Powerbeats2 owners begin to receive payments from $9.75M settlement

Owners of Apple’s Powerbeats2 headphones who filed as claimants in a $9.75 million class action lawsuit began to receive payouts this week, with some eligible for up to $189 per proof of purchase.

Customers who submitted claims informed MacRumors on Tuesday that funds resulting from the 2017 lawsuit are now being processed. A screenshot of one such receipt shows a payout of $114.12.

Filed in the Superior Court of California by plaintiffs Latanya Simmons and Kevin Tobin on behalf of a wider class of device owners, the case alleged Powerbeats2 hardware contains a design defect that causes the device to stop retaining a charge. Specifically, plaintiffs said the product failed to charge or turn on “after a short amount of time” during the course of normal use, including when coming in contact with moisture.

An initial version of the complaint targeted Apple’s advertisement of both Powerbeats2 and Powerbeats3, which touted product robustness, waterproofness and extended battery life. Apple’s warranty replacement system was also questioned in the suit.

Apple denied the allegations and no judgment was made in the case as both parties agreed to a settlement in January 2020.

Owners who bought a Powerbeats2 device prior to Aug. 7, 2020, were eligible to file a claim worth up to $189 with proof of purchase.

Powerbeats2 debuted in 2014 and was replaced by Powerbeats3 in 2016. The current iteration, Powerbeats4, hit stores in early 2020.

Phil Schiller testifies about Apple data collection, App Store favoritism

Apple Fellow Phil Schiller took the stand for the second day in a row in the Epic Games v. Apple trial, revealing details ranging from data collection to an influencer program for Apple Arcade.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Schiller was asked by Epic’s lawyers about the kind of information that Apple collects from its users, including data for ad personalization, location “tracking,” and storage time limits for said information.

For example, Schiller shot down accusations that Apple collects data to track its users, claiming that location services is about “geographically relevant applications” and not tracking where users are. Epic’s lawyers pointed out that users can’t stop Apple from collecting this information, but can opt out of getting targeted ads. When asked whether Apple collects “a lot of information” about its users, Schiller said he didn’t agree.

The Apple Fellow also laid out some of the reasons why the Cupertino company does not allow stores-within-stores on the App Store.

“All the apps and services that are delivered through those stores are not reviewed by App Review,” Schiller said. Allowing alternate app stores could open the door to “an unbounded number of stores within stores,” he added.

Schiller also revealed that the company’s Apple Arcade team was working on a plan to reach out to internet influencers in an effort to boost the gaming platform. He defined influencers as “people who create vlogs on YouTube and other social media channels.”

The executive also defended a now-removed Apple guideline that instructed developers not to go to the press with their App Store complaints. Schiller said Apple didn’t want disputes with developers to be fought publicly, and said that media outlets often don’t have “all the facts.” That guideline has since been removed.

When questioned about whether Apple favors its own apps in App Store search ranking, Schiller refuted that claim. Instead, he says the algorithm uses 42 different factors that “help the customer find what they’re most looking for,” regardless of whether the results show Apple apps more prominently.

Schiller also discussed Apple’s use of open source software, the institution of in-app payments, differentiating iMessages from texts, Apple’s first-party Contacts app and more.

On Monday, Schiller revealed more about other Apple policies, including details on its premium content provider program and the fact that Epic Games’ lawsuit helped push through the small business program that slashes commissions to 15% for developers making less than $1 million on the App Store.

Apple TV+ orders Jack McBrayer kids series 'Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show'

Apple TV+ has ordered a new kids series called “Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show,” co-created and hosted by Jack McBrayer.

The show is said to invite preschoolers into a world where “a little act of kindness can change the world,” according to Variety. McBrayer and a host of guest stars will inspire kids to solve problems with the “Three C’s — caring, connecting, and cascading from one person to another.”

McBrayer co-created the series with Angela C. Santomero. It will feature original music from the band OK Go.

McBrayer is best known for his role as Kenneth Parcell in NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” which earned him an Emmy nomination in 2009. Santomero has a history in children’s television, having co-created “Blue’s Clues,” among other series.

Both McBrayer and Santomero will serve as executive producers on “Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show.” It will be produced by 9 Story Media Group and animated by Oscar-nominated studio Brown Bag Films.

Tony Hernandez, John Skidmore, Wendy Harris, and Vince Commisso will also executive produce the series. Guy Toubes will serve as showrunner, while early childhood education professor Junlei Li will serve as the show’s “Kindness and Human Connection Expert.”

Rumor: 'Apple Watch Series 7' to feature flat edges, green color option

The “Apple Watch Series 7” could feature a new squared-off design similar to the iPhone 12 or iPad Pro, and may also come in a green color akin to AirPods Max.

Prolific leaker Jon Prosser shared the “Apple Watch Series 7” rumors in the latest episode of the Genius Bar podcast with Sam Kohl (via Apple Track). Details were scarce, though Prosser hinted that additional information could be arriving in the future.

Prosser called the refresh a “slight redesign,” while Kohl said that the “Apple Watch Series 7” would have a design language similar to Apple’s other recent products.

“I think it makes sense to redesign it to fall in line with Apple’s other products, Kohl said, adding that the edges of the new wearable are similar to Apple’s recent iPad models.

Additionally, the two podcast hosts hinted that the new Apple Watch would come in a green colorway similar to the one available on Apple’s AirPods Max.

Back in September 2020, well-connected TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that an Apple Watch model in 2021 could feature a “significant form factor design change.”

Spotify legal chief calls Apple a 'ruthless bully' that stifles competition

Amid the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple trial, Spotify Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez called Apple a “ruthless bully that uses its dominance to hobble competitors.”

In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Gutierrez said that “Apple’s ability to strangle its competitors is unprecedented,” and used the trial with Epic Games as evidence that “Spotify is no longer alone” in its criticism of the Cupertino tech giant.

Gutierrez also reiterated some of Spotify’s main talking points against Apple, including criticism of the company’s 30% cut of in-app purchases and subscriptions and anti-steering provisions that prohibit developers from advertising non-App Store subscriptions.

“Apple will tell you that this is overwrought, that Spotify is seeking special treatment,” Gutierrez wrote, adding later that Spotify is only looking for “fair treatment.”

The Spotify legal chief also highlighted some of Apple’s current antitrust problems in the U.S. and Europe. In April, the European Commission ruled that Apple was in violation of antitrust law with Apple Music. The U.S. Senate and House are also mulling regulatory changes that could affect Apple’s policies.

Gutierrez, for his part, urged U.S. lawmakers to take action with “urgent, narrowly tailored updates” to competition law in the country.

Spotify in 2019 filed a legal complaint against Apple with the European Commission alleging that the company was using its market to stifle competition.

Microsoft confirms Windows 10X isn't coming in 2021, may never launch

Microsoft has confirmed that it won’t release Windows 10X in 2021, and has suggested that the update in the form it was announced may never see the light of day.

John Cable, Microsoft’s head of Windows servicing and delivery, confirmed on Tuesday that Windows 10X won’t arrive in 2021. Instead, Cable shared plans that Microsoft will incorporate features from the operating system into other parts of Windows.

“Instead of bringing a product called Windows 10X to market in 2021 like we originally intended, we are leveraging learnings from our journey thus far and accelerating the integration of key foundational 10X technology into other parts of Windows and products at the company,” Cable wrote.

This decision follows a year of conversations with customers and other explorations. Cable said that Windows “realized that the technology of Windows 10X could be useful in more ways and serve more customers than we originally imagined.” As such, Microsoft has decided not to confine the technology to just one subset of customers.

Microsoft announced the Windows 10X operating system in 2019 alongside dual-screen devices like the Surface Neo. It was meant to be an evolution of the iconic operating system with a pared-down and simplified design and feature set.

In July 2020, however, reports indicated that development of Windows 10X was delayed. At the time, it was suggested that the operating system could make its debut in 2021. Earlier in May, another report indicated that development may have been scrapped entirely.

Like Microsoft, Apple has also been modernizing its Mac operating system. The latest release, macOS Big Sur, introduced design elements first seen in iOS and iPadOS and laid the groundwork for the transition to Apple Silicon.

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Apple expands self-driving car fleet, reduces number of test drivers

Apple has reportedly increased the number of self-driving cars it is testing on California roads, but has halved the number of drivers licensed to operate them.

According to data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple currently has 68 self-driving test vehicles on the road. This marks the first increase in Apple’s fleet since August 2019.

An Apple report with the DMV from February indicated that the company’s autonomous vehicle technology as a whole seemingly improved. That report indicated that Apple’s fleet doubled its road testing miles in 2020. It also had fewer situations where a human driver had to take over than the year prior.

The new data, first seen by MacReports also indicates that the number of Apple autonomous test drivers has decreased to 76. In October 2020, Apple had 154 licensed drivers, meaning that the number has been slashed by nearly half.

Apple is widely rumored to be developing its own self-driving car technology for use in a future autonomous vehicle project. The most recent reports indicate that the Cupertino tech giant is working to release a full-fledged “Apple Car” by the end of the decade.

Back in January, Apple was said to be in talks with Hyundai and Kia about manufacturing the “Apple Car.” Those negotiations fell through, but Apple is reportedly eyeing other companies as potential partners.

The Cupertino tech giant reportedly has hundreds of engineers working on vehicular technology under the codename Project Titan. A smaller subset of that group is specifically working on a production vehicle, reports have suggested. Although the signs point toward an actual “Apple Car” hitting the market, there’s also a chance that Apple could scrap that plan and release its self-driving technology as a package for other automakers.

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Android 12's 'Material You' UI focuses on customizable colors

Android 12 will provide users with a more personalized appearance as part of its new interface, with the “Material You” concept offering dynamic color selections as well as easier summoning of the Google Assistant.

Marked as a fundamental change in how users can interact with their devices, Material You is a new user interface that effectively brings themes to Android.

Rather than sticking to a single color palette or theme, colors used throughout the operating system and in apps can be altered in various ways. Changeable on a whim, the selections travel with the user via their Google account, and is applied to all connected devices and services.

A Color Extraction feature takes advantage of this customization, by applying colors from within an image to a user interface. For example, main colors from a wallpaper can be incorporated into the rest of the home screen, taking dominant and complementary colors from the image.

The UI elements themselves are also seemingly rounder and chunkier than normal, something which is also shared by widgets and other components. Larger buttons are used in the Quick Settings, while the home screen now gains Home Controls, small icons taking users to essential items like the Google Wallet.

Dynamic lighting is also part of the appearance upgrades. For example, tapping the bottom of the display to wake it will start illuminating the screen from that point, but the origin point of where it lights up changes if you press the power button.

Another change is that a long press of the power button can be used to summon the Google Assistant. This brings it in line with iOS, where Siri can be invoked by a long press of the side button on an iPhone.

Google will be rolling out Android 12 and the Material You concept this fall in its Pixel devices.

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Google driving 'password-free future' with new privacy features

At Google I/O the company said it will be stepping up its privacy options in its apps and services including an option to delete your last search query, with an ultimate goal of eliminating user passwords.

Google took a portion of its Google I/O keynote to tout its privacy credentials, including changes it is introducing to its products and services to improve user safety online.

In 2019, Google added a feature to its accounts to limit how long it saves information about users, and to automatically delete it. During Tuesday’s keynote for Google I/O, the company said it has now made Auto-delete active by default for new accounts, and is currently operational for 2 billion accounts.

As part of its attempt to head to a “password-free future,” Google is improving its password manager with four upgrades. The first is a simplified onboarding process, where users can import passwords from other password managers.

Deeper integration between Chrome and Android is also promised, so passwords can be used across both websites and apps. Automatic password alerts will advise when compromised passwords are discovered in a third-party breach.

A quick-fix feature in Chrome will help navigate users to those compromised accounts, to change the password as quickly as possible.

Google is also touting how its products are “Private by design,” with engineers constantly asking “when, how, and why” personal data is used in its products. “Including for data that is used for ads.”

The search company assured it never sells such data to third parties, doesn’t use data stored by users in its products to serve ads, and never uses sensitive information in such a way.

Google is also collaborating with organizations on the Privacy Sandbox, an open-source initiative that is trying to kill off cookies in favor of new solutions that retains the privacy of users.

There is also the claim that Google has scaled the use of Differential Privacy, the concept of aggregating data to eliminate the ability to identify individuals, more than anyone else. To help developers with it, Google produced the “world’s largest open-source library of differentially-private algorithms.

To give users more control over their data and privacy, Google stressed the presence of privacy controls in the Google Account, as well as app-based features like Chrome’s incognito mode.

New features are also on the way, including the ability to delete the last 15 minutes of search history from their account. This is done by tapping the account profile picture on the Google search pages.

Google Maps will also warn users that they will see their recently or often-viewed locations because the user has Location History turned on, with the option to turn it off within their timeline.

Google Photos for Android devices is also gaining a locked folder, a password-protected folder saved separately from the rest of their collection. The images won’t show up when scrolling through the app casually, or on any other apps on the device.

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Google Assistant research could make queries more conversational

At Google I/O the company introduced LaMDA as a model for generating dynamic responses to queries, which could grant Google Assistant better conversational capabilities

Revealed at Google I/O, LaMDA is a language model for dialogue applications. Citing the improvements in search and Google Assistant results, Google CEO Sundar Pichai mentioned that sometimes the results are not as natural as they could be.

“Sensible responses keep conversations going,” said Sundar, before a demonstration of LaMDA itself.

The idea is a continuation of Google’s BERT system for understanding the context of terms in a search query. By learning concepts on a subject and in language, it can provide more natural-sounding responses, which can flow into a conversation.

In demonstrations, LaMDA is used to demonstrate a conversation with Pluto and a paper airplane. Each LaMDA model held its own part of a conversation with a user, including innocuous questions such as “Tell me what I would see if I visited” resulting in a description of the landscape and frozen icebergs on Pluto’s surface.

Google is still developing LaMDA, and it is “still early research,” Pichai admits, with it currently only working on text at the moment. Google intends to make it multi-modal, to understand images and video alongside text.

Eventually, this could lead to the Google Assistant becoming more conversational in nature for its users. The research may also drive Apple towards further advancements with its own Siri, bringing its own virtual assistant up to speed with the search company’s version, and making it more chatty for users.

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