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Apple unveils best Apps, Music, Movies, and TV Shows for 2017

Apple has announced its editorial picks for the best apps, movies, TV shows, books, and podcasts available from its various online content stores. The App Store team noted four rising trends for 2017, including the introduction of augmented reality apps with iOS 11, a rise of real-time competitive gaming, and an increased focus on mental health and mindfulness as well as storytelling and reading. The 2017 iPhone App of the Year was the health and fitness app, Calm, while the very popular Affinity Photo won 2017 iPad App of the Year. In games, Splitter Critters was the top iPhone pick, and the open-ended exploratory puzzler The Witness was the 2017 iPad Game of the Year.

Apple releases iTunes 12.7.1 with minor updates

Alongside the release of new versions of iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS, Apple has rolled out iTunes 12.7.1, featuring only “minor app and performance improvements.” The small update continues the program’s more focused emphasis “on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks” after a redesign that saw the removal of the App Store. For those looking to keep the App Store within iTunes, Apple has released a standalone version of the program that won’t update to a newer version.

iTunes U app update moves collections to Podcasts app, in line with iTunes changes

Apple has updated its iTunes U app to bring it in line with the recent changes to iTunes, migrating the collections features to the Podcasts app just like they were moved to the podcasts area within iTunes. Other than that, the app functions mostly the same as before, allowing users to view iTunes U courses and offering “performance improvements for accounts with a large number of courses.” Links to collections from within the iTunes U app will now open directly in the Podcasts app.

Apple leaves version of iTunes featuring App Store available for anyone to download

While Apple removed the App Store from its latest update of iTunes, the company has also left a version featuring the App Store — version 12.6.3 — available for download. The company’s support page for that download makes it clear the intent is to allow businesses deploying their own internal apps the ability to access the App Store from iTunes, even going so far as to provide special provisions allowing the older version to be downloaded to machines that already inadvertently downloaded iTunes 12.7. Anyone who wasn’t quite ready to part with all the things left out in Apple’s streamlining of iTunes can download iTunes 12.6.3 for PC or Mac, but the software won’t prompt you to execute future updates like iTunes always seems to do, so if you want to upgrade at a later date you’ll have to seek out the update yourself.

Apple increases iTunes movie rental time to 48 hours for US users

Apple has increased the time a user has to finish or rewatch a movie rented from iTunes from 24 hours to 48 hours for U.S. users, according to the company’s updated support document. Users in the U.S. users have 30 days from the time they rent a movie to begin watching it, and now they’ll have twice as much time to finish it. The 48 hour window to watch an iTunes rental has been available since the beginning of iTunes movie rentals in Canada and the U.K. — among other countries — and it’s not entirely clear why the U.S. had a shorter time limit. The company also recently made 4K movies available for rent at the same price as HD movies (but they can’t be downloaded for offline viewing).

4K Movies begin appearing on iTunes

Apple has begun offering a number of movie titles in 4K HDR ahead of next week’s Apple TV 4K, identify by a “4K” designation where “HD” was previously shown, as well as a “Dolby Vision” logo. In addition to selling content in 4K for the same price as other HD content, Apple has promised that users who have previously purchased HD versions of titles that are now available in 4K will be able to download or stream the 4K version at no additional cost.

Apple releases iTunes 12.7, ditching App Store and adding iOS 11 support, new social features

Apple has released iTunes 12.7 to all users, adding support for iOS 11 and Apple Music’s new social sharing features. The update also entirely does away with the App Store and Ringtones (and Books for Windows users), leaving those items to live on the iOS devices where they’re actually used and taking iTunes out of the equation. Apple has also eliminated separate categories for Internet Radio and iTunes U, streamlining the interface to place iTunes U collections in Podcasts and listing Internet Radio stations in the music library’s sidebar.

Apple and Hollywood still discussing plans for early movie rentals

Movie studios are still considering plans to offer premium early access movie rentals via iTunes, Bloomberg reports. Despite objections from cinema chains, Hollywood wants to forge ahead in offering digital rentals of films only weeks after they arrive in theatres, according to people familiar with the matter. Discussions about possible studio agreements between Apple and the studios began late last year, and have been ongoing for months since, although the two sides have been struggling to arrive at a means for offering a $30–$50 premium movie-download solution that would be mutually beneficial.

Receipts in UK, Canada hint at 4K and HDR options coming to iTunes

Some iTunes receipts in the UK and Canada are showing movies listed as 4K and HDR, hinting at Apple adding those viewing options in the near future, MacRumors reports. Apple currently only offers movies in SD and HD, which tops out at a maximum 1080p, and even users who are seeing 4K and HDR options on their bills say the movies are still only available for download in HD. The change also hasn’t appeared in the US yet. The current Apple TV can only stream in HD, but in February there were rumors that Apple’s fifth-generation Apple TV—which could debut as soon as this year—would be capable of streaming in 4K.

Ability to use PayPal to pay for Apple downloads and services expanded internationally

Apple users in Canada, the UK, Germany, Mexico, and the Netherlands can now use PayPal to pay for Apple services, according to a statement from PayPal. The payment service has been an available option in the US for years, but is now available to users in some other countries to pay for downloads or services from the App Store, iCloud, iTunes, and Apple Music. [via AppleInsider]

Apple releases iTunes 12.7 for macOS High Sierra beta, with added Apple Music sharing features

Apple has rolled out iTunes 12.7 for users running the macOS High Siera beta, adding in new Apple Music sharing capabilities. Clicking on your profile picture in “For You” in iTunes 12.7 now takes you to a personal profile page showing your username, whichever playlists you want to share, and an “Edit” button that lets you adjust your profile and privacy settings (mostly to determine who can follow you). Once the update is available to the general public, users will be able to follow their friends, view that they’re listening to, and share their own recommendations. The update dovetails with the same social features coming in iOS 11 and helps to streamline and unify the Apple Music experience across various platforms.

New Prince single available on iTunes, Apple Music; EP available for pre-order

Deliverance, the title track of the posthumous EP from Prince set to be released this Friday, is now streaming on Apple Music and available on iTunes for $1. The full six-song record is also available for pre-order for $4. Parts of Prince’s back catalog began streaming on Apple Music earlier this year after previously being exclusive to Tidal.

Apple releases iTunes 12.6 with new cross-device movie rental feature

Apple has released iTunes 12.6 with minor bug fixes and one big new feature: The ability to rent movies in iTunes and watch them on other devices running iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2. The wording in the release notes isn’t specific, but hints at the ability to simply stream a rented movie on any device linked to the Apple ID that rented it. Previously users have always had to actually transfer the rented file from one device to another and could only view it on one device at a time. And while the Apple TV has been able to stream a downloaded movie rental from a user’s computer, it wouldn’t appear in the “Movies” app (like it would if it had been rented on the Apple TV directly), but as a movie in the “Computers” app that is used to access the computer’s regular iTunes library. The iTunes update—combined with the imminent release of a new iPad this Friday—has led to speculation that Apple will release iOS 10.3 and tvOS 10.2 in the next few days to enable this new feature.

Apple releases iTunes 12.5.5

Apple released iTunes 12.5.5, a minor update that mentions no specific improvements outside of “app and performance improvements.” Also on Monday, Apple released iOS 10.2.1, tvOS 10.1.1 and watchOS 3.1.3.

Apple clarifies relationship between Apple Music and iTunes Match

An Apple Senior Product Specialist has confirmed to iLounge that Apple Music has been expanded to include all of the key features of iTunes Match, clarifying the update to the Apple Music Membership FAQ that we reported on last week. The specialist confirmed that Apple Music subscribers can now download DRM-free versions of “matched” tracks without an iTunes Match subscription, although he clarified that this won’t necessarily be the case for older DRM-laden songs purchased from the iTunes Store — basically, those tracks purchased prior to the 2007-2009 period when Apple began selling music without DRM. Specifically, an iTunes Match subscription is still required to download 256-kbps DRM-free versions of any of those older purchased iTunes Songs — provided the DRM-free versions are available on the iTunes Store — whereas users without an iTunes Match subscription will be limited to the originally-purchased 128kbps DRM-protected versions from their purchase history.

Apple releases iTunes 12.5.4 with TV app and Touch Bar support

Apple has released iTunes 12.5.4, adding support for the new TV app introduced with the releases of iOS 10.2 and tvOS 10.1 earlier this week. The latest iTunes update also adds support for the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro models, providing a scrubber that allows users to jump to different parts of songs, movies, and TV shows.

Apple acknowledges Apple Music now includes ‘all the benefits of iTunes Match’

Apple has quietly made a change to its Apple Music Membership FAQ, explaining that Apple Music members no longer need to subscribe separately to iTunes Match. The FAQ appears to have been updated within the last three to four weeks, and unequivocally states that users who subscribe to Apple Music do not need to also subscribe to iTunes Match, as “Apple Music includes all the benefits of iTunes Match to make all of your music available on all of your devices.”

Apple adds four new items to (PRODUCT)RED lineup, games get custom content for World AIDS Day

Apple has announced it is taking part in the (RED) charity fundraiser to combat AIDS for the 10th straight year. Apple is adding four new products to its (PRODUCT)RED lineup, offering an iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case, iPhone SE Case, Beats Solo 3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones and Beats Pill+ Portable Speaker. All of the new products are available starting today. Apple is also donating a dollar to the cause for every purchase made with Apple Pay at the Apple Store, on the company’s website or through the Apple Store app, all the way up to $1 million.

Report: Apple’s video strategy has Hollywood confused

Apple recently tried to work out an exclusive video deal with Chris Rock, but walked away from the discussions and let the comedian’s two stand-up specials go to Netflix instead, The Information reports. This latest chapter in Apple’s scattered efforts to acquire exclusive video content has added to the confusion in Hollywood over what types of media Apple has an interest in acquiring. The company has been working aggressively to land movies for iTunes—most recently securing the rights to offer Michael Moore’s “TrumpLand” earlier than other online providers—and has picked up shows like “Carpool Karaoke” that fit into its strategy for promoting Apple Music. But after meeting with TV producers and movie studios about developing original content for iTunes, Eddy Cue was quoted as saying Apple is “not in the business of trying to create TV shows,” adding that the company is more interested in offering suggestions and guidance. Apple is refusing to commit the large sums of money necessary to compete with streaming rivals like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, leading analysts to worry the company’s hesitation “could stymie Apple’s ability to increase market share for its streaming video device, the Apple TV, and lock more people into the Apple ecosystem.” [via MacRumors]

Report: Apple acquired technology, employees from streaming music startup

When streaming music startup Omnifone went bankrupt this summer, Apple acquired some of the company’s technology and at least 16 of its employees, TechCrunch reports. Apple was initially rumored to be acquiring Omnifone in June, and 16 of the company’s London-based employees have since changed their LinkedIn status to show they’re now working at Apple. Omniphone still owns over 50 patents related to streaming, downloading and digital media identification, but it’s unclear how many of those — if any — Apple has acquired. A source claims some of that technology found its way into Apple Music and iTunes, and the employees who joined Apple from Omnifone include engineers now working in iTunes and apps. Apple declined to comment on the story.

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