iOS 12 Said to Feature Animoji in FaceTime, Deeper Siri Integration, and Do Not Disturb Improvements

Apple's alleged plans to double down on the quality of its iPhone, iPad, and Mac software platforms, rather than rush to introduce new features, have been revealed in more detail by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg News.

The report claims that Apple's software engineers will have more discretion to delay features that aren't as polished, with the company essentially shifting to more of a two-year roadmap for iOS and macOS, rather than trying to release major feature-packed upgrades every single year without question.
Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren't as polished to the following year.
The report describes Apple's new strategy as a "major cultural shift," and an admission that its recent software updates have suffered from an uncharacteristic number of bugs, ranging from a critical root superuser vulnerability on Mac to iMessages appearing in the wrong order across Apple devices.

Apple's commitment to a fast-paced iOS release schedule already led some features to be delayed regardless, including Apple Pay Cash and Messages on iCloud, so the new strategy would likely involve not announcing or testing those features in beta until they are much closer to being ready for public release.

Despite the increased focus on under-the-hood refinements, iOS 12 is still expected to include some significant new features, including Animoji in FaceTime, which will enable people to place virtual faces over themselves during video calls.

Additionally, in iOS 12, Apple is planning deeper Siri integration in the iPhone's search view, Do Not Disturb improvements that will give users more options to automatically reject phone calls or silence notifications, a redesigned version of its Stocks app, and a multiplayer mode for augmented reality games.

As previously reported, Apple is also expected to make it possible for developers to release apps that work across iPhone, iPad, and Mac, starting with iOS 12 and macOS 10.14, which should be introduced at WWDC 2018 in June.

Last month, Gurman reported that developers will be able to design a single third-party app that works with both a touchscreen, and a mouse or trackpad, depending on whether it's running on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Apple would presumably also streamline its own apps on the desktop and mobile.

The report didn't reveal exactly how the process will work, but Apple could be planning to release a new SDK with new APIs that enable true cross-platform functionality. Right now, Apple's UIKit and AppKit frameworks provide the required infrastructure for iOS and macOS app user interfaces respectively.

Today's report reiterates other features that are delayed, including redesigned home screens on iPhone, iPad, and CarPlay, tabbed apps on iPad, and the ability to view two screens from the same app side by side on iPad.

Related Roundup: iOS 12

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Apple’s Decision to Delay Some New Features and Focus on Software Quality Extends to Mac

Apple's reported plans to delay some features planned for iOS 12 until next year will similarly extend to the Mac, although to a lesser degree, according to Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg News.

Gurman's sources corroborate an earlier report from Ina Fried at Axios, which claimed that Apple's software engineering chief Craig Federighi disclosed the revised plans during a meeting with employees earlier this month.

While the shift in strategy appears to extend to macOS, it reportedly will not affect the development cycles of watchOS or tvOS.
The company told its software engineering groups about the change this month, one of the people said. The shift will also affect this year's update to Mac computer software, but to a lesser degree, the person said, adding that planned upgrades to Apple Watch and Apple TV software won’t be affected.
Apple's plans to focus on the quality of its current software platforms will presumably result in a greater emphasis on bug fixes, performance improvements, and the general stability of its operating systems.

The shift in strategy follows a few embarrassing mishaps for Apple in recent months, including a major security vulnerability that enabled access to the root superuser account with a blank password on macOS High Sierra version 10.13.1. Apple promptly fixed the critical bug in a security update.

Just weeks later, MacRumors was alerted to a security flaw in macOS High Sierra version 10.13.2 that allowed the App Store menu in System Preferences to be unlocked with any password. While this bug was much less serious, it was still system behavior that obviously shouldn't have been possible.

Apple had a similar shift in strategy in 2015 with the release of iOS 9, and with some other macOS updates in recent years, according to the report, so this isn't Apple's first time doubling down on the polish of its software.

The report also corroborates that Apple was planning a redesigned grid of app icons on the home screen in iOS 12, but that change is now delayed until 2019 along with expanded photo management capabilities. There's also word of a multiplayer mode for augmented reality games, but it's unclear when it'll be ready.

Gurman still expects some smaller improvements to the Photos app to roll out in 2018, while the original report by Fried mentioned enhancements to the Health app and parental controls are still planned for release this year.

Related Roundups: iOS 11, macOS High Sierra

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Apple Working on Trio of New Macs With Custom Co-Processors That Could Launch This Year

Apple is developing at at least three new Mac models integrated with custom co-processors, including updated notebooks and a new desktop, according to Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg News.

The report claims the new models could be released as early as this year, but it doesn't specify which ones they'll be. Of course, Apple's notebook lineup includes the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro, while its desktop lineup includes the iMac and iMac Pro, Mac Pro, and aging Mac mini.

In terms of notebooks, the MacBook and MacBook Pro are the most likely candidates for a refresh this year, as the MacBook Air has not received any meaningful updates since March 2015, nearly three years ago, and it seems like Apple is only keeping it around for its $999 price tag at this point.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models released in 2016 and later are already equipped with Apple's custom T1 chip that authenticates and secures Touch ID and Apple Pay respectively, and it's possible the notebook could be updated with a newer chip that offloads even more tasks from the main Intel processor.

MacBook models do not feature a custom co-processor, but unless Apple is planning to extend the Touch Bar to the 12-inch notebooks, it remains to be seen if there would be much necessity for a T-series chip.

There's also a single rumor from DigiTimes, which doesn't have the most reliable track record, claiming Apple will release a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook in the second half of this year. It's unclear if this model would be a potential MacBook Air replacement, or where else it would slot in Apple's notebook lineup.

Shifting to desktops, the iMac Pro is already equipped with Apple's custom T2 chip for enhanced security and integration. The co-processor integrates several previously separate components, including the system management controller, image signal processor, audio controller, and SSD controller.

The T2 chip has a Secure Enclave that makes the iMac Pro even more secure with new encrypted storage and secure boot capabilities. It's possible Apple could extend this co-processor to standard iMac models this year.

Apple has also confirmed it is working on an all-new modular Mac Pro, although it only revealed that its release date would come at some point after 2017. And the Mac mini has gone over 1,200 days without an update, according to the MacRumors Buyer's Guide, and the portable computer could sorely use a refresh.

Much of the Bloomberg News report is focused on Apple's shift towards in-house chip design, reducing its dependance on companies like Qualcomm and Imagination Tech, so further details about the new Macs are scant.

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Apple ‘Accelerating’ Efforts to Catch Up With Self-Driving Competition, Expands California Fleet to 27 Vehicles

Apple has expanded its California fleet of self-driving vehicles from three registered last April to 27 as of early 2018, according to a new report posted by Bloomberg today and sourced from emails with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Following the first three vehicle registrations, from July 2017 to January 2018 Apple has registered 24 more Lexus RX450h sports utility vehicles in California as part of its self-driving tests. The company is believed to be "accelerating" efforts to catch up to one of the current leaders in the self-driving field, Alphabet's Waymo.

One of Apple's previous self-driving Lexus vehicles spotted on the road last year

Work on the "Apple Car" began circulating in rumors from early 2015, when reports of "Project Titan" emerged and pointed towards upwards of 1,000 employees working on developing an electric vehicle at a secret location near the company's Cupertino headquarters. Over time, the project pivoted away from Apple constructing a vehicle of its own to the development of a self-driving software system, which CEO Tim Cook confirmed last summer.
We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a core technology that we view as very important."

"We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects," Cook said in his most detailed comments to date on Apple's plans in the car space. "It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on."
Now, Apple is said to be gearing up to compete with Waymo and its self-driving tests, which have currently expanded into six states, encompassing 600 minivans in Phoenix, Arizona alone and now open up to public applicants. Waymo partnered with Lyft last year to begin building a ride-hailing service that aims "to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream," and then began testing such a service without a safety driver "or any human at all" behind the steering wheel.

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Twitter ‘Taking Cues’ From Snapchat and Testing Update That Makes the Camera More Accessible

Twitter is "experimenting" with a new update to its mobile iOS and Android apps that is said to make it easier for users to share videos and photos on the social network.

According to people familiar with the matter, speaking with Bloomberg, the update is still in an early testing phase and could "change significantly" over the next few months, but comes at a time when Twitter is looking to attract more users and convince current users to stick around. The exact design of the update wasn't specified, but Twitter is said to have a working demo of a "camera-centered" update that will "entice people" to quickly and easily post video clips of what's happening near them.

The current method of accessing the camera to post photos and videos on Twitter for iOS

Bloomberg compared the description of the camera feature to Snapchat's mobile apps, which open to the camera first so users can quickly take snaps. In 2016, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that the network can be confusing to newcomers and called Snapchat "very modern." To be clear, it doesn't appear that Twitter aims to launch "Twitter Stories," but is simply looking to rearrange its app in a way that allows for more prominent placement of the camera.
Twitter Inc. is working on a new Snapchat-style feature that makes it easier to post videos on the social-media company’s app, according to people familiar with the matter, aiming to attract more users and cement a nascent turnaround.

Social-media leader Facebook Inc. has famously copied innovations from Snap Inc.’s Snapchat, a mobile app focused on ephemeral photos and videos that’s popular with younger audiences. Twitter’s latest change suggests that Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey is taking cues from the newer company as well.
Currently, to post a video or photo on the Twitter iOS app, users have to open the app, tap to compose a tweet, tap "camera," capture a video or photo, add it to the tweet, then tap "Tweet." Those near Twitter's testing of the new feature claimed that "the goal of this product is to reduce the number of steps," aligning it with Snapchat's camera-first user interface.

Video has become a priority for many social media companies over the past few years, including Facebook's frequent updates that introduced an Apple TV video-only app, a dedicated video tab for the iOS app, and a simple right-swipe UI to jump into the camera on iOS and post a Snapchat-style Story. Instagram has a similar right-swipe interaction to launch the camera, and was the first of Facebook's apps to begin the copying of Snapchat Stories back in 2016.

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Apple Working on Redesigned Books App With ‘Simpler’ Interface and Overhauled Store

After changing the iBooks app to simply be called "Books" in the iOS 11.3 beta that released to developers yesterday, a new report out today by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg states that Apple is preparing to revamp the internals of the iPhone and iPad app as well.

In an update coming in the next few months -- potentially with the public release of iOS 11.3 in the spring -- Apple will redesign Books with a "simpler" interface aimed at highlighting books you're currently reading in a "Reading Now" section.

On the store side of things, Books will gain a marketplace that looks like the new iOS App Store that debuted in iOS 11, tying more of Apple's apps in together aesthetically. There will also be a dedicated tab for audio books.

According to Gurman, this major update to Books is Apple's move to take on Amazon and the Kindle digital book market again. The Books redesign will come nearly five years after Apple and five publishers were found guilty of conspiring to inflate the prices of e-books to weaken Amazon's dominant position in the market.
Apple is working on a redesigned version of its iBooks e-book reading application for iPhones and iPads and has hired an executive from Amazon to help.

This will be the biggest upgrade to Apple’s e-book service in several years and provides renewed competition in a market that Amazon has dominated.
In its preparation to fight against Amazon in the e-book market, Apple last month hired a senior vice president away from Amazon's Audible business. The VP, Kashif Zafar, had also previously worked at Barnes & Noble on its Nook e-reader. His new title at Apple is "Global Head of iBooks," and he'll help Apple with "general management responsibility" across the company's global digital books unit.

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Apple Reportedly Met With Potential Suppliers of Augmented Reality Glasses at CES 2018

Apple representatives met with suppliers who make the type of parts required to power augmented reality glasses at CES this week, according to Bloomberg News.
During CES, representatives from major players like Apple, Facebook, and Google met with suppliers that make the nuts and bolts required to power AR glasses, according to people familiar with the meetings.
The report doesn't provide any additional details about the meetings, or what was discussed, but it's yet more anecdotal evidence that so-called "Apple Glasses" may one day go from rumor to reality.

Bloomberg News has previously reported that Apple is working on an augmented reality headset that could launch by 2020. An early version is said to have a dedicated display, a built-in processor, and a custom operating system dubbed "rOS" for "reality operating system," but many prototypes are thought to exist.

The early November report said Apple hasn't finalized how users will control the headset and launch apps, but it is supposedly investigating touchscreens, Siri voice activation, and head gestures, likely among other ideas.
Engineers are prototyping a range of applications, from mapping and texting to more advanced features including virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback. The company has discussed pairing the headset with its own version of the App Store, where users would be able to download content, just as they do with the iPhone, Watch, Apple TV and Mac.
At the time, Apple software engineers were said to be using HTC Vive headsets for internal testing purposes, while working on a device similar to an Oculus Gear VR headset that uses an iPhone's display and other hardware.

An augmented reality headset is one of several projects that a team of Apple software engineers are supposedly working on under the umbrella code name of "T288" at the company's offices in Cupertino and Sunnyvale. The same team reportedly worked on Apple's ARKit platform for iPhone and iPad.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, despite repeatedly expressing a profound interest in augmented reality, recently alluded to any headset being at least a few years away during an interview with The Independent.
Today I can tell you that the technology itself doesn't exist to do that in a quality way. We don't give a rats about being first, we want to be best in creating people's experiences. Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with.
Apple's acquisitions of augmented reality headset maker Vrvana and eye-tracking company SensoMotoric Instruments could certainly help it build a headset, but we likely still have a few more years to wait until we see any finalized product, and there's still a possibility the project is canceled at some point.

Related Roundup: Apple VR Project

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Apple Working on EKG Heart Monitor for Future Apple Watch Models

Future Apple Watch models could include a sensor that allows for continuous electrocardiograph monitoring to better detect serious heart conditions, reports Bloomberg.

Apple is said to be testing a version of the Apple Watch that records the electrical activity of the heart using two fingers on either side of the device, a test that is known as an electrocardiogram or EKG/ECG. With an EKG, sensors detect electrical changes in the skin caused by the rhythm of your heart beat.

A version being tested requires users to squeeze the frame of the Apple Watch with two fingers from the hand that's not wearing the device, one of the people said. It then passes an imperceptible current across the person's chest to track electrical signals in the heart and detect any abnormalities like irregular heart rates.
EKGs today are most often done in medical offices and hospitals, but there are some continuous-wear EKG monitors on the market for those who need more frequent monitoring. With the ability to detect irregular heart beats and other oddities, the Apple Watch would be able to better predict and monitor serious heart conditions. Such functionality has the potential to allow people to catch and treat heart problems early.

Bloomberg says development is ongoing on the EKG functionality for the Apple Watch, and Apple could still decide to scrap it. With the first Apple Watch, Apple reportedly dropped several sensors because they weren't accurate enough.

Apple has taken a deep interest in heart health in recent months, and in November launched a ResearchKit-based Apple Heart Study app in partnership with Stanford University's School of Medicine. The aim of the study is to determine whether the existing heart rate monitoring functionality of the Apple Watch can accurately detect irregular heart rhythms.

It's not clear if adding EKG functionality to the Apple Watch would require Apple to get FDA approval. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said in the past that he doesn't want to get the FDA involved with the Apple Watch, but Apple is participating in a pilot program for faster approval of digital health tools.

Just this past November, the FDA approved the EKG Kardia Band from AliveCor, the first official medical-grade accessory designed for the Apple Watch.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)

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Huawei and Xiaomi Aiming to Rival iPhone in United States With AT&T and Verizon Sales Partnerships

Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi are reportedly in discussions with carriers AT&T and Verizon, who may begin selling each company's flagship Android smartphones in the United States as early as next year.

The negotiations are still in progress, and it's possible no final agreements will materialize, according to Bloomberg News.

The news echoes an earlier report from The Information that claimed AT&T has tentatively agreed to sell at least one Huawei smartphone, which was believed to be a high-end model resembling the company's flagship Mate 10 handset.

A partnership with AT&T and/or Verizon would be a major win for Huawei, already the world's third largest smartphone maker by market share behind Samsung and Apple, which dominate the smartphone market in the United States.

Huawei is the most popular smartphone maker in China, and it has aggressively pushed into Europe and Canada, but it has considerably less brand awareness in the United States since no major carriers sell its smartphones in the country. American customers currently have to resort to retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, or Amazon to purchase a Huawei smartphone.

If it wants to achieve its lofty goal of becoming the largest smartphone maker in the entire world by 2021, Huawei will almost certainly have to secure these types of agreements with AT&T, Verizon, and other carriers.

Huawei remained in third place with an estimated 39.1 million smartphone shipments worldwide last quarter, according to research firm Strategy Analytics, while Apple reported sales of 46.7 million iPhones over that period.

In the United States, Huawei held just a 0.2 percent share of the smartphone market as of June 2017, according to Counterpoint Research.

Meanwhile, Xiaomi said it aims to roll out smartphones in the United States within two years. Xiaomi is also considering opening retail stores in the country to increase its brand presence, according to the report.

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Apple Reportedly Working on 3D Sensor System for Rear Camera in 2019 iPhones

Apple is developing 3D depth sensing technology for the rear-facing cameras in its 2019 iPhones, according to a new report by Bloomberg on Tuesday. The 3D sensor system will be different to the one found in the iPhone X's front-facing camera, and is said to be the next big step in turning the smartphone into a leading augmented reality device.

Apple is evaluating a different technology from the one it currently uses in the TrueDepth sensor system on the front of the iPhone X, the people said. The existing system relies on a structured-light technique that projects a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto a user's face and measures the distortion to generate an accurate 3D image for authentication. The planned rear-facing sensor would instead use a time-of-flight approach that calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a three-dimensional picture of the environment.
The existing TrueDepth camera would continue to be used in the front-facing camera of future iPhones in order to power Face ID, while the new system would bring the more advanced "time-of-flight" 3D sensing capability to the rear camera, according to the sources cited. Discussions with manufacturers are reportedly already underway, and include Infineon, Sony, STMicroelectronics, and Panasonic. Testing is said to be still in the early stages, and could end up not being used in the phones at all.

With the release of iOS 11, Apple introduced the ARKit software framework that allows iPhone developers to build augmented reality experiences into their apps. The addition of a rear-facing 3D sensor could theoretically increase the ability for virtual objects to interact with environments and enhance the illusion of solidity.

Apple was reportedly beset with production problems when making the sensor in the iPhone X's front-facing camera, because the components used in the sensor array have to be assembled with a very high degree of accuracy. According to Bloomberg, while the time-of-flight technology uses a more advanced image sensor than the existing one in the iPhone X, it does not require the same level of precision during assembly. That fact alone could make a rear-facing 3D sensor easier to produce at high volume.

Related Roundup: iPhone X
Buyer's Guide: iPhone X (Buy Now)

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