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App Store turns 10 years old, now features over 20 million registered developers

Kicking off this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference today, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the tenth anniversary of the App Store, adding that Apple has hit a milestone of over 20 million registered developers on the App Store, and over 500 million visits to the App Store per week. Most significantly, Apple has paid out 100 billion dollars in payouts to developers over the history of the App Store.

Square Enix ending Go series, shifting focus to freemium games

Square Enix Montreal plans to drop its Go franchise in favour of a shift from a premium game model to a freemium game model. In an interview with VentureBeat, Patrick Naud, head of the Square Enix Montreal studio, revealed that the company’s popular Go lineup — a series of turn-based puzzlers which began with Hitman Go before expanding into Lara Croft Go and Deus Ex Go — is no longer profitable at the $5 per game up-front asking price, even despite the use of in-app purchases for in-game expansions.

The Omni Group releases OmniFocus 3 for iOS

The Omni Group has released OmniFocus 3 for iOS, a major upgrade to the company’s powerhouse task management app that adds significant new functionality while decreasing its complexity in normal daily use. The biggest enhancement in OmniFocus 3 is the transformation of “contexts” into a more flexible system of “tags” that’s found in many other apps. While tags serve many of the same functions as contexts, users can now assign multiple tags to any task or project, reorder tags manually, and even assign a tag to appear in the Forecast view. Other new enhancements include a customizable inspector that allows users to hide fields that they don’t normally use, the ability to set multiple custom notification for any task or project and a revamped rules system for creating custom perspectives.

Plex adds Podcasts and a major revamp to its apps

Plex has announced a major update to its platform and mobile apps, introduced support for subscribing to and listening to podcasts, directly through the app, along with a significant redesign of its app experience that provides for faster navigation and a customizable home screen experience. New mobile apps for iOS and Android reimagines the Plex user experience to focus more on addressing what users want to watch or listen to rather than where it is coming from, and now allows users to customize their home screen to reorder or remove the standard sections like “On Deck” and add new ones from anywhere in the app. Users can also now easily combine content from multiple servers on their home screen — both their own and any other servers that they may be subscribed to — and there are now tabs at the bottom of the screen that can be rearranged easily as well, and even customized to allow users to focus on the media they prefer.

Apple rejects Steam Link iOS app, citing ‘business conflicts’

Apple has rejected Valve’s promised Steam Link app, despite actually pre-approving it earlier this month, CNet reports. According to Valve, Apple informed them this week that Apple reversed its earlier approval due to “business conflicts with app guidelines that had allegedly not been realized by the original review team.” Valve added that it appealed Apple’s decision, explaining that the Steam Link app functions as a “LAN-based remote desktop” in the same way as “numerous remote desktop applications already available on the App Store,” but that the appeal was denied. While Valve didn’t go into any details on the specific reasons for the rejection — other than vague “business conflicts” — a later report by Reuters suggests that the conflict is likely connected to in-app purchases, noting that Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi told them that Steam had disabled purchasing in its iOS app, although he did not explain when or how this change was made. It’s unclear whether this will be enough to appease Apple’s App Store review team, or if other issues still remain.

Vevo abandoning its own platform in favour of YouTube

The popular Vevo music video service is phasing out its own music video platforms in favor of YouTube, Variety reports. The company announced its plans in a blog post yesterday, stating that it “will phase out elements of our owned and operated platforms” in order to focus in its primary objective, which is “to grow the commercial and promotional value of music videos.”  The post goes on to note that the company’s catalog “will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube.” Vevo, which is owned primarily by the major labels, has long had a distribution deal with YouTube, which through Google also owns a small stake in the company. While Vevo has traditionally reached most of its audience through YouTube, for the past few years it had tried to lessen its dependence on the service with its own set of apps for mobile devices and set-top boxes, and in fact even toyed at once time with the idea of launching a paid subscription service.

TeenSafe parental monitoring service leaks thousands of childrens’ passwords

A service designed to help parents monitor their childrens’ internet activity on iPhone and Andorid devices has leaked thousands of users’ passwords, ZDNet reports. The service, TeenSafe, purports to be a “secure” monitoring app for both iOS and Android designed to allow parents to view their child’s text message conversations, monitor who they’re calling, accessing their location and web browsing history, and more. It appears, however, that for iOS devices the service relies on parents supplying their childrens’ Apple ID passwords, which are stored on the company’s servers, possibly in order to access iCloud data. However, a U.K. based security researcher, Robert Wiggins, discovered last week that TeenSafe had actually left one or more of its servers unprotected and accessible by anyone without even a password requirement.

App creators unite, form ‘Developers Union’ to call for App Store changes

A group of developers have joined forces, penning an open letter asking Apple to commit to making certain key changes to the App Store. Calling themselves The Developers Union, the group is specifically pushing for Apple to allow free trials for all apps in both the iOS and Mac App Stores by July 2019.

We believe that people who create great software should be able to make a living doing it. So we created The Developers Union to advocate for sustainability in the App Store.

Today, we are asking Apple to publicly commit — by the tenth anniversary of the App Store this July — to allowing free trials for all apps in the App Stores before July 2019. After that, we’ll start advocating for a more reasonable revenue cut and other community-driven, developer-friendly changes.

 

Twitter extends API shutdown deadline to August, third-party apps may still lose functionality

Twitter has announced that it will delay its controversial API changes until August 16, providing developers of third-party twitter clients with more time to update their apps. A coalition of Twitter developers raised a public protest against the upcoming changes last month, noting that even thought Twitter had announced a new Account Activity API in April 2017, the company had yet to actually make the new API available to developers even a year later, despite a looming shutdown of the legacy APIs on June 19, 2018. Today, Twitter announced the general availability of the new Account Activity API that developers have been waiting for, while also extending the deadline to allow developers to actually take advantage of it, noting that “Site Streams, User Streams, and legacy Direct Message endpoints, originally slated for retirement on June 19th 2018, will be deprecated on Wednesday August 16, 2018 which provides 3 months from today’s release of the Account Activity API for migration.”

The new Google News lands on the App Store

Google’s overhauled News app is now available on the App Store. Originally unveiled at Google’s I/O conference last week, the new Google News features not only a redesigned user interface that promises “an improved reading experience,” but also new AI-powered machine learning to try and create a personalized news feed for each user, using algorithms that try to stay on top of breaking news and organize it into more relevant storylines, allowing users to more easily sift through the news and focus on the topics they’re interested in. The new Google News app — which replaces Google’s former Play Newsstand app — appears to borrow some of its UI concepts from Apple News; for example, a new “Your briefing” section provides an overview of user-tailored content in one place, mixing headlines, local news, and breaking developments on a focused set of topics. “Full coverage” allows users to dig deeper on a given story, highlighting different perspectives and providing a timeline of key events and other relevant info.

Another new Unicode text bug discovered affecting iOS Messages

The iPhone is prone to another Unicode text bug, being dubbed the “black dot” bug. Outlined in a new video by EverythingApplePro (via 9to5Mac), the bug was first discovered on WhatsApp on Android, although it affects several other platforms as well, including the iOS Messages app. The bug was originally spread with the “black dot” emoji, but actually relies on the crafting of Unicode text strings that contain thousands of invisible Unicode characters that cause the receiving device to churn through CPU cycles in an attempt to process them, and such a string received as an iMessage will cause the recipient’s Messages app to repeatedly crash, much like other special-text bugs recently encountered.

Apple pulling apps that share location data with third parties without consent

Apple appears to be cracking down on apps that are sharing location data with third parties, according to a report by 9to5Mac. Over the last several days, Apple has been pulling apps from the App Store, informing developers that they violate sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, which cover privacy and obtaining user consent before collecting any kind of personal data, which of course includes location information. Emails sent to developers are advising them that Apple has determined “upon re-evaluation” of their apps that they are in violation of these sections of the App Store Review Guidelines, and that they will need to “remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation” before resubmitting their app to the App Store.

Apple to require all iOS app updates to include iPhone X support starting in July

Apple has announced to developers that as of July, all app updates submitted to the App Store will need to support the iPhone X display and be built with the iOS 11 SDK. Apple has been enforcing the policy for all new app submissions since last month, following an announcement to developers earlier this year. With the latest announcement, the policy has been extended to any app updates that developers want to submit, which will help push actively developed apps to gain support for the iPhone X Super Retina display. Developers submitting updates will also presumably need to abide by the same App Submission Guidelines requiring that they include proper iPhone X screenshots with their updates.

Texture’s Windows magazine app shutting down following Apple acquisition

Texture — the digital magazine subscription service recently acquired by Apple — will be shutting down its Windows app at the end of June. The Verge notes that Windows users have been informed via e-mail and an in-app note that indicates that the app “will stop working and will no longer be available in the Microsoft Store” after June 30th. Texture’s Android, Amazon Fire, and iOS apps are unaffected by this, however, suggesting that this is likely not about cutting off non-Apple users so much as retiring an app that appears to have been poorly maintained for years. The Verge report notes that the app hasn’t been updated in a long time, and the app’s reviews on the Windows Store consist mostly of users complaining about how poorly the app works, and how in some cases they can’t even download magazines — from an app whose entire reason for existence is to allow users to download magazines.

NPR announces acquisition of Pocket Casts

NPR has announced the acquisition of the popular podcasting app Pocket Casts by a consortium consisting of NPR, two public radio stations — WNYC Studios and WBEZ Chicago — and This American Life. The companies represent four of the top podcast producers in the U.S., and the announcement describes the acquisition as a move that “furthers public radio’s leading role as an innovator in audio discovery and distribution, while ensuring the continued support and growth of one of the most popular listening platforms on the market.” Former Executive Vice Present and General Manager at iHeartRadio, Owen Grover, has been tagged to become the new CEO of Pocket Casts, which will operate as a joint venture with the apps founders Philip Simpson and Russell Ivanovic remaining in unspecified leadership roles and the existing staff and developer team remaining in place. A new board will also be formed for Pocket Casts made up of “representatives of public media leaders” in order to “ensure development aligns with the mission-driven ethos of public radio.” [via The Verge]

Google expands Advanced Protection to include native iOS apps

Google has announced improvements to its Advanced Protection Program that will allow users of Apple’s native iOS Mail, Calendar, and Contacts to enrol in the program and and access Google’s services without having to resort to using Google’s own iOS apps. Google’s Advanced Protection Program is designed to provide a very high level of account security for users such as journalists, activists, executives, and politicians, who are likely to have a higher risk of targeted attacks against their accounts, although there are no restrictions on who can enrol in the program.

Google releases ‘Google Tasks’ for iOS

Google has released Google Tasks, the company’s first standalone app for natively managing tasks on an iPhone. The new app is part of a major redesign of Gmail that began rolling out today, and although the new app appears to be pretty basic, it promises to bring some order to the chaos that has been task management in Google’s apps — previously a hodge-podge between “reminders” that could be set in Google Inbox, Google Calendar, and Google Keep, and an older simple web-based “Tasks” apple that existed primarily within the Gmail web interface.

Apple’s new App Store design can boost featured apps by up to 800 percent

Apple’s App Store redesign in iOS 11 is paying off for developers, with a new study from Sensor Tower (via TechCrunch) revealing that apps landing in the featured spots on the new App Store can see a boost in downloads by as much as 800 percent. The study analyzed data from Sept. 2017 to the present finding that the median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that appeared in the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent during the week following the feature, as compared to the week prior. Apps landing in “App of the Day” saw a slightly lower but still significant boost of 685 percent. Increases were somewhat lower for apps simply featured in App Store Stories or App Lists, but still showed a demonstrable increase.

Foodspotting shutting down

Popular foodie app Foodspotting has rather abruptly announced that it will be shutting down entirely early next month. The plans were announced on the company’s website and in a “version 6.0” update to the Foodspotting app, which included release notes saying “All good things must come to an end – even Foodspotting” and pointing users to the company’s web site for more information.

Agile Tortoise releases Drafts 5

Agile Tortoise has released Drafts 5, a full rewrite of the company’s very popular quick note taking app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The new version expands on the classic Drafts 4 experience with improved editing tools, tappable task marks for creating shopping lists and other quick tasks, and deeper customizability through app-wide themes and custom icons. The new version also provides better ways to organize information in Drafts, such as tagging, workspaces, next-previous navigation, and a new “Focus Mode,” and improves capture with SiriKit integration, allowing notes to be created in Drafts right from a “Hey Siri” command. Action and scripting capabilities have also been significantly enhanced, allowing for more advanced workflows. A full list of what’s new is available on the company’s website.

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