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Rumours are flying around that Apple are considering launching a music streaming service similar to Spotify. The American Billboard magazine reports that Apple have opened "exploratory talks" with record labels about launching such a service.

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Even more surprisingly, the same report suggests Apple are considering launching a version of the iTunes store on Android - which would be a radical departure from Apple's existing mobile strategy.

The move comes as download sales are collapsing in the face of streaming services. Apparently streaming revenues are up 39% year on year - whilst music downloads are down 3.2%... statistics that will surprise no one, if they've been paying attention.

Probably coincidentally, it also emerged today that Apple might soon have to put individual track prices up to account for VAT - which risks making paying to download music on a track-by-track basis even less popular.

Such a move would certainly shake the music streaming business up. Whilst there are plenty of streaming services: Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and so on, none of the big players are yet involved. Apple joining the fray would be a Big Deal - given their marketing power and the fact they control a large proportion of the devices in our hands, they could make an impact - and fast.

The nightmare scenario for the existing providers would be for Apple to drop a huge bombshell - like bundling free streaming with iPhone purchases or their other products. It'd be the same if Amazon did it and bundled music streaming into Amazon Prime, as I hypothesised not so long ago.

Stay tuned for more.

8GB iPhone 5C launches on O2 in the UK

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Despite not officially existing only days ago, it is now already available here in the UK. The iPhone 5C, which has been designed as a budget model (compared to the 5S), has not been selling as spectacularly as Apple had hoped - so they've decided to make it even cheaper.

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To make it happen, they've slashed the internal storage in half - taking it down to 8GB. Which should still be plenty of space for casual users and the non-tech obsessed. The rest of the spec remains familiar: 8 megapixel camera, 4" retina display and powered by Apple's own A6 chip. Plus it of course runs iOS7. So it certainly isn't a bad phone.

The pricing is also quite attractive: you can get the phone for only £50 on a £28/month tariff, or for free if you sign up for £43/month (excellently, this latter package comes with a stonking 8GB of data allowance).

Whether this will make a difference in the 5C's fortunes remains to be seen - but it should make an attractive alternative to the currently lowest-end iPhone, the ageing iPhone 4S.

Google Play Games platform coming to iPhone

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Whoops, someone at Google has hit the "publish" button too early and spilled the beans on the company's plans to launch their gaming platform - Google Play Games - on iOS devices (ie: iPhone and iPad).

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Baked in by default to newer versions of Android, Play Games works a bit like Apple's Game Center, providing developers with a common platform on which to share game data. In other words, it will manage high score tables, multiplayer invites, achievements and even cloud-saved games. What makes this particularly intriguing is that it could work across platforms - bridging the Android/iOS divide and enabling iPhone users to challenge Android friends at multiplayer games.

This isn't all - Google have also announced plans to upgrade Play Games, and enable users to send each other in-game gifts - presumably driven by Google Plus. This means that now rather than spend all of your hard-earned real money on pretend Candy Crush money, you can now take the virtual begging bowl to your friends to fuel your addiction too.

This was all set to be revealed at the Game Developers Conference on the 18th March - so if you're going, try to act surprised when they tell you about it.

It's the year 2000 AS (After Steve) and two armies are at war - fighting over the sacred ground at Cupertino. What's being disputed is an ancient schism in the Apple religion... which faction is the true successor to Steve? Which side is really following his commandments better?

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(Picture source here)

The schism was caused by Steve's death. Just over a year after Steve sent down a tablet that would change the world, he died and things became a little too ambiguous. The ancient scribes at Trusted Reviews recorded it contemporaneously.

On the one hand, there was the Isaacson sect, who believed that Steve really did mean for Apple to produce a full Apple TV set - apparently telling Isaacson "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use" in one of his last interviews.

On the other hand, there were the Yukari Kane followers - a breakaway sect that tweeted their 95 theses - the gist of which was that Steve never intended for Apple to manufacture a TV set.

The Kanenites - as they became known - followed not just the iBook of Jobs, but another, newer testament that is regarded as blasphemous by Isaacson followers. Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs was published in March 2014, only a few years after Steve's death. This argued the heresy that in Steve's final year, during a conclave of his top 100 executives and managers, when asked about his desire for a full Apple TV set, he answered an unambiguous "No".

The text goes on to claim that Jobs explained "TV is a terrible business. They don't turn over and the margins suck".

There doesn't appear to be any end in sight for this latest sectarian violence - though moderate voices on both sides are calling for compromise, by recognising the Apple TV set top box as a half-way between the two polarised worldviews.

Apple Maps to get iOS8 revamp?

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Many thought that Apple had lost its way when it released the Apple Maps back in 2012 - just like many of their users did when they had to use the terrible software. Rumours are abound though that iOS 8 - the next incarnation of Apple's mobile operating system - could see a major revamp, with a lot of the problems hopefully sorted out.

Just yesterday, Apple launched iOS 7.1, which apart from a few minor visual tweaks added support for "Carplay" - Cupertino's attempt to make your phone your in-car computer too. As you might expect, this has a big mapping component so suggestions that Apple are refocusing on getting navigation right.

According to 9to5Mac, most of the changes will be under the hood - with improvements sought to the Apple Maps database. This means things like improving the labels on key places (train stations, big buildings, etc) and adding more points of interest, so searches won't turn up blank.

To get this done, Apple have spent the last year shopping around and buying up a number of different mapping companies. Broadmap, for example, apparently focuses on transport and indoor mapping. Similarly, they've snapped up Embark, who have made popular public transport apps for the iPhone in the past and Hopstop who have done similar.

So I think it is fair to say we can expect improvements to Apple Maps' public transport directions.

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Intriguingly, 9to5Mac also reckon Apple are working on an augmented reality component to Maps - so users will be able to hold up their phone and have directions superimposed over the live camera image of where to go. This all stems from the above patent. We'll believe it when we see it.

The elephant in the room of course, is mapping kings Google - who are known to employ hundreds of people just to work on maps - and who repeatedly scour satellite photos and make sure the maps match the reality. Whether Apple have the manpower to compete with this is unknown, but let's face it - if anyone can stare down Google, it's Apple.

Are Apple planning big things for Apple TV?

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There's a number of intriguing rumours this morning about Apple's plans for Apple TV box. When it was launched by Steve Jobs in 2007, it was described as little more than a hobby - but now it seems so much more than that.

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The folks at 9to5 Mac have been engaged in a little Kremlinology and have been attempting to discern what is going on inside Mountain View from the outside. The big shift appears to be on the Apple website's store, which has graduated Apple TV to a fully fledged section of the store. This suggests that Apple are increasingly seeing it as the fifth pillar in Apple's product range after the iPhone, iPad, iPod (remember those?) and Mac.

This tallies with the increased output from the Apple rumour mill regarding the device - which if they're all correct (perhaps unlikely) the next Apple TV will feature the following features:

Proper App Store Integration - Previously the box has only had a handful of apps available, but the suggestion is Apple are going the route of iOS and will allow developers easier access. Perhaps the new box will even run a version of iOS itself, to make development super easy?

Proper Game Controller Support - Apple have recently codified a standard for iOS game controllers, and the suggestion is that this will also hook up to Apple TV, meaning the Apple TV will be able to compete with the home consoles like Xbox One and PS4 (or perhaps more realistically, the smaller scale consoles like the Ouya).

Built in TV Tuner - One rumour doing the rounds suggests that the next Apple TV will also have a TV-in, and work like the Xbox One to provide a TV guide/swishy interface to control your satellite or cable box.

Built in Airport Express Router - And finally there's a rumour that the future box will also include a built-in router. The idea being that if the Apple TV is the hub for your home network, it will be plugged directly into the wall, and thus have better internet speeds for streaming video and the like.

So will any of these pan out? The last iteration of Apple TV was announced a year ago yesterday, and the version before was launched in March 2012, suggesting we're in the part of the year when Apple are likely to make an announcement - so should we expect one soon? Let us know what you think in the comments.

One of the best lesser-known functions of Apple's small Apple TV box is the ability to use AirPlay. AirPlay enables iPhone, iPad and Mac users to transmit the screen on their device to the TV - so you can share photos, videos, or even your whole screen on the largest screen in the house. It's great for, say, if you're planning a trip and don't want everyone crowding around the iPad to look at the map, as you can just throw it up on to the telly.

But did you know that if you already have a Mac or a PC with a big screen, you don't actually need an Apple TV to make this happen? A clever company called Air Squirrels have come up with two pieces of software: Reflector and AirParrot. Which work together to send and receive pictures from another machine. I've tested these with Reflector running on a Windows 7 machine hooked up to my living room TV - with AirParrot running on my Macbook Pro.

Reflector

Reflector is the software for your screen, and costs $12.99 (£8ish) and works with Mac and PC. Once installed it'll sit in your taskbar and listen.

If you then go to your iPad or iPhone and, assuming you're running iOS7, swipe up to bring up the tray where you can toggle wifi/etc, you should see a new "Airplay" button - press on this and suddenly your computer screen will pop up with your iPhone display!

It's quite bizarre to see at first - but it works. What you see on your phone will be displayed on the telly with only a split second of lag. Even the camera works.

A number of apps - such as Photos and YouTube have special built-in AirPlay functionality - and will send photos to the screen so they display nicely in landscape without any fiddling about. Brilliant.

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If you're a Mac computer user, you may have also noticed the "Airplay" icon appear in the bar at the top - and yes, using Reflector you can send your Mac's screen to Reflector for it to mirror - or you can even use the Reflector screen to extend your desktop - like if you'd plugged in a second monitor.

The only drawback here is that if you send your computer screen over, it'll appear in a smaller window on your other computer - with a border like an iPhone. I'm not sure if this is a programming limitation or deliberate on the part of Air Squirrels, but there is one solution...

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AirParrot

AirParrot is an app for PC and Mac that can send the screen to AirPlay receiving devices - like an Apple TV or a computer running the aforementioned Reflector software. This'll set you back $9.99 (£6ish). If you're a Mac user, the utility in the software in somewhat diminished as if you're running Mac OS Mavericks (the most recent operating system update), your computer will already support AirPlay - but if you're running Windows, AirParrot can let you join in the AirPlay fun.

There are benefits to running AirParrot even if you have a Mac. For a start, you get many more controls over exactly what happens with the transmitted picture. In preferences, you can shift the framerate, the video quality, and even adjust the underscan - perfect if you're running it on a TV. You can even switch the display of the mouse cursor on and off. Perhaps the biggest boon though is that you can mirror or extend your desktop to the AirPlay full screen - rather than be stuck with a border.

You can also choose to stream specific apps to the other screen - so rather than have friends or colleagues see what browser tabs you have open, you can choose to share just that Excel window that - if anyone asks - you were definitely working hard on.

AirParrot can also stream audio to the TV - so you can watch a video full screen on the TV and have it come out of the big home theatre system speakers, and not the weedy tinny things in your laptop.

When trying the audio stream though, it's fair to say it wasn't unproblematic. When you first enable it, AirParrot has to download and install some additional drivers, and then when you try to use it... results are variable. The first few times I tried the app worked fine until the moment my computer had to play a sound - which promptly crashed the app on my computer, as well as the Reflector app running on my Windows PC, and taking out the Windows taskbar with it - prompting a restart. Other times though, after a quick restart of the app, it has worked fine.

The Verdict

Overall, both apps do something useful, in an easy to use way - and if you already have the kit to make it happen (ie: another computer with a big screen), then it is a much cheaper option than splashing out on an Apple TV, if AirPlay sharing is the attraction.

Let's hope that with future updates Air Squirrel can iron out the audio support - but other than that, I'd thoroughly recommend it. At £13 for both, you can't really go wrong, can you?

Please, Apple - Kill Newsstand!

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For a company known for making cutting edge hardware and software, with a huge focus on design and user experience, Apple have still made one or two weird decisions.

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"Hey, how about we force all of one specific type of app to hide inside a folder, whether they want to or not?"

"Great idea - why don't we do this to apps from an industry that is already experiencing huge financial problems, so we can prevent them from getting any more exposure?"

That's right - I'm talking about Newsstand, the iPhone and iPad app designed to hold all of your magazine and newspaper apps. Inexplicably, Apple forces these to sit inside Newsstand - despite the only thing differentiating them from other apps being that their legacy product used to be printed on physical paper. It's almost as inexplicable as making all of your social networking apps sit inside a "Filofax" folder, because you used to have to carry a physical contact book around in the olden days.

And why is this a big deal? Think about your homescreen - you've got all of these colourful icons fighting for your attention - are you going to check your Facebook... maybe play some Fruit Ninja... are you really going to spot that drab Newsstand icon and remember that you can read a newspaper in there when you've got the BBC News app and a host of less relevant apps competing for your attention whilst sat one less button press away?

On a technical level it makes no sense either - Newsstand isn't a container for magazines in the same way that you need to read books in the Kindle App (or MS Word documents in MS Word, say) - all Newsstand does is launch a standalone app built by the newspaper or magazine. These apps vary in quality from just essentially PDF readers to fully blown wizz-bang app experiences. There's surely very little difference between, say, The Times app and Flipboard - other than that The Times is also printed on paper occasionally.

"But James, I don't see what the big deal is - people will still know where the newspapers are if they want to find them, right?".

The further problem comes when you look at the wider context for the news industry: times are tough, thanks in large part to technology like the iPhone. In the old days, making profitable news was relatively easy: print the news on to some paper, and sell it to people - and supplement the sale price by also selling advertising inside. Unfortunately for the papers technology came along: no one pays to read the news online.

Technology has also hurt advertising: why would you advertise in the newspaper, when you can run better targeted adverts online, and get better data on who is looking at the adverts and who is clicking? And similarly - classified ads, which used to be a mainstay of (especially local) newspapers are now a thing of the past, as everyone sells their wares using eBay, Amazon and even Facebook.

When apps turned up, it was the first potentially good news in a long time for journalism: unlike the web, there's a built in mechanism for making small payments - so maybe, just maybe it might pay to write the news again. And whilst there may still be that hope, Apple certainly aren't helping by ghettoising the news. Come on Apple - give the news it's status back!

Why did Apple make Mavericks and iLife free?

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Yesterday's Apple event was interesting for a number of reasons - and not just because they unveiled the iPad Air and new iPad Mini. It seems they've decided to use all of those spare billions in the bank to take on Microsoft in a big way.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook's presentation was littered with digs at MS throughout - at the start slagging off the hybrid laptop/tablet Surface (though never mentioning it by name), and later referring to people who are "stuck on PCs". This was only the rhetoric though - the announcements were the substance.

In the eternal fight between the two software giants, however shiny Apple's latest device was, Microsoft have always had something they can rely on: Boring old Windows and Boring Old Microsoft Office. These are Microsoft's cash cows - and Tim Cook seems to have a beef with them.

These cash cows are important to Microsoft because they're reliable. No matter how badly they misjudge, say, the Xbox One or the tablet market, it's not game over as there's always going to be a reliable income stream from PC manufacturers wanting to run Windows (essentially the only game in town if you're not using Apple hardware). Similarly, there will always be a queue of besuited business drones ready and waiting to buy the latest upgrade to Microsoft Office. And there's no danger of these revenue streams going away... right? Umm...

Last night Apple announced that their new operating system, Maverick, as well as their Office-equivalent iLife apps are going to be completely free. By comparison, Windows 8 will currently set you back around £70, and Microsoft Office starts from around £100.

There's a number of benefits of doing this for Apple. One thing Apple have learned is a huge benefit in mobile is preventing OS fragmentation - with users all running a large number of different (older) versions. On mobile, because upgrading to iOS7 is so easy they've managed to convert 64% of iOS users in only a few weeks (compare to mobile rival Android - how many are running the latest version? How many are still running the really old version?).

This is useful because not only does it make development easier, but also means users will have a more consistent experience between devices (and conveniently, Maverick users will all have the Mac app store front and centre to download and buy software). By releasing a free Mac OS update they could do the same thing for laptops and desktops - now existing Mac users have no real reason not to update.

By comparison, Windows is a bit of a mess - with a large proportion of users still running Windows 7, Windows XP or - god help them - Windows Vista.

Esoteric technical considerations aside though - it also sets down a massive challenge to Microsoft to match what they're doing. Are Dell and other manufacturers going to be happy paying big money for Windows when the rival operating system is free? Will Microsoft take the bait and cut off one of their biggest revenue streams?

Similarly, on the Office front business users will now be able to look at a cheaper alternative - with free cloud support too for document collaboration and the like. That's got to make switching seem pretty tempting - even if MS Office is fairly grandfathered into business processes by this point.

So what will it mean if Apple can put a dent into Microsoft's revenues? Well - they won't be able to do as much and will be able to compete less effectively. It's going after the opposing army's supply lines.

Don't get me wrong - Microsoft aren't going anywhere any time soon, but this is going to reshape the dynamics of the battlefield. Things just got interesting on desktops again.

7 great image editing apps for Mac OS

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Mac OS has always been known for being much better for graphics and images than Windows - and it's easily demonstrated by the large suite of software available to make your photos just that bit better. So here's our pick of seven top image editing apps available for Mac OS.

10 best new free iPhone games

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The iPhone is chock-full of games available for download - but what's been happening lately? What games should we be getting excited about on the platform?

Warning: This feature could seriously eat up a lot of your time - not directly, but eventually. If you're a known procrastinator, please treat these recommendations with the utmost care.

5 other things you didn't know that iOS7 did

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Now everyone knows that iOS7 makes your phone waterproof... right? Or at least, that's what some realistic adverts created by the lovable trolls at 4Chan would make you think. Over the last few days some rather unfortunate internet users have been testing this new functionality out - with some fishy results.

So the jury is still out on waterproofing - but did you know iOS7 can do a whole lot more than that? Here's five other things that you didn't know iOS7 can do.

iphone-5s-r-2.jpgProving that Apple malaise hasn't fully kicked in yet, the Cupertino tech giants have just announced that a record-breaking nine million of the new iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C handsets were sold over their launch weekend.

That's a substantially larger number than the five million sold during the iPhone 5's launch weekend, though it obviously wasn't being propped up by the newly-introduced, cheaper 5C last year.

Though US retailers are claiming that the iPhone 5S (now sold out in the majority of shops) sold in quantities three times as many as that of the iPhone 5C, the large nine million overall sales figure suggests that the colourful 5C did at least hold its own. That's contrary to UK reports suggesting pre-order figures for the handset were dire. Perhaps those hunting an elusive iPhone 5S handset eventually caved and went for the cheaper iPhone 5C instead.

"This is our best iPhone launch yet - more than nine million new iPhones sold - a new record for first weekend sales," says Apple's CEO, Tim Cook.

"The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible, and while we've sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly. We appreciate everyone's patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone."

Click here for a full run down on the iPhone 5S, and here for the low-down on the iPhone 5C.

nokiaappletweet.jpgA simple tweet from Nokia having a knock at Apple's new iPhone 5C handset has become a certified Twitter viral smash.

On the night of the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S launch, Nokia's official Twitter account posted the message "Thanks, #Apple ;)", alongside a picture of the company's colourful Lumia range with the tagline "Imitation is the best form of flattery". It seems as if the Finnish smartphone manufacturers believe Apple took more than a little inspiration from the look of the Lumia's when it comes to the new colourful plastic casing found on the iPhone 5C line-up.

And, even if Lumia sales pale in comparison to iPhones, Twitter users retweeted the hell out of the post. Twitter have revealed that the post was shared and retweeted over 38,000 times since the iPhone's unveiling.

Turn those retweets into some Lumia sales and Nokia/Microsoft would be truly smiling.

iPhone-5s-r-1.jpgIt's only been on sale for three days, but the Apple iPhone 5S's headlining security feature, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, has already been hacked.

It took just a weekend for German security group Chaos Computer Club (CCC) to break the new Apple security measure.

"A fingerprint of the phone user, photographed from a glass surface, was enough to create a fake finger that could unlock an iPhone 5s secured with Touch ID," the group wrote on their blog.

It wasn't exactly a straightforward process though. Anyone trying to replicate the group's process would first have to find a full and clean fingerprint belonging to the iPhone's owner, then photograph it at 2,400 dpi resolution. After that, the image would then need to be inverted and laser printed on a transparent sheet in 1,200 dpi using a thick toner setting. Next, the would-be hacker would have to use latex milk or white wood-glue to create a mould, spreading it onto the transparent sheet, breathing onto the mould to add moisture before pulling off the completed fake fingerprint.

It's all a bit like something out Mission Impossible, but according to the CCC, it was a relatively easy process to pull, especially considering the potential criminal rewards that could be acquired by hacking an iPhone 5S.

"We hope that this finally puts to rest the illusions people have about fingerprint biometrics," said Chaos Computer Club's Frank Rieger.

"It is plain stupid to use something that you can´t change and that you leave everywhere every day as a security token,"

Scroll down to check out the hack being carried out.

ios-7-logo.pngiOS 7 finally finished downloading to your Apple device of choice? Great, then you'll be delighted to hear that Apple already have iOS 7.0.1 ready to download and update your device too!

The update's a fair bit smaller than the sizeable iOS 7 overhaul that launched this week and was masterminded by Apple's Jony Ive, weighing in at just 13.8MB. Hopefully that'll go some way towards easing the server strain that saw many iOS users wait hours to complete their initial iOS 7 upgrades.

Seemingly only rolling out to iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C owners initially (our iPad Mini still hasn't got the iOS 7.0.1 download prompt), the upgrade promises a number of "bug fixes and improvements", top of the list of which is better support for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner in the App Store.

We'll keep you posted as to any new findings the update brings, and when to expect to see it roll out to older devices.

ifixit-5s.jpgIf you fancy yourself as a bit of a whizz with a screwdriver, you may have your work cut out for you with the newly-released iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C smartphones from Apple. According to DIY gadget repair experts over at iFixit, the latest phones from the Cupertino firm are even more difficult to fix at home than their predecessor the iPhone 5.

The iPhone 5S seems to be the trickier of the two to fix, thanks in part to its new integrated Touch ID fingerprint scanner. A weak connection between the sensor and the phone's Lightning port area adds a "small element of danger" to the repair process, according to iFixit.

That's not the only concern with the Touch ID module, with the team worried about its overall durability.

"We worry about how well the sapphire crystal covering can protect it from degrading over time, like most CMOS fingerprint sensors. It could become a ticking time bomb."

Lastly, the battery unit in the 5S is glued into the casing, unlike the pull-out battery buried under the iPhone 5 chassis, adding yet another difficult element to the repair process.

Similar problems were found with the iPhone 5C, which also suffered from a glued-in battery, a screen that could be damaged if a removal was attempted, and a finicky antenna.

Interestingly, iFixit's teardown saw the team unable to identify the new M7 co-motion processor (the newly-added feature which will help lead to improved fitness and motion-tracking apps),leading them to speculate that it is part of the new A7 processor rather than a discrete chip.

Overall, the new iPhones both got a repairability score of six out of 10. While not a shocking result, it does see both drop a point to predecessor the iPhone 5 which scored a seven out of 10, while competitor Samsung's flagship the Samsung Galaxy S4 managed a very respectable eight out of 10.

apple-ios-7-apps-2.jpgApple's lead designer Sir Jony Ive has given a rare interview with USA Today, in which he revealed the speedy turnaround of the company's latest mobile operating system revamp, iOS 7.

Work began on iOS 7 just back in November 2012, said Ive, an incredibly quick development cycle considering it was ready to show to the world by June 2013, and the fact that it is a considerable revamp for the OS.

The Brit-born knight of the realm's decision to remove elements of skeuomorphism from the iOS look has been widely praised. Ive explained that, in a world now accustomed to touchscreens, references back to real-world objects in the design now seemed anachronistic.

"When we sat down last November [to work on iOS 7], we understood that people had already become comfortable with touching glass, they didn't need physical buttons, they understood the benefits," said Ive.

"So there was an incredible liberty in not having to reference the physical world so literally. We were trying to create an environment that was less specific. It got design out of the way."

"I think a lot of people see simplicity as the lack of clutter. And that's not the case at all," continued Ive.

"True simplicity is, well, you just keep on going and going until you get to the point where you go, 'Yeah, well, of course.' Where there's no rational alternative."

While Ive gave no indication as to what was coming next from Apple ("I'd lose my job" claimed Ive, should he momentarily become loose-lipped) he did state the new iPhone 5S Touch ID fingerprint scanner was exactly what he loved about working for the Cupertino company; the way they can integrate complicated features in a way consumers will see as seamless.

"This right here is what I love about Apple, this incredibly sophisticated powerful technology that you're almost not aware of, it absolutely blows me away," said Ive.

"You can't get this without working cross-functionally."

iPhone 5S UK launch tainted by stock shortages

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iphone-5s-r-3.jpgThis morning's launch of Apple's latest flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5S, has been marred by stock shortages, with both Apple's own retail stores and those of the UK networks struggling to meet demand.

iPhone hunters took to Twitter to state that many of Apple's brick and mortar stores sold out of the handset within an hour of going on sale, including the Regent's Street, Cambridge and Cardiff stores. Those hoping to pick up the gold-coloured version of the handset were likely to have even less luck, with the variant said to be available in extremely limited numbers from the offset, selling out first.

O2 customers however seem the unluckiest of all. Speaking to Tech Radar, a spokesperson for the network stated that there was no in-store stock of the 5S, and that a pre-order wait could last as long as a month and a half

"We won't have iPhone 5S stock in stores to sell but customers will be able to place their order with us in-store. They can also order online or over the phone," said the O2 spokesperson. "If customers are in store they'll be able to get a demo of the phone and place their order with the help of one of our store advisors.

A similar situation was found at EE, with limited numbers of handsets being held back to primarily satisfy 4G customers, while those on the Orange and T-Mobile networks (under the EE umbrella) were straight out of luck.

Vodafone stock levels were said to be slightly better with some stock in stores available on a "first come, first served basis", while Three also confirmed that their customers could "go in store or buy online" if they were on the prowl for the 5S.

While the fingerprint-scanning 5S is in short supply then (and will likely fly onto eBay at extortionate prices any minute now), there are still plenty of the iPhone 5C handsets to go around, which appear to have performed very badly at the pre-order stage.

iphone-5c-official-top.jpgThe annual hysteria that surrounds Apple's mobile phone launches seems to be waning, if the latest iPhone 5C pre-order figures from UK network sources are to be believed.

Speaking to The Guardian, an anonymous network source said that the iPhone 5C had managed just a tenth of pre-order numbers previous generations had hit:

"It's been a big disappointment. We are seeing a decline in the number of pre-orders. They are 60% to 70% less than we were expecting, and we didn't expect them to be massively high given it's not the flagship model."

Given that the most successful iPhone launches have racked up between 75,000 and 100,000 pre-orders, it's a very slow start for the new handset. "This is one tenth of those numbers," said the source.

So what's caused the pre-order decline? A number of factors - for starters, this is the first time in iPhone history that two new models have launched simultaneously, so there will inevitably be cannibalization of sales. Keep in mind that the iPhone 5S, not the 5C is the premium device, and yet the price difference is less than £100. With Apple not opening pre-orders for the 5S, and the 5C landing at such an unexpectedly high price, it's likely many would-be iPhone buyers are holding out until this Friday, when the 5S makes its debut in stores.

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