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Apple issues open casting call for ‘Planet of the Apps’ show

Apple has put out an open casting call for app developers looking to be featured in the company’s original series “Planet of the Apps.” Announced earlier this year, the show will follow developers as they receive hands-on guidance from experts in the tech community, funding from top venture capitalists, and featured placement in the App Store. Online applications are being accepted until August 26, and applicants must agree to have “an iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS app in a beta or functional state by October 21.” The first season will film in Los Angeles from late this year into early 2017, so those hoping to be on the show will need to be available for that period.

Pokémon GO getting full access to Google Accounts of some iOS users (Update: Niantic working on fix)

While Pokémon GO has become a major phenomenon in less than a week, researcher Adam Reeve has noted a major flaw in the game, calling Pokémon GO “a huge security risk.” Pokémon GO players have two ways to sign on to the game — through a Google Account, or a Pokémon Trainer Club account. The latter is having major problems, so most users are signing on using their Google Account. And as Reeve points out, for some iOS users, Pokémon GO has been granted full access of that account. This means that the game and/or developer could conceivably read and send email from your account, delete emails and Google Drive documents, and much, much more.

Pokémon GO coming to Europe, Asia ‘within a few days’

Nintendo’s Pokémon GO is already a full-fledged phenomenon, sending players out into the world to hunt down Pokémon in augmented reality and pushing the company’s stock up by 25 percent, The Wall Street Journal reports. Less than a day after its release, the game became the most downloaded and highest-grossing app in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand — the only countries where it’s currently available. People familiar with plans for the game said it will likely be launching in Europe, Japan and other Asian countries “within a few days.” Data firm SimilarWeb said the game is on pace to surpass Twitter among Android users in the U.S. in its number of daily active users, and it has even prompted safety warnings from police who warn users to be aware of their surroundings while hunting down Pokémon.

Apple TV Remote app beta 2 works as second game controller, adds legacy Apple TV support

Alongside the second developer betas for iOS 10 and tvOS 10 released earlier this week, Apple has also been providing developers with betas of the new Apple TV Remote App. We took a look at the first beta of the remote app in our sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10, noting that the new app will provide all of the capabilities of the Siri Remote, with a button for issuing Siri commands and support for turning the device into a game controller in landscape orientation, complete with accelerometer and gyroscope support. Now with the second beta of the Remote app released earlier this week, it appears that users will be able to use their iPhone as a second game controller, alongside the Siri Remote, marking an interesting slight departure from the original single Siri Remote limitation — although it appears that users will still only be able to pair one hardware Siri Remote with a given Apple TV.

Nintendo may design its own smartphone game controller

Nintendo may be designing its own controller for smartphones, Polygon reports. Shinya Takahashi, Nintendo’s general manager of entertainment planning and development, told shareholders the company is looking into both hardware and software development for its burgeoning entry into the smartphone and tablet game market. “Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves,” he said. “I believe Nintendo’s way of thinking is to look at whether action games are really not impossible (without a physical controller for smart device applications) to create and how we can make it happen to create such a game.”

Pokémon GO available on iOS in some countries

After rolling out a beta test in May, Pokémon GO has hit the App Store in Australia, but a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that U.S. and Japanese customers will have to “wait a while” for the formal launch. While the timeframe seems unclear at this point, we’d expect to see the game pop up in the U.S. App Store soon, and we’ll update this story once the game is available in the U.S.

Update: Pokémon GO was released in the U.S. App Store on Wednesday night.

Apple being sued by China over broadcast rights to propaganda film

A subsidiary of China’s broadcasting regulator has sued Apple over the rights to a 1994 propaganda film, The Associated Press reports. The suit from Movie Satellite Channel Program Production Center accuses the developer of the Youku HD app of enabling users to watch “Xuebo dixiao,” a film that depicts Chinese forces fighting Japanese soldiers in the 1930s. The plaintiff claims that by making the app available for download, Apple has infringed its exclusive rights to broadcast the film online, resulting in “huge economic losses.”  The production company is asking both companies to stop broadcasting the film and pay damages amounting to around $10,000. Apple declined to comment.

Apple adding organ donor registration to Health app

When Apple rolls out iOS 10 this fall, the Health app will be getting a small update that CEO Tim Cook hopes will make a big difference for people waiting for an organ transplant, The Associated Press reports. The improved Health app will include a simple sign-up button allowing users to enroll in the National Donate Life Registry quickly and easily. Cook said the issue hit home for Apple since he and many others witnessed the “excruciating” wait Apple co-founder Steve Jobs endured while awaiting a liver transplant in 2009. More information on enrollment through the Health app and Donate Life America can be found on Apple’s website.

WSJ: Apple ‘in talks’ to acquire Tidal

Apple is exploring the idea of buying competing music streaming service Tidal, The Wall Street Journal reports. The report claims Apple is “exploring the idea” of buying Jay-Z’s streaming service due to Tidal’s connections to such artists as Kanye West and Madonna. Terms are unknown at this point, and the talks “may not result in a deal,” sources said — a Tidal spokesman denied that such talks had taken place. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers, who either pay $10 for a standard monthly plan, or $20 for a hi-fi plan. Apple recently noted that Apple Music has 15 million paying subscribers.

Spotify claims Apple anti-competitively blocking Spotify app update

Spotify has claimed that Apple is blocking the latest update of its iOS music streaming app because it competes with Apple Music, Re/code reports. A letter sent by Spotify to Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell accused Apple of “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers” as a result of its rejection to an update to its iOS app. While Apple has not publicly commented on the reasons for rejecting the update, Spotify’s letter claims the company cited “business model rules” and demanded that the app use Apple’s billing system — which requires Spotify to give a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue to Apple — if “Spotify wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions.”

We cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon.

The comments in Spotify’s letter are similar to a public statement the company made earlier this week in response to Senator Warren’s speech accusing Apple and other tech giants of locking out competition. It appears that Spotify will be using this latest standoff to bolster its ongoing fight over Apple’s longstanding in-app subscription rules, which require iOS apps to either use the in-app purchasing system to sell subscriptions — and give Apple a 30 percent cut — or rely on outside purchase methods, such as web-based signups, that cannot be linked to nor even advertised from within the iOS app. In the letter to Sewell, Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez stated that “This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law,” and “continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify … we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors.”

Walgreens adds digital coupons to Apple Pay

Customers who have their Walgreens loyalty card synced up with Apple Pay can now save digital coupons to be used at the checkout. Coupons can be found through the store’s website or in its iOS app, then saved to the customer’s loyalty card. When visiting the store, a simple tap using Apple Pay at the terminal will now apply saved coupons to the customer’s order in addition to registering the loyalty card. [via 9to5Mac]

China orders Apple and others to monitor, report on app users

On the heels of severely tightening restrictions on mobile games, China is mandating that companies like Apple start monitoring mobile app users, Bloomberg reports. The new regulations posted Tuesday by China’s Cyberspace Administration require Apple to establish user’s identities, monitor their posts and report items that contain banned content to the Chinese government. The legitimacy of developers must also be verified, and app stores are now require to log each user’s activity for 60 days.

China tightening restrictions on mobile games starting next month

Starting July 1, mobile games sold in China’s App Store will have to meet the approval of the country’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, China’s IT Times reports. The new regulations are a hurdle even for larger companies with the proper connections and resources, but are expected to have a devastating impact on smaller developers who could struggle to come up with the $2,000-$5,000 fee charged by a third-party partner to handle the necessary applications.

Apple requiring HTTPS connections from all apps starting in 2017

Apple will be requiring all the apps in its App Store to connect to the web through an HTTPS connection starting on January 1, 2017. TechCrunch reports. The company debuted its App Transport Security feature in iOS 9, but until now developers weren’t required to use it. While the end user won’t really be able to observe any difference, starting next year all connections between apps and servers will be encrypted. Apple has been ramping up its efforts to protect user privacy in iOS after its public fight with the FBI, even though there is still some internal disagreement within the company over how far its privacy mandates should go at the expense of user experience.

Apple announces Swift Playgrounds for iPad, coming this fall

Closing off today’s WWDC keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Swift Playgrounds, a new app that Apple is releasing this fall that aims to teach kids — and other users new to programming — how to code in Apple’s new Swift development language. Swift Playgrounds takes users through some very simple interactive coding tutorials before moving on to more advanced topics, in a fun and playful graphical interface, with projects that involve games and fun tasks to keep kids engaged and learning to code. Users will be able to proceed through the tutorials step-by-step, or jump to any tutorial directly from a table of contents, and more advanced freeform coding is also available within the app. Swift Playgrounds will be available this fall as a free download from the App Store when iOS 10 ships.

Rumor: Apple to announce iMessage for Android at WWDC next week?

A new report suggests that Apple may announce plans to release an iMessage app for Android at next week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. According to “a source familiar with the company’s thinking” cited by MacDailyNews, Apple’s goal behind such a move would be to focus more on its service offerings beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms, specifically pointing to reports that Apple is looking to add person-to-person Apple Pay payments via its messaging platform. The move would not be unprecedented, considering the release of Apple Music for Android devices late last year, and would potentially improve the messaging user experience for iOS users who have close friends and family members using Android devices, allowing them to communicate using iMessage features with all of their contacts, including the ability to properly participate in group messaging conversations, share videos and photos in full resolutions, and avoid other carrier SMS restrictions. While the source noted that the timing of the actual announcement could change between now and Monday, they emphasized that the iMessage service would “definitely” be coming to Android at some point this year.

Schiller: Apple moving toward App Store subscription model

In an interview with The Verge, Apple worldwide marketing chief Phil Schiller revealed that the company is planning on announcing a major shift to its revenue-sharing model for app developers at next week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, which will put a greater emphasis on selling apps as subscriptions rather than one-time purchases. Schiller explained that Apple would retain the standard 70/30 revenue split for normal app purchases and initial subscriptions, but that developers who can maintain subscriptions with customers longer than a year will see a shift in the revenue-sharing model to an 85/15 split. As part of this change, the option for selling subscriptions will be opened up to all developers across all categories of apps — and Schiller says “that includes games, which is a huge category.”

Google’s new Motion Stills app lets iOS users make GIFs out of Live Photos

Google has announced Motion Stills, a new iOS app that allows users to turn Live Photos from an iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus into animated looping GIFs that can more easily be shared with other users. Motion Stills uses Google’s own image stabilization technology to freeze Live Photo backgrounds or create sweeping cinematic pans, and users can combine multiple Live Photos into a movie montage. Loop optimization features help to identify optimal start and end points and discard blurry frames entirely, helping to fix “pocket shots.” Motion Stills is available for free from the App Store, and all processing is notably handled on the user’s iOS device, so no Google account or Internet connection is required to use the app. Our initial experience with Motion Stills was quite positive — it’s fun and user-friendly, and certainly worth a free download for those who use Live Photos.

Instagram now allows sharing directly from Photos

The latest version of Instagram has a welcome addition for those wanting to share their pictures as they look at them in Photos. Now users can share their photos directly to Instagram without launching the app itself, by simply tapping the share button on the bottom left in Photos and adding Instagram to the options, using the “More” tab. After that, Instagram will appear in the listed options for sharing directly from the Photos app. The new feature lets users add a caption to photos and videos, but doesn’t offer any other editing features. To apply filters, users will still need to open the Instagram app and post their photos the standard way.

Facebook eyeing optional encryption upgrade for Messenger app

Facebook is planning to release an optional encrypted mode for its Messenger app, The Guardian reports. According to three sources close to the project, the social media giant will give its users the choice between extra privacy and better artificial intelligence. Opting to add end-to-end encryption to communications aimed at safeguarding a user’s messages from prying eyes will also have the unhappy side effect of inhibiting some of the new machine learning features being added to Messenger, the sources said.

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