Apple releases iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay, iCloud Photo Library, SMS Relay & Instant Hotspot, bug fixes and improvements.

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As promised, Apple on Monday released iOS 8.1 for public consumption. Users who have an older version installed on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can now update to the latest software over-the-air, by choosing Software Update under Settings > General.

iOS 8.1 flips the switch on Apple Pay in the United States on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as the newly released iPad Air 2and iPad mini 3.

It also re-enables the missing Camera Roll album in Photos and beta iCloud Photo Library (in beta) while bringing additional Continuity features like Text Message Forwarding between iOS 8 devices and Yosemite Macs and more.

Apple Pay, a headline new feature in iOS 8.1 supports mobile payments in apps, on websites and at select brick-and-mortar locations. On devices that don’t have NFC, like the iPhone 5s, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple Pay only works when you buy stuff online and through apps.

To recap, here are the supported devices for Apple Pay:

  • iPhone 6 (in-app, online and in-store purchases)
  • iPhone 6 Plus (in-app, online and in-store purchases)
  • iPad Air 2 (in-app and online purchases only)
  • iPad mini 3 (in-app and online purchases only)

Although Apple’s marketing materials don’t make the distinction between in-app and online purchases, Safari is technically and app. Moreover, company executives did say during the WWDC keynote that Apple Pay will be supported by participating online stores through a browser.

Apple Pay is also coming to Apple Watch early next year, extending Apple Pay to over 200 million owners of iPhone 5, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s worldwide, Apple said in a media release.

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Another cool new feature: Text Message Forwarding.

It lets you receive text messages in the Messages app alongside iMessages on Macs running Yosemite and iPads and iPod touches running iOS 8.1. Text messages are actually routed through a user’s iPhone, allowing you to both send and receive SMS directly from a Mac or iPad.

Text Message Forwarding requires that both your Mac and iOS device be on the same Wi-Fi network and have Bluetooth turned on for proximity.

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iCloud Photo Library, a built-in service that puts your entire photo library in the cloud, is now available as a beta to everyone in iOS 8.1. Once enabled in Settings > iCloud > Photos, your device will automatically upload and store your photos and videos in iCloud and sync any changes between devices.

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You can elect to “Optimize Storage” to keep device-optimized versions of photos on an iOS device or “Download and Keep Originals”, which stores full-resolution photos and videos on your device. Just to clear up any confusion, iCloud always keeps your snaps and videos in their original resolution.

Your iCloud Photo Library is also available via a brand new Photos app in iCloud’s web interface, depicted above, using any Mac or Windows PC running the latest version of Safari, Chrome or Firefox. And in early-2015, a Mac edition of iOS’s stock Photos app will launch allowing for the complete end-to-end photo-syncing solution between desktop, mobile and the web.

iCloud Photo Library is great, but you’ll quickly run out of space as every iCloud account includes a meager five gigabytes of free storage. Apple’s iCloud storage upgrade pricingisn’t the most competitive: the firm is offering 20 gigabytes for 99 cents per month, 200 gigabytes in exchange for five bucks per month, 500GB for $9.99 per month and 1TB for $19.99 per month.

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Compare this to the $9.99 1TB Dropbox Pro plan (same as Google).

Microsoft is offering 1TB OneDrive bucket for seven bucks per month and they’re also throwing in Office 365 for that price. By the way, if you’re serious about iPhone photography you should consider Yahoo’s Flickr service, which includes one terabyte of free storage for your photos.

As mentioned before, iOS 8.1 also brings back the Camera Roll album which went missing in iOS 8. The Camera Roll album collates only the photos you’ve taken directly on the device or saved from Mail and other apps. The Camera Roll comeback makes the operating system compatible with applications that required it, such as WhatsApp.

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The problem stems, as many have complained, from the fact that iOS 8.0 has removed the system-wide Camera Roll album for no apparent reason. In addition to these features, iOS 8.1 contains bug fixes, performance enhancements and several improvements listed below.

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iOS 8.1 includes other nice-to-haves

A new Enable Dictation toggle in Settings > General > Keyboards (seen above) is now available. Moreover, you’ll notice slightly larger app icons when managing your widgets in the Notification Center. The iBooks icon has been slightly redesigned and there’s now an alternative way to access privacy settings on a per-app basis, through their respective pane in the Settings app, as pictured below.

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Note that certain iOS 8 features are only available in select markets.

The operating system is compatible with:

  • iPhone 4s
  • iPhone 5/5c
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6/Plus
  • iPad 2, 3 and 4
  • iPad Air and iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini and iPad mini 2
  • iPod touch (fifth-generation)

Apple Releases iOS 7.0.6 And iOS 6.1.6 (For iOS 6 Devices) With Various Bug Fixes

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As we continue to wait for iOS 7.1 to be released to the public, Apple has seeded iOS 7.0.6 to the public this morning. The release comes a month after iOS 7.0.5 landed at the end of January, which also featured bug fixes for certain newer models of iPhones.

It also looks like Apple has released a similar bug fix for iOS 6 users in iOS 6.1.6 Both updates are available either over the air, by visiting Settings > General > Software Update, or by plugging your device in iTunes.

iOS 7.0.6 and 6.1.6 released with bug fixes

From the surface, it looks like iOS 7.0.6, which carries a build number of 11b651, just contains a fix for SSL connection verification. It is for all devices. And as for iOS 6.1.6, it carries a build number of 10b500, and is just for the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 4G.

We currently aren’t sure whether or not these updates are safe for jailbreakers, so it’s best to stay away from them until we get confirmation that they’re ok. We typically get word from the evad3rs or other prominent jailbreak figures within 24 hours of updates.

More photos of gold iPhone 5S leak, box of 128GB version spotted!

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The rumors that Apple will break its black and white only color scheme for the iPhone 5S are heating up with more and more photos hitting the web. The 128GB option that analysts think will happen with the upcoming iPhone generation became more tangible too, thanks to an alleged photo of the iPhone 5S box.

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The Gold (or Champagne) colored iPhone 5S chassis posed next to the Black and White versions. The plastic panels on the top and bottom of the back are missing, but they will probably have a slightly different color like on the other versions. The front is also not shown in the photos.

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The back of the Apple iPhone 5S box shows a 128GB label and lists some connectivity options – quad-band 3G with DC-HSPA, CDMA and LTE (bands 1/3/5/13/25). The iPhone 4 came with 32GB storage max, the 4S doubled that to 64GB and the iPhone 5 kept it at 64GB, so maybe it really is time for another step up.

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The official announcement should come on September 10. Stay Tuned on ECB!

President Obama vetos iPhone sales ban, Samsung disappointed

The administration of the US President Barack Obama has recently issued a veto on the pending sales ban of certain older Apple products (the iPad 2 or earlier and the iPhone 4 or earlier). Following a ruling of the US International Trade Commission (ITC) back in early June, the products were supposed to be banned from selling because of violation of a certain Samsung-owned standards-essential patent.

The Obama administration stepped up and disproved the ITC determination to issue an exclusion order and cease and desist order due to its effect on “competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.” This action is entirely in the competence of the President’s office although this block of the ITC ban is said to be the first of its kind since the Reagan administration in 1987.

Obama’s office reminds of “the potential harms that can result” from using standards­-essential patents for “gaining undue leverage and engaging in “patent hold­up”. It reminds that standards­-essential patents should be easily accessible for licensing under FRAND terms, which, they consider, was not the case with this Samsung’s patent.

Back in June, the ITC ruled that Apple was violating one of Samsung’s smartphone and tablet-related patents. Due to that decision, Apple was about to face bans on the sales of certain AT&T iPhone and iPad models. Apple was highly disappointed because they claimed Samsung would readily license the said patent to anyone else interested, yet it insisted on a sales ban in Apple’s case.

Companies holding standards­-essential patent such as the one in question, are obliged to license these to third parties on terms that are Fair, Reasonable, And Non­Discriminatory (hence FRAND). According to Apple, in this case Samsung was far from offering them FRAND licensing terms.

Up until now Apple was appealing the ITC’s initial ruling and the Commission was supposed to come up with a final ruling on August 9.

Fortunately, the block does not mean the patent holder is not entitled to a compensation, just on the contrary.

Samsung has already responded to the decision of the president’s office:

“We are disappointed that the U.S. Trade Representative has decided to set aside the exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC’s decision correctly recognized that Samsung has been negotiating in good faith and that Apple remains unwilling to take a license.”

Quite expectedly, Apple’s stance on the President’s office decision is just on the contrary:

We applaud the Administration for standing up for innovation in this landmark case. Samsung was wrong to abuse the patent system in this way.

We are yet to see which direction this thing takes. It’s more than obvious that the Apple vs. Samsung patent brawls are already getting out of hand. It’s getting increasingly harder to tell who’s right and who’s wrong.

Happy 6th anniversary, iPhone!

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On this day six years ago, the original iPhone went on sale at Apple and AT&T stores in the United States – following six months of unbelievable hype and media frenzy that I suspect won’t repeat anytime soon. It’s somewhat hard to grasp that it’s been six years already and that the original Jesus phone, as the media nicknamed it, was so rapidly obsoleted by subsequent models that it’s now become a piece of history itself.

A lot has changed since June 29, 2007. The iPhone back then didn’t have the App Store and was pitched as three devices in one: a “widescreen iPod with touch controls,” a“revolutionary mobile phone” and a “breakthrough Internet communicator”.

Today, it’s anything you want it to be thanks to smart developers who pour their heart and soul into their apps, and there are now 900,000+ of them in the App Store. It’s fair to say there’s a world of difference between 2007 and 2013 in terms of mobile technology, here’s why…

The landscape was radically different  back then.

Nokia was the top dog in cell phones. Poor Samsung was an also-ran. Cocky Research In Motion ruled the boardroom. And nobody could touch greedy carriers. Back then, Steve Jobs hadn’t lost yet his tremendously courageous and bravely public fight against cancer that would take his life four years later, on October 5, 2011.

In introducing the iPhone during the January 2007 keynote, he put up a great show and arguably the best product presentation ever.

Back then, there were no stupid patent infringement lawsuits than span continents because established handset makers were in a state of shock when the iPhone sold its first millionth unit just 74 days after introduction so they weren’t even thinking about copying Apple’s technology.

This is also gold: Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer trash-talking the iPhone.

Talk about the lack of insight.

So today things are so different yet very familiar.

Gizmodo is blacklisted from Apple’s media events. And, believe it or not, we’ve come alive through Antennagate, Glassgate, Mapsgate and other fabricated scandals. Yes those were real issues, but blown way out of proportion.

The media is hating on Apple so much that it’s beyond belief.

Yet, this isn’t surprising as journalists, analysts and business executives have pronounced Apple death sentences over the years. In fact, according to Bryan Chaffin at the Mac Observer, Apple is pronounced dead or dying every few weeks.

Apple is being called out for its slipping market share, as if the company ever led the pack in terms of market share. Quite the opposite, since its inception the iPhone has captured the bulk of industry profits with a tiny share of the handset market.

Back then, the iPhone took crappy pictures and couldn’t shoot video.

Today, it captures full HD footage and takes eight-megapixel snaps, and will soon enter the twelve-megapixel territory with the introduction of the iPhone 5S later this year. Small wonder that the top three most popular cameras on Flickr are iPhones.

Back then, the summer was for the new iPhone.

In 2011, the trend reversed and now new iPhones get introduced in Fall, closer to the start of the all-important holiday shopping season. Back then, everyone wanted an iPhone because competition couldn’t offer a comparable experience as it was in dire straits.

Nowadays, competition is heightened.

Rivals are becoming increasingly aggressive in their marketing pitches and advertising against Apple, carriers are back on their feet and balking at Apple and click-hungry bloggers are throwing mud at the company over the iOS 7 icons that most happen to like after all.

If you just glance at tech headlines these days, Apple has lost its cool and is doomed.

Yet, the iPhone remains America’s top selling smartphone, the most profitable product and the top brand in terms of customer satisfaction – and those are metrics money can’t buy – so Apple must be doing something right after all.

Indeed, it doesn’t take a genius to see who’s the king of the sea and who’s the bottom feeder who pays students to lambast the iPhone in web comments, lives off other people’s ideas and derides Apple with every ad in the hope of painting itself comparable with Apple.

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Yes, competition has caught up with Apple – and in some cases overtaken it, mostly in terms of meaningless features that are outside of Apple’s primary focus. No, there is nothing wrong with top smartphones from Samsung, Nokia, BlackBerry, HTC et al.

But that after six years nobody came close to creating their own unique experiences that are as lively, delightful and seamless as the iPhone tells me little has changed in terms of innovation since 2007 as most vendors remained complacent.

So instead of throwing mud at Apple, naysayers should applaud Apple.

Because, if it weren’t for the iPhone, carriers would still control everything. There would be nothing like the App Store where a guy in a living room could make a fortune writing mobile apps. Vendors would be churning out cheap plasticky devices and paying little attention to industrial design and seamless integration.

And smartphones would have never become as pervasive and integral to our lives.

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And with iOS 7, Apple has taken a step in the right direction, in many ways breathing new life into its mobile operating system. Not only does it look prettier and easier on the eyes, iOS 7 will spur developers to re-think and de-clutter their apps, ushering in a new era of clean yet sophisticated software design.

And when your favorite apps get updated with iOS 7 look and feel, you’ll realize why speeds and feeds don’t really matter much and why the iPhone is such an iconic smartphone.

Disagree with me, vilify me or call me stupid – but the iPhone isn’t going anywhere.