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iOS 10.3 to improve in-app rating experience, allow developers to respond to App Store reviews

Apple has revealed plans to allow developers to respond to customer reviews on both the iOS and Mac App Stores as of the public release of iOS 10.3. The “What’s New in iOS” section of Apple’s Developer Documentation notes that developer responses will be posted “in a way that is available for all customers to see,” presumably allowing developers to counter negative reviews with official explanations. Little other information is given, such as whether customers will be able to respond in turn to comments from developers, or what other moderation processes may be implemented. Apple also notes a new API being introduced in iOS 10.3 will allow developers to more efficiently handle in-app review requests without having to take the user out of the app and send them to the App Store. A new option in the iTunes & App Store settings in iOS 10.3 will also allow users to opt out of being prompted for in-app ratings and reviews, although it’s likely this setting will only affect apps that are updated to use the new iOS 10.3 API for requesting reviews.

Pokémon Duel released for iOS

Today The Pokémon Company today released Pokémon Duel, a new iOS game where players choose six Pokémon to fight against an opposing player while moving toward their goal on the game board. As players progress, their Pokémon will level up and the game will provide access to more powerful Pokémon. Players can hone their skills in the game’s Training Center, playing against an instructor to learn how various themed decks work. The game is free to download, but the in-app store offers boosters for purchase that allow users to obtain special Pokémon, and “plates” that allow players to swap out Pokémon positions or grant them various abilities for a single turn. Pokémon Duel is available for free on the App Store.

Nintendo officially announces Fire Emblem Heroes for iOS, coming Feb. 2

Nintendo has posted a video announcing its next game for iOS, Fire Emblem Heroes. Originally announced last April, Fire Emblem Heroes is a tactical RPG designed specifically to work on smaller screens, and it’s designed for a quick pick-up-and-play style. Players undertake strategic battles in the fantasy world of Fire Emblem, leveling up their characters and taking advantage of character attributes to plan attacks and match heroes and enemies appropriately. The game is played across multiple 8x6 maps designed to easily fit on a smartphone and allow for short burst play. Players drag-and-drop or select locations to move their party around the map while attacking, with the goal of defeating all of the enemies on the map to win each level. While the controls have been kept simple, maps get more challenging as players advance through the game, requiring them to plan their moves carefully and factor in terrain. In-game orbs can be found during gameplay or purchased as in-app purchases that will allow players to summon heroes as their allies to fight alongside them in specific battles. A Training Tower mode allows players to practice combat and gain experience and rewards, Special Maps provide seasonal events, and Arena Duels allow players to compete for high scores in multiple battles. Fire Emblem Heroes is expected to be available on the App Store on Feb. 2. No pricing details have been announced yet.

GarageBand 2.2 adds Logic Pro X integration, Alchemy synth, Multi-Take Recording

Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS, adding new integration with Logic Pro X 10.3, along with a number of more sophisticated music creation options. With GarageBand 2.2, Logic Pro X users can now create GarageBand-compatible versions of Logic projects in iCloud that can be opened on iOS devices to add new recordings while on the go, with new recordings automatically synced back to the original Logic project the next time it’s opened on Mac. The new update also includes the Alchemy synthesizer well-known to Logic Pro users, with a rich collection of more than 150 Apple-designed patches across a variety of genres. Alchemy’s Transform Pad also lets users morph between eight sonic snapshots in real-time for more expressive performances.

 

Apple raising UK App Store prices by more than 25 percent

Apple is raising App Store prices in the UK by more than 25 percent in response to the country’s sharp currency devaluation after the Brexit vote, the BBC reports. Apple raised the prices of iPhones and iPads in the country by a similar margin in September, then upped the price of Macs in October. UK customers will now pay 99 pence for apps that cost 99 cents in the United States, an increase from the 79 pence the same apps cost previously. The increase also affects in-app purchases, but hasn’t changed subscription charges. “Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business,” Apple said in a statement. “These factors vary from region to region and over time.”

U.S. appeals court resurrects App Store antitrust lawsuit against Apple

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that iPhone users are free to sue Apple for its alleged App Store monopoly on iPhone apps, Reuters reports. This latest ruling resurrects a legal challenge that was originally filed back in 2012, which accused Apple of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by restricting iPhones to only run apps purchased from Apple’s own App Store, thereby artificially inflating the prices of apps by stifling market competition. In response, Apple argued that users did not have any standing to sue Apple because apps are sold by individual developers, and that Apple simply provides the storefront for developers, in return for a cut of app sales. A lower court originally sided with Apple on the matter, however, Judge William A. Fletcher of the appellate court ruled this week that since iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, iPhone users have a right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.

Apple partners with Tresorit to offer encryption option to CareKit developers

After launching its CareKit platform in April of last year, Apple has announced a new partnership with Tresorit to offer that company’s ZeroKit to app developers looking to offer more secure data encryption. CareKit apps allow users to track their health information and keep that data encrypted on the user’s iPhone, but when the data is shared with servers, it’s up to developers to provide security for that transmission. Tresorit’s ZeroKit framework provides a shortcut for those looking to add “zero-knowledge end-to-end encryption” to their apps without doing all the leg work. Tresorit’s website claims their authentication service can guard against many of the most common methods used in data breaches, including “pass the hash,” dictionary, and brute force attacks. Some companies, like Dr.near.me and The Diary Corporation, are already using ZeroKit to secure their apps. [via Apple Insider]

ESPN’s iOS apps add support for Single Sign-On

The latest version of the ESPN and WatchESPN apps for iOS now offer support for Apple’s Single Sign-On feature. Both apps provide access to streaming video, provided the user has a valid cable subscription with a supported partner. With an update to the latest versions of each app, users with a valid cable subscription set up on their phone will be able to sign in using their Touch ID rather than entering a password each time.

Russia orders Apple to pull LinkedIn app

Apple has pulled the LinkedIn app from its App Store in Russia, The New York Times reports. The move came after Russia blocked the social networking site for not complying with local laws requiring them to store data on Russian citizens. Nicole Leverich, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn, said the company was “disappointed” in Russia’s decision, adding the move “denies access to our members in Russia and the companies that use LinkedIn to grow their businesses.” Apple confirmed it was asked to remove the LinkedIn app in Russia, but declines further comment on the issue. Apple also confirmed that China has indeed requested the company remove The New York Times’ app, illustrating the direct blocking of websites — common in more repressive countries — is now creeping into the App Store.

Samsung’s Gear S3, Gear S2, Fit2 smartwatches gain iOS compatibility

Samsung has announced its Gear S3, Gear S2 and Gear Fit2 smartwatches are now compatible with iOS. Depending on the model, users will need the Gear S or Gear Fit apps, now available on the App Store. The apps will guide users through the steps of pairing their devices and, once installed, allow the wearer to track routes, log distance traveled and monitor heart rate and calories burned. The apps also provide the ability to find a lost watch using the device’s built-in GPS.

Instagram adds iPhone 7 Wide Color Support, Live Photos in Stories

Instagram has added support for wide color capture on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the ability to convert Live Photos into Boomerangs in Instagram Stories. Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger tweeted the news out yesterday, noting in particular that the features are being rolled out in the existing Instagram app, with no update needed.

Instagram originally announced that it would be adding support for the new camera features in iPhone 7 at Apple’s event back in September, including the wider colors and Live Photos in Boomerang Stories announced today, along with a special color filter and one-finger zoom on the iPhone 7 Plus. Support for wide color capture and display should simply begin working, and users can add Live Photos to their Boomerang Stories by opening the Instagram Stories camera, swiping from the bottom of the screen to upload from the camera roll, and then selecting a Live Photo from the thumbnails that appear at the bottom of the screen. A 3D Touch on the screen will allow the Live Photo to be previewed as a Boomerang that can be shared in the current Story. [via TechCrunch]

Capcom announces all six classic MegaMan titles now available for iOS

Capcom has released the entire series of original 8-bit Mega Man games for iOS devices, following reports last month that the series would at least be landing in Japan in early 2017. Coming only a few weeks after the Blue Bomber’s birthday, this release represents the first time that all six of the original 8-bit Mega Man games have been available on any smart device platform, 29 years after Mega Man first landed on gaming consoles. The iOS adaptations of the game are optimized for mobile devices with adjustments to game speed, and are designed to appeal to both long-time fans and newcomers to the series. Each title is available separately from the App Store for $1.99, including the original Mega Man through Mega Man 6.

Google Calendar iOS app can now track workouts via HealthKit

Google has released an update to its Google Calendar app for iOS devices, adding integration with Apple’s HealthKit framework for automatically tracking completion of fitness goals. Last year, Google added a new “Goals” feature to Google Calendar, allowing users to schedule goals for various recurring activities such as workouts, however users who wanted to keep track of their goals were required to mark them completed manually. The latest version of Google Calendar for iOS can now read workout data directly from Apple’s Health app, allowing daily workout goals to be automatically marked as completed within the Google Calendar app. The app can also now use workout data from HealthKit to tailor future goal schedules to times that more accurately reflect actual workout times.

Apple announces record-shattering New Year’s Day for App Store

Apple has announced that the 2017 began with the busiest day ever for the App Store, with over $240 million in customer purchases made on Jan. 1, 2017. The year 2016 was also a record-breaking year for the App Store overall, with developers earning over $20 billion — an increase of more than 40 percent from 2015, representing about a third of the total developer earnings over the course of the entire eight year history of the App Store. App Store purchases in December 2016 topped $3 billion; top grossing apps included Monster Strike, Fantasy Westward, Clash Royale, and of course Pokémon GO, while Super Mario Run was the most downloaded app globally on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, after breaking records with 40 million downloads in the first four days after its Dec. 15 release. Apple also added that through its Apps for Earth and Games for (RED) campaigns, developers helped to raise over $17 million for the World Wildlife Fund and (RED).

Apple removes New York Times app from Chinese App Store

Apple has removed The New York Times’ apps from the App Store in China in response to a request from Chinese authorities, The New York Times reports. Both the English and Chinese language apps were removed from the App Store in China on Dec. 23, with Apple being told by Chinese officials that the app “is in violation of local regulations.” The move seems to affect only The New York Times’ apps, as other international publications such as The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal remain available in the Chinese App Store. The Chinese government began blocking The Times’ websites in 2012 following a series of articles on then-prime minister Wen Jiabao, although the government is said to have been struggling in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app.

Niantic updates Pokémon GO with Apple Watch support

Niantic has released an update to its popular Pokémon GO game for iOS devices, adding the promised support for Apple Watch. While players will still need to pull out their iPhone to hunt for Pokémon, the Apple Watch app allows users to perform many other in-game functions such as hatching eggs, viewing level progress status, receiving alerts of nearby Pokémon and PokéStops, and more. Users will also be able to start workouts from within the Pokémon GO Watch app, and view stats such as calories burned, distance walked, and items collected. A Watch Face Complication also provides status updates, such as how far the user needs to walk to hatch an egg.

Super Mario Run posts record-breaking 40 million downloads in four days

In a statement posted on Nintendo’s website, the gamemaker confirms that Super Mario Run was downloaded more than 40 million times in its first four days, setting a new App Store record. The endless runner has roared to success despite mixed reviews — our own App Diary had mixed feelings, as well. The Wall Street Journal reports Nintendo shares have fallen more than 16 percent since the game’s launch, with investors citing concerns over Nintendo charging a one-time fee, rather than using an in-app purchase model like the one that made Pokémon GO so successful. While Super Mario Run is expected to generate $15 million in its first month, Pokémon GO made $100 million between July and September by adding additional paid content. While expanding the game to Android could make more money for Nintendo, a company spokesman confirmed there are no plans to release any additional content for the game, either free or paid.

Apple asks users to send company Health app data for research

Apple’s Health app is asking users to send their data to a reporting program which will use the information to improve the company’s health-related offerings. If a user opts in, Apple will gain access to workout and activity information from their iPhone and Apple Watch, which the company says will be used to “understand the effectiveness of health and fitness features on Apple devices.” Apple claims the data won’t be used for any other purpose and that it won’t include any personally identifiable information. The company will also gather some location data and information about what other fitness apps are installed on a user’s devices.

Minecraft launches for Apple TV

Developer Mojang has brought its popular Minecraft game to Apple TV, according to a blog post on the game’s site. The game costs $20 and is rolling out in various regions today — we personally haven’t seen it yet, but it should be popping up sometime soon. For a limited time ,the company is including “the Holiday 2015, Town Folk, and City Folk skin packs, along with the Plastic, Natural, Cartoon, and Festive 2016 mash-ups” in that $20 purchase price. The Apple TV version doesn’t currently support Minecraft Realms or Xbox Live, but the company promises that future updates will add those features.

Niantic says Pokémon GO app for Apple Watch is still coming

Niantic is still working on developing a Pokémon GO app for Apple Watch despite rumors that the company had scrapped it, TechCrunch reports. Niantic promised the Apple Watch version of Pokémon GO “by the end of the year,” but with the end of the year approaching, an alleged email from a Niantic customer service agent appeared on Reddit, claiming the “port for the Apple Watch has been shelved” due to low demand. But Niantic quickly debunked the rumor, confirming that the Reddit image was a fake and adding that, “Development on Pokémon GO continues, as it has since before the Apple announcement.” No firm date has been offered, but the Pokémon GO Twitter page says an Apple Watch app is “coming soon.”

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