Apple has released iBooks StoryTime for U.S. Apple TV users, an interactive spoken-word books app for kids. iBooks StoryTime includes a small selection of handpicks children’s titles with Read-Aloud narration and colourful illustrations that allows children to view and listen to stories on the Apple TV. The Siri Remote can be used to swipe between pages, and parents can turn off Read-Aloud narration to read the story to their children themselves. Additional Read-Aloud books can be purchased using the iBooks app on iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and books purchased by all family members will automatically appear in the iBooks StoryTime library on the Apple TV.
In Twitter’s first annual #TwitterAwards, the social network has presented Apple with the Gold #Customer Award for its highly successful launch of the @AppleSupport Twitter account in 2016 — the first time Apple has operated any kind of official support account on a social networking site. In publishing the award, Twitter noted that the @AppleSupport account has “received outstanding customer feedback and generated more than 150,000 likes and Retweets since its launch in March 2016” effectively placing it number one among all of the support accounts from various companies on Twitter for average engagements. Twitter also commended Apple for jumping into conversations with customers to offer assistance and its use of rich media in responses.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent out an internal email to U.S. Apple employees calling for unity in the aftermath of the U.S. election results. The memo, obtained by Buzzfeed, encourages Apple employees to “move forward together” and reaffirms Apple’s strong commitment to social progress and equality.
While there is discussion today about uncertainties ahead, you can be confident that Apple’s North Star hasn’t changed. Our products connect people everywhere, and they provide the tools for our customers to do great things to improve their lives and the world at large. Our company is open to all, and we celebrate the diversity of our team here in the United States and around the world — regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.
Cook notably avoids mentioning any candidates by name or making any specific comments on their election campaigns, simply stating that the “aftermath leaves many [...] with strong feelings” and reiterating that Apple’s “very diverse team of employees” includes supporters of both candidates. Cook encourages employees to reach out to their fellow “co-workers if they are feeling anxious.”
Apple has announced to developers that they can now generate direct links to Apple TV applications that will preview in a user’s web browser, similar to the way in which iOS and macOS links presently work. Links to universal apps — those that include iOS and tvOS versions in the same application package — will still go to the iOS app by default, and no specific Apple TV references appear in those app previews; however, apps that exist solely for the Apple TV can now be previewed on the web, with full descriptions, screenshots, and reviews. Notably, it appears that Mac/PC users will still need to visit the Apple TV App Store to actually download or purchase tvOS apps — unlike iOS apps, a “View in iTunes” button does not appear for tvOS-only apps. However, links opened on an iPhone or iPad will automatically take the user to the iOS App Store, where the app can be purchased and then automatically downloaded to the Apple TV.
Apple’s online store has begun selling refurbished iPhone 6s models, allowing customers to save money on last year’s iPhone models by purchasing certified refurbished versions. A variety of colors and capacities are available, with prices starting at $449 for a 16GB iPhone 6s — about $100 less expensive than a brand new entry-level iPhone 6s, although it’s worth keeping in mind that Apple has doubled storage capacities on this year’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models, making the refurbished iPhones arguably less of a deal — a brand new 32GB iPhone 6s sells for $549. All refurbished iPhone models currently being sold appear to be unlocked and SIM-free, meaning they can be used on any carrier.
When streaming music startup Omnifone went bankrupt this summer, Apple acquired some of the company’s technology and at least 16 of its employees, TechCrunch reports. Apple was initially rumored to be acquiring Omnifone in June, and 16 of the company’s London-based employees have since changed their LinkedIn status to show they’re now working at Apple. Omniphone still owns over 50 patents related to streaming, downloading and digital media identification, but it’s unclear how many of those — if any — Apple has acquired. A source claims some of that technology found its way into Apple Music and iTunes, and the employees who joined Apple from Omnifone include engineers now working in iTunes and apps. Apple declined to comment on the story.
Apple has been granted a patent for “Augmented Reality Maps” that layer map information and directions over live iPhone video, giving more credibility to recent rumors that the company will soon be integrating AR into its existing product lines. A drawing enclosed with the patent application shows street names superimposed on the image being received by the iPhone’s camera and points of interest labeled in the distance. The idea is to use the phone’s GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, and digital compass to determine the device’s precise position and use that information to provide thew correct information about what’s in front of the user.
Apple has released its second betas of iOS 10.2, tvOS 10.1, and watchOS 3.1.1 to developers today. The first betas were released a week ago, and Apple also later added the Single Sign-On feature for Apple TV and iOS beta users.
Apple is handing off ad sales for its News app to NBCUniversal, Recode reports. Publishers can still sell their own ads and keep 100 percent of the profit generated, but NBCUniversal will now be selling the remaining ad space. Publishers will get 70 percent of the revenue from those ads sales, just like they’re currently getting under the existing arrangement with Apple. Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s head of sales, said the company is creating a new “dedicated sales group” for the app. Earlier this year Apple pulled the plug on its lackluster iAd service after not being able to find a reasonable way to use customer data while still maintaining privacy.
Google has released an improved version of its Gmail app for iOS, finally adding the popular “undo send” feature. Users will now have a five-second window to take back a message if they immediately realize that message wasn’t complete (or wasn’t going where they intended). The update also provides the ability to archive or delete messages with a swipe and improves searches by providing instant results and spelling suggestions. The Gmail app is available on the App Store.
Apple is asking for government incentives to bring its manufacturing to India, The Economic Times of India reports. An unnamed official said Apple has asked for consideration from the Department of Revenue and Department of Electronics and Information Technology, adding that the department has been “doing their due diligence from (sic) quite some time.” India offers benefits to foreign manufacturers under its Modified Special Incentive Package Scheme, including subsidies for investments in “special economic zones.” The news comes on the heels of earlier reports that the company asked manufacturing partner Foxconn to look into making iPhones in India in the next two or three years, fitting into the three-year exemption on local manufacturing Apple hopes to negotiate in order open its own stores in the country.
In a letter to KGI investors, well-connected analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple isn’t expected to introduce an updated iPhone SE in early 2017. Kuo said Apple’s reluctance to release an improved SE is aimed at boosting the profit margins on the current model and avoiding offering more competition for its higher-end iPhone 7 models. Kuo was specific in saying that we probably won’t see a new SE by March, leaving the door open for a new model to debut later in the year. He also said Apple is eyeing other ways to get its profit margins back up, putting pressure on its manufacturing partners to bring component prices down. [via Apple Insider]
Apple has improved Bluetooth streaming to hearing aids, with a new support page detailing several new capabilities in iOS 10. Apple’s iOS devices have been compatible with MFi hearing aids since iOS 7, but the latest update adds a Live Listen feature to helps the iPhone’s microphone focus in on conversations in loud environments and allows for streaming calls, FaceTime conversations, movies, and other audio without using intermediary devices. Upgrading to iOS 10 also allows users to view the battery life of their hearing aids, adjust volume levels for each hearing aid independently, and adjust bass, treble and left-right balance to create an ideal listening experience. New presets for settings like concerts and restaurants make it easier to adjust volume levels on the fly, and a “find my hearing aid” feature makes it easier to locate a device that’s gone missing. [via Apple Insider]
Photo: The New York Times
Hundreds of fake retail apps aimed at deceiving holiday shoppers have begun appearing on the App Store, The New York Times reports. Counterfeit apps branded with recognizable store names like Dollar General, Nordstrom, Zappos and many others have popped up in the last few weeks, and while most of the junk apps just run pop-up ads when they’re opened, some have asked for Facebook logins or credit card information that could expose customers to obvious security issues. A careful look at many of the apps will reveal red flags, such as “menus written in butchered English, no reviews and no history of previous versions.”
Apple has quietly enabled its promised Single Sign On feature on its back-end servers for users running the iOS 10.2 or tvOS 10.1 betas. A new TV Providers option began appearing recently for U.S. users of the Apple TV and iOS betas. On the Apple TV, the setting is found under Accounts in the Settings app, while on the iPhone and iPad it can be found in the main Settings app, below the settings for social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Vimeo.
August has released a firmware update for its August Smart Lock that adds full support for Apple’s Home app in iOS 10, including HomeKit notifications and triggers. The new firmware also reportedly “improves connection speed and motor operation.” Although August provided full core iOS 10 HomeKit support early on, the update to support Apple’s Home app lagged a bit behind other smart locks such Schlage, which updated its Sense firmware only days after iOS 10 was released to the public. With the update, the August Smart Lock can now be properly controlled from the iOS 10 Home app, and users can now enable notifications as well as setting up rules to take actions when the lock is locked or unlocked, such as turning on lights or adjusting thermostats.
Canadian telecommunications company Bell has announced that its Fibe TV service is now available on the Apple TV, making it the first Canadian television provider to embrace Apple’s television platform. Fibe TV subscribers can download the Bell Fibe TV tvOS app, giving them access to the entire Fibe TV channel lineup from the fourth-generation Apple TV. In its current incarnation, the app simply provides live streaming, although Bell promises that users will be able to watch Fibe TV recordings as well as pause and rewind live TV by the end of the year. While users will still need a Fibe TV subscription and primary Fibe TV receiver, it appears the Apple TV app will eliminate the need to purchase additional secondary receivers. In addition, Bell will begin selling the fourth-generation Apple TV both online and directly from its Bell stores in both Ontario and Québec. [via iPhone in Canada]
Vine co-founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll have released Hype, a new social video app that allows users to broadcast live interactive video. Followers can be notified instantly when a broadcast begins, and can comment and interact with the broadcast, and users can add photos, videos, music, and animations to spice up their videos. A replay feature allows users to make their broadcasts available for later viewing, and Hype broadcasts can be easily shared on Twitter. Broadcasters can also feature comments from followers, add themed backgrounds, and present videos and pictures in slideshow form. Rather than being a new Vine app, however, Hype appears to be more in line to compete with Twitter’s Periscope app and Facebook’s integrated Facebook Live feature.
Elgato has announced another new entry in its Eve HomeKit product lineup, following last month’s debut of Eve Light Switch. Eve Motion ($50) is a new Bluetooth motion sensor that integrates with HomeKit to provide automation for other HomeKit-compatible accessories. Like Elgato’s other Eve products, Eve Motion uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate with nearby iOS or tvOS devices to act as a trigger for activating other accessories, such as lights and thermostats, using HomeKit rules. Eve Motion features a passive infrared sensor with a 120-degree field of view and a range of up to 30 feet, with adjustable sensitivity to optimize performance. It’s also IPX3 water-resistant for outdoor use.
Well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has told investors they probably won’t see augmented reality technology from Apple for at least 1-2 years, but to expect the company to “leapfrog” competitors by 3-5 years once they finally enter the market. Kuo doesn’t provide specifics, but said he foresees Apple integrating AR to “redefine key product lines” and change the way people use devices like the Apple TV and Apple Watch. Kuo also considered the possibility that Apple could use AR innovations to break into new areas, specifically autonomous driving systems like the one being developed by the company’s Project Titan team. [via Apple Insider]