News/Rumors

Microsoft unveils new Windows 10 smartphone Lumia 650

Apple’s competitor, Microsoft has launched its latest Lumia-branded Windows 10 Mobile smartphone, priced at a suggested retail price of $199 before local taxes and subsidies.

As expected, the Lumia 650 comes with a 5-inch display, 16GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, a 2000 mAh battery, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 processor clocked at 1.3GHz, and supports LTE.

The Lumia 650 is backed by a 2000mAh battery and supports Nano-SIM. There is no difference in innards between the Lumia 650 and its dual-SIM variant. 

As for the cameras, the new device is packing a 8MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera.

The Lumia 650 is aimed at businesses and fits “perfectly into the enterprise with built-in support for Microsoft business apps.” The company notes that the the new smartphone will allow IT to “test the latest Windows 10 Mobile updates against critical line of business systems and apps.”

Like other Windows 10 devices, the Lumia 650 packs Microsoft suite of productivity apps including Office apps, for creating and editing documents on-the-go; OneDrive, for cloud storage, and Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant.Lumia650

Microsoft stated:

“This really is a beautiful phone. We’ve paid attention to every detail, pairing the highest level of craftsmanship with maximum everyday productivity.”

 

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Rovio updates Angry Birds Seasons and Friends for Valentine’s Day

As a part of Valentine’s Day celebration, Rovio updates Angry Birds Seasons and Friends with a brand new episode called “Fairy Hogmother”. 

It’s Valentine’s Day, and Angry Birds Friends has planned an entire week of romance!” Rovio writes. “It’s a new tournament with six new levels that you are simply going to love. However, love can be a fickle thing. This week, you’ll have to fling very carefully – break the crystal heart in each level and everything turns to stone!”

The new episode features 19 new levels inspired by your favorite fairy tales, including Three Little Pigs, Rapigzel, Swinederella, Hamzel and Gretel.

In addition to new fairy tale-themed stages, “Fairy Hogmother” includes Golden Egg and Bonus levels, as welll as more content for Pig Days, which are special one-off levels that pay tribute to global events and holidays.

Heartbreaker Tournament” is a week-long competition that brings tons of heart-shaped objects to be destroyed along with the bad piggies.

Angry Birds Seasons for iPhone, Angry Birds Seasons HD for iPad, and Angry Birds Friends for iPhone and iPad are all available on the App Store as free-to-play games.

iPhone, News/Rumors

TSMC reportedly the only manufacturer of next-gen ‘iPhone 7’ A-series chip

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, better known as TSMC, will reportedly be the only company to provide the processor used in the next-generation iPhone, reported the Electronic Times.

TSMC has received exclusive rights to manufacture Apple’s new chip, to be called “A10” if naming conventions continue. The Taiwan company beat Samsung in the race to scale 10-nanometer process technology.

TSMC will go into full production of the next-generation chip sometime in June. The iPhone 7 is believed to be announced during the usual fall iPhone update window.

After the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launched last year, owners began reporting about differences in the performance of models using the TSMC-made A9 chip and the Samsung-made A9 chip. According to the results of some benchmark tests and videos, an iPhone 6s equipped with the TSMC chip appeared to run cooler and have better battery life than an iPhone with a Samsung chip did.

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While the current A9 SoC is a pretty powerful processor, it might not succeed in supporting the dual rear-facing cameras this year’s flagship handset will reportedly feature.

iOS, News/Rumors

Apple open sources benchmarking suite for Swift

Apple on Monday announced that its Swift benchmark suite is open source.

The announcement comes two months after the company made its Swift programming language open sourced as promised at the 2015 Worldwide Developers Conference. 

The benchmarking suite is available now on GitHub with an open source Apache license. The suite includes 75 benchmarks related to commonly used Swift workloads, libraries for different benchmarking functions, a driver for running said benchmarks and a utility for comparing metrics across Swift versions. 

Apple engineer Luke Larson explained that the benchmark suite is designed to track Swift performance and catch performance issues before they are committed.  Larson also encourages developers to make suggestions relating to Swift’s benchmark suite, saying that all requests for new benchmarks covering performance critical workloads, additions to benchmark helper libraries, and other enhancements are encouraged.

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Swift was first Introduced in 2014 and launched alongside iOS 8 and OS X. It is known as Apple’s programming language built for iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tvOS, designed to work with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks along with Objective-C while also being widely accessible.

In 2015, the company launched Swift 2 with new features, including advanced error handling and syntax improvements.

The Swift benchmarking software is available open source now on GitHub.

News/Rumors

Apple acquired firmware security company LegbaCore

Apple acquired security consultancy firm LegbaCore in November 2015, security researcher Trammell Hudson revealed during a presentation at the 32C3 conference.

Trammell Hudson also said, that former LegbaCore cofounders Xeno Kovah and Corey Kallenberg joined Apple to work on unknown projects.

LegbaCore’s aimas founder Xeno Kovah stated, is “to help build systems that are as secure as we know how to make.”

Kovah and his colleague Corey Kallenberg are working full-time at the company, although their specific roles are unclear. Kovah only said that he and Kallenbeg would be working on “low level security” at Apple.

Specific details of the acquisition are unclear at this point.

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LegbaCore and researcher Trammell Hudson discovered the first firmware worm to affect Macs in Thunderstrike 2, which was publicly introduced last August. Thunderstrike 2 could to survive a full erase and reinstall of OS X because it attacked firmware tied to specific hardware components. LegbaCore informed Apple about the problem prior to making it public and the company managed to start patching it.

Apple will likely use Kovah and Kallenberg’s knowledge to help improve firmware and software security in future iterations of the company‘s different hardware and software devices.

Accessories, iPad, News/Rumors

Joli Originals offers leather sleeve for iPad Pro

Joli Originals, an independent company that imports leather from Italy, introduced a new high quality leather sleeve for iPad Pro.

The new cases have a pretty simple design. They are handmade from smooth, premium Italian leather. Each sleeve features a natural uneven texture and 100% Dutch wool inside, which protects your device and allows it to easily slide in-and-out. The wool comes in different colors, includding red, black, aqua, brown, orange, and pink, but this selection is determined by the exterior leather color, either, grey, brown, or dark brown.

There are currently three versions of its leather sleeve for iPad Pro. One for the naked iPad Pro, one for the iPad Pro paired with a Smart Cover, and one for the iPad Pro paired with a Smart Keyboard.

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The Joli sleeves give iPad owners a good way to protect their beloved Apple products without having to compromise the design during actual use.

joli-originals-ipad-pro

Joli Originals also offers both a Smooth and Textured collection for MacBooks, iPads, iPhones, and extras for wallets, cable wraps, passports, and a memo book sleeve. The iPhone 6s Plus sleeve can be purcahsed for €57.85 ($73.75 USD), the iPad Pro sleeve runs €90.08 ($99.24 USD), and the MacBook sleeve will cost you €81.82 ($90.14 USD). Joli’s sleeves can be found on its website.

News/Rumors

Angela Ahrendts treats retail employees like executives, 81% retention in 2015

During a shot interview with with Fast Company, Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts shared what her first two years at the company have been like.

Ahrendts also described the strategies she’s used to improve Apple’s retail chain, including her strategy of treating them just as she would treat an executive.

As Angela said in the interview, the company retail employees “don’t feel like they’re just somebody over here working with customers,” their jobs have meaning.

“I don’t see them as retail employees. I see them as executives in the company who are touching the customers with the products that Jony [Ive] and the team took years to build,” she said. “Somebody has to deliver it to the customer in a wonderful way.”

Ahrendts also said that during her first six months on the job at Apple, she had to visit 40 different markets and spend time with retail leaders in each. Apple retail chief described that the company’s retail stores are “uniting people and getting them to collaborate.”

angelaahrendts

Perhaps one of the most notable moments was when Angela said that in 2015, Apple retail featured the biggest retention rate the company has ever reached at 81 percent.

Currently, Ahrendts said Apple is a “pretty flat organization,” also adding that she communicates with her staff directly via email, an uncommon practice for a high-level executive.

News/Rumors

KGI:Apple to launch 4-inch iPhone and iPad Air 3 in first half of 2016

Apple is planning to release a 4-inch iPhone and a new iPad Air 3 in the first half of 2016, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Ever-credible KGI Securities analyst believes Apple’s upcoming 4-inch iPhone to be met with tepid demand, as the device’s form factor and hardware are mostly iterative. This device will likely come powered by Apple A8 chipset.

According to Ming-Chi, the iPhone 5se specifications will feature a 2.5D glass similar to the current-generation Apple iPhone 6s and a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera unit. The analyst recommends Apple users not to wait for any hardware innovation or form factor change from the smaller sibling.

In addition to the iPhone 5se, Apple will also be releasing its Apple iPad Air 3 tablet with a 9.7-inch display in the first half of 2016. The next-generation iPad will reportedly come with a 4K screen resolution and will be powered by an A9X processor.

Camera-wise, an 8-megapixel rear-facing sensor, in addition to a 2.1-megapixel front-facing shooter has been tipped. The new product will only be 5 mm thick and a fingerprint sensor will be embedded on the home button.

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As for Apple iPhone 7, Ming-Chi Kuo notes no surprise innovations in the information he has been able to confirm thus far, but he also said that the company is reportedly working on major enhancements with regard to chipset, sensor resolution and prolonging the battery life, and more.

News/Rumors

Apple hires top virtual reality researcher Doug Bowman

According to a new report out of the Financial Times, Apple has hired Doug Bowman, one of the top US researches in virtual reality.

Bowman most recently was a computer science professor at Virginia Tech before taking a sabbatical. He also worked as the director of the university’s human-computer interaction centre. Bowman focused on both fully-immersive VR and augmented reality. He was also granted a number of industry awards and other recognitions for his work, including a $100,000 grant from Microsoft for a HoloLens study. In addition, he’s consulted for Walt Disney’s Imagineering unit.

Apple has made several acquisitions in the virtual reality market over recent years. The company has also filed for several patents relating to virtual reality environments. Apple also purchased a number of companies, including Emotient, a firm focused on facial expression and emotion section technology, Faceshift, which is responsible for the motion capture technology used in Star Wars and finally Metaio, a startup that specialized in applications relating to augmented reality.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 17: Fans attend Team USA's Virtual Reality Experience Powered by Samsung Gear VR during the 2015 Road to Rio Tour at the Head of the Charles Regatta on October 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Samsung)

According to the report from the Financial Times, Apple is still interested in virtual reality, which is believed to become the next large thing in computing platforms, and a lot of big companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Sony, HTC, Samsung and Google are planning to launch products.

News/Rumors

Apple’s battery suppliers use cobalt mined by child labor

According to a new investigation conducted by Amnesty International, Apple is using cobalt mined by child labor in their lithium-ion batteries.

The report, revealed on Monday by Amnesty and DPR non-profit Afrewatch, said children at the age of seven are mining for cobalt that makes its way into the supply chains of high-tech companies including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Microsoft and car manufacturers Daimler and Volkswagen .

There is a number of steps before the cobalt actually reaches an iPhone, however. Firstly, traders buy the mined cobalt from small producers, then sell it to Congo Dongfang Mining, a subsidiary of Chinese mineral purveyor Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt Ltd. (Huayou Cobalt). Then battery manufacturers acquire the cobalt, using it to produce the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones like the iPhone.

Amnesty International interviewed 87 current and former cobalt miners, 17 of which were children.

“Children told Amnesty International they worked for up to 12 hours a day in the mines, carrying heavy loads to earn between one and two dollars a day. In 2014 approximately 40,000 children worked in mines across southern DRC, many of them mining cobalt, according to UNICEF.”

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For its part, Apple gave a statement to the BBC, saying that “underage labor is never tolerated in our supply chain and we are proud to have led the industry in pioneering new safeguards.”

“We are currently evaluating dozens of different materials, including cobalt, in order to identify labour and environmental risks as well as opportunities for Apple to bring about effective, scalable and sustainable change.”

This isn’t the first time one of Apple’s suppliers has been found using child labor. Every year the company provides a Supplier Responsibility Progress Report that discloses information discovered in audits of its suppliers around the world.