Apple Stores Now Offering Belkin Screen Protector Application

As of today, Apple Stores across the United States and around the world are offering a new system that allows Apple Store employees to apply Belkin-branded screen protectors for iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, and 6s Plus customers. Many stores across the world began rolling out the Belkin ScreenCare+ Application System last week, but the system is officially available in retail stores starting this morning.

Belkin’s ScreenCare+ Application System lets Apple Store employees accurately and precisely apply screen protectors using a ScreenCare+ machine. When a customer purchases either a Belkin TrueClear Invisiglass Screen Protector or a Belkin TrueClear Anti-Glare Screen Protector, an Apple retail employee who has been trained in the application method will bring the ScreenCare+ machine from the back of the store.

Using the machine, the employee will clean a customer’s iPhone display and then apply the screen protector directly in front of the customer. Should a mistake be made during the application process, a new screen protector will be applied at no cost to the customer.

The Belkin screen protector application service should greatly cut down on the hassle involved with applying a screen protector at home. With Belkin’s machine, there’s less room for error as alignment is automatic and there’s little chance of dust or debris accidentally getting stuck under the screen protector.

ScreenCare+ is available at Apple Stores worldwide, but screen protector application is limited to Apple’s latest iPhones – the iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, and 6s Plus. Belkin’s Invisiglass screen protector is made from an ultra-thin, flexible glass that absorbs shock and is shatterproof while preserving the natural feel of the iPhone. The Anti-Glare screen protector reduces glare to improve visibility in bright light while also protecting the iPhone display from damage.

Screen protectors can be purchased from Apple retail stores and applied by Apple Store employees starting immediately.

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Apple Stores Now Offering Belkin Screen Protector Application

Law Firms Consider ‘Error 53’ Lawsuits Against Apple as Some Stores Authorized for Repairs

Several law firms are considering lawsuits against Apple following news that the company disables iPhone 6 models that have third-party repairs that affect Touch ID, reports The Guardian. The „Error 53“ controversy started last week when news circulated about customers who have had their iPhones disabled and rendered unusable by a mysterious „error 53“ message.

It turns out Apple disables the iPhones of customers who have had unauthorized repairs on their devices. As explained in a thorough post from iFixit, a repair made by a third-party service using non-original components cannot pass a Touch ID validation check because mismatched parts don’t sync up properly.

According to an Apple spokesperson, when the iPhone’s parts can’t be properly validated because of a repair done to a component affecting the Touch ID sensor, the error message is triggered in an intentional effort to keep Touch ID and the secure enclave that stores fingerprint information safe. Damaged phones also have the potential to give the error.

„We protect fingerprint data using a secure enclave, which is uniquely paired to the touch ID sensor. When iPhone is serviced by an authorised Apple service provider or Apple retail store for changes that affect the touch ID sensor, the pairing is re-validated. This check ensures the device and the iOS features related to touch ID remain secure. Without this unique pairing, a malicious touch ID sensor could be substituted, thereby gaining access to the secure enclave. When iOS detects that the pairing fails, touch ID, including Apple Pay, is disabled so the device remains secure.“

A UK barrister told The Guardian disabling iPhones „could potentially be viewed as an offense“ under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, which covers the destruction of property, and a Seattle-based law firm, PVCA said it wants to bring a class action lawsuit against Apple, calling on affected customers to get in contact. PVCA is planning to represent customers for free and has outlined the issue on its website, suggesting Apple is violating consumer laws by forcing customers to use Apple-sanctioned repair services.

We believe that Apple may be intentionally forcing users to use their repair services, which cost much more than most third party repair shops. Where you could get your screen replaced by a neighborhood repair facility for $50-80, Apple charges $129 or more. There is incentive for Apple to keep end users from finding alternative methods to fix their products.

Apple may be planning to proactively head off lawsuits and assuage customer outrage. MacRumors has heard from a retail source that certain Apple Stores have received the go ahead from Apple to replace third-party screens and other third-party components to resolve the error 53 issue. The standard out-of-warranty fee is charged for the repairs and the replacement of non-genuine parts with Apple parts is limited to those affected by the error.

It is not yet clear if all Apple Stores have been authorized to repair error 53 iPhones as Apple’s only official statement is that it’s a security measure required to prevent fraudulent Touch ID sensors from being installed.

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Law Firms Consider ‘Error 53’ Lawsuits Against Apple as Some Stores Authorized for Repairs

Apple Seeds Third OS X 10.11.4 El Capitan Beta to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming OS X 10.11.4 update to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after seeding the second OS X 10.11.4 beta and three weeks after releasing OS X 10.11.3. OS X 10.11.4 has been in testing since January 11.

The third OS X 10.11.4 beta can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or via the Software Update Mechanism in the Mac App Store.

OS X 10.11.4 offers a couple of new features, such as the ability to support password protected notes in the Notes app, but like the recent OS X 10.11.3 update, it appears to focus primarily on under-the-hood bug fixes and performance improvements with few noticeable outward-facing changes. Almost all of Apple’s OS X updates to date have been smaller updates that improve performance rather than introduce new features.

We’ll update this post with any features or significant changes that are discovered in the third beta of OS X 10.11.4.

Related Roundup: OS X El Capitan
Tag: OS X 10.11.4
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Apple Seeds Third OS X 10.11.4 El Capitan Beta to Developers

Apple Seeds Third WatchOS 2.2 Beta to Developers

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming watchOS 2.2 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the second watchOS 2.2 beta and two months after releasing watchOS 2.1, the first major update to the watchOS 2 operating system that runs on the Apple Watch. watchOS 2.2 has been in testing since January 11.

The third watchOS 2.2 beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on an iPhone running the iOS 9.3 beta by going to General –> Software update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the Apple Watch charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone.

watchOS 2.2, along with iOS 9.3, introduces support for pairing multiple Apple Watches with a single iPhone. Both updates are required, with each watch running watchOS 2.2 and each iPhone running iOS 9.3. watchOS 2.2 also includes a revamped look for the built-in Maps app on the Apple Watch with access to the Nearby feature first introduced with iOS 9 and new buttons for quickly accessing directions to home and work.

There are were no other obvious outward-facing changes introduced in the first two watchOS 2.2 betas aside from the changes to the Maps app, but the update undoubtedly includes under-the-hood performance updates and bug fixes to address issues that have been discovered since the release of watchOS 2.1.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tag: watchOS 2.2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Pagaré Smartstrap Plans to Bring Contactless Payments to Pebble Time

Financial tech startup Fit Pay recently launched a new Kickstarter for its third-party Pebble Time „smartstrap“ called the Pagaré. The new accessory will bring NFC payment capabilities to the smartwatch, using the power of the Pebble’s smart accessory port, giving Pebble Time the same mobile wallet opportunities allowed to Apple Watch customers thanks to Apple Pay.

The Pagaré smartstrap will come in all of the same colors and finishes that Pebble creates for the Pebble Time, so that „you won’t have to sacrifice your style to receive the benefits of Pagaré,“ according to Fit Pay co-founder and CEO Mike Orlando. The strap runs on its own battery, so with a small USB connector on one end, users will be able to charge the Pagaré smartstrap and the Pebble Time simultaneously.

Fit Pay said that its new smartstrap will be able to be used „at over 9 million point of sale terminals worldwide,“ including places like GameStop, Panera Bread, and Whole Foods. Similar to the Apple Watch, when the Pagaré is removed from a user’s wrist it locks access to any of the payment features of the band. A four-digit passcode reactivates those features when the Pebble Time is reattached.

Pagaré has multiple layers of security to protect sensitive data. In addition to secure hardware, we leverage the same card network service as Apple Pay to replace your card number with a surrogate value called a token. This means we never need to store your credit card.

Notably, once the Pagaré app is installed on a user’s phone and credit cards are scanned in, the new accessory is „a completely phone-free solution.“ Users will be able to pay at compatible NFC terminals using Pagaré without having their smartphone nearby. The company is looking to the future, as well, with plans to introduce transit and entertainment ticket options into the Pagaré suite of tools if the Kickstarter gets funded.

As of writing, the campaign sits at just over a $26,000 funded level with a goal of $120,000 over the next 29 days. Users interested can get in on an early bird discount of the Pagaré for $49, and once those are gone the band will cost $69 at retail price. Higher early bird reward tiers bundle in the Pebble Time ($199), Pebble Time Steel ($249), and Pebble Time Round ($249) alongside a Pagaré smartstrap.

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Tim Cook Talks iPhone Sales, Apple TV, Campus 2, and More at Employee Town Hall Meeting

Following Apple’s first quarter earnings report, Apple executives hosted a Town Hall meeting with Apple employees to answer questions and to divulge a few details about the company’s future plans. 9to5Mac has shared highlights of what was covered at the event. While much of what was said was reiterating information that was shared during the earnings call, there are a few tidbits worth noting.

When it comes to the iPhone and the rumor that Apple has perhaps reached „peak iPhone,“ Cook said the device is the „greatest business of the future“ with growth potential in key emerging markets like India and China. He said Apple does not need to launch a less expensive device with pared-down features to entice buyers in these markets, as research suggests people will spend more for a better experience. These comments relate directly to the upcoming „iPhone 5se,“ which some rumors have suggested will be positioned as a less powerful, lower-end device, though not a cheap one by general smartphone standards.

On the Apple TV and tvOS, Cook said the two products point towards a „bright“ future for Apple, but he didn’t mention how Apple might expand its presence in the living room going forward. tvOS is Apple’s way of giving content providers the tools to offer streaming television solutions to customers after having failed to launch its own streaming service due to difficulties with negotiations. The most recent TV-related rumors suggest Apple is exploring the possibility of original content, following in the footsteps of Netflix and Amazon.

Cook also reportedly expressed excitement over future products coming from the company’s software, services, and hardware divisions. In the next few months, Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 5se, the iPad Air 3, new bands for the Apple Watch, and perhaps new Retina MacBooks and Retina MacBook Pros. Later in the year, Apple is also expected to introduce the highly-anticipated iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

He also teased „far off“ hardware products coming beyond 2016, perhaps hinting at the company’s work on the Apple Car or its exploration of virtual and augmented reality. Recent rumors suggest Apple is prototyping virtual reality headsets similar to the Oculus Rift.

The last bit of interesting information was on Apple Campus 2, the company’s second „spaceship“ campus that’s under development in Cupertino. Construction appears to be on track to be finished at the end of 2016, as Cook says the first employees will move into the campus by the end of January 2017. He also said the new underground auditorium will allow Apple to hold events on its grounds instead of at venues in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area.

The meeting also included more mundane information on upcoming time-off benefits for Apple employees, flagging iPad sales, new solutions for retaining employee talent, and Apple’s supply chain, which can be read at 9to5Mac.

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Tim Cook Talks iPhone Sales, Apple TV, Campus 2, and More at Employee Town Hall Meeting

Apple Ordered to Pay $625 Million in VirnetX Patent Dispute

Apple was today found guilty of willfully infringing on four patents in an ongoing dispute with VirnetX and has been ordered to pay $625 million in damages, reports CNBC.

The patents in question relate to virtual private networking (VPN) protocols and in today’s ruling, the jury decided that Apple’s FaceTime and iMessages service, along with the iOS devices that support those services, infringe on VirnetX’s intellectual property.

The patent dispute between Apple and VirnetX dates back to 2010, with a jury initially awarding VirnetX $368 million in 2012 after Apple was found guilty of infringing on VirnetX patents. That decision was thrown out in September of 2014 after the damages were found to have been incorrectly calculated, but a damages retrial that started last week led to the decision handed down this afternoon.

VirnetX originally requested $532 million in damages, an amount that grew to $625 million taking into account the willful infringement ruling.

Ahead of the jury’s decision, CNBC says Apple filed a request asking U.S District Judge Robert Schroeder to declare a mistrial, accusing VirnetX of misleading and confusing the jury during its closing arguments. Schroeder has not yet made a ruling on the request.

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Apple Ordered to Pay $625 Million in VirnetX Patent Dispute

Sony’s Dual Camera to See Inclusion in Devices From ‘Major Smartphone Players’

Sony, the manufacturer behind many of the camera sensors used in Apple’s iOS devices, recently confirmed that its dual-lens camera platform will be featured in devices from „major smartphone players“ in 2016. The information was shared by Sony CFO Kenchiro Yoshida during the company’s recent Q3 2015 earnings call and was highlighted by Xperiablog.

Sony’s camera technology is used by a wide range of smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, and Yoshida declined to name specific companies that would take advantage of Sony’s dual-lens camera platform. Dual-lens technology has previously been used in smartphones such as the HTC M8, but it may soon become a more popular option following rumors that Apple plans to incorporate a dual-lens system into its iPhone 7 Plus.

iPhone 7 mockup with dual-lens camera system (Image: Computer Bild)

Apple is said to be planning to use dual-lens technology it acquired from Israeli camera company LinX in the iPhone 7 Plus, but Apple may still be incorporating Sony sensor components into its camera module. Apple is also said to be testing dual-lens camera samples from a range of manufacturers in Taiwan, Japan, and China.

According to Yoshida, dual-lens camera systems will be coming from multiple major smartphone manufacturers this year, but because of slowdowns in the high-end smartphone market could impact production, 2017 will be the year when the dual lens camera platform really takes off.

Well, for next year, our so-called dual lens – dual camera platform will be launched by, we believe, from major smartphone players. However, as I said previously, recently, our smartphone market is growing and particularly, our high-end smartphone market is now slowing down. So, that may impact the demand or production schedule of dual camera smartphones by the major smartphone manufacturers. So, we believe the real start, the takeoff of smartphone with dual lens camera will be in the year of 2017.“

Rumors have suggested Apple is planning to incorporate a dual lens camera system into the iPhone 7 Plus to differentiate it from the iPhone 7, which will continue to offer a more traditional single-lens camera. Should Apple follow through with its plans, its first dual-lens system will debut towards the end of 2016, likely in September.

The launch of the iPhone 7 is still multiple months away, but details about the new device have been steadily trickling out. Yesterday, MacRumors shared information on the device’s design, which is expected to be similar to the iPhone 6s design but with a flush rear camera and no antenna bands across the back. Other rumors suggest it will have improved water resistance and no headphone jack.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
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Sony’s Dual Camera to See Inclusion in Devices From ‘Major Smartphone Players’

Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset

Apple has expanded its research efforts in virtual and augmented reality, building out a large team that is experimenting with headsets and other technologies, reports Financial Times in a detailed post on the company’s virtual reality work that covers recent hires and acquisitions.

Hundreds of employees are part of a „secret research unit“ exploring AR and VR, with the team consisting of experts hired through acquisitions and poached from Microsoft and Lytro, the company that developed the Immerge, a Light Field power camera able to blend live action and computer graphics for a live action VR experience. Apple has also hired Doug Bowman, said to be one of the leading virtual reality experts in the United States.

In addition to recent AR/VR-related acquisitions Metaio, Faceshift, and Emotient, Apple has also just purchased Flyby Media, a startup that worked on augmented reality technologies. Flyby Media created an app that worked with Google’s „Project Tango“ smartphone with 3D sensors, allowing messages to be attached to real world objects that were then viewable by one of Google’s devices.

Most notably, Apple’s AR/VR team is said to have built prototype virtual reality headsets that are similar to the Oculus Rift and the Hololens from Microsoft. Multiple prototypes of „possible headset configurations“ have been created in recent months, with Apple’s interest reportedly inspired by the Oculus Rift.

It is not clear if and when Apple’s work on a headset prototype will make it past the development stage into an actual product, and the company often secretly works on technologies that never see the light of day. The scope of what Apple is building is also unknown, but Financial Times says that the company’s work could potentially be useful for the Apple Car project.

Apple has had a team working on virtual and augmented reality technologies since at least early 2015, when rumors suggested there were a small number of employees investigating how Apple could incorporate the technologies into its products. Apple’s interest in virtual reality dates back much further, however, and Apple has filed multiple patents over the years, for products like video goggles, motion-sensing 3D virtual interfaces for iOS devices, and 3D „hyper reality“ displays.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently questioned on whether he believed virtual reality could go mainstream. He explained that he does not see virtual reality as a niche product, describing it as „really cool“ with „some interesting applications.“

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Apple Has Secret Team Working on Virtual Reality Headset