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Apple Shares Behind the Scenes Look at How the Portrait Lighting Feature Was Created

Apple this evening uploaded a new "Portrait Lighting" video to its YouTube channel, which is designed to give a behind the scenes look at how the Portrait Lighting effects on the iPhone X were created.

Take a look behind the iPhone X and discover the process we went through to create Portrait Lighting. Combining timeless lighting principles with advanced machine learning, we created an iPhone that takes studio-quality portraits without the studio.
In the video, Apple explains that it worked with global image makers and some of the world's best photographers to combine timeless lighting principles with machine learning techniques.

The result was the Portrait Lighting feature available in Portrait Mode on the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 Plus. On iPhone X, Portrait Lighting is available for both the front and rear facing cameras thanks to the TrueDepth camera system, while on iPhone 8 Plus, it's available for shots captured with the rear camera.

Apple's Portrait Lighting feature is designed to use sophisticated algorithms to calculate how your facial features interact with light, creating unique lighting effects.

There are several Portrait mode lighting presets, including Natural Light, Studio Light (lights up your face), Contour Light (adds dramatic shadows), Stage Light (spotlights your face against a dark background), and Stage Light Mono (Stage Light, but in black and white).

Apple has also highlighted Portrait Lighting in several past video ads showing off iPhone X features.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

Apple Releases Third Beta of iOS 11.3 for Public Beta Testers

Apple today released the third public beta of an upcoming iOS 11.3 update for its public beta testing group, one day after seeding the third beta to developers and two weeks after releasing the second public beta.

Beta testers who are members of Apple's beta testing program will receive the new iOS 11.3 beta update over-the-air after installing the proper certificate on an iOS device.

Those who want to join the beta testing program can sign up on Apple's beta testing website, which gives users access to iOS, macOS, and tvOS betas. iOS betas are not always stable and should not be installed on a primary device.

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The third betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 remove AirPlay 2 features that were present in earlier betas. Prior to today's update, AirPlay 2 functionality allowed the Apple TV to be added to the Home app on an iOS device, and it enabled multi-room audio playback across multiple Apple TVs. These features are no longer available and it is not clear if they will be re-enabled in a later beta ahead of the launch of iOS 11.3.

iOS 11.3 is a significant update that introduces multiple new features like Messages on iCloud for storing your iMessages in iCloud, and ARKit 1.5, a new, upgraded version of ARKit that can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces, detect images, and recognize and place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls.

Four new Animoji (lion, skull, dragon, and bear) are available for the iPhone X, the Health app has a new Health Records feature where you can store your medical records, and as of iOS 11.3 beta 2, the update includes a new "Battery Health" option that's designed to provide iOS users with more information about their batteries.


Battery Health offers details on maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability, and for devices with degraded batteries, it provides information on if and when a device is being throttled with performance management features. It also provides a way for customers who do have a device with a degraded battery to turn off performance management all together.


By default, iOS 11.3 disables performance management on the iPhone, and the feature is only re-enabled once a device experiences an unexpected shutdown.

Other new features in iOS 11.3 include an Apple News "For You" section that displays the top videos of the day, info on version and download size for app updates in the Purchased tab of the App Store, Advanced Mobile Location (AML) for sharing more accurate location data when placing an emergency call in a supported country, and a new Privacy icon that will show up whenever Apple asks you for info. iBooks has also had the "i" removed from its name, so it's just "Books" now, and in the App Store, you can sort app reviews by rating and date for the first time.

Business Chat, which will let you interface with businesses like Wells Fargo, Delta, Hilton and Lowe's right in the Messages app is coming when iOS 11.3 is released, and improvements to Apple Music will bring better support for music videos.

Apple says iOS 11.3 will be released to the public in the spring.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

Tim Cook Says Apple is Always Focused on 'Products and People' Over Wall Street Expectations

Fast Company today published an interview with Tim Cook after naming Apple the world's most innovative company yesterday.

Image Credit: Fast Company/Ioulex Photography

Apple's CEO primarily reflected on the iPhone maker's culture and approach that has led to products such as the iPhone X, Apple Watch, AirPods, and HomePod, and as to be expected, he talked up the company he runs.

Cook said Apple's focus is always on "products and people," for example, rather than the company's earnings results or stock price.
Fast Company: What makes a good year for Apple? Is it the new hit products? The stock price?

Tim Cook: Stock price is a result, not an achievement by itself. For me, it's about products and people. Did we make the best product, and did we enrich people's lives? If you’re doing both of those things–and obviously those things are incredibly connected because one leads to the other—then you have a good year.
Apple is "not in it for the money" with Apple Music, for instance, according to Cook, who says the streaming music service is more about ensuring that artists are funded in order to have a "great creative community."
Fast Company: Music has always been part of the Apple brand. Apple Music has had a lot of user growth, but streaming is not a major money­maker. Do you think about streaming as a potential stand-alone profit area, or is it important for other reasons?

Tim Cook: […] Music is a service that we think our users want us to provide. It's a service that we worry about the humanity being drained out of. We worry about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world, instead of the art and craft.

You're right, we're not in it for the money. I think it's important for artists. If we're going to continue to have a great creative community, [artists] have to be funded.
He added that Apple is an "outlier" in the sense that Wall Street has "little to no effect" on the company—which is the world's most valuable.
Fast Company: Do the investment markets make innovation harder? Or does Wall Street motivate change?

Tim Cook: The truth is, it has little to no effect on us. But we are an outlier. More generally, if you look at America, the 90-day clock [measuring results by each fiscal quarter] is a negative. Why would you ever measure a business on 90 days when its investments are long term?
Cook said what drives Apple is creating products that "change the world for the better" with innovative new features.
Tim Cook: Take iPhone X, the portrait-lighting feature. This is something that you had to be a professional photographer with a certain setup to do in the past. Now, iPhone X is not a cheap product, but a lighting rig–these things were tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He added that one of Apple's unique qualities is patience in perfecting its products, rather than rushing to be first to the market.
Fast Company: Sometimes Apple takes the lead, introducing unique features–Face ID, for instance. Other times you're okay to follow, as long as you deliver what you feel is better, like HomePod, which is not the first home speaker. How do you decide when it's okay to follow?

Tim Cook: I wouldn't say "follow." I wouldn’t use that word because that implies we waited for somebody to see what they were doing. That's actually not what's happening. What's happening if you look under the sheets, which we probably don't let people do, is that we start projects years before they come out. You could take every one of our products–iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch–they weren't the first, but they were the first modern one, right?

In each case, if you look at when we started, I would guess that we started much before other people did, but we took our time to get it right. Because we don't believe in using our customers as a laboratory. What we have that I think is unique is patience. We have patience to wait until something is great before we ship it.
Cook's comments are similar to ones he has shared in the past, and the interview portrays Apple in the best possible way, but the full article is still a worthwhile read for those who want more perspective about the company's beliefs.

iPad Refresh in March Likely as Apple Receives Certification for New Tablets in Eurasia

Apple has registered new tablets with the Eurasian Economic Commission this week, suggesting that an iPad refresh is likely on the horizon. The filings, uncovered by French website Consomac, are legally required for any devices with encryption sold in Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.


Two of the tablets have model numbers A1893 and A1954, which don't correspond with any current iPad mini, iPad, or iPad Pro. There are also a handful of "sample" tablet and smartphone products listed that have model numbers starting with AA and CC, which is uncharacteristic, so it's unclear what those listings may pertain to.

Recent rumors and logical guesswork suggest Apple could be planning an annual refresh of its lower-cost 9.7-inch iPad, introduced last March for $329 in the United States, while the iPad mini has also gone a few years without an update.

Eurasian Economic Commission listings via Consomac

A few months ago, supply chain informant DigiTimes claimed Apple is planning to release an even cheaper 9.7-inch iPad for around $259 this year. The website also said Apple's first new products of 2018 would be released in March, so next month is shaping up to see the arrival of at least one new budget iPad.

It's unclear what changes the new 9.7-inch iPad would have, but given its price point, it will likely retain a classic design with top and bottom bezels and a home button with Touch ID, rather than Face ID. Any refresh is likely to be a relatively minor one, with a focus on performance improvements.

The current 9.7-inch iPad is powered by an Apple A9 chip, and features an 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front camera, two speakers, Lightning connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, Touch ID, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.2. Unlike the iPad Pro, it lacks Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support.

Given the 9.7-inch iPad is a niche product, a refresh could be announced via press release like last year. But with rumors swirling about a new iPhone SE, originally unveiled at a March 2016 event, perhaps Apple will have enough announcements on its docket to host a special event at Steve Jobs Theater.

Apple's rumored iPad Pro with Face ID is more likely to be unveiled at WWDC 2018 in June, but the discontinued 9.7-inch iPad Pro debuted in March 2016, so there's some precedence for an earlier introduction.

In the past, similar filings with the Eurasian Economic Commission have been submitted for the 10.5-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2, AirPods, and MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models, all within one to two weeks before each product was released.

All in all, the listings suggest Apple will introduce new products of some kind in March for the fourth consecutive year.

Related Roundup: iPad
Buyer's Guide: iPad (Don't Buy)

Apple Named World's Most Innovative Company Due to Focus on Hardware and Software Integration

Fast Company today published its annual rankings of the 50 most innovative companies in the world, and this year, Apple is the number one company on the list for "delivering the future today."

Apple was picked for its impressive list of accomplishments in 2017, which included the iPhone X, the Apple Watch Series 3, ARKit, and its unique focus on hardware and software integration that sets it apart from its competitors. Apple designs its own chips that are optimized for its operating systems, resulting in performance that blows the competition away.

But creativity is more than skin deep--and Apple's approach to the hardware and software engineering that creates its experiences has never been more ambitious. Other makers of phones and tablets buy the same off-the-shelf chips as their competitors. Apple, by contrast, designs its own chips--so an iPhone packs a processor designed specifically optimized for Apple's operating system, apps, display, camera, and touch sensor. The company has gotten so good at chip design that the A10 Fusion inside the iPhone 7 trounces rival processors in independent speed benchmarks.
Apple also topped the list for its focus on privacy-based artificial intelligence advancements, its growing entertainment business, and its work to improve medical care with CareKit and ResearchKit. Its accomplishments boosted it up three spots from last year, when it was ranked the number four most valuable company in the 2017 list.

To create these rankings, Fast Company says that more than three dozen editors, reporters, and contributors surveyed thousands of companies to identify the most notable innovations of the year and trace their impact on businesses, industries, and the larger culture.

Other companies that made the top 10 list include Netflix, Square, Tencent, Amazon, Patagonia, CVS Health, The Washington Post, Spotify, and the NBA.

In addition to a master list, Fast Company publishes a breakdown of most innovative companies by sector. Apple also topped the list in the "Consumer Electronics" category, beating out companies like Amazon, Nintendo, and Sony.

AirPlay 2 Features Removed From iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3

Early AirPlay 2 functionality, which was present in initial iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas, has been removed from the third beta that was provided to developers this morning.

With the first betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, when you installed these updates on an iOS device and two or more fourth or fifth-generation Apple TVs, AirPlay 2 could be used to stream music to multiple devices at the same time.


As an example, with two Apple TVs running tvOS 11.3 set up in different rooms of the house, you could use an iPhone to play the same song on both through AirPlay 2's multi-room audio feature.

Installing tvOS 11.3 also added the Apple TV to your HomeKit setup, with the Apple TV present in the Home app.


As noted by iDownloadBlog, all of these features are now missing in iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 beta 3. There are no options to play audio to multiple sources and the Apple TV has been removed from the Home app.

The AirPlay 2 feature was buggy and not fully functional, which may be why it's been removed. It is not clear at this time if Apple plans to re-introduce the AirPlay 2 functionality in later iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas.

AirPlay 2 was first announced as part of iOS 11 in June, but it did not show up in the launch version of the new operating system. When officially released, AirPlay 2 will allow HomePod, Apple TV, and supported third-party speakers to work together.

Once AirPlay 2-compatible products are widely available, you will be able to use AirPlay 2 to control all of the different speakers and devices throughout your home, for a full multi-room audio experience.

This kind of multi-room audio support was a main feature advertised for the HomePod, but Apple opted to ship the speaker without it.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, iOS 11
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Buy Now)

Smart Speaker Showdown: HomePod vs. Google Home vs. Sonos One

Apple's new HomePod is late to the smart speaker market, which is already crowded with speakers from companies like Amazon, Google, and Sonos. The latter two companies, Google and Sonos, have released speakers with high-quality sound and robust voice assistants, giving the HomePod some serious competition.

We decided to pit Apple's $349 HomePod against both the $399 Google Home Max, which comes with Google Assistant, and the $199 Alexa-powered Sonos One to see how the HomePod measures up.

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To compare the three speakers, we focused on design, sound quality, and the overall performance of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

When it comes to design -- and this is certainly subjective -- we preferred the look of the HomePod with its fabric-wrapped body and small but solid form factor. The Sonos One looks a little more dated with its squarer body and standard speaker mesh, while the Google Home Max has a much larger footprint that's going to take up more space.

Apple's HomePod

All three offer touch-based controls at the top of the device, but the Google Home Max has one design edge - a USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting external music sources. The Sonos One has a single Ethernet port, while the HomePod has no ports.

Though we liked the HomePod's design, Siri, as you might expect, did not perform as well as Alexa on Sonos One or Google Assistant on Google Home Max.

Google Home Max

On questions like "Is Pluto a planet?" or "What's the fastest car?" both Alexa and Google Assistant were able to provide satisfactory answers, while Siri said those weren't questions that could be answered on HomePod.

Siri was not able to sing happy birthday, create a calendar event, or even provide the release date of the HomePod itself, directing users to Apple.com for more information, while the other smart assistants were able to do these things.

Apple execs have said in the past that Siri was not engineered to be Trivial Pursuit, but it would be nice if Siri had a more competitive feature set.

Though only briefly touched on in the video, Siri does, in fact, do well with HomeKit commands and controlling music playback on the HomePod through an accompanying Apple Music subscription.

Sonos One

Sound quality is a controversial topic because there's a heavy amount of personal preference involved when judging these three speakers. We thought the HomePod sounded the best, with the Google Home Max at a close second, followed by the Sonos One.

The Google Home Max gets the loudest, but sound becomes somewhat distorted at the highest volumes, while the Sonos One offers robust sound that's not quite as good at a lower price point. HomePod does have one major benefit: a fantastic microphone that picks up Siri commands even when you're across the room.

All three of these speakers offer great sound, and if you're attempting to pick one based on reviews, make sure to read several. We thought the HomePod sounded best, but other sources, like Consumer Reports and Yahoo's David Pogue found that the Google Home Max and the Sonos One sounded better than the HomePod.


So which speaker is better? The answer to that question depends on the other products you own. If you're an Apple Music subscriber with a HomeKit setup, the HomePod is going to work great. It only works natively with Apple Music, iTunes Match, and iTunes purchases, so if you have a Spotify subscription, for example, support isn't as robust.

For that reason, if you're not locked into Apple's ecosystem already, or if you have Apple devices but subscribe to Spotify, HomePod probably isn't the best choice for you.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

Apple Seeds Third Beta of iOS 11.3 to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming iOS 11.3 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the second beta and one month after releasing iOS 11.2.5, an update that focused primarily on bug fixes and security improvements. The update also comes just a day after the release of iOS 11.2.6, which fixed a bug that caused iPhones and iPads to crash when a character from the Indian language Telugu was rendered improperly.

Registered developers can download the new iOS 11.3 beta from Apple's Developer Center or over-the-air once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Developer Center.

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iOS 11.3 is a major update that introduces a long list of new features, like Messages on iCloud for storing your iMessages in the cloud, and ARKit 1.5, a new, upgraded version of ARKit that can more accurately map irregularly shaped surfaces and recognize and place objects on vertical surfaces like walls.

There are four new Animoji on the iPhone X (dragon, bear, skull, and lion), and in the Health app, there's a new Health Records feature that aggregates all of your medical records in one easy-to-access place. Health Records are limited to participating institutions, though.


AirPlay 2 features have been introduced in iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, allowing audio to be played to multiple Apple TVs, and for HomeKit, iOS 11.3 introduces official support for HomeKit software authentication options.

As of iOS 11.3 beta 2, the update includes a new "Battery Health" feature that's designed to provide iOS users with more information about their batteries.

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Battery Health offers details on maximum battery capacity and peak performance capability, and for devices with degraded batteries, it provides information on if and when a device is being throttled with performance management features. It also provides a way for customers who do have a device with a degraded battery to turn off performance management all together.


By default, iOS 11.3 disables performance management on the iPhone, and the feature is only re-enabled once a device experiences an unexpected shutdown.

Other features in iOS 11.3 include a new "For You" section in Apple News that displays the top videos of the day, support for Advanced Mobile Location (AML) for more accurate location when placing an emergency call in a supported country, more information about app size in the Updates tap in the App Store, and a new Privacy screen and icon that will show up whenever Apple asks you for info.

iBooks has also had the "i" removed from its name, so it's just "Books" now, and the App Store now lets you sort reviews by most helpful, most favorable, most critical, and most recent, a handy change for better finding the app info you're looking for.


Business Chat, which will let you interface with businesses like Wells Fargo, Delta, Hilton and Lowe's right in the Messages app is coming when iOS 11.3 is released, and improvements to Apple Music will bring better support for music videos. Users will be able to stream music videos without ads and create and view music video playlists.

iOS 11.3 will be released to the public in the spring. Spring kicks off on March 20, so iOS 11.3 will be in testing for at least another month.

What's new in iOS 11.3 beta 3: The newest beta of iOS 11.3 adds support for the iPod touch, and it removes AirPlay 2 features that were present in previous betas. There's also a new option in the Settings app under Privacy --> Analytics to share Health Record analytics with Apple.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

Sketchy Rumor: iPhone SE 2 Will Debut at WWDC With Classic Design But Larger 4.2-Inch Display

We've already heard multiple rumors suggesting Apple will unveil a so-called iPhone SE 2 later this year, and a new supply chain report from Chinese news website QQ.com claims to have knowledge of the device's tech specs.


First, the report says the new iPhone SE won't look like the iPhone X, which would make sense given it's a lower-end device. Instead, the new model will purportedly have a similar design as the original iPhone SE, with a metal back and frame, top and bottom bezels on the front, and a home button.

A key difference would supposedly be a larger 4.2-inch display, but this is questionable given it could make it harder to use the iPhone SE in one hand, which is preferred by a subset of customers. However, it's certainly possible Apple could trim down the bezels of the new iPhone SE slightly.

Apple is likely more focused on making under-the-hood improvements to the iPhone SE, as the device is now outdated by a few years. The report claims the new model will be powered by a faster A10 Fusion chip, although it will supposedly still have 2GB of RAM with 32GB or 128GB of storage available.

The report suggests Apple is planning to unveil the iPhone SE 2 at WWDC 2018 in June, which is certainly possible, but Apple hasn't introduced a smartphone at the event since the iPhone 4 in 2010. If history repeats itself, the new iPhone SE could be introduced at a smaller media event around March.

While most of these tech specs would make sense, the source doesn't have an established track record, so this rumor should be viewed with some skepticism. KeyforWeb.it spotted the report earlier.

There have been many rumors about Apple launching a new iPhone SE in 2018, with many of the sources based in Asia, including research firm TrendForce and publications like the Economic Daily News. One of the latest rumors suggested a new iPhone SE with wireless charging could launch in May-June.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who relays information from Apple's supply chain in Asia, recently cast some doubt on rumors about a second-generation iPhone SE launching in the second quarter of 2018.

If there really is a so-called iPhone SE 2 on Apple's roadmap, Kuo expects it will have few outward-facing changes. He predicts the device would likely have a faster processor and a lower price, rather than iPhone X-like features like a nearly full screen design, 3D sensing for Face ID, or wireless charging.

The current iPhone SE looks much like the iPhone 5s, including its smaller four-inch display preferred by a subset of customers. The device is powered by Apple's A9 chip, like the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and it has 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear camera, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and Touch ID.

Apple hasn't fully refreshed the iPhone SE since it launched in March 2016, but it did double its available storage capacities to 64GB and 128GB last March. It also dropped the device's starting price to $349 last September.

Related Roundup: iPhone SE
Tag: qq.com
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Don't Buy)

Apple Releases iOS 11.2.6 With Fix for Telugu Character Bug That Causes iOS Devices to Crash

Apple today released iOS 11.2.6, the eleventh official update to the iOS 11 operating system. iOS 11.2.6 comes approximately one month after the launch of iOS 11.2.5, an update that introduced support for the HomePod, Control Center updates, Siri news, and a slew of bug fixes.

The iOS 11.2.6 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the update, go to Settings --> General --> Software Update.


Apple released iOS 11.2.6 to address a bug that causes apps like Messages to crash on the iPhone and iPad due to an inability to render a specific character in the Indian language Telugu. When sent, received, or input into Messages, Safari, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and more, the Telugu character can cause the app to freeze up and become unresponsive.

In Messages, for example, receiving the character can freeze up the entire Messages app on all of a person's Mac and iOS devices. The Messages app then refuses to function properly until the offending character is removed by deleting the conversation with the person who sent it. Apple's release notes are below:
iOS 11.2.6 includes bug fixes for your iPhone or iPad. This update:

Fixes an issue where using certain character sequences could cause apps to crash

Fixes an issue where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories
Apple fixed the bug in iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4, but those updates are still in beta testing and won't be released until the spring. Apple last week promised a minor update to fix the bug in the meantime.

Related Roundup: iOS 11

Industrial Design Experts Say HomePod's White Ring Issue 'Shouldn't Be Too Hard to Fix' for Apple

Last week, Apple confirmed that the HomePod can potentially leave white rings on the surface of wooden furniture with oil or wax finishes. In an effort to help users prevent seeing these rings appear on their own furniture, Apple shared a support document on "Where to place HomePod," detailing how the interaction between the HomePod's vibration-dampening silicone base and a wooden surface has the chance to result in a white ring.

Business Insider recently spoke with a few industrial design experts who believe that the problem "shouldn't be too hard to fix" for Apple." Gregor Berkowitz, a product development consultant for numerous consumer electronics brands, expects Apple to "re-tool" its HomePod manufacturing process to address the issue with the silicone base, which could take between two to six weeks. Although the fix could take several weeks, the experts said it's "likely not very costly" for Apple.

Image via Wirecutter

Senior industrial designer at Y Studios, Cesar Viramontes, referred to the white rings issue as something customers will "probably forget about" in the next few months.
Apple may need to "re-tool" the manufacturing process since silicone is manufactured using a different process than the other kinds of elastomer," said Berkowitz. If that's necessary, the process could take anywhere from two weeks to six weeks, he noted.

"It's an issue, but I think it's probably going to be one that'll be corrected in the next round of manufacturing," said Y Studios' Viramontes. "I think it will be a minor issue, and people will probably forget about it in the next couple of months when it goes away."
While the experts see a quick fix for the issue coming from Apple, all were surprised it happened in the first place. Product design expert Ignazio Moresco explained that more is expected from Apple's well-known attention to detail, and the company "should have caught the issue if they followed a rigorous QA process." The white marks aren't an Apple-specific problem, but have appeared with other speakers -- like Sonos One -- that have similar silicone bases.

Berkowitz believes the white rings could be a result of Apple's "inexperience" with making stationary speakers, in contrast to the company's familiarity with making mobile products like the iPhone and MacBook.
"This is sitting on a bookshelf. Is it going to work? Or are there going to be problems? A traditional consumer product company or a speaker company or a traditional Hi-Fi company is going to worry about that and think about those problems and have experience with it," Berkowitz said. "This shouldn't be new for Apple but it is."

"They didn't test the product enough and in the right variety of circumstances, especially considering that a wood surface is a very likely support for the product," said Ignazio Moresco, a product design expert who has worked at frog design, Microsoft and Ericsson.
For those who have discovered rings on their furniture, Apple said that these marks "will often go away after several days" once HomePod is removed from the wooden surface. Users can hasten this process by wiping the surface gently with a damp or dry cloth. Still, the company explained that if anyone is concerned about these marks, it recommends "placing your HomePod on a different surface."

Accessory makers are already creating products to act as a fix for the situation, including new leather coasters for HomePod from Pad & Quill. The $19.95 coasters are advertised as letting users place their HomePod on the wooden surfaces that have the potential to be marked by HomePod, without having to worry about the appearance of such marks.

Related Roundup: HomePod
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Buy Now)

APFS Bug in macOS High Sierra Can Cause Data Loss When Writing to Disk Images

Apple's APFS file system included in macOS High Sierra suffers from a disk image vulnerability that in certain circumstances can lead to data loss, according to the creator of Carbon Copy Cloner.

In a blog post last Thursday, software developer Mike Bombich explained that he had uncovered the data writing flaw in the Apple File System, or APFS, through his regular work with "sparse" disk images.


For those who aren't familiar with the term, a sparse disk image is basically a file that macOS mounts on the desktop and treats as if it was a physically attached drive with a classic disk volume structure. The flexibility of sparse disk images means they are commonly used in the course of performing backup and disk cloning operations, hence Bombich's extensive experience with them.
Earlier this week I noticed that an APFS-formatted sparsebundle disk image volume showed ample free space, despite that the underlying disk was completely full. Curious, I copied a video file to the disk image volume to see what would happen. The whole file copied without error! I opened the file, verified that the video played back start to finish, checksummed the file – as far as I could tell, the file was intact and whole on the disk image. When I unmounted and remounted the disk image, however, the video was corrupted. If you've ever lost data, you know the kick-in-the-gut feeling that would have ensued. Thankfully, I was just running some tests and the file that disappeared was just test data.
Two related problems are identified by Bombich, above. The first is that the free space on the APFS-formatted sparse disk image doesn't update as it should when the free space on the underlying physical host disk is reduced. The second problem is the lack of error reports when write requests fail to dynamically grow the disk image, resulting in data being "written" into a void. Bombich tracks both bugs back to macOS's background "diskimages-helper" application service, which he has since reported to Apple.

Bombich's video demonstrating the APFS bug

Every installation of High Sierra on Macs with all-flash storage converts the existing file system to APFS, which is optimized for modern storage systems like solid-state drives. However, as Bombich notes, ordinary APFS volumes like SSD startup disks are not affected by the problem described above, so the vast majority of users won't be affected by it – the flaw is most applicable when making backups to network volumes. Bombich says Carbon Copy Cloner will not support AFPS-formatted sparse disk images until Apple resolves the issue.

The APFS flaw follows the discovery of another bug in Apple's operating systems that received extensive coverage last week. That bug is induced by sending a specific character in the Indian language Telugu, which causes certain apps on iPhones, iPads, and Macs to freeze up and become unresponsive. The Telugu character bug has already been fixed in Apple's upcoming iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 software updates.

Related Roundup: macOS High Sierra
Tag: APFS