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Apple pulls VPN apps from China’s App Store over new government rules

Creators of VPN apps like ExpressVPN have been notified that their apps have been removed from China’s App Store. China greatly restricts the content its citizens have access to on the internet, making VPN services popular for users trying to circumvent what has come to be called The Great Firewall. Apple told developers their apps has been removed because they included “content that is illegal in China,” adding in a statement to 9to5Mac that the Chinese MIIT requires VPN providers to obtain a special license before they’re allowed to be sold. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple Store app now supports payments via Touch ID

Apple has updated its Apple Store app for iOS, adding the ability to use Touch ID to authorize payments and make changes to account information. Although Apple originally added Touch ID support to the Apple Store app back in 2015, the feature was originally limited to viewing orders, accessing EasyPay receipts, and making online reservations at an Apple Store, and still required the user to enter their Apple ID password to access stored payment information or actually place orders.

Tim Hortons launches Mobile Order and Pay, with Apple Pay support

Iconic Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons has launched its new Mobile Order and Pay feature, following several months of testing that began this past spring. A new Tim Hortons app has been release on the App Store for the new service, replacing the older “TimmyMe” app that was previously used to manage Tim Hortons store card payments. The new app will allow existing users of the TimmyMe app to seamlessly transfer their balances to the new app, which will allow users to place orders from their nearest Tim Hortons and pay for them directly in the app. Users can log into the app using Facebook, Google, or an e-mail address, and payment can be made from an existing Tim Hortons card or directly from any supported in-app payment method using Apple Pay. Although Mobile Order and Pay is far from new — Starbucks debuted the feature in 2015 in the U.S., bringing it to Canada early last year — Tim Hortons eclipses Starbucks in Canada, making the feature a huge boon to Canadian iPhone users, particularly in light of its support for making direct payments via Apple Pay rather than via an intermediary store card. [via iPhone in Canada]

Google to merge Play Music and YouTube Red into a unified service

Google is planning on merging its Google Play Music streaming service with its YouTube Red to create a single unified streaming offering, The Verge reports. The news came during a panel session for the New Music Seminar conference in New York, where YouTube music chief Lyor Cohen stated that Google needed to merge the two services so that customers would better understand their offerings, as well as bringing in new subscribers. Although Google Play Music and YouTube Red have long offered a unified subscription plan — users with a paid subscription to one service automatically gain access to the other — Cohen acknowledges that marketing the two services separately has been confusing and prevented YouTube Red from being more popular with music users. Cohen didn’t comment on what would happen in terms of the individual iOS apps for the services, but it seems likely that there will remain at least some distinction between the two apps.

Adobe accidentally reveals Nimbus photo editing app for Mac

After announcing its Nimbus photo editing app last year, Adobe accidentally made it available to some Creative Cloud users, MacG reports. Those who downloaded it discovered that Nimbus users will have 1TB of cloud storage, much more than the 20GB offered to current Creative Cloud subscribers, ostensibly to make sure that there’s enough space for users to truly make use of cloud-based photo editing that stores both photos and edits for use from multiple devices. The app’s search function also automatically recognizes the content of images, reducing the need to manually tag every photo. Adobe has admitted that it released the development version to “a small group of Creative Cloud customers” and has since taken the app down with no word on when it will be publicly available. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple adds new ‘Customer Support’ role for App Developers

Apple has added a new “Customer Support” role to the iTunes Connect portal for app developers, allowing companies to provide designated representatives with the ability to respond to customer reviews on the App Store. The new role complements the change earlier this year that allowed app developers to begin responding to reviews on the App Store. Previously, only members of the developer’s team with the Legal, Admin, App Manager, or Marketer roles had the ability to respond to customer reviews; this new more specific role allows developers to more easily delegate this task to other members of their team without the need to provide unnecessary extra privileges.

Google Play Music gains CarPlay support

Google’s Play Music app has quietly gained CarPlay support in a recent update, allowing users of the streaming music service to more easily access and play content from their dashboard in a CarPlay-enabled vehicle. The addition of CarPlay support isn’t listed in Google Play Music’s release notes, so it’s unclear when the feature actually became available, but the addition of the feature was discovered and reported on reddit yesterday. Although Apple generally restricts what apps can be made available via the CarPlay interface — mapping apps seem to be excluded, for instance — support for audio apps has been available to third-party developers since CarPlay first debuted, and even Spotify, which competes directly with Apple Music, has had a place on the CarPlay dashboard since almost the very beginning, suggesting that the late addition of CarPlay support for Play Music has more to do with Google dragging its feet than any restrictions on Apple’s part. [via MacRumors]

Apple updates ‘Clips’ app with Disney and Pixar content

Apple has released an update to Clips, the video app that the company debuted earlier this year designed to help users easily create videos fro their photos, music, and video clips. The new version adds content from Disney and Pixar, allowing users to include Mickey, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck, as well as popular characters from Toy Story and Inside Out. New Disney-designed posters have also been included that can be added to videos as title cards, joining 10 new Apple-designed overlays and 12 posters. The update also makes improvements to Live Title editing, sharing, and provides other fixes to streamline the creation process.

Nintendo launches companion iOS app for Switch console

Nintendo has launched a companion iOS app for its Switch console, aimed at improving the gaming experience by making it more social. The app provides the ability to check leader boards for some games, invite others to play and even provides a voice chat option to be used while playing a game together. Users will need a Switch console, a Nintendo account and the supported games to make use of the app, which is free for now but will become part of a paid subscription service at some point next year.

Apple cracks down on ad blockers that affect other apps

Future Mind, maker of VPN-based ad block programs like AdBlock, Weblock and Admosphere, has been informed by Apple that the company is “no longer allowing VPN/root certificate-based ad blockers on the App Store and will not be accepting updates of existing ad blockers that use those techniques going forward,” MacRumors reports. Tomasz Koperski, CTO of Future Mind, said Apple rejected the latest update for AdBlock for iOS, writing in its rejection that the app “uses a VPN profile or root certificate to block ads or other content in a third-party app, which is not allowed on the App Store.” The app is still available on the App Store — along with many other ad blockers — but Apple “has officially changed their policy regarding VPN/root certificate based ad blockers on the App Store and is no longer accepting updates of apps, which directly block content in third party apps.”

‘Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow’ game lands on iOS June 29

‘Futurama’ fans who have been waiting for new stories set in that universe since the show went off the air will get their wish on June 29, when Jam City and FoxNext Games release ‘Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow’ for iOS. The free-to-play game combines “simulation, combat, galactic exploration, and choose-your-own-adventure gameplay” to tell a new set of stories featuring the Planet Express crew, and the stories were created in collaboration with the show’s original writers and executive producers Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. In keeping with the show’s quirky cameos, geek icons Stephen Hawking, George Takei, Bill Nye, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson are all featured in the promo trailer and are actually playable charaters in the game, each with their own unique storyline. Registering for updates on the game’s launch will net users a free in-game gift.

Apple urging developers to prepare for iOS 11 App Store changes after public beta release

After the release of the first public beta for iOS 11, Apple has sent communications to developers urging them to take advantage of changes to the App Store. With beta users already able to access the upgraded store ahead of the official fall release, Apple’s message is pushing developers to fill out new sections on their product pages, including “subtitles, promotional text, additional app previews that you can localize, and up to 20 promoted in-app purchases.” While users on the App Store for iOS 10.3 and later will still see the same page, those users will see fewer details — like being limited to only one preview — so Apple’s tips steer developers to creating a more robust experience for iOS 11 while still keeping an eye to the majority of users who haven’t migrated yet.

Anki releasing Code Lab addition to Cozmo app to teach kids to program robots

After announcing the global roll out of its Cozmo robots will start in Canada next month, Anki is launching a companion program in its Cozmo app on July 31 to teach kids to code. In a press release, the company laments the current state of coding programs aimed at kids, calling them a “lackluster and disjointed experience.” The company’s Cozmo Code Lab is intended to make for a more intuitive experience, providing a simple visual programming language that allows users to program the robot with basic drag-and-drop actions. “With the launch of Code Lab, Cozmo now helps kids develop the logic and reasoning skills that programming requires,” said Boris Sofman, CEO and co-founder at Anki.  “Based on the Scratch Blocks project, a collaboration between MIT Media Lab and Google, we now have a powerful tool that gives anyone interested in learning to code a robot the opportunity to unleash their creativity.” The Cozmo app will allow owners to program their robots with anything from basic movements to much more complex actions, such as avoiding obstacles, speaking short phrases, playing dozens of animations and reacting to stimuli like a face, a smile, or a frown.

Apple cuts 58,000 Chinese apps from the App Store

From June 10 to 21, Apple cut around 58,000 Chinese apps from its App Store, a number six to 10 times larger than usual, People.cn reports. Beijing-based data analysis firm ASO 100 noticed the sudden spike, leading to some grumbling that the move could be seen as retaliation against Tencent, owner of the WeChat app at the center of a debate about Apple’s insistence on taking a 30 percent cut of “tips” sent through social media apps in the country. But after looking at the data, ASO 100 claims Apple’s move didn’t seem to target WeChat’s tip service or other apps that allow developers to bypass Apple’s vetting process for sending out patches. While Apple has pulled apps like The New York Times’ at the request of the Chinese government in the past, the latest spike in removals seems to be part of Apple’s greater push to delete duplicate and low-quality apps as reported last week by TechCrunch. Apple also recently stopped returning search results for 32-bit apps in an effort to discourage users from downloading old, out-of-date apps.

Ikea to partner with Apple on AR app that places virtual furniture in your house

Ikea is planning an augmented reality collaboration with Apple to let customers see what the company’s furniture would look like in their houses, Digital.di reports. The company expects 500–600 products to be available in the app at launch, allowing users to see what the items would look like in various spots around the house, with Michael Valdsgaard, digital transformation manager at Inter Ikea Systems, saying they have the technology down to being accurate within a millimeter. “This will be the first augmented reality app that allows you to make reliable buying decisions,” Valdsgaard said.

Apple updates iWork apps with autocorrect improvements, hundreds of new shapes

Apple has updated its free Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps on iOS and Mac, adding autocorrect improvements and a library of more than 500 professionally drawn shapes that can be used in presentations and documents. There are also new options for replying to comments and joining in on threaded conversations, improvements to pan and zoom functionality, and an updated ability to add the most recent stock and currency information that syncs up with the previous day’s market closings. The iOS version of Keynote also received the Light Table view that was already featured on Mac, and both versions can now edit presenter notes while still in the Light Table view.

Sony’s PlayLink games will use iOS devices as PS4 controllers

The new line of PlayLink games for PS4 announced by Sony today at E3 will use the touchscreen and cameras on iOS devices as controllers. The new titles are designed to be played in group settings and range from quiz-show style games and choose-your-own-adventure detective thrillers to arcade-style minigames and karaoke singing using the device’s microphone. After downloading the companion app, a user’s iOS device will provide the ability to “swipe, pinch, drag, tilt, rotate or even snap selfies and draw crafty doodles, depending on the game.”

Apple eliminates ability to use custom prompts for app review requests going forward

After rolling out the ability to use its StoreKit API to simplify in-app review prompts in iOS 10.3, Apple’s App Store Review guidelines now say the company will no longer allow custom prompts going forward. The new process allows the user to leave a rating and/or review without ever leaving the app and eliminates the need for developers to write their own code to create the review prompt, but there are also drawbacks. Apple now limits the maximum number of requests to three per year and prevents apps from prompting too frequently, where before it was at the whim of the developer. [via 9to5Mac]

Ad loophole in App Store search is letting scammers promote expensive, useless apps

A new post on Medium shows just how easy it is for scammers to use Apple’s App Store Search Ads to dupe users into paying hundreds of dollars for undelivered services from useless apps. Author Johnny Lin came across one app in particular — “Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN” — that raised his attention with multiple misspellings and poor grammar in its listing, but still somehow managed to take in $80,000 a month in revenue and rank 10th in the App Store’s top grossing productivity apps list. After downloading, the app requests access to contacts and provides useless features like checking the phone’s available space and memory. Pressing the “Secure Internet” option — theoretically what people download the app to do — leads to a game pop-up ad and then to a “Free Trial” button that actually leads to a Touch ID prompt that will enroll the user in a $100-per-week subscription for a virus scanning service the app isn’t even able to provide because of how Apple sandboxes third-party apps.

Fox Now app adds FX and National Geographic content

Fox Networks has updated its Fox Now app for iOS and Apple TV, adding shows from FX and National Geographic in addition to the normal set of Fox content. Available in the U.S., the Fox Now app requires that users already subscribe to an existing pay-TV service, and provides access to up to 500 hours of content across the network’s brands, including current episodes and seasons. The separate FXNow and Nat Geo apps will still be available. Fox Now will also be expanding its platform later this year to a wide range of other devices, including the older third-generation Apple TV. [via Variety]

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