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Apple makes its picks for best iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps of 2016

Apple has revealed its “Best of 2016” picks for the apps, movies, TV shows and books sold in its App Stores and iTunes. The company chose the photo editing app Prisma as its iPhone App of the Year (as did we), calling the app’s ability to turn photos into works of art “almost too cool for words.” MSQRD, with its live photo and video filters, took the runner-up spot. Clash Royale was named iPhone Game of the Year, followed by runner-up Reigns, with Pokémon GO getting a special distinction as the Breakout Hit of 2016.

Apple enables Single Sign-On across all iOS 10 and tvOS 10 devices

Apple has enabled its promised Single Sign-On service for all devices running at least iOS 10 or tvOS 10, despite it only previously appearing in the iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 betas. The service is only accessible to users in the United States, with eight providers currently on board: CenturyLink Prism, DirecTV, Dish, GTA, Hawaiian Telecom, Hotwire, MetroCast, and Sling TV. The Single Sign-On allows subscribers of any of these supported providers to log in with the credentials from their cable/satellite account to access content in supported content apps without having to authenticate to each app separately — apps will simply request the user’s permission to access saved sign-on credentials when first using the app. Note that content provider apps will need to be specifically updated by their developers to add support for Single Sign-On as well. Hopefully, now that the feature is live, we see more cable/satellite providers added to Single Sign-On, as the list is relatively short at this time.

Developers pushing back against abusers of Apple’s App Store refund policy

Apple’s full control of its App Store refund policy has drawn the ire of developers who say the company is allowing users to abuse loopholes to cheat them, The Korea Times reports. Apple independently determines whether customers get refunds, with developers unable to even obtain information about users that receive the refunds. That forces developers to track down users manually to ensure they’re not still using the content for which they’ve received refunds. The disconnect has allowed unscrupulous users to buy paid content multiple times, request refunds, and then continue using the content without paying for it.

Apple Store app update allows purchases from Apple Watch

Apple has released an update to the Apple Store app, adding the ability for users to purchase accessories directly from their Apple Watch, as well as support for iOS 10 rich notifications. The Apple Watch app doesn’t yet provide access to the full Apple Store catalog, so users will be limited to purchasing accessories that they’ve already marked as favorites from the iOS app or Apple Store web page, and will need to pay using Apple Pay. As with other features in the Apple Store app, Apple notes that not all features may be available in all countries, so it’s unclear where Apple Watch accessory purchases will be available, or whether only certain products are eligible.

Netflix enables offline viewing for some shows and movies on its iOS app

Netflix is now allowing customers to download certain content through their iOS app for offline viewing. Not everything is available for download—with even the Netflix original season of “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” not making the cut yet—but fan favorites like “Stranger Things,” “Narcos,” and “Orange Is the New Black” are among the early offerings, along with a number of films. Movies and shows available for offline viewing will have a “download” button on the details page, and video can be downloaded in standard or high quality, depending on how much space you want to use on your device.

Sony brings PlayStation Vue to Apple TV

Sony has announced the launch of an updated PlayStation Vue app that adds Apple TV support, bringing the gaming network’s streaming video service to users of Apple’s set-top box. In addition to providing access to viewing PlayStation Vue content, the app also includes unique features such as cloud DVR capabilities and simultaneous streaming, while maintaining the standard look and feel of the PlayStation Vue service with Siri Remote support. Existing PlayStation Vue users can simply download the app onto their Apple TV, link their subscription and start streaming right away, while new users can sign up for a plan through the PlayStation Vue website (an in-app purchase option does not appear to be available).

Apple to reduce cut of in-app subscription payments for streaming video services

Apple is planning to reduce its portion of fees for streaming video service subscriptions sold via the App Store, Bloomberg reports, a move that appears to be aimed at encouraging tighter integration streaming video apps on the iOS and Apple TV platforms. This is the second big move in Apple’s attempts to adjust its in-app subscription pricing models, after the company announced earlier this year that developers would see their share increase for every customer subscription that is retained beyond the first year. With this reported change, Apple will be giving streaming video apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO access to the better deal — reducing Apple’s revenue share to 15 percent — right out of the gate in the first year, provided they integrate with Apple’s forthcoming TV app.

Super Mario Run to debut Dec. 15, full unlocked game to cost $10

Nintendo has announced that Super Mario Run will go on sale in the U.S. and several other regions on December 15. The game can be downloaded for free, giving players a chance to try out the three game modes. For those who want to keep playing, a one-time $10 payment will unlock unlimited access to all game three modes. In the new game, Mario continues to run on his own as a user performs single finger taps to make him “jump over obstacles, avoid enemies, pull off stylish moves, collect coins and reach the flagpole to complete courses.” For anyone who wants to view simulated gameplay or pre-register for the game, Nintendo has created a special website.

Apple releases iBooks StoryTime for Apple TV

Apple has released iBooks StoryTime for U.S. Apple TV users, an interactive spoken-word books app for kids. iBooks StoryTime includes a small selection of handpicks children’s titles with Read-Aloud narration and colourful illustrations that allows children to view and listen to stories on the Apple TV. The Siri Remote can be used to swipe between pages, and parents can turn off Read-Aloud narration to read the story to their children themselves. Additional Read-Aloud books can be purchased using the iBooks app on iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and books purchased by all family members will automatically appear in the iBooks StoryTime library on the Apple TV.

Apple makes deal with NBCUniversal to sell ads in News app

Apple is handing off ad sales for its News app to NBCUniversal, Recode reports. Publishers can still sell their own ads and keep 100 percent of the profit generated, but NBCUniversal will now be selling the remaining ad space. Publishers will get 70 percent of the revenue from those ads sales, just like they’re currently getting under the existing arrangement with Apple. Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s head of sales, said the company is creating a new “dedicated sales group” for the app. Earlier this year Apple pulled the plug on its lackluster iAd service after not being able to find a reasonable way to use customer data while still maintaining privacy.

Google brings ‘undo send’ feature to Gmail iOS app

Google has released an improved version of its Gmail app for iOS, finally adding the popular “undo send” feature. Users will now have a five-second window to take back a message if they immediately realize that message wasn’t complete (or wasn’t going where they intended). The update also provides the ability to archive or delete messages with a swipe and improves searches by providing instant results and spelling suggestions. The Gmail app is available on the App Store.

Hundreds of fake retail apps appear on App Store

Hundreds of fake retail apps aimed at deceiving holiday shoppers have begun appearing on the App Store, The New York Times reports. Counterfeit apps branded with recognizable store names like Dollar General, Nordstrom, Zappos and many others have popped up in the last few weeks, and while most of the junk apps just run pop-up ads when they’re opened, some have asked for Facebook logins or credit card information that could expose customers to obvious security issues. A careful look at many of the apps will reveal red flags, such as “menus written in butchered English, no reviews and no history of previous versions.”

Vine founders release Hype video app

Vine co-founders Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll have released Hype, a new social video app that allows users to broadcast live interactive video. Followers can be notified instantly when a broadcast begins, and can comment and interact with the broadcast, and users can add photos, videos, music, and animations to spice up their videos. A replay feature allows users to make their broadcasts available for later viewing, and Hype broadcasts can be easily shared on Twitter. Broadcasters can also feature comments from followers, add themed backgrounds, and present videos and pictures in slideshow form. Rather than being a new Vine app, however, Hype appears to be more in line to compete with Twitter’s Periscope app and Facebook’s integrated Facebook Live feature.

Apple drops crime reporting app Vigilante from App Store

An app designed to alert residents of New York City to crimes being committed has been pulled from the App Store, The Guardian reports. In a blog post about launching the Vigilante app, parent company Sp0n said it monitors crimes reported to 911 and alerts nearby users so they can get to safety or film crimes as they unfold. But the app didn’t last long on the App Store, with Apple citing concerns about its content, according to the app’s creator. While Sp0n claims “the closed system excludes the community while the open system informs and empowers citizens,” it’s easy to see how encouraging average citizens to get involved in investigating or stopping suspected crimes could be problematic. Apple declined to comment on why it removed the app, but a Sp0n spokeswoman said, “The team is working with Apple to resolve the issue and they are confident the app will be made available in the near future. Vigilante will introduce an Android version of the app in the upcoming weeks with plans to expand in additional cities later this year.”

Apple allows developers to send promo codes for in-app purchases

In an announcement on its developer website, Apple confirmed that it is now allowing developers to send a limited number of promo codes out from iTunes Connect to give away in-app purchases to select users. Developers can now send up to 100 promo codes for any single in-app purchase item, and up to 1,000 promo codes total per app. The move is aimed at allowing “press and influencers” to gain free access to items and features that are usually behind an app’s paywall.

CBS developing Candy Crush game show

CBS has decided to turn the mobile game Candy Crush Saga into a game show, Deadline reports. CBS hasn’t released an initial air date or announced a host, but the show has been in development for two years and will feature players attempting to match colorful candies in groups of three or more while defeating obstacles to make it through more than 2,000 levels. Developed by the same people who brought the obstacle-course hit Wipeout to ABC, Candy Crush will feature “teams of two people [using] their wits and physical agility to compete on enormous, interactive game boards featuring next generation technology to conquer Candy Crush and be crowned the champions.” While Candy Crush Saga isn’t as popular as was it years ago, the game can still be found on Apple’s Top Charts, under free games.

Sony set to launch mobile games on iOS

Following Nintendo’s lead, Sony is planning to launch more than five mobile games for iOS by March 2018, CNBC reports. As previously reported, the games will be produced by Sony’s ForwardWorks subsidiary and released first in Japan and other Asian markets where the company has seen lagging console sales. Sony hasn’t elaborated on which games will be coming first, but Serkan Toto, CEO of Japanese gaming consultant and advisory group Kantan Games, warned against looking for the company to replicate the early success of titles like Pokémon GO. “Sony doesn’t have the same power as the Nintendo IP. There is nothing that comes even close to Mario,” Toto said.

Apple removes Dash app from App Store over fraudulent review accusations

Apple has removed popular API documentation browser Dash from the App Store, claiming that an account linked to the app’s parent company Kapeli engaged in App Store review manipulation. In a statement to The Loop, Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr said almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were discovered across the 2 accounts and 25 apps associated with Kapeli. Who posted the reviews and which apps received those reviews is still unclear. “Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful,” Neumayr said. “We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers.”

Popular Phoneys sticker app for iMessage in limbo after warning from Apple

The Phoneys sticker app for iMessage has landed its creator in a serious conundrum after Apple called him with demands that he change it or face its removal from the iMessage app store. In a post on Medium, Adam Howell explains he built the sticker pack—which allows users to paste a convincing-looking iMessage bubble over a friend’s message to make it look like they said something they didn’t—with every expectation that it wouldn’t make it through the approval process. Once it did, people took notice, and with a little publicity, it shot to the top of the Top Paid list on the iMessage store.

Apple announces App Store Search Ads

Apple has sent out an email to registered developers announcing the debut of search ads in the App Store. Apple SVP Phil Schiller announced earlier this year that search ads would be coming to the App Store, however provided few additional details at the time beyond saying that Apple was giving careful consideration on the best way to implement ads in a customer-friendly manner. Search Ads will allow developers to easily create tailored ads to promote their apps at the top of App Store search results, with basic ads created automatically using metadata and imagery from the developer’s app and automatic matching of ads to relevant searches in the App Store. Advanced features will allow developers to target their ads to iPhone or iPad users, adds their own keywords, specify a target demographic for ads, and schedule campaigns to appear only during certain time periods. Apple has published a new set of pages at searchads.apple.com where developers can find out more information on the new service and sign up to receive a $100 credit toward their first campaign.

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