At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference today, the company announced watchOS 2, sporting a number of new features for Apple Watch, as well as a new Watch SDK that will allow third-party developers to build native apps that run directly on the watch, rather than as an extension of a paired iPhone app. Developers will now be able to write their own complications to effectively design custom watch faces that provide an ability to quickly glance at app-specific information. A new “Time Travel” feature will allow users to rotate their digital crowns to quickly and easily view time-based information on their Watch face, such as a future weather forecast or upcoming appointments. “Nightstand Mode” will allow the Watch to display the time and other information in a sideways orientation when the device is plugged in and charging, including adding an alarm clock feature and using the side button as a snooze button.
Additional enhancements allow friends to be added directly on the Watch’s friends list, and Digital Touch drawings can now be done with multiple colors. Emails can be replied to, and FaceTime Audio support is being added so users can place and receive phone calls right from the user’s wrist. Native third-party fitness apps will also now be supported, with the ability for workout data to contribute directly to the built-in activity monitoring apps. Siri has also been enhanced in watchOS 2, allowing users to start workouts by voice, control HomeKit devices, and request specific glances. The mass transit feature in iOS 9 will also come to watchOS 2, allowing users to get departure times for nearby stations at a glance, and step-by-step walking directions to get to a nearby transit station as part of the overall transit routing.
The watchOS 2 SDK will be available to developers today, while the Apple watchOS 2 update will be released in the fall as a free update for all current Apple Watch devices.
Apple is going to do away with Newsstand and introducte a free, Flipboard-style app that will show users samples of content from providers like the New York Times, Hearst, Conde Nast and ESPN, Re/code reports. Partners who complained about Newsstand burying their content will now sell their own apps on the App Store, with Apple taking 30 percent of revenue generated from subscriptions sold though the publisher’s own apps. Publishers will keep 100 percent of the advertising they sell within the new Flipboard-type app, according to unnamed sources. Apple will sell the ad space that publishers can’t, and will take a cut that one publisher called “very favorable.”
Follow @iLounge on Twitter for live coverage of today’s WWDC Keynote. It’s expect that Apple will introduce iOS 9, the Apple Music streaming service, as well as the native SDK for Apple Watch — and who knows what other surprises will be in store. We’ll have all the details here on the site as the day goes on, so check back regularly for a deeper look. Apple’s special event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific Time (1 p.m. Eastern), and will be streaming live on Apple’s website and on Apple TV’s Special Events channel.
Apple is building its own high-speed network and upgrading how it builds data centers to compete with Amazon, Microsoft and Google in cloud services, Bloomberg reports. Apple relies on traditional network providers to support services like iCloud, iTunes and Siri functionality, but sources familiar with the company’s plans said Apple will need faster, more efficient infrastructure to handle millions of users for the music streaming service expected to be announced today at WWDC and the upcoming TV streaming service expected later this year. The new push includes billions of dollars of new investment in custom-designed data centers and fiber lines that can send data at hundreds of gigabits per second. The company aims to link its existing data centers in California, Nevada, North Carolina and Oregon to Internet hubs in yet-undisclosed cities, getting content closer to densely populated markets before it’s delivered to consumers by broadband connections and cell towers. Apple, as usual, declined comment.
A source familiar with Apple’s plans said the company is aiming to sign up 100 million subscribers for its Apple Music service, dwarfing all existing streaming music services combined, the Associated Press reports. Users of Beats Music will be migrated over before that service is shut down, and those purchasing songs or albums on iTunes will begin receiving an offer to subscribe to the $10/month streaming service instead. Apple will be flooding the online music scene to rack up those numbers, providing a three-month free trial of the paid service alongside a slew of guest DJs drawing users to its free iTunes Radio offering, including Pharrell Williams, Drake, Muse and David Guetta.
During an interview at the Midem music and technology festival, Sony Music CEO Doug Morris emphasized Apple’s unique position to dominate and revolutionize the streaming music market, Venture Beat notes. “What does Apple bring to this?” Morris said. “Well, they’ve got $178 billion dollars in the bank. And they have 800 million credit cards in iTunes. Spotify has never really advertised because it’s never been profitable. My guess is that Apple will promote this like crazy and I think that will have a halo effect on the streaming business.”
Apple may be looking to reduce the 30 percent cut that it takes from in-app media subscriptions, according to a new report in The Financial Times. The company is apparently in discussions with media companies looking to change the 70/30 revenue sharing split that Apple has traditionally offered for paid subscriptions to music, video, and news content. While the same revenue sharing model has been adopted by rival companies Google and Amazon, an improvement to the App Store’s pricing terms for content providers would help to ensure the iOS platform remains attractive to media companies as well as possibly reassuring regulators that Apple is not abusing its dominant market position. Services affected would include companies such as Spotify, Rdio, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Condé Nast and The New York Times, among many others. The move would also encourage more companies to take advantage of Apple’s in-app payment system for subscriptions, rather than working around them with browser-based solutions in order to avoid paying the 30 percent share to Apple, or passing the additional costs along to subscribers with higher pricing for those who choose to use Apple’s in-app payment system. While the report notes that Apple is in discussions with media companies about adjusting the revenue sharing model, no information has been provided about exactly what amounts Apple would be willing to settle for.
Mere days before Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) where the company is expected to announce a new streaming music service, Apple remains in negotiations with record labels, Bloomberg reports. Labels are reportedly pushing for a larger portion of revenue from Apple than they are currently getting from their deals with rival service Spotify, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Both sides are said to want to complete a deal prior to WWDC on Monday, and the talks are actively continuing to that end. The labels are apparently using the talks with Apple to set a benchmark for negotiations with other services. Currently, the labels take 55 percent of Spotify’s monthly fees, and publishers take an additional 15 percent; the labels are said to be pushing for closer to 60 percent from Apple.
Tim Cook emphasized Apple’s long-standing commitment to privacy in remarks given during EPIC’s Champions of Freedom event, TechCrunch reports. The Apple CEO took other companies — presumably Google and Facebook — to task for heavily relying on collecting user data for the success of their lucrative advertising model. “I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information,” Cook said. “They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”
Now that Apple is storing even more sensitive data relating to users’ health, homes and finances, Cook said he believes the user should be in full control of their information, not allowing it to be sold as a commodity in exchange for a free service. He took a very pointed shot at Google’s Photos product, warning users against allowing their “family photos [to be] data mined and sold off for God knows what advertising purpose.” He also lambasted government efforts to push for weaker encryption, echoing the letter to President Obama that Apple co-signed in May.
Apple has issued a voluntary recall of the Beats Pill XL speaker, citing concerns that the battery could overheat and pose a fire safety risk. The recall provides a link to the form for returning the speakers to Apple for Apple Store credit or an electronic payment of $325 (or equivalent amount of local currency for those outside the U.S.). Refunds take approximately three weeks, and returns will only be processed on the web — customers should not try to return the product to the store where it was purchased.
Apple won’t be unveiling its subscription TV service next week at WWDC, Re/code reports. The company wanted to launch the new service in early fall to coincide with the new broadcast TV season, but necessary licensing deals aren’t yet finalized, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. Apple wants to provide customers in cities around the U.S. with local broadcast programming to set its service apart from those already available from Dish and Sony, but obtaining the rights to local shows and developing the technology to deliver them has proven time-consuming. CBS CEO Les Moonves has indicated his network will likely sign with Apple, but money is still a sticking point. Industry executives predict Apple’s TV service won’t launch until late this year or in 2016.
A new report from The Wall Street Journal has confirmed that Apple will indeed unveil its new Apple Music service at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The report also confirms most of the details that have previously been reported about the new service, including that Apple will not only be unveiling a $10/month streaming music service to compete with Spotify, but also plans to update iTunes Radio with channels that are programmed and hosted by human DJs. While these details have been making the rounds for some time, it was previously unclear whether Apple would have the necessary licensing agreements in place in time for an early June unveiling of the service.
Apple is rumored to be working on a $19 million deal to add rapper Drake as a guest DJ for iTunes Radio, according to the New York Post. DJ David Guetta and Pharrell Williams — who sported his Apple Watch last month on “The Voice” — are also in talks to get on board as faces of Apple’s upcoming entry into the streaming music business, according to music industry sources. Reliance on artist involvement and star power to promote the new service is consistent with previous rumors that “Apple Music” will provide fans with track samples, photos, videos, and concert updates on artist-curated social networking pages.
Apple has issued a workaround for the recent Messages bug, which causes iPhones to reboot and Messages to repeatedly crash after a specific, strange string of unicode characters is received via text. In an official support document, Apple recommends using Siri to re-open the Messages app. Users are instructed to ask Siri to “read unread messages,” then to reply to the malicious message. Messages should then be able to open again, and users can delete the message, or the entire conversation. Apple notes that an upcoming software update will fix the issue.
Apple has made yet another acquisition in the form of Metaio, a small augmented reality company, TechCrunch reports. Metaio launched in 2003 as a result from a project at Volkswagen, and the company has worked on a number of virtual reality and augmented reality projects, including the 2010 launch of Junaio, one of the very first augmented reality apps for the iOS platform. A legal document sourced by TechCrunch notes that shares in the company were transferred to Apple on May 21-22. Although Apple’s response was the usual standard boilerplate confirmation: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” there are several readily apparent possibilities as to what Apple may be planning to do with Metaio, particularly in light of recent news that Apple may be bringing augmented reality features to iOS 9.
Apple’s appeal to the courts to have its appointed antitrust monitor dismissed has been rejected, the The Wall Street Journal reports. Former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich had been appointed to assess and oversee Apple’s antitrust compliance policies after the company was found liable in conspiring to raise e-book prices back in 2013. Since that time, Apple has been trying to have Bromwich dismissed, arguing that he has been exceeding the scope of his mandate, and that his fees were “exorbitant.” According to Bromwich, Apple has become uncooperative with the monitor in recent months, inappropriately limiting his access to necessary corporate records and denying requests for interviews with key personnel.
In a decision handed down earlier today, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Bromwich’s role was “appropriately constrained” and noted that Apple can continue raising objections in the lower court if it believes Bromwich has overstepped his bounds. Mr. Bromwich’s role was clarified by the court in early 2014, in a decision which made it clear that Apple was required to cooperate with the antitrust monitor, but that his role was limited to ensuring that “Apple has policies in place to prevent future antitrust violations and that senior executives and board members understand them.” One of the judges in today’s decision further noted that Apple failed to follow the court-mandated dispute resolution process in dealing with the monitor, instead choosing to sit “on its hands, allowing issues with the monitor to fester and the relationship to deteriorate, mostly without the district court’s knowledge.”
Apple is preparing to unveil a new rewards program tied to Apple Pay, according a new report by The New York Times. According to sources familiar with Apple Pay, the service could be unveiled as early as next month — likely at WWDC — and would provide perks to consumers who make purchases through the Apple Pay service. No further details are available, and it’s unclear whether these rewards would be tied to specific bank and card issuers or specific retailers.
General Motors has announced planes to bring Apple’s CarPlay to 14 of its 2016 Chevy models, Re/code reports. At Code Conference 2016, GM CEO Mary Barra announced that the software will be offered across the “full range of consumer models” from the Corvette to the Spark, and she went on to note that GM also has plans to integrate CarPlay into its other brands “soon.” This integration will make GM the first major U.S. automaker to integrate CarPlay across a widespread lineup of mainstream cars.
Apple plans to debut a more advanced software development kit for the Apple Watch as early as next month, Re/code reports. At the Code Conference, Apple’s Chief Operations Officer Jeff Williams noted that the new SDK would allow apps like games to run directly on the watch as well as providing direct access to the Apple Watch’s built-in sensors. While the existing WatchKit SDK allows developers to build extensions for the Apple Watch into their iPhone apps, up until now third-party apps have not been able to function natively on the wearable device independently of the paired iPhone.
Apple is planning to expand Siri and Spotlight functionality in iOS 9 to provide a more effective personal assistant, 9to5Mac reports. Dubbed Proactive, the service is expected to be similar in concept to Google’s Google Now service that is available on Android devices and in Google’s iOS app, leveraging services such as Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps to provide relevant information to the user based on their data and device usage patterns. Integration with Apple Maps is also expected to allow the service to display points of interest, which will apparently be presented in a new augmented reality interface. The new service will reportedly be an evolution of the Spotlight search feature in iOS, and appears to be designed to be accessible from a panel to the left of the home screen — similar to where Spotlight was located prior to the iOS 7 design refresh two years ago.
Following an earlier report that Apple Maps will be adding Transit in iOS 9, a follow-up report by 9to5Mac provides more details on Apple’s initial rollout plans, indicating that at launch the service will be limited to a handful of cities around the world. According to sources familiar with the project, Apple’s Transit service will be coming to only a half-dozen cities at first, with the list including San Francisco and New York in the U.S., Toronto, Canada, and London, Paris, and Berlin in Europe. Despite this short list, however, Apple is reportedly already making plans to expand the service further, and is considering Boston, Massachusetts and Tokyo, Japan as two of the next cities on its list.