Flipboard for iOS Updated with New ‘Topics’ Feature and Redesigned Look [iOS Blog]

Flipboard today updated its iOS app to version 3.0, bringing a refreshed design along with a number of new features for gathering and consuming content. The app now allows users to choose from over 30,000 topics to follow, with each topic containing stories from publishers, websites, and magazines curated on Flipboard. The service is also launching an in-app section called The Daily Edition, which is delivered to users at 7 a.m. daily and features articles that are picked by Flipboard’s staff.

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With over 30,000 topics now available, your Flipboard can be as unique as you are. Topics range from “action hero” to “zoology” (and everything in-between), and you can find them via search or by tapping on the new topic tags on articles. Press “follow” every time you want to add something (or someone) to your Flipboard and watch as your experience becomes tailored to your life.

Want to catch up on the news in a fast, definitive way? Meet The Daily Edition, a carefully curated roundup of top headlines in news, business, tech, sports and culture, along with some fun elements, like a daily track and a Parting GIF to send you off on your day with a smile.

Flipboard’s version 2.0 update last year included the ability to collect and save content into “magazines” and support for notifications. Flipboard is a free app for iOS devices and can be downloaded through the App Store. [Direct Link]




Microsoft Unveils $199 ‘Microsoft Band’ Fitness Wearable

Shortly after apps on the Mac App Store and iOS App Store revealed Microsoft’s fitness wearable, the company has revealed its $199 Microsoft Band fitness wearable to Re/code. The device will go on sale tomorrow at Microsoft’s online and retail stores.

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The Microsoft Band is designed to last 48 hours on a single charge and can be worn all day and all night, as it tracks both physical activity and sleep. It includes 10 sensors that track standard health statistics like heart rate as well as unique points of data that other fitness bands do not track, like a UV sensor to measure sun exposure and galvanic skin response, which can identify stress. Like smart watches, the Band can also receive notifications from a user’s smartphone.

Microsoft is also launching a cloud-based health service called Microsoft Health, which can gather data from both the Microsoft Band and other fitness data gathering devices, like smartphones and other fitness bands. The service spans the web and multiple mobile platforms like iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The Windows Phone app, however, integrates Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana.

The company also says that the feature set of device and services will grow, as users will be able to pay for things at Starbucks with the Band and will be able to see how certain events influence health or sleep.

The company also notes that–if customers want to– Microsoft Health can combine work and personal data and gather insights such as how a big meeting with the boss affects that night’s sleep. Other features include access to Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as weather and stock data.

The Microsoft Band goes on sale tomorrow for $199.




‘Microsoft Health’ App for Upcoming Wearable Leaks as Google Launches HealthKit Rival

As Apple completes the launch of HealthKit and the Health app for iOS, its competitors Microsoft and Google have been preparing their own entrances into the health sector. Today, Microsoft apps for an upcoming fitness wearable have leaked in app stores as Google launched a new HealthKit-like initiative.

In July it was reported that Microsoft was working on a fitness band that would work with iOS. Now, the official app for the device, which appears to be called the Microsoft “Band”, has appeared on the Mac App Store. The “Microsoft Band Sync” app, which was first discovered by WindowsCentral, appears to allow users to sync the data on their device to the app for tracking.

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Another app called Microsoft Health has also been revealed for iOS and appears to include many of the same options as the “Microsoft Band Sync” app and also teases a future device called “Microsoft Band”. A new privacy statement (via AppleInsider) on Microsoft’s website also makes mention of Microsoft Band, Microsoft Health and Microsoft Band Sync.

Live healthier and be more productive with the Microsoft Health app for iPhone®. Achieve wellness goals by tracking your heart rate, steps, calorie burn, and sleep quality. Maximize your fitness with Guided Workouts, 24-hour heart rate monitoring and automatic activity counting. Be more productive with email previews and calendar alerts at a glance. Personalize your Microsoft Band and get new features as they roll out.

Although the “Band” doesn’t appear to be a fully functioning smart watch like Apple Watch, it does signal Microsoft’s desire to enter the health market and provides an alternative to the health-tracking features of Apple Watch or FitBit bands. Similarly, the Microsoft Health app offers an alternative to the health center that is the Health app, provided the user opts for the Microsoft Band.

Meanwhile, Google launched its version of the Health app for Android (via The Verge). Called Google Fit, the app tracks health goals and workout statistics and is compatible with Android Wear devices and third-party fitness trackers. Much like the Health app, Google Fit can also track walking, running and cycling without the use of external apps or fitness trackers.

Microsoft Health is a free universal app available in the App Store. [Direct Link]

Microsoft Band Sync is a free app available in the Mac App Store. [Direct Link]




Beats by Dre Debuts Special Edition Hello Kitty Headphones for 40th Anniversary [iOS Blog]

Apple’s Beats by Dre headphones brand is teaming up with Sanrio to offer two special edition Hello Kitty-themed products to commemorate Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary (via CNET).

Beats has designed new Solo2 over-the-ear headphones that feature an all-over Hello Kitty print in a signature red, white, and blue color scheme, plus new urBeats in-ear earphones that feature the same colors along with a bow decoration and a matching bow-shaped collector’s pouch.

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The new Hello Kitty x Beats Solo2 headphones will retail for $249.95, while the urBeats will sell for $149.95, a $50 premium over standard Solo2 and urBeat pricing. While both products are listed on the Beats website, they won’t be available to purchase until after they debut at the upcoming Hello Kitty Con 2014 on October 30 in Los Angeles.




Buyer’s Guide: 20% Off iTunes Gift Cards, Halloween Discounts on Most Mophie, Speck, and Griffin Products [iOS Blog]

In celebration of Halloween, which takes place on Friday, retailers are offering some significant discounts on their products. Mophie, for example, is offering 20 percent off all of its products with the promo code LIVINGDEAD, with the discount valid until 11/2.

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Speck is offering a similar deal, providing customers with 20 percent off all products aside from iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases with the promo code TRICKORTREAT. Speck’s deal will last until 10/31.

Griffin is offering 20 percent off all products sidewide using the promo code SPOOKY20. The sale will last through the end of the week.

Along with those three deals, PayPal Digital Gifts is offering 20% off iTunes cards from eBay, dropping the price of a $25 card to $20, a $50 code to $40, and a $100 code to $80. The codes are delivered digitally and customers looking to get a discount on an iTunes card should act fast as PayPal-discounted iTunes cards rarely last long.

MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors.





How to Use AirDrop to Share Files Between Macs and iOS Devices [iOS Blog]

Apple’s AirDrop file-sharing feature debuted with the release of OS X Lion and allowed users to transfer files from one Mac to another without using email or an external storage device. The feature made its way to iOS devices with the release of iOS 7, and offered a simple way for users to share files like photos between iOS devices. Now, with the release OS X Yosemite, users can use AirDrop to transfer files between the Mac and an iOS device for the first time.

This video shows you how it works:

Prior to the release of OS X Yosemite, users looking to transfer files between a Mac and iOS device usually had to resort to a third-party service like Dropbox or use an iCloud-connected app like Messages. AirDrop on OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 provides an easy-to-use solution for transferring files, as users can either drag and drop files from the Mac to iOS or move files from iOS to the Mac using the Share feature.

On the Mac, a number of apps like Safari, Preview, Pages, and Contacts support the Share feature. Third-party Mac apps like Deliveries, Ember, and Notability also feature Share support, allowing content to be transferred via AirDrop. On iOS, most of Apple’s stock apps including Photos, Safari, Notes, and Maps feature Share support. Third-party apps including Camera+, Evernote, and eBay also support the feature.

Before you Start

You will need iOS 7 or later and OS X Yosemite in order to use AirDrop to transfer files between a Mac and an iOS device. Using AirDrop to move files between iOS and Mac is supported by all Mac models released in 2012 and later running OS X Yosemite. You can confirm that your Mac is compatible with AirDrop by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock and clicking the “Go” icon in the Menu Bar. If AirDrop is not listed as an option, then your Mac is not compatible with the feature.

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Apple notes that AirDrop users should ensure that devices being used are within 30 feet of each other. If you have a firewall enabled on your Mac, navigate to Menu Bar -> Apple -> System Preferences -> General -> Security & Privacy -> Firewall -> Firewall Options and ensure that “Block all incoming connections” is not checked.

Keep in mind that it is not required for both devices to log into the same iCloud account to use AirDrop, but doing so offers the benefit of transferring files through AirDrop automatically without the need to approve each transfer. Files transferred between devices logged into different iCloud accounts will need permission to accept file transfers. Both iOS devices and Macs must be powered on and not locked in order to make AirDrop file transfers.

Steps

1. Turn on Wi-Fi on your iPhone (Settings -> Wi-Fi) and Mac (Menu Bar -> Wi-Fi -> Turn Wi-Fi On. AirDrop will still work between the Mac and an iOS device even if both are using different Wi-Fi networks.

2. Turn on Bluetooth on your iPhone (Settings -> Bluetooth) and Mac (Menu Bar -> Apple -> System Preferences -> Bluetooth -> Turn Bluetooth On).

3. Turn on AirDrop on your iPhone (Slide up to access Control Center -> AirDrop -> Choose “Contacts Only” or “Everyone”) and Mac (Finder -> Menu Bar -> Go -> AirDrop -> Click “Allow me to be discovered by:” -> Choose “Contacts Only” or “Everyone”).

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4. You may now begin using AirDrop to transfer files between a Mac and an iOS device. To test it out, go to the AirDrop menu in Finder and notice that your iOS device is represented by circle. Drag and drop a file onto the circle, and your iOS device will prompt you to accept the file.

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You can also transfer files from the Mac to an iOS device using apps that have Share feature built-in. The Share menu can be accessed in the upper right corner of an app and is represented by a square with an upward facing arrow.

sharebar The iOS share icon (middle) as seen in Safari
Selecting the AirDrop option from the Share menu brings up a list of devices that can receive files.

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5. Transferring a file from an iOS device to the Mac can be done in any app that supports the Share functionality. Like on the Mac, the Share button brings up a list of options for transfers including AirDrop. For example, sending an image to the Mac from the Photos app can be done by tapping the Share button, tapping AirDrop, and selecting the desired Mac. A prompt to accept the file should then appear on the Mac.

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Troubleshooting

Some users have had trouble with AirDrop functionality between the Mac and iOS devices since it launched with OS X Yosemite. Members on our forums and on Apple’s support forums have reported that restarting both devices fixed their problems. If the devices aren’t recognizing each other, make sure AirDrop is set to “Everyone” instead of “Contacts Only,” as the latter setting has caused some problems for users. A number of users have also realized their Macs are too old to support AirDrop functionality between OS X and iOS after attempting to try out the feature, so ensure that your Mac is a 2012 model or newer by going to Menu Bar -> Apple -> About This Mac.




GT Advanced COO Blames Apple’s Strict Sapphire Contract Terms for Bankruptcy Filing

GT Advanced’s Chief Operating Officer Daniel Squiller yesterday filed some revised documents with the court, giving a bit more insight into what went wrong between Apple and GT Advanced that led to the latter company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Shared by Fortune, Squiller’s affidavit [PDF] delves further into the contractual obligations outlined in GT’s agreement with Apple, which led to huge losses of money as the contract was highly favorable to Apple.

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It was known that the terms of the contract prevented GT Advanced from selling its sapphire to customers other than Apple, but as it turns out, Apple also had a vast amount of control over GT’s sapphire production. For example, GT was not able to modify equipment, specifications, or the manufacturing process without express consent from Apple, but Apple could modify the terms at any point. GT was also expected to fulfill any of Apple’s purchase orders at Apple’s demand, with severe penalties for failing to do so.

GTAT must accept and fulfill any purchase order placed by Apple on the date selected by Apple. If there is any delay, GTAT must either use expedited shipping (at its own cost) or purchase substitute goods (at its own cost). If GTAT’s delivery is late, GTAT must pay $320,000 per boule of sapphire (and $77 per millimeter of sapphire material) as liquidated damages to Apple. To put this figure in perspective, a boule has a cost of less than $20,000. Apple, however, has the right, without compensating GTAT, to cancel a purchase order in whole or in part at any time and reschedule a delivery date at any time.

Apple was also in charge of the Mesa, Arizona facility that it acquired for GT Advanced, and delays at the facility cut into GT’s production time. Apple reportedly decided it was too expensive to provide backup power for the furnaces and on multiple occasions, power interruptions led to delays and loss of sapphire boules. GT Advanced was also not in charge of the sapphire cutting tools that it received, and in his affidavit, the COO says that the tools did not “meet their performance and reliability specifications.”

The contractual obligations ultimately resulted in GT’s inability to meet “cost and production targets” for reasons that it says were “beyond its control.” Issues in scaling its technology to create large 262kg sapphire boules to meet Apple’s specifications also led to the bankruptcy filing.

The key to making the transaction profitable for both sides was the production of a sufficient number of 262kg boules of sapphire crystal meeting the specifications required by Apple. [...]

Unfortunately, the production of 262kg boules of sapphire could not be accomplished within the time frames the parties had agreed, and was more expensive than anticipated. These problems and difficulties resulted in a liquidity crisis at GTAT, which led to the commencement of these chapter 11 cases”

Though Apple and GT Advanced have reached an agreement to dissolve their partnership, the two will remain in contact as GT Advanced continues its research work focused on producing larger sapphire boules. The two companies will meet quarterly to discuss GT’s progress on that front, with collaboration still possible if both sides agree to move forward.

GT Advanced has already begun winding down operations at the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant, wrapping up sapphire boule production, decommissioning furnaces, and laying off employees. The plant is expected to shut down on December 31.