app, but now it is available to all Hue users and directly within the Hue app.

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Tapping on a room offers up individual controls for each light, along with options for managing scenes. Individual light colors can be changed by tapping on the color avatar for each light and selecting a color, a white light, or a Light Recipe. Scene creation is done in the same way it was with the previous app, through photographs or specific light settings.

Also included in the app is a dedicated "Routines" section that makes it easier to set specific lighting scenes for waking up, leaving home, arriving at home, and more. A Notification Center widget, Siri voice control, and accessory support are all available and can be accessed through the Settings section of the app, which is also where Rooms and Lights can be organized.

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Up to 10 presets that combine multiple rooms and scenes at once can be added to the Notification Center widget for quick access, and Siri voice control with the HomeKit-enabled bridge is unchanged.

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"Philips Hue was the world's first connected lighting system for the home a little over three years ago, and since then it has become the system of choice for consumers," says Sridhar Kumaraswamy, Business Leader Connected Home Systems at Philips Lighting. "As the Philips Hue ecosystem has grown with products, apps and partnerships with leading smart home platforms, so have our consumers. They want to do so much more with our connected lights, and with the new Philips Hue gen 2 app they can. It was designed for them, tested by them, taking their feedback onboard, and today's new app gives them more control and creative freedom than ever before."
Overall, Philips' new Hue app is a lot more intuitive when it comes to managing a large number of Hue lights, especially those organized into several different rooms. Changing colors, dimming, turning lights on and off, and setting routines are all features that are easier to access in the revamped app.

Philips plans to keep both the original Hue app and the new Hue app available in the App Store, so users will be able to use the app they like best.

The new Hue app can be downloaded from the App Store for free starting today. [Direct Link]

Apple Seeds Third Beta of tvOS 9.2.1 to Developers

Apple today provided developers with the third beta of an upcoming 9.2.1 update to tvOS, the operating system designed to run on the fourth-generation Apple TV. Today's beta comes one week after tvOS 9.2.1 beta 2. tvOS 9.2.1 has been in testing since April 6.

tvOS 9.2.1 is a minor update that comes more than a month after the launch of tvOS 9.2, a significant update introducing features like Bluetooth keyboard support, dictation, Siri search for the App Store, app folders, and more.

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tvOS betas are more difficult to install than beta updates for iOS and OS X. Installing the tvOS beta requires the Apple TV to be connected to a computer with a USB-C to USB-A cable, with the software downloaded and installed via iTunes or Apple Configurator. Those who have already installed the first two tvOS 9.2.1 betas will be able to update to the third beta over the air.

As a minor 9.x.x update, tvOS 9.2.1 appears to focus on bug fixes and performance improvements that are not readily obvious to Apple TV users. No outward-facing changes have been found in the first two tvOS 9.2.1 betas, but should any new features be found in beta 3, we'll list them below.

Related Roundup: Apple TV
Tag: tvOS 9.2.1
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)

Nintendo Launching 'Animal Crossing' and 'Fire Emblem' on Smartphones This Fall

Nintendo of America has announced that it will release two more smartphone games, based on its popular, long-running franchises Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem, later this year, as part of the Japanese company's commitment to release five smartphone games by March 2017.

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Nintendo fans are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming titles, which will not be direct ports of the console-based games but rather mobile-optimized spinoffs that could involve a series of in-app purchases. Nintendo declined to say whether the games will be free to download on the App Store.

Animal Crossing, based on a simulated world of animals, and Fire Emblem, a tactical RPG, are expected to be "more accessible" and "connected" versions of the traditional console-based games. The titles can currently be played on Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and multiple other Nintendo platforms.
As for the former app, while making it more accessible in comparison to the Fire Emblem games for Nintendo’s dedicated gaming systems, Nintendo aims to offer the great value of a role-playing strategy game. Nintendo will design the latter game so that it will be connected with the world of Animal Crossing for dedicated gaming systems. By playing both Animal Crossing games, users will find increased enjoyment.
Nintendo's first iOS app Miitomo debuted on the App Store last month in partnership with Japanese developer DeNA. The social-based game allows players to create and customize avatars called "Miis," chat with other players, play mini games to earn coins and tickets that can be used towards purchasing new outfits, and more.

Miitomo is believed to be off to a good start for Nintendo, earning the struggling game maker an estimated $280,000 per week in in-app purchases revenue, but the company's most dedicated fans remain hopeful that it will eventually release smartphone games based on its most iconic franchises like Super Mario and Legend of Zelda.

For now, fans will have to make do with Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem.

Google Hangouts for iOS Gains Share Extension and Low Power Mode Support

Google has updated its Hangouts app for iPhone and iPad with a native iOS Share Sheet extension and support for Low Power mode.

Google Hangouts for iOS enables users to send and receive instant messages and group messages, share photos, and make video and voice calls using the company's cross-platform communication service. Users can also connect up to Google Voice via the service to link their personal phone numbers, enable SMS and activate voice recognition.

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The Share extension in version 9.0 of Hangouts means users can now share text, links, images, and video from other apps on their device, while the Low Power support essentially means that the app will now automatically turn off video when the device's battery is depleted to 20% or lower.

The Share extension can be activated by tapping the Share button within the app, selecting "More" at the end of the Share Sheet, and toggling the switch next to Hangouts to the ON position.

Google Hangouts is a free download on the App Store for iPhone and iPad. [Direct Link]

Tag: Google

Instagram is Testing a Flatter, Simpler Design for iPhone App

Instagram has selected a group of users to test a version of its app with an overhauled design, which can be seen in a series of screenshots sent to MacRumors by reader Sebastien. Unlike the previous Instagram design, which utilizes a white feed bookended by blue and black borders and blue accents, the new design features a more monochromatic look.

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The new color scheme appears to be part of an effort to help photos, specifically color photos, pop more in a user's feed. The icons have also undergone design changes. The camera button on the bottom bar is no longer singled out with a blue box around it, and the camera button in camera mode is now a grey ring rather than a blue circle. The activity button on the bottom bar is a simple heart rather than a heart in a speech bubble and the profile button on the bottom is the outline of a person rather than a user's photo.

Instagram tells Mashable that the company often tests "new experiences with a small percentage of the global community" and that this test was "a design test only." It's unclear whether this design will become official in a future update or whether the company decides to not move forward with it.

More recently, Instagram has been making tweaks and changes to how its app works. Two weeks ago, the company added video channels to its "Explore" feature. Before that, it expanded video clips from 15 seconds to 60 seconds and announced that it would introduce an algorithm-based feed.

Instagram is available in the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Instagram

FBI Gave First Security Disclosure Under 'Vulnerability Equities Process' to Apple on April 14

iphone_4s_2015-250x300On April 14, the FBI informed Apple of a security flaw in older versions of iOS and OS X, its first vulnerability disclosure to Apple under the Vulnerability Equities Process, reports Reuters, citing information obtained directly from the Cupertino company.

The Vulnerability Equities Process allows federal agencies to determine whether critical security flaws should be kept private for law enforcement use or disclosed to companies to allow them to patch major vulnerabilities.

The security flaw the FBI shared with Apple pertained to older versions of the iPhone and Mac and it was fixed with the release of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. It was not the vulnerability that was exploited to break into the iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, which remains under wraps.

Apple says 80 percent of iPhones run a safe version of iOS and are not vulnerable to the security flaw shared by the FBI. Apple told Reuters it does not have plans to issue a patch for the older, vulnerable software.

According to Reuters, the FBI was motivated to provide Apple with information on an older vulnerability following a report suggesting it would not use the Vulnerability Equities Process to provide Apple with the method used to hack the San Bernardino iPhone.
The day after that report, the FBI offered information about the older vulnerabilities to Apple. The move may have been an effort to show that it can and does use the White House process and disclose hacking methods when it can.

The flaw the FBI disclosed to Apple this month did nothing to change the company's perception that the White House process is less effective than has been claimed, said an Apple executive who declined to be named.
Earlier today, a report from The Wall Street Journal suggested the FBI has decided not to disclose the vulnerability used to access the San Bernardino iPhone. FBI Director James Comey has insinuated the FBI cannot provide details on the hacking method used on the iPhone because the security flaw exploited is owned by a private company.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: Apple-FBI

Apple Pay is 'Growing at a Tremendous Rate' With 5X More Transaction Volume Than Last Year

During today's second quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook spent some time talking about the success of Apple Pay, which he says is "growing at a tremendous rate." According to Cook, Apple Pay transaction volume is up 5X compared to a year ago and Apple Pay is gaining 1 million new users per week.

Across all of the countries where Apple Pay is available -- the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, China, and Singapore -- Apple Pay is now available at more than 10 million contactless locations, including 2.5 million in the United States.

Despite its growth, Apple Pay does not provide a significant amount of revenue for Apple, but Apple CFO Luca Maestri says the company is interested to see how Apple Pay progresses in the future.

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During the call, Cook said Apple Pay would expand to additional locations "soon," in line with rumors and evidence suggesting Apple Pay will soon be available in Spain, Hong Kong, Brazil, Japan, and France. For Spain and Hong Kong, Apple Pay will be introduced through a partnership with American Express in 2016, and a leaked MasterCard document points towards MasterCard support in Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore.

In addition to expanding Apple Pay's availability, Apple is also rumored to be working on several new features to increase its appeal, including the ability to make purchases from websites and the ability to make person to person payments as is possible with services like Square Cash and Venmo.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay

Apple Music Now Has 13 Million Paying Subscribers

According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple Music now has 13 million paying subscribers, up from 11 million users just two months ago. In a February interview, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi said Apple Music had 11 million subscribers, suggesting impressive growth over the past 10 weeks.

Apple Music launched in more than 100 countries on June 30, 2015 and will see its first anniversary in two months. At its current growth rate, Apple Music is on track to have somewhere around 15 million subscribers, gaining significant ground on Spotify, which reported more than 20 million paying subscribers and 75 million active users in the weeks ahead of Apple Music's debut.

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Since its launch, Apple has heavily promoted Apple Music with exclusive releases and videos from artists like Taylor Swift and Drake and dynamic content on its free Beats 1 radio service. Apple plans to continue on with its Apple Music advertising and in the future, will debut a television show starring Dr. Dre.

Apple Music is priced at $9.99 per month for individual users and $14.99 per month for a family of up to six users, which can be paid for using an iTunes account. Apple has seen success with Apple Music in part due to the large number of credit cards already attached to iTunes accounts, making it easy for customers to subscribe to Apple services and purchase Apple content.