Apple Weekly News Roundup: Public iOS 9 beta released, first HomeKit thermostat hits the shelves and more

Apple releases first iOS 9 public beta.

Last week was relatively uneventful compared to the previous week, in which Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) launched Apple Music and Beats 1 as part of the iOS 8.4 update. There were several noteworthy items, however, including the first release of the public iOS 9 beta among others.

Apple released several betas over the course of last week, beginning on Wednesday with iOS 9 beta 3 and the latest betas of OS X 10.11 El Capitan and WatchOS 2, all for developers. On Thursday the company released the first public betas of iOS 9 and El Capitan.

iOS 9 will introduce the News app, which will collect stories from a variety of sources based on your preferences and habits. Notes has gained a number of new features, including the ability to make checklists, draw sketches and add maps, photos and URLs to your notes. You will also be able to share items with Notes from within other apps. Maps will include public transit and Wallet will accept more cards, including store credit cards and rewards cards. Siri has also been improved, becoming more proactive and efficient, and Photos has added two new photo albums - Screenshots and Selfies.

Third party iPhone accessories with packaging co-designed by Apple surfaced last week. This gives Apple more control over the presentation and marketing of the products, which is part of retail head Angela Ahrendts and chief design officer Jony Ive's plan to give Apple Stores a more upscale ambience.

Apple Stores also began selling the Ecobee3 smart thermostat last week. It is the first connected thermostat that is compatible with HomeKit and, as such, can be remotely monitored and controlled by an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. We are in the early stages of Apple's Connected Home program, which should ramp up moving forward. Rumor has it that Apple plans for the next generation Apple TV to serve as a hub for HomeKit and its associated accessories.

Big pharma has taken notice of Apple's Research Kit, as both GlaxoSmithKlein and Purdue Pharmaceuticals revealed that they are investigating the app's applicability to their research and development programs. So far, Research Kit has largely been used by researchers at medical centers, universities and non-profits.

A pair of Apple patents surfaced last week. The first is simple enough, albeit questionable in practicality - magnetic EarPods will stick together and supposedly make them easier to store and less likely to tangle. The second involves a continuous handwriting interface and processing capability, that could come into play when Apple introduces a stylus.