New Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress to Block State-Level Efforts to Weaken Smartphone Encryption

A new bill introduced in U.S. Congress today by representatives Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) would attempt to block state-level efforts to ban sales of strongly encrypted smartphones, reports Ars Technica.

The federal bill will need to pass the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and be signed by the president, in order to become law. If passed quick enough, the bipartisan legislation would set precedent over state-level bills.

California and New York assemblymen have introduced new bills over the past year that would require smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Google to create devices that can be decrypted or unlocked, or be subject to fines.

The virtually identical bills would require any smartphone manufactured after January 1, 2017 and sold in New York or California to „be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.“ Apple and others would face a $2,500 fine per phone in violation of the proposed law.

Apple is strongly against government efforts to weaken smartphone encryption. The company ceased storing encryption keys for devices on iOS 8, making it impossible for the iPhone maker to unlock content on passcode-protected devices under police request. Both iOS and Android share these default encryption settings.

In September, FBI Director James Comey expressed concerns that Apple and Google are „marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.“ Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook believes providing the U.S. government with back door access means the „back door’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys.“

Read the full text of the „ENCRYPT Act of 2016“ for more details about the new house bill.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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New Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress to Block State-Level Efforts to Weaken Smartphone Encryption

Zagg Aims to Expand Into Battery Cases With Mophie Acquisition

Accessory maker Zagg, known for its InvisibleShield screen protectors and other Apple-related accessories, today announced an acquisition of mophie, a company that makes external battery packs and battery cases for Apple’s iOS devices.

According to a press release from Zagg, its acquisition of mophie will allow it to be the market share leader when it comes to battery cases, external batteries, screen protection, and tablet keyboards. Zagg has paid $100 million at deal closing for mophie, with a caveat that additional money may be paid out based on earnings over a 12 month period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

„This strategic combination of two industry innovators with complementary product, brand and distribution platforms will enable us to deliver increased value for our customers and shareholders,“ said Randy Hales, President and Chief Executive Officer of ZAGG. „We see numerous opportunities to drive revenue growth and increase profitability by leveraging the strengths of both organizations to strengthen product development, improve brand presence, and expand distribution.“

Going forward, Zagg will keep the mophie brand intact, continuing to sell mophie products under the mophie brand name. Zagg says mophie will retain its identity, messaging, and strategy, but cross-branded protects, like a Zagg tablet keyboard powered by a mophie battery, are possible in the future.

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Zagg Aims to Expand Into Battery Cases With Mophie Acquisition

CES 2016: Pelican Announces ‘Marine’ Waterproof iPhone Cases

Pelican Products, known for its range of rugged, highly protective cases, today announced the launch of its first waterproof smartphone case. The Pelican Marine, designed for the iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, and 6s Plus, provides complete drop protection for Apple’s iOS devices and protects it from water, snow, dirt, and dust.

Available in black, the Marine case includes five layers of military-grade shock protection to absorb impact during accidental drops, and a scratch-resistant screen protector keeps the display safe from scratches. According to Pelican, the design leaves all buttons and features accessible, while also offering balanced sound for a high-quality audio experience.

The Marine case can be submerged in water up to two meters deep for thirty minutes, and its waterproof design also protects against other outdoor elements. Like all Pelican products, it comes with a two-year guarantee.

„Smart phones, by and large have no real defense against water, but now they’re defended by the Pelican Marine case and 40+ years of protection know-how,“ said Bob Shortt, President – Consumer Division of Pelican Products. „Consumers can now hit the pool or beach with the confidence of knowing their phone will be one hundred percent protected and ready for that next amazing selfie or action shot.“

The Pelican Marine case for the iPhone 6 and 6s is priced at $79.95, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus/iPhone 6s Plus version is priced at $89.95. It will be available for purchase in late February.

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CES 2016: Pelican Announces ‘Marine’ Waterproof iPhone Cases

CES 2016: LifeProof Announces ‘FRĒ Power’ Waterproof Battery Case for iPhone 6s Plus

LifeProof today announced the expansion of its FRĒ Power case line to the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus, marking the debut of the company’s first waterproof battery case for Apple’s larger-screened iPhones.

The IP-68 rated FRĒ Power is a fully waterproof iPhone case that’s submersible to 2 meters for up to an hour. In addition to being waterproof, it’s able to keep the iPhone safe from dirt, snow, dust, and damage from accidental drops. It’s able to survive a drop from as high as 2 meters, or 6.6 feet, and the screen protector will keep the display free from scratches.

Inside the FRĒ Power, there’s a 3,200 mAh battery that should give the iPhone 6s Plus approximately one full charge. It includes auto-stop charge and rapid recharge technology to maximize extra battery life. Available in „Blacktop Black“ and „Base Jump Blue,“ the FRĒ Power’s design keeps the iPhone protected but leaves the cameras, buttons, and Touch ID fingerprint scanner available for use.

„LifeProof continues to defy the limits of possibility with smartphones,“ said LifeProof President and CEO Pete Lindgren. „FRĒ Power for iPhone 6s Plus takes Apple’s large form-factor device on bigger, better adventures with double the battery capacity and our award-winning four-proof protection against the elements.“

According to LifeProof, the FRĒ Power for iPhone 6s Plus will soon be available for purchase from the LifeProof website. It will retail for $149.99.

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CES 2016: LifeProof Announces ‘FRĒ Power’ Waterproof Battery Case for iPhone 6s Plus

Walmart Announces Apple Pay Competitor ‘Walmart Pay’ for iOS

Walmart today introduced its own mobile payments service called „Walmart Pay“ built into its Walmart app on iOS and Android. The new Apple Pay competitor will roll out in select Walmart stores in the U.S. this month, followed by a nationwide launch within the first half of 2016.

Walmart Pay’s QR code-based checkout process will involve opening the Walmart app, selecting Walmart Pay, activating the camera, scanning the code displayed at the register and waiting for the cashier to finish bagging your items. An electronic receipt will automatically be sent to the Walmart app.

The new payments solution will only work in Walmart stores and supports any major credit, debit, pre-paid or Walmart gift card. Walmart says that 22 million customers actively use its Walmart app each month, placing it among the top three retail apps in the App Store and Google Play.

Walmart is among a handful of retailers that have refused to support Apple Pay since its U.S. launch in October 2014. The retailer is instead one of over a dozen retailers committed to the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) consortium and its yet-to-launch rival payments service CurrentC.

Walmart’s future plans to support Apple Pay or CurrentC remain undisclosed, but the company’s senior vice president of services Daniel Eckert said Walmart Pay allows „for integration of other mobile wallets in the future.“

“The simplicity and ease of Walmart Pay comes not only from how it works, but also in how it’s been built,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, services, Walmart U.S. “We made a strategic decision to design Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type – even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. The result is an innovation that will make the ease of mobile payments a reality for millions of Americans.”

Walmart App is free on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch. [Direct Link]

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
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Walmart Announces Apple Pay Competitor ‘Walmart Pay’ for iOS

Eddy Cue Discusses Why Apple Made a Pre-Installed News App

In a follow-up to an interview Apple executive Eddy Cue had with CNN senior correspondent Brian Stelter a month ago, the senior vice president of Internet software and services discussed Apple’s thoughts on the News app, which launched alongside iOS 9 in September. When asked why Apple decided to turn it into a pre-installed app, Cue offered a look into how Apple determines what constitutes a pre-installed app.

„We’ve only created the apps that we think everyone uses every day… We really wanted to create a single app that all customers could go to, to read all their news — no matter what they are interested in, no matter what topics, no matter what publications they want to follow — and get that experience that they’re used to with our products, where it looks beautiful, it’s really easy to read and yet it provides all the content available around the world.“

Cue goes on to say that Apple believes the app is a „really, really important application for the world,“ noting that good journalism is important to Apple. News organizations, Cue says, have to worry about creating their own apps, interfaces and user experiences. Apple believes something like the News app can streamline this and help news organizations focus on journalism. Apple believes that the app benefits local news outlets that can’t afford to create their own apps. Furthermore, Cue says Apple even thought about how small outfits like upstart news organizations and church newsletters could use News to distribute information.

Apple is also working on a version of the app for China, Cue tells CNNMoney. When asked whether the company is running into censorship problems in the country, Cue says that it’s not. Instead, Cue notes that Apple has a „great working relationship“ in China and that Apple Music, its App Store and retail stores in the country show that they know how to work in China.

Finally, Cue says that Apple has no plans to hire journalists and create content of their own. Instead, Apple’s goal with News is to „empower those journalists to get their content to the right customer.“

In late October, Tim Cook said that Apple News had approximately 40 million users. However, Cook didn’t reveal whether that number was regular users or customers who had simply checked out the app, making it difficult to determine how many people truly use Apple News. Apple has partnered with dozens of publications for Apple News, including CNN, The New York Times, ESPN and more. To get the latest news and rumors from MacRumors, make sure to add MacRumors to Apple News by clicking this link.

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Eddy Cue Discusses Why Apple Made a Pre-Installed News App