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weMessage brings some iMessage functionality to Android devices

Messaging app weMessage is bringing iMessage to Android devices, albeit without some of the iOS app’s functionality. The app works by using a Mac as a sort of server to relay iMessages from the computer to the weMessage app on any other device, which includes Android phones. The app supports group chats, read receipts, AES encryption and a variety of audio, image and video attachments, but won’t support more proprietary things like Apple Pay Cash. For Android users looking to get in on the iMessage conversations of their Apple using friends, weMessage is a decent tool, but it’s far from a fully functioning replacement for iMessage.

Apple allows developers to make apps available for pre-order

While many games and other apps are announced well in advance of their release, Apple has never had a reliable method of signing up for the download in advance. The company just changed that, informing developers that they can now make apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. “Customers can see your product page and order your app before it’s released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device,” according to the company’s new documentation.

Google releases experimental photo apps for iOS

After the popularity of its Motion Stills app exploded, Google has released a couple more experimental photo apps for use on iOS. Where Motion Stills turned short videos into stylized cinemagraphs and time lapses “using experimental stabilization and rendering technologies,” the new apps explore how object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, and efficient image encoding and decoding technologies can be used to make inventive new images. Selfissimo takes selfies to a more automated, photo booth-like experience, encouraging users to pose once the button is tapped and shooting black and white photos every time the subject stops moving. Scrubbies allows users to manipulate the speed and direction of video playback, making it easy to produce video loops that highlight moments and replay them. Both apps are free to download on the App Store.

Report: Apple acquiring music recognition app Shazam (Update: Apple confirms)

Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, the app that lets users identify songs, movies, TV shows and commercials by using a small portion of the audio or images, TechCrunch reports. Sources said the deal could be announced as early as today, with one claiming Apple could pay more than $400 million for the company. The app has been downloaded more than a billion times, but hasn’t been turning much of a profit. The app already integrates with Siri and sends lots of traffic to both Apple Music and the competing Spotify service. Update: Apple has confirmed its acquisition of Shazam to 9to5Mac, saying in a statement that Apple has “exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement.”

Apple’s efforts to ban template-based apps pushing small businesses off App Store

Apple’s efforts to purge clone and spam apps from the App Store by banning those created by a “commercialized template or app generation service” has ended up driving small businesses off the platform as well, TechCrunch reports. While lots of template-generated apps are generic and don’t provide much in the way of functionality for users, many others are created by services that cater to businesses, churches, and other organizations who want to reach their small community with an app without paying the huge cost of creating a custom product.

Apple unveils best Apps, Music, Movies, and TV Shows for 2017

Apple has announced its editorial picks for the best apps, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts available from its various online content stores. The App Store team noted four rising trends for 2017, including the introduction of augmented reality apps with iOS 11, a rise of real-time competitive gaming, and an increased focus on mental health and mindfulness as well as storytelling and reading. The 2017 iPhone App of the Year was the health and fitness app, Calm, while the very popular Affinity Photo won 2017 iPad App of the Year. In games, Splitter Critters was the top iPhone pick, and the open-ended exploratory puzzler The Witness was the 2017 iPad Game of the Year.

Amazon Prime Video app rolling out on Apple TV in US, Canada, UK, other parts of Europe

The much-hyped Amazon Prime Video app is rolling out to Apple TV for users in the US, Canada, UK and several other European countries. The app lets Prime subscribers watch Amazon’s original programming and other available content, features a watchlist for queuing up shows and movies, and supports the Siri Remote’s ability to search for content while in the app. News of the app’s pending release leaked out a day early after a Reddit user manually turned his device’s clock ahead a day and stumbled onto a story about Amazon Prime Video as the top feature in the App Store’s “Today” section. Apple quickly pulled the post, but not before it had been seen by plenty of others.

Anki’s Cozmo Code Lab update enhances programming capabilities, adds new Constructor mode

Anki has expanded the capabilities of its Cozmo robot again in a new update to its Code Lab, adding a Constructor mode that includes six all-new minigames. The update gives Cozmo users acess to using ‘if’ statements, math operators, variables, function calls and more in their programs. Anki has increased the number and types of visual programming blocks available for use with Cosmo alongside the roll out of the vertically-oriented Constructor mode — structured to more closely mirror actual text-based code. The accompanying six minigames can be opened up and remixed as well, adding plenty of new options for more open-ended play.

App Store apps that haven’t been updated showing ‘phantom updates’ despite remaining unchanged

Developer Jeff Johnson has noticed several apps in the App Store showing what he calls “phantom updates,” with the App Store showing them as updated even though no changes had been made by the developers themselves for a year or more. Version numbers showed as the same and some apps had the exact same release notes as before while others included new text that stated, “This update is signed with Apple’s latest signing certificate.” Some have speculated that Apple performed a Bitcode recompilation on the apps, but Johnson dug into the app he worked on and found that didn’t seem to be the case. There were changes to the resource rules, but he found that unlikely to be the cause for an Apple-issued update, so the mystery of why these updates occurred remains as Apple hasn’t released a statement. The apps should operate just as before, so outside of getting an App Store notification to update an app that doesn’t need updating, the impact should be minimal for users, although those on limited data plans may want to check Settings, iTunes & App Store to ensure that automatic updates while on cellular are disabled.

Apple to halt app updates from December 23-27

Apple has announced its annual iTunes Connect hiatus, informing developers they won’t be able to submit new apps or updates to existing apps from December 23 – 27. Other iTunes Connect functions will still be available during that period, so developers can “let customers know about promotions, upcoming features, and events within your app at any time using the promotional text field.”

Apple removes violent games tied to drug war in Phillipines

Apple has removed several violent games tied to President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs in the Philippines, The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs reports. ANPUD petitioned Apple CEO Tim Cook to remove multiple games that “actively promoted the war on people who use drugs in the Philippines,” which has been documented to include extrajudicial killings. Some of the games have upwards of a million downloads and featured a heroic Duterte killing zombie-like drug users. While Cook hasn’t directly responded to ANPUD’s letter, some of the games have since disappeared from the App Store.

Update to YouTube iOS app claims to fix battery drain problem

An update to YouTube’s iOS app that appeared this morning claims to fix the battery drain problem users were reporting with the app. While YouTube does consume a considerable amount of power, the app was reportedly heating up iPhones and draining power at an abnormally fast rate, even when idle in the background. YouTube promised a fix a couple weeks ago and seems to have worked out the kinks in the latest version.

Sega makes Sonic The Hedgehog 2 free to play on iOS

In honor of Sonic The Hedgehog 2’s 25th anniversary, Sega has made the game free to download on iOS. The free version is ad-supported and gives users new features like leader boards, cloud saves, and controller support. For those who want an ad-free experience, they can pay $2 in the app itself to remove them.

Apple drops Skype from China’s App Store at government’s request

Apple has confirmed that Skype — one of the last foreign-operated methods for online communication inside China — has been pulled from the App Store at the request of the Chinese government, The New York Times reports. Chinese users have been complaining they were suddenly unable to use Apple’s systems to pay for Skype services. “We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China,” Apple said in a short e-mailed statement. Skype is still technically functional in the country, but its removal from the App Store could leave it destined to join apps like WhatsApp, Gmail, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Telegram and Line that have been rendered unusable by government filters. The Chinese government has also insisted on the removal of other foreign apps, like that of The New York Times.

Apple to help design anti-spam app to end stalemate with Indian regulators

After refusing to allow India’s anti-spam app onto the App Store over privacy concerns, Apple is going to provide “limited help” to the Indian government to develop a suitable substitute for iOS, Reuters reports. Apple’s refusal to approve the Telecom Regulatory Authority’s app has drawn the ire of the TRAI at a very inconvenient time for the company, which is trying to expand its presence in India’s massive smartphone market. Google’s Android system already supports the app, which accesses the device’s SMS details and call records to enable users to report numbers and block numbers that have been reported. But Apple doesn’t provide third-party apps the ability to access those details, so the government’s app won’t function even though iOS does feature other apps that identify and block calls through other means.

Apple updates Clips app with iPhone X exclusive ‘Scenes’ feature

Apple has released a major update to its Clips app for the iPhone X, adding a new Scenes feature that takes advantage of the TrueDepth camera to place you in animated, 360-degree scenes with matching selfie filters to transform your appearance. Some of the scenes include the Millennium Falcon with a Star Wars style holo effect filter, a sketchbook scene with a filter that provides a charcoal drawing effect, and a scene that puts you into an 8-bit video game setting. Since Scenes require the TrueDepth camera, they’re only available to iPhone X users, however Clips 2.0 adds plenty of additional enhancements for users of other iPhone models as well, including a completely redesigned user interface, a collection of new stickers, posters, and titles, featuring Star Wars characters and Mickey and Friends along with retro Apple-designed stickers, four new artistic effects, a selection of new filters from the Camera app, and 21 new royalty-free soundtracks. Clips also now sync via iCloud so you can view and edit your work from any of your iOS devices.

Animoji Karaoke videos produced on iPhone X take Twitter by storm

With last week’s release of the iPhone X, the much-ridiculed Animoji got a serious boost when Fast Company’s Harry McCracken invented a new use for the feature in the form of Animoji Karaoke. The simple premise — lip-sync a song as one of the Animoji avatars using the iPhone X’s 3D camera — immediately took off, even spawning an @animojikaraoke Twitter page. McCracken even has some tips on how to hack the experience to get the highest quality videos, subverting the usual 10-second limit to Animoji recordings by using iOS 11’s screen-recording feature and bringing two videos into iMovie on a Mac to create a duet. He even took it to a new level by using iMovie to add in a high quality version of his songs, but the iPhone X’s microphone will do just fine for those who want to belt out a tune with the face of a cartoon without too much fuss. Let us know if you’ve tried to make your own Animoji Karaoke or found any epic productions in the comments below.

YouTube TV rolling out Apple TV app ‘in the coming weeks’

After launching its own cable subscription service a few months ago, YouTube will soon be rolling out a YouTube TV app for Apple TV, The Verge reports. The package includes network broadcasters ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox alongside major cable networks like ESPN, MSNBC and Fox News, and the new TV app will include some things the mobile version doesn’t, like an in-depth program guide to see what’s in in the next few hours the the ability to browse a transparent sidebar of other channels while keeping on the show you’re watching.

Apple encourages developers to test apps on iPhone X ahead of launch

Apple has posted an update to its developer forum encouraging developers to test their apps in an iPhone X simulator ahead of the device’s launch. The company is touting its accompanying App Store redesign and asking developers to submit new screenshots geared toward the iPhone X’s display size along with updated metadata to include on the new product pages. Testing the apps is also expected to expose issues with the Super Retina display and adaptive layouts, but we’ll have to wait until users actually get their hands on the new devices before we’ll know if there are any problems with non-updated apps.

Nintendo to debut Animal Crossing game for iOS next month

Nintendo is set to debut its next iOS offering — Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp — next month, according to the company’s website. The game lets players take the role of campsite manager, allowing them to craft a campsite to appeal to animals from the surrounding area. Players can also do all the things you’d usually do in a camping environment, like catch bugs, pick fruit or go fishing. The app will be free to download but have in-app purchases, and users can sign up here to be notified when it’s available to download.

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