Apple adds TED Talks, Tastemade, and Young Hollywood apps to Apple TV

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Shortly after dropping the price from $99 to $69, Apple has updated the Apple TV channel lineup with a few additions in the United States. New apps for viewing content from TED, Tastemade, and Young Hollywood are now available. The channels should appear automatically or after a restart on the latest Apple TV set-top box, and all three offerings are available without a cable or satellite subscription. Read more

Review: TrackR Bravo locates lost items with Bluetooth 4, and without requiring yearly replacement

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Two years ago, the Tile Bluetooth tracking device raised over $2.6 million in a crowdfunding campaign, thanks in part to an expansive ad run that seemed to blanket the entire Internet. Elegantly designed with a square plastic housing, Tile paired a low-energy Bluetooth chip with a battery, letting you track any attached item using a Bluetooth 4-enabled iPhone. Each Tile can track keys, a purse, or even a roaming pet for a year before the battery dies, at which point you are supposed to replace it. The first Tiles shipped last year, and can now be had for $20 each versus their standard $25 retail price.

I skipped Tile because I don’t like products that need to be replaced when their batteries die. Over the course of reviewing thousands of Apple accessories, I’ve watched some companies waste vast quantities of plastic, metal, magnets, and packing materials, and I try not to buy things that are designed to be worthless after a short period of time. (Note: Users are encouraged to recycle Tiles by buying discounted replacements and mailing old units back to the company.) So a new Tile competitor called TrackR Bravo ($29) appealed to me. Made partially from anodized aluminum, it’s shaped like a dog tag and designed to be kept rather than tossed away. The core functionality is the same as Tile’s, but Bravo’s battery can be replaced with ease. You can also use Bravo to locate a misplaced iPhone, and optionally sound a separation alarm whenever your iPhone and Bravo get too far away from one another…

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Read an exclusive free sample of Becoming Steve Jobs in iBooks

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Becoming Steve Jobs, a new book by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli about Jobs’ life, comes out on March 24th and is available to download both in digital and print. As part of a strong marketing push by Apple in the run up to the book’s release, iBooks is offering an exclusive free sample of the prologue and first chapter that you can download right now. (Update: It’s unclear what countries the sample is being offered in — readers are reporting it showing it for some but not universally.)

Apple has been heavily promoting the book in the last few days, on its iBooks Twitter account as well as through iTunes marketing emails. iBooks describes it as the ‘only book about Steve recommended by the people who knew him best’. For comparison, in one of the chapters, Tim Cook describes the Isaacson biography as a tremendous disservice.

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iOS 8.3 includes settings to download free apps and iTunes content without requiring a password

A reader has spotted that iOS 8.3 includes some new configuration options for password entry in the iTunes and App Store. Labelled as ‘Password Settings’, the new view allows users to configure how frequently Apple should ask for the user’s iTunes Store password for purchases. This includes allowing users to choose to allow free apps to be downloaded, no password necessary.

The first option allows users to require passwords immediately or expire after fifteen minutes. This option has existed in previous versions of iOS, under the Restrictions settings. However, the toggle below — ‘Require Password’ for free downloads is an altogether new option. It allows users to download free apps (and other iTunes content) with no need to type a password. Paid content still requires authentication based on the options above.

The setting is currently disabled on iOS 8.3 devices we tested, although presumably it will activate by the time iOS 8.3 is released to the public.

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‘Hey Siri’ in iOS 8.3 allows for automatic speakerphone calls

Apple has made a small, but helpful, change in the way that iOS 8.3 can make phone calls via Siri. With the launch of iOS 8.0 last fall, Apple added a feature to Siri that allows users to activate the service hands-free by saying the phrase “Hey Siri” if the phone is plugged into power. However, if a user asked Siri to make a phone call via the “Hey Siri” hands-free command, the call would strangely not automatically transfer to speakerphone. Based on our tests, this will change in iOS 8.3. As can be seen in the screenshots above, if a user asks Siri to make a phone call through speakerphone, the call will actually be made on speaker phone…

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Review: TaoTronics’ Bluetooth 4 Car Kit for iPhone adds low-cost speakerphone, music to older cars

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Up until recently, no one complained about the way iPhones sounded through my cars’ Bluetooth speakerphones, but after switching to an iPhone 6 Plus and a Toyota Prius, friends and family told me that ambient noise has been increasing to distracting levels during our phone calls. If it wasn’t for those complaints, I would never have thought to test an alternative such as TaoTronics’ TT-BR03 Bluetooth 4.0 Hands-Free Car Kit ($30, currently $25 on Amazon). Most cars these days include Bluetooth speakerphone and music streaming support, but this inexpensive accessory is here for cars that don’t — and for cars exhibiting weird audio-related bugs with iPhones. Judging from its 4.8/5-Star Amazon reviews across over 130 customers, plenty of people still need solutions like this for one of these reasons.

TT-BR03 combines a wired noise-cancelling microphone and three-button remote control with a car charger, using Bluetooth 4.0 and a 3.5mm audio plug to route your iPhone’s audio into a car’s speakers. If your car doesn’t have a 3.5mm aux-in port, you’re out of luck, because TT-BR03 doesn’t have a built-in speaker. But if you do have an aux port, it provides a very competent speakerphone and music streaming experience at a very low price.

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New Apple TV reportedly debuting at WWDC, with App Store and Siri integration

Apple recently dropped the price of the current Apple TV.

Apple recently dropped the price of the current Apple TV.

John Paczkowski at Buzzfeed, formerly Recode, has today posted that Apple intends to debut a new Apple TV at WWDC, in the summer. Matching reports from 9to5Mac from the last year, he claims the new device (a revamp of the current hockey-puck Apple TV) will feature Siri and an App Store.

This is one of the reason’s why the new hardware would be shown at WWDC, so that developers can begin application development ahead of the product’s release.

The report claims that the device will feature more onboard storage to store applications and ‘expects’ it to use Apple’s latest A8 chip for better power. 9to5Mac has previously reported the new Apple TV will be a slimmer redesign of the current hockey puck with voice integration and a new remote with more tactile, easier to press buttons.

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Force Touch features in iMovie illustrate the power of ‘bumpy pixels,’ says haptics pioneer

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Haptic feedback features found in a recent iMovie update illustrate the power of Apple’s new Force Touch trackpad to provide feedback, not just as an input device, says one of the pioneers of the technology.

Freelance film editor Alex Gollner first noticed Apple was using the trackpad to provide tactile feedback in a recent update to iMovie.

When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.

Apple showed-off the Force Touch feature when announcing the new 12-inch MacBook, also adding it to the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. The WSJ recently claimed that Apple also plans to introduce the feature to the touchscreen on the next generation of the iPhone …  Read more

Apple reportedly cracks down on antivirus apps from iOS App Store, many apps pulled

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Searching for ‘antivirus’ now only shows games or Find My iPhone-esque apps.

Apple has seemingly decided to crack down on antivirus and antimalware apps, removing them from the App Store. Although there has been no official statement from Apple on a policy change, Apple’s loose guidelines allow them to pull pretty much anything at any time, particularly something like antivirus which has questionable utility within the sandboxed iOS environment of iPhones and iPads.

One casualty of the removal is Intego’s VirusBarrier, which claims that this takedown was not specific to its product with Apple deciding the entire category of antivirus products is now off-limits.

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Review: Eyefi’s new Mobi Pro brings improved durability, capacity to wireless SD cards for iOS photographers

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As a photographer, I’ve been thrilled to see iPhones become compelling replacements for standalone point-and-shoot cameras. Our world has improved in both measurable and immeasurable ways from widespread, immediate access to quality photography; the images documenting our lives are more compelling and numerous than ever before.

But professional photographers toting DSLRs now struggle to stand out from amateurs with iPhones. The Chicago Sun-Times infamously fired its entire photography department in favor of using images from iPhones and wire services, a move mocked by other newspapers but embraced by some broadcast journalists. Fixed-lens, small-sensor iPhones can’t match standalone cameras in image quality, particularly in dark settings, but they’re hard to beat in speed and convenience.

The question is how to combine the immediacy of iPhone photography with the quality offered by superior cameras. For me, the answer has been Eyefi‘s SD cards, which wirelessly transfer a standalone camera’s photos to an iPhone or iPad for rapid editing and sharing. (See my How-To on transferring, editing, and sharing DSLR/point-and-shoot photos with an iPhone or iPad for more details.)

Eyefi’s first $100 card contained 2GB of flash memory and a Wi-Fi chip; since then, every Eyefi card has improved on the same concept, so the brand-new 32GB Mobi Pro ($100) isn’t so much a surprise as the culmination of everything the company has done before. It has the highest storage capacity, broadest file support, and easiest workflow of any Eyefi card I’ve tested. Most importantly, it brings a more durable enclosure that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to any potential reader, originally introduced in Eyefi’s more affordable non-Pro Mobi cards. Read on for all the details…

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Apple execs talk developing ResearchKit: ‘there’s a strong personal connection’

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Apple SVP Jeff Williams announcing ResearchKit

Following the introduction of ResearchKit at this month’s Apple event, Apple executives Jeff Williams and Bud Tribble held a question and answer session with Apple employees regarding the new initiative, according to a source who provided a transcript of the conversation. Williams, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Operations, is the top executive in charge of Apple’s health engineering initiatives, including the Apple Watch, HealthKit, ResearchKit, and fitness software. Tribble is a Software Engineering Vice President with a medical background as a doctor, and he organized many of the partnerships for both HealthKit and ResearchKit…

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