Following this week’s announcement of iOS 8, Apple has sent out notifications to existing paid iCloud storage customers notifying them of new, reduced prices for their existing storage plans, along with pro-rated refunds for the balance of the reduced plan price. Customers who have already purchased iCloud Storage under the old annual pricing model retain whatever storage capacity they purchased, at a price now reduced to the next-lowest tier available. For example, a customer who had previously purchased the 25GB storage plan for $40/year will have their price reduced to $11.99 annually, roughly equivalent to the new 20GB plan now available for $0.99/month. Customers will be able to retain these plans at the new annual subscription prices, offering a slight storage bonus over the new plans that are now available on a monthly basis.
Update: Several readers who were on the smaller 10GB/$20 plans have reported also having their storage increased as part of this transition. Presumably, since 20GB is now the smallest capacity available under the new iCloud Storage plans, these users get bumped up to the 20GB plan for $11.99/year, also receiving a pro-rated refund of the difference between plan prices.
Apple is reportedly changing the way it runs its in-store launch system for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Stores will be moving on from the old paper card system in favor of a new digital queue system called Reservation Pass, 9to5Mac reports. The system will sync with inventory information to ensure Apple hands out the proper amount of product reservations — reservation cards will be sent to customers via email or SMS. Notably, receiving a reservation will allow customers to return at any time during the day to make the purchase.
Apple has introduced three new features for iOS Developers allowing them to more easily distribute, test, and promote their apps on the App Store. App Store Bundles will allow developers to bundle up to 10 of their apps into a single-priced bundle that users can purchase together at a reduced price. App Bundles can be purchased with a single tap, and all of the apps will appear individually on the customer’s device. A “Complete My Bundle” feature will also be available that will credit customers for any apps they’ve already purchased, allowing them to purchase the bundle and pay only the price for the remaining apps.
With the introduction of App Previews, developers can now include a video preview to demonstrate the features and user interface of the app that users can watch right on the App Store page. Previews can be between 15 and 30 seconds long and will be displayed as the first image on the product page, followed by the standard app screenshots. Developers will also be able to capture real-time app footage directly from their iOS device using iOS 8 and Yosemite.
Following Apple’s acquisition of TestFlight earlier this year, the company has now incorporated TestFlight Beta Testing into its own tools for iOS developers, and will allow up to 25 internal testers to access beta builds on up to 10 devices each. External beta tester access is said to be coming soon which will allow up to 1,000 users to be invited to beta test an app using only their e-mail addresses.
- September 10, 2014
As part of its new payments system, Apple will be collecting fees from banks, Bloomberg reports. A number of banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, and Citigroup have all agreed to integrate their cards into the system, and Apple has apparently reached individual deals with various banks to collect a fee for each transaction made through Apple Pay. Neither Apple nor any of the key banks have commented on the specific arrangements, although Apple has said that it won’t be charging users, merchants, or developers for transactions, logically leaving the banks themselves as the only remaining revenue stream from which Apple can benefit. Apple has already made partnerships with the three major U.S. card networks—VISA, MasterCard, and American Express—and Discover tweeted that it is also in discussions with Apple to add support for its cards to Apple Pay.
Apple has also posted a set of developer documents covering building apps for the new iPhone models and iOS 8 features, including programming guides for Touch ID, PhotoKit, HealthKit, HomeKit, CloudKit, Handoff, and more.
Apple has released its Gold Master seed of iOS 8 to registered developers. Listed as build 12A365, the GM build is normally the last to be seeded prior to the software’s official launch, expected on September 17, and as such can be used to submit iOS 8 applications to the App Store for review. It is unclear whether the iOS 8 GM seed will be made available as an over-the-air software update, as has been the case with past iOS beta releases, however Registered Developers can download the iOS 8 GM seed and the accompanying SDK from the iOS Dev Center now.
Apple has officially introduced Apple Watch, a wearable device referred to as the iWatch until now. The watch has a square display. Coming in silver and gold with a number of different watch straps, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple Watch is “the most personal device” Apple has ever created. As expected, Apple Watch is also being billed as a health and fitness device.
The Apple Watch uses Digital Crown — a type of dial — on the side of the device to navigate through apps and return to the home screen. A Jony Ive video focused on the Digital Crown, display, and “digital touch,” which allows users to send quick sketches, share heartbeats, and more.
During today’s event, Apple announced the official release date for iOS 8, the next generation of the company’s mobile operating system. Originally unveiled at WWDC in June, iOS 8 adds several significant enhancements such as new Health and Home Automation frameworks, an iCloud-based Photo Library, Family Sharing, and more.
iOS 8 is compatible with the iPhone 4S and later, fifth-generation iPod, iPad 2 and later models, and all iPad mini models. It will be available for download as a free update via iTunes and OTA update on September 17th.
Renowned Minnesota-based medical group the Mayo Clinic will reportedly be “at (Apple’s) side” during today’s event, according to the Star Tribune. Mayo will demonstrate how Apple’s iOS 8 Health app can mesh with a major health center system. According to the article, Mayo and Apple “have been working together for about two years.” An August report noted Apple has discussed its HealthKit with other providers, including Mount Sinai, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins.
- September 9, 2014
Following Apple’s announcement last week that today’s event will be live streamed, the Apple Events channel has returned to the Apple TV, allowing viewers to view the live stream on a television via Apple’s set-top box. The event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, and Apple is expected to reveal its newest iPhones, debut the iWatch, and announce an official release date for iOS 8, amongst other announcements.
- September 5, 2014
Industrial designer Marc Newson is joining Apple’s design team, Vanity Fair reports. Newson, who collaborated with Apple SVP of Industrial Design Jony Ive for last year’s (RED) Auction, will join Ive’s team at Apple. The report notes that Newson will still be based in the U.K. as an employee, but he will make frequent visits to Apple headquarters in California. “I’m full of admiration and respect for the extraordinary design work that has been produced by Jony and the team at Apple,” Newson said. “My close friendship with Jony has not only given me a unique insight into that process, but the opportunity to work together with him and the people that have been responsible. I am enormously proud to join them.”
“Marc is without question one of the most influential designers of this generation,” Ive said in a statement. “He is extraordinarily talented. We are particularly excited to formalize our collaboration as we enjoy working together so much and have found our partnership so effective.” Newson has been commissioned by a number of large companies for his work. His personal website offers a good look at his many designs over the years.
Apple will soon issue more security alerts to users in an effort to boost privacy, CEO Tim Cook told The Wall Street Journal. The company will alert users when an account password change is attempted, when iCloud data is restored to a new device, or when a device logs into an account for the first time. New notifications will start in two weeks, and users will be able to make immediate changes — the account password can be changed, or Apple’s security team can be alerted to the issue.
Cook said Apple could have done more to prevent incidents like the recent celeb photo hack. The company could have better informed users about hackers, and played up the importance of better passwords. “When I step back from this terrible scenario that happened and say what more could we have done, I think about the awareness piece,” Cook said. “I think we have a responsibility to ratchet that up. That’s not really an engineering thing.” Apple also plans on “aggressively” pushing people to use its two-factor authentication in iOS 8.
- September 4, 2014
A new report released by Green America and China Labor Watch titled “Two Years of Broken Promises” accuses Apple of failing to fix violations at supplier Catcher Technology in Suqian, China. Many violations found in a 2013 investigation at the supplier — violations which were shared with Apple — were reportedly seen again in an undercover investigation conducted this August. Employees are said to work excessive overtime and long shifts while standing, and employees working with “potentially toxic” chemicals are without proper protective equipment. The report notes those workers have suffered skin and eye irritation and “are at risk for more serious health problems.”
In total, China Labor Watch counted 22 violations at Catcher in a number of categories, which is more than the organization found at the same supplier in 2013. Despite Apple’s recent announcement that it has banned the use of benzene and n-hexane in iPhone and iPad assembly — the Green America/CLW report says this is “an important step forward for the company” — the company is still drawing criticism for its handling of chemicals. Apple told The New York Times that its May audit of the Suqian plant “found some concrete areas for improvement in Catcher’s operations, and we worked with Catcher to develop a corrective action plan.” The company has immediately sent a team to visit the plant in light of the new allegations.
Apple has updated its App Store Guidelines ahead of its upcoming release of iOS 8 and iPhone 6. The updated introduction notes that “If your App doesn’t do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted.” Guidelines have been added for Extensions, HomeKit, HealthKit, and TestFlight. The new guidelines should alleviate some users’ fears about the new frameworks — HealthKit apps cannot store information in iCloud or share data with third parties without user consent, among other measures. Additionally, data gathered from HealthKit and HomeKit cannot be used for advertising or data mining purposes.
Along with the updated guidelines, Apple recently added a page to its developer site detailing common app rejections. The page reveals that “more information needed” was the most common reason for apps to be rejected in the seven-day period ending August 28 — the top 10 reasons for rejection within that time period are all included on the page.
In response to allegations that iCloud played a role in the recent release of many private celebrity photos, Apple has confirmed that “certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet.” Despite the account intrusions, Apple claims that none of its systems, including iCloud and Find my iPhone, were breached. The company also claims it has already investigated the photo theft for more than 40 hours. To protect against such attacks, Apple suggests that users select a strong password and enable two-step verification.
Apple is “actively investigating” a recent celebrity photo hack that may have involved its iCloud service, Re/Code reports. The hack has leaked a large number of private, revealing photos of various celebrities, and iCloud has come under fire. Actress Kirsten Dunst tweeted a sarcastic “Thank you iCloud,” with some choice emoji. “We take user privacy very seriously and are actively investigating this report,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said.
It’s unclear, however, how culpable Apple really is at this point; some reports have suggested that the leak included iPhone images alongside videos and Android images that presumably wouldn’t have come from iCloud servers. As reported by TheNextWeb, it’s possible that a hacker used a brute force password attack — a vulnerability that Apple notably didn’t patch until Monday. While Apple does its own investigation, the FBI is conducting the official investigation of the hack, The Telegraph reports. Apple does offer two-step verification that could have thwarted the hacker, but it’s not a surprise to see many not using the feature. We’ll see what comes of the investigation, but it calls Apple’s account security into question — bad timing, considering the company will reportedly debut its own mobile payment system as soon as next week.
Apple may be adding support for a “triple-resolution” Retina Display into iOS 8 according to a new discovery by iOS Developer James Thomson. In a series of tweets this afternoon, Thomson indicated that he had discovered a bug in iOS 8 beta 5 that loads a 3X asset instead of a 2X asset, and further explained that this only happens specifically with 3X assets and not other resolutions like 4X, suggesting this indicates a deliberate decision in the iOS 8 code, rather than a matter of simply selecting the highest-resolution asset available.
Basically, it looks like UIImage has had support for @3x retina images added to it in iOS 8, and/or there is a bug in image loading.— James Thomson (@jamesthomson) August 29, 2014
Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac originally reported in May that Apple was testing a 1704x960 screen resolution for the iPhone 6 that would be achieved by tripling each pixel from a “base resolution” of 568 x 320. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber added his speculation earlier this week suggesting different screen resolutions may be used and that the higher resolution would only apply to the larger 5.5” iPhone 6 in order to maintain a proper Retina Display pixel density. It still remains unclear what hardware Apple may ultimately intend to use this on, since although the iPhone 6 is scheduled for release next month, it is expected that new iPad models will also be appearing during the iOS 8 lifecycle, including a rumoured 12.9” iPad which may also require a higher pixel density for the larger display.
Another new report has surfaced adding more weight to rumors that the upcoming iPhone 6 will include NFC support. Field & Volk has released photos to Sonny Dickson alleged to be of the iPhone 6 logic board, which appear to show NFC chips along an Apple A8 chip, which will reportedly be a 2GHz dual-core CPU. A report from Wired earlier this week indicated that Apple plans to include an NFC-based mobile payment system, which seems to have been further confirmed by this morning’s Financial Times report that Dutch chipmaker NXP will be supplying Apple with the necessary NFC hardware.
- August 29, 2014
A new nine-part report at 9to5Mac reveals techniques Apple has used to “quietly manipulate coverage over the years.” The comprehensive article relies on interviews with journalists, bloggers, and PR pros — including some ex-Apple workers. Part one of the article discusses all of the prep that goes into Apple events, including how Apple plans for things to go awry, recounting once when an audience member fainted and was taken out by paramedics mid-Jobs keynote, and what happens backstage when things go badly.
Part two details all of Apple’s internal PR teams, including the Momentum and Buzz Marketing team, which “works with major sports leagues to integrate the iPad into coaching toolkits, helps music events integrate iPads into festivities, and gets organizations to deploy iBeacon-integrated apps for attendees.”
Part three notes that despite its detached public attitude, Apple actively monitors all media mentions of the company, even having employees checking tabloids for photos of celebrities holding iPhones. The company also actively pushes journalists and bloggers to go after negative reports about Apple in the press, providing them with links and information to undermine stories. Additionally, it plays journalists and publications against each other to get the best coverage, at one point telling Brian Lam of Gizmodo that he was getting an iPhone before the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, and pushing Newsweek and Time to fight over an exclusive cover story.
Apple’s upcoming iPhone 6 will come with its own mobile payment system, and the solution will use NFC, Wired reports. Use of near field communication has been rumored in the iPhone for years — speculation began around the time of the iPhone 4 in 2010, and every iPhone since has been accompanied by an NFC report that never came true. Talk about the use of NFC in the iPhone has heated up again in recent weeks, though considering the device’s history, there have been plenty of reasons to remain skeptical. However, with Apple’s known interest in mobile payments — and the apparent upcoming introduction of such a service — perhaps the time has finally come for iPhone NFC. There’s also been discussion about Apple using its iBeacon platform for mobile payments; it’s possible that iBeacon could still be involved in some way.