Apple Acquires Israeli Firm RealFace Specializing in Facial Recognition

Apple has bought Israeli startup RealFace, a cybersecurity and machine learning firm specializing in facial recognition technology.

The Times of Israel reported on Sunday that the Tel Aviv-based company, founded in 2014, was snapped up by Apple for an estimated $2 million, while Hebrew-language Calcalist said the deal was worth “several million dollars”.



RealFace’s website is currently offline, but according to promotional material, the startup had developed a unique facial recognition technology that integrates artificial intelligence and “brings back human perception to digital processes”. RealFace’s software is said to use proprietary IP in the field of “frictionless face recognition” that allows for rapid learning from facial features.

The Israeli startup also developed a now-defunct app called Pickeez, which selected and collated a user’s best photos across various platforms using the RealFace recognition software.

Demo of RealFace’s face recognition software.


According to iPhone 8 rumors, Apple may ditch Touch ID along with the physical home button, in favor of a facial recognition-capable front-facing 3D laser scanner, although with the RealFace acquisition coming at such a late time, it’s unlikely that the any of the startup’s technology will feature.

RealFace is the fourth Israel-based firm Apple is known to have acquired. In 2011 it bought flash memory maker Anobit for a reported $400 million, then in November 2013 it acquired 3D sensor company PrimeSense for an estimated $345 million. Most recently in 2015, Apple bought LinX for around $20 million.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)

Discuss this article in our forums

Free App ‘Reverb’ Brings Amazon’s Alexa to Mac Desktops, iPhones and iPads

Developers at U.S. digital consultancy Rain have created a little-known app called Reverb that allows users to access Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant from their Mac desktop or iOS device.

Launching the free Mac app prompts users to sign in to their Amazon account, after which a window opens showing the familiar blue Alexa ring on the desktop. Click and hold on the ring with the mouse cursor, and provided an internet connection is active, the virtual assistant listens and responds to the sort of spoken questions and commands usually directed at Amazon’s Echo range of smart speakers.



The iOS app works similarly, and the latest version of Reverb uses Alexa v2, which adds support for news flashes, timers, alarms, long form audio, audiobooks, and more. It can also interact with smart devices that are compatible with Alexa, such as lights, switches, and thermostats compatible with Samsung SmartThings, WeMo, Philips Hue, and others. The only Alexa service Reverb does not support is playing music, due to restrictions Amazon has placed on using Amazon Music in apps.

In addition to the above, users can enable third-party skills through the app with a simple voice command – “Enable Bird Songs”, for example. In testing, the Mac app also responded to new skills enabled through Amazon’s Alexa iOS app, which officially supports and integrates with the Reverb app for iOS.

The apps provide a convenient solution for Echo owners wishing to make Alexa available in, say, their office room or study, without having to buy an additional supporting device. It also offers prospective Echo buyers an opportunity to test the service prior to making a purchase, and at the very least gives curious Mac users a chance to compare Alexa’s and Siri‘s smarts side by side on their desktop.

Reverb for Amazon Alexa is a free download available for Mac from the Mac App Store [Direct Link] and for iPhone and iPad on the iOS App Store [Direct Link].

Tags: Amazon, Alexa

Discuss this article in our forums

Children’s Organic Storybook ‘Green Riding Hood’ is Apple’s Free App of the Week

Apple is currently promoting interactive children’s storybook Green Riding Hood as its Free App of the Week on the iOS App Store. Notable for its hand-drawn artwork, the app by Bobaka introduces kids of ages 5 and under to a healthy lifestyle in a cheery spin-off of the original folk tale.

The “organic fairytale” revolves around the bucolic daily life and escapades of a little girl, her grandma, a host of cute-looking animal friends, and a hungry wolf, but parents can rest assured, no-one gets eaten. Apple’s App Store editors have this to say:


Recasting Grandma as an herbal tea-sipping yoga teacher is just one of the fun ways this gorgeous storybook encourages kids to develop healthy habits. (You’ll love Bobaka’s take on the big, not-so-bad Wolf, too.) We’re having a ball exploring each interactive page, and the app’s tasty vegetarian recipes make great projects for the whole family.

Alongside the friendly narrative elements and grandma’s cookbook, Green Riding Hood features a series of mini games to keep kids engaged and a voiceover by Scottish actor Alistair Findlay, known for roles in such movies as Highlander and In the Name of the Father, as well as for narration in the acclaimed Nighty Night HD series of kids’ apps.



Usually $2.99, Green Riding Hood supports multiple languages and is currently a free download for iPhone and iPad available on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: App Store

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Loses Fourth Place to Xiaomi in Booming China Smartphone Market

Apple has fallen to fifth place in China’s booming smartphone market, where combined sales reached 131.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, accounting for nearly a third of worldwide shipments. The Q4 figure confirmed the highest ever annual amount of smartphones sold in China, according to market research firm Canalys, with shipments for the year reaching 476.5 million units, rising 11.4 percent from 2015 levels.

Huawei shipments of 76.2 million units took the top spot in China’s smartphone market in 2016, followed by Oppo with 73.2 million units and Vivo with 63.2 million. Apple meanwhile shipped 43.8 million units, down 18.2 percent year on year, influencing the company’s 7 percent decline in global shipments compared to 2015. Apple also lost fourth place to Xiaomi, despite the Chinese maker also experiencing declines in the country.


Xiaomi became number four in the China smartphone market, while Apple fell to fifth place. Xiaomi shipped a total of 51.4 million units of smartphones with a 21 percent year-on-year decline, while its market share decreased from 15.2 percent in 2015 to 10.7 percent in 2016, the lowest since 2013. Apple shipped 43.8 million units of iPhones throughout the year, a year-on-year decrease of 18.2 percent.

Huawei’s success in China continued apace on the strength of its flagship products, said Canalys research analyst Jessie Ding. “While Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi are all in the process of adjusting their strategies in China, Huawei took the opportunity to consolidate its position in the tier-1 and -2 cities.” The lull also allowed Huawei to attack Oppo and Vivo’s backyard, “in tier-three and tier-four cities,” Ding noted.

Last year Apple experienced its first ever year-over-year decline in the Chinese smartphone market, with the company’s phones continuing to be outpaced by cheaper alternatives and the iPhone 7 failing to kick up a frenzy among consumers compared to previous launches, according to analysts.

Apple faced a similar story at the beginning of the current year. Despite recording record results, Apple’s Q1 2017 earnings call revealed revenue was down 8 percent in China, but CEO Tim Cook claimed half of that decline was down to currency devaluation. Cook said that while China was “not without challenges”, he remained “encouraged by improvements” going into the second quarter.

Research firm IDC has suggested that Apple’s decline in China was compounded loyal users taking a year off upgrading in 2016 in anticipation of 2017’s “iPhone 8“. If so, Apple’s success there depends on whether the upcoming phone can live up to the hype.

“China and Hong Kong are still the hardest-hit areas in Apple’s global top ten market,” according to Ding. “The outlook remains bleak for Apple to get its China performance back to its heyday of 2015. As with consumers in other developed markets, China’s consumers are awaiting the 10th anniversary of the iPhone with very high expectations.”

Tag: China

Discuss this article in our forums

Future iPhone May Use Customized Wireless Charging System Made in Partnership with Broadcom

A future version of the iPhone could use a customized wireless charging system created in partnership with Broadcom, according to JPMorgan analyst Harlan Sur (via CNBC).

While Apple and Broadcom have reportedly been working together on a wireless charging solution for approximately two years, Sur is not sure whether the feature will be included in the 2017 iPhone due to “caution around the battery-related recall” of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

Despite Harlan’s caution, the upcoming 2017 “iPhone 8” is widely rumored to include some kind of wireless charging solution, but details on how it is being implemented and whether or not Apple is working with a partner like Broadcom remain unknown at this time.

iPhone 8 concept image via Thadeu Brandão


Past rumors have suggested wireless charging partnerships and supplier deals with Lite-On Semiconductor, MediaTek, Foxconn, Pegatron, and Luxshare, making it difficult to suss out Apple’s wireless charging plans.

Harlan’s research note also echoes previous rumors pointing towards a glass body for future iPhones, which many analysts believe is being implemented to facilitate wireless charging.

“We believe the glass back cover is conducive to wireless charging as it reduces signal interference versus a metal casing,” Sur wrote. “It is possible for Apple to add proprietary features such as fast charging or extended charging to differentiate itself from the pack and enhance the value of its own hardware ecosystem.”

Early wireless charging rumors suggested Apple would use a long-range wireless charging solution, but more recent speculation suggests the company may instead opt for an Apple Watch-style inductive charging solution. A glass body, as is rumored, would be necessary for an inductive charging option, and Apple also recently joined the Wireless Power Consortium, a group committed to the open development of the Qi wireless charging standard used in devices like the Samsung Galaxy.

Along with wireless charging, Apple’s 2017 iPhone is rumored to include a radical redesign, featuring the aforementioned glass body and an edge-to-edge ~5-inch OLED display that eliminates the device’s Home button. Rumors suggest this device will be positioned as a high-end “premium” model that could cost upwards of $1,000, and most sources believe it will be sold alongside two more affordable 4.7 and 5.5-inch devices that resemble the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus.

Rumors disagree on exactly what material the two regular-sized devices will be made from, and whether or not they will include wireless charging as well.

For full details on what to expect from the flagship OLED iPhone 8 and its two companion devices, make sure to check out our dedicated iPhone 8 roundup, which is updated regularly with new rumors.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8 (2017)
Tags: Broadcom, JPMorgan

Discuss this article in our forums

Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Back on the Table as SoftBank Agrees to Cede Control of Sprint

Sprint parent company SoftBank is prepared to sell Sprint to T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom, reviving a potential merger between the two companies, reports Reuters.

According to unnamed sources that spoke to the site, SoftBank is reportedly frustrated with Sprint’s growth in the United States and is ready to surrender control of the company and take a minority stake in T-Mobile.

Back in 2013, before T-Mobile soared in popularity, the situation was reversed. Sprint was prepared to purchase T-Mobile in a deal said to be worth more than $20 billion, but Sprint abandoned its plans in 2014 amid regulatory scrutiny, deciding that it would be too difficult to win approval from regulators.



At the time, U.S. antitrust officials reportedly told Sprint that having four national carriers in the United States was important to maintaining a competitive market. AT&T also once attempted to purchase T-Mobile, but that deal fell through too after being blocked by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.

Given T-Mobile’s recent success, Deutsche Telekom is no longer interested in selling the company, leaving SoftBank to pursue another merger strategy.

Sprint and T-Mobile will likely face the same regulatory scrutiny if a potential purchase deal is reached between the two.

Investors have said a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, ranked third and fourth respectively, would still face antitrust challenges, but made strategic sense as the industry moves to fifth-generation wireless technology. Carriers will need to spend billions of dollars to upgrade to 5G networks that promise to be 10 times to 100 times faster than current speeds.

While SoftBank is still open to discussing other options, it is now willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile, the sources said. They asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

The two companies have not yet started to discuss a deal because of strict anti-collusion rules that are in place during an ongoing spectrum auction. The auction, which is being overseen by the FCC, ends on March 30, and negotiations are expected to begin at that time.

Discuss this article in our forums

MacRumors Giveaway: Win an Apple Pencil PencilCozy-S Combo Pack From Cozy Industries

For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with Cozy Industries to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a PencilCozy-S stylus cap for the Apple Pencil.

The PencilCozy-S, designed to attach to the end of an Apple Pencil, serves multiple purposes. It makes sure the Apple Pencil’s end cap is never lost when charging, and it also serves as a dedicated stylus that can be used right alongside the tip of the Apple Pencil.



The band of the PencilCozy-S slides over the body of the Apple Pencil, while the cap portion fits onto the Apple Pencil cap, keeping the two pieces attached. It might seem counterintuitive to put a stylus cap on the Apple Pencil, but it can be used on any iOS device in any app, and is not limited to the iPad Pro. There’s one other added bonus — it prevents your Apple Pencil from rolling off of a flat surface.

According to Cozy Industries, the PencilCozy-S took 11 revisions to get the ideal texture for the best possible stylus experience. It’s designed from a proprietary silicone blend that’s meant to be supple enough for writing and drawing but durable enough to stand up to being tossed in a bag.

At $8.99, the PencilCozy-S is a solid deal, especially because it also ships with a rare earth magnet cap in case you lose your original cap, plus it has a LightningCozy that’s designed to attach your Apple Pencil Lightning adapter to a Lightning cable so it’s never lost.



We’re giving away 25 PencilCozy-S accessories to MacRumors readers. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prize. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The contest will run from today (February 17) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on February 24. The winners will be chosen randomly on February 24 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

Discuss this article in our forums

Apple Launches New Twitter-Based Ad Series Promoting iPad Pro

Apple today shared four new iPad Pro ads on its YouTube channel, which are focused on highlighting the features of the tablet and pointing out its benefits over a computer.

Each of the four ads is 16 seconds in length and starts out with a tweet a user has shared, either about the iPad Pro itself or a situation where an iPad Pro would be useful.

The first video opens with a person holding up a printed tweet that reads “An iPad Pro is not even close to being a computer.” Apple’s voiceover explains the benefits of the iPad Pro, pointing out LTE, the touchscreen that supports the Apple Pencil, and its speed.

Well, iPad Pro isn’t a computer. It’s actually faster than most laptops, has LTE like your phone, and a touchscreen you can write on. So you’re kind of right.

The second video also focuses on the iPad Pro’s LTE functionality, allowing users to get cellular service anywhere, while the third video points out that Microsoft Word is available on the device.

Apple’s final video focuses on viruses, starting out with the tweet “My laptop has the nastiest virus and I’m terrified” and going on to explain that the iPad Pro doesn’t get viruses.

Yeah, that is scary. You know an iPad Pro doesn’t get PC viruses. So relax. There’s nothing to be afraid of. EXCEPT GHOSTS!

All four of the videos use real tweets from real people, but Apple uses actors in the videos to hold up the signs and do the voiceovers. This is a new iPad Pro ad campaign for Apple, but it is similar to past iPad Pro ads the company has shared, which have also highlighted features like the touchscreen, Apple Pencil, multitasking, Smart Keyboard, and more.

Today’s ads come as Apple is rumored to be preparing to launch an updated iPad Pro. Rumors suggest the device will have an upgraded processor and a new design with an edge-to-edge display. The refreshed tablet is rumored to be coming as soon as March, but it’s not yet quite clear exactly when we’ll see it.

Tag: Apple ads

Discuss this article in our forums