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Apple unveils iPhone 15 Pro with titanium case, holds line on prices

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Apple unveils iPhone 15 Pro with titanium case, holds line on prices

Apple launched a new series of iPhones that included a new titanium shell, a faster chip and improved video game playing abilities.

The biggest surprise with the iPhone 15 that will come out Sept. 22: It did not raise prices, reflecting the global smartphone slump.

The event at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters comes amid lingering economic uncertainty, especially in China, Apple’s third-largest market where it faces challenges from expanded restrictions on using its iPhones in government offices and the first new flagship phone in several years from Huawei Technologies.

Huawei raised its second-half shipment target for the new Mate 60 series smartphone, which has satellite capability, by 20%, the country’s official Securities Times reported on Tuesday shortly before the Apple event.

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Apple did not deliver any blockbuster surprises, and shares closed down 1.7% after event.

While Apple avoids the terms artificial intelligence, or AI, the technology was the driver of several new features.

An Apple executive said the company used machine learning to detect a person in the frame, allowing users to turn a picture into a portrait immediately or later in the Photos app.

Apple also showed off new watches, including a Series 9 Watch with a feature called “double tap” where users tap thumb and finger together twice, without touching the watch, in order to perform tasks like answering a phone call.

It uses machine learning to detect tiny changes in blood flow when the user taps their fingers together, freeing up the other hand for other tasks like walking a dog or holding a cup of coffee, said Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams.

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Both the Pro and other iPhone 15 models will have a brighter display and a 48-megapixel camera as well as 100% recycled cobalt in their batteries.

Apple said the iPhone 15’s satellite connectivity can now be used to summon roadside assistance. It is rolling out the feature out with the American Automobile Association (AAA) in the United States.

Apple said that USB-C charging cables are coming to both its iPhone 15 and the charging case of its AirPods Pro devices. The move reflects requirements from European regulators to use USB-C and allows the use of the same charging cables already used for iPads and Macs.

“I was expecting Apple to try and spin the all USB-C decision in certain way but they didn’t they were very matter of fact in the way they talked about it,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies. She said the shift “brought some differentiation to the iPhone Pro, because there’s faster throughput for data transfer. That is going to be valuable for people” who use the device for professional photography, Milanesi said.

Apple also said the iPhone 15 Pro can capture what it calls “spatial videos” by using two of the device’s cameras to capture a three-dimensional video. Those videos will be viewable on Apple’s Vision Pro headset that is due out early next year, marketing chief Greg Joswiak said.

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The Pro’s use of titanium makes it lighter and stronger than previous models of other metals.

Bob O’Donnell, head of TECHnalysis Research said the steady prices were a surprise.

“I think both Apple and the carriers recognize that with consumers feeling pressure on their budget and the lack of dramatic changes it’s getting harder to convince people to upgrade. Keeping prices stable should help with that,” he said.

The iPhone 15 costs $799, the iPhone 15 Plus starts at $899 and the Pro series starts at $999. The Pro Max starts at $1,199, the same prices as last year for the same levels of storage. Last year, Apple offered a $1,099 iPhone Pro Max model with less memory.

Apple still relies on iPhone for more than half of its sales, but the global smartphone market has slumped from shipping 294.5 million total phones to 268 million in the second quarter. Apple’s shipments declined the least of any major smartphone maker, dropping from 46.5 million phones to 45.3 million, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

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The outdoor sports-focused Apple Watch Ultra 2 has new features for cycling and diving and what Apple said is the brightest screen it has ever made. The Series 9 will start at $399 and the Ultra 2 watch will start at $799 and be available Sept. 22.

Apple will no longer use leather in any of its products, said Lisa Jackson, the company’s environmental chief. The company is replacing some of those products with a textile called “FineWoven” that it says feel like suede.

Apple made its effort to become carbon neutral by 2030 a focus of the event, including launches of lower-carbon watches.

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Australian lethal mushroom mystery survivor leaves hospital

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Australian lethal mushroom mystery survivor leaves hospital

A survivor of a lethal mushroom poisoning that has gripped Australia has been released from hospital, his family say.

Ian Wilkinson had been left in a critical condition after eating a beef Wellington cooked by Erin Patterson.

Three people, including Mr Wilkinson’s wife, died after the meal, which police believe contained death cap mushrooms, which are lethal if ingested.

Ms Patterson, who is not facing charges, has said it was an accident.

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Mr Wilkinson left hospital on Friday after almost two months of treatment, according to his family.

“This milestone marks a moment of immense relief and gratitude for Ian and the entire Wilkinson family,” they said in a statement.

It is not yet clear if Mr Wilkinson, a Baptist church pastor, has already spoken to police in hospital or whether he can now shed new light on the case.

The fatal lunch was held in Ms Patterson’s home in the small town of Leongatha, Victoria on 29 July.

Ms Patterson had invited her former in-laws Gail and Don Patterson, along with Gail’s sister Heather Wilkinson and Heather’s husband Ian. Ms Patterson’s estranged husband could not attend at the last minute.

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Hours after the meal, all four guests fell ill with what they initially thought was severe food poisoning.

Within days, Heather, 66, Gail, 70, and Don, 70, had died, while Ian, 68, was hospitalised in a critical condition.

Suspicion fell on Ms Patterson because she appeared to remain in good health despite her four guests falling gravely ill.

“I am now devastated to think that these mushrooms may have contributed to the illness suffered by my loved ones,” the 48-year-old said last month.
“I really want to repeat that I had absolutely no reason to hurt these people, whom I loved.”

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OpenAI’s ChatGPT will ‘see, hear and speak’ in major update

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OpenAI's ChatGPT will 'see, hear and speak' in major update

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is getting a major update that will enable the viral chatbot to have voice conversations with users and interact using images, moving it closer to popular artificial intelligence (AI) assistants like Apple’s Siri.

The voice feature “opens doors to many creative and accessibility-focused applications”, OpenAI said in a blog post on Monday.

Similar AI services like Siri, Google (GOOGL.O) voice assistant and Amazon.com’s (AMZN.O) Alexa are integrated with the devices they run on and are often used to set alarms and reminders, and deliver information off the internet.

Since its debut last year, ChatGPT has been adopted by companies for a wide range of tasks from summarizing documents to writing computer code, setting off a race amongst Big Tech companies to launch their own offerings based on generative AI.

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ChatGPT’s new voice feature can also narrate bedtime stories, settle debates at the dinner table, and speak out loud text input from users.

The technology behind it is being used by Spotify (SPOT.N) for the platform’s podcasters to translate their content in different languages, OpenAI said.

With images support, users can take pictures of things around them and ask the chatbot to “troubleshoot why your grill won’t start, explore the contents of your fridge to plan a meal, or analyze a complex graph for work-related data”.

Alphabet’s Google Lens is currently the popular choice to gain information on images.

The new ChatGPT features will be released for subscribers of its Plus and Enterprise plans over the next two weeks.

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SEC collects Wall Street’s private messages as WhatsApp probe escalates

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SEC collects Wall Street's private messages as WhatsApp probe escalates

The U.S. securities regulator has collected thousands of staff messages from more than a dozen major investment companies, escalating its probe into Wall Street’s use of private messaging apps, said four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Previously, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had asked the companies to internally review the messages in its investigation of Wall Street’s use of WhatsApp, Signal and other unapproved messaging apps to discuss work.

The two-year crackdown into potential breaches of record-keeping rules initially targeted broker dealers, netting regulators over $2 billion in fines.

While Reuters and other media have reported that the SEC’s “off-channel” communication probe has expanded to investment advisers, its move to review thousands of their staff messages has not previously been reported. It marks an escalation of the investigation and raises the stakes for the companies and the executives concerned by exposing their conduct to SEC scrutiny.

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“It increases risk,” one source said. “The more information you give the SEC, the more you fuel the beast.”

In the latest phase of the probe of more than a dozen investment advisers, the SEC has in recent months asked for messages on personal devices or applications during the first half of 2021 that discuss business, the sources said. It has targeted a selection of employees, in some cases as many as a dozen, including senior executives.

The firms include Carlyle Group (CG.O), Apollo Global Management (APO.N), KKR & Co (KKR.N), TPG (TPG.O), and Blackstone (BX.N), according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter, as well as some hedge funds, including Citadel, said a different person with direct knowledge.

The executives gave their personal phones and other devices to their employers or lawyers to be copied, and messages discussing business have been handed to the SEC, three people said.

That is in contrast to the broker-dealer probes. In those cases, the SEC asked companies to review staff messages and report to the agency how many discussed work. SEC staff reviewed only a sample of messages themselves, according to three sources with knowledge of the previous investigations.

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The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because SEC investigations are confidential.

At least 16 firms including Carlyle, Apollo, KKR, TPG, and Blackstone, have disclosed that the SEC is probing their communications. The firms did not provide further details and did not comment for this story. A spokesperson for Citadel declined to comment.

Government investigations are not evidence of wrongdoing and do not necessarily lead to charges.

An SEC spokesperson declined to comment. Chair Gary Gensler has defended the communications scrutiny, saying record-keeping rules are critical in helping the SEC guard against wrongdoing.

“Now that they have all that data – it is very possible that the SEC will find compliance failures in there somewhere that have nothing to do with the off-channel communications record-keeping issues,” said Jaclyn Grodin, a lawyer at Goulston & Storrs who is not involved in the investigation.

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Private fund fees and expenses, conflicts of interest and preferential treatment of investors are issues the SEC is increasingly focusing on, she noted.

‘SHOOTING FISH’
The problem of keeping tabs on staff communications has dogged Wall Street compliance departments for years. Because companies do not surveil personal messaging channels, using them to discuss business puts SEC-regulated employers in breach of requirements to record all business communications.

The SEC began to home in on Wall Street’s record-keeping problem when JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N) failed to provide documents from at least 2018 pertaining to an unrelated probe, according to a 2021 settlement in which the bank agreed to pay the SEC $125 million to resolve charges over record-keeping lapses.

Suspecting that off-channel chat about deals, trades and other business was rife on Wall Street, the SEC in 2021 opened an inquiry into other broker-dealers’ communications, said two sources. The misconduct proved so pervasive that the agency has been “shooting fish in a barrel,” one said.

The probe is shaping up to be Gensler’s signature Wall Street enforcement initiative, netting multiple big names including Wells Fargo (WFC.N), Bank of America (BAC.N), Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and Morgan Stanley .

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It has generated millions in fees for attorneys, with firms hiring dozens of lawyers to represent both the company and executives worried about their exposure, according to several sources.

‘INVASIVE’
The SEC began approaching investment advisers in October 2022, Reuters previously reported. As with broker-dealers, the SEC initially sought details on investment advisers’ record-keeping policies. It then identified a group of executives and asked the firms to search their devices and report back on what they found.

But the firms resisted, arguing their record-keeping requirements are narrower than broker-dealers’.

In a January letter led by the Managed Funds Association, the industry said the SEC’s request was “invasive” and raised privacy issues. Bloomberg previously reported the letter.

The SEC later demanded that the investment advisers hand over the messages, the sources said.

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The agency is ignoring important differences in investment advisers’ recordkeeping requirements, said Jennifer Han, the MFA’s executive vice president and chief counsel.

“Unilaterally expanding the rules by enforcement actions sidesteps due process and creates a dangerous precedent,” she said in a statement.
 

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