Apple Said to Debut New iPad Pro Lineup, 128GB iPhone SE, and Red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Feb 20, 2017 - 11:24 AM - by sparkyscott21



Apple will host a March event to introduce a new iPad Pro lineup and other products, according to Japanese website Mac Otakara.

In terms of the iPad Pro lineup, the report claims Apple will announce new 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch models. The 10.5-inch model may not ship until May, while the other sizes are said to ship in March.

If the report is accurate, it would suggest Apple plans to refresh the iPad mini 4 with a new 7.9-inch iPad Pro model, update its existing 9.7-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, and introduce an all-new 10.5-inch iPad Pro, which is widely rumored to feature an edge-to-edge display without a Home button.

Mac Otakara previously said the 10.9-inch iPad Pro—it now says 10.5-inch—will have the same overall footprint as the current 9.7-inch iPad Pro thanks to its edge-to-edge design. The earlier report said the top bezel will remain in order to provide space for the front-facing FaceTime camera, but it will likely be slimmer.

The blog also previously said the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will feature a 12-megapixel rear camera and True Tone display like the current 9.7-inch model, using advanced four-channel ambient light sensors to automatically adapt the color and intensity of the display to match the light in the surrounding environment.

Meanwhile, it said the 7.9-inch iPad Pro will feature a Smart Connector, True Tone display, four speakers, and a 12-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera with True Tone flash, as Apple works to standardize features across its tablet lineup. All new iPad Pro models will reportedly gain quad microphones as well.

Three months ago, Barclays analysts predicted Apple will release a trio of new iPad Pro models in March, including 9.7-inch, 12.9-inch, and edge-to-edge 10.9-inch models, but not a 7.9-inch iPad Pro. Instead, their research note said Apple will continue to produce and sell the iPad mini 4, released in September 2015.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has likewise said Apple is planning a new 9.7-inch, 10.5-inch, and 12.9-inch iPad Pro lineup for 2017. He did not mention a 7.9-inch model. He said the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models are likely to feature a faster Apple A10X processor, while the "low-cost" 9.7-inch model will sport an A9X chip.

DigiTimes expects a 10.5-inch iPad Pro as well, making that four separate sources reporting similar. The math checks out too: the width of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro would match the height of the iPad mini screen, while it would have the same resolution as the 12.9-inch model and the same pixel density as the iPad mini.

Today's report also claims Apple may add a 128GB storage option for the iPhone SE, alongside the smartphone's existing 16GB and 64GB capacities, and add a new red color—(PRODUCT)RED?—option for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. The blog previously said the red color would be for the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus.

The report also calls for new Apple Watch bands at the event in line with last year's Spring refresh. Apple introduced the iPhone SE, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and new Apple Watch
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'Xagent' malware arrives on Mac, steals passwords, screenshots, iPhone backups

Feb 15, 2017 - 12:42 PM - by sparkyscott21



A Russian hacking group accused of interfering with last year's presidential election has evolved its Xagent malware package, known for its ability to infiltrate Windows, iOS, Android and Linux devices, to target Macs, according to a report on Tuesday.

Uncovered by security research firm and antivirus builder Bitdefender, the Mac strain of Xagent is similar to its predecessors in that it acts as a modular backdoor for intruders, reports Ars Technica.

Once the malware is installed, likely through the Komplex downloader, it checks for the presence of a debugger. If none is found, Xagent waits for an internet connection to reach out to command and control servers, which in turn activate specific payload modules, Bitdefender explains. As a Mac malware, most C&C URLs impersonate Apple domains.

The Xagent payload includes modules capable of searching a target Mac's system configuration, offloading running processes and executing code. More troubling is the malware's ability to grab desktop screenshots, steal web browser passwords and offload iPhone backups. The latter capability is perhaps most important from an intelligence-gathering standpoint, Bitdefender says.

While an exact lineage has yet to be determined, the security firm believes APT28 is behind the Mac form of Xagent.

"Our past analysis of samples known to be linked to APT28 group shows a number of similarities between the Sofacy/APT28/Sednit Xagent component for Windows/Linux and the Mac OS binary that currently forms the object of our investigation," the report reads.

Circumstantial evidence suggests APT28, also known as Sofacy, Sednit, Fancy Bear and Pawn Storm, has deep ties with the Russian government. Last year, the group allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee and leaked emails through WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election.

Bitdefender notes its investigation into Xagent is ongoing.

Today's development comes less than a week after security researchers discovered a new Mac malware seemingly originating out of Iran. Called "MacDownloader," the nefarious software attempts to fool users into downloading the package by presenting a fake Adobe Flash Player dialog, then — inexplicably and in this case ironically — another window claiming to be an "Adware Removal Tool by Bitdefender."

After years of priding itself on its "virus free" Mac OS X platform, Apple is becoming increasingly susceptible to targeted malware attacks. The shift in hacker attention from Windows to Apple products is likely due to the success of iOS, an operating system used by a huge percentage of smartphone users worldwide.





2-15-17

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Apple Explores Smart Keyboard With Siri, Share, and Emoji Keys

Feb 15, 2017 - 12:37 PM - by sparkyscott21



Apple recently filed a patent application containing drawings of a Smart Keyboard with "Share" and "Emoji" keys, and a key that can be used to both search and invoke Siri, suggesting it may be exploring a new version of the iPad Pro accessory to be sold alongside next-generation models.

The drawings show that pressing the "Share" key would bring up a share sheet on the iPad Pro with options to share through apps such as Facebook, Mail, and Messages. There is no description of how the "Emoji" key would function, but pressing it would presumably bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard on the iPad Pro.

The current Smart Keyboard already has a globe key in the bottom left corner that can bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard, but this key is not visualized in the patent drawings. There is a non-existent "Fn" key in its place.

The third key, labeled with a magnifying glass, would serve multiple purposes. A single press, for example, could bring up a search field for searching within apps. A double press could bring up shortcuts for Messages, Photos, Calendar, Camera, Notes, Settings, and other apps. Long-pressing the key would invoke Siri.

Since this is not a design patent, Apple's drawings are not entirely accurate, but rather just basic visualizations. The "Share" key is located where the right-side Command and Option keys would normally be, for example, while the "Emoji" key is included in lieu of Caps Lock, which is an essential key.

Nevertheless, we roughed up a quick mockup of what the new Smart Keyboard could look like based on the same layout of the new keys as Apple's drawings.







Apple is rumored to launch a trio of new iPads as early as March, but possibly not until later this year, including an all-new 10-inch range iPad Pro with an edge-to-edge display. The other models are expected to be updated 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models with faster A10X processors.

A so-called "Smart Keyboard 2" could accompany the new iPads and perhaps the so-called "Apple Pencil 2" rumored to launch this year.

The current Smart Keyboard was released in November 2015 and costs $149 and $169 for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and 12.9-inch iPad Pro respectively. International versions such as British English, Dutch, Korean, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, French, and Arabic were released in August 2016.





2-15-17

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Apple Submits Third Model of Mystery 'Wireless Device' With Bluetooth and NFC to FCC

Feb 14, 2017 - 12:47 PM - by sparkyscott21



Apple recently submitted an unnamed "Wireless Device" to the FCC, a U.S. government agency that regulates communications, for the third time. The latest filing lists a model number of A1845, slotting in between A1844 in the first filing and A1846 in the second, but there are no new clues as to what the device could be.

Apple again requested permanent confidentiality for most of the documents in the filing, including photos, user manuals, and schematics, so the entry largely remains a mystery. Test reports completed by UL Verification Services reveal that, just like in the first two filings, the device has Bluetooth LE and NFC.

The model numbers A1844, A1845, and A1846 do not correspond to any existing Apple products. A regulatory label in the first filing showed the device has at least two slightly curved edges and two Torx screws, but Apple cropped the image in the second and third filings, likely to give fewer hints about its design.

When the original "Wireless Device" was uncovered, there was some speculation that it could perhaps be a new Apple TV, but the prominent and lengthy regulatory text etched directly on the device, including a wiring guide, would be uncharacteristic of Apple to include on the exterior of a consumer-facing product.

The more likely explanation is that the wireless device is for internal use. It is possible that the device in question is something that is used in retail Apple stores, such as a product display unit or iBeacon-based equipment used to communicate with customer iOS devices, which Apple has filed with the FCC in the past.

The FCC filing could remain a mystery until the device is released, and we may not ever know if it does end up being a product for internal use. But it's fun to speculate, with predictions ranging from Apple's rumored Siri-enabled speaker to a smart thermostat given the RS-485 control signals listed.





2-14-17

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Apple's Stock Reaches its Highest Price Ever

Feb 14, 2017 - 12:43 PM - by sparkyscott21



Apple is having a good Valentine's Day, as its shares traded above $134.54 today, eclipsing a previous all-time intraday high set in April 2015.

Apple's market value has now surpassed $700 billion, making it the world's most valuable company by a sizeable margin. Google parent company Alphabet is second largest with a market cap of around $575 billion, followed by Microsoft at around $500 billion and Berkshire Hathaway at around $412 billion.

The milestone comes just one day after Apple's stock recorded its highest closing price ever of $133.29 on Monday. Following Apple's first annual revenue decline since 2001, its stock been steadily rising over the past four months, buoyed by record-breaking earnings results at the end of January.

When adjusted for a 7-for-1 split in June 2014, Apple's stock is trading at roughly $942, approaching the $1,000 milestone that was considered wishful thinking when some analysts predicted it years ago. Apple is also slowly but surely on track to become the world's first trillion dollar company.

Apple analysts Brian White of Drexel Hamilton and Steven Milunovich of UBS, and former analyst turned venture capitalist Gene Munster, are among a larger group of observers who believe Apple's stock remains undervalued and is likely to rise. AAPL is up over 50% compared to its 52-week low of $89.47 in May 2016.





2-14-17

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Apple Exploring Fingerprint Sensing MicroLED Displays Sans Touch ID

Feb 14, 2017 - 12:41 PM - by sparkyscott21



The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple a patent that describes a display capable of reading a user's fingerprint without a dedicated Touch ID sensor (via AppleInsider). The patent is interesting given current rumors swirling around the iPhone 8, which is expected to do away with the home button and integrate Touch ID directly into the display, but perhaps more noteworthy is the patent IP's re-assignment from LuxVue, a little-known company acquired by Apple in 2014 that developed low-power microLED-based displays.

Titled "Interactive display panel with IR diodes", the patent details a touch display that uses specifically microLED-sensing technology, rather than the traditional active matrix hardware utilized by most consumer smartphones and tablets.

The technology replaces larger capacitive sensors with smaller infrared light emitters and sensors, which sit alongside the RGB LED display substrate or on a microchip mounted to the substrate. These "interactive pixel" formations can then be calibrated to perform any number of functions, including ambient light sensing, proximity detection, and notably complex touch detection, which works by bouncing infrared light off a user's finger and back to the sensing diodes.

In the latter operation, specific rows – or a whole portion of the display – scan for a user's finger, which generates a proximate positioning bitmap to inform the system of the target's location and immediate surround. Bitmaps can include data like the intensity of incoming light, enabling a deeper analysis of the object and its surface curvature – dark and bright spots corresponding to the ridges and grooves of a fingerprint, for example.






The patent describes a couple of embodiments for the technology, including a microLED display with a higher density of interactive pixels in certain areas of the screen, such as where a virtual home button may be located. Alternatively, said pixels may ramify throughout the display in sufficient number as to make fingerprint identification on any portion of the screen a possibility.

Apple has explored other systems for enhancing display fingerprint recognition in the past. As with all patents though, the standard qualification applies: Apple may deem the LuxVue invention surplus to its upcoming product requirements. However, on its own, the system goes to show that reliable fingerprint identification does not necessarily rest on Touch ID alone. With rumors suggesting Apple may incorporate iris scanning into the iPhone 8, the security implications of dropping Touch ID's focused capacitive drive ring altogether may not be so great after all.





2-14-17

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