Virtual Reality Coming to iOS Within 2 Years, Claims Gene Munster

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster believes Apple plans to put iOS at the center of several forthcoming augmented reality and VR innovations set to launch within the next two years.

In a research note obtained by AppleInsider, Munster claims a timeline of recent purchases and hires by the company suggests that iOS support for "mixed reality" applications could be set for launch as soon as 2018.

The analyst points to a LinkedIn search which reveals at least 141 Apple employees with a background in AR, although it should be noted that the same search returns 425 and 267 people with similar experience working at Microsoft and Google, respectively.

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Of particular interest to Apple is the concept of "mixed reality" wearables, or advanced optics that use embedded cameras and sensors to blend holographic imagery with real-life objects, claims Munster.

Intellectual property gained via research and development projects as well as strategic acquisitions, such as Apple's purchase of 3D body sensing firm PrimeSense, are said to be behind the recent drive.
We believe 10 years from now Generation Z will find reality inefficient. We believe the concept of an 'inefficient reality' is evident through smartphone use today — the precursor to mixed reality — offering users the ability to find more information as needed.
The analyst goes on to suggest a natural progression in the personal technology market from smartphones to AR/VR and believes Apple is looking at VR as an iPhone peripheral, much like the Apple Watch. The prospect of Apple releasing hardware on this front in the near term is seen by Munster as unlikely, although by 2018 Apple may be ready to offer developers an official software framework for licensed third-party hardware solutions, similar to the company's MFi Program for iOS devices.

Munster has made questionable assertions in recent years, with predictions such as Apple's rumored television set having failed to materialize. Still, the note does follow a recent report by Financial Times claiming that Apple has built a "secret research unit" in which hundreds of employees are experimenting with AR and VR technologies. The team is said to be made up of, among others, experts plucked from Microsoft and live-action VR company Lytro.

Apple's interest in virtual reality has gained pace over the last few years, with the filing of multiple patents for VR-related products, like video goggles, motion-sensing 3D virtual interfaces for iOS devices, and 3D "hyper reality" displays. More recently, Apple has made a spate of AR/VR-related acquisitions, including Metaio, Faceshift, Emotient, and image-recognition app creators Flyby Media. Last month, the company hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading VR experts in the United States.

Apple Open Sources Swift Benchmark Suite

swift.pngApple today announced that its Swift benchmark suite is open source, just over two months after making its Swift programming language open sourced as promised at the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple's Swift benchmarking suite is designed to track Swift performance with 75 benchmarks that cover multiple important Swift workloads, libraries with commonly needed benchmarking functions, drivers for running benchmarks and displaying performance metrics, and a utility for comparing benchmark metrics across multiple versions of Swift. The Swift benchmark suite is available on GitHub.

Introduced in 2014 and launched alongside iOS 8 and OS X, Swift is Apple's programming language built for iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS, designed to work with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks along with Objective-C while also being widely accessible. In 2015, Apple debuted Swift 2 with new features like advanced error handling and syntax enhancements.

Pagaré Smartstrap Plans to Bring Contactless Payments to Pebble Time

Financial tech startup Fit Pay recently launched a new Kickstarter for its third-party Pebble Time "smartstrap" called the Pagaré. The new accessory will bring NFC payment capabilities to the smartwatch, using the power of the Pebble's smart accessory port, giving Pebble Time the same mobile wallet opportunities allowed to Apple Watch customers thanks to Apple Pay.

The Pagaré smartstrap will come in all of the same colors and finishes that Pebble creates for the Pebble Time, so that "you won't have to sacrifice your style to receive the benefits of Pagaré," according to Fit Pay co-founder and CEO Mike Orlando. The strap runs on its own battery, so with a small USB connector on one end, users will be able to charge the Pagaré smartstrap and the Pebble Time simultaneously.


Fit Pay said that its new smartstrap will be able to be used "at over 9 million point of sale terminals worldwide," including places like GameStop, Panera Bread, and Whole Foods. Similar to the Apple Watch, when the Pagaré is removed from a user's wrist it locks access to any of the payment features of the band. A four-digit passcode reactivates those features when the Pebble Time is reattached.
Pagaré has multiple layers of security to protect sensitive data. In addition to secure hardware, we leverage the same card network service as Apple Pay to replace your card number with a surrogate value called a token. This means we never need to store your credit card.
Notably, once the Pagaré app is installed on a user's phone and credit cards are scanned in, the new accessory is "a completely phone-free solution." Users will be able to pay at compatible NFC terminals using Pagaré without having their smartphone nearby. The company is looking to the future, as well, with plans to introduce transit and entertainment ticket options into the Pagaré suite of tools if the Kickstarter gets funded.

pebble time strap pagare
As of writing, the campaign sits at just over a $26,000 funded level with a goal of $120,000 over the next 29 days. Users interested can get in on an early bird discount of the Pagaré for $49, and once those are gone the band will cost $69 at retail price. Higher early bird reward tiers bundle in the Pebble Time ($199), Pebble Time Steel ($249), and Pebble Time Round ($249) alongside a Pagaré smartstrap.

Facebook iOS App Under Fire Again for iPhone Battery Drain Issues

Facebook this morning came under fire once more over concerns regarding the impact its iOS app has on iPhone battery life.

Writing in The Guardian, technology reporter Samuel Gibbs claims to have found that uninstalling Facebook's iOS app and accessing the social media site via Safari can save up to 15 percent of an iPhone's battery life.

Gibbs relates how he uninstalled the app on his iPhone 6s Plus and recorded its battery life at the same time each day for a week, comparing the numbers to a daily average taken from a week with the app installed.

The writer accessed Facebook's site through Safari for the same amount of time and for the same purposes as he had using the dedicated app. Gibbs also notes that he left Facebook's Messenger app installed throughout.

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In conclusion, Gibbs states that his iPhone had on average 15 percent more battery life by 10:30 p.m. each day without the social media app installed. He also notes large gains in free space, since the deleted app had consumed 500MB in total of his iPhone's capacity. Gibbs chalks most of that up to Facebook's cache, owing to the fact that the app itself is only a 111MB download.

Several other users of the app were recruited to carry out further tests and corroborated Gibbs' energy-saving results without the app installed. A Facebook spokesperson said the company is investigating the matter.

Facebook is no stranger to concerns regarding the impact of its iOS apps on battery life. In October the company released an update to fix issues raised by users who saw large amounts of battery drain on their iPhones while the social networking app ran in the background, even with the background app refresh toggled off.

With the release of the update, Facebook said the problem was due to a recurring background audio issue, prompting claims from some tech bloggers that the "issue" was an intentional ploy by developers to keep the app active in the background and discreetly pre-load content.

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Lifetime Plex Pass

For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with Plex to offer one MacRumors reader a chance to win a lifetime Plex Pass that provides access to all of Plex's premium features.

Plex is a media server and personal content library for TV shows, music, movies, and photos. It's designed to organize personal media collections, allowing videos and music to be streamed to TVs, iOS devices, Macs, and more, both locally and remotely. With Plex, you can download the media server to your Mac, store your content in a folder, and then stream it directly to an iOS device or the new Apple TV via the Plex app.

plex
Plex is especially useful for those of you with a fourth-generation Apple TV, which is the first Apple TV to officially support the Plex service. Check out our walkthrough of how it works below:


Plex is free to use, but unlocking all of its features requires the Plex Pass, priced at $4.99 per month, $39.99 per year, or $149.99 for a lifetime. A Plex Pass includes access to Gracenote Music Magic and Vevo Music Videos, both of which enhance your music collection through playlist creation and added music videos.

It also enables Mobile Sync features, Plex Home for managed accounts, and Cloud Syncing options to sync content from the Plex Media Server to a cloud storage provider. Other Plex Pass features include Camera Upload, access to Trailers, and early access to new Plex apps.

One MacRumors reader will win a lifetime Plex Pass through our giveaway. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prizes.

You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page. Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The contest will run from today (February 5) at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time on February 12. The winner will be chosen randomly on February 12 and will be contacted by email. The winner has 48 hours to respond a before a new winner is chosen.

Tags: Plex, giveaway

Apple Pay Now Accepted by 1000 U.S. Issuers

Apple-PayApple updated its Apple Pay participating issuers list today with 32 additional banks, credit unions and financial institutions supporting the contactless payment service in the U.S. Apple Pay now has 1000 participating issuers nationwide, including 998 U.S. banks and credit unions and store card support at BJ's Wholesale Club and Kohl's.

The newly added Apple Pay participating issuers are reflected below, although it's worth noting that some banks, credit unions and financial institutions listed may have already had support for the contactless payments service and are only now being reflected on Apple's website.

The full list of new Apple Pay participating issuers:
  • Anderson Brothers Bank
  • Bank & Trust Company
  • Bank of Labor
  • Bank of Yazoo
  • BankWest
  • Brown County State Bank
  • Busey Bank
  • Campbell & Fetter Bank
  • Central Bank of Oklahoma
  • Collinsville Savings Society
  • Core Bank
  • Covantage Credit Union
  • Diversified Members Credit Union
  • Farmington Bank
  • Florida Parishes Bank
  • Fort Worth Community Credit Union
  • Great Midwest Bank
  • Horizon Bank, N.A.
  • Litchfield Bancorp
  • Luther Burbank Savings
  • Mississippi National Guard Federal Credit Union
  • Oregon Community Credit Union
  • Pathfinder Bank
  • Platinum Federal Credit Union
  • Qualstar Credit Union
  • Red River Bank
  • Seven Seventeen Credit Union
  • T Bank
  • The Citizens Bank
  • Titonka Savings Bank
  • US Employees O.C. Federal Credit Union
  • Wallis State Bank
Apple Pay is now available at more than 2 million retail locations, with support coming to Crate & Barrel, Chick-fil-A, and Au Bon Pain locations in the U.S. soon. Cinnabon, Chili's, Domino's, KFC and Starbucks will also support Apple Pay in the U.S. starting this year.

In November, Apple Pay launched in Australia and Canada in November in partnership with American Express. Apple Pay is also coming for American Express cardholders in Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain this year, and the service appears to have soft launched in China last month in partnership with UnionPay.

Apple Pay gained support for BJ's Wholesale Club private label credit cards and 66 new U.S. issuers on December 15, plus nearly another 60 issuers on January 5.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay

BBC iPlayer for iOS Adds Handoff Support and Spotlight Search

BBC's iPlayer app has been updated for iOS users in the UK today, bringing added support for Spotlight search and Apple's Handoff feature.

Users of the app can now directly search for TV programs from their home screen by activating Spotlight search with a swipe down gesture, while the addition of Handoff support enables viewers to pick up where they left off when switching to another iOS device.

BBC iPlayer
The update also patches a bug that led to the app crashing on launch for some users, and adds a full catalog of iPlayer programs to the channel page via the A-Z option.

The UK broadcaster recently brought its iPlayer app to Apple TV after initially stating it had no plans to make the service available on the platform.

BBC iPlayer is a free download for users in the UK. [Direct Link]

Instagram Testing Multiple Account Support on iOS

Instagram has begun testing multiple account support on iOS, suggesting the feature could be coming to all Instagram iOS users in the near future. Starting today, some Instagram users began noticing an option to log into more than one account in the Instagram app, but multi-account support is limited to a small number of users at this time.

instagrammultipleaccounts
Instagram users who have access to the multiple accounts feature will see the option to add additional accounts in the Settings menu through a new "Add Account" heading. Once a second or third account is added, switching between them can be done with just a couple of taps. With multiple accounts logged in, notifications for Likes and Comments will also have a header to let you know which account is receiving the alert.

Multi-user support has been a highly desired feature on Instagram for several years. The first hint of support came in late 2015, when Instagram began testing the feature on Android. It is not clear when multiple account support will see a wider release for iOS users as Instagram has not yet made an official announcement.

Twitter Experimenting With Dedicated GIF Button for Mobile Apps

A few Twitter users on the social network's Android app have begun to notice a dedicated GIF button within the Tweet composition box of the mobile client. Speaking with TechCrunch, Twitter user Phil Pearlman said that the new button lets users browse through current popular GIFs in a trending tab, or select a mood they're feeling to see resulting GIFs based on that emotion. So far the GIF button appears to only be showing up on Android, but if Twitter is planning a wide rollout, it should presumably come to iOS as well.

gif button twitter 1

Pearlman wasn't the only Twitter user to see the GIF button appear within the Android app, with quite a few people mentioning it over the past day. It's also been disappearing for just as many who got to briefly test the feature out, with a couple users -- including Pearlman -- noticing the button suddenly disappearing from the app.

Besides a playful GIF of its own, Twitter didn't respond to comment on the possible large-scale rollout of a GIF button feature for the service's mobile app. Given that many users already go through the laborious process of searching for GIFs online and inserting them into tweets through the Media option, it makes sense for the company to begin streamlining that process.

Tag: Twitter

Apple Music for Android Now Supports Saving Songs to SD Card

Apple today updated its Apple Music app for Android users, adding a new feature that allows them to save downloaded songs to an SD card on compatible smartphones. "You can now keep more music offline," reads the update note.

Several Android-based phones allow users to upgrade their storage using SD and microSD cards. As The Verge points out, with the ability to save downloaded content, Android users can potentially have access to more music than iOS users who are limited to a maximum of 128GB of storage on iPhones and iPads.

applemusicandroid
Today's Android update also adds a full schedule for Beats 1 shows and it includes My Music options for browsing by Composers and Compilations, features previously available to iOS users.

Apple Music for Android first launched in November, marking Apple's first major app for Android users. The Android-based app, available in all the countries where Apple Music for iOS is available, allows Android users to subscribe to the Apple Music service.

The Android Apple Music app, which remains in beta, can be downloaded from the Google Play Store for free. It comes with a free three-month Apple Music trial.

Apple Adds 20 New Flyover Locations Around the World, New Maps Info in Taiwan and Finland

Apple today added 20 new Flyover locations to Apple Maps on Mac and iOS, highlighting landmarks and features across several countries including France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the UK, South Africa, and the United States.

For those unfamiliar with the Flyover feature in Apple Maps, it lets users see photo-realistic 3D videos of select locations, with tools for zooming, panning, and rotating to get a closer look at notable landmarks and points of interest. Some of the locations listed may have previously been available as Flyover destinations, but were just added to Apple's list of Flyover locations.

applemapsflyoverupdate
The full list of new Flyover locations is available below:
  • Adelaide, Australia
  • Amiens, France
  • La Rochelle, France
  • Nantes, France
  • Toulouse, France
  • Berne, Switzerland
  • Bremen, Germany
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Tucson, Arizona
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Middlesbrough, UK
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Taormina, Italy
  • Toyoma, Japan
  • Virgin Islands
Flyover was first introduced in 2012, but over the last four years, Apple has steadily added new Flyover locations to the Maps app. In 2015, Apple updated some major Flyover locations with real-time animated landmarks, making the Flyover experience even more immersive. Many Flyover locations have an additional City Tour feature that walks users through different landmarks in each city.

Along with new Flyover locations, the Maps app has been updated in Taiwan and Finland. In Taiwan, iOS users now have access to traffic information, and in Finland, the Nearby feature introduced in iOS 9 is now active, allowing users to get information on local businesses located near them.

Pebble Update Introduces Custom Messages, Health Improvements

Pebble today announced multiple updates for its line of Pebble smart watches, introducing new messaging options and new health features for Pebble owners.

Pebble owners who use iOS devices are now able to reply to incoming text messages with custom messages instead of the standard canned responses. Custom text replies are available to all iOS users who have text replies enabled from a compatible carrier.

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Pebble Health, the fitness tracking app Pebble introduced in December for Pebble Time watches, has a new API that lets Pebble Health stats be added to apps and watch faces. The health tracking feature is also more accurate and is able to show distance in kilometers or miles.

New Pebble Time Firmware 3.9 introduces incoming MMS messages with descriptive icons and text, and it introduces speed improvements for Pebble Time and Time Steel. There's also an improved Watch-Only mode, which introduces better power saving options when the watch battery is critically low.

The update is available through the Pebble Time iOS app, available from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Pebble