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Apple News This Week: And What a Very Interesting Week It's Been...

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It's been a busy and exciting week in the world of Apple. From the “nonsense” of the new Apple tell-all book, to the introduction of some welcome but surprising entries into the Apple catalog, to Apple being acknowledged for their status as a global brand leader, there's been no shortage of interesting news concerning our favorite tech company. And of course, the rumors continue to swirl surrounding the upcoming 2014 iPhone, whatever it may end up being called (iPhone 6? iPhone Air?). It's been a week chock full of important developments, so read on for the full scoop!



Apple Now Selling iPad Air Refurbs; iPad Air 2 Expected to Have Touch ID

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Apple's online store recently began selling factory-refurbished iPad Airs, with the 16GB starting at $419 and the 32GB starting at $509. That's $80 or $90 off the price of a new iPad Air and comes with a one-year warranty, a new battery, a new outer shell, manuals and accessories, and new packaging. I'm not sure what they mean by an outer shell, but it sounds like you can expect the iPad to be in new condition cosmetically. They also have a ton of other refurbished iPad models, including iPad minis and fourth-generation iPads. 9To5Mac points out that WalMart actually has a lower price on refurbished iPad Airs, with the 16GB model starting at $399. But they only offer a three-month warranty and are refurbished by a third party. However, the customer reviews are quite positive, with at least one saying that he actually received a new iPad Air.



Lower cost 8GB iPhone 5c available in some markets

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Several markets, including China, Europe, and Australia, are getting their hands on a lower cost 8GB iPhone 5c. The $99 (subsidized) 16GB model was apparently still priced too high for many users, and Apple would rather they don't embrace Android instead. With an 8GB model, Apple can hit price points below $50, or even free for subsidized customers and achieve lower no-contract pricing. This new model hasn't been announced in the United States, and that might not happen. In fact, some vendors like BestBuy have offered the 16GB iPhone 5c for free with a two year contract! Wal-Mart has the 16GB iPhone 5c for $29 with a two year contract.



Apple's Design Guru Sir Jony Ive on Apple and Competitors

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Apple usually reserves appearances by Sir Jonathan Ive, their head of design, for polished videos shows at product introductions, but he spoke with The Sunday Times in the UK this week to discuss Apple's philosophy and contrast it with the competition. The full article is available on Time.com Jony Ive's comments can be read as cheerleading or trash talking, depending on the reader's perspective, but he makes some interesting points. For example "We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care—just like the people who make them."



Reports Suggest Microsoft Office for iPad Coming March 27

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Microsoft's stock jumped 5 percent Tuesday on the rumor that Office for iPad will be arriving March 27. There had been rumors that the suite was ready, and that it would be coming this month. Given that new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will be hosting a media event scheduled for March 27, many are expecting him to introduce Office for iPad. Both The Verge and ZDNet have reported that their inside sources have confirmed that Office will be arriving this month. According to rumors, the suite for the iPad will include the ability to create and edit documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. How much will it cost? It's a free download, but you'll need a subscription to Office 365. For example, Office 365 Home Premium costs $99.99 per year. It lets you install Office on up to 5 Macs or PCs and on up to 5 mobile devices. In addition, a subscription comes with 20GB of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month. According to a separate article on ZDNet, Microsoft also recently announced Office 365 Personal, which will let you install Office on a PC or Mac and on one tablet. The price will be $69.99 per year, or $6.99 per month. I believe that in every case Microsoft offers a free trial subscription.



Apple Lets Go of iPad 2, Makes iPad 4 the Low-End iPad

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While the newest Apple products usually get all of the attention, remember that Apple often keeps the previous generation of products around to achieve a lower price point. The third generation iPad introduced the Retina display but still had the 30-pin connector. Then the fourth generation offered a Lightning interface. The iPad Air was thinner and had a narrower bezel.



Alleged Specs for iPhone 6 Leaked

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According to the website TechnoBuffalo, some recent posts via Twitter may have revealed more specs for the iPhone 6, which most people are expecting to arrive in September or October. The posts come from Sonny Dickson, who was the first to post bona fide leaked photos of the iPhone 5s and 5c last year. He says the forthcoming phone will be .22 inches thick, compared to .3 inches for the iPhone 5s. That's a significant difference. In addition, he says the phone will have an "Ultra Retina" display, at 389 pixels per inch compared to the current 326 for the iPhone 5s. That's full HD resolution. The A8 processor will be clocked at 2.6ghz, meaning that the iPhone 6 will see a speed bump even beyond that of the speedy 64-bit A7 processor in Apple's latest iOS devices.



Screenshots of Icons for New Apps Coming in iOS 8; Other Expected Features

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For months we've been getting rumors about iPhone 6, and now we're starting to get some rumors about iOS 8. It's fun to see what's coming down the pike. 9To5Mac has posted screenshots of iOS 8 that reveal the icons for several new apps from Apple that will be part of this new version of iOS, expected to be available along with the new iPhone, likely in September. The apps appear to confirm earlier rumors that iOS 8 will have a greater focus on health monitoring and will include a new Healthbook app. In addition, there are icons for a Preview app, which has long been a Macintosh app for viewing and editing image files, and TextEdit, which has long been a Macintosh app used as a simple text editor. 9To5Mac says that it has confirmed that the leaked screenshots are legitimate.



Apple News: iOS 7.1 Is Just a Little Bit Safer When It Comes to In-App Purchases

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I have a love-hate relationship with In-App Purchases (IAPs.) As a developer, Apple has been encouraging me to adopt IAPs. In theory, IAPs seem like a way to make a living off apps while giving users a free taste. As a user, I don't like them. I think when you download an app, you should own it and all the promised features. So in the PRO versions of my apps, there are no IAPs. And in the past, my free apps had advertisements with the only "upsell" being a link to the PRO version for unlimited features without ads. But Apple representatives told me personally at the Worldwide Developers Conference and at their Tech Talk Tours that I really should be using IAPs. When Apple talks, I listen. So some of my apps now have such purchase options. But on the IAP selling page, I rebel against the machine and tell users that the best deal is to buy the PRO version!



New Features of iOS 7.1 Include Default HDR Mode in Camera App

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When I tried to download the iOS 7.1 update for my iPad Air in the evening, it took three hours. This morning when I downloaded it for my iPad mini, it took five minutes. Lesson: always download updates as early in the morning as possible. Blogger Todd Bernhard and I have outlined some of the changes in iOS 7.1 in previous posts. In this post I want to highlight several useful new features. One important new feature is ability to have HDR mode be automatically available on the iPhone 5s. It's previously been available, but you had to turn it on when you wanted to take advantage of it. HDR stands for high dynamic range, and I'm guessing many people, especially those who aren't camera buffs, don't really know what this is. So I think it's a good thing that you can now have it turned on by default. HDR can have a dramatic effect on the quality of certain photos.



Apple News: iOS 7.1 Fixes Bugs and Makes Visual Tweaks

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iOS 7 was a major departure from the previous generations, offering a fresh new take on what Apple thinks a mobile operating system should look like.  But that doesn't mean it can't be tweaked further. The first significant update, iOS 7.1, was just released and it takes the O.S. further down the road.



iOS 7.1 Brings Changes to Siri, CarPlay Support, iBeacon Improvements, Apple TV Upgrade

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One of the big changes with the arrival of iOS 7 is the way Siri works. In the past, you'd hold the Home button, wait until Siri responded with "What can I help you with?", release the button, and then speak. Siri would automatically detect when you stopped speaking, and respond. The problem was that sometimes Siri would respond because you'd made a slight inadvertent pause in your speech, even though you weren't done talking. Now with iOS 7, you hold have the option of manually letting Siri know when you're done talking by holding down the Home button while you talk. Siri keeps listening until you release the button. In addition, Siri also has new, more natural-sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese.



Apple's New CarPlay To Be Available for Some Older-Model Vehicles

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With the launch of Apple's new CarPlay last week at the automobile trade show in Geneva, many were left wondering if you had to buy a new Ferrari or Mercedes or Volvo in order to get it. Apparently, the answer is no. 9To5Mac has reported that at least some automakers will be offering aftermarket CarPlay installation for older models. They've confirmed that Mercedes will be doing this, and expect others to do so as well. This is good news, and it will be really interesting to see how it develops. Apple has made a fortune giving us better interfaces for our technology: first personal computers, then MP3 players, then smartphones, then tablets—and now the automobile.



Rumor: iPhone 6 to Have Blazing Fast Quad-Core A8 Processor

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Recent rumors have suggested that the iPhone 6, expected in September or earlier, will have a new A8 chip designed by Apple and manufactured by chipmaker TSMC rather than Samsung, which makes the A7 used in the latest iOS devices. Then this last week a rumor passed along by Laptop and other websites said that the A8 will be a quad-core chip with quad core graphics. By comparison, the A7 has a dual-core CPU. Combine quad core with the 64-bit architecture Apple switched to in the A7 chip, and you get blazing speed.



iPhone 5s for $119 at WalMart; Target Offering Minimum $150 on iPad Trade-in

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Times have changed. In the Steve Jobs era, prices for Apple products always seemed to be uniform. Today if you're in the market for an Apple product, it behooves you to look around for the best deal. The ongoing discounts seem unprecedented. Most recently Walmart has slashed the price of the 16GB iPhone 5s to $119 with a two-year contract. And the iPhone 5c? It's down to $29 for the 16GB model with a two-year contract. According to CNN Money, Walmart announced these price cuts on Wednesday, but I couldn't quickly find them online. In addition to the lowered price on the iPhone, Walmart also lets you trade in your old gadgets for a gift card. So you could effectively lower your price even further.



Apple News: New iTunes Festival App Arrives, for Apple TV, too, But iOS 7.1 Still Missing

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The rumor mills pegged iOS 7.1 coming out any day now, to support an updated iTunes Festival app (free). However, that app update was released and did not require a new version of iOS after all. The app lets iOS users stream live video from the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference in Austin, Texas, as well as other Apple events.

UPDATE: Apple already released iTunes Festival as an app/button for those of us with Apple TV!  This is a great way to enjoy the concerts at SXSW this week!



Rumor: Siri May Be Opened Up to Third-Party Apps

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Apple is reportedly working on making Siri available to third-party apps, allowing you to use Siri for things such as booking flights or making hotel reservations. Currently Siri is limited to Apple's apps, and to interfacing with Apple partners such as Open Table for making restaurant reservations. It's likely, though, that if this is true, Apple would exert a fair amount of control over which apps Siri worked with, according to iMore. A post on AppleInsider says that this move toward compatibility with third-party apps is tied closely to Apple's rumored iWatch. The iWatch would be sensitive to context, and Siri would offer apps that the iWatch senses you need at the moment, depending on what you're doing. AppleInsider cites an example that appeared in a report on Monday in The Information, which said:



Limited-Time iPad Sale at Best Buy Includes Savings of Up To $295 on Cellular Data Models

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If you're in the market for a new iPad that can access the cellular data network, Best Buy has a fantastic sale going on through Saturday, March 8. If you buy a 3G or 4G iPad, you'll receive a $30 discount, PLUS another $100 discount at checkout if you activate the iPad and data plan in the store. In addition, the $35 activation fee is waived. PLUS, if you activate a plan with Verizon or AT&T, you'll receive a $100 credit toward your data plan. So altogether that amounts to a savings of $265! 



Apple News: The Fate of Older iPhones

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As rumors of the next iPhone swirl (do they ever stop?) it's fitting to look back at what happens to older iPhones. I've found great success in selling older iPhone's via services like SellYourMac.com, as long as I keep my iPhone in good condition. So I was intrigued by some just released research from ProtectCell.



Apple News: Anticipation Mounts for iOS 7.1

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Anticipation has been mounting for an update to iOS 7 for several reasons. There are still some outstanding bugs that cause Safari or the iOS device to crash, and betas have been available since November. The latest rumors indicate iOS 7.1 will ship any day now because a certain app from Apple will require it.



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