Things Apple's $350 HomePod Smart-Speaker Can't Do: Answer Random Questions, Check Calendar, Work With an Android Phone, and More ( 246

In June last year, Apple announced the HomePod, its first smart-speaker which will battle Amazon's sleeper hit Echo speakers and Google's Home speakers. Apple being late to enter a product category is nothing new, but the HomePod has a few other strange things about it. Apple said it won't begin shipping the HomePod until December that year, in a departure of its own tradition. Then the device's shipment was delayed till "early 2018" -- February 9 is the current shipping date. Bloomberg has reported about the difficulties Apple engineers faced over the years to come up with the HomePod.

At any rate, Business Insider now has more information about the device, and is reporting the things that Apple's first smart-speaker won't be able to do. From the report (condensed): 1. HomePod can't pair with Android phones.
2. HomePod doesn't recognize different people's voices.
3. HomePod can't check your calendar.
4. HomePod doesn't work well with other streaming services besides Apple Music. (Spotify, Tindal, and Pandora users won't be able to use Siri.)
5. HomePod can't hook up to another device using an auxiliary cord.
6. HomePod can't make calls on its own. (In order to make a call using HomePod, you have to dial the person's number on your iPhone, then manually select that the call play through HomePod.)
7. The HomePod version of Siri isn't prepared to answer random questions like Alexa and Google Assistant.


Washington Bill Makes It Illegal To Sell Gadgets Without Replaceable Batteries ( 384

Jason Koebler writes: A bill that would make it easier to fix your electronics is rapidly hurtling through the Washington state legislature. The bill's ascent is fueled by Apple's iPhone-throttling controversy, which has placed a renewed focus on the fact that our electronics have become increasingly difficult to repair.

Starting in 2019, the bill would ban the sale of electronics that are designed "in such a way as to prevent reasonable diagnostic or repair functions by an independent repair provider. Preventing reasonable diagnostic or repair functions includes permanently affixing a battery in a manner that makes it difficult or impossible to remove."


Apple's Getting Back Into the E-Books Fight Against Amazon ( 46

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg: Apple is ready to take on in the digital book market again, years after regulators forced the iPhone maker to back down from an earlier effort to challenge the e-commerce giant's lead. Apple is working on a redesigned version of its iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads and has hired an executive from Amazon to help. The new app, due to be released in coming months, will include a simpler interface that better highlights books currently being read and a redesigned digital book store that looks more like the new App Store launched last year, according to people familiar with its development. The revamped app in testing includes a new section called Reading Now and a dedicated tab for audio books, the people said. Apple released an early version of its iOS 11.3 mobile operating system update to developers on Wednesday, providing a hint that the new e-books app is on the way. The app is now simply called "Books," rather than "iBooks," according to the update.

Apple Adds Medical Records Feature For iPhone ( 101

On Wednesday, Apple released the test version of a new product that lets users download their health records, store them safely and show them to a doctor, caregiver or friend. "We view the future as consumers owning their own health data," Apple COO Jeff Williams said in an interview with CNBC. From the report: It all works when a user opens the iPhone's health app, navigates to the health record section, and, on the new tool, adds a health provider. From there, the user taps to connect to Apple's software system and data start streaming into the service. Patients will get notified via an alert if new information becomes available. In June, CNBC first reported on Apple's plans, including early discussions with top U.S. hospitals. The company confirmed that it has contracts with about a dozen hospitals across the country, including Cedars-Sinai, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Penn Medicine and the University of California, San Diego. The medical information available will include allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vitals. The information is encrypted and protected through a user's iPhone passcode.

Apple Will Soon Let Users Turn Off its iPhone-slowing Software ( 124

Following an uproar from customers last month, Apple on Wednesday said it's adding a feature to its latest iOS update that will let customers turn off software that slows down their iPhones. From a report: Apple in December revealed that it released software a year earlier that makes your phone run more slowly to prevent problems with its aging lithium ion battery, such as unexpected shutdowns. As part of the new iOS 11.3 update, iPhone users will get a recommendation if a battery needs to be serviced. Plus, they will be able to see if the power management feature that slows the phone's performance is on and can choose to turn it off, the company said Wednesday.

iPhone X Purchase Leads To Police, Battering Ram, and Handcuffs ( 411

An anonymous reader quotes CBS SFBayArea: On one recent morning, Rick Garcia and his wife Shannon Knuth woke up to a posse of San Francisco police officers at their front door. "I peered through the peephole and I saw a police officer and a battering ram," Garcia said. "We heard 'SFPD' and 'warrant,' and I was like 'what's going on?'" Knuth remembers. It felt like a nightmare yet it was real. Garcia says that within seconds he was dragged into the hallway of his apartment complex, handcuffed, then whisked away to the Taraval Station.... Meanwhile Knuth, who had just got out of the shower, was ordered to sit on the couch... After rifling through the apartment Knuth says the officers finally told her what they were looking for: Her husband's iPhone X.

According to the warrant, it was stolen but Knuth showed them the receipt which proved her husband bought it. Once the officers realized their mistake they called the police station and a squad car brought Garcia home. "They gathered their pry bar and their battering ram and they left," he said. So how could a mistake like that happen? It's still unclear but it turns out Garcia and Knuth bought the iPhone at an Apple store at Stonestown Galleria just a few weeks after 300 iPhone Xs were stolen from a UPS truck in the mall parking lot.

One former police chief says the way it was handled "kind of boggles the mind...

"This was clearly an incident that should have just been a knock and talk, a couple detectives come to the door, knock on the door and they would have gathered the same info that they gathered after they put him in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail."

Apple Might Discontinue the iPhone X This Summer ( 181

BGR shares a startling prediction from Ming-Chi Kuo, the Apple analyst at KGI securities: Kuo -- who we should note has an exemplary track record with respect to iPhone rumors -- adds that Apple may opt to discontinue the current iPhone X entirely if sales are underwhelming. "KGI also expects a trio of iPhone models in the fall of 2018," AppleInsider notes. "He predicts the iPhone X will be 'end of life' in the summer of 2018, instead of being retained as a lower-cost option in the following year." If Kuo's projection pans out, this would represent a marked shift in Apple's iPhone sales strategy. Going back nearly a decade, Apple has always positioned older iPhone models around as a wallet-friendly alternative for users who weren't keen on paying a premium for Apple's latest and greatest.

China's Smartphone Maker OnePlus Says Up To 40,000 Customers Were Affected by Credit Card Security Breach ( 8

sqorbit writes: OnePlus, a manufacturer of an inexpensive smartphone meant to compete with the iPhone, states that data from 40,000 customers credit card information was stolen while purchasing phones from its website. Even as the company has just confirmed the breach, it says the the script stealing information had been running since November. It is not clear whether this was a remote attack or the attack happened from within the company. Credit purchases on the OnePlus site have been suspended and will remain that way while an investigation takes place. [...] Earlier this week, OnePlus had temporarily shut down credit card payments on its website following reports that customers' payment details were stolen after they bought goods through its online store. The company says it's disabling credit card payments "as a precaution," but will still be accepting purchases through PayPal. The investigation began after a poll posted by users on OnePlus' forums found that many customers had experienced the same problem.

'Text Bomb' Is Latest Apple Bug ( 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: A new "text bomb" affecting Apple's iPhone and Mac computers has been discovered. Abraham Masri, a software developer, tweeted about the flaw which typically causes an iPhone to crash and in some cases restart. Simply sending a message containing a link which pointed to Mr Masri's code on programming site GitHub would be enough to activate the bug -- even if the recipient did not click the link itself. Mr Masri said he "always reports bugs" before releasing them. Apple has not yet commented on the issue. On a Mac, the bug reportedly makes the Safari browser crash, and causes other slowdowns. Security expert Graham Cluley wrote on his blog that the bug does not present anything to be particularly worried about -- it's merely very annoying. After the link did the rounds on social media, Mr Masri removed the code from GitHub, therefore disabling the "attack" unless someone was to replicate the code elsewhere.

Apple Is Blocking an App That Detects Net Neutrality Violations ( 259

dmoberhaus writes: Apple isn't allowing a new app developed by a university professor that detects when your internet is being throttled by ISPs from being listed on the app store. The company claimed the app contained "objectionable content" and "has no direct benefits to the user."
The reporter, who tested the app through the beta channel, writes: The app is designed to test download speeds from seven apps: YouTube, Amazon, NBCSports, Netflix, Skype, Spotify, and Vimeo. According to the app, my Verizon LTE service streamed YouTube to my iPhone at 6 Mbps, Amazon Prime video at 8 Mbps, and Netflix at 4 Mbps. It downloaded other data at speeds of up to 25 Mbps. UPDATE: Slashdot reader sl3xd has made us aware of an update to the story. "After this article was published, Apple told Dave Choffnes that his iPhone app, designed to detect net neutrality violations, will be allowed in the iTunes App Store," reports Motherboard. "According to Choffnes, Apple contacted him and explained that the company has to deal with many apps that don't do the things they claim to do. Apple asked Choffnes to provide a technical description of how his app is able to detect if wireless telecom providers throttle certain types of data, and 18 hours after he did, the app was approved." "The conversation was very pleasant, but did not provide any insight into the review process [that] led the app to be rejected in the first place," Choffnes told Motherboard in an email.

Tim Cook Says Power Management Feature In Older iPhones Will Be Able To Be Turned Off In Future Update ( 162

In an interview with Rebecca Jarvis of ABC News, Apple CEO Tim Cook touched on the ongoing controversy over power management features in older iPhones. He says that a future update will allow customers to turn off the power management feature that has caused older iPhones to slow down. Mac Rumors reports: According to Cook, when the power management features were first introduced in iOS 10.2.1, Apple did explain what was going on, but following the controversy, he believes Apple should have been clearer. The company did indeed mention that the shutdown issue was caused by uneven power delivery and explained that its power management system had been tweaked, but there was no clear notice that it could cause devices to operate more slowly at times. Cook says Apple "deeply apologizes" to customers who thought the company had other motivations. Apple is introducing better battery monitoring features in a future iOS update, and Cook says Apple will also allow customers to turn off the power management feature, which is new information that the company has not previously shared. The majority of the interview was focused on the announcements that Apple made today. The company plans to contribute $350 billion in the U.S. economy over the next five years, as well as issue employees a bonus of $2,500 of restricted stock units following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law.

Apple Gives Employees $2,500 Bonuses After New Tax Law ( 277

Apple told employees that it's issuing a bonus of $2,500 of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law. "The iPhone maker will begin issuing grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months," reports Bloomberg. Apple also announced today that it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years. From the report: Apple confirmed the bonuses in response to a Bloomberg inquiry Wednesday. The Cupertino, California-based company joins a growing list of American businesses that have celebrated the introduction of corporate-friendly tax law with one-time bonuses for staff. AT&T, Comcast, JetBlue, and Wal-Mart also said they were giving bonuses.

The Human Cost of the Apple Supply Chain Machine ( 175

Apple is still struggling to improve working conditions at its supply chain factories. China Labor Watch and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Catcher, a key supplier for iPhone and MacBook casings, makes workers endure harsh safety conditions and unfair work terms in a factory in Suqian. According to observers and discussions with workers, the machines are not only loud, but spray fluid and metallic particles that frequently hit workers' faces only some of which have access to safety goggles and gloves. From the report: Hundreds throng a workshop where the main door only opens about 12 inches. Off duty, they return to debris-strewn dorms bereft of showers or hot water. Many go without washing for days at a time, workers told Bloomberg. "My hands turned bloodless white after a day of work," said one of the workers, who makes a little over 4,000 yuan a month (just over $2 an hour) in her first job outside her home province of Henan. She turned to Catcher because her husband's home-decorating business was struggling. "I only tell good things to my family and keep the sufferings like this for myself." "I asked for the earplugs many times but they didn't have any. The loud noise of 'zah-zah' made my head ache and dizzy," one of those employees told Bloomberg.

Apple's Indirect Presence Fades from CES ( 119

Analyst Ben Bajarin writes: We would go to CES and remark at how Apple's dominance loomed over the show. Vendors of all shapes and sizes were rushing to be a part of the Apple ecosystem. Apple's ecosystem was front and center with everything from iOS apps, to accessories galore for iPhone and iPad, and even companies looking to copy Apple in many ways. The last year or so, things have dramatically changed, and that change is further evident at this year's CES. Gone are the days of Apple's presence, or observably "winning" of CES, even though they are not present. It was impossible to walk the show floor and not see a vast array of interesting innovations which touched the Apple ecosystem in some way. Now it is almost impossible to walk the floor and see any products that touch the Apple ecosystem in any way except for an app on the iOS App Store. The Apple ecosystem is no longer the star of CES but instead things like Amazon's Alexa voice platform, and now Google's assistant voice platform is the clear ecosystem winners of CES.

Apple Health Data Is Being Used As Evidence In a Rape and Murder Investigation ( 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Hussein K., an Afghan refugee in Freiburg, has been on trial since September for allegedly raping and murdering a student in Freiburg, and disposing of her body in a river. But many of the details of the trial have been hazy -- no one can agree on his real age, and most notably, there's a mysterious chunk of time missing from the geodata and surveillance video analysis of his whereabouts at the time of the crime. He refused to give authorities the passcode to his iPhone, but investigators hired a Munich company (which one is not publicly known) to gain access to his device, according to German news outlet Welt. They searched through Apple's Health app, which was added to all iPhones with the release of iOS 8 in 2014, and were able to gain more data about what he was doing that day. The app records how many steps he took and what kind of activity he was doing throughout that day. The app recorded a portion of his activity as "climbing stairs," which authorities were able to correlate with the time he would have dragged his victim down the river embankment, and then climbed back up. Freiburg police sent an investigator to the scene to replicate his movements, and sure enough, his Health app activity correlated with what was recorded on the defendant's phone.

FBI Calls Apple 'Jerks' and 'Evil Geniuses' For Making iPhone Cracks Difficult ( 348

troublemaker_23 shares a report from iTWire: A forensics expert from the FBI has lashed out at Apple, calling the company's security team a bunch of "jerks" and "evil geniuses" for making it more difficult to circumvent the encryption on its devices. Stephen Flatley told the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York on Wednesday that one example of the way that Apple had made it harder for him and his colleagues to break into the iPhone was by recently making the password guesses slower, with a change in hash iterations from 10,000 to 10,000,000. A report on the Motherboard website said Flatley explained that this change meant that the speed at which one could brute-force passwords went from 45 attempts a second to one every 18 seconds. "Your crack time just went from two days to two months," he was quoted as saying. "At what point is it just trying to one up things and at what point is it to thwart law enforcement? Apple is pretty good at evil genius stuff," Flatley added.

Senator Wants Apple To Answer Questions on Slowing iPhones ( 169

The chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues asked Apple to answer questions about its disclosure that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a letter. From the report: The California-based company apologized over the issue on Dec. 28, cut battery replacement costs and said it will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good. Senator John Thune, a Republican who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook that "the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency."

Apple Planning New, 'Robust' Parental Controls To Help Protect Children, Teens ( 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An open letter to Apple from some investors sparked the tech giant to respond by promising new software tools for parents to restrict and monitor their kids' smartphone use. In a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple states it has plans to create new software features that will make its current parental controls on iPhone and other devices "even more robust." "We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them," Apple said in its statement to The Wall Street Journal. "We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids."

Apple didn't provide details on its planned, improved parental control features, but it did point back to the controls its software has had in place since 2008. The Settings app on every iPhone has a parental control section that allows adults to restrict website access, control in-app purchases, and install or delete apps, among other things. But those existing settings haven't been enough to quell the worries of the investors who wrote an open letter to Apple last week, expressing concern about the effect smartphones can have on kids who are glued to those devices.


Apple Investigated By France For 'Planned Obsolescence' ( 313

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: French prosecutors have launched a probe over allegations of "planned obsolescence" in Apple's iPhone. Under French law it is a crime to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it. In December, Apple admitted that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down through software updates. It follows a legal complaint filed in December by pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). Hop said France was the third country to investigate Apple after Israel and the U.S., but the only one in which the alleged offense was a crime. Penalties could include up to 5% of annual turnover or even a jail term.

Wireless Charging Nears Unification As Powermat Cedes To Qi ( 37

Powermat, the only contender to the dominant format Qi, has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and now backs its rival. "Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success," Powermat said in a statement. "[We] will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure." Engadget reports: Powermat was barely hanging on as a standard, but as it mentioned, Apple's favoring of Qi for its upcoming chargers pretty much sealed its fate. The company was forced to upgrade its chargers to support Qi at Starbucks locations, for instance, so that Apple's Qi-supported iPhone X- and 8-owning clients could juice up. Until a few years ago, there were essentially three standards, the Alliance for Wireless Power, the Power Matters Alliance (no joking), and Qi, which was already the dominant player. The first two merged to form the Airfuel alliance in 2015, of which Powermat was the main player.

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