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Apple Denies Rumors of Plans to Launch MVNO Carrier Services
iphone6-stockApple this morning directly responded to a recent rumor that the company would begin planning to launch its own MVNO service in both the United States and Europe, stating that it has "not discussed and is not planning" to become its own cellular carrier in the future.

The MVNO service would allow Apple to become its own carrier, leasing space from existing network carriers and building SIM cards that switch from network-to-network as need be. Rumors about such a service have been around for a while now, and today marks the first time that Apple has directly denied the existence of any such feature being built by the company.




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Taylor Swift Shares Behind-the-Scenes Details of Her Apple Music Letter
taylor swift vanity fairIn an interview for the September cover story of Vanity Fair, Taylor Swift reveals her thoughts and reasoning behind the letter she wrote to Apple concerning the lack of monetary support for artists during Apple Music's three-month free trial period. The singer notes that she wrote the letter in the early morning hours after a few of her fellow artists sent pictures of their Apple Music contracts.
“I wrote the letter at around four A.M.,” Swift says. “The contracts had just gone out to my friends, and one of them sent me a screenshot of one of them. I read the term ‘zero percent compensation to rights holders.’ Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll write a song and I can’t sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter.”
Swift's main concern was that her letter would be taken as whining, particularly since she had addressed a similar issue regarding Spotify last year, but after running the letter past her mother, Swift decided to publish it.

Apple did indeed listen, and later the same day reversed course on its decision and announced plans to pay artists during the initial free trial of Apple Music. In the Vanity Fair interview, Swift notes Apple's near-immediate response and genuine care for her and her fellow artists, further alluding to her public break from Spotify and that company's subsequent reaction to the pulling of her music from the service.
Says Swift, “Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about,” she says. “And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine.”
Although it's hit a few bumps in the road, Apple Music has been steadily providing its early adopters with exclusive tracks, celebrity-hosted Beats 1 radio shows, and personalized music discovery since its June 30 launch. Those who signed up on day one still have just under two months left to their three-month free trial, with monthly subscriptions priced at $9.99 for individuals and $14.99 for families after the trial. The company reportedly has ten million users on the free trial so far, but it remains to be seen how many of those will convert to paying users.


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Sixth OS X El Capitan Beta Includes More Hints to 4K 21.5-Inch Retina iMac
Apple's sixth OS X 10.11 El Capitan beta, released on Monday, includes a few lines of code that yet again reference the possibility of a forthcoming 4K 21.5-inch Retina iMac, as discovered by Consomac [Google Translate]. A similar occurance happened back in June, when some code in the second OS X El Capitan beta referenced a 4K 21.5-inch iMac screen, but, as yet, Apple hasn't given any word on the veracity of the rumors.

Consomac's research into the code of the new OS X beta found three new files, two of which include screen resolutions that hint at the possible arrival of new 5K 27-inch iMacs, and the other with a 4096×2304 resolution. Like the second El Capitan beta, this code could potentially refer to a 21.5-inch Retina iMac display with 4K resolution coming down the line. Although, as Consomac discovered, an image accompanying the three files points to a design that will largely "remain unchanged" for the new line-up.

imac display code
Beginning last October, Apple launched a few updates for the 27-inch iMac with Retina Display, but the rest of the iMac line-up hasn't seen a proper upgrade since September 2013. The major reasoning behind the stalled upgrade cycle is the company waiting for Intel's various desktop components -- including the Broadwell and Skylake processors -- to be available for a more substantial update to Apple's smaller-sized desktop computer line-up.

An update to the 21.5-inch iMac line has been hinted at for a while now, including a rumor just yesterday from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that pointed to the iMac line gaining a significant boost this quarter. Kuo points to display improvements with greater color saturation thanks to a few new processors, but never references directly the arrival of a retina display for the 21.5-inch iMac line. Still, the timing with back-to-school shopping swinging into gear, and the lengthy update cycle of the 21.5-inch line-up, definitely suggests an impending update for the model sometime soon.


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Apple Seeds Sixth OS X 10.11 El Capitan Beta to Developers
Apple today released the sixth beta of OS X 10.11 El Capitan to developers for testing purposes, one week after releasing the fifth El Capitan beta and nearly two months after unveiling the new operating system at its 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference.

The update, which arrives as Build 15A244d, is available through the software update mechanism in the Mac App Store and through the Apple Developer Center.

os_x_el_capitan_roundup
While early betas introduced minor design changes and features, the last few betas have focused on under-the-hood performance improvements and bug fixes to optimize OS X El Capitan ahead of its public release.


OS X El Capitan builds on the features introduced with OS X Yosemite, focusing on improving performance and user experience. Behind-the-scenes improvements in El Capitan have made a number of apps and processes on the Mac much faster, and the introduction of Metal makes system-level graphics rendering 40 percent more efficient.

Along with a new systemwide font, El Capitan includes a revamped Mission Control feature, a new Split View feature for using two full-screen apps at once, deeper functionality for Spotlight, and several new features for Safari, including Pinned Sites for housing frequently visited websites and a universal mute button that quiets all tabs.

OS X 10.11 El Capitan is available to both registered developers and public beta testers. After testing is completed, Apple will release El Capitan to the public in the fall.


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Apple Purchases Massive 43-Acre Development Site in North San Jose
Shortly after leasing a 300,000 square foot campus in North San Jose, Apple has expanded on its real estate holdings in the area, buying a 43-acre development site at 2347 North First Street for more than $138 million.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the site, which consists of undeveloped land, is approved for up to 2.8 million square feet of office space, much like Apple's Campus 2 location in Cupertino. Apple has not submitted building plans for the site, and it is unclear what the company plans to do with the land.

applelandnorthsanjose
Map showing land bought by Apple and other available real estate in the same North San Jose area

Apple is expanding rapidly in the Bay Area. In addition to the second Cupertino campus and the 300,000 square feet of space leased in San Jose in July, the company made its first real estate lease in San Francisco last week, signing a deal for 76,000 square feet of office space.

Along with office space, Apple is also said to be seeking additional space for both industrial purposes and research and development, possibly for undisclosed projects like its Apple Car.
What's interesting in the latest transaction is that Apple opted to buy, not lease. It's possible Apple wants more control over whatever it does there, and simply felt more comfortable owning the land. In addition to office space, Apple has been in the market for broad swaths of heavy R&D and industrial space, industry observers tell me. The latter could be read as a tantalizing sign of Apple's interest in manufacturing, though such a possibility is for now market speculation.
The land that Apple purchased in North San Jose is located approximately 12 miles from its 1 Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino and is across the freeway from the Mineta San Jose International Airport. North First Street is already home to other major companies like Cisco and Samsung.

Update August 4, 5:57 AM: Apple has given a statement to Silicon Valley Business Journal regarding its general plans for the site.
"As we continue to grow, we're planning to build R&D facilities and some additional office space in San Jose," spokeswoman Rachel Wolf said in an emailed statement. "The property isn't far from the future home of our new campus and we're looking forward to expanding our presence in the Bay Area."



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First Firmware Worm Able to Infect Macs Created by Researchers
A team of researchers has created the first firmware worm that's able to infect Macs, reports Wired. Building on "Thunderstrike" exploits uncovered earlier this year, the worm, dubbed "Thunderstrike 2," infects Macs at the firmware level, making it nearly impossible to remove. Embedded into firmware, malware is resistant to firmware and software updates, able to block them entirely or reinstall itself at will.

The worm was created by security engineer Trammell Hudson, who first discovered the Thunderstrike exploits, and Xeno Kovah, owner of firmware security consultancy LegbaCore. When Thunderstrike made waves earlier this year, it was a limited proof-of-concept attack with no known presence in the wild, but Thunderstrike 2 demonstrates a real-world worm able to target Macs using the same general vulnerabilities.


Thunderstrike 2, unlike the first demonstration of Thunderstrike, is able to infect a Mac remotely through a malicious website or email. Once on a Mac, it's able to spread itself to other Macs by hiding in the option ROM of peripheral devices like Apple's own Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet adapter, external SSDs, RAID controllers, and more. Once infected by a Mac that has the Thunderstrike 2 worm, the peripheral would go on to infect any other Mac it connects to.
"People are unaware that these small cheap devices can actually infect their firmware," says Kovah. "You could get a worm started all around the world that's spreading very low and slow. If people don't have awareness that attacks can be happening at this level then they're going to have their guard down and an attack will be able to completely subvert their system."
Removing malware embedded into a Mac's firmware would need to be done at the hardware level, making it particularly dangerous. According to the researchers, Apple has not done enough to fix the vulnerabilities that leave Macs open to these kind of attacks.
"Some vendors like Dell and Lenovo have been very active in trying to rapidly remove vulnerabilities from their firmware," Kovah notes. "Most other vendors, including Apple as we are showing here, have not. We use our research to help raise awareness of firmware attacks, and show customers that they need to hold their vendors accountable for better firmware security."
Kovah and Hudson have notified Apple about the Thunderstrike 2 vulnerabilities, but thus far, Apple's only fixed one of five security flaws and introduced a partial fix for a second. Three of the vulnerabilities have not yet been patched, but it's likely Apple is working to get the flaws fixed in an upcoming security update.

More information on Kovah and Hudson's research and the Thunderstrike 2 exploit can be found in a lengthy report over at Wired.


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Apple Said to Consider Becoming a Mobile Carrier by Leasing Network Capacity in U.S. and Europe
Apple is currently in early talks to launch its own mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in both the United States and Europe, according to information gathered by Business Insider. A few sources close to Apple suggest that the company is testing the service right now in the United States, with early negotiations beginning in Europe to bring the MVNO service overseas.

If completed, Apple would essentially become its own network carrier, freeing the company and iPhone users from any particular current carrier like T-Mobile or AT&T, and allow users to pay for the usual data, calls, and text services directly from Apple. The MVNO would allow Apple to lease space from network carriers already in the business of providing data to customers, with the Apple SIM card -- already included in the cellular versions of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 -- picking up and switching between carriers on the fly for the best service possible.
iPhone 6 pic
As Business Insider points out, the testing of the MVNO service doesn't guarantee its eventual arrival for customers using an iPhone in the United States and Europe. But, if the company does intend to eventually become a carrier itself, it would be a fairly long-term goal of five years or more to be fully implemented.
If Apple is testing the service then there's no guarantee that it will launch, and if it does, it's not going to roll out anytime soon. Telecoms sources say that Apple is looking long-term with its MVNO, and could take at least five years to fully launch the service. Apple has been in talks with telecoms companies for years over its MVNO plans, and it's an "open secret" amongst carriers that a virtual Apple network is on the way.
Speculation surrounding Apple becoming its own wireless provider has been swirling for a decade now, resurging in various rumor and patent stories every now and again over the years. With Apple rumored to be in "advanced talks" with mobile standards organization GSMA in the production of a standardized mobile electronic SIM card -- which would allow customers to avoid being locked into a dedicated network carrier -- the company appears to at least be positioning itself for the possibility of a future MVNO launch.


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More 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Photos and Renderings Revealed
Following the release of several photos of a claimed display assembly for the "iPhone 6s" over the weekend, Macfixit Australia has shared additional images of what appears to be the same display assembly, further suggesting the leaked images to be real internal parts for the next-generation iPhone.

6S-Screen-Back-592x1024
One of Macfixit's photos includes a quality control label showing a pass date of July 29, which, if legitimate, would put the assembly in a correct time frame for Apple's traditional September iPhone launches. The image also appears identical to those released over the weekend by repair company GeekBar, with the same possible cutouts for a taptic engine to fuel Force Touch and a slightly thicker frame.

A few possible third-party case manufacturer design renders have also been shared by uSwitch and Nowhereelse.fr's OnLeaks channel, backing the theory that this year's iPhone line will be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Theories that support Apple's reasoning behind increasing the iPhone's thickness -- other than the inclusion of Force Touch -- include attempts to avoid another "Bendgate" controversy from last year with a stronger body. Height and width of the iPhones shown in the renderings are also marginally larger than the measurements for the current lineup.

While the iPhone 6 came in at 6.9mm thick, the iPhone 6S is 7.1mm, according to our source.

The iPhone 6S Plus, which was the model most often cited in the so-called 'bendgate' scandal, has also been body-building. It’s gone from 7.1mm thick to 7.3mm, we were told.
The renders also suggest that the "iPhone 6s" could be missing the slightly protruding camera found on the current lineup, perhaps made possible by the slightly thicker body. The "iPhone 6s Plus" renderings, however, continue to show a protruding rear camera. uSwitch does note the renders could simply be incomplete, so Apple's plans for rear camera designs remain unconfirmed. Otherwise, the site notes an overall similarity between generations, with a home button, volume rockers, lock switch, and screen size that make the new phones "largely indistinguishable" from last year's models.

iphone_6s_plus_leak_steve_3_632x304x32_expand
Even with the possibility of a thicker frame, the size increase of the so-called iPhone 6s would be small enough to allow most accessories and cases to function with both generations of the device. News and rumors regarding the "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" have begun to proliferate in the past few weeks, and will no doubt continue to do so as we head into the iPhone launch season.


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iPhone Battery With 1715 mAh Capacity Possibly Destined for 'iPhone 6s' or '6c' Appears
French site Nowhereelse.fr last week shared a photo [Google Translate] of a battery appearing very similar to an iPhone battery and labeled as being from Apple's usual supplier, but the battery's capacity of 1715 mAh leaves questions as to whether the battery is intended for the upcoming "iPhone 6s" or a smaller "iPhone 6c" that has reportedly been delayed or canceled.

iphone_1715mah_battery
The battery's 1715 mAh capacity is lower than the 1810 mAh capacity of the iPhone 6 battery, indicating Apple would have to have increased power efficiency of the device for the "S" generation in order to achieve the same battery life as its predecessor. Given the consistent overall design of the iPhone 6 and 6s, it is unclear why Apple would reduce the battery capacity at all, unless other changes such as a thicker display panel needed for Force Touch support are reducing the internal volume available for the battery in the iPhone 6s.

Another option is that this battery is for Apple's rumored "iPhone 6c", which was reportedly a new 4-inch iPhone Apple had under development but which appeared to have been canceled or delayed earlier this year after supply chain evidence dried up. The battery in today's photo carries a manufacturing date of March 2015, so it does come from the timeframe when iPhone 6c claims were still circulating, although its capacity is higher than that of fellow 4-inch devices such as the iPhone 5s (1558 mAh) and iPhone 5c (1510 mAh).

One argument in favor of this being an iPhone 6s battery is the connector seen on the part, which appears essentially identical to the one seen on the iPhone 6 and distinct from that used on other iPhone models such as the 5s and 5c, but it is otherwise difficult to say what device this battery was planned for.

With roughly a month to go before the expected unveiling of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, part leaks are rapidly accelerating. Many of them will not reveal much given the similarities between the two generation's designs, but some subtle differences such as those on the display assembly may hint at changes for the upcoming device.

(Thanks, Ryan)


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Apple Testing Service That Allows Siri to Answer Calls and Transcribe Voicemail
Employees at Apple are reportedly putting a new service through its paces, one that would allow Siri to not only answer a missed call instead of a pre-set voicemail message, but give her the ability to record and transcribe those message for users to read as text later (via Business Insider). The messages would be sent to users via iCloud, completely skipping the need to check voicemail.

sirisuggestions
The so-called "iCloud Voicemail" service could relay information regarding where a user is and specifics as to why they can't pick up the phone, if given the permission to do so. According to Business Insider, "multiple Apple employees" are testing the new feature and if it stays on track, it could see a debut sometime in 2016 in iOS 10.
Apple's proposed solution is both incredibly simple and incredibly clever: People like to leave voicemails (it's often quicker to orally deliver your information than it is to type it in a text message). But they don't like to receive voicemails (it's a lot quicker to read a text than it is to listen to the other person talking at you). The new product will also bridge a generation gap: Older users like voicemails. Young people do not.

Apple sends voice data to company servers, where Siri converts the words spoken into text. iCloud Voicemail will presumably function in the same way, sending the raw voicemails to Apple, and Siri will then transcribe them and make them available on your iPhone.
Apple has doubled-down on Siri ever since the digital assistant's debut, with this year's launch of iOS 9 -- focusing mainly on performance enhancements and subtle design changes -- seeing Siri at the heart of the changes. The new iOS will allow the personal assistant to create contextual reminders, search more thoroughly through photos and videos, and grant users an easily-accessible curated list of contacts and apps in "Siri Suggestions," a quick left-swipe from the home screen.


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Apple Expected to Launch New iMacs With Improved Processors and Display Quality This Quarter
imac_27_angleApple's iMac line is set to receive a significant boost this quarter in the form of a refresh including new processors and improved display quality, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Display improvements are said to arrive in the form of greater color saturation, but Kuo makes no mention of whether Apple is planning to extend Retina display options to the smaller 21.5-inch iMac lineup.
We believe Apple will introduce new iMac models in 3Q15, which are expected to have key selling points such as more powerful processors and much better display quality. We predict the panel will use a LED phosphor material called KSF to notably boost color saturation.
While Apple has released several 27-inch Retina iMac models since last October, the remainder of the iMac lineup has not been updated since September 2013 as Apple has had to wait for Intel to release new desktop processors that could allow for a substantial update. With Broadwell processors starting to trickle out and Skylake right around the corner, it appears Apple will finally be able to offer a substantial upgrade for the entire iMac family.

Kuo believes that an inventory draw-down in the second quarter, the upcoming new iMacs, and promotions such as the current Back to School program will drive strong sequential growth in iMac shipments for the current quarter, perhaps doubling quarter-over-quarter to one million units. The third calendar quarter is typically very strong for Apple's Mac segment with much of the world in the midst of back to school shopping.


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Claimed 'iPhone 6s' Display Assembly Revealed in New Photos
Chinese phone repair company GeekBar has shared a series of three photos today (via Nowhereelse.fr) showing what is claimed to be a display assembly for the upcoming "iPhone 6s".

iphone_6s_display_1
While the photos do not confirm that the device will be equipped with Force Touch sensing as has been rumored, they do appear slightly different from the corresponding parts for the iPhone 6.

iphone_6s_display_2
Meanwhile, M.I.C Gadget shares a few photos of what it says is a prototype version of the iPhone 6s. The device is not shown turned on and the photos themselves do not reveal any differences compared to the iPhone 6, but the source claims the device measures 7.1 mm thick, slightly thicker than the 6.9 mm iPhone 6 and matching the 7.1 mm iPhone 6 Plus.

iphone_6s_proto_mic
Rumors have suggested the iPhone 6s could be slightly thicker than the iPhone 6 in order to accommodate the new Force Touch technology in the display, but the slight difference would not be easily perceptible to users and could even allow many accessories to be compatible with both generations.


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Apple Supplier Numbers Suggest Apple Watch Sales Are Below Analyst Expectations
We're all curious about how many Apple Watches Apple has sold, but with the company opting not to break out its Apple Watch sales numbers, all we have to go on are analyst guesses, information distilled from third-party sources, and tidbits of data that Apple has provided.

The latest data that hints at how the Apple Watch has fared comes from The Wall Street Journal, citing shipment information provided by analyst Mark Li from Taiwan's Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc. (ASE) most recent earnings call. ASE is the company that builds the S1 package housing the many chips and sensors used in the Apple Watch.

SB LL MB Apple Watch
An ASE subsidiary reportedly failed to meet its "break-even volume" of two million units shipped per month during the second quarter and does not believe it will meet that target in the third quarter, either. The company's failure to meet this target suggests the Apple Watch "is not selling nearly as well as some analysts expected," says The Wall Street Journal.
"The shortfall of Apple Watch is a disappointment," Mr. Li wrote in a note to clients. "We came in with a low expectation but below break-even still surprised us."

In an interview, Mr. Li said it is unusual for a company like ASE not to reach break-even volume during a typically busy period like the third quarter, especially when dealing with a new product.

He said that he now expects ASE to fall short of his forecast of shipping 18 million units this year, peaking in June.
Ahead of Apple's recent earnings call, analyst estimates of Apple Watch sales during its first quarter of availability ranged from 2.85 million to 5.7 million, averaging out to 4.07 million. After the call, many analysts adjusted their estimates, with the consensus largely changing to between 2.2 and 3 million units sold. Estimates continue to vary, however, with Strategy Analytics suggesting Apple sold 4 million units in a recent report.

During the call Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple Watch sales "exceeded [Apple's] expectations," despite supply continuing to trail demand at the end of the quarter. "We feel really great about how we did," he said. Apple CFO Luca Maestri hinted current revenue from the Apple Watch was "well over" $952 million, but he also did not provide insight into sales.

In the past, Tim Cook has warned against attempting to infer information from single data points from the company's supply chain due to its complexity.


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IBM to Purchase Up to 200,000 Macs Annually, With 50-75% of Employees Ultimately Switching From Lenovo
A year after teaming up with Apple on an enterprise partnership to push iOS devices and apps for business users, IBM is moving forward with plans to rapidly move its own employees onto Apple's platforms, MacRumors has learned.

While IBM announced in an internal memo several months ago that it was planning to purchase up to 50,000 MacBooks for employees by the end of 2015, chief information officer Jeff Smith has revealed in a new internal video released to employees yesterday that he believes IBM could actually end up purchasing 150,000-200,000 Macs annually.


In the video, Smith relates a conversation he had with Apple's chief information officer Niall O'Connor about the possibility of a massive Mac deployment for IBM.
"I'd like to be able to offer these to everyone that can use it. We've got to find a way to make the overall cost the same or lower than PCs to make that happen. Would you be interested in helping me do that, because you guys know these devices", and he said, "No, Jeff, we'd never do that...very secretive, we never allow anyone in. You know, we just don't do that."

And I said, "Well who's your largest corporate customer?" And he said "Well, that customer has got about 25,000 MacBooks a year." And I said, "Well we could be 150-200,000." And he goes "Jeff, that's a great idea! We're gonna come here, you know, next week...you bring your whole team," and that's exactly what happened.
In a separate clip from the video, Smith describes a recent conversation between Tim Cook and IBM vice president Fletcher Previn in which Previn indicated the initiative could see 50–75 percent of IBM employees eventually converting to Macs from the Lenovo ThinkPads that are currently the company standard.

Apple and IBM, former rivals in the PC market, have been working increasingly closely together on both specialized enterprise-focused iOS apps and more recently on HealthKit and ResearchKit data management tools. With so many IBM employees now in line to switch to Macs for their work machines, the stage is setting up for even more collaboration going forward.


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Apple, BMW Could Resume Talks Over Possible Apple Car Partnership 'At a Later Stage'
Earlier this month, rumors suggested Apple had been in talks with BMW about potentially using the body of the electric BMW i3 as the basis for its Apple Car, but those talks did not progress into a deal. Reuters has now spoken with some inside sources at BMW, giving us more insight into what the two companies discussed and where their relationship might lead in the future.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives visited the BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany in 2014 to look into how the i3 is manufactured. According to Reuters' source, Apple left the talks without reaching a deal with BMW because the company wants "to explore developing a passenger car on its own."

bmwi3
During the visit, Apple executives asked BMW board members detailed questions about tooling and production and BMW executives signaled readiness to license parts, one of the sources said. News of the Leipzig visit first emerged in Germany's Manager-Magazin last week.

"Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too," a senior BMW source said.
Apple and BMW do not have plans to jointly develop a car at this time, but one of the sources believes that "exploratory talks" could potentially be revived in the future. Given Apple's lack of experience with industrial manufacturing, a partnership with BMW or another car company would make sense, as it could help speed up development and eliminate many of the headaches associated with entering an entirely new industry.

Details on Apple's rumored car project remain scarce, but the company has been hiring several automotive experts over the past few months. Apple is said to have hundreds of employees working on the secret car project and has picked up employees from companies like Tesla, Ford, and GM, along with robotics experts and researchers specializing in cutting-edge car technologies.

Rumors have suggested Apple plans to introduce its car by 2020, but Apple often works on projects that never make it to fruition, like the much-rumored Apple-branded television set. It's possible that Apple's car plans could be shelved or delayed in the future if the company is unhappy with its progress or finds entering the automobile market to be an unviable option.


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Elgato's 'Eve' Smart Home Accessories Are Useful, But Hampered by Buggy HomeKit Platform
Elgato, with its Eve line of smart home products is one of the first companies to come out with home accessories that integrate with Apple's HomeKit home automation platform, and it's the very first company to produce a Bluetooth-enabled HomeKit product.

The Eve system, which consists of a weather station, an indoor room monitor, a door/window sensor, and a smart outlet, is one of five HomeKit-compatible products that became available for purchase in June. With the Eve components just now shipping out to customers, Elgato invited us to review the lineup to get a feel for what's possible with Apple's system.


HomeKit and Eve's accessory lineup promise to make our homes smarter and our lives easier, but in its current incarnation, HomeKit is a service that feels unfinished. It's limited in scope and even though I found many of the Eve accessories to be useful, the delays and bugs I ran into with the HomeKit system almost made the frustration outweigh the convenience.

Hardware Overview


As I mentioned above, Elgato currently manufactures four HomeKit-compatible products: Eve Room, Eve Weather, Eve Door & Window, and Eve Energy.

Eve Room - Eve Room is an indoor room monitoring sensor. It measures temperature, humidity, and air quality.

Eve Weather - Eve Weather is an indoor/outdoor sensor that's simpler than the Eve Room, measuring temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

Eve Door & Window - Eve Door & Window is a two-piece sensor that detects whether a door or window is open or closed.

Eve Energy - Eve Energy is a power sensor and switch that can be used to turn an appliance on and off and detect how much power it's using.

Each of the Eve products has a clean, unobtrusive design, integrating into any environment without standing out. The Eve Room and the Eve Weather are both small square-shaped sensors resembling an Apple TV, while the Eve Energy is a simple socket. The Eve Door & Window comes in two adhesive-backed pieces to fit on each side of a door or window, snapping together magnetically to detect whether it's open or closed.


Eve Energy is powered by the wall socket it's plugged into, while all of the other products operate via battery. Eve Weather and Eve Room take two and three AA batteries, respectively, which last several months, and Eve Door & Window use CR2 batteries that will last for approximately six months.

evelinebatteries
Each of the products I tested worked as advertised and gave me accurate readings, but during the course of testing I had to re-pair everything and ended up running into an issue with Eve Weather. It started reporting the temperature as -52.3 and the humidity at 100 percent. According to Elgato, this is a rare bug, and was solved by removing the batteries, but it did keep popping up again and again.

Of the four accessories, I found Eve Room to be the most useful. Set up in an office or bedroom, it provides the temperature and humidity, but it also gives air quality readings. The Eve Room uses a gas sensor that analyzes volatile organic compounds like alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, amines, and aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons.

elgatoweatherroom
Eve Weather, left and Eve Room, right

After some research, I've learned the sensor will pick up molds, paints, cleaning products, tobacco smoke, and more, plus its readings help users determine if a room's ventilation is suitable. I did a good amount of testing with the air quality sensor, and when I cooked, burned a candle, or cleaned, it picked up the contaminants in the air.

Air quality sensors are not essential to most people, but I could see the Eve Room being used frequently in a child's bedroom or in a room with a pet that's sensitive to air quality, like a parrot. Even as someone who doesn't necessarily need to measure air quality, it was useful being able to keep an eye on what I was breathing while cooking or cleaning. Eve Room also monitors the temperature and humidity in the room that it's in for an overall picture of what's going on in a room.

Eve Room on the right. The holes at the top of the sensor let it detect air quality. Eve Weather is on the left.

Eve Weather, which is similar to the Eve Room but lacks the air quality sensor, was also a useful accessory. Out on the patio, it let me quickly check the temperature and humidity right outside my office rather than relying on a weather station that might be miles away. Living in California, I can use the Eve Room and Eve Weather in combination to let me know when to open my window and close it during the day.

For Eve Energy, the US versions of the plug weren't available, so I tested a European version using an adapter. Eve Energy monitors the current and total consumption of power any appliance plugged into it is using. I tested it with my MacBook, with lamps, and with a fan, and was able to see exactly how much power each item was drawing.

elgatoeveenergy
Eve Energy, European version. Next to Eve Room and Eve Weather


The use cases for this one are obvious - it's great to be able to keep a close eye on power usage, it's a handy reminder to shut off lights and appliances that are using a lot of energy, and it can be used to power down whatever's plugged into it. I would love to have an Eve Energy to use with every outlet, as would most people, but at $50 each, a setup like that is expensive.

Eve Door & Window was my least favorite product in the Eve lineup. It attaches to a door or a window and can determine whether or not it's open and count how many times a door/window was opened, two features I couldn't find a use for. This would be useful if HomeKit could deliver a notification to let me know if a door was opened, but it doesn't work that way yet.

evedoorandwindow
Eve Door & Window. One sensor fits on the door frame, the other attaches to the door itself with adhesive.

HomeKit products are passive. You can ask Siri to do things like turn off lights or check the temperature, but you can't get a notification when the temperature spikes or when the door is opened, as with the above sensor. If a person is putting a motion sensor on a door, it's probably for a situation where an immediate notification would be required. When sleeping or away from home, I'm not going to be opening the app or asking Siri about the door situation on a regular basis.

In iOS 9, sensors like the Eve Door & Window will gain more functionality because they'll be able to send notifications and can be used as triggers to set off chain events. For example, if you come home from work, the Eve Door & Window sensor will be able to turn on the air conditioning and the lights when you enter a room.

Bluetooth Connection


The Eve products connect to an iOS device using Bluetooth LE, and there are positives and negatives to a Bluetooth-connected HomeKit product. Because they connect via Bluetooth, there's no bridge necessary, so all Eve products work out of the box individually with just the Eve app.

Since there's no bridge to hassle with, there's little setup involved. Unbox an Eve accessory, pop in the batteries, download the Eve app, enter the unique HomeKit code on the back of each product, and everything is ready to go. Bluetooth works automatically -- the iPhone will connect to the sensors each time you open the Eve app or ask Siri to query the Eve devices. Don't lose that HomeKit code because Eve won't be able to connect without it.

homekitsetupcode
Not requiring a bridge keeps the cost of the Eve system reasonable. Other multi-component WiFi-based HomeKit solutions from Lutron and Insteon cost upwards of $100 for the bridge alone, while Eve pricing ranges from $39.95 (door/window sensor) to $79.95 (indoor room monitor).

As a Bluetooth-connected product, Eve has a limited range. In my 1,200 square foot apartment, my iPhone was able to connect to the Eve devices regardless of the room each was placed in, but when I placed Eve Weather outside on the patio, I couldn't access it from a back office. Being in range to connect to an Eve accessory could be an issue in some larger homes.

Even when not connected to an iPhone, each of the Eve accessories is able to store data, giving a historical overview of what's going on in the home. I went away for a three-day trip while testing the Eve line, and when I came back, my iPhone downloaded the data from each Eve device, letting me know what the temperature was while I was away, what the air quality was, and whether or not the door had been opened.

evetemperatureovertime
Eve accessories store up to three weeks of data internally when not connected with an iPhone, so even when there's no Bluetooth connection, they are able to track what's going on in an area where they're installed.

The Eve accessories can also be controlled when away from home by connecting to a third-generation Apple TV running software version 7.0 or later. When signed into the same iCloud account on the Apple TV and the iPhone, it's possible to relay commands to the Eve lineup using the Apple TV as a proxy.

Unfortunately, using the Apple TV to control HomeKit accessories from afar is a feature that's riddled with bugs. Apple has a support document that covers connecting the Apple TV to a HomeKit accessory, but beyond explaining the process and suggesting signing in and out of iCloud on the Apple TV if remote access is broken, there are no troubleshooting tips.

homekittroubleshooting
Apple's unhelpful support document on connecting to Bluetooth HomeKit products remotely.

I signed in and out of iCloud on the Apple TV and on my iPhone many times during the testing period, but I could not get the Eve line of accessories to connect with my Apple TV. Elgato also walked me through a detailed (and frustrating) setup process that required un-pairing everything, re-pairing, and resetting my Apple TV, but it didn't work.

According to Elgato, there are problems with HomeKit on Apple's side regarding iCloud and certain Apple IDs, some of which simply don't work. Elgato's solution was to create a new Apple ID, but that's an unreasonable suggestion.

Our Apple IDs (and our iCloud accounts) are tied to a huge number of things in Apple's ecosystem and creating a new Apple ID and signing into a new iCloud account for a single accessory is an incredible hassle. It deletes Apple Pay cards, iCloud Photo Library photos, and Documents & Data stored in iCloud.

Apple is working on a fix for the bug that I ran into, but as it stands, customers who buy the Eve products could have the same problem, rendering the away-from-home control feature unusable. Being able to access HomeKit products while away is one of the main draws of HomeKit, so this is a major negative.

Security


There's a reason why only five companies have HomeKit products available for purchase - HomeKit certification from Apple requires products to meet strict requirements, using security protocols and a level of encryption that's been described as "bleeding edge."

I wanted to point this out because the strong encryption that's built into all HomeKit products, the Eve lineup include, is often glossed over when we discuss HomeKit, and it's one of the most important aspects of the entire system. Eve's collection of products offer end-to-end encryption with 3072-bit keys generated using advanced algorithms specified by Apple.

appleprivacyhomekit
Apple's HomeKit privacy promises, which all manufacturers must adhere to

It goes above and beyond traditional encryption for connected devices, ensuring it's going to be a lot more difficult for someone to hack into the Internet of Things that controls your home. This level of encryption is especially important for products like door locks and cameras, but it's still nice to know that even products as mundane as Elgato's door sensor and temperature monitor are heavily protected.

In the future, when HomeKit products are readily available, this level of security will be one of the biggest reasons to use HomeKit over competing platforms and standalone products.

Eve App


The Eve app is where the data from each Eve product is aggregated and where accessories can be grouped and organized by room for different Siri commands. The app's main interface includes a simple list of all the data that's being collected by the Eve system, organized by type like "Temperature," "Air Quality," "Consumption," plus a list of each room where Eve accessories are installed.

Tapping on a room will display a quick overview of the data the sensors are gathering in each area. For example, in my office, the "Room" overview displays the temperature, air pressure, and humidity readings from Eve Weather, with the power consumption from Eve Energy, the air quality and temperature from Eve Room, and the status of Eve Door & Window.

eveapp
I can also quickly access any of these readings by tapping on the "Type" list, and within either "Room" or "Type," I can tap on an accessory in the list to see a graph of results over time, tapping again to drill down into a full screen graph that lets me organize the results by hour, day, week, and month.

evepowerconsumptionovertime
In the settings of the app, Eve accessories and other HomeKit products can be given specific names, organized by room, and added to specific scene or zones. Names let certain HomeKit accessories be referred to by a user-specified name when using Siri, while rooms let users designate which products are in which area of the house. Designating a "Room" lets Siri to control products in a specific room, like the bedroom, while "Zones" group multiple rooms together under one umbrella, such as "upstairs."

eveapp
Accessories can be assigned to rooms, and some accessories can have a specific name for use with Siri

Scenes are used to create action recipes and are only used with HomeKit accessories that can perform an active function like turning off power or changing the temperature. For the Eve system, Scenes only work with Eve Energy, but in combination with other accessories, it's possible to create a scene like "Bedtime" that turns down the temperature, turns on a fan, and shuts off lights in a specific room, all with one Siri command. All of the HomeKit apps, Eve included, work with all HomeKit products. So the Eve app can be used to create scenes and zones incorporating Lutron lights, for example.

zonesandsceneseveapp
Accessories are assigned to rooms, and then rooms are grouped into zones for controlling several rooms with one command. Scenes group several actions into one command.

Siri


Organizing HomeKit products and linking them up isn't a simple process, but it's worth the effort because of Siri integration. Being able to control multiple accessories at one time with a few simple commands is useful - when it works.

When asking Siri to answer questions about the status of my HomeKit accessories, I almost always had to ask more than once because a connection couldn't be established right away. Asking twice tended to do the trick, but occasionally I needed to ask three times and there were instances where I gave up completely. Sometimes the system refused to work for an entire evening.

evesiriresponses
Siri didn't always give the right result when asked to perform a task. Asking "What's the temperature in my room?" was how I asked for the temperature of the Eve Room and Eve Weather, but on several occasions, Siri inexplicably gave me Google search results for the question. I had the same trouble with Eve Energy. Asking Siri to turn on the lights or my MacBook (depending on what I was using it for) wasn't always understood.

siriwrongresponse
Here's a small sampling of Siri commands that work with the Eve lineup:

- "What's the temperature in my room?"
- "What's the temperature in the living room?"
- "What's the temperature downstairs?"
- "What's the humidity?"
- "Is the door open?"
- "Is my MacBook on?"
- "Turn off my MacBook"
- "Turn off my MacBook"

There are several commands that work with Eve, but some functions are not included in Siri's accepted list of questions. Siri is not able to relay air pressure or air quality, features in the Eve Weather and the Eve Room, respectively. Asking "What's the air quality?" doesn't let me know the air quality in the room - it brings up a web search.

Air quality is one of the most unique aspects of the Eve Room and it was disappointing not to be able to ask Siri to relay that information. I was also disappointed that "Scenes" could only be used with Eve Energy, but this seems to be a limitation on HomeKit rather than an issue with the Eve lineup.

siricommandsthatwork
Some of the Siri commands that work with the Eve lineup

It would be nice to be able to group passive accessories for a status report, asking Siri something like "What are the conditions in the living room?" to get an overview of temperature, humidity, and air quality, but that's not possible. I have to ask each question individually and I can't get the air quality reading, forcing me to open the app.

Bottom Line


HomeKit is a service that's still in development and it feels unfinished. I ran into multiple bugs and shortcomings while testing the Eve line of accessories, and whether these issues are on Elgato's end or Apple's, there are a lot of rough patches that need smoothing for things to work in a seamless, frustration-free way.

Elgato's Eve accessories are some of the first to work with HomeKit, so it isn't surprising to me that a brand new service paired with a brand new line of accessories is experiencing some early launch pains. Based on other sites' reviews of different HomeKit accessories, which have expressed some of the same issues, I'm inclined to believe that most of the problems are on Apple's end.

It's bizarre to me that Apple launched a service that feels clunky and unpolished - it seems out of character for a company that typically prides itself on getting even the small details right. Apple is said to have a large team of engineers working on HomeKit right now, so it's quite possible that many of these early bugs will be resolved quickly.

eve sensor 1
I don't want to penalize the Eve lineup overmuch because I don't know what bugs to attribute to the Eve lineup and what bugs to attribute to the underlying HomeKit service. When the accessories were working as intended and when I was able to get Siri to answer my queries on the first try, the Eve products were useful.

Even with HomeKit sporadically working, the Eve Room, Eve Weather, and Eve Energy gave me a lot of information about what was going on inside my home, and given their affordable price, the products are a good way to give HomeKit a try.

Most of the Eve lineup, including Eve Room, Eve Weather, and Eve Door & Window consists of passive sensors measuring the conditions in a room. These functions aren't as flashy as light bulbs or smart plugs (like Eve Energy) that can be controlled via voice command, but for data-loving people who want details on their homes, these have the potential to be solid tools.

Eve Energy is perhaps the accessory people interested in HomeKit will find most useful because it can be used to turn appliances on and off via Siri. With any of these accessories, I'd suggest waiting a month or two before purchasing for some of the bugs to be solved. Having to ask Siri to do things multiple times and potentially not being able to use these products remotely are two huge problems.

HomeKit is gaining new features in iOS 9 (and hopefully a lot of bug fixes) so the platform is going to undergo positive changes in the next few months that will make the Eve line and other HomeKit products more appealing.

Custom triggers and new scene types will make a lot of what HomeKit does more automated, Bluetooth accessories will be able to send notifications, and new categories will enable commands that will let Siri answer questions about a wider range of sensors, like air quality.

Two months from now, many of the early HomeKit problems may be solved, and reviews of HomeKit-enabled products may be very different.

Pros:
- Bluetooth - no bridge, so setup is quick
- Captures data even with no iPhone connection
- App offers historical graphs to monitor conditions over time
- Sensors are accurate
- Most data provided is useful
- Entire line is affordable

Cons:
- Bluetooth - limited range
- Remote access is very buggy right now
- Siri commands are limited
- Siri commands sometimes don't work
- Often need to ask Siri twice or three times for data
- Eve Door & Window of limited use (no notifications)

How to Buy


The Elgato line of products can be purchased from Amazon. The Eve Room is available for $79.95, while the Eve Weather is available for $49.95. The Eve Door & Window sensor is priced at $39.95, and the Eve Energy, when it becomes available in the U.S. in September, will be priced at $49.95.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.


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Force Touch Panels Enter Mass Production Ahead of 'iPhone 6s' Launch
As the launch of the so-called "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" inches closer, suppliers have begun shipping Force Touch panels for the next-generation smartphones, according to DigiTimes. The report claims that Apple's supply chain partners started shipping Force Touch panels in limited quantities in June before ramping up production of the pressure-sensitive modules in July.

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Taipei Times vaguely reported that Apple's touch panel supplier TPK expects widespread adoption of pressure sensors, presumably for Force Touch, later this year. Force Touch, an existing Apple Watch and MacBook feature, is a pressure-sensitive technology that will enable future iPhones to distinguish between a light tap and deep press and complete different actions accordingly.

Taiwan-based website DigiTimes has a mixed track record at reporting on Apple's upcoming product plans, but its sources within the upstream supply chain have proven reliable in the past. Apple has also announced new iPhones in September or October since the iPhone 4s, so suppliers ramping up Force Touch production is to be expected with less than two months to go.

The "iPhone 6s" and "iPhone 6s Plus" are rumored to feature the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screen sizes, an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, Force Touch, a faster Qualcomm LTE chip, an improved 12-megapixel rear-facing camera and 7000 Series aluminum. The overall design of the smartphones will likely be nearly identical to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.


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Apple Seeds Second OS X 10.10.5 Yosemite Beta to Developers
os_x_yosemite_round_iconApple today seeded the second beta of OS X 10.10.5 to developers, two weeks after seeding the first 10.10.5 beta and one month after releasing OS X 10.10.4 to the public. Because we're just a couple of months away from the public release of OS X 10.11 El Capitan, it's possible that OS X 10.10.5 may be one of the last updates to Yosemite.

Today's beta, build number 14F19a, can be downloaded through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store or through the Apple Developer Center.

The first OS X 10.10.5 beta did not appear to include any consumer-facing changes, so it's likely that this update focuses on behind-the-scenes bug fixes and performance enhancements.

Over the course of its lifespan, OS X Yosemite has received four updates. The first two brought bug fixes and security improvements, while OS X 10.10.3, the most significant update to Yosemite, introduced the new Photos app, Force Touch APIs, new emoji features, and more.

OS X 10.10.4, the current version of Yosemite, also focused on bug fixes and stability improvements, most notably introducing TRIM support for third-party SSDs and eliminating the Discoveryd process that caused ongoing connectivity issues in the OS.


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Apple Plans to Debut New Apple TV in September With Touch-Based Remote, Full App Store
Apple is planning to introduce its long-awaited next-generation Apple TV in September, reports Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski. According to sources familiar with Apple's plans, the new set-top box will be unveiled in September at the same event where Apple will unveil the next-generation iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

As has been previously rumored, it is said to include an A8 processor, a touch-pad based remote that's "drastically improved" compared to the current version, a new operating system that supports a full App Store, developer APIs, and Siri voice control, and more on-board storage to accommodate apps. Physically, the Apple TV will take on a new, slimmer look.

Apple TV 2015
Apple will not be introducing its rumored television service at the same time, with sources telling Buzzfeed that the Internet-based streaming service could possibly launch in late 2015, but 2016 is more likely. Current rumors suggest Apple's television offering will bundle approximately 25 channels and cost between $30 to $40 per month.

Apple was widely expected to introduce both its new Apple TV and its upcoming streaming television service in June, at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, but the two products were not ready for launch at that time. Apple postponed its release of the set-top box because it was "not ready for prime time" and held off on the television service because deals were not completed.

Apple has not introduced a revamped version of its Apple TV since 2012, so an updated set-top box with App Store support and other features will be a major change from the platform that we know and use today.


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Apple Seeds Second iOS 8.4.1 Beta to Developers
ios_8_iconApple today seeded the second beta of iOS 8.4.1 to registered developers for testing purposes, just over two weeks after releasing the first iOS 8.4.1 beta and a month after launching iOS 8.4 with the new Apple Music service.

Today's beta, build 12H318, is available via an over the air update and it can also be downloaded from the Apple Developer Center.

No outward facing changes were discovered in the first iOS 8.4.1 beta, and it's a .1 update, so it's likely that it includes only minor bug fixes, security enhancements, and performance improvements designed to prepare the operating system for its upcoming retirement.

iOS 8.4.1 may be one of the last updates to iOS 8 as Apple is working on its successor, iOS 9. iOS 9 builds on many of the features introduced with iOS 8 and adds new content and underlying performance improvements. iOS 9 is currently in beta testing and will be released in the fall.


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