iOS 11.3 Beta 2 Released with Battery Health, Power Management Tools

Apple on Tuesday seeded the second beta version of iOS 11.3 to developers, about two weeks after releasing the first iOS 11.3 beta.

Unlike iOS 11.2.5, which was released two weeks ago, iOS 11.3 is a fairly major update with a host of new features and additions — including several promised capabilities related to iPhone battery health and throttling.

Notably, those features have apparently been added to iOS 11.3 beta 2. The recently seeded testing software has a new Battery Health feature in Settings. Put simply, the feature will let users know what the maximum capacity of their battery is, and whether or not it is operating at that capacity.

iOS 11.3 will also add the ability to toggle iPhone power management on or off. But Apple notes that all devices running an iOS 11.3 beta will have the power management feature disabled by default unless an iPhone experiences an unexpected shutdown. In that case, throttling will be toggled on automatically.

Similarly, iPhones running at peak battery capacity won’t have the toggle available. In the case of a random shutdown, the toggle will appear and users will be able to prioritize performance over shutdown protection. Of course, Apple doesn’t recommend that users do so.

Other New Features and Improvements

iOS 11.3 will also introduce a number of smaller changes to the mobile operating system, including the following

  • Four new Animoji characters, including a dragon, lion, skull and bear.
  • The ability to store iMessages in iCloud.
  • Upgrades to ARKit, including more accurate environment mapping and the ability to place 3D objects on vertical surfaces.
  • Some aspects of AirPlay 2, with support for multi-room audio for Apple TV devices.
  • Business Chat, which will let users communicate with companies and businesses via Messages.
  • A new Health Records menu that lets users view their medical records in one place.
  • A new Privacy icon that will fight iCloud and Apple ID phishing.
  • Small tweaks to native apps like News, Books and the App Store.

iOS 11.3 beta 2 is now available to download as an over-the-air update for registered developers, provided that an appropriate configuration profile is installed on a device. It’s also available via the developer’s portal.

iOS 11.3 will be released to the public as a free download in the spring.

iDrop News

HomePod Reviews – Final Conclusions and Key Takeaways

In just a few days, users who have pre-ordered HomePod will get their hands on the device for the first time.

HomePod has been available to pre-order since Jan. 26, and it’ll begin shipping to consumers on Feb. 9.

But if you haven’t ordered HomePod yet, should you?

Luckily, there are quite a few early reviews of the device and they paint a clear picture of HomePod’s key advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the takeaways you should know.

HomePod Pros

Aesthetic

This probably isn’t going to be a primary selling point for anyone, but it is worth mentioning: HomePod looks really nice.

The build quality and materials used are all excellent, and it sports the company’s typical minimalist design. Apple has also ensured that its looks don’t interfere with its audio quality. (Its springy mesh covering is sound-neutral, for example.)

Report Claims Apple's HomePod Is a 'Side Project' 3 Years Behind Echo

Of course, aesthetics only take a device so far. But HomePod manages to combine good looks with simplicity and a suite of powerful audio-based technology and speakers.

Ease of Use & Seamless Integration

Apple has an “it just works” philosophy with its products, and HomePod really embodies that design MO. For one, the device takes about 30 seconds to set up.

The device automatically grabs important information like your Apple ID and iCloud data. It also automatically syncs with all of the HomeKit-compatible devices in your home. Once it is, it’s very easy to access and control the various features that it sports. That means, after the 30-second setup, you can ask Siri via HomePod to open your shades.

And on that note, HomePod can pick up “Hey, Siri” voice commands extremely well with its onboard suite of microphones.

Privacy

We’ve previously written that Apple’s best product is its commitment to privacy, and that’s no less true in regards to HomePod. And its approach to voice commands should distinguish it from competitors for the privacy-minded.

While HomePod lacks an analog microphone mute button, any voice information is only transferred to Apple after a user says “Hey, Siri.” That data is then encrypted and labeled as an “anonymous Siri identifier.”

Compare that to Apple’s rivals. Amazon doesn’t anonymize data collected through Alexa voice commands. And Google keeps basically all of your information, from voice commands to search history and your physical location.

Audio Tuning

Rather than being marketed as just another smart home speaker, Apple is specifically touting the HomePod as the next generation of home music playback hardware. It does this with its excellent speakers, but we’ll get to that in a second.

HomePod also sports some advanced audio tech (the combination of about 200 patents, Apple says). When you place HomePod somewhere, it begins detecting and analyzing the space it’s in, and tuning its audio playback settings accordingly with its onboard A8 chip. HomePod knows where it is in a room, and can even detect when you move it so it can start the process over again.

7 Important New HomePod Details You Should Know

This “beam-forming” technology allows it to intelligently tweak audio playback. It assigns specific elements of a music track to different beams, and even works to ensure that its bass doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the music. Put simply, there’s a lot of technology at work ensuring that you get excellent sound quality — even before you hit play.

Sound Quality

But its smart analysis and audio tuning is just one part of HomePod’s audio. Amazing sound quality is how Apple hopes to set HomePod apart. And from basically every early review that we could find, Apple succeeded in this regard.

HomePod just sounds better than basically any other smart speaker on the market. That’s largely because HomePod isn’t one speaker, it’s eight: a seven tweeter array and a powerful four-inch woofer.

That fact, combined with Apple’s proprietary room-analysis and audio processing technology, gives what is perhaps the cleanest and highest-quality sound on the (smart speaker) market. That includes cheaper speakers and even speakers that are more expensive. But, of course, that superb audio quality comes with a few caveats.


HomePod Cons

Price

There’s no getting around the fact that HomePod is fairly expensive for a smart home speaker. It’s $ 349 in the U.S., whereas the cheapest Echo product retails for about $ 50.

On the other hand, that cost is offset by HomePod’s feature set and quality of audio playback. That’s especially true since HomePod sounds better than similar yet more expensive speakers.

It all comes down to how much a user is willing to pay for the device, particularly with its other faults. Devoted Apple fans with spare cash will likely find the speaker more appealing than a Spotify user on a budget.

Important Features Aren’t Available (Yet)

This fact will only hamper HomePod’s release temporarily, but it is worth noting for those who have pre-ordered and early adopters.

Initially, HomePod will lack two relatively important features: stereo sound for multiple HomePod playback, and multi-room audio via AirPlay 2. HomePod will also only work in English at launch.

Multi-room audio and stereo playback will arrive in a free software update later this year. Apple will also add additional supported languages in the future — presumably when it’s launched in other countries.

It’s Locked Into the Apple Ecosystem

HomePod is a closed system, and it really only plays nice with Apple’s proprietary services. This, perhaps more so than anything else, will be the dealbreaker for many. To play music on HomePod, users will need to subscribe to Apple Music or iTunes Match. Music played from an iTunes library must also be officially purchased from iTunes.

Apple Confirms HomePod's Supported Audio Sources

To HomePod, services like Spotify basically don’t exist. Users can stream Spotify audio via AirPlay, but third-party platforms won’t work with Siri’s voice commands. Similarly, if your primary smartphone is an Android, you’re also out of luck. HomePod will only sync with iOS devices. And it can’t play audio from an Android over Bluetooth, either.

Apple Music may be growing in popularity, but the fact that it’s one of a few streaming options for HomePod is still a limitation.

Siri Is Lacking Polish

First-party limitations of HomePod could be a minor concern for those already locked into the Apple ecosystem. But, sadly, there’s another fault for any HomePod user: Siri on HomePod is just not as polished or feature-rich as competitors like Alexa or Google Assistant currently.

You can’t ask Siri to play something on your Apple TV. And even though HomePod is a speakerphone, you won’t be able to ask Siri to make calls. Siri won’t be able to look up recipes, and it won’t have the vast array of knowledge that Google implemented for its Assistant.

Weirdly enough, Siri on HomePod also can’t be trained to recognize different voices. That might be okay for a household of various users, but it also means that anyone in the household can access a user’s private text messages. And these are just a few examples. In other words, Siri just isn’t as capable as its rivals — at least, not yet.


Final Conclusions

If you take all of this information and boil it down, the key takeaway is pretty simple.

  • HomePod sounds amazing. It likely sounds better than any other smart speaker on the market.
  • It also looks great, is simple to use, and incorporates many of the reasons why users love Apple.
  • But it’s also expensive and only plays nice with Apple services. Spotify or Tidal subscribers will be inconvenienced, and Android users need not apply. That might be okay if Siri was a bit more functional (which it still could be in the future).

All in all, HomePod will make sense for some, while others should probably stick to other platforms.

iDrop News

Apple May Replace 16GB iPhone 5c Devices with 32GB Models

If you own a 16-gigabyte iPhone 5c that’s on its last leg, you might be due for a (slight) upgrade if you take the device to an Apple Store or another official service provider.

Reportedly, Apple Store repair technicians and Authorized Service Providers will be able to offer users a 32GB iPhone 5c if their current 16GB model needs to be replaced, according to a note distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week.

“Orders for whole unit service inventory of iPhone 5c (16GB) models may be substituted to iPhone 5c (32GB) models until further notice,” the note reads.

It’s worth noting that the actual text states that 16GB models may be substituted for 32GB models, so not all 16GB models will be upgraded. But some customers who bring their 16GB iPhone 5c in for repairs due to a manufacturing or other issue could have their handsets swapped for a device with a larger storage capacity. That’s if their old devices warrant replacement, of course.

As far as the timeline, “until further notice” seems to imply that the new directive will remain in effect for the near future, at least.

The company didn’t give any reason why it’s implemented the change. But it’s likely related to dwindling supply availability of 16GB iPhone 5c models, particularly since Apple has killed the device off.

Apple first debuted the iPhone 5c in September 2013 as a lower-cost device. The plastic casings of the lineup came in a range of bright and colorful options, unlike other 4-inch Apple handsets.

The company began phasing out the device beginning in 2014, however. It’s been sold as recently as 2016 in markets like India, but since then, Apple has officially discontinued the model.

iDrop News

Apple Says HomePod’s Immersive Sound Technology Is Coming Soon

Apple has officially put a name to the face of its proprietary HomePod technology which will enable two of the Siri-enabled smart speakers to automatically detect, connect, and work in synergy to produce an optimal balance of stereo-like sound.

The technology, dubbed FullRoom, is reliant on what Apple describes as “advanced beamforming capabilities” which will allow two HomePod speakers, when placed within close proximity of one another, to pair, and “create a wider, more immersive soundstage” than a traditional pair of stereo speakers would be able to, Apple said.

Early reviews which began circulating on Tuesday appear to agree that while HomePod is an impressive device in terms of its audio playback capabilities, its Siri functionality is hit-or-miss, according to multiple reviewers including The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern.

Stern noted, for instance, that HomePod “nails the speaker,” but Siri struggles in the same way on Apple’s standalone speaker as she does on the company’s iPhone and iPad.

Apple confirmed these FullRoom audio capabilities will be coming in a future HomePod software update, while according to TechCrunch, Apple will enable another, highly-anticipated HomePod feature — dubbed ‘MultiRoom’ — at a later time.

Technically similar to FullRoom, multi-room will reportedly enable multi-channel audio playback support via multiple, distally positioned HomePod speakers utilizing Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol.

Multi-room support will reportedly come via an update separate from that which will enable FullRoom support — though both features are currently listed as “Coming Soon” on Apple’s website.

Announced back in June of last year, Apple’s $ 349 HomePod speaker is at long last available to order online for customers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia in either White or Black. It officially launches in Apple Stores and begins shipping this Friday, February 9.

iDrop News

This ‘Smart’ HomePod Feature Is Actually a Massive Security Risk

Apple’s highly anticipated smart speaker, HomePod, is finally available to purchase. But while it’s received mostly positive reviews so far, some tech pundits have highlighted a serious security flaw that you should know about if you’re thinking of buying the speaker.

In its review, The Verge pointed out that one of the HomePod’s main “smart” features is actually plagued with a serious security vulnerability.

According to Nilay Patel, the ‘Personal Requests’ feature – which accesses user information to read out text messages, set reminders, create lists and other functionalities – isn’t as safe as it should be.

He found that Apple hasn’t implemented personal voice recognition, meaning anyone using the same Wi-Fi network can access your messages and contact people saved in your contacts list.

It’s a scary thought really, and Patel expressed this in his review. “And, in the worst omission, Siri on the HomePod doesn’t recognize different voices,” he said. “This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you just click yes during all the setup prompts, literally anyone can ask the HomePod to send or read your text messages.”

“Seriously, it’ll just read your texts to anyone if your phone is anywhere on the same Wi-Fi.”

Patel explained that people nearby can also trick  the feature. “I tried it with the HomePod behind a closed door and it picked up my voice and it happily read my texts aloud, a nightmare for anyone who lives in a dorm,” he warned.

Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home both trump the Homepod when it comes to security. They can recognise different voices, so it may be worth deactivating the feature until Apple issues a bug fix.

iDrop News

New Galaxy S9, S9+ Images Leak Ahead of Late Feb. Unveiling

We’ve already seen leaked images purporting to show the front-side of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S9 flagship, which is poised to be the company’s first high-end smartphone of 2018. The S9 will go head-to-head with current, high-end devices like Apple’s iPhone X when it’s unveiled later on this month..

Although Samsung doesn’t really seem to have a problem with leaks of this kind (and is perhaps responsible for them), what we’re feasting our eyes on this morning appear to be the real deal.

If indeed they are authentic, the photos interestingly reveal how the S9 family will try to emulate some of iPhone X’s most acclaimed features..

Published to Twitter this morning by famed and historically spot-on serial leaker, Evan Blass (@evleaks), the images allegedly show Samsung’s Galaxy S9 alongside its slightly larger sibling, the S9+, adorned in what appears to be the company’s signature ‘Lilac Purple’ color.

Given Samsung’s rich and colorful history of copying basically everything Apple does, these iPhone X-esque features shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. For example, the Galaxy S9+ (with its vertically-oriented dual-lens camera system, cough, cough) represents a clear shift in Samsung’s design language which ostensibly knocks off the iPhone X (save for its centralized location on the back of the handset).

Interestingly, though Samsung was rumored to be among several Android OEMs looking to source 3D camera components for their next flagships, the company appears to have implemented only a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor around back — though the sensor appears to have been repositioned to below the camera instead of being beside it on the S8, S8+ and Note 8.

In lieu of a next-generation Face ID-copying 3D camera, Samsung is expected to equip the S9 and S9+ with its current-generation Iris scanner to handle biometric security.

While broader details remain shrouded in secrecy for now, the S9 and S9+ are slated to boast either a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 or Exynos 9810 (market dependent), 6 GB of RAM, and run Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box.

Color options will reportedly include Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Coral Blue, and the lovely Lilac Purple we see here.

Samsung is scheduled to unveil the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on February 25 — just a day ahead of 2018’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), which is scheduled to run from February 26 through March 2 in Barcelona, Spain.

iDrop News

SpaceX to Launch World’s Most Powerful Rocket — Here’s How to Watch Live

Elon Musk, the outspoken founder of SpaceX and more, wants to get into the business of sending people into space — and his firm continues, despite the myriad of challenges it’s faced, to achieve that goal.

On Tuesday, SpaceX will attempt to reach a new milestone, with hopes of successfully launching its Falcon Heavy Rocket, which, according to The New York Times, represents the most powerful rocket in operation in the world today.

Aboard Falcon Heavy will be Musk’s midnight cherry Tesla Roadster, which he hopes will “discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.”

What Is Falcon Heavy?

“The Falcon Heavy rocket is essentially a turbocharged version of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket,” The New York Times explains, noting “It is the same height and its central booster looks the same. But attached on the sides are two additional Falcon 9 boosters, which triples the thrust at liftoff. That means that the Heavy will be able to lift far heavier payloads, up to 140,000 pounds, to low-Earth orbit.”

As of this morning, the rocket is docked on Pad 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, which is notably adjacent to the same launch point of NASA’s most successful past missions, including 1969s Apollo 11 — the first mission which culminated in astronauts walking on the moon.

When Is It Launching and Where Can I Watch?

Barring any unforeseeable complications, SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon Heavy rocket at around 2:50 pm Eastern Time (11:50 am, Pacific) — and will stream the entire event live on its website SpaceX.com, and via the official SpaceX YouTube channel. See other live streams here.

The launch was previously scheduled for 1:30 pm Eastern (10:30 am Pacific) but was pushed up to around 2:50 pm as the result of high-altitude winds.

SpaceX allegedly has until 4:00 pm this afternoon to attempt a launch; and if the weather doesn’t cooperate, or a technical glitch manifests between now and then, the firm will be given a second opportunity to attempt on Wednesday between the same 1:30 and 4:00 pm timeframe.

iDrop News

Apple Offers Free Repair for iPhone 7 Devices with ‘No Service’ Bug

Acknowledging that a “small percentage” of iPhone 7 devices are affected by a hardware level bug which prevents them from connecting to a cellular network, Apple confirmed the launch of its latest iPhone repair program last week — where it will offer a free ‘No Service’ repair for select iPhone 7 devices that meet certain criteria.

According to the memo published to its website late last week, Apple has determined that certain iPhone 7 devices may indicate there’s “No Service” in the status bar — whether cellular/LTE coverage is available or not — due to what the company has determined to be a component failure on the handset’s main logic board.

Which iPhone 7 Devices Are Affected?

Apple points out that the iPhone 7 models affected by the bug were sold in the U.S., China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Macao, exclusively, and were manufactured between September of 2016 and February of this year.

The company provided the following model number guidance for determining if your iPhone 7 is eligible for a free repair:

What Other Terms Apply?

As with Apple’s other iPhone repair programs, this one is not without its fair share of caveats and restrictions.

  • The company stipulates that affected devices must be serviced in the country where they were originally purchased — and that all outstanding, unrelated damages (cracked screen, dead battery, etc.) must be resolved via a separate repair service prior to being eligible for a complimentary ‘No Service’ repair.
  • “Your iPhone will be examined prior to any service to verify that it is eligible for this program,” Apple asserts, adding that in order to qualify for the free ‘No Service’ repair users must have purchased their eligible iPhone 7 device within the last two years.

What If I’ve Already Paid for This Repair?

For eligible iPhone 7 owners who’ve already paid for an out of pocket repair resulting from the ‘No Service’ issue, Apple promises to be in contact via email so as to arrange for reimbursement.

“If you believe you paid for a repair related to this issue, and have not received an email from Apple by the end of March 2018, please contact Apple,” the company says.

My iPhone 7 Is Eligible — How Do I Get Service?

Apple notes that its carrier partners including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are not taking part in this repair program. The only way to get service is by sending your device into an Apple Repair Center.

The whole process can be initiated by locating and scheduling an appointment at your local Apple Store, an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or by contacting Apple Technical Support.

iDrop News

We Now Know Why Telegram Was Pulled from Apple’s App Store

Popular secure messaging app Telegram was removed from the App Store last week — and now we officially know why.

The primary Telegram app and Telegram X (which is in testing) were both removed from the iOS App Store on Jan. 31. The next day, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted that the app was removed due to the presence of “inappropriate content.”

No other reason was given, but Durov added that once “protections” were in place, the Telegram app would reappear on the iOS app storefront. Indeed, the Telegram app returned to the App Store on Feb. 2.

But today, we’re getting a clearer picture of what “inappropriate content” caused the secure messaging platform to be taken down.

In an email in response to a 9to5Mac reader, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller reported that Apple’s App Store team was alerted to “illegal content,” specifically child pornography, being shared through Telegram.

“After verifying the existence of the illegal content, the team took the apps down from the store, alerted the developer, and notified the proper authorities, including the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children),” Schiller wrote in the now-verified email.

Presumably, the Telegram apps returned to the App Store with protections to stop the illegal content from being spread. Apple’s App Store guidelines require platforms to contain filters for objectionable material and the capability to report it, as well as the ability to block users, TechCrunch reported.

“We will never allow illegal content to be distributed by apps in the App Store and we will take swift action whenever we learn of such activity,” Schiller added. “Most of all, we have zero tolerance for any activity that puts children at risk — child pornography is at the top of the list of what must never occur. It is evil, illegal, and immoral.”

Distribution of child pornography is among the most grievous offenses on the internet, and the vast majority of social networks, tech platforms and websites include mechanisms to immediately detect it and remove it. Telegram, apparently, wasn’t as prepared, however. So Apple removed the app while its developer figured out how to eradicate the issue.

The secure messaging app is host to a suite of advanced security features that allow users to host private and secret conversations that are end-to-end encrypted. Notably, it was one of the first messaging platforms to feature end-to-end encryption when it launched in 2013.

But while the ability to hold secret conversations may be Telegram’s main selling point, it’s also its primary flaw, as the app has faced issues in the past with terrorism and terrorist-related content. The platform and its developers have been widely criticized by governments for being the “app of choice” for terrorist organizations like ISIS, Vox reported in June 2017.

Telegram was nearly banned by the Indonesian government for “terrorist-related content,” and the developers were forced to create a moderator team to tackle the content in the country, The Verge reported.

iDrop News