Microsoft has unleashed an entire series of MSN Apps for iOS devices, providing comprehensive apps across categories including news and sports, finance, fitness and health, and food and drink. While these apps were previously available for Windows Mobile devices under the “Bing” brand, Microsoft has released them for the iPhone and iPad platforms not just as mere second-rate ports, but as elegantly designed iOS apps in their own right that take advantage of many of the new features and UI designs in iOS 8.
MSN Food & Drink (free) — This is a recipe and food information app that provides access to hundreds of thousands of recipes curated from magazines, world-famous chefs, and other online sources, complete with straightforward instructions and elegantly presented photos. An extensive set of wine and cocktails guides are also included, along with tasting notes and reviews on more than 1.5 million wines. Recipes can be searched and filtered by type of cuisine, source, ingredients, dietary needs, difficulty, methods, prep time, and more. A collection of how-to videos with cooking school tips and techniques is also provided.
MSN Health & Fitness (free) — Microsoft’s app for Health and Fitness provides not only news and information, but a set of fitness tracking tools, including a pedometer and run tracker in the iPhone version, allowing users to track steps taken, calories burned, distance, time, and pace. A Diet Tracker provides the ability to track daily caloric intake by recording meals from a large database of foods, and a Cardio Tracker tracks cardio training. The app also provides access to over 1000+ exercise and workout videos and nutritional and medical reference material. The app is even integrated with Apple’s iOS HealthKit for storing all of your tracking data, and the Medical Reference section includes a Symptom Checker for looking up possible health conditions, and an interactive 3D Human Body for learning human anatomy. As with the other apps, everything can be synced to MSN Health & Fitness on the web and to other iOS devices sharing the same account.
TwelveSouth has released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions of its signature BookBook case. As with prior versions, the new BookBook for iPhone 6 & 6 Plus ($60) combines a wallet and iPhone protection into a single, classic-looking leather book design. The new version also now adds a removable, sturdy shell case, however, allowing users to easily remove their iPhone from the wallet and carry it separately without losing protection. A hands-free stand has also been incorporated into the new design, allowing users to prop up their iPhone to an appropriate viewing angle for watching videos or conducting FaceTime calls. The new BookBook for iPhone 6/6Plus is available in Vintage Brown and Classic Black, and can be ordered online from TwelveSouth.com.
Apple is now enforcing more stringent requirements for case manufacturers in its Made for iPhone (MFi) program, 9to5Mac reports. The new requirements are intended to ensure that cases provide better protection for Apple devices from impact, as well as providing proper glass coverage. Case makers will now be required to ensure that devices are protected from drops of up to 1 meter onto a hard surface, from any possible device orientation. Cases will also be required to protect an iPhone, iPad, or iPod’s glass when resting flat on a surface such as a table, providing a buffer of at least 1mm between the cover glass and a flat surface — this can be accomplished either by including full screen protection or having the front lip of the case protrude slightly to keep the glass from touching a flat surface.
The report also notes that Apple is now listing a number of restricted substances and materials in order to lessen the environmental impact of MFi cases. The list of newly restricted substances includes “Formaldehyde, Endangered species of flora and fauna, PFOS, PFOA, PBDE, PBB, and Phthalates.” While companies are not required to be part of Apple’s MFi program simply to produce cases for Apple devices, Apple’s licensing program provides certification for third-party accessories, allowing manufacturers to include a “Made-for-iPhone/iPad/iPod” logo on their packaging.
Apple has announced the Chinese release of the cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, noting that both versions will be available in China “starting this week.” Both tablets are now available on Apple’s Chinese online store. A single cellular version of each model provides support for the Chinese TD-LTE and FDD-LTE standards, as well as TD-SCDMA, DC-HSDPA, HSPA+ and other fast network technologies, providing cellular connectivity in both China and most other countries.
Apple has released the second beta of iOS 8.2 to registered developers, following up on the first 8.2 beta released with the debut of WatchKit last month. The latest beta features a build number of 12D445d and appears to contain mostly minor tweaks and fixes, particularly focused on enhancements to WatchKit as developers prepare apps for next year’s debut of the Apple Watch.
Apple has announced the first group of enterprise apps born out of the landmark Apple-IBM partnership. Targeted at enterprise organizations in the banking, retail, insurance, financial services, telecommunications, government and airline industries, IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions are designed to strengthen the role of the iPad and iPhone for use in large-scale business applications. The first IBM clients with MobileFirst solutions include Citi, Air Canada, Sprint and Banorte.
The IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps are delivered in a secure environment directly to enterprise customers, rather than appearing on the App Store, and are tailored to meet specific organizational needs and integrate with core enterprise processes. However, IBM provides a framework where apps can be easily customized for any organization and deployed, managed, and upgraded via IBM’s iOS-specific cloud services platform. The first suite of apps includes flight planning and passenger services for the airline industry, mobile client profile and portfolio access for the banking and financial industry, retention management for insurance companies, caseworker and law enforcement applications for government, and sales and inventory systems for the retail industry. IBM is continuing to develop additional applications that will address various mobile data and analysis needs across a variety of enterprise markets.
Apple and IBM are also providing additional services related to the IBM MobileFirst for iOS platform, including enhanced mobile device management through IBM’s enterprise cloud systems, streamlined end-to-end procurement to allow enterprise organizations to properly manage the lifecycle of their iOS device hardware and keep pace with the latest device releases, and AppleCare for Enterprise to provide 24/7 telephone support from Apple for IT departments and end users, with on-site hardware service delivered by IBM.
Apple has officially released iOS 8.1.2 to the public, a minor maintenance release that notes “bug fixes” as well as addressing a problem with missing ringtones previously purchased through the iTunes Store. The ringtone issue has been noted in an Apple Support article, which provides instructions for either restoring missing tones by syncing with the associated iTunes library containing those tones, or visiting http://itunes.com/restore-tones from Safari on an affected iOS device after updating.
iOS 8.1.2 is available as an over-the-air update or by updating via iTunes on a Mac or PC.
Apple TV has added four more channels to its lineup, including Dailymotion, Fusion, The Scene, and UFC.TV. For the first time, the new channel icons are now marked “New” on the Apple TV’s home screen. Dailymotion offers video content similarly to its website, Fusion is a channel featuring content from the Fusion TV network, The Scene is a Conde Nast channel offering short videos from a number of its publications, and UFC.TV is a channel for fans of Ultimate Fighting Championship — it requires a subscription. Additionally, Apple TV has also updated its YouTube channel.
Bose products might be making a return to Apple Stores, according to a new report from French blog iGen.fr. A report earlier this fall speculated that Apple’s acquisition of Beats may have caused the company to end its retail relationship with Bose, possibly due to the exclusive deal between Bose and the NFL that prohibited players form wearing other branded headphones during televised interviews. This latest report suggests that Apple and Bose may have now come to some kind of new agreement and that Bose products may begin reappearing on Apple Store shelves as early as next week.
Update: A number of Bose products have indeed turned up again on Apple’s online store.
Former Apple global supply manager Paul Devine has been sentenced to one year in prison for selling confidential information to Asian suppliers that they were able to use to negotiate more favorable deals with the company, the Associated Press reports. Devine pled guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering three years ago, agreeing at the time to give up around $2.28 million in money and property. While the charges carried a potential maximum prison sentence of 20 years, Devine has ultimately been sentenced to only a year in prison. However, he has also been ordered to repay $4.5 million – twice what was offered during his guilty plea. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to provide any reasons for the lengthy delay in Devine’s sentencing, which was originally scheduled for June 6, 2011. Devine was a global supply manager at Apple for five years prior to his arrest in 2010.
Apple has announced its Best of 2014 picks on iTunes, a list that chooses the best content selected by Apple’s iTunes Editorial team in each of the various sections of the App Store. Apple’s 2014 App of the Year was Elevate - Brain Training (free) by Elevate, with Instagram’s Hyperlapse (free) coming in as runner-up. Other notable runners up for Apps include Yahoo News Digest (free), SwiftKey Keyboard (free), 1Password (free), and Camera+ ($3).
The Top Game of the Year was Sirvo’s Threes ($3), with Leo’s Fortune ($5) by 1337 & Senri as the runner-up in the Games category. Other notable runners-up in the category include Monument Valley ($4), Hitman Go ($5), and Smash Hit (free).
New Apps + Games
Caviar (free) — Out of Square’s purchase of the online delivery service Caviar comes an iOS app by the same name, allowing you to order food from your favorite restaurants in an immersive experience that lets you browse photos of food, customize your meal, and track your delivery right in the app. While limited right now to only nine major urban areas, the app provides delivery from restaurants ranging from favorite little local places to high-end Michelin-rated venues, and the gallery of food includes stunning photography, all taken by Caviar’s team.
Noda (free) — Underneath the deceptive simplicity of this new puzzle game lies a more challenging experience than you’d expect. The objectives are simple: swipe numbered dots around to divide and combine values, with the goal of arranging them into the required results. Swipe an even number, and it splits into two equal numbers, while odd numbers split, well, oddly. Dragging dots together adds the two numbers, but no two dots can add up to more than 9. Working within this framework, with a limited number of moves, and two colors to work with, you’re challenged to create a required number of dots with the right number and color. The app features cool, flowing animations in a minimalist interface, and 120 levels to work through. There are no timers – only move limits, which you can undo and rework as often as you like, making this far more of a meditative puzzle experience than a fast-paced adventure. The app is a free download for the first 48 levels, so it’s definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of puzzlers like Threes, and once you’re addicted, you can unlock the remaining 72 levels – and apparently all future levels – for only $1.
Peggle Blast (free) — A new entry into Popcap’s well-known Peggle games, Peggle Blast takes players through another series of ball-and-peg smashing adventures, as the mystical Peggle Masters take you through multiple worlds and teach their special powers unique to each level. The free-to-play version provides access to at least the first 20 levels, and a collection of additional tricks and power-ups such as gem drops, time bombs, and rainbows, keeps the action fresh and exciting. New to Peggle Blast is the de-linking of those power-ups from Peggle Masters—you can use multiple powers kept in reserve, a la Bejeweled Blast—and the addition of a multi-ball end-of-level bonus point tally. The app is notably presented in portrait orientation rather than landscape.
Apple is reportedly planning to open 500 ‘iOS’ retail stores in India, according to The Economic Times. While Apple has had a presence in India since 2011, it has not been a “mainline” brand there, and has relied exclusively on two major distributors and a collection of independent authorized resellers. This new initiative would see the company opening a large number of its own stores, albeit in the smaller 300-600-square foot range as compared to its usual 2,000-square foot Apple Stores. The new stores would be sited mostly in smaller towns and cities, the report says, and it seems likely that the focus would be on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, rather than Macs. The report notes that Apple also plans to increase direct advertising spending in the country.
A new job posting on Apple’s web site suggests that the company is looking to expand upon certain features in the iOS Maps application for “crowdsourcing improvements to the Maps experience.” The job opening, for a “Maps Community Client Software Engineer,” appears to be primarily focused on the user interface and architecture for the “Report a Problem” feature in the iOS Maps app, but also interestingly notes that the position will involve work on frameworks and plugins to integrate Maps with Siri and Passbook to “extend and enhance the feedback experience.” Apple has struggled with data accuracy since the inception of its own Maps app in iOS 6, and although the company has become much more responsive to user reports in recent months, it appears to also be seeking to streamline the reporting process itself. [via 9to5Mac]
In recognition of Computer Science Education Week, Apple will be running various free programming workshops and other events at its Retail Stores throughout the U.S. from Dec. 8-14, including a special one-hour introduction to the basics of computer programming on Dec. 11 for Code.org’s Hour of Code campaign. The annual campaign, sponsored by non-profit website Code.org, aims at teaching basic programming techniques to students around the world through free workshops. In addition to the programming workshops, a number of other individual special events are being held throughout the week at major Apple Retail Stores around the world, including Tokyo, Chicago, London, New York, Berlin, and Osaka. [via MacRumors]
Apple has been accused of deleting music from users’ iPods that had been downloaded from competing music services, according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal. In the recently commenced class-action antitrust suit against Apple regarding iPod and iTunes Store lock-in, lawyers for the consumers told jurors that between 2007 and 2009, Apple knowingly had procedures in place to delete music found on iPods from competing music services without telling users. When users who had downloaded music from a rival service attempted to sync an iPod to their iTunes library, an error message would be displayed by iTunes instructing the user to restore to factory settings, a process that removes all content on the portable device and then reloads it from the user’s iTunes library. This process caused songs from rival services to disappear, the lawyers said, further alleging that Apple directed the system “not to tell users the problem.” The plaintiffs in the case claim that this demonstrates that Apple was stifling competition for music players and downloads from other services; they are seeking $350 million in damages based on the claim that Apple’s lock-in forced them to pay more for music players by being forced to keep buying iPods rather than being able to consider competing options.
Apple responded by stating the moves were legitimate security measures, with the company’s security director, Augustin Farrugia, testifying that Apple did not provide detailed information as the company doesn’t “need to give users too much information,” and doesn’t “want to confuse users” – an approach that is typical in the software designed by the company. Farrugia noted that Apple was “very paranoid” about protecting iTunes in light of hackers that were working to crack the FairPlay copy protection used by iTunes and the iPod, and that updates which removed non-Apple music files were intended to protect customers. “The system was totally hacked,” Farrugia said. E-mails from Steve Jobs presented in evidence revealed similar security concerns.
Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine was recently profiled in GQ as one of the publication’s “Men of the Year,” where he provided some additional commentary on Apple’s acquisition of his company. Iovine explains that he approached Apple more than two years ago, telling them that he wanted to work for “Steve’s company” and nobody else, as he believed them to be a company capable of of understanding popular culture.
I convinced them that they had to buy this company. I said, ‘I don’t want to work for anybody else. I want to do this at Apple. I know I can achieve this at Apple. I don’t want to shop it. I wanna come here, to Steve’s company. I know you guys; I know what you’re capable of; I know you get popular culture. I know you have a hole in music right now; let me plug it.’ I think it was two years before they said yeah.
Iovine describes the “hole” in music as Apple’s need to do something “after Steve died” to respond to the rise in streaming services, and that he felt Beats Music was the right fit for Apple to get into the streaming business. The article also goes on to note that he spends time at Apple headquarters each week working on “this music service we’re doing.”
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has officially announced the adoption of Bluetooth 4.2. The new specification provides privacy, security, speed, and reliability improvements, with data transfer rates up to 2.5 times faster than previous versions, and reduced battery consumption. The new specification also includes an upcoming Internet Protocol Smart Profile (IPSP), expected to be ratified by year-end, which will extend Bluetooth to provide direct Internet access capabilities for smart devices via IPv6, allowing existing network infrastructure to be used to manage Bluetooth Smart devices rather than relying on proprietary protocols and gateway devices.
A version of Mozilla’s Firefox for iOS looks to be in the works, according to a new tweet from Mozilla Release Manager Lukas Blakk. Mozilla had previously stated that Firefox would not be coming to iOS unless Apple permitted its web engine to be used, rather than the WebKit engine currently required by Apple. But with a new CEO at the helm, Mozilla’s position in this regard may be softening.
We need to be where our users are so we're going to get Firefox on iOS #mozlandia— Lukas Blakk (@lsblakk) December 2, 2014
Although Mozilla released Firefox Home four years ago, this was designed simply to provide a more seamless experience for iOS users who preferred to use the Firefox browser on their Mac or PC and keep information such as bookmarks in sync with their iOS device; Firefox Home did not provide its own browser, but instead simply synced bookmarks between Firefox on the desktop and the iOS app, allowing users to access them using the built-in Safari browser. While it’s unclear how Firefox will approach porting its browser to iOS, it seems most likely that they will have to play by Apple’s rules and simply develop a version based on the WebKit engine, wrapping a Firefox user experience around it. [via TechCrunch]
An interview published by Fortune today suggests that Apple is unrepentant over the allegedly conspiratorial launch of the iBookstore in 2010, as Apple Senior VP Eddy Cue and CEO Tim Cook “feel we have to fight for the truth” by appealing a 2013 ruling that Apple had illegally fixed digital book prices in violation of the Sherman Act. According to Cue, who led Apple’s negotiations with publishers, Apple wrestled with a number of potential antitrust legal issues before opening the iBookstore, legally negotiating from a standard contract, using an agency rather than a wholesale pricing model, and setting price tiers and caps for books. The company also attempted to act legally by using a “Most Favored Nation” (MFN) clause, providing that publishers’ iBookstore prices would be no higher than competing digital bookstore prices—normally not an issue.
However, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled that the publishers and Apple had colluded to raise prices, based on evidence of deliberately-deleted emails between publishers, as well as an admission by then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs that $14.99 book “prices will be the same” between Apple and its competitor Amazon, which was then routinely selling books for $9.99. Cote found that Apple had effectively pressured the publishers to switch en masse from wholesale to agency pricing models with Amazon, including an initial contract clause requiring such a switch, which was removed in writing but lived on as “never rescinded,” according to Cote. Cue told Fortune that Apple worked with each of the publishers individually, effectively seeking to avoid a major issue—“windowing” or holding back a digital release until after the more expensive printed book’s release—by bringing the digital and print prices closer together. Apple hadn’t actually conspired with the publishers collectively to raise prices, Cue said, but rather had freed them to offer digital books at price tiers that weren’t artificially low as Amazon’s, though not as unrealistically high as they had originally wanted. At the time, Amazon was actually selling books at major losses to build the Kindle business. “If I had it to do all over again,” Cue said. “I’d do it again, I’d just take better notes.”