Almost nine months following its initial beta release on the Google Play Store, Apple’s Apple Music app for Android devices has officially dropped the “beta” tag with an update that appeared late yesterday. Although the app remained in beta status up until now, Apple continued to make improvements to the Apple Music experience on Android, adding support for a home screen widget for controlling playback, allowing the ability to save music to SD card storage, and support for Music Videos and purchasing of Family Plan subscriptions from within the app. In addition to removing the beta status, the latest update also adds equalizer settings and “a variety of performance, playback, and stability improvements.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook announced via Twitter yesterday that July set a new record for App Store sales, with the “highest-ever monthly billings and money paid to developers.” In a subsequent tweet, Cook went on to say that App Store developers have now collectively earned a total of over $50 billion over the past eight years that the App Store has been in operation.
July was a record-breaker for the @AppStore! Highest-ever monthly billings and money paid to developers.— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) August 3, 2016
Last month during the company’s Q3 2016 conference call, Cook revealed that the App Store had reached its highest revenue ever, and that Apple also set a new record for the average amount spent per customer on the App Store. During the same call, Cook went on to say that Apple expects its services revenue to continue to grow, which will be driven largely by App Sales, and that he expects it to be the size of a Fortune 100 company by itself by this time next year.
Apple has a redesigned version of its Apple Store app in the works that will feature personalized recommendations, according to a new report by Bloomberg. The updated app, expected to roll out within the new two weeks, will likely include a “For You” section that features suggested products based on a user’s prior purchasing history. While the report incorrectly indicates that there are separate Apple Store apps for the iPhone and iPad that will be merged in the new version, it is possible that Apple may be taking steps to provide a more unified interface design in the app on both the iPad and iPhone.
Parkopedia announced today that it will be providing information on available parking to Apple Maps. The new capability will give Apple Maps users information about parking garages and lots in 75 countries across North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, with the option to click through to Parkopedia’s website and iOS app to make reservations or see detailed information like pricing, user reviews and real-time space availability. Apple hasn’t made a formal announcement about the arrangement, and as of this writing we haven’t been able to find any added functionality for information about local parking options, so it’s unclear at this point whether this will be functionality that Parkopedia and Apple will be working together to build into the core Maps experience, or Parkopedia announcing plans to take advantage of the new third-party Maps extensions capabilities coming in iOS 10.
Update: We reached out to Parkopedia for clarification, and they clarified that this is in fact a back-end partnership with Apple to integrate Parkopeida into the core Apple Maps app. A spokesperson indicated that Apple has been slowly integrating the functionality into Apple Maps since March, but today’s announcement represents a worldwide rollout with full functionality taking place now. Searching for parking in Apple Maps should begin showing Parkopedia content across parking lot icons which will appear on Apple Maps and include data such as location, payment type, number of spaces, and more. Apple Maps users will also be able to book parking spaces by clicking on a booking link, and in the future will be able to search for lots by price to find the cheapest lots.
Microsoft has released its own third-party iOS app intended to replace Apple’s own Camera app with a simpler-to-use interface that’s more reliant on artificial intelligence. Microsoft Pix takes all control out of the user’s hands, automatically seeking out faces, tweaking settings on certain areas of photos, stabilizing videos and creating short, looped video clips when it detects motion in a photo. The app captures a burst of frames with every shutter click, then selects the three “best” shots and deletes the rest, favoring automation over total control. The app also allows users to see the difference before and after it applied all of its automatic improvements, but notably doesn’t provide an option to save the pre-altered photo. Microsoft Pix is available for free on the App Store.
Adobe has created a new version of its Lightroom app for Apple TV, with abilities limited to viewing photos edited and saved in the corresponding iOS and desktop apps. Whereas those versions are geared toward editing, the Apple TV version includes a simplified interface that only supports browsing through collections. Photos and their applied edits saved on the Creative Cloud can be synced automatically for viewing on the bigger screen. The download is free on the tvOS app store, but won’t work without the $10 a month Creative Cloud subscription.
Apple has put out an open casting call for app developers looking to be featured in the company’s original series “Planet of the Apps.” Announced earlier this year, the show will follow developers as they receive hands-on guidance from experts in the tech community, funding from top venture capitalists, and featured placement in the App Store. Online applications are being accepted until August 26, and applicants must agree to have “an iOS, macOS, tvOS, or watchOS app in a beta or functional state by October 21.” The first season will film in Los Angeles from late this year into early 2017, so those hoping to be on the show will need to be available for that period.
Pokémon GO getting full access to Google Accounts of some iOS users (Update: Niantic working on fix)
While Pokémon GO has become a major phenomenon in less than a week, researcher Adam Reeve has noted a major flaw in the game, calling Pokémon GO “a huge security risk.” Pokémon GO players have two ways to sign on to the game — through a Google Account, or a Pokémon Trainer Club account. The latter is having major problems, so most users are signing on using their Google Account. And as Reeve points out, for some iOS users, Pokémon GO has been granted full access of that account. This means that the game and/or developer could conceivably read and send email from your account, delete emails and Google Drive documents, and much, much more.
Nintendo’s Pokémon GO is already a full-fledged phenomenon, sending players out into the world to hunt down Pokémon in augmented reality and pushing the company’s stock up by 25 percent, The Wall Street Journal reports. Less than a day after its release, the game became the most downloaded and highest-grossing app in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand — the only countries where it’s currently available. People familiar with plans for the game said it will likely be launching in Europe, Japan and other Asian countries “within a few days.” Data firm SimilarWeb said the game is on pace to surpass Twitter among Android users in the U.S. in its number of daily active users, and it has even prompted safety warnings from police who warn users to be aware of their surroundings while hunting down Pokémon.
Alongside the second developer betas for iOS 10 and tvOS 10 released earlier this week, Apple has also been providing developers with betas of the new Apple TV Remote App. We took a look at the first beta of the remote app in our sneak peek at what’s new in tvOS 10, noting that the new app will provide all of the capabilities of the Siri Remote, with a button for issuing Siri commands and support for turning the device into a game controller in landscape orientation, complete with accelerometer and gyroscope support. Now with the second beta of the Remote app released earlier this week, it appears that users will be able to use their iPhone as a second game controller, alongside the Siri Remote, marking an interesting slight departure from the original single Siri Remote limitation — although it appears that users will still only be able to pair one hardware Siri Remote with a given Apple TV.
Nintendo may be designing its own controller for smartphones, Polygon reports. Shinya Takahashi, Nintendo’s general manager of entertainment planning and development, told shareholders the company is looking into both hardware and software development for its burgeoning entry into the smartphone and tablet game market. “Physical controllers for smart device applications are available in the market and it is possible that we may also develop something new by ourselves,” he said. “I believe Nintendo’s way of thinking is to look at whether action games are really not impossible (without a physical controller for smart device applications) to create and how we can make it happen to create such a game.”
After rolling out a beta test in May, Pokémon GO has hit the App Store in Australia, but a company spokesman told The Wall Street Journal that U.S. and Japanese customers will have to “wait a while” for the formal launch. While the timeframe seems unclear at this point, we’d expect to see the game pop up in the U.S. App Store soon, and we’ll update this story once the game is available in the U.S.
Update: Pokémon GO was released in the U.S. App Store on Wednesday night.
A subsidiary of China’s broadcasting regulator has sued Apple over the rights to a 1994 propaganda film, The Associated Press reports. The suit from Movie Satellite Channel Program Production Center accuses the developer of the Youku HD app of enabling users to watch “Xuebo dixiao,” a film that depicts Chinese forces fighting Japanese soldiers in the 1930s. The plaintiff claims that by making the app available for download, Apple has infringed its exclusive rights to broadcast the film online, resulting in “huge economic losses.” The production company is asking both companies to stop broadcasting the film and pay damages amounting to around $10,000. Apple declined to comment.
When Apple rolls out iOS 10 this fall, the Health app will be getting a small update that CEO Tim Cook hopes will make a big difference for people waiting for an organ transplant, The Associated Press reports. The improved Health app will include a simple sign-up button allowing users to enroll in the National Donate Life Registry quickly and easily. Cook said the issue hit home for Apple since he and many others witnessed the “excruciating” wait Apple co-founder Steve Jobs endured while awaiting a liver transplant in 2009. More information on enrollment through the Health app and Donate Life America can be found on Apple’s website.
Apple is exploring the idea of buying competing music streaming service Tidal, The Wall Street Journal reports. The report claims Apple is “exploring the idea” of buying Jay-Z’s streaming service due to Tidal’s connections to such artists as Kanye West and Madonna. Terms are unknown at this point, and the talks “may not result in a deal,” sources said — a Tidal spokesman denied that such talks had taken place. Tidal currently has 4.2 million paying subscribers, who either pay $10 for a standard monthly plan, or $20 for a hi-fi plan. Apple recently noted that Apple Music has 15 million paying subscribers.
Spotify has claimed that Apple is blocking the latest update of its iOS music streaming app because it competes with Apple Music, Re/code reports. A letter sent by Spotify to Apple’s general counsel Bruce Sewell accused Apple of “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers” as a result of its rejection to an update to its iOS app. While Apple has not publicly commented on the reasons for rejecting the update, Spotify’s letter claims the company cited “business model rules” and demanded that the app use Apple’s billing system — which requires Spotify to give a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue to Apple — if “Spotify wants to use the app to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions.”
We cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon.
The comments in Spotify’s letter are similar to a public statement the company made earlier this week in response to Senator Warren’s speech accusing Apple and other tech giants of locking out competition. It appears that Spotify will be using this latest standoff to bolster its ongoing fight over Apple’s longstanding in-app subscription rules, which require iOS apps to either use the in-app purchasing system to sell subscriptions — and give Apple a 30 percent cut — or rely on outside purchase methods, such as web-based signups, that cannot be linked to nor even advertised from within the iOS app. In the letter to Sewell, Spotify general counsel Horacio Gutierrez stated that “This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law,” and “continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple’s previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify … we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors.”
Customers who have their Walgreens loyalty card synced up with Apple Pay can now save digital coupons to be used at the checkout. Coupons can be found through the store’s website or in its iOS app, then saved to the customer’s loyalty card. When visiting the store, a simple tap using Apple Pay at the terminal will now apply saved coupons to the customer’s order in addition to registering the loyalty card. [via 9to5Mac]
On the heels of severely tightening restrictions on mobile games, China is mandating that companies like Apple start monitoring mobile app users, Bloomberg reports. The new regulations posted Tuesday by China’s Cyberspace Administration require Apple to establish user’s identities, monitor their posts and report items that contain banned content to the Chinese government. The legitimacy of developers must also be verified, and app stores are now require to log each user’s activity for 60 days.
Starting July 1, mobile games sold in China’s App Store will have to meet the approval of the country’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, China’s IT Times reports. The new regulations are a hurdle even for larger companies with the proper connections and resources, but are expected to have a devastating impact on smaller developers who could struggle to come up with the $2,000-$5,000 fee charged by a third-party partner to handle the necessary applications.
Apple will be requiring all the apps in its App Store to connect to the web through an HTTPS connection starting on January 1, 2017. TechCrunch reports. The company debuted its App Transport Security feature in iOS 9, but until now developers weren’t required to use it. While the end user won’t really be able to observe any difference, starting next year all connections between apps and servers will be encrypted. Apple has been ramping up its efforts to protect user privacy in iOS after its public fight with the FBI, even though there is still some internal disagreement within the company over how far its privacy mandates should go at the expense of user experience.