Biometric AirPods might fit better than ever

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airpods
We're ready for new AirPods.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Left and right ear versions of AirPods could soon be a relic of the past, based on one of Apple’s most recent patents that envisions a one-size-fits-all version of earbuds.

Apple’s completely redesigned AirPods aren’t expected to arrive until 2020, but if they use some of the tech proposed in the recently disclosed filing, they could be the smartest earbuds we’ve ever seen.

Apple has an idea to make Animoji even more fun

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animoji
Sound effects could play a bigger role in Animoji.
Image: Apple

Apple is rightly proud of its Animoji and Memoji technology, which uses the front-facing camera on new iPhones to create cartoonish avatars of users — complete with facial expression matching.

But the tech could be about to get even more fun, as described in a recent patent application. Here’s how.

‘Patent troll’ sues Apple over AirDrop technology

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AirDrop shortcut
AirDrop lets you send files between devices.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple introduced its super useful AirDrop file transfer feature way back in 2011. However, a patent licensing company called Uniloc — sometimes referred to as a “patent troll” by critics — claims that Apple is infringing on its intellectual property.

Uniloc says that Apple’s AirDrop tech infringes on a patent first filed in 2000, a decade before Apple debuted AirDrop. And it wants some sweet Apple cash for its troubles!

Apple Watch could get always-on display mode

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watchOS 4 is great and all, but what's coming in watchOS 5?
Apple is fighting OLED burn-in for an always-on display.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is developing an always-on display mode for Apple Watch, a new patent application reveals.

The feature would give users the ability to see the time — and possibly other information — without having to raise their wrist every time. But Apple wants to make sure OLED burn-in doesn’t become a problem.

Don’t even think about copying Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater

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steve jobs theater
The Steve Jobs Theater as it appears today.
Photo: Apple

Apple is rightly proud of its Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus, and now it’s got the design patent to stop others copying it.

The attractive circular glass building gives way to a 1,000 underground auditorium — complete with hidden walls, high tech projection system, and leather chairs which set Apple back a reported $14,000 apiece.

Apple must pay $145.1 million for infringing on patents

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money
Apple has battled WiLan in court before.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple has been ordered to pay out $145.1 million in damages for infringing on patents held by the Canadian patent licensing company WiLan.

A federal jury in San Diego, California ruled that the iPhone infringed on two WiLan patents. These “8,457,145” and “8,537,757” patents relate to wireless communications tech — specifically bandwidth request protocols in a wireless communication system and adaptive call admission control.

Your Apple device could one day warn you against spending too long in the sun

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Apple Watch tan line
There's a difference between a healthy tan and sunburn. Your Apple device might soon know it.
Photo: Jjprojects/Flickr CC

Your iPhone can track your number of steps, and your Apple Watch can advise you if you have an erratic heart rate you might want to get checked out by a doctor. Could your friendly neighborhood Apple device also one day let you know if you need to put on more sunscreen, too?

That’s the basis for a new patent application published today. And rather than just being in response to sunny days on Apple’s Weather app, it’s actually pretty darn smart technology. Here’s how it might operate.

Facebook’s scary plan to record your conversations while you watch TV

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the Facebook logo on an iPhone 6 Plus
Facebook’s new patent is as worrying as it sounds.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Some believe Facebook is already using our smartphones to hear our private conversations. That’s not true, but the social network is certainly considering it.

Facebook has applied for a new patent that describes a method of tapping into our microphones to listen to our reactions to TV ads. It’s just as invasive as it sounds.

Legal battle may be to blame for Apple breaking its FaceTime promise

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FaceTime
Apple's open wish for FaceTime never happened.
Screenshot: Apple

At WWDC, Apple revealed that it will finally make it possible to do FaceTime group calls for up to 32 people. That’s great news — provided that all your friends, family and co-workers use Apple devices.

But it didn’t have to be like this. Back in 2010, when Steve Jobs introduced FaceTime, he made a big point about how it was set to become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple’s competitors, as well as Apple. Nearly a decade on, that still hasn’t happened. And now a theory has emerged as to why.