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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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October 14, 2014

Windows 10 Preview Tops 1M Users

Windows 10

Almost two weeks after its release, Microsoft's Windows 10 preview has topped 1 million users.

"Over the weekend, we hit 1 million registrants for the Windows Insider Program," Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems group, wrote in a blog post Monday. "That equates to a lot of people using the Windows 10 Technical Preview and sending us feedback."

Already, Redmond has received more than 200,000 pieces of feedback about Windows 10 from users. Most are running the forthcoming OS on an actual PC, rather than just trying it out for a few minutes on a virtual machine. Just 36 percent of Windows 10 preview installations are on VMs, while the remaining 64 percent are on actual PCs.

"This makes us confident that a lot of the feedback is based on 'medium-term' use and not just a few minutes of experimentation," Belfiore wrote.



October 14, 2014

Going Abroad? AT&T Reveals New International Plans

AT&T

Traveling out of the country, and don't want to rack up insane roaming charges? AT&T has a new solution.

The carrier on Monday morning launched AT&T Passport, its "best-ever value plan for international travel." AT&T is offering three different packages that can keep you connected while abroad for up to 30 days.

All plans offer unlimited text, picture, and video messaging, but you'll pay more or less depending on how much cellular data you think you'll need.

The cheapest AT&T Passport plan costs $30 and comes with 120MB of cellular data, with overages running 25 cents per MB, and calls priced at $1.00 a minute. Upgrade to the $60 Passport Plus plan and you'll get 300MB of data, with a 5-cent discount on overages (20 cents per MB), and calls for 50 cents a minute.

The priciest plan, dubbed Passport Pro, costs $120 and comes with 800MB of data, with overages at 15 cents per MB, and calls for 35 cents a minute. For a quick look at the plans, check out the chart below.

AT&T Passport

Unlike some other carrier's international plans, these are valid for just 30 days and expire automatically, meaning you won't have to remember to cancel once you're back home from your trip. To sign up, visit myAT&T or call 800-335-INTL (4685) to add a plan.

The new AT&T plans come after rival T-Mobile last year dropped international data and text roaming charges in more than 100 countries, allowing U.S. customers to update Facebook, check Google Maps, or send an email while traveling without incurring a massive roaming bill.

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October 13, 2014

Confirmed: Snapsaved Hack Led to Snapchat Photo Leak

Snapchat After word spread last week that some 200,000 Snapchat photos had leaked online, third-party site Snapsaved.com is now taking responsibility for the whole debacle.

In a Facebook post over the weekend, Snapsaved.com admitted that a recent hack of its systems led to the leak, and provided more clarity about the extent of the breach.

"I would like to inform the public that Snapsaved.com was hacked," the post reads. "Snapchat has not been hacked, and these images do not originate from their database."

The site's creators said they "immediately" deleted their entire database upon discovering the breach. Some 500MB of images were stolen, and the majority of affected users are Swedish, Norwegian, and American. No other personal information was accessed, they said.

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. Snapchat has warned about the perils of using non-official apps to interact with its service for quite some time.

Those in possession of the images claimed they were trying to organize the trove photos — definitely not safe for work, and likely containing pictures of underage Snapchat users — into a searchable database. But the creators of Snapsaved.com suggested that's not likely to happen.

"The recent rumors about the snappening are a hoax," they said. "The hacker does not have sufficient information to live up to his claims of creating a searchable database.

The creators went on to apologize for the breach, and assure users that they have "always tried to fight child pornography," even going so far as to report some of its users to Swedish and Norwegian authorities.

"We never wished for this to happen," the Facebook post reads. "We did not wish to cause Snapchat or their users any harm, we only wished to provide a unique service."

The whole point of Snapchat is to send images that will eventually disappear, but services like SnapSaved are intended to let you save those photos.