Tim Hardwick

Tim is a Contributing Editor at MacRumors. He has been covering technology for a decade, but will write about anything that interests him, from philosophy of mind to his own brand of bad fiction. Originally from Liverpool, England, Tim can sometimes be found accessing a personal wi-fi hotspot from a ferry somewhere on the Mersey.



Audiophile Review: HomePod 'Sounds Better' Than $999 KEF X300A Digital Hi-Fi Speakers

HomePod reviews from the tech press came thick and fast last week, and while the smart speaker's sound quality was consistently praised, most reviews were based on subjective assessments and didn't take into account professional-grade output measurements. Early on Monday, however, Reddit user WinterCharm posted exhaustive audio performance testing results for HomePod to the Reddit audiophile community. Using specialized equipment and a controlled testing environment, the review features in-depth analysis of the smart speaker's output when compared to a pair of $999 KEF X300A digital hi-fi monitors, representing a "meticulously set up audiophile grade speaker versus a tiny little HomePod that claims to do room correction on its own". As expected, WinterCharm criticized the HomePod for its AirPlay-only output limitation and Siri's often-lackluster performance as a virtual assistant, but the speaker's audio quality appraisal was a different story. Interested readers can check out all the details and technical minutiae here, but in short, WinterCharm offered the following summary after a battery of exhaustive tests. I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you're new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I'd made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an Audiophile grade

VLC 3.0 Update Adds Cross-Platform 4K and 8K Hardware Decoding, HDR10, Chromecast Support, and More

VideoLAN on Friday released VLC 3.0 "Vetinari", a major update to the popular media player that is rolling out across all platforms, including macOS, iOS, and tvOS. Version 3 includes a huge number of new features and improvements to the app, including automatic hardware decoding for 4K and 8K playback, support for 10-bit HDR, 360-degree video and 3D audio, and Chromecast streaming with support for non-native formats. VLC now works with Blu-Ray Java menus and features network browsing support for local network and NAS drives, including those with SMB, FTP, SFTP, NFS filesystems. The iOS app has also been optimized for iPhone X displays, while on Mac, Chromecast streaming to supported devices can be found in the menu bar under Playback -> Renderer. Among many other changes and improvements in VLC Vetinari, further standout features include: a redesigned and resizable fullscreen controller; a new status bar icon which displays metadata and play controls; support for keyboard blacklight dimming during fullscreen video playback; significant performance improvements in playlist handling; and a simplified preferences window. Check the online changelog for the complete list of updates. VLC 3.0 is a free downloaded for Mac from the VideoLan website. (Note that version 3.0.0 of VLC removes support for OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and requires Mac systems to run OS X 10.7 Lion or later.) VLC 3.0.0 is already available on the tvOS App Store, but the iPhone and iPad update still appears to be rolling out as of

How to Prevent Other HomePod Users From Affecting Your Apple Music Recommendations

Apple's HomePod speaker is best enjoyed when linked to an Apple Music subscription, since this allows you to make the most of Siri's enhanced music smarts and its DJ-like role as a personal music curator, or "mixologist", as Apple calls it. As Apple Music subscribers will know, the streaming service learns your music preferences based on what you say and play, which helps it populate the app's "For You" section with new songs that you might like, and enables Siri to generate new playlists on the fly at your request. If you're concerned that other people in your household will skew your Apple Music recommendations by using HomePod to play songs that don't align with your tastes, then there's a setting you'll want to disable as soon as possible. It's called "Use Listening History", and here's how to find it. How to Enable/Disable Your HomePod's Listening History Open the Home app on your iPhone or iPad. Long press on the HomePod icon in your Accessories list. Tap the Details button. Under the "Music & Podcasts" section, toggle on/off Use Listening History. And that's it. By turning off the setting, HomePod will happily continue to play songs from Apple's vast music catalog for anyone who asks, but the songs will be excluded from its personal curation

How to Disable Personal Requests on HomePod

You can use Siri on your HomePod to access your messages, notes, and reminders, all of which are what Apple calls Personal Requests. As a rule, these only work when the device that was used to set up HomePod is connected to the same local network, which Siri interprets to mean that you're home. That's nice to know, but it doesn't account for the fact that anyone within earshot of HomePod can still make personal requests to services synced to your iCloud account. That's not so good news if you share your living space with others, or invite guests over to stay, for example. If you're already using your HomePod, you may recall being asked during the setup process whether or not you'd like to enable Personal Requests. Regardless of what you selected during setup, you can turn Personal Requests on and off from your iPhone or iPad whenever you like. Here's how to do it.

How to Use Your HomePod as a Speakerphone

Apple's HomePod smart speaker is primarily geared towards playing songs from the Apple Music catalog and listening to music and podcasts in your iTunes library, but it also features a handy speakerphone function that's ready to use out of the box. Powering the function is HomePod's six-microphone array, which features an advanced echo cancellation system so that Siri can understand anyone speaking to it in the room. This also means that anyone in your household on the same local network can easily hand off calls to the HomePod from a nearby iPhone, with the HomePod able to serve as both a speaker and a microphone for a handsfree conversation, regardless of their position in relation to the device. Here's how it's done.

Facebook Tests Reddit-Like 'Downvote' Feature for Disliking User Comments

Facebook is said to be testing a "downvote" button among some users of the social network, according to a report on Thursday. The "dislike"-like option apparently appeared in the comments section of posts within Facebook groups and on old Facebook memories content, as shown in screenshots shared with The Daily Beast. A Facebook spokesperson denied that the company is "testing a dislike button", but then went on to offer an explanation that appeared on the face of it to suggest something just like one. Image via The Daily Beast We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only.The feature in testing reportedly gives users the ability to downvote certain comments, similar to the way votes in Reddit work, but it's unclear how far the tests will go. According to a 2016 Bloomberg report, Facebook executives had rejected a dislike button long ago "on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity" on the social network. In February 2016, Facebook launched Reactions, an extension of the Like button, to give users more ways to share their reaction to a post. The emoji-like feature extended to Facebook Messenger in March last year. Facebook regularly tests features with a small number of users and many never reach the stage of a broader rollout to the general

How to Set Up Your New HomePod

Before you can start using your new Apple HomePod, you'll need to set it up using an iPhone or iPad that's synced to an iCloud account. During the setup process, HomePod will link the iCloud account to personal request features accessed through the speaker via Siri voice commands, such as the ability to send messages, set up reminders, and get calendar notifications. It will also link the HomePod to any existing Apple Music subscription tied to that iCloud/iTunes user, so it's worth thinking carefully about which account holder in your household you want to associate with the speaker. For the HomePod setup process to work you'll need an iOS device running iOS 11.2.5 or later, so check your iPhone or iPad is up to date. To do so, open the Settings app, tap General -> About, and look for the version number. If you need to update, tap back to Settings, select Software Update, and follow the onscreen instructions.

Live News Section in Apple's TV App Rolls Out to US Users

Apple's TV app gained a new News section late on Thursday. The dedicated section is appearing for users in the United States with devices running the latest iOS 11.2.5 and tvOS 11.2.5 releases. The new News option offers live streaming access to Bloomberg, CBS News, Cheddar, CNBC, CNN, and Fox News. The aggregated streams can be viewed directly within the TV app, although like other sourced content, users need to have the associated third-party tvOS apps installed for the channel links to show up. The News section was originally demoed during Apple's September Apple TV 4K announcement, where the recently launched Sports section was also shown. The main difference between the two in the app interface is that Sports gets its own button, while News currently sits below a section created for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in the "Watch Now" area of the TV app.

Media Watchdog Advises Journalists in China to Avoid Using iCloud Accounts, Citing Privacy Fears

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB/RSF) has urged journalists using iCloud in China to migrate away from Apple's cloud service this month, before control of their data is handed over to a Chinese company (via Hong Kong Free Press). Beginning February 28, Apple's iCloud services in mainland China will be operated by Guizhou on the Cloud Big Data (GCBD), which is owned by the Guizhou provincial government in southern China. The firm is set to manage Apple's new $1 billion data center, which opened in the region last year. The operational change was agreed between Apple and the Chinese government, bringing the tech giant into compliance with the country's new cloud computing regulations. Apple says the partnership with GCBD will improve the speed and reliability of iCloud services and products, and has assured iCloud customers that no backdoors had been created into any of its systems. However, press freedom advocates fear that user data will become accessible to the Chinese state as a result of the switch. Earlier this week, RWB/RSF explicitly criticized Apple's "readiness to accommodate China's authoritarian regime". "Apple promises that it will never give governments a backdoor to content, but there is no way of being sure about this," Head of RSF's East Asia bureau Cédric Alviani said. "Knowing the Chinese government's determination and the extent of the means of pressure at its disposal, it will end up getting its way sooner or later, if it hasn't already."Last month, Apple contacted and advised customers in China to examine new terms and

First HomePod Orders Start Shipping Out to Customers in the U.K.

Apple customers in the United Kingdom who pre-ordered HomePod have started receiving shipping despatch notifications this morning. Those who ordered before initial supplies began dwindling earlier this week can expect deliveries to arrive sometime on Friday, which is Apple's official launch day for HomePod. Images via @ryancarter_94 As expected, it looks as if Apple is relying on DPD to courier the majority of HomePods to homes across the U.K. Using their tracking information provided by Apple, customers can use the DPD website or download and install the DPD iPhone app and request a time slot for delivery, which are subject to availability. Earlier today, customers in Australia who ordered a HomePod for February 9 began receiving shipment notifications. It's Thursday evening on February 8 in Australia, so the first HomePod deliveries will begin in the country in just a matter of hours. Customers expecting launch day delivery in the United States may be able to locate their HomePod's shipping information by going to the UPS website, selecting the track by reference number option, and entering the phone number associated with a HomePod order. Apple is no longer offering the HomePod for February 9 delivery or in-store pickup, but John Lewis, Argos, EE, and Currys PC World may have stock available for U.K. customers, while Apple will likely have a supply of HomePods available for walk-in purchase in retail stores in the U.S., UK, and Australia on launch day. (Thanks, Ryan!)

Apple Adds Chinese Firms to its Pool of 3D Sensing Module Suppliers for 2018 iPhones and iPads

Apple will work with two Chinese suppliers in 2018 to ensure a stable supply of 3D sensing modules for use in this year's iPhone and iPad line-up, according to a report on Thursday by ET News. Last month The Investor claimed Apple was planning a $820.9 million investment in LG Innotek to secure supply of 3D sensing modules, which are key components of the iPhone X's new TrueDepth camera system, enabling features such as Face ID and Animoji. However, according to today's report, Apple has selected two Chinese companies to shore up supply. One is said to be an emerging supplier amongst smartphone part markets, and the other is a popular semiconductor packaging company. Nevertheless, LG Innotek is expected remain the biggest main vendor out of the three module suppliers, while the two Chinese companies will provide the rest. Apple plans to launch a refreshed iPhone X, a larger iPhone X Plus, and a mid-range iPhone each with Face ID later this year, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple will also release at least one iPad Pro model with Face ID this year, according to Bloomberg. It's unusual for Apple to source Chinese suppliers for key parts, but the additional help could mean Apple avoids the temporary supply chain issues it experienced with 3D sensing modules late last year. In addition, the extra supply could benefit Apple in the long term if it looks to combine the front-facing camera and Face ID on future iPhones, as claimed by ETNews back in January. According to the report, industry sources claim Apple's plan to combine these

Screenshots of WhatsApp's First Peer-to-Peer Payments System Surface Online

Over a year ago now, we reported on claims that popular mobile chat platform WhatsApp was looking at introducing a peer-to-peer payments system, beginning with a rollout for users in India. Today, the first iPhone screenshots of such a system appeared online via social media, revealing a list of Indian banks that will apparently support the service at launch. The images indicate that the WhatsApp payment method will utilize the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India that facilitates inter-bank transactions. UPI is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform. The same system is also used by Swedish-based phone number lookup service Trucaller, which introduced user-to-user payments in India via a tie-in with ICICI Bank last April. WhatsApp's UPI setup process appears to involve just a couple of steps, after which users can presumably instantly transfer cash to other WhatsApp users' bank accounts. The payment system could be ready for launch in India in the first quarter of 2018, although WhatsApp's plans for a similar payments system for users in other countries remain unclear. Facebook has had a payments system in its Messenger app for some time in the U.S., but WhatsApp remains far more popular in India and is heavily used there as an e-commerce portal, despite not yet offering any features that specifically support the practice.

How to Use iCloud Keychain on Your iOS Devices

iCloud Keychain is a feature of your Apple account that you can use to keep your website login credentials, personal details, credit card details, and wireless network information up to date and available across all your Apple devices. With so many usernames and passwords to remember these days, iCloud Keychain provides a convenient way of always having this information at hand. And with its AutoFill feature, iCloud Keychain can even enter your credentials for you when required. It's also very secure, thanks to Apple's use of end-to-end encryption. This means that only you can access your information, and only on devices where you're signed in to iCloud. Keep reading to learn how to enable iCloud Keychain on your iOS devices. How to Enable iCloud Keychain on Your iPhone or iPad Open the Settings app and tap your Apple ID banner at the top of the Settings menu. Tap iCloud. Scroll down the list and select Keychain. Toggle on the iCloud Keychain switch and enter your Apple ID password if prompted. If this is the first time you've enabled iCloud Keychain, you'll be asked to create an iCloud Security Code or use your existing device passcode. You'll also need to enter a phone number where you can receive SMS messages for authorization purposes. If you've already enabled iCloud Keychain in the past, you'll be prompted to enter the passcode that was used to set it up previously. Accessing Your Login Details in iCloud Keychain With iCloud Keychain enabled, Apple's Autofill feature will fill in your login credentials for you whenever you come across the

Apple in Talks With Goldman Sachs Over Potential iPhone Buyer Finance Options

Apple is in talks with its investment bank Goldman Sachs about the possibility of offering customers financial loans when buying Apple products, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The Wall Street firm is in talks to offer financing to shoppers buying phones, watches and other gadgets from Apple, people familiar with the matter said. Customers purchasing a $1,000 iPhone X could take out a loan from Goldman instead of charging it to credit cards that often carry high interest rates.Talks between Apple and Goldman Sachs remain at an early stage and could still fall apart, according to WSJ. Both the tech giant and the investment bank declined to comment for the report. Part of Goldman's discussions with Apple are said to involve taking over some form of Apple's iPhone upgrade program, which is designed for users who want to have the newest iPhone every year and comes with AppleCare+ included. Those who sign up for the program in its current form can trade-in their existing iPhone for a new model after 12 monthly installments are made, starting a new cycle of the program each year. Apple started the program in September 2015 with the help of Citizens Financial Group, who finance the zero-interest loans for iPhone upgrades and higher-interest options for other device purchases. The program was introduced around the same time that wireless providers began reducing buyer subsidies for iPhones. Goldman Sachs is said to view the potential financing deal with Apple as a way of growing its new consumer bank, as it looks beyond corporate

Apple Retail Stores in China to Accept Alipay Mobile Payments

Alipay, the mobile payment system offered by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will soon be accepted in Apple retail stores across China, making it the first third-party mobile payment system to be accepted at brick-and-mortar Apple stores anywhere in the world (via Reuters). The partnership with Apple was announced in a statement on Wednesday by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, which runs Alipay. Apple's regional China website, iTunes Store, and App Store have accepted Alipay for over a year, but Apple has now agreed to accept Alipay payments across all of its 41 local retail stores in the country, where Apple Pay has thus far received a lukewarm reception. Alipay is China's most used mobile payment platform, but Alibaba is looking to keep one step ahead of Tencent Holdings' rival digital payment system, which is integrated into hugely popular chat app WeChat. Reports of discussions about a potential partnership between Apple and Alibaba date back to November 2014, when the idea of integrating Alibaba's Alipay with Apple Pay was first considered as a more comprehensive mobile payments solution for the Chinese market.

Apple Sending Ad Spend and Install Reports to the Wrong Developers

Apple this morning has apparently sent several developers report emails for Search Ads Basics that belong to other developers. The reports, which relate to promoted ads that show up in App Store search queries, have been received in error by several developers this morning, as noted on Twitter. Um Apple you might want to check why Search Ads is emailing me some other developer's ad spend details pic.twitter.com/hfBcsqpCiy— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) February 6, 2018 Introduced late last year, Search Ads Basic works so that developers only pay out if a user installs the app. It includes suggestions on how much a developer should pay based on historical data pulled from the App Store based on the type of app being marketed, and uses App Store trends to target the ideal audience. Today's communications error harks back to a similar issue Apple had with iTunes Connect that occurred two years ago, when users were shown someone else's session after attempting to login to their own account. TechCrunch contacted some of the developers who said they had gotten the emails, and confirmed that the mis-sent message currently appeared to be the only issue. We'll update this article when we learn

NYPD Rolls Out iPhone 7 and 7 Plus Handsets to Manhattan Officers, Replacing Windows Phones

The New York Police Department is making good on a promise made last year to dole out iPhone handsets to its officers, replacing around 36,000 Windows Phones as part of a new hardware upgrade strategy, reports the New York Daily News. The NYPD has been rolling out hundreds of the phones since Christmas to Manhattan cops, who can choose between iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. The platform switch comes at no cost to the police department because the handsets are filed as upgrades under the agency's contract with AT&T. Image via New York Daily News "We've been giving out about 600 phones a day," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Information and Technology Jessica Tisch. "We're seeing a lot of excitement." Police in the Bronx and Staten Island have already received their new phones, with officers in the Queens and Brooklyn boroughs next in line to make the switch to iOS. Armed with Apple's smartphones, the NYPD has seen its response times to critical crimes in progress drop by 14 percent, according to Tisch. The iPhones also allow cops to get videos and surveillance pictures of wanted suspects within minutes of a crime. "I truly feel like it's the ultimate tool to have as a patrol cop," said Police Officer Christopher Clampitt. "We get to the location a lot quicker," he said. "By the time the dispatcher puts out the job (on the radio) we're already there."Before the rollout, NYPD's smartphones of choice were Nokia's Lumia 830 and Lumia 640 XL, released in October 2014 and March 2015 respectively. The discontinued devices run Windows Phone 8.1, which

How to Secure Your Apple ID Using Two-Factor Authentication

Apple introduced two-factor authentication (2FA) in 2015 to provide an enhanced level of security when accessing Apple ID accounts. With 2FA enabled, you'll be the only person who can access your account, regardless of whether someone learns your password – as the result of a hack or a phishing scam, for example – so it's well worth taking the time to enable the feature. In this article, we'll show you how. How Two-Factor Authentication Works 2FA offers hardened security during login attempts by requesting that the user provides an extra piece of information only they would know. With 2FA enabled on your Apple ID account, the next time you try to log in you will be automatically sent a six-digit verification code to all the Apple devices you have registered to that Apple ID. If you try to access the account from an unknown device or on the web, 2FA also displays a map on all registered devices with an approximate location of where the Apple ID login attempt occurred. In basic terms, this is an improved version of Apple's older two-step verification method, which prompted users to send a four-digit code to a registered SMS-capable device. Apple automatically upgraded most two-step verification users to 2FA as of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, but if you're still on two-step verification for some reason, follow the steps below to manually upgrade to 2FA. How to Turn Off Two-Step Verification Open a browser and go to appleid.apple.com Enter your Apple ID and password in the login fields. In the Security section of your account page, click the Edit

Apple's HomePod Delivery Estimate Slips to February 13 in UK, Launch Day Orders Still Available From Resellers

Apple's HomePod pre-launch stock showed the first signs of dwindling supply on Monday. Customers in the U.K. placing new pre-orders on the company's regional online store can now expect deliveries of Apple's smart speaker to arrive no earlier than Tuesday, February 13, three days after the official launch day this Friday. In the United States and Australia, where HomePod is also launching this week, shipping estimates for the smart speaker in both White and Space Gray colors are still listed as Friday, February 9. Despite the slip in Apple's delivery date, U.K. residents can still get hold of a HomePod on launch day by pre-ordering online from authorized Apple resellers. At the time of writing, stock is listed as available at Argos, EE, and Currys PC World. John Lewis will also be accepting HomePod pre-orders from 8pm GMT on Wednesday, February 7. Last week, Apple's first batch of pre-order customers began receiving notifications from their banks about being charged for their orders, with many located in the U.K. Apple began taking orders for the HomePod on January 26 in the United States ($349), U.K. (£319), and Australia ($499). Later this spring, the HomePod will also launch in France and

Apple Pulls Telegram Messenger From App Store for 'Inappropriate Content' [Update: Returned]

Apple has pulled popular encrypted messenger app Telegram from the App Store, following reports of "inappropriate content" hosted on the platform that violated Apple's developer guidelines for iOS apps. Users first noted Telegram's absence late on Wednesday via Reddit, after App Store searches for the app began returning results for Viber, Skype, and Messenger instead. Both the original app and experimental offshoot Telegram X still don't appear on the App Store at the time of writing. The exact reason for the apps' removal isn't yet clear, but Telegram founder Pavel Durov responded to a tweet on Thursday by explaining that the company was alerted by Apple to "inappropriate content" made available to users of both apps, which led to them being pulled. We were alerted by Apple that inappropriate content was made available to our users and both apps were taken off the App Store. Once we have protections in place we expect the apps to be back on the App Store.— Pavel Durov (@durov) February 1, 2018 Apple's review guidelines include a section on user safety that prohibits "upsetting or offensive content", while a sub-section covering user-generated content requires that the relevant apps include: • A method for filtering objectionable material from being posted to the app • A mechanism to report offensive content and timely responses to concerns • The ability to block abusive users from the service • Published contact information so users can easily reach you Apps with user-generated content or services that end up being used primarily for