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 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.”
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]
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Apple has tweaked its TV App Store algorithm to hide apps already installed on the device. After a brief scare when their new app went missing from the Top Charts in Germany, app designer Equinux figured out that the update eliminates apps that users already have from app store lists, presumably to provide more visibility for lesser-known apps and keep customers from having to trudge past all the apps they already have while seeking out new ones.
Developers are quickly losing interest in developing apps for Apple’s watchOS because of the platform’s limited independence, Business Insider reports. Realm VP Tim Anglade, whose company’s database is used by around 100,000 app developers, said while apps for tvOS are on the upswing, new apps for Apple Watch have seen a massive decline in 2016. “On a weekly basis we’re seeing very few Watch apps, compared to iOS apps,” Anglade said. “For every 1,000 new iOS apps being built, there are 10 tvOS apps and maybe 1 Watch app.”
New technology obtained from Apple’s acquisition of VocalIQ last year is poised to drastically improve Siri’s search capabilities, Business Insider reports. One unnamed source said VocalIQ’s AI was able to answer complex questions like, “Find a nearby Chinese restaurant with open parking and Wi-Fi that’s kid-friendly,” 90 percent of the time, greatly improving on the 20 percent averaged by Google Now, Siri and Cortana.
Pokémon GO is now open to beta testers in the U.S. while the game is still in active development. The game, first announced last fall, uses an iPhone’s GPS to let users catch, trade and battle over Pokémon based on their location in the real world. Phones will notify players when they are approaching a Pokémon “in the wild” and give them the chance to catch it by using the touch scree to throw a Poké Ball. Poké Balls and other special items can be collected at PokéStops, placed at “interesting places such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments.”
Nintendo’s next two smartphone games will be free-to-play, The Wall Street Journal reports. Smartphone game maker DeNA—who partnered with Nintendo to release the Miitomo app in March and has plans to release four more games by March 2017—announced that upcoming titles Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing will be “free-to-start apps.”
A review left on Amazon by someone claiming to work for Apple hints at an Apple-designed HomeKit app coming in iOS 10. MacRumors matched the name of the reviewer to that of a LinkedIn profile for someone who works in Apple’s marketing department, and later confirmed the review was written by that employee. The review recommends a few existing apps to control smart home devices before concluding, “The next version of iOS due this fall will have a standalone ‘HomeKit’ app as well.”
A tweet from Nintendo America is teasing the release of more Nintendo games for the iOS platform, specifically mentioning Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing — versions of two existing Nintendo franchises.
A year ago, Nintendo announced that it would be moving into the mobile space, promising the release of one title this year — the company’s Miitomo social app — followed by four more games by March 2017. Mobile versions of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing presumably account for two of these promised four apps, but details are scarce beyond the company’s tweet; it’s unclear whether these will be new mobile games that are loosely related to their respective franchises or full-fledged ports of the Nintendo Wii and DS counterparts.
Apple has let developers know that starting June 1, apps designed for the Apple Watch will have to be native apps built with watchOS 2 SDK or later. The move makes a clean break with the non-native apps that initially launched with the Apple Watch, which made the Apple Watch seem like more of a second screen for the user’s paired iPhone instead of a device in its own right. Apps designed with the native SDK that launched with watchOS 2 have proven much faster and more responsive because they don’t rely on the iPhone for all of the required processing.