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Portables (Apple)

No New MacBook Airs as Apple Instead Makes Lower-End, $1,500 MacBook Pro ( 15

Alongside the two new MacBook Pros, Apple also unveiled a refresh for its popular MacBook Air lineup. The company is calling this: the MacBook Pro, same branding as the other two MacBook Pros. It's a lower-end version of the new MacBook Pros, with no "Touch Bar" (or the Touch ID) and is powered by a slightly slower processor. Starting at $1,499, this MacBook Pro model is slightly cheaper too, though. From an ArsTechnica report:Apple said it will continue selling the existing 13" MacBook Air, but the company made a point of comparing that model to this new lower-end Pro, putting it somewhere between the Air and the other Pros in the lineup. The new 13" MacBook Pro starts at $1,499 and will begin shipping today. The new higher-end Pros will start at $1,799 for the 13" model and $2,399 for the 15" model while shipping in two to three weeks. If you don't select any hardware upgrades, the low-end 13" Pro has a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor with dual cores clocked at 2.0GHz, Intel Iris Graphics 540, 8GB memory, and 256GB SSD. It is available in space grey and silver, and it can cost up to $2,599 if you select the highest CPU, memory, and storage upgrades. Those available upgrades include a 2.4GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB of memory, and 512GB or 1TB of SSD storage. The new 13" laptop has a 2560x1600 Retina display, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and a headphone jack. It has the same Force Touch trackpad and redesigned keyboard as the higher-end models despite not integrating the Touch Bar and Touch ID.
Portables (Apple)

Apple Unveils New MacBook Pro Featuring OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID - Powered By Intel Skylake Processor ( 205

At an event on Thursday, Apple unveiled the new 2016 MacBook Pro. The redesigned MacBook Pro comes with "incredible extreme" all-metal body. The main attraction of the new MacBook Pro is an OLED touch strip at the top that Apple is calling the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar comes with a fingerprint scanner Touch ID that users can tap to log-in quickly to their computer as well as make online payments. The touch strip offers on-screen button that changes according to the application you're running. Schiller, Apple SVP, said it was time Apple gotten rid of the dedicated function keys. The new MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter than the existing model, and it is powerful too. It comes in two screen sizes: 13-inch, which weighs 3 pounds and measures 14.9mm -- down from 18mm from older MacBook Pro. The trackpad is larger too, Apple says, twice as larger than the older one. Also, it's Force Touch trackpad. ArsTechnica adds: Both laptops are still recognizably MacBook Pros, but in keeping with Apple's design priorities they've got slimmer profiles and smaller footprints. This is made possible in part by the move to USB Type-C ports like the one in the MacBook, all four of which support Thunderbolt 3. All four ports can be used to charge the system, too. Compared to the measly one port in the MacBook, the MacBook Pros are much more appealing to people who plug lots of stuff into their computers at once. Apple has also made the cowardly decision to retain the headset jack. Both systems include new Intel Skylake processors -- dual-core chips in the 13-inch Pro and quad-core chips in the 15-inch model, just like before. The 13-inch Pros ship exclusively with Intel Iris 540 GPUs, while the 15-inch models ship with Polaris-based AMD Radeon graphics at the high-end.The 13-inch model MacBook Pro starts at $1,799, whereas the 15-inch model starts at $2,399.

Delta Now Lets You Track Your Baggage In Real-Time ( 70

Let's face it, tracking down a lost bag at the airport is a pain-in-the-ass. While airlines will often compensate you with money and new clothes for your troubles, the experience is certainly not pleasant. Delta is now attempting to further reduce the number of lost bags through its real-time luggage tracker in the latest version of its mobile app. The Next Web reports: The feature apparently cost $50 million to build. It allows you to see where your stuff is -- provided that it's at one of the 84 airports that support Delta's new tracking tech. Here's how it works. All bags will get a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag. This allows Delta to track them in real-time using radio waves. Scanners positioned throughout the baggage system will allow Delta to monitor where the bag is, and relay that information to the passenger. Delta has traditionally been one of the best airlines when it comes to handling baggage. During 2012, it lost only 200,000 bags. That sounds like a lot, but bear in mind it carried 98 million passengers during the same period. You can try the feature on your next Delta flight by grabbing the app from Google Play and the App Store.
Wireless Networking

Apple Delays AirPods Beyond Original 'Late October' Window ( 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple's new wireless, $180 AirPods have less than a week to meet their original shipping target of "late October," and now the company has confirmed that such a launch is officially off the table. A Wednesday statement, given to Ars Technica just one day ahead of the company's latest Mac-related press event, confirmed Apple's decision to delay the wireless headphones' launch. In the statement, Apple tells Ars that the company "needs a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers." "The early response to AirPods has been incredible," the Apple statement reads. "We don't believe in shipping a product before it's ready." Apple declined to offer any estimate or release window information about when to expect the AirPods' official launch.

Apple To Help Viewers Discover TV Shows Through an App ( 45

Apple plans to announce a new way for viewers to discover TV shows through an app, according to a report on USA Today. The app will release as soon as this week, the report adds. From the article: Described to network executives as "the Watch List," the app will recommend shows based on the content viewers access through their Apple TVs. For example, a subscriber to FX Networks might be encouraged to check out the new dramatic series Atlanta. This new approach of distilling recommendations into a single app builds on the improvements in search and discovery that Apple introduced last year, with the fourth update to its Apple TV streaming box.

In China, Some Apple Users Opt For iPhone Makeover Rather Than Buy New ( 104

Instead of buying a new iPhone model, some Chinese iPhone owners are giving their old models a makeover to look like the latest version -- a trend that could dent Apple's efforts to boost sales in what has been its biggest growth driver. Catherine Cadell, reporting for Reuters: Online sites offer shoppers makeover kits, false cameras and even dust plugs to hide the removed headphone jack to give their iPhone 6 or 6S the appearance of the iPhone 7 -- Apple's latest flagship product which launched last month. The makeover quirk mirrors a broader view among some Chinese users that the iPhone 7 doesn't have enough new features to convince them to trade up. "I don't have the money to upgrade, and the (iPhone) 7 is just so-so," said a Beijing-based sales worker, who said he was getting a Shenzhen firm to replace his iPhone 6 back casing with a fake iPhone 7 shell. "I'm changing it to show off," he said, giving only his surname Gao as he wasn't sure that what he was doing was legal. Searches on platforms including Alibaba's Taobao showed a range of products to transform older phones to an iPhone 7 -- from stickers and engraving services to replacing the outer casing and even some of the hardware.

Apple's Annual Sales Fall For First Time Since 2001 ( 220

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Apple just posted its first annual sales decline since 2001, the year it launched the iPod and kicked off a tremendous run of groundbreaking products. The tech company revealed Tuesday that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, from a record $234 billion in 2015. The sales decline is closely connected to the falling sales for the iPhone, which remains Apple's largest source of revenue. Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the September quarter, down from 48 million iPhones in the same quarter a year earlier. That marks the third consecutive quarter when iPhone sales and overall revenue have declined from a year prior. Many analysts have raised concerns that the global smartphone market is saturated. Customers are taking longer to replace their phones. And Apple's latest iPhone is a dead ringer for the previous two models, eliminating some of the desire to upgrade. The good news is that this sales decline may prove to be a blip and not the new norm. Apple is projecting that it will post sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion a year earlier.

Apple Has Created 'Detailed Mockups' of iMessage For Android ( 142

One of the biggest features on iOS that isn't available on Android is iMessage, an instant messaging service that allows users to send information over Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, and other forms of internet access to other iOS or OS X users. Earlier this year, there were been rumors swirling around the possibility of the service coming to Android due to Apple's increased focus on services, "which means opening up certain avenues beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms." Today, Daring Fireball's John Gruber has added fuel to the fire by mentioning that he's "heard from little birdies" that a handful of "detailed mockups" of iMessage for Android have been shared around Apple. MacRumors reports: The user interface of the Android app is said to have gone through numerous designs, from one that looks identical to the version on iOS, to another that has a "pure Material Design," using Google's design language it developed a few years ago. Gruber still thinks iMessage on Android "might happen sooner or later," mainly because of iMessage's new monetized Messages App Store, which could net Apple increased income in its already profitable services category if it translated the app to Android. Apple undoubtedly created mockups for all types of products and services, the vast majority of which never make it to release, and it's unclear exactly how far along the iMessage for Android preliminary designs were at the time of their circulation through Apple, or when exactly that occurred. Still, Gruber notes that while an Android version of iMessage "may never see the light of day," even the existence of such mockups "strongly suggests that there's no 'of course not' to it."

The Phone Hackers At Cellebrite Have Had Their Firmware Leaked Online ( 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in digital forensics, has dominated the market in helping law enforcement access mobile phones. But one apparent reseller of the company's products is publicly distributing copies of Cellebrite firmware and software for anyone to download. Although Cellebrite keeps it most sensitive capabilities in-house, the leak may still give researchers, or competitors, a chance to figure out how Cellebrite breaks into and analyzes phones by reverse-engineering the files. The apparent reseller distributing the files is McSira Professional Solutions, which, according to its website, "is pleased to serve police, military and security agencies in the E.U. And [sic] in other parts of the world." McSira is hosting software for various versions of Cellebrite's Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), hardware that investigators can use to bypass the security mechanisms of phones, and then extract data from them. McSira allows anyone to download firmware for the UFED Touch, and a PC version called UFED 4PC. It is also hosting pieces of Cellebrite forensic software, such as the UFED Cloud Analyzer. This allows investigators to further scrutinize seized data. McSira is likely offering downloads so customers can update their hardware to the latest version with as little fuss as possible. But it may be possible for researchers to take those files, reverse-engineer them, and gain insight into how Cellebrite's tools work. That may include what sort of exploits Cellebrite uses to bypass the security mechanisms of mobile phones, and weaknesses in the implementation of consumer phones that could be fixed, according to one researcher who has started to examine the files, but was not authorised by his employer to speak to the press about this issue.
Desktops (Apple)

It Looks Like Apple is Killing the Physical Esc and Power Keys On New MacBook Pro 516

Curious minds on the internet have uncovered an image file on their Mac, which was added by Apple in the latest macOS update. The image reveals a new laptop that fully fits the description of rumored MacBook Pro, which Apple is expected to launch on October 27. The laptop in the picture has what seems like a "contextual" OLED display (some are calling it Magic Toolbar display) on the top. What's interesting from that picture is that there's no physical Escape key or Power key to be found anywhere.

Editor's note: We usually tend to avoid covering leaks and rumors, but several readers pitched the story to us, and media outlets are also covering it now, which adds some credibility to the matter.

Seth's Blog: Hardware is Sexy, But It's Software that Matters ( 78

American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin argues that though hardware is nice and dandy, it is the software that matters. And not just software that runs on a computer, "but the metaphorical idea of rules and algorithms designed to solve problems and connect people," he writes. Godin has used the piece to note how Apple has increasingly grown focused on hardware, and as a result, it's not putting much effort to fixing its software. He writes, "Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it's free, no competitors. Keynote, a presentation program that hasn't been improved in years. iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty. iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon. No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they've stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new." From the article: Software can change faster than hardware, which means that in changing markets, bet on software. It's tempting to treat the user interface as a piece of fashion, some bling, a sort of jewelry. It's not. It's the way your user controls the tool you build. Change it when it stops working, not when you're bored with it. Every time you change the interface, you better have a really good reason.John Gruber disagrees. He writes: Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don't lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can't even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable -- there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It's unsettling.

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus ( 50

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.

Most 'Genuine' Apple Chargers and Cables Sold on Amazon Are Fake, Apple Says ( 192

Apple says it bought Apple chargers and cables labeled as genuine on and found that nearly 90 percent of them to be counterfeit. The revelation comes in a federal lawsuit the company filed against a New Jersey company over what Apple says are fake products that were sold on Amazon. Engadget reports: When Apple got in touch with Amazon about the issue, the website told the former that it got most of its chargers from Mobile Star LLC. The iPhone-maker stressed that since counterfeit cables and chargers don't go through consumer safety testing and could be poorly designed, they're prone to overheating and catching fire. They might even electrocute users. Tim Cook and co. are now asking the court to issue an injunction against the defendant. They also want the court to order the seizure and destruction of all the fake chargers in addition to asking for damage

Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy ( 524

An anonymous reader shares a report on Yahoo (edited): Last year, Fletcher Previn became a cult figure of sorts in the world of enterprise IT. As IBM's VP of Workplace as a Service, Previn is the guy responsible for turning IBM (the company that invented the PC) into an Apple Mac house. Previn gave a great presentation at last year's Jamf tech conference where he said Macs were less expensive to support than Windows. Only 5% of IBM's Mac employees needed help desk support versus 40% of PC users. At that time, some 30,000 IBM employees were using Macs. Today 90,000 of them are, he said. And IBM ultimately plans to distribute 150,000 to 200,000 Macs to workers, meaning about half of IBM's approximately 370,000 employees will have Macs. Previn's team is responsible for all the company's PCs, not just the Macs. All told IBM's IT department supports about 604,000 laptops between employees and its 100,000+ contractors. Most of them are Windows machines -- 442,000 -- while 90,000 are Macs and 72,000 are Linux PCs. IBM is adding about 1,300 Macs a week, Previn said.

iPhone 7 Plus Qualcomm LTE Modem Significantly Outperforms Intel LTE Modem, Study Finds ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: With the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, Apple elected to use LTE modems from two different sources, Qualcomm and Intel. The A1778 and A1784 iPhone models use a GSM-only Intel XMM7360 modem while the A1660 and 1661 iPhone models use a GSM/CDMA-compatible Qualcomm MDM9645M modem. Apple's decision has already caused some disappointment among customers because the GSM-only Intel modem is not compatible with as many carrier networks as the GSM/CDMA Qualcomm modem, and now independent testing conducted by Cellular Insights suggests there are some significant performance differences between the two modems, with the Qualcomm modem outperforming the Intel modem. Using an RS TS7124 RF Shielded Box, two RS CMW500, one RS CMWC controller, and four Vivaldi antennas, Cellular Insights created a setup to simulate LTE performance at different distances from a cellular tower using two iPhone 7 Plus devices, one with an Intel modem and one with a Qualcomm modem. The goal of the test was to measure the highest achievable LTE throughput starting at a Reference Signal Received Quality of -85dBm (a strong signal) and gradually reducing the power level to simulate moving away from a cellular tower where signal is weaker. Three LTE bands were tested: Band 12, Band 4 (the most common band in North America), and Band 7. In all three tests, both the iPhone 7 Plus models offered similar performance in ideal conditions, but as power levels decreased, Cellular Insights saw "unexplainable sharp dips in performance" in the Intel modem, finding a gap "north of 30%" in favor of the Qualcomm iPhone 7 Plus. In the charts, the Qualcomm modem maintains noticeably higher throughput speeds than the Intel modem as signal strength decreases. According to Cellular Insights, in every single test, the iPhone 7 Plus with a Qualcomm modem "had a significant performance edge" over the iPhone 7 Plus with an Intel modem.

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