Apple is building an app to diagnose problems with iOS devices and help users schedule service, according to uSwitch. A source with direct knowledge of the app’s development said it will ask “basic questions (about the device in need of repair) to boil down to the problem quickly.” The new app will reportedly provide user guides and basic how-to information for every iOS device registered to the user’s Apple ID and offers tips for resolving a series of commonly experienced problems. If those fail to resolve the issue, the app will aid users in booking service at an Apple Store, sending their device in for service, or calling Apple for further support. The current Apple Store app only provides assistance in booking appointments with an Apple Store’s Genius bar; it’s unclear if this functionality will be shifted into the Apple Store app, or if it will be a new app of its own. Photos of the app show it also provides an option to chat live with Apple’s tech support network.
The iPad Pro has been touted as powerful enough to replace laptop and desktop computers, but many developers tell The Verge that they see big problems with developing apps specifically for the larger device’s enhanced capabilities. While the tablet is fast enough to run professional-grade software, it still operates on iOS, making all apps developed for it subject to App Store rules. The App Store doesn’t allow free trials as part of the download process, and developers like Bohemian Coding co-founders Pieter Omvlee and Emanuel Sa don’t see users paying $99 for their Sketch app without ever seeing it work. “Sketch on the Mac costs $99, and we wouldn’t dare ask someone to pay $99 without having seen or tried it first,” Omvlee said. “So to be sold through the App Store, we would have to dramatically lower the price, and then, since we’re a niche app, we wouldn’t have the volume to make up for it.”
Apple has updated the acknowledgments page for its Maps app to include Foursquare as a provider of business listings. Foursquare officially joins Yelp, Trip Advisor and Booking.com as official providers of information about businesses, restaurants and attractions within the app, but so far we at iLounge haven’t seen any Foursquare information popping up when searching in Apple Maps. In other Foursquare news, the company’s Swarm app got an update yesterday, making it possible to use the 3D Touch feature to press on a friend’s check-in for quick access to more information about their current location.
Improvements to the App Store’s search that Apple has rolled out in the past few weeks are producing more intelligent and relevant returns, TechCrunch reports. Where past updates to the store’s algorithms have focused on changes to the way apps are ranked within Top Charts and various categories, the new changes appear to affect how results are returned when users search for apps using a keyword. The improved search now ranks apps using contextual keyword matches or partial matches, and goes beyond the text found in an app’s title or “keyword” slot, expanding the usefulness of the search in finding apps that serve a function which might not be explicitly stated in the app’s name. The new search puts more emphasis on the main features of the app and returns a better range of similar and competing apps. A search for “Twitter,” for example, now returns results for Twitter clients Tweetbot and Twitterrific, where both apps were recently not displayed in those search results at all despite serving the same basic function as Twitter’s own app. Apple hasn’t commented on the change, and how the move will affect app downloads and sales is still unclear.
In a post on the Beats Music support blog, Apple said it’s shutting down Beats Music on Nov. 30 and urged users to move their picks and preferences over to Apple Music before it’s too late. Apple has been encouraging Beats Music users to switch to Apple Music since launching the new service in June, but those users still paying for Beats Music will see their subscriptions canceled at the end of the month. The “related articles” section attached to the post features links to newly updated user guides for migrating from Beats Music to Apple Music for both iOS and Android, making it possible that Apple was waiting until the Android app’s release earlier this week before finally pulling the plug on Beats Music.
Google has released its new YouTube Music app for iOS in the U.S. App Store, following the company’s announcement last month that it would arrive following the debut of its new YouTube Red subscription service. YouTube Music is focused on allowing users to watch and listen to the entire catalog of music videos available on YouTube, with discovery features that allow users to tap on tracks they love and explore from there. Users can listen to music online for free, with ads, while YouTube Red subscribers get the ability to watch ad-free videos and listen to music offline, in the background, or without having to load the video. Users will automatically receive a free fourteen-day trial of YouTube Red upon signing into the YouTube Music app.
Apple is adding 1,000 new jobs at its office in Cork, Ireland, Reuters reports. The company is currently under investigation by the European Union over whether the tax breaks it enjoys in Ireland are legal, but Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the new hiring shows the controversy “hasn’t affected their enthusiasm for Ireland.” The company already employs 5,000 workers at the Cork facility and announced the construction of a new 850 million euro data center earlier this year.
A beta version of the Apple Music app for Android is available in the Google Play Store today, making Apple’s subscription music service publicly available on Android devices for the first time. Betabound invited its users to take part in a beta test of the Android app in September, but Apple Music’s appearance in the Google Play store is the first official Android release accessible to the average user. The app still has major limitations, with music video playback still unavailable and an inability to handle family plan sign-ups from within the app. Users can use their family plan account with the Android app, but will need to register for it using a Mac or iOS device until promised fixes for the sign-up process are rolled out to Android, making adoption of the music service a complicated proposition for users who only own PCs and Android devices. The app is free to download, but will require the same subscription as Apple’s in-house app after the three-month trial period for new users expires. The app requires Android 4.3 or up and 29MB of space to install. [via 9to5Mac]
On his tour of London this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook pushed the idea that the new iPad Pro is as versatile a product as the company has ever made with features that appeal to a broad range of users. In his interview with The Telegraph, Cook said the new tablet has the screen and speakers to give the average media consumer a much more robust viewing and listening experience, but when paired with the company’s keyboard case the device is powerful enough to replace a user’s notebook or desktop computer and challenge the PC’s dominance in the workplace. “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?” Cook said.
When paired with the Apple Pencil, Cook said the device is the first of its kind to give creatives a true alternative to putting pencil to paper for sketching. Addressing criticism that the Apple Pencil is a stylus that users don’t need since their finger can do the same job, Cook told The Independent that the Apple Pencil has won over artists by going far beyond what a stylus can do. “The traditional stylus is fat, it has really bad latency so you’re sketching here and it’s filling the line in somewhere behind. You can’t sketch with something like that, you need something that mimics the look and feel of the pencil itself or you’re not going to replace it,” Cook said. “We’re not trying to replace finger touch, we’re complementing it with the Pencil.”
Apple has added Categories to the App Store for the new Apple TV, as the company continues to slowly improve the set-top box’s application catalog and add more app discovery features. Earlier this week, the App Store also gained support for Top Charts, although both features appear to remain limited to the U.S. App Store at this time.
Fun fact: HeadBoard, the tvOS UI, has pretty complete folder support inside. Looks like it would work like iOS - drop an app on another app— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) November 5, 2015
Developer Steve Troughton-Smith has been poking around the tvOS code and discovered that tvOS actually has “pretty complete folder support” that appears to work the same way as on iOS, suggesting that the feature may be coming soon to a future version of tvOS, although it’s unclear as to why Apple has chosen not to implement folders at this time.
Fireproof Games has released The Room Three ($5), the third installment in its popular puzzle game series, following up on last year’s iLounge Game of the Year, The Room Two. The physical puzzle game puts you on a remote island where you must use your puzzle-solving ability to navigate the trials devices by a mysterious figure known only as “The Craftsman.” The Room Three continues the extremely detailed tactile world design of its previous chapters, with an easy pick-up-and-play design while expanding locations into new environments and multiple areas. A new eyepiece ability has also been added that allows you to explore the world in an even more miniature view, and an enhanced system helps you progress through the game more easily when you get really stuck. The Room Three also features alternate endings so that you can play through the game several times with different outcomes, along with a haunting soundtrack and dynamic sound effects, and iCloud and Game Center support for playing on multiple devices and tracking achievements.
Microsoft has announced plans to release public betas of the iOS version of its Cortana app to Windows Insiders. The company has apparently been testing the app internally over the past six months, and is now ready to start inviting a limited number of outside users to try out an early version of the app. While the iOS version will reportedly not be as feature complete as the Windows 10 Mobile and Android equivalents, the general look and feel is reportedly the same, and the beta will support reminders, scheduling events, and sending emails. Applicants will need to be part of the Windows Insider program and the trial will initially be limited to those in the U.S. and China; those interested in signing up can complete an online survey to apply. [via The Verge]
Plex has released its very popular media streaming client for the new Apple TV, providing users of the new set-top box with the ability to legitimately access and stream their content from their Plex media server to their television. Although Plex has been available on other media streaming platforms for several years, the lack of an App Store for the Apple TV has forced many users to either AirPlay content from the Plex iOS app or resort to out-of-the-box hacking methods to present Plex content by taking over an existing Apple TV channel. The Plex app is free in the App Store and requires that users update to the latest Plex media server software on their NAS device or computer. Additional details can be found on the Plex blog.
In addition, Apple has added top charts categories to the Apple TV App Store, including “Top Paid”, “Top Free”, and “Top Grossing” apps. The Top Charts can be found on the top menu bar between Featured and Purchased. Top Charts appear to only be available in the U.S. App Store at this time; it’s unclear when they will be appearing in other countries.
Nintendo has announced its first official smartphone “game,” The Wall Street Journal reports. Expected to debut in March 2016, the first new release by the famous video game developer will be titled “Miitomo” and will be a free-to-play app with in-app purchases that can be used to buy “attractive add-ons.” According to Nintendo CEO Tatsumk Kimishima, future iOS games released by the company will be pay-to-download titles — the company still plans to release four other apps by March 2017.
It’s not entirely clear whether Miitomo should be called a game, per se, as it appears to be more focused on allowing users to design their own avatars — Nintendo Miis -— to communicate with other users. In this sense, Miitomo appears to be more of a social app than a game, and Nintendo Executive Shinya Takahashi noted that the company is building the app to try and find ways to encourage shier users to talk and share things about themselves in the app. For example, it appears that Miis will automatically communicate with other Miis without your knowledge, helping people who are hesitant to talk about themselves to participate in the social aspect and “reveal a side of your friends you never knew.” It also appears that Mii avatars can be ported back into games on Nintendo hardware, suggesting this new release may be designed more as a companion app for current Nintendo fans rather than an entirely standalone experience.
Apple’s iOS 9 feature availability page shows the company has expanded its ‘Nearby’ search functionality in the Maps app to Canada, Australia, Germany and France. The feature — which allows users to see restaurants, bars, gas stations and other places of interest near their current location — was previously only officially available in the U.S. and China, though some Canadian users reported seeing the feature appear intermittently during the past few weeks.
Facebook is taking steps to address some of the recent complaints about its iOS app consuming an inordinate amount of battery power. According to a new Facebook post by Ari Grant, the company’s Engineering Manager, Facebook has been looking into the causes of the reported problems and have identified some key issues and addressed some of them in the recent Facebook app update. Grant notes that they found the problem was mostly related to a “CPU spin” in network code as well as improper management of background audio sessions, with the latter problem having been observed by users affected by the bug, which basically causes the background audio channel in iOS to remain open after watching a video on Facebook, even though nothing is actually playing.
Google has announced the launch of YouTube Red, its new ad-free YouTube Subscription service. Launched earlier this year in beta as “YouTube Music Key,” the service has now been rebranded with the new name and will offer users the ability to view videos across all of YouTube without ads on both desktop and mobile platforms, as well as saving videos for offline viewing and playing videos in the background on mobile devices. The membership will also work in other YouTube apps, such the Gaming and Kids apps, with the company also planning to launch a YouTube Music app soon, although it’s unclear whether that will be available to iOS devices. As promised during the beta period, YouTube Red will also be integrated with Google Play Music, so users who have already subscribed to Google Play Music should get access to YouTube Red at no additional charge (and vice-versa for new YouTube Red subscribers). YouTube Red will be available in the U.S. starting on Oct. 28 for $10/month, with a one month free trial available. While users of the YouTube iOS app will also be able to purchase a YouTube Red subscription through an in-app purchase, the in-app purchase price is more expensive, at $13/month — presumably to account for the 30 percent cut that developers are required to give to Apple. iOS users can still simply subscribe directly via the YouTube site in their browser and avoid the additional $3/month.
Apple has added a number of Amtrak routes to Apple Maps. It appears as if routes included thus far are concentrated in the Northeast U.S. These routes include the Acela Express, Northeast Regional, and Pennsylvanian, among others.
In other Apple Maps news, Boston Transit directions have finally gone live, as The Boston Globe points out. Apple added Transit support for Boston a few weeks ago, but directions haven’t actually been available until now. [via MacRumors]
Security firm SourceDNA claims to have discovered hundreds of App Store apps that violate Apple’s privacy policies by accessing private user information. Apps using the Youmi advertising SDK were found to be accessing users’ Apple IDs, gathering a list of apps installed on devices and documenting the serial numbers of peripherals, among other privacy invasions. Youmi’s SDK skirted Apple’s review process by hiding its data collection processes within binary code sent out to developers over the last two years, leaving even app developers themselves unaware of the data that was being collected and sent back directly to Youmi. After Apple started blocking apps from reading platform serial numbers in iOS 8, Youmi started collecting information on individual device components, like the battery system, and used those to identify individual devices.
Apple has released updates to its suite of iWork apps for iOS, adding new iOS 9 related features as well as 3D Touch support for the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. All three of the apps, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, have been updated with support for Slide Over, Split View, and Picture in Picture features on supported iPad models, a new Shortcut Bar on the iPad for quick access to formatting tools, support for new Multi-Touch gestures on the iPad, new keyboard shortcuts for use with external keyboards, and 3D Touch support. The three apps now gain the ability to open documents from older versions, with Pages ‘06 and ‘08, Numbers ‘08, and Keynote ‘06 and ‘08 supported. Shared documents can now also be previewed in iOS and Android browsers, version history allows users to view and restore previous changes made to a document, and many accessibility improvements have also been added. New templates and themes are available in each of the apps, and compatibility with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats has also been improved.