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’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.

News/Rumors

Apple shuts down Topsy

Social media analytics firm Topsy Labs was shut down, according to a tweet from Topsy.

“We’ve searched our last tweet,” Topsy said in a post on Twitter.

Topsy was purchased by Apple as part of a deal in 2013 for more than $200 million. The analytics company made a wide range of products that searched and drew data from conversations happening on services like Twitter, including high-level analysis of tweets and other Twitter data to break down market trends in real time. The company could measure an ad campaign’s effectiveness. 

The company’s website is also inactive and now redirects to an Apple Support Documen texplaining iOS 9 search capabilities, including new features like proactive Siri Suggestions.

Apple has yet to acknowledge what specifically it used Topsy’s technology and talent for. In addition to Twitter, Topsy’s technology might be powering certain backend features in iOS 9 like intelligent Siri Suggestions. The new search option integrates geolocation data with data providers like Yelp! to surface nearest places of interest.

Apple shuts down Topsy

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple raises iTunes Match Music upload limits above 25,000 songs

As promised by Eddy Cue, Apple has raised the song upload/matching limit for iTunes Match and Apple Music libraries over 25,000.

Just ahead of the launch of Apple Music in late June, Eddy Cue, who serves as Apple’s Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services, said that the limit would rise to 100,000 around the iOS 9 release, but the increase did not occur in September when iOS 9 debuted.

Libraries that were previously held at 25,000 are now having additional tracks matched and/or uploaded, according to multiple reports.

It’s not known what the new practical limit is, and official iTunes Match documentation still refers to a 25,000-song cap.

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The new changes mean users with bigger music libraries can now enjoy the benefits of matching songs in the iTunes Cloud to make them available on all their devices. Matching tracks offers another option for users who cannot afford the more expensive 64 GB and 128 GB iPhone models by offloading local music storage to the cloud.

Update:

Eddy Cue has confirmed that the company has indeed “started rolling out support for 100k libraries.”

Mac, News/Rumors

Thinner MacBook Air in 13″ and 15″ sizes rumored for WWDC 2016

Apple may be getting ready to present a revamped MacBook Air at next year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, according to Taiwanese publication Economic Daily News.

The source reported on Monday that the company is working with suppliers on an all-new MacBook Air series due to launch at next year’s WWDC. 

The new MacBook Air is rumored to be slimmer and available in 13-inch and 15-inch sizes, but it wasn’t said if an 11-inch model will also be included. The slimmer design will be enabled by “fully redesigned” internal components across the board. 

Inside, the 2016 MacBook Air will be equipped with new battery packs, cooling modules, panels and more into a revamped metal chassis. 

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The company’s notebook lineup expanded earlier this year with the addition of the new MacBook, an ultrathin device carrying a 12-inch Retina display and utilizing ultra low voltage Intel chips for a fanless design.

While a reshuffled MacBook Air lineup is a possibility, today’s reports hint more on a long-awaited MacBook Pro refresh. Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pro laptops are currently available in 13- and 15-inch flavors and are due for a redesign.

If the rumor is true, the company would be selling one 12-inch laptop, three 13-inch devices — iPad Pro, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro — and two 15-inch models.

iPad, News/Rumors

Apple debuts new iPad Pro ad ahead of launch

Apple posted a new ad for the iPad Pro, called “A Great Big Universe.”

 In a video available on its YouTube channel, Apple shows off the benefits of the device’s larger form factor, as well as apps that are optimized for it, including Sky Guide Pro and Star Walk. The commercial offers a detailed close up of the solar system, which zooms out to demonstrate that it’s actually being displayed on the iPad Pro’s Retina display.

Apple also shows off the split-screen multitasking capability of the iPad Pro, as well as using the Apple Pencil to annotate maps and images. “Introducing the biggest iPad ever,” is how the company wraps up the commercial before simply displaying “iPad Pro.”

There’s a great big universe in the new iPad Pro. It’s the largest iPad ever and takes your creativity and productivity to an epic scale.

The new iPad Pro ad was revealed just two days before the iPhone maker will start accepting orders for the device. Apple has already announced orders would begin online on Wednesday, November 11, with the iPad Pro available in stores later in the week. 

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Pricing for the iPad Pro begins at $799 for the entry-level 32GB Wi-Fi only model. A 128GB Wi-Fi only model is available for $949, and a 128GB Wi-Fi + Cellular model can be purchased for $1,079. The iPad Pro comes in the three signature iPad colors: Space Gray, Silver, and Gold. 

Apple will also offer users to order the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard, the two accessories that are designed to be used with the iPad Pro. The Apple Pencil, a pressure-sensitive stylus, will be priced at $99 while the Smart Keyboard is available for $169.

Apple TV, News/Rumors

Apple TV’s tvOS found to support app folders

Well-known developer Steve Troughton-Smith continued experimenting with debugging tvOS and discovered that out of the box, the tvOS user interface features “pretty complete” folder support. 

Troughton-Smith said Folders on tvOS currently work in a similar way to iOS. The developer cobbled together code, or “abused llbd” as he says, to enable the creation of app folders in the shipping version of tvOS that mimic those found in iOS. Each created folder displays on the tvOS home screen with its own title and nested app icon previews.

A user is just required to drag one app over the other to create a folder. Uers are also given the ability to rename folders. Troughton-Smith could activate the folders using the LLDB software debugger. To delete an app from a folder, users must simply press the play/pause button on the remote. 

Apple

It’s unclear when or if Apple plans to activate folder support on tvOS. Folder support is possibly coming in tvOS 9.1 and simply wasn’t activated in the first beta, although it’s also possible that the feature is coming in tvOS 10.0. Or not at all.

In recent days,  Apple has updated the tvOS App Store with a new Categories section, a content discovery enhancement that follows Monday’s Top Charts addition.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple disables iOS News app in China

Apple has been disabling its Apple News Service in China, a number of iPhone and iPad users recently reported.
The problem was initially revealed by software developer Larry Salibra, who last week said the company disables News when roaming in mainland China, a policy he finds “disconcerting.”

Apple has not yet commented on the issue, but The New York Times on Saturday connected a person with knowledge of the matter as saying News is indeed inaccessible in China.

“What worries me, is that the mechanism Apple uses to disable the News app and Apple Maps uses the location of the user to change the behavior of their device without their permission, even if the location service is disabled in the privacy settings,” Salibra notes.

The developer also tested at a river crossing between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland to reveale the company blocking News access not on a device geolocation or IP basis, but by local cellular network.

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The News app is only available in the U.S., where the service is live, and test markets in Australia and the UK. Users who buy an iPhone or iPad and install News in a supported country get usually access to content while traveling internationally, except in China where the service is completely disabled. Chinese customers trying to connect to News app servers see an error message reading, “Can’t refresh right now. News isn’t supported in your current region.”

News/Rumors

Apple may stop $99 ‘One to One’ tutoring program

Apple may reportedly end its $99 “One to One” tutoring program for Mac and iOS users.

The company is planning to stop the program to let retail employees focus on hosting more free workshops, which multiple people are able to attend at once. 

One to One is a popular Apple program that allows users who buy a Mac to pay an additional $99 for one year of Mac, iPhone, and iPad instruction from Apple retail employees. One to One offers feature 30 or 60 minute Personal Training sessions, 90-minute Group Training sessions, and 90-minute group-based Open Training sessions.
One to One members can receive help with a lot of different topics, as well as training sessions on Apple apps, such as Photos, Mail, iMovie, Final Cut Pro.

One to One will help you do more than you ever thought possible with your Mac. First, we’ll set up your email, transfer your photos, music, and other files, and show you how to keep everything in sync with iCloud. Then, we’ll work with you to create a curriculum tailored to your goals, learning style, and experience level.”

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Apple already opened a number of free workshops at its stores, but the company is likely planning to reorganize them around themes like “Discover” and “Create.”

It is also probably, the company is looking to maximize the labor it gets out of retail staff. Employees running personal One to One sessions aren’t free to talk to other customers or process sales, which can potentially impede business.

News/Rumors

Apple debuts new Apple Music ads featuring artists

Apple has shared three new video ads for Apple Music on its YouTube channel.

The ads focus on how the service helps users discover artists. These three brand new ads center around its streaming service, the service’s Connect social network, and the effect music can have on those who “live and breathe” it. The videos all demonstrate that Apple Music has “All the artists you love and are about to love, all in one place.”

The first ad features Kygo, known as a popular Norwegian DJ and record producer. The video shows Kygo playing at a piano and then highlights Apple Music Connect and the ability to learn more about an artist via their Connect profile.

The second ad features James Bay, a popular British musician who performed his songs “Let it Go” and “Hold Back The River.” In the video, the singer plays an acoustic version of his song “Craving” as Apple again highlights Connect and the discovery features it supports.

The third video offers a variety of different artists, including James Bay, Kygo, Leon Bridges, Flo Morrissey, and others. This ad, named “Discovery,” also has a Trent Reznor as the narrator.

The new videos debuted two weeks after the company began an Apple Music ad campaign in several public spaces around the world, including billboards, signage at bus shelters and subway stations, and more.