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Tablo OTA DVR update adds advanced recording features

Nuvyyo has released a software update for its Tablo Over-The-Air DVR (iLounge rating: A-) bringing the more advanced and flexible scheduling and recording management tools that many users have been waiting for. The new features, which are rolling out as part of a firmware update to all Tablo DVR models, will allow users to adjust start and stop times for recordings, choose to keep only a specific number of episodes on a per-program basis, and choose which channel to record from when multiple channels are airing a given program. The new advanced recording features will be available to all customers with an active Tablo guide subscription once their devices have been updated to the latest firmware (2.2.18), which is being rolled out gradually over the next week, and can be accessed using most of Tablo’s apps, including the Apple TV and iOS apps, as well as the Safari-optimzied web app for Mac users. Full details can be found on the company’s blog.

Apple unveils redesigned App Store web preview pages

Following a major overhaul of the App Store in iOS 11, Apple has quietly revamped the App Store’s web preview pages to bring them more in line with new iOS design aesthetic. The new layout opens up with a clear banner notifying users that they will need to open the App Store on their iOS device to actually download the app, followed by a cleaner title area with a larger icon, title, subtitle, developer link, ranking/rating information, and price. Below that the new preview page now focuses on screenshots rather than a description, with links to switch between iPhone, iPad, iMessage, and Apple Watch screenshots; Apple TV screenshots are notably absent from the new preview pages, however. Description and What’s New sections come after the screenshots, followed by a more conspicuous customer reviews section that features a design first introduced in the Apple TV App Store.

App Store download revenue set to overtake amount made by entire movie industry this year

App Store downloads brought in $26.5 billion for developers in 2017, and Asymco’s Horace Dediu has unearthed some interesting stats about how that stacks up against other juggernauts of American business. If App Store downloads continue to increase at the same rate, the amount generated in 2018 will be more than the entire film industry combined, as well as more than the revenue taken in by the entire McDonald’s Corporation in 2016. In the coming year users will be spending about $100 million each day on apps, making the App Store segment of Apple’s business the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company in its own right. And these totals don’t take into account other apps offered from free by companies like Amazon and Uber that in turn are used by those companies to generate revenue. With Dediu estimating that “iOS enables about 50% to 60% of mobile economic activity,” he estimates that between economic activity and hardware sales combined, “the iOS economy cleared about $380 billion in revenues 2017” and is set to approach the $500 billion mark in the coming year.

Apple makes deal to allow tipping to resume for Chinese users of WeChat app

Apple has reached a deal with Tencent that will soon allow the tipping feature to be turned back on in WeChat, The Wall Street Journal reports. Direct payments to content creators were disabled in WeChat and other apps last year when Apple informed the app makers that it considered the payments equivalent to in-app purchases — which means Apple would be entitled to 30 percent of the revenue being sent. The companies objected, arguing that Apple was looking to collect money for nothing since not even the app makers themselves were collecting anything from the direct payments sent from users to content creators.

Roland announces new app for creating split screen music videos

Venerable musical instrument maker Roland has released 4XCAMERA, a new video capture app for iOS devices. Although it’s a slight departure from the company’s usual offerings, 4XCAMERA is still targeted at musicians, with the goal of helping to create music videos that can combine up to four performances on a split screen. Users start by capturing a single video using the app, and can then use that initial video to record up to three more performances, adding new parts on each pass. Users can then apply one of 10 split-screen patterns and adjust volumes for each of the videos separately for the perfect sound mix before rendering a final video file that can be shared directly on YouTube or other social media sites.

Report: Some iOS games using microphone to track users’ TV habits

Games like Pool 3D, Beer Pong:Trickshot, and Real Bowling Strike:10 Pin found on the App Store could be tracking users’ TV viewing habits even when they’re not being played, The New York Times reports. The apps are all built using software from Alphonso, a start-up that specializes in collecting data on TV viewing for advertisers. Even when the apps aren’t in use, Alphonso’s software can potentially use a smartphone’s microphone to pick up on the TV shows and ads playing around the device, then use that information to target ads to the user, although the microphone is less likely to continue being used outside of the app on iOS devices due to Apple’s built-in limitations on background apps.

Face ID can’t be used for ‘Ask to Buy’ purchases on the App Store

Many users who bought the iPhone X this year got an unwelcome surprise at Christmas time, finding that they couldn’t use Face ID to authenticate “Ask to Buy” requests that require kids to ask for parental approval to make iOS purchases and downloads, Ars Technica reports. The “Ask to Buy” feature allows Touch ID to be used to approve the requests, but not Face ID, which has led to speculation that Apple knows there’s a risk of family members — especially children without fully formed features — being able to access another user’s iPhone X with Face ID and approve purchases without permission.

Apple softens position on template-based apps

Apple has revised its App Store guidelines on template-based apps, TechCrunch reports, providing much-needed clarity and a more balanced approach following a report earlier this month that many small businesses were being pushed off the App Store. Apple’s guidelines were intended to reduce the number of low-quality apps and “spam” apps that provide little functionality for users, but the hardline approach banning template apps outright ended up affecting a wider market of small businesses and non-profit organizations that relied on third-party app development houses to gain a legitimate presence on the App Store.

Shazam iOS app gets offline mode after Apple acquisition

Not long after Shazam was acquired by Apple, the iOS app has been updated to include an offline mode. Since it won’t have access to the information it needs to identify whatever it’s listening to, the offline mode of the app will simply save the sample and then produce a result once the device is back online. Sources claim Apple could have paid more than $400 million for the company, and it’s still unclear exactly how Apple plans to use the technology — and whether it will continue to make the service available for use on Apple Music competitors like Spotify.

Apple reportedly planning combined iPhone, iPad and Mac apps to create unified experience

Apple is looking to change the way developers design apps, aiming to create a single set of apps that work on iPhones, iPads and Macs, Bloomberg reports. While developers currently have to create different apps for iOS and macOS, sources familiar with the development claim Apple is ramping up a push to have developers create a single application that can worth with either a touchscreen or a mouse and trackpad while performing equally well across multiple devices. The move is aimed at freshening up the Mac App Store, which features fewer apps and versions that routinely lack the updates of their iOS counterparts.

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.”

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