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Report: Apple expanding mapping operations at R&D facility

Apple is expanding its mapping research operations at a facility in Sweden, according to Swedish site DiGITAL. Citing a report from Rapidus, the site claims that after acquiring Swedish mapping company C3 Technologies in 2011, Apple quietly kept working on C3’s 3D modeling method, based on combinations of images taken by airplanes and cars from different angles. The new story claims Apple has been further developing that technology out of a facility in Lund, Sweden since last November, recently ramping up hiring. Apple has doubled down on improving its maps in recent years, sending its own vans out to collect data and acquiring other companies — like mapping firm Broadmap in 2013 and GPS firm Coherent Navigation this May — in addition to adding its new Transit feature to the Maps app in the upcoming iOS 9 release. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple shutting down HopStop app in October

In a banner message to users on its website, HopStop announced it will no longer be available in October, as Apple said it will be shutting down the popular transit directions app, according to 9to5Mac. Apple acquired HopStop in 2013 in an effort to improve its own transit directions in Apple Maps, and with those improvements coming online when iOS 9 launches on Sept. 16, Apple is shutting down HopStop’s app. The plan will leave some users in the lurch, as the transit feature in Apple Maps currently supports far fewer cities than the HopStop app. Apple is reportedly working quickly to close that gap — aiming to expand to cities like Boston and Tokyo, Japan by next year — and already provides transit directions for many areas outside those listed on it website, but in the meantime HopStop’s exit could leave users in countries like Russia, Israel and Australia without a working solution.

Apple News ad restrictions angering media companies

Irate media company executives are complaining that the Apple News app to be released with iOS 9 next week is too restrictive on advertising content, the New York Post reports. The company has placed unconventional restrictions on ad formats and requires strict approval hurdles for ad campaigns, leading one unnamed senior news executive to say, “[Apple News is] giving us some great ways to distribute our product, but they’re not giving us a lot of ways to monetize it.” Popular tools like real-time bidding for ad placements aren’t supported yet, and Apple has refused to accommodate Google’s Doubleclick, one of the most popular tools for placing and tracking online ads. Apple’s requirement that the company be allowed to approve every ad campaign within 48 hours’ notice and refusal to run pre-roll video ads without direct vetting has also made the process “very difficult,” according to another news executive. While publishers like CNN, Vox Media and Time Inc. have agreed to make most of their content available on the new app, others with strong paid subscription models like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reportedly restricting Apple News to a few dozen stories a day. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Media player app Plex coming to Apple TV

Popular media streaming app Plex is coming to Apple TV, according to a report from IT World. Plex co-founder Scott Olechowski confirmed that the company is awaiting tvOS developer beta information to work on adapting the app to the new platform. The app — which organizes video, music and photos on a computer and allows them to be streamed to media players, smart TVs and mobile devices — is available on iOS, but has only been accessible on Apple TV through a software hack. While Olechowski declined to give a timeline for Plex’s debut on Apple TV, he said there is no question that it will be possible to run a fully loaded version of the app on the new platform. “Our goal is to enable people to enjoy Plex on the hardware platforms of their choice, and there is no doubt this will be a top platform for us,” he said.

Pokémon, Niantic, and Nintendo announce Pokémon GO coming to iOS

The Pokémon Company, Ingress developer Niantic, and Nintendo have announced that they are collaborating on the release of Pokémon GO, a new location-based iOS game set in the Pokémon universe. Trainers will use their iPhone GPS to explore real-world locations to catch, trade, and battle with each other in their search for Pokémon. The game director of the original Pokémon video game series, Junichi Masuda, will also be contributing to the project, ensuring that the new Pokémon GO app remains true to the original Pokémon experience while at the same time branching out into new types of gameplay and tying into the main Pokémon series. Nintendo will also be developing and selling a separate Bluetooth device called Pokémon GO Plus that will alert users to nearby events with flashes and vibrations, such as Pokémon in their vicinity, and allow them to catch Pokémon with the press of a button without having to reach for their iPhone. Pokémon GO is expected to debut as a free download on the App Store in 2016.

Google releases Mobile Application Management for iOS devices

Google has announced that its Mobile Application Management (MAM) solution for Google for Work environments is now available to iOS devices. A new Google Device Policy app for iOS allows users of Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government to enroll their iOS devices in their organizational policies in order to streamline access to device approval requests and internal Wi-Fi networks, use single sign-ons across all Google Apps such as Gmail, Drive, and Docs, and install iOS apps that have been whitelisted by the organization in a managed device profile.

Google Apps Administrators will be able to use the Google Admin console to whitelist any free app found on the iOS app store, allowing a list of approved apps to be easily discovered and downloaded by their organization’s users without having to scour the App Store or recall specific app names from an orientation session or employee handbook. Apps installed through the Google Device Policy app are also managed by the organizational policies and can be removed from a user’s device when no longer whitelisted, or when a device is remotely wiped by an admin, ensuring that corporate information is not retained on personal devices when a user leaves the organization.

FiftyThree’s Paper app comes to the iPhone

FiftyThree has released a major update to its popular Paper idea capture app, adding support for iPhone users along with a number of interesting user interface improvements. Version 3.0 allows iPhone users to capture images, notes, and sketches at the tap of a button and provides a new home view to make it easier to see everything at a glance. Text in notes can now be quickly styled by swiping to create headers, checklists, and bullet points, or rearrange items in a list, and photos can be “spotlighted” using freehand drawing to outline an area for highlighting. Annotation features for writing notes on photos are also provided. Users can collaborate with other Paper users, or export notes as PDFs, Keynote and Powerpoint files, or export to Adobe Creative Cloud apps such as Illustrator.

Mozilla begins rollout of Firefox for iOS preview

Mozilla has announced a limited release of its Firefox browser for iOS. Originally hinted at last December, Mozilla changed direction on earlier statements that its browser would only be made available on iOS if Apple were to loosen its restrictions and permit the company’s own web engine to be used. The first preview version of Firefox is being released exclusively in New Zealand so that the company can collect feedback from a limited user base in a single country. Highlighted features of this first release include Intelligent Search, which provides suggested search results and a choice of search providers, as well as Firefox Accounts, which allows users to sync browser history, passwords, and tabs between Firefox on the desktop and the iOS version. A Visual Tabs feature is also included to help users keep track of open tabs. Mozilla plans to release future previews in “a few more countries” prior to a full public launch of the browser scheduled for later this year.

Google releases Google Street View app for iOS

Google has announced a new Google Street View app that allows iOS users to explore a collection of immersive 360-degree “photo sphere” panoramic images associated with locations around the world. The new app is actually a major redesign based on the company’s earlier Photo Sphere Camera app, which was originally designed to allow users to collect their own 360-degree spherical photography shots and upload them to Google Maps. The new Google Street View app takes this one step further, adding the ability to now explore Street View collections and content from Google Maps and photo spheres contributed by other users. In addition to creating and contributing photo spheres from the iPhone camera, the new app also adds support for connecting to external spherical cameras.

CBS Sports to stream Super Bowl 50, select NFL games on Apple TV

CBS announced it will stream Super Bowl 50, four NFL playoff games and and two regular season games through its CBS Sports app, available on Apple TV and several other platforms. The live streams are available for free and won’t require authentication to be viewed. The October 4 game between the Jets and Dolphins in London will be the first to stream live, followed by the November 26 Thanksgiving Day game between the Panthers and Cowboys. All of CBS’ AFC playoff coverage will be streamed as well, including Wild Card, Divisional, and Championship games.

Google omits HealthKit support from Android Wear iOS app

Although Google released an iOS app able to link certain Android Wear watches to iPhones, the new interface doesn’t yet include support for Apple’s HealthKit, BuzzFeed reports. While Android watches can track steps, heart rate and other fitness metrics, the data won’t show up in Apple’s Health dashboard like data collected from the Apple Watch does. Instead, the information will be routed through Google’s competing health dashboard, Google Fit. An Apple spokeswoman was quick to point out that the choice not to integrate Android Wear watches with HealthKit was entirely Google’s, leading to speculation that Google is happy to tap into Apple’s iPhone user base, but reluctant to allow its watches to share data with competing platforms. It’s possible that Google could change its mind in the future and allow Android Wear to interact with HealthKit.

Amazon Video app update lets Prime users download movies, TV shows for offline viewing

An update to the Amazon Video iOS app now allows Amazon Prime members in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Austria to download movies and TV shows for offline viewing at no added cost. A new download icon has appeared alongside the play button next to individual pieces of content within the app. To locate and view videos after downloading, iPhone or iPad users can open their Library, tap Refine and then select the On Device option. Users can also watch content by tapping Watch Now from the Prime movie or TV show page, which is also where they’ll go to delete downloads once they’re done watching.  Amazon is touting the move as setting its service apart from competitors like Netflix by making content available for viewing even when an Internet connection isn’t available.

Google releases iOS app that links some Android Wear watches to newer iPhones

Google announced on its official blog that an iOS app rolling out today will finally let users pair some Android Wear watches with newer iPhones. Android Wear for iOS will let users running iOS 8.2+ on an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 or 6 Plus connect their phone to the LG Watch Urbane. Google said all future Android Wear watches — including those from Asus, Huawei and Motorola — will support the iOS app as well, but for now, only the Urbane offers support. Once connected, the watch will mirror the notifications on a user’s iPhone, display messages, and show info about incoming phone calls. In the announcement, Google makes a point of noting that Android Wear’s always-on display means users won’t have to move their wrist to “wake up” their watch — a clear dig at how the Apple Watch only turns its screen on to display notifications after a user rotates their wrist or taps the smartwatch. Android Wear is going after Apple Watch on the health front as well, allowing iPhone users to track heart rate, distance traveled, and progress toward fitness goals. The app also attempts to provide an alternative to Siri in offering the “OK Google” capability, which allows users to get responses to questions, check traffic or flight information, and create to-do list reminders on the fly.

Updated Apple Store app accepts gift cards

Shoppers using the Apple Store’s iOS app can now use Apple Store gift cards when making their purchases. Previously users wanting to shop with a gift card had to complete their purchases on the Apple Store website. In version 3.4 of the Apple Store app, users will now see a spot just above payment options where they can add gift cards during checkout. Gift cards can be scanned using an iOS device’s camera, and existing gift cards can also be imported from Passbook.

EU ends one inquiry into Apple, begins another

The European Commission has ended its inquiry into Apple, saying it failed to find evidence that the company colluded with music labels to undercut free music streaming services offered by Spotify, Re/code reports. Multiple unnamed sources said questionnaires sent by European regulators to major record labels in April turned up no proof that Apple had made efforts to stifle Spotify’s free, ad-based offerings to users. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice also talked to music industry leaders in April about Spotify’s concerns, but haven’t publicly released any findings.

While the EU dropping its collusion investigation is good news for Apple, sources with knowledge of the situation say the company isn’t in the clear yet, with EU officials now asking Spotify and other streaming music services for more information about their App Store agreements with Apple. The FTC is conducting a similar investigation into whether the company’s share of profits from competitors to its Apple Music service violates antitrust laws. The 30 percent cut of revenue that Apple demands on subscription fees — which competing music streaming services charge through their iOS apps — has drawn scrutiny ever since Apple entered the streaming music business.

Target testing in-store beacons for iOS app users

Target announced it is installing low-powered Bluetooth beacons in 50 of its stores, set to use the company’s iOS app to highlight products and special offers as customers walk through certain sections of the store. The beacons will track shoppers throughout the store and present limited recommendations depending on which section the customer is in – an alert that a nearby item in women’s apparel is trending on Pinterest, for example. Eventually Target hopes to provide more in-depth features, like reorganizing a shopping list based on the best path through a store or providing reminders if a user forgot an item once they make it to the checkout line.

The technology could even be used to pair employees with customers in need of assistance in real time. Users will have to “opt in” to share their location while in the store and allow the app to send push notifications to their phones. Target says it plans to limit those notifications to two per shopping trip, but in-app updates on the app’s “Target Run” page will offer deals in a social media-style news feed. Target said the 50 test stores – located in areas in and around Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York City, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle – were chosen because they represent a good cross-section of stores in various markets, according to TechCrunch. Expansion to other stores and support for Android phones is expected later in the year.

Nokia’s HERE Maps sold to automakers in $3.1B deal

Nokia has sold its HERE Maps mapping service to Audi, BMW and Daimler, CNET reports — a move that could set up the automakers to compete with Apple and Google in the self-driving car arena. It was reported in April that Nokia was looking to sell its maps division, and the company was believed to be courting Apple, among others.

As Apple Maps vans are rushing to map the streets of major metropolitan areas worldwide in an effort to catch up with Google — and fueling speculation about Apple’s long-rumored electric car project —  the automakers have invested $3.1 billion to acquire Nokia’s mapping technology. The deal is expected to help the companies’ vehicles collect real-time updates on traffic, parking and other variables that would make self-driving cars a more efficient means of transportation. With Apple reportedly interested in using BMW’s i3 electric car as a starting point for its own vehicle, the expensive map acquisition may even provide increased leverage for BMW in further negotiations.

Microsoft releases email messaging app for iOS

Microsoft has released its slimmed-down email messaging app, called Send, on iOS devices. Plans for the app leaked in May under the name Flow by Outlook, but despite the new name, details about the hybrid email/instant messaging app have remained mostly the same. The app works with Office 365 business and school email accounts, allowing users to send quick messages to any email address without bothering with the subject lines or signatures found in traditional email. Microsoft seems to be aiming squarely at businesses, making several mentions of how the short communications are meant to be sent to co-workers. “While tools like text messaging and IM are great for short messages, you often don’t have your co-worker’s cell phone number or an IM app on your work phone…Send gives you the simple, quick text message-like experience while allowing you to reach all co-workers and have all of your communications in Outlook for reference later,” the announcement reads.

The app is notably only available on iOS at launch, with versions for Windows and Android phones said to be coming soon. Microsoft also claims to be working on making the service available beyond its own Office 365 accounts in the coming months. Only messages sent through Send will appear in the app, but all messages sent in Send will be synced in Outlook for future reference. Conversations started in Send can also be continued in Outlook, just as any other email exchange.

Apple blocks App Store reviews from users running iOS betas

In a move sure to make app developers happy, Apple has blocked users running an iOS beta on their device from writing reviews in the App Store. Developers have been asking for the change because negative reviews from users enrolled in Apple’s Beta Software Program — based on an app’s inability to work with an obviously unsupported operating system — drags down the app’s overall rating and could hurt potential sales. Apple likely didn’t consider the issue a problem when developers were the only ones running a beta version of iOS, but with beta iOS versions being released to the public since March, it’s possible those less knowledgeable users don’t realize that many apps haven’t been designed to run with that software. Beta users trying to leave a review will now be met with a pop-up telling them that the feature isn’t available.

FastMail adds full support for push e-mail in iOS Mail

Popular email provider FastMail has announced that it is now offering full support for push email in the native iOS Mail app. While, like many other email providers, FastMail had previously released a dedicated iOS app for its service, it is the first third-party email provider to implement native push e-mail in the built-in iOS Mail app since MobileMe (now iCloud) and Yahoo Mail first introduced the capability in 2008. However, while iCloud only provides the pushing of new messages, FastMail’s implementation goes beyond this, pushing out updates for any changes to the user’s mailbox or other folders, so that the iOS Mail client gets updated instantly when messages are read, deleted, or moved using other devices. FastMail indicates that the new feature is automatically enabled for all accounts on its service and doesn’t require any special configuration on the iOS device; existing FastMail users should simply begin seeing e-mail updates pushed to their devices, and new users can setup their FastMail account in the iOS Mail app in the same way as any other generic IMAP account.

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