Other News

Apple Pay officially launched in the UK

Apple Pay CardsApple pay has today been officially launched for use in the UK and will be accepted at any store which currently accepts contactless payments.

The technology is currently only available on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus however owners of older models can use their iWatch (Apple Watch) to enable NFC payments along with touch ID.

According to apple pay’s UK website the service currently is only available to customers of AMEX, MBNA, Nationwide, Natwest, RBS, Santander and Ulster Bank however other banks on the Coming Soon list include Halifax, First Direct, HSBC, Lloyds, TSB, M&S Bank and Bank of Scotland.

Apple is also apparently trying to encourage merchants to accept and promote Apple Pay by enabling user feedback on the apple website, with a few refrences and links saying things such as “if you have trouble using Apple Pay in store, let us know”

Have you used Apple Pay yet? Did the cashier get confused when you tried to slap your phone or watch on her PDQ terminal? Let us know in the comments!

UPDATE: As of Tuesday 28th July Apple Pay now also supports First Direct and HSBC with Barclays reporting that support is “Imminent”

Apple may not buy Beats by Dre after all

Beats by Dre deal is taking longer than expected and now may not be finalised until late next week. Following on from our report last week about Apple acquiring the audio company Beats by Dre recent news is suggesting the deal may take longer than first expected.

Apple’s planned deal to buy Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion may not be finalized until next week, according to people familiar with the transaction. That’s a longer timetable than some people expected as recently as a few days ago.

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Once the deal has been finalised it is expected that the Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine will take up senior roles within Apple. It is not yet clear weather this bold move by apple is in order to inject the company with new ideas to attract a younger generation or if it is simply a deal to gain access to the Beats song library and royalty deals which would give apple preferential rates and an advantage in the streaming market for iTunes. On another note Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre are said to be making their first appearances as employees of apple in the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) later this year.

Heart Rate Monitoring Headphones?

heartrateearphonesA secret sharing website recently reported that apple might be exploring the possibility of headphones able to measure heart rate. The report was later confirmed to be a hoax however the technology to do this already exists, and is even available today in a product from LG.

Launched at CES in January, LG’s fitness-oriented Heart Rate headphones are designed to give real-time heart rate monitoring. The headphones use sensors in the earbud to measure blood flow, along with a small medallion that is strapped to the arm or attached to a waistband to track metabolic rate and maximum oxygen consumption, and all this while allowing users to listen to music!

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The medallion that connects to the headphones is designed to work as a data processing unit, sending the biometric information directly to the LG Fitness app or other popular third-party apps on an iPhone via Bluetooth. The headphones are said to have good sound and even include a built-in microphone for making calls using the device as a handsfree kit.

LG’s Heart Rate Earphones are designed to provide accurate heart rate data by measuring blood flow signals in the ear via PerformTek sensor technology while also delivering excellent sound. Because of the unique physiology of the ear, wearers can get more accurate health and fitness metrics with LG’s Heart Rate Earphones than with other devices, especially when engaged in physical activity. LG Heart Rate Earphones can be used alone or with LG Lifeband Touch.

The Heart Rate Earphones and the Lifeband Touch are available for pre-order and will will be officially on sale on the 18th May. The headphones are currently listed at £106.94 ($180), while the Lifeband Touch is £89.12 ($150).

Even though the report of Apple developing these headphones with sensors was fabricated, they have previously invested research into the concept, filing several patents on the subject and recently hiring Eric Winokur, a researcher who developed an ear-worn bio-signs monitor, likely for its wearable’s team. Despite all this evidence, there’s currently no indication that Apple is working on or even plans to work on their own headphones with sensors, but LG has demonstrated that the technology certainly exists should the company choose to go in that direction.

Dr. Dre to take a senior role at Apple after Beats acquisition

The co-Founders of Beats by Dre Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are set to take up senior roles within apple after the companies £1.8 million ($3.2 million) acquisition last week.

The pair are set to take up part time / advisory style positions and are said to be commuting from the Los Angeles area where Beats is based to meetings at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino and elsewhere as necessary.

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The role the two are going to actually play in influencing apples decisions is still unclear but it is thought that this may be either a move to entice younger generations or possible be a very clever decision with a view to securing deals with record labels.

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Apple is said to be re-designing iTunes in order to turn around the recent drop in music sales. The acquisition of the Beats Music streaming service along with a thriving hardware business and two experienced seasoned veterans of the music industry may help the company achieve this drastic revamp while introducing new ideas and hardware sales.

Apple to start its own Health & Fitness Platform

iwatch-concept-nikeApple is allegedly looking at doing more with the iWatch wearable device than first thought by creating a new health and fitness ecosystem modelled on its successful iOS App Store. Similar to the iOS App Store, this new platform may allow companies to develop their own mobile medical applications that could tie into Apple’s iWatch wearable device.

One mobile health executive, who asked not to be named, told Reuters he recently sat down with an Apple executive from the iWatch team. He said the company has aspirations beyond wearable devices, and is considering a full health and fitness services platform modelled on its apps store.

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Said to be launching as part of iOS 8 later this year, a new Healthbook app is expected to serve as a data-store for health-related information acquired from a variety of sensors on the watch such as resting heart rates, oxygen levels, distance & pace from GPS tracks of runs or activities and much more. Based on the vast amount of data the app appears to be able to track, it is unsurprising that Apple will be looking to open up the ecosystem to third parties to help users fill out all of the various content areas.

One company that could definitely benefit from an Apple health and fitness ecosystem is Nike, which has scaled back its own hardware development of the Fuelband to focus on expanding its software-based NikeFuel platform. Though Nike CEO Mark Parker would not directly comment on any specific plans with Apple, Parker did say in a recent interview that Apple is a long time partner and that he is “excited about where that relationship will go forward.”

Heartbleed did not affect Apple’s Services

Apple have today confirmed that key services where unaffected by the infamous heartbleed vulnerability in the OpenSSL Software.

A spokesperson for apple has said

Apple takes security very seriously. iOS and OS X never incorporated the vulnerable software and key web-based services were not affected

The heartbleed security flaw which is explained in the cartoon below, was a small coding error within the OpenSSL platform, not an issue with the SSL protocol itself. The purpose of this software is to provide secure connections between computers and web servers and this small flaw is said to have effected around 80% of the internet that uses secure web pages, including Facebook and Google among other big names.

The problem has been described by many experts as catastrophic and realistically on a scale of 1 – 10, if your website uses SSL (think that little gold padlock in the bottom right corner) then this is an 11.

Worth mentioning is that this iPhoneLeaks has also not been effected by this issue as we do not have any need to establish secure connections.

 

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Worldwide Developers Conference 2014

wwdc14The WorldWide Developers Conference or WWDC has been announced for the 2nd June 2014 in San francisco. At a glance WWDC 2014 will open its doors on the 2nd June with a keynote speech from Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. OS X 10.10 is overall the mostly likely focus of the event, but there are also a number of other possible topics, including the upcoming iOS 8 and the slight possibility of some new hardware however the new Apple TV and the iWatch are reportedly not yet ready for production.

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iOS 8

There is very little information currently available on any of the topics to be discussed at WWDC however a new operating system for mobile devices is almost a certainty. healthbookleakedscreenshotThe update is said to focus on refining the major visual updates that were introduced with iOS 7 and adding new functionality to the operating system, of which the biggest new feature seems to be the new HealthBook app which appears to track all sorts of biological information from heart rates to oxygen saturation and blood sugar, presumably there may also be some new hardware linked to this which will be required for some of the functionality. Rumours have also surfaced which suggest that Apple may be looking into the mobile payment industry with the use of TouchID verification when performing NFC enabled transactions at supported contactless outlets. iTunes Radio may be moved out of iTunes Music and into its own app with iOS 8. Apple is also said to be preparing a new song naming feature for iOS in partnership with Shazam who currently have an app in the app store which performs this task. Such a service would be built directly into iOS 8, integrating with apps and Siri to allow users to identify songs playing on the radio or via other sources.   [ad 1] Minor improvements to integrated features may also be included such as improvements to Siri by enabling an API style integration with third party apps and Maps getting the upgrade to include public transport directions have also been rumoured to be included in this update although as always, nothing has been confirmed.

OSX 10.10

There is even less information available on this subject than there is on iOS 8 however what we do expect is a lot of new features or possible a complete redesign as the last update (OSX Mavericks) introduced only a handful of features compared to previous releases. Hopefully apple wont make the same mistakes Microsoft did with Windows 8.0 and alienate a large number of their users by making the design “too” flat!

Unlikely Announcements

According to a recent interview with a source who has insider knowledge it seems we are unlikely to see a new Apple TV or the iWatch being launched this year.

Tim Cook will not use WWDC to unveil Apple’s mythical wearable device. Nor will he use it to show off a new Apple TV, or even preview the new software the company is developing for it. Which makes perfect sense, really. There’s little point in Apple unveiling a new OS in advance of a significant hardware update.

As always apple may be planning a big surprise and trying to catch everyone out but usually there are some inevitable leaks and this seems to be one of them, disappointing for all of us who are looking for a new SmartWatch with real style!

Apple in talks with health tracker company Basis

basisBasis the company behind the “worlds most advanced health tracker” has put itself up for sale and is currently in talks with all the major technological companies about a takeover. The companies interested include Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft.

The company’s goals seem to be in line with the ethos of Apple and on their website they say

When creating Basis, we dedicated ourselves to making the design as advanced as the technology inside. We knew if it was too complicated, or not beautiful enough to wear—it’d be useless. We pushed the limits of technology, without pushing the limits of what’s useful.

While it is currently unknown how much interest apple has in this hardware and weather there is currently an internal iWatch project is still unknown however one thing is for sure, this would certainly speed up the development process.

the current list of features on the Basis watch includes the ability to monitor health-related metrics such such as heart rate, sleep activity, movement, perspiration levels, and skin temperature using a new optical sensor. This would be the perfect hardware to integrate with the recent rumors of a “Health book” style app which is said to be included with iOS 8.

Over the past few months, Apple has also hired a number of health experts in fields related to heart rate monitoring and fitness tracking. Two executives from pulse-oximetry company Masimo joined Apple, which includes its former Chief Medical Officer. Other health-related hires have also been from C8 MediSensors, a company that develops non-invasive blood monitoring sensors.

Overall details on the whole iWatch project are scarce as there has been no official announcement on the topic, and this latest rumor doesn’t even have a ballpark figure for the takeover however we do have a quote from a reliable source saying that the bid would be “sub hundred million” wether this is actually the case with all the recent competition it yet to be seen.

The price we’ve heard for any possible activity is “sub-hundred million” which could mean a small return for investors like Norwest Venture Partners, Mayfield Fund and Intel Capital, who have poured over $30 million into the company.

It is still unknown when the latest iPhone will be released however it is most likely to be this Summer / Autumn along with a new version of IOS and if all goes to plan, a revolutionary iWatch.

iOS 7 Sounds created by Owl City

Electronica artist Adam Young, the man behind the popular music of Owl City, is thought to be responsible for many of the new sound and tones in iOS 7.

Alongside the top-to-bottom redesign of the visual user interface in iOS 7, Jony Ive’s design team with Young’s help has also reworked all the sounds in the OS as well. It isn’t clear exactly which sounds Young worked on, though many of the message and ringtones sound similar to his music.

 

Some of Adam Young’s more well-known songs, under the Owl City name, include his breakout hit FirefliesGood Time with Carly Rae Jepsen, and When Can I See You Again?from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.

 

 

Young began creating songs in his parents’ basement, sharing tracks on MySpace before signing with a record label and receiving commercial success. Like many musicians, he uses Macs and a number of different software titles including Apple’s LogicPro Tools, and Propellerhead’s Reason.

Anki Drive Cars Will Be Available on October 23

First announced at WWDC this year, Anki’s iOS-controlled AI-based racing game is set to debut later this month. Unlike your usual racing toys, Anki Drive is largely self-operating and is described by anki as a “video game in the real world.” The concept is similar to scalextric, with added enhancements that include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and smartphone-based controls.

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The Anki cars are placed on a specially designed vinyl track and connect to an iPhone using Bluetooth-LE. Using software and tiny cameras, the cars are able to calibrate their positions on the track and handle steering on their own. Players control the acceleration and the guns using an iPhone and the Anki Drive app, shooting at other cars on the track to score the highest number of hits.

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Hits convert to points, and points can be used to both upgrade cars and weapons. Each of the Anki Drive cars has its own unique name, personality, and statistics, with some offering greater acceleration speeds while others have more energy. Engadget went hands-on with the Anki Drive and has a description of the game play:

As soon as you’re done, you can simply set the cars on the track and away they’ll zoom; there’s no need for you to hit an accelerate button at all. Indeed, the cars will even know just where to turn. We wanted to see if we could mess it up, so we picked up a car and turned it the other way around to see what would happen. The answer: It just flipped around and went back on the right direction.

So if the cars can drive themselves, what do they need you for? Well, you can affect the race by tilting the phone either left or right to force it to make a wider or sharper turn. There are also special weapons you can deploy if you’re in a competition – a couple of starter ones include a tractor beam to slow down an opponent and a gun that you can use to mow them down afterward.

Anki Drive has several different gameplay modes, including the multi player mode that allows several players to compete against one another and a single player mode where one of the cars is controlled through AI. Each of the Anki Drive cars has its own name, personality, and statistics, with some offering greater acceleration speeds while others have more energy. No car can be fully upgraded to match the others, which makes each one unique.

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Anki Drive will only be be available in the United States and Canada at launch from Apple’s website and in retail stores from the 23rd October. Each kit, will includes two cars, chargers, and a race track, and will be priced at  $199 (approximately £123.00). Two additional cars can be purchased for $69 each.

 

 

The Anki Drive app can be downloaded from the App Store for free.

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