Report: Apple may make it even easier to manage passwords on the iPhone and Mac

Yes, Apple’s long offered an easy way to save usernames and passwords as part of iCloud Keychain and even allowed syncing them across devices for easy sign-ins. However, Apple may soon devote an entire application across platforms to password management.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple will show off a new app called Passwords at WWDC 2024. The app will be a part of, and available on, “iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS 15.” Like iCloud Keychain, the dedicated app can “generate passwords and keep track of them.” 

Reportedly, on iOS or iPadOS, it will move out of Settings and into a dedicated app, while on the Mac, it will leave Safari Settings and turn into a dedicated app. As you might suspect, iCloud Keychain will still be the backbone of this experience.

a promotional image for WWDC 2024 featuring a dark Apple logo on a black background

A teaser image for Apple WWDC 2024. (Image credit: Apple)

The application will be a one-stop shop for password management across Apple devices and be divided into categories. It will support standard logins and passwords, saved Wi-Fi networks, and passkeys that utilize Touch ID or Face ID. Releasing a dedicated password management app will put Apple more directly in competition with third-party services like LastPass, Aura, and 1Password.

Like those, Apple’s Passwords solution will likely support the import of passwords, possibly encouraging folks to opt for the one built into the heart of the platforms.

The latest report also notes that passwords will work on Vision Pro – we’ll note the $ 3,500 Spatial Computer already supports iCloud Keychain for auto-filling – and on Windows computers. It’s unclear if that will be a formal application or a web experience for the latter. Either route, the application will offer the ability to autofill logins and passwords on these devices.

As someone who uses iCloud Keychain, I already appreciate that it works across platforms, and a dedicated application might make it easier to manage them. And if I am searching for a password, it'll be a bit easier to open an app and authenticate versus diving into settings. It will be neat to see if any new features are rolled out, potentially an ability to auto-update logins or passwords after a set amount of time. That's all speculative, though.

Apple will likely unveil the Passwords app alongside a trove of other news at its opening keynote for WWDC 2024. Much of the focus will likely be on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) announcements for all of Apple’s platforms – iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and visionOS.

We’ll know for sure on June 10, 2024, and you can see the other rumored announcements ahead of the World Wide Developers Conference here.

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Chrome report reveals which extension could be slowing down your browser the most

Chrome extensions are a great way to enhance internet browsing, but some of them may be slowing down your browser. The development team behind DebugBear, a web page optimizing service, analyzed 5,000 extensions to see how they impacted Google Chrome. According to their findings, some can cause longer load times on websites although it depends how data is processed. Certain ones are better than others.

DebugBear states extensions that process data “before a page has rendered will have a much worse impact on user experience.” VPNs seem to be among the worst at this, with some causing a full second of delay. It makes sense why load times would be particularly bad with a VPN as they “route traffic through an intermediary server.” Other extensions that may cause long load times include Trancy AI Subtitles and Klarna Pay Later.

Extensions that run their code “after the page has loaded” can also impact Chrome, but to a seemingly lesser extent. Processing times can result in web page slowdown as the software strains the hardware, but not always. The Monica AI Assistant, for instance, was discovered to add “1.3 seconds of processing time;” however, it actually reduces page load speeds. This is because extensions like Monica run “as soon as the page starts loading.” 

Page interactions

Even if an extension doesn’t create slow load times, it may cause slow page interactions, meaning that clicking around on a website may not feel snappy. Avira Password Manager reportedly adds a “160 millisecond delay when clicking on… random content [headings]”. Granted, 160 milliseconds is less than half a second, but we can’t help but wonder if the delays add up.

Let’s say, for example, you have seven extensions, each individually adding a 160 millisecond delay. Now, imagine if all those delays turn into a big performance drop. That’s an entire second of delay added to a webpage. Is this possible? To be honest, we don’t know as DebugBear doesn’t state whether or not the delay of these tools can accumulate.

What is true is that most ad-blockers can improve your browsing experience. Websites with tons of ads directly cause a slowdown, and without an ad-blocker, DebugBear found the average CPU processing time on ad-heavy websites was 57 seconds. With uBlock Origin installed, the time drops “down to just under 4 seconds,” saving your computer precious power.

uBlock Origin appears to be one of the best ad-blockers you can add to Chrome alongside Malwarebytes and Privacy Badger. AdBlock Plus is one of the worst, as it takes up a lot of processing time – over 40 seconds.

What you can do

So, if you’re a frequent Chrome user experiencing a browser slowdown with extensions installed, there isn't much you can do to remedy the issue. Fixing extensions ultimately falls on the developers who made them. But there are a couple of things you can do to help.

First, the easiest thing you can do is uninstall the offending tool or restrict it to only enable on certain sites. DebugBear also recommends using their Chrome Extension Performance Lookup tool to help you find the best, lightweight extensions for the browser.

Be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best ad blockers for 2024. uBlock Origin is the best one, but there are other great options out there.

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Samsung’s XR headset could be launching soon according to a new report

We might not have heard much about it since it was announced in February 2023, but Samsung is apparently still working on the Samsung XR headset (XR being a catchall for VR, MR, and AR), and a new rumor suggests we’ll see it this year.

We know for certain that the Samsung headset is being made in partnership with Google – Samsung has said as much itself – and we know the device will use the Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 chipset according to a Qualcomm announcement, but that’s about it from official channels. Unofficial reports peg the headset as a cheaper Apple Vision Pro rival with high-end performance but a not-so-high-end price tag – with a rumor saying Samsung delayed the headset to help it stand up better against Apple’s device.

This not only means a solid performance but also high-end displays, with it believed the headset will boast dual OLED screens (one for each eye) likely similar to the 1.03-inch OLEDoS display (OLED on Silicon) – with a 3,500 pixel-per-inch pixel density – it showed off earlier this year. 

That said these screens were created by eMagin rather than the Samsung Display team, and Samsung only acquired this company fairly recently so there’s a chance these displays will be reserved for a later headset model (assuming we even see more than one).

Key Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 specs, including that it has support fo 4.3k displays, 8x better AI performance, and 2.5x better GPU performance

The Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 promises big thing for the Samsung headset (Image credit: Qualcomm)

But given the headset was apparently delayed to give the team more time to improve its screens, there’s a chance these impressive OLED panels could make their way into the headset. We hopefully won’t be waiting long to find out if they have. A new report (translated into English) from Korean Economic Daily (nicknamed Hankyung) suggests the Samsung XR headset will drop in the second half of the year.

We should always take rumors with a pinch of salt but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Samsung headset will launch in late 2024 – with it previously being suggested that the Samsung VR headset might arrive alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 6 which is also due to launch in the second half of 2024.

If it is coming this year, let's hope Samsung has had enough time to learn from its rivals' mistakes. Mark Zuckerberg might think the Meta Quest 3 is better than the Vision Pro but it has some issues of its own, and the Vision Pro isn’t perfect either according to all the people sending it back to Apple for a refund.

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Report: Google delays its biggest AI launch of the year, but it’s still coming soon

Google has delayed a series of top-secret artificial intelligence (AI) events that were set to showcase the company’s Gemini generative AI tool, according to The Information. If true, it's another blow to Google’s efforts to compete with the likes of ChatGPT in the AI world – although Gemini is still expected to launch soon.

As detailed in a paywalled report from The Information, the Gemini event was due to take place just days from now, with the first one kicking off next week. Yet Google CEO Sundar Pichai has apparently taken the decision to push it back to January 2024, according to “two people with knowledge of the of the decision.”

The reason for the delay? Google was not confident that Gemini was able to “reliably handle some non-English queries,” The Information claims. Google wants to ensure its AI tool works well in a number of languages, and it’s clearly not quite there yet.

The events – due to be held in California, New York and Washington – would apparently have been “Google’s most important product launch of the year” owing to how keen Google is to catch up with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. That means that delaying them could be a sizable blow to Google, even if they do ultimately take place in early 2024.

In ChatGPT’s shadow

Google on a smartphone

(Image credit: Solen Feyissa/Unsplash)

Despite their imminent dates, Google hadn’t done much promotion for the events (perhaps due to concerns over Gemini’s abilities). In the end, that meant the company managed to avoid an embarrassing retraction or cancellation of already-announced events.

Yet Google isn’t likely to be very happy with the situation. The delay demonstrates how much the company is struggling to get on level terms with OpenAI, despite its vast wealth and engineering abilities. It’s also the second time in recent weeks that Google has reportedly had to delay its Gemini events.

It comes shortly after OpenAI reportedly had a major breakthrough with its own generative AI efforts. This tool is supposedly able to solve problems it has not been trained on, something that AI has traditionally found difficult, thereby ramping up the pressure on Google to hit back.

Google is likely to weave Gemini’s AI capabilities into its other products, such as Search, Google Assistant, Google Docs and more, The Information believes, so keep an eye out for AI updates if you regularly use the company’s apps. Just don’t expect to see these changes until early next year.

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Report: OpenAI’s GPT App store won’t arrive this year

The hits keep on coming at OpenAI. After dismissing CEO and Co-Founder Sam Altman, inviting him back, and reinstating him as CEO just a few days ago, the ChatGPT developer is apparently pulling back, at least temporarily, on its plans for a GPT Store.

Earlier this month during the first OpenAI Dev Day, Altman introduced the concept of “GPTs”, basically custom versions of the ChatGPT generative AI model. These bespoke versions would use custom data and therefore do what you wanted them to do. They'd be less generally smart, like the current ChatGPT that turned 1 this week, and much more specifically smart to your needs. Perhaps the most exciting part of this announcement was that you'd be able to post and buy these custom GPTs in an online GPT Store.

Now, Axios is reporting based on a developer memo it obtained that OpenAI is pressing pause on the GPT Store launch at least until early 2024. In the memo, according to the report, OpenAI wrote, “While we had expected to release it this month, a few unexpected things have been keeping us busy!“

That comment, if real, might be a nod toward the tumult that consumed OpenAI over the last two weeks.

A new beginning

Of course, all that is in the past now. On November 29, Altman posted a message on the company blog praising his team and even holding out an olive branch to former board member and computer scientist Ilya Sutskever who may have promoted the fire drill that prompted Altman's removal.

“I love and respect Ilya, I think he's a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him,” wrote Altman on Wednesday.

Perhaps notably, Altman made no mention of “GPTs” or the GPT store in his post. Instead, he focused significant attention on AI safety, writing the company has three immediate priorities and listing this as the first: “Advancing our research plan and further investing in our full-stack safety efforts, which have always been critical to our work.”

There's no indication in the reported memo that OpenAI is pausing GPTs work or really any part of its march toward Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), of which Altman writes, “One of the most important things for the team that builds AGI safely is the ability to handle stressful and uncertain situations, and maintain good judgment throughout.”

Assuming this pause memo is real, the delay to early 2024 is just a matter of a few months. Knowing OpenAI and the rapid development pace of ChatGPT and the large language model (LLM) powering it, the delay could shrink to weeks.

All told, it's back to AI business for OpenAI.

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Microsoft Edge is getting a major security boost straight out of Minority Report

Microsoft is looking to give its web browser a significant security upgrade with the release of a new build featuring some useful protection updates.

The company has revealed that Microsoft Edge v.98 will offer a boosted browsing experience that puts safety and security at the forefront, as well as “giving you an extra layer of protection when browsing the web.”

This will allow users to “enhance your security on the web”, the official entry in the Microsoft 365 roadmap says.

Step forward

There's not a lot of detail about what the “new browsing experience” in Microsoft Edge v.98 will entail just yet, but the company says it will be “a step forward”.

It will allow administrators to apply group policies to end-user desktops across not just Windows devices, but also those running macOS and Linux. 

These should help protect against so-called zero-day threats, which are brand-new malware threats that typically look to take advantage of recently-discovered security flaws, and are often extremely dangerous due to a lack of reference points.

Microsoft Edge v.98 will allow users to “mitigate unforeseen active zero days”, the company says, offering an extra layer of protection to keep them safe online.

It's not clear if the new security protections form part of the long-awaited “super duper secure mode” for Microsoft Edge, which launched back in November 2021 as the company looked to boost security for the browser.

Available for Edge v.96 and upwards, the new platform offers two separate configurations – Balanced and Strict – which determine the level of additional protection the user receives. 

Balanced mode learns which sites the user frequents and loosens restrictions on these domains, whereas Strict mode applies restrictions across all websites, which may mean some elements no longer work as intended. Users can also create exceptions manually for websites they would like to be exempt from the extra security measures.

  • Also check out our list of the best VPN services around

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