In honor of Opening Day in the MLB, Apple has rolled out some improvements to Siri’s baseball knowledge, but we’ve found there’s still a lot of room for improvement. The personal assistant is supposed to be able to provide more detailed statistics, including historical data going back to the beginning of baseball records, but simple questions like, “What was Ty Cobb’s best single-season batting average?” returned, “I don’t know who leads the league in batting average,” so she can’t even answer the question we didn’t ask, much less the one we did.
After releasing Miitomo in the Japanese App Store earlier this month, Nintendo announced it is bringing its first iOS app to the U.S. and several other countries starting Thursday. The free-to-play app revolves around creating custom Mii characters and sharing responses to questions like, “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” and “If you were given ten grand to spend in one day, what would you do?” Answers are shared among friends, who can give responses a “heart” and reply with a picture or written comment.
Sony has announced plans to develop mobile games for the “smart device market” under a newly-formed subsidiary, ForwardWorks Corporation. The new mobile gaming arm will “leverage the intellectual property” of a number of PlayStation games and characters in developing gaming applications for the iOS and Android platforms, although it appears that it will be focusing these releases on the Japanese and Asian markets. While Sony seems to clearly be following the lead of Nintendo, which debuted its first game Miitomo in the Japanese App Store earlier this month, in contrast to Nintendo’s efforts, it appears ForwardWorks will be delivering “full-fledged game titles” for users to “casually enjoy” on their mobile devices. [via TechCrunch]
Google has been developing its own third-party keyboard for iOS that would incorporate the company’s search engine, The Verge reports. Sources said the keyboard has been in circulation among employees for months and is designed to boost the search traffic from Apple devices by providing one-button access to picture, GIF and traditional web searches. Like its Android counterpart, Google’s iOS keyboard also employs gesture-based typing, allowing users to drag their finger from one letter to the next and have Google guess their intended word.
A new Apple technical document shows that sponsored “native” ads which look like news stories are coming soon to your News app feed. The new ads “display directly in the content feeds, inline with News articles.” They’ll feature the same title, text excerpt and small image fields, with the only thing setting them apart from news content being the “Sponsored” tag at the bottom of the story. Apple says the new ads “are intended to blend in with their surroundings” and will be set to display in the same font used for news stories. The sponsor can include its name in the disclaimer at the bottom of the ad or opt out, leaving only the word “Sponsored” in the space below.
Microsoft has integrated Touch ID into the Outlook iOS app in its latest update. Version 2.2.2 of the email app allows users to require a fingerprint scan or device passcode to access their Outlook account. To enable or disable the feature, users must go to Settings under Preferences. Outlook is the first major iOS email app with Touch ID support.
Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller has pledged to look into complaints that contend certain Apple Store algorithms are broken. Schiller responded on Twitter after two developers sent him a screenshot illustrating how the company’s categories in Canada and other countries sort apps, piling apps with names beginning in a number at the top of the heap and stacking similarly-named apps together to push other legitimate apps out of the top spots. Screenshot++ developer Wesley Dyson told Schiller, “Rip-off apps should never be showcased by Apple,” which prompted Schiller’s response. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has made it possible for Apple TV users to watch previews of the apps available for their device and has encouraged developers to upload app preview videos in a message sent out today. The 15 to 30 second videos are intended to showcase the features, functionality and user interface of an app or game and can be watched by selecting the “preview” button on an app’s product page. Since the feature was just opened to developers, we haven’t spotted any apps that feature a preview yet — not even Apple’s in-house products. Guidelines for recording and submitting previews are available on Apple’s developer site.
The Russian government is considering a bill that would increase taxes on a dozen categories of digital products and services offered by foreign companies like Apple, including ads, games, movies, marketplace transactions and cloud computing, Bloomberg reports. In a recent interview described as “peppered with expletives,” Russian Internet Czar German Klimenko said he is pushing to raise the taxes to level the playing field for Russian competitors, following the lead of other European countries. “When you buy an app from Google Play or the App Store anywhere in Europe, VAT is charged at the place of payment, but not here in our banana republic,” Klimenko said. The new bill proposes an 18 percent value-added tax on an estimated $3.9 billion in profits earned on digital media and services by Apple, Google and other foreign technology companies. Klimenko also railed against Apple’s compliance with U.S. sanctions on Russia after the country annexed Crimea, calling that decision “the point of no return.” Apple declined to comment on the proposed tax increase.
Apple has rejected an iOS version of the popular indie game The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth after deciding its content depicts “violence towards, or abuse of, children,” the game’s developer said on Twitter. The game, based loosely on the Old Testament story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, revolves around the child protagonist’s efforts to escape the basement where he is being held by his mother. The console and platform versions of the game are rated Mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but feature only cartoonish violence similar to that found in Limbo, another popular iOS title that had no trouble getting approved despite being a platformer where a child essentially dies over and over again. But promotional images for The Binding of Isaac show a child naked and weeping on the floor, and Nintendo initially rejected the game for the 3DS and Wii U over objections to “questionable religious content.”
Facebook has announced the rollout of its Live Video feature on the iPhone to all Facebook users in the U.S., with expansion to the rest of the world “in the coming weeks.” Originally introduced as a trial in early December, the Live Video feature allows users to broadcast in real-time to friends, family, or other Facebook users via the Facebook app, initiated as a status update. Users can write a quick description and choose the audience that they wish to share with before going live. During the broadcast, Live Video users will see the number of live viewers, names of friends who are watching, and a stream of comments presented in real-time. Once ended, live video broadcasts will be saved onto the user’s Timeline like any other video.
Microsoft has released News Pro, a new free news app. Unlike Apple’s built-in iOS 9 News app, News Pro appears to be geared more toward professional and business interests. Billed as “Your Work News Brief,” the app is designed to help users search for daily news relevant to their work field, with over a million topics to choose from. Users can link News Pro with their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to tailor their news feed to their work experience and personal interests, and the app will suggest new topics to explore and web sites to discover based on the user’s current profile.
Apple is planning to expand its News service to provide subscription content through the iOS 9 News app, Reuters reports. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the report notes that the aim would be to give publishers with paywalls a way to limit access to their content, and would help to distinguish Apple’s offering from other online news apps and services such as Facebook’s Instant Articles. The move may address concerns raised by publishers, which cannot ignore Apple’s hundreds of millions of users, while at the same time preferring to still connect directly with readers. Making paid content available through the iOS News app would allow publishers to maintain relationships with their existing reader base and possibly attract new subscribers, although it’s still unclear at this time how Apple plans to authenticate subscribers or whether it would take its usual cut of subscription payments, as the company did with its prior Newsstand system.
Frogmind has released Badland 2 ($5), the sequel to its award-winning game Badland, for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The new side-scrolling, action-adventure game expands on the original world of Badland, adding rich new graphic detail and levels that now extend and scroll in all directions, as well as new obstacles and elements to fly through, such as liquids, flamethrowers, frost, magma, water, and searing light. The single-player campaign provides unique, physics-based challenges, however players can also jump into online levels for competing against friends in seasonal asynchronous multiplayer events. Frogmind also promises more content for both modes will be provided in future free updates, as in the original Badland. The new sequel also includes support for 3D Touch capability for iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus users.
BBC has launched its iPlayer app for Apple TV in the U.K. According to the BBC, the app features Siri voice search, along with typical playback and search functions. At this point, though, the app doesn’t support subtitles, as Apple doesn’t support the same format used by the BBC. The BBC also notes that it’s working with Apple on making BBC iPlayer shows available via the Apple TV’s search — that may arrive sometime next year.
Apple agreed with iLounge’s pick for the Best Apple Watch App of 2015, naming weather app Dark Sky its choice for Apple Watch App of the Year. Apple Watch Game of the Year went to Rules!, a fast-paced puzzle game which is a smaller version of its iOS edition. Best Classic Podcast went to WTF with Marc Maron, and newcomer Mystery Show was named Best New Podcast of 2015. Apple also released its picks for best books of 2015 in 16 categories, listed below.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News discussing the success of the new fourth-generation Apple TV, Apple SVP Eddy Cue revealed that the addition of Apple Remote app support in yesterday’s tvOS update may actually just be a stop-gap measure while the company produces an enhanced Remote app for iOS devices. Cue noted that a new Apple TV remote app is in development that will provide “the full functionality of the Siri Remote on your iPhone,” and he expects Apple to release the new updated app in the first half of 2016.
A little more than a month after its open beta period, Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant hit the App Store today. The free app allows users access to functions similar to those performed by Apple’s Siri, like getting answers to questions, but adds the ability to sync reminders between an iOS device and a Windows PC. Cortana is also able to track packages, flights, sports scores and stocks for those looking for up-to-the-minute updates, and a Notebook function stores information about a user’s interests and activities. But Cortana’s functionality is much more limited on the iPhone than on Windows phones where it’s fully integrated: Cortana isn’t allowed to change iPhone settings or activate when users say “Hey Cortana,” making the app less of a full replacement for Siri and more of a handy extension for iOS device users operating a Windows PC that they want to integrate with their device.
Apple has released its picks for best apps of 2015. The company picked Periscope (our runner up for App of the Year) as its iPhone App of the Year — calling it a game-changer that “made sharing and watching live videos an instant obsession” — and selected photo editor Enlight and stock-trading app Robinhood as its runners-up. Workflow won Most Innovative app for iPhone, and Instagram’s 3D Touch enhancements won it Best App on iPhone 6s. Lara Croft GO won Best Game of the Year for iPhone for its “beauty and clever design,” with Fallout Shelter and Mr Jump earning runner-up honors. Dark Echo was listed as the Most Innovative iPhone game and “immersive 3D Touch controls” won Warhammer 40,000: Freeblade honors as Best Game on iPhone 6s.