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October 23, 2014

Sprint Boosts Data on Low-End Family Plan

Sprint Logo The wireless carrier wars wage on as Sprint just announced it is upping its lowest shared family data tier to 1GB for $20 a month.

For those keeping track, that's double the amount of data Verizon offers (500MB) and more than three times as much AT&T gives (300MB) for the same price. Sprint previously offered 600MB of data for $20.

"This entry-level sharable data allowance reinforces Sprint's commitment to offering customers the best value in wireless," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said in a statement. "We're offering customers a choice – whether they need a small amount of data or are a high-end data user."

The carrier's new low-end Family Share Pack plan is available today. With the new plan, you'll get 1GB to share among up to 10 lines. That's still not much, especially if you're sharing it with several other people, but it should be sufficient for those who mostly use their phone for making calls, and only occasionally use data.

The move comes after Sprint earlier this month upped the data on its high-end Family Share Pack plans in response to a recent AT&T promotion.

AT&T's promotion offers 30GB of shared data for $130, 40GB for $150, or 60GB for $225. For the same prices, you'll now get 60GB, 80GB, or 120GB of shared data on Sprint. Both deals are set to expire at the end of the month, though once you sign up, you can keep the shared amount you chose at the promotional pricing until you switch data allowances or change plans.

Verizon, meanwhile, announced earlier this month that More Everything customers can get 15GB of data per month for $110 or 30GB of data for $130 per month, up to 100GB for $375. The offer runs until Oct. 31.



October 23, 2014

Christian Bale Signs On to Play Jobs

steve jobsIt's official: Christian Bale will don a black turtleneck and a pair of round glasses in his new role as the iconic Steve Jobs.

As Aaron Sorkin told Bloomberg, the Welsh actor didn't even have to audition for his part the upcoming biopic about the late Apple co-founder.

"What we needed was the best actor," screenwriter Sorkin said in an interview with Bloomberg. "It's like the NFL draft: There are some people who make a science out of [it] … and other teams say, 'Who's the best athlete on the board?' We needed the best actor on the board, in a certain age range, and that's Christian Bale."

Calling the man behind Batman a "phenomenal actor," Sorkin said "there was a meeting" but no formal audition.

Bale was Sony's original choice to play Jobs, but he reportedly dropped out of the running when director David Fincher left the project earlier this year.



October 23, 2014

Apple’s iCloud Under Attack in China

iCloud

Apple this week acknowledged that iCloud is under attack in China.

In a statement on its website, Apple said it is "aware of intermittent organized network attacks using insecure certificates to obtain user information, and we take this very seriously."

The attacks, however, do not compromise iCloud servers, according to Cupertino. Nor do they affect iCloud sign-in on iOS devices or updated Macs running OS X Yosemite and using the Safari browser.

"The iCloud website is protected with a digital certificate. If users get an invalid certificate warning in their browser while visiting www.icloud.com, they should pay attention to the warning and not proceed," Apple warned. "Users should never enter their Apple ID or password into a website that presents a certificate warning."



October 20, 2014

iOS 8.1 Out Now With Apple Pay

iOS 8.1Heads up, iOS users. Apple just released the latest update to its mobile operating system, iOS 8.1, which includes support for Apple Pay.

The new mobile wallet feature lets you pay for items using your phone at certain retailers, but it only works on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Those who spring for a new iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3, both of which arrive on Friday, will be able to use the in-app version of Apple Pay, but no tapping your huge iPad to a mobile payment terminal at your local drugstore.

At Apple's iPad event last week CEO Tim Cook said a number of additional retailers have signed on to support Apple Pay since the company unveiled it in September, and 500 more banks will add support later this year and into 2015.

Launch partners include McDonald's (use Apple Pay in the drive-thru), Whole Foods, Panera, Sephora, and Disney theme parks. You can also, of course, use it at Apple Stores.

Meanwhile, iOS 8.1 also includes some new features, improvements, and fixes for Photos and Messages. In the Photos app, you'll see a new iCloud Photo Library as a beta service. The app will also now send you an alert when you're running low on space before capturing Time Lapse videos.



October 20, 2014

Report: Microsoft Finally Ready to Release Smartwatch

Microsoft smartwatch patentMicrosoft is reportedly prepping a wearable device for launch in the next few weeks.

The smartwatch, which tracks a wearer's heart rate and syncs with various mobile platforms, Forbes said, is expected to hit shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.

Notably, the device would sync across platforms to iPhones, Android devices, and Windows Phones, Forbes said.

Redmond's wrist-worn gadget has been rumored since May, when a 2012 patent for a "wearable personal information system" (pictured) was published. The product license tipped a wearable machine with a miniature computing device that can be locked into a wristband while in use, or removed and mounted on a dock to charge or sync data.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the report.



October 19, 2014

Snapchat to Roll Out First Ads This Weekend

Snapchat Like it or not — ads are invading Snapchat this weekend.

The self-destructing messaging app maker earlier this month confirmed plans to start rolling out ads, and now it's actually happening. Snapchat on Friday announced that the first ad will arrive this weekend in the "Recent Updates" section for those in the U.S.

"It's the first time we've done anything like this because it's the first time we've been paid to put content in that space," Snapchat wrote in a blog post. "It's going to feel a little weird at first, but we're taking the plunge."

In the post, Snapchat explained that its ads will not be "creepy" and targeted towards users interests.

"The product we're releasing today is a lot simpler," the company said. "An advertisement will appear in your Recent Updates from time to time, and you can choose if you want to watch it. No biggie." Just like Stories, ads will disappear after you view it, or within 24hours.

Snapchat promised to keep your personal communications — including Snaps and Chats — free of ads. As for why, exactly, the company is embracing ads, the answer is simple: "we need to make money," Snapchat said.

"Advertising allows us to support our service while delivering neat content to Snapchatters," they explained. "We promise that we'll use the money we make to continue to surprise the Snapchat community with more terrific products — that's what we love to do!"

News of Snapchat ads comes after some 200,000 Snapchat photos were said to have leaked online thanks to a breach of third-party site Snapsaved.com. Following news of the breach last week, Snapchat was quick to respond, noting that its servers were never compromised and that users were instead victimized by their use of third-party apps.



October 16, 2014

Apple Reveals iMac With ‘Retina 5K Display’

27-inch Retina iMacIn addition to updating its iPad lineup, Apple today also revealed a 27-inch iMac with Retina display and a new Mac mini.

The new iMac has what Apple calls a "Retina 5K display" because its 5,120-by-2,880 display has four times more pixels than the standard 27-inch iMac and 67 percent more pixels than a 4K display.

The device is available for purchase on Apple's website today, starting at $2,499 with a 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 chip, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, 8GB (two 4GB) of memory, a 1TB Fusion Drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 M290X with 2GB of video memory. It will ship within 1-3 days, while a pick-up option is expected soon.

Those who want a little something extra can opt for a 4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz for an extra $250. For $200 more, you can get 16GB of memory, while $600 extra will get you 32GB of memory.

There are also options for a 3TB Fusion Drive ($150), as well as 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB of Flash storage, and AMD Radeon R9 M295X 4GB GDDR5 graphics.

"Thirty years after the first Mac changed the world, the new iMac with Retina 5K display running OS X Yosemite is the most insanely great Mac we have ever made," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said in a statement. "With a breathtaking 14.7 million pixel display, faster CPU and graphics, Fusion Drive, and Thunderbolt 2, it's the most beautiful and powerful iMac ever."

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October 16, 2014

Apple Reveals Ultra-Slim iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3

New iPadsApple today revealed the iPad Air 2, which it said is the thinnest tablet on the market, and the iPad mini 3.

The new iPads will come in silver, gray, and a new gold color. Pricing begins at $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version of the iPad Air 2 and $399 for the iPad mini 3. Like the new iPhones, Apple is doing away with the 32GB version, so you can get a 64GB for $100 more and a 128GB version for $200 more.

Pre-orders begin Oct. 17 and they will start shipping by the end of next week. Apple will continue selling the iPad mini with Retina display (now iPad mini 2) and iPad Air, both of which will get a $100 price cut. The original iPad mini, meanwhile, will sell for $249, down from $299.

Among the updates on Apple's new iPads is Touch ID, the fingerprint scanner currently available on newer iPhones like iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The updated tablets will also support the Apple Pay mobile payment system, though only within apps, not in stores. Apple Pay is set to roll out on Monday, Oct. 20 with iOS 8.1, which will come pre-loaded on the new iPads.

The iPad Air 2 is just 6.1mm thick and weighs less than a pound. "Can you even see it?" Tim Cook quipped as he turned the iPad Air 2 to the side.



October 16, 2014

Apple Mac OS X Yosemite Hits Mac App Store Today

OS X Yosemite

Apple's next-gen operating system, Mac OS X Yosemite, arrives today as a free download.

Mac owners will be able to download it and the new iWork via the Mac App Store.

The new OS arrives shortly before iOS 8.1's Monday launch, which will include Apple Pay, Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple, said during an event at Apple's headquarters.

Apple first revealed Yosemite at this year's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), at which time developers were given early access. A beta version arrived in July.

At WWDC, Federighi joked that Apple execs took a road trip to hunt for the best follow-up name to Mavericks. After passing on Mac OS X Oxnard, OS X Rancho Cucamonga, and OS X Weed, they landed on Yosemite.

The major theme of Yosemite is Continuity, which provides for a deeper link between Mac and iOS when users are signed into iCloud.

As part of this Continuity concept, AirDrop will now work between iOS and Mac rather than just iOS devices.



October 15, 2014

HBO to Launch Standalone Streaming Service in 2015

HBO GO Loading Page HBO today announced that it will offer a standalone streaming service in 2015.

Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO, made the announcement at a Time Warner Inc. investor meeting today. Broadband-only homes are "a large and growing opportunity that should no longer be left untapped," he said. "It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO."

"So, in 2015, we will launch a standalone, over-the-top, HBO service in the United States. We will work with our current partners. And, we will explore models with new partners. All in, there are 80 million homes that do not have HBO and we will use all means at our disposal to go after them."

HBO is currently only available to those who also have a pay-TV package. Time Warner Cable subscribers, for example, can add HBO for about $15 extra per month.

Those who do not want or cannot afford cable, however, have long pushed HBO to offer an online-only service. The network has a number of extremely popular shows - from Game of Thrones to True Detective - to which many do not have access, prompting them to pirate the content or try in vain to avoid spoilers on the Web until the DVD release.

HBO has an online-viewing option, HBO GO, but it's only available to those with an HBO subscription via their TV providers. Still, HBO has no limits on concurrent viewers, like Netflix does, so many people share their log-ins to catch new episodes of favorite shows. HBO's new standalone service will likely allow people to sign up for HBO GO without going through their pay TV provider.

HBO has held off on a standalone service because of its deals with cable and pay TV services. During a February 2013 appearance at the ATD: Dive Into Mobile conference, HBO's (now former) COO Eric Kessler said its cable partners provide HBO with invaluable marketing and infrastructure support.

"It's really about economics," Kessler said at the time. There are approximately 101 million pay TV households in the U.S., and less than a third of those households are HBO subscribers, which Kessler said was a "tremendous opportunity" for growth.

The typical HBO customer, meanwhile, is a heavy TV watcher, and "we are targeting the people who are most likely to buy our product." He acknowledged that there is a group of people who "unquestionably" who would pay a monthly fee for HBO GO, like Netflix. But "if you go beyond the anecdotes ... the economics today are not compelling."

That's apparently no longer the case.

HBO gave us a taste of a standalone service in 2012, when it launched HBO Nordic in Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

The company has also shied away from licensing its content to streaming services like Netflix. It recently provided content to Amazon Prime, but only older shows, suggesting that it might one day want to launch a streaming service of its own.

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