News/Rumors

Apple to work with Shazam for song recognition in iOS 8

According to the Wednesday report, Apple is planning to incorporate a song identification feature as a new addition to iOS 8, and is working with Shazam to roll out the capability.

Song identification capabilities are believed to gather sound from an iPhone or iPad’s microphone, and after transfering it to the cloud for processing, return results to device owners.

Along with Shazam, the company will be able to offer users a way to discover a song that is playing on the radio or from another source, such as a TV, using a small music clip.

Shazam, itself, has previously marketed its own song identification app and technology in the App Store. The service’s system acts in the very similar way as solution described by sources, suggesting Apple may simply pull data into a first-party app as it does with Weather and Stocks.

Unlike some of the company’s other music-releated features, including Podcasts and iTunes U, it will be built into the OS directly rather than require a separate download.

shazam

According to Bloomberg:

“The song-identification feature will be integrated into the mobile software in the same way that Twitter’s service is currently incorporated, meaning consumers don’t need to separately download it. Among the ways it can be used will be through Apple’s voice-activated search feature, Siri. An iPhone user will be able to say something like “what song is playing,” to find out the tune’s details, one person said.”

Shazam, a popular service with running on 20 percent of iPhones in March 2013, now boasts some 90 million users.

Apple traditionally previews its operating system updates at the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference slated to begin on June 2.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Windows Phone 8.1 adds Apple’s Passbook support

Microsoft has added support for Apple’s Passbook passes in Windows Phone 8.1. The company announced this latest version of Windows Phone earlier this month and equipped the mobile OS with digital assistant and Siri competitor, called Cortana.

The upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update brings support for Apple’s Passbook iOS app, giving users the ability to load coupons, tickets, boarding passes, etc, designed for Passbook into the Microsoft Wallet app.

According to the report from  Tom Warren of The Verge, Microsoft has created a method that takes the data from a Passbook file and converts it into a card that is imported into Microsoft Wallet.

Passbook debuted in 2012 as an Apple-only platform for iPhone, allowing users to have access to digital wallet items in a convenient fashion. Until now, Passbook has not been officially available on other platforms.

But with the Microsoft’s support, any user running the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system gets the access to Passbook passes on their device without the need for additional software or hacks.

passbook

Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8.1 earlier this month, bringing a Siri-like voice-driven personal assistant dubbed “Cortana.” However, the company didn’t mention its built-in support for Passbook files.

Meanwhile, Apple has continued to update the service, allowing third-party apps to create Passbook passes and adding support for gift cards.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple to add high resolution audio downloads to iTunes

Following a report, that Apple is planning a “dramatic overhaul” of its iTunes Music store, allowing to combat declining music downloads, which could include an on-demand streaming music service and an Android version of iTunes, the company seems to be considering an entry into the high-definition music industry with 24-bit tracks.
According to music blogger Robert Hutton, who cites an unspecified source, Apple is going to roll out hi-res iTunes music downloads in early June, possibly at WWDC.

“For several years, Apple have been insisting that labels provide files for iTunes in 24 bit format – preferably 96k or 192k sampling rate. So they have undeniably the biggest catalog of hi-res audio in the world.

And the Led Zeppelin remasters in high resolution will be the kick off event – to coincide with Led Zep in hi-res, Apple will flip the switch and launch their hi-res store via iTunes – and apparently, it will be priced a buck above the typical current file prices.

That’s right – Apple will launch hi-res iTunes in two months.”

itunes-music

However, the source wasn’t named by Hutton, Apple was much rumored to be interested in adding higher quality music to iTunes. Steve Jobs was reportedly working on hardware to store and play back “high-quality audio” before he left.

Apple has been working on bringing music in a 24-bit format for a few years, with a 2011 report suggesting the tech giant was in talks with record labels to improve the quality of iTunes Music. Now, the company offers audio files on iTunes in 16-bit lossy AAC format encoded at 256 kbps to minimize file size.

Assuming all of these facts, Apple’s obviously interested in market for 24-bit music but are they interested enough to make a move?

Apple TV, iPad, iPhone, Mac, News/Rumors

Apple to roll out multiple products in 2014, including iWatch, ‘iPhone 6,’ 12″ MacBook and low-cost iMac

Apple is preparing to release multiple new products in Q3 2014,  including the much rumored iWatch, redesigned “iPhone 6,” a 12-inch MacBook Air and a low-cost iMac.

According to the KGI securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo, who often provides reliable information, the only thing we can expect to see in the first half of the year is a small iMac update. Starting at the end of the third quarter and continuing into the beginning of the fourth, the company will start introducing a number of upgraded and new devices.

“We believe the rumored iWatch will be Apple’s most important product this year, carrying much more weight than iPhone 6,” Kuo writes, adding, “as market feedback for the product should reveal whether Apple still has the ability to continue making game-changing products with Tim Cook at the helm.”

Such products, like an upgraded Apple TV set-top box is set to appear somewhat later, including the rumored 12-inch ultra slim MacBook and upgraded Retina MacBook Pros. The fourth quarter will bring the 5.5-inch iPhone, which is also rumored to be delayed due to issues with in-cell display technology.

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Here is an overview of all of Kuo’s predictions for this year:

iWatch

The iWatch is believed to be available in two sizes: 1.3-inch and 1.5-inch and equipped with flexible, sapphire-covered AMOLED displays. Additionally, the product will feature biometric recognition, an NFC chip, wireless charging, a 200-250 mAh battery, and get a slim and light design. The iWatch may also be offered at multiple price points, with the most expensive version costing upwards of $1,000.

iPhone 6

The device will come in two sizes: 4.7 and 5.5-inches, with resolutions of 1334×750 (326ppi) and 1920 x 1080 (401 ppi), respectively. Both models will be provided an A8 processor, 1GB of RAM, LTPS display panels, optical image stabilization, and Touch ID. Both smartphones will have up to 20% narrower bezels than and measure between 6.5-7mm thick.

iPads

Both the second generation iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display may come with an A8 chip and Touch ID. The analyst also says that the new Air could also receive a bump in iSight camera quality thanks to a new 8MP sensor, and launch earlier than October.

Macs

An updated iMac, equipped with a new processor is believed to be the first product launch of the year. The company could also reveal a new lower-priced model, which would help boost slipping iMac shipments. In addition, a new MacBook model could be expected in the near future: a 12-inch MacBook Air with a higher resolution display.

KGI is usually pretty reliable on the product details in reports like this, though the timing is sometimes less accurate.

Apps Lists, News/Rumors

Apple reportedly testing a new notification feature for Maps

Apple is reportedly testing a new notification feature for Maps, according to a report from MacRumors. After choosing to ‘Report a Problem’ within the Maps app, one of the users was provided with an option to receive a notification when the problem was resolved, with the company sending a push notification indicating the issue had been fixed.

The feature seems to be in testing and the company didn’t provide any details concerning the date it might be made available to all users. Those who have first seen the notification option say it only appears intermittently. As a confirmation, some screenshots showing a new option were posted on the site.

Users received the ability to  report errors since Maps first appeared in September of 2012. The company has not previously sent notifications that allow users to know when an issue has been fixed. The similar feature was recently included into Google’s mapping service and sends users notifications through email about the status of their issue.

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Apple has recently faced significant complaints over data inaccuracies when the app first launched alongside iOS 6. The company’s CEO Tim Cook publicly apologized for the problems with its Maps, adding that Apple was “extremely sorry” for the frustration it had caused and promised to work “non stop” until Maps was improved.

Today’s news comes as Apple continues to work to fix the problems, issuing a number of updates to the Maps app over the years with a lot of enhancements.

The company also promises the Maps app will receive a significant update in iOS 8 later this year.

Apple has already hired several “ground truth” experts around the world to improve the quality of its mapping service.

News/Rumors

Cortana-Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri

Microsoft  announced Windows Phone 8.1, which comes equipped with the company’s digital assistant, Cortana, a kind of Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri.

Cortana is dubbed for an AI character in the popular Halo video game series and as in the game, the assistant is voiced by actress Jen Taylor.

It is powered by Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, and tasked to give Windows Phone users the ability to schedule meetings, send text messages, and search the web using their voice. According to the company, it will learn from users, using heuristics in an effort to return more relevant information.

Cortana is a core function of Windows Phone 8.1 and a replacement for the existing search function. In addition to its ability to schedule reminders, Cortana also allows reminders to be tied to people and locations.

Windows Phone 8.1 also has a new Action Center that combines the functions of iOS’s Control Center and Notification Center into a single feature. Action Center shows situational information, including battery percentage and notifications, and gives customizable shortcut buttons. cortana

Among other features is the ability to set custom backgrounds and a “high density” option, which allows to add more tiles to the home screen. The company also provided with a new keyboard input method, which lets users swipe across the keys to type.

According to the Microsoft’s statement, the update will be available to Windows Phone users in the “next few months” and will start shipping on new devices later this month. The company also added that it is making Windows licenses free for mobile phones and tablets with screens less than nine inches.

iPhone, News/Rumors

iPhone 6 displays go into mass production in May, 5.5″ model delayed

According to a new report from Reuters, Apple is preparing to begin mass production of the 4.7-inch display to be used in the iPhone 6 this May.

Previous reports indicated that the iPhone 6 would go on sale in two various sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. Citing supply chain sources, the report also says that the much rumored 5.5-inch model of the device could be delayed due to difficulties with in-cell production technology, and is probably to commence a few months after the initial production of the 4.7-inch displays.

To push production forward, the company could initially fall back on older thin film technology for the 5.5-inch display, then switch to in-cell at a later date, sources said.

The both new iPhone versions were expected to use in-cell touchscreens, a technology that slims down the overall thickness of a smartphone’s touch panel by incorporating capacitive touch sensors into the LCD array. The company first applied the tech in 2012 with the iPhone 5.iphoneplus-130205

A last week report from Japanese business newspaper Nikkei stated that the iPhone 6 could be presented “as early as September”, and will be available in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch display sizes. However, according to the claim from UBS analyst Steve Milunovich, the 4.7-inch version of the new device might be the only model to appear later this year, with a timeframe for the larger 5.5-inch version unclear.

In addition to a larger display, Apple’s next-generation iPhone will likely come with a durable, sapphire screen, and a thinner, bezel-free design in addition to expected camera and processor upgrades.

Along with the reported bump in screen size, there are still tons of rumors surrounding Apple’s next flagship handset.

iPhone, News/Rumors

iPhone 6 reportedly coming as early as September, likely in 4.7-5.5-inch sizes

Apple is reportedly working on two variants of the so-called iPhone 6 with significantly larger 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays. According to a new report from Japanese business newspaper Nikkei, the company’s iPhone 6 is expected to launch “as early as September”.

“Manufacturers have apparently begun making such components as fingerprint sensors and chips for liquid-crystal drivers.

Mass production of LCD panels will start as early as the April-June quarter at Sharp’s Kameyama factory, Japan Display’s Mobara plant, and at other facilities, according to sources. LG Electronics will supply panels as well. The new handset’s display resolution is expected to be significantly higher than that of current models.”

A lot of the information, provided in the report, matches up with previous rumors. According to  Macotakara last fall, iPhone 6 will get display panels, manufactured by LG Display and will have a resolution of 1920×1080 and a ppi of 440. Earlier this month, a popular supply chain insider Sonny Dickson shared the similar expectations.iPhone-6-concept-ConceptsPhone-004

There is still too little known about Apple’s new device, however, it’s believed to receive a slimmer and refreshed design and an A8 processor. The new handset is also rumored to come with an 8MP rear camera, 2GB of RAM and more.

iOS

Apple to add more diversity to emoji character set

According to Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, Katie Cotton, the company is looking to expand its emoji set to include emojis that are non-caucasian. Apple states it is in talks with the Unicode Consortium to add more characters to its emoji offerings.

Here’s Cotton’s statement to MTV Act (via The Verge):

“Tim forwarded your email to me. We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”

Emojis first appeared in Japan and were used as an alternative to text-based emoticons. Then users started adding them in messages as the icons help quickly convey feelings with a picture instead of words. Incorporated into Unicode, emojis can be used on multiple platforms. The character set has included caucasian icons, however, which Apple plans to change. Emoji

Apple’s current list of emojis features different smiley faces, foods, plants and symbols, some are concerned at the distinct lack of diversity when it comes to ethnicities. They include such races like Chinese, Indians and Russians, but more are expected to be added to the platform.

Apple has changed emojis with iOS 6, increasing a number of new characters and made emoji available for all users. Previously, users had to have special apps to access emoji on iOS. Those emojis, which came with OS 7 in late 2013 did not bring a lot of new ones, but the company is expected to make some changes to the characters with iOS 8 later this year.

Apple TV, News/Rumors

Apple reportedly discussing new streaming TV service with Comcast

According to The Wall Street Journal’s report, Apple is in talks with cable provider Comcast about using the cable provider’s network for a streaming TV service to be integrated in a future version of the Apple TV and would allow faster and more reliable performance for users.

Apple’s set top-box is expected to get access to Comcast’s channels for a monthly subscription, with Comcast providing preferential streaming treatment to an Apple-built set-top box like the existing Apple TV. Thanks to the service, subscribers will be allowed to stream live TV shows as well as on-demand content provided by Comcast. The coopeartion between the two companies would allow Apple’s box to continue streaming smoothly even when other connections were bogged down by high traffic and bypass bandwidth issues.

The report also adds that Apple and Comcast are not yet close to a finalized decision, since the campaign would need a big upgrade to Comcast’s infrastructure to maintain the reliability Apple demands.

“Apple’s goal would be to ensure users don’t see hiccups in the service or buffering that can take place while streaming Web video, making its video the same quality as Comcast’s TV transmissions to normal set-top boxes,” the report said.apple_tv

Apple is planning to reveal a new Apple TV sometime in the near future, with a updated set-top box, which may come with gaming and cable box-like capabilities. More recently, the company promoted its current Apple TV device from “hobby” to a full product line in preparation of a rumored update in the works.

The discussions between the both companies are similar to those that were held between Comcast and Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix had closed a deal with Comcast to improve its connection speeds. Meanwhile, Apple’s interests would require Comcast to make “significant investments in network equipment and other back-office technology.”