Everyone likes getting something for nothing, especially when there's no or relatively few catches. Freebie Friday is the post where the MacNN staff find stuff that you can get, and possibly make use of this weekend, without spending a single penny. The freebies this time include a photography course, a free game, and a pile of App Store apps.
Google is appearing to take more steps to appeal to developers within the Apple device ecosystem, by offering up a version of its developer event app on iOS. The official iPhone app for Google I/O, set to take place next week, marks the first time the search company has created a version of the app for iOS, alongside its official Android app that has been offered for a longer period of time, with the app giving attendees and other interested developers the ability to check in on events happening during the conference.
Following claims from some customers that problems within either iTunes or the paid Apple Music service can -- in rare cases -- result in the deletion or substitution of local files in a user's music library, Apple has issued an official statement saying that while it has not been able to reproduce the issue, it will release an update to iTunes "early next week" that "includes additional safeguards," and added that is taking reports of problems seriously. MacNN conducted rigorous testing on this issue earlier this year.
Welcome to Daily Deals, the post where the staff of MacNN searches online retailers to get offers, discounts, sales, and bargains for our readers to enjoy. Dead deals from earlier in the week have been removed, while the new batch includes the Nest Learning Thermostat for $200, Fallout 4 for $30, and a 55-inch Samsung 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart LED TV for $1,200.
While the larger but badly-mismanaged LA Unified School District attempt to bring iPads in for every student's use ended in financial disaster for all parties, a similar program in California's Coachella Unified School System has been declared a success. The program, which provided iPads, educational software, and support for the entire 20,000-strong student body has been credited with lifting the graduation rate in the poverty-stricken district from 65 percent in 2011 to 82 percent in 2015.
The organization that manages driving licenses in the United Kingdom is experimenting with a digital version that exists in a smartphone. The CEO of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has published an image on Twitter showing off a digital driving license held in Apple's Passbook, allowing drivers to store their driving license and showing it as a form of identification to police and other government officials.
Newly-redesigned Apple Store renovations continue to roll out around the US and elsewhere, with Oklahoma City's Penn Square Apple Store -- originally the first Oklahoma Apple Store -- shut down as of April 18 so as to receive the upgrade, the centerpiece of which is a 37-foot television display, usually placed where the Genius Bar used to be. Genius service will still be available, but those staffers now mingle on the sales floor along with the rest of the staff. The redesign includes more "natural" elements such as plants and custom wooden cabinetry and tables.
Alongside our regular Daily Deals post, we are showcasing some of the offers available from our own MacNN Deals store. Today's items are all things you can use to solve household problems, or as a better idea, to advance your electronics skills. On one end, we have a way to jumpstart your car, enough screwdriver bits to open practically anything, a liquid plastic welding kit, and something to teach you how to produce Arduino-based projects.
A recently-published patent application from Apple suggests the company may be looking to make some changes to how HomeKit operates, in a multi-user household. The filing for "Aggregating user routines in an automated environment" describes a way for a smart home system to automatically create routine tasks on a schedule for each resident, managing which functions take place if multiple users are at the same location at the same time.
[Update: now fixed] According to a report from Apple, approximately 0.86 percent of users are currently seeing some problems with Mail and Notes, such as the inability to send or receive email from an iCloud account for the former program, and the inability to sync and in some cases create notes in the latter program. The outage which at press time has lasted for four hours, began shortly after 8AM Eastern time. While affected users can still access the web portal of iCloud if needed, syncing appears to be the biggest issue.
Following the wider launch of Apple Pay in Canada this week, Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey has given some insight into why the role out in different markets is not especially straight forward. While the deals themselves between the banks and Apple can take extended periods to negotiate, the IT infrastructure requirements at the back end also contribute to the time taken to get Apple Pay up and running. In the case of the Canadian market, all payment transfers between financial institutions must go through Interac, a system unique to Canada.
We've been perplexed by Apple Music, and how it streams you a live version of a song in the middle of a studio album you own. We've blinked a bit when half a dozen tracks were gone from our favorite playlist. What we haven't been is annoyed that Apple has deleted any of our music, because it hasn't. If you think tracks are deleted, then there is something else going on. Yet whether you deleted them while distracted, or somebody at Apple is giggling at their secret malicious update to iTunes, there is no reason it should be more than an annoyance.
Alongside our regular MacNN Deals and Daily Deals posts, the writers of MacNN occasionally find offers that are interesting or major enough to warrant their own Big Deals post. Today's selection is from the MacNN Deals Store, and is a collection of productivity apps that you can choose how much it cost, called the Pay What You Want: Spring 2016 Mac Bundle.
Alexa, Amazon's voice-based digital assistant, is making its way to smartphones as part of another voice app. Roger, a push-to-talk communications app that sent audio recordings between users, has been retooled as a "voice platform" that can send recordings to a variety of online services, with the app also allowing users to communicate with Alexa, even if they do not own an Amazon Echo or any other device that connects to the assistant.
This does not come up every day: I've been using OmniFocus for at least five years now, and I've never done this before -- but I've wanted to. I've been thwarted by what seems to be a simple process, but has just a couple of little catches that meant it never seemed to work for me. If that's you too, this is how to do it. If that isn't you, if you find OmniFocus child actions or subprojects as obvious as they are intended to be, you could've let me know. On the other hand, if you don't know OmniFocus at all, let me tell you at evangelical length.
Apple has made a considerable investment in a ride-hailing service based in China, one that effectively brings Apple into competition against Uber in the region, it has been revealed. Didi Chuxing, formerly known as Didi Kuaidi, has received approximately $1 billion from the investment, with Apple CEO Tim Cook claiming it will help the computer maker increase its understanding of how the Chinese market works.
Apple's research and development budget is on track for a record in 2016, which as we have previously noted , will crest $10 billion for the first time. One analyst is now asserting that Apple's 30 percent jump in R&D spending year-over-year can be linked to the rumored Apple Car, also known by its rumored codename of "Project Titan". Analyst Neil Cybart attempts uses a chart that captures Apple's R&D expenditure from 1996 and overlays it with relatively recent major Apple product launches. Even as recently as four years ago, Cybart notes that Apple was spending just over $3 billion, arguing that the only plausible explanation for such a dramatic upturn in R&D expenditure can only be explained in a planned Apple pivot into another market in the long term, rather than relying on its iPhone over the short to medium term.
Although the high profile case between Apple and the FBI in gaining access to the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino shooter ended with the FBI hiring a hacking firm to break into the device, the battle between law enforcement and tech companies over data encryption is far from over. It was only on Wednesday that FBI Director James Cormey said that it is only a matter of time before there was court action by law enforcement to gain access to data on consumer devices. Now, the Manhattan District Attorney is continuing the push by law enforcement officials to force technology companies to decrypt data on devices on demand with the approval of a judge.
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Cirrus creates Lightning-headphone dev kit
Apple supplier Cirrus Logic has introduced a MFi-compliant new development kit for companies interested in using Cirrus' chips to create Lightning-based headphones, which -- regardless of whether rumors about Apple dropping the analog headphone jack in its iPhone this fall -- can offer advantages to music-loving iOS device users. The kit mentions some of the advantages of an all-digital headset or headphone connector, including higher-bitrate support, a more customizable experience, and support for power and data transfer into headphone hardware. Several companies already make Lightning headphones, and Apple has supported the concept since June 2014. http://bit.ly/29giiZj
Apple Store app offers Procreate Pocket
The Apple Store app for iPhone, which periodically rewards users with free app gifts, is now offering the iPhone "Pocket" version of drawing app Procreate for those who have the free Apple Store app until July 28. Users who have redeemed the offer by navigating to the "Stores" tab of the app and swiping past the "iPhone Upgrade Program" banner to the "Procreate" banner have noted that only the limited Pocket (iPhone) version of the app is available free, even if the Apple Store app is installed and the offer redeemed on an iPad. The Pocket version currently sells for $3 on the iOS App Store. [32.4MB]
Porsche adds CarPlay to 2017 Panamera
Porsche has added a fifth model of vehicle to its CarPlay-supported lineup, announcing that the 2017 Panamera -- which will arrive in the US in January -- will include Apple's infotainment technology, and be seen on a giant 12.3-inch touchscreen as part of an all-new Porsche Communication Management system. The luxury sedan starts at $99,900 for the 4S model, and scales up to the Panamera Turbo, which sells for $146,900. Other vehicles that currently support CarPlay include the 2016 911 and the 2017 models of Macan, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman. The company did not mention support for Google's corresponding Android Auto in its announcement. http://bit.ly/295ZQ94
Apple employees testing wheelchair features
New features included in the forthcoming watchOS 3 are being tested by Apple retail store employees, including a new activity-tracking feature that has been designed with wheelchair users in mind. The move is slightly unusual in that, while retail employees have previously been used to test pre-release versions of OS X and iOS, this marks the first time they've been included in the otherwise developer-only watchOS betas. The company is said to have gone to great lengths to modify the activity tracker for wheelchair users, including changing the "time to stand" notification to "time to roll" and including two wheelchair-centric workout apps. http://bit.ly/2955JDa
SanDisk reveals two 256GB microSDXC cards
SanDisk has introduced two 256GB microSDXC cards. Arriving in August for $150, the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I Premium Edition card offers transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s for reading data. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card can read at a fast 100MB/s and write at up to 90MB/s, and will be shipping sometime in the fourth quarter for $200. http://bit.ly/294Q1If
Apple's third-quarter results due July 26
Apple has advised it will be issuing its third-quarter results on July 26, with a conference call to answer investor and analyst queries about the earnings set to take place later that day. The stream of the call will go live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) via Apple's investor site, with the results themselves expected to be released roughly 30 minutes before the call commences. Apple's guidance for the quarter put revenue at between $41 billion and $43 billion. http://apple.co/1oi1Pbm
Twitter stickers slowly roll out to users
Twitter has introduced "stickers," allowing users to add extra graphical elements to their photos before uploading them to the micro-blogging service. A library of hundreds of accessories, props, and emoji will be available to use as stickers, which can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere on the photograph. Images with stickers will also become searchable with viewers able to select a sticker to see how others use the same graphic in their own posts. Twitter advises stickers will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks, and will work on both the mobile apps and through the browser. http://bit.ly/29bbwUE