During today’s iPhone 5 event, Apple also unveiled a major update to iTunes, its iconic media management application. Designed to be “dramatically simpler” the new version provides a much more simplified user interface presented primarily as a grid view, with album content expanding in place in a style similar to iOS folders and deeper links into the iTunes Store for browsing and purchasing additional content. A new split screen view allows users to see their full library while working with playlists, a new popup and drop down dialogs provide access to now playing queues and search results, providing more effective navigation without taking the focus away from the main screen. Improved playlist management allows users to move effectively drag and drop tracks directly into their preferred playlists and a new mini-player interface has been added providing album artwork with basic controls and search capabilities.
The new version of iTunes will also provide direct iCloud integration allowing users to stream previously purchased content from iCloud such as Movies and TV shows, with playback positions automatically synced with iOS devices via iCloud. Tighter iTunes Store integration also allows artists to share photos and other information and allows users to access artist pages to look for information such as concert dates and scheduled new releases. The new iTunes is expected to be available in late October.
Following dueling reports from earlier in the week indicating that Apple had met with Twitter reps about a strategic investment, a new report claims that talks between the two companies centered more on product integration ideas. Citing multiple people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the investment idea never progressed into serious discussion or negotiations, while the product integration deal came together very quickly. According to the report, which cites two people briefed on the matter, the two companies continue to talk about future product integrations, which may include more deeply melding Twitter and iTunes as Apple prepares to phase out Ping later this year. Apple added Twitter integration in iOS 5 last year, and in OS X Mountain Lion last month.
Films from 20th Century Fox are now available for download from iTunes in the Cloud. When Apple originally launched iTunes in the Cloud for movies earlier this year, both Fox and Universal held their films off the service; Universal added its films to the service in April. Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud service allows customers to re-download past purchases multiple times, and also serves as a base for content streamed directly to the Apple TV. [via 9to5Mac]
Apple has launched its iTunes in the Cloud service for movies in 35 new countries. MacRumors reports that the feature has rolled out in Australia, Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K., Venezuela, and Vietnam. In addition, the company has also expanded its iTunes Match service into Hungary and Poland. Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud service allows customers to re-download past purchases multiple times, and also serves as a base for content streamed directly to the Apple TV.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has penned an open letter the the Department of Justice, asking it to drop its lawsuit against Apple and major publishers. In the suit, the DOJ claims that Apple and the publishers colluded to raise the price of digital books. “While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published,” Schumer writes for the Wall Street Journal. “The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.”
Schumer goes on to point out that Amazon held a monopoly position in the market before the arrival of the iBookstore, and set the prices for the books itself—many times undercutting the market for hardcopy titles. He also states that “As our economy transitions to digital platforms, we should be celebrating and supporting industries that find ways to adapt and grow”, adding that he believes the suit will “have a deterrent effect not only on publishers but on other industries that are coming up with creative ways to grow and adapt to the Internet”. Finally, the senator calls for new guidelines governing non-merger Justice Department investigations, which should “take a broad, pragmatic view of the market as a whole”.
As expected, Apple today took its new Food & Drink category live in the App Store. The category was revealed in an earlier email from Apple to select developers, informing them of the change. According to that email, the category includes “apps that help users cook and bake, mix drinks, manage recipes, find new restaurants and bars, and learn what their friends like to eat and drink”, excluding “diet, grocery shopping, coupon-clipping, or food-related game apps.” Currently, the category holds 1120 apps; you can see the listings by following the link above.
Apple will soon be adding a “Food & Drink” category to its App Store listings. MacStories reports that the company has started to send out emails to select developers informing them of the change. According to the email, the new category will include “apps that help users cook and bake, mix drinks, manage recipes, find new restaurants and bars, and learn what their friends like to eat and drink”, but will exclude “diet, grocery shopping, coupon-clipping, or food-related game apps.” The new category is expected to come online “in the next few weeks.”
Apple’s rumored, upcoming overhaul of iTunes is said to include new features for sharing music, according to a new report. Citing people with direct knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg says the update will integrate more tightly with iCloud, making it easier to manage media and apps across devices, and is also intended to improve how people manage all their files. Improvements to media discovery—including sharing—are said to be included, highlighted by a feature that would allow a user to listen to a song sent to them from a friend for free. Apple has already previewed some of its moves with the redesigned iTunes Store in iOS 6 and with its new Podcasts app that removes podcasts from the store in favor of giving them their own standalone application.
Apple today launched the iTunes Store in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and nine additional countries in Asia. According to the company, customers using the iTunes Store in those countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam will be able to browse a selection of over 20 million songs, including local and international music from all the major labels and thousands of independents. The new stores will also offer movie rentals and purchases from major studios including 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Disney, and Warner Bros. In addition, Apple will be offering iTunes Match in all the new stores beginning today, with iTunes in the Cloud included for music purchases at no extra cost.
Samsung has released a new app designed to make it easier for iOS users to transition to the company’s own Galaxy devices. Called Easy Phone Sync, the solution consists of the Easy Phone Sync app that runs on a PC or Mac and a companion app for Android. According to the company, the solution will allow current iOS users to transfer their non-DRM iTunes music, podcasts, and videos, contacts, messages, and photos from iTunes to a new Samsung Galaxy device, and allows those users to continue to use iTunes for media management with their Galaxy device. Notably, the application is only available to Samsung Galaxy device users in the UK.
Apple will discontinue its Ping social network for music in the next major release of iTunes, according to a new report. Citing sources close to the company, AllThingsD reports that Ping will be gone in iTunes’ next major release, which is likely scheduled for this fall. The report claims that at that point, Apple’s social networking features will rely entirely on Twitter and Facebook. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at Ping’s demise in a recent interview, stating, “We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said ‘This isn’t something that I want to put a lot of energy into’”. Ping launched in September 2010.
Apple today released iTunes 10.6.3, the latest version of its digital media management software. According to the release notes, version 10.6.3 includes support for OS X Mountain Lion and addresses a number of issues, including a problem where iTunes may become unresponsive when syncing a first-generation iPad that contains an iBooks textbook, an issue where photos synced to a device appear in an unexpected order, a problem where iTunes may unexpectedly delete playlists created on a device, a problem where iTunes may unexpectedly delete apps on a device; it also improves overall performance and reliability, and is required for the newly released iOS 6 beta. iTunes 10.6.3 is available now as a free download from apple.com/itunes or via Apple’s Software Update utility.
Apple’s just-posted iOS 6 Preview page has revealed that the on-device iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstores will receive substantial makeovers in the new OS. According to the page, the redesigned stores will feature “the best of what’s new in music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books at the top of each store’s home page”, and will allow users to browse those listings with swipe gestures and tap to learn more. The new stores will also offer a History button for reviewing media you’ve previewed, and will sync History across devices via iPad. Finally, the text on the page states that “now you can buy your favorite music, apps, and more without leaving the app you’re in”, suggesting iOS 6 will support In-App Purchasing of content from Apple’s various stores.
Apple will launch its annual Back to School promotion tomorrow, according to a new report. MacRumors claims that this year’s promotion will again involve iTunes Gift Cards for those purchasing new equipment. Students purchasing qualifying Macs will receive a $100 iTunes Gift Card, while those purchasing an iPad will receive a $50 Card. Notably, this is they first year in which those purchasing an iPad will be eligible to participate. While specifics were not available, Apple’s Back to School promotions have traditionally ended in September.
Apple has made some minor but notable changes to its front page App Store listings. In place of the prior App of the Week listings are two new Editors’ Choice picks for both the iPhone and the iPad, which rotate in the top slot alongside traditional themed bundles of promoted apps—a number of apps dedicated to Dinosaurs is being highlighted this week, for instance. The App of the Week moniker is not being retired, however, as it is now being used further down the page to promote a Free App of the Week—this week, Cut the Rope: Experiments for the iPhone and Cut the Rope: Experiments HD for the iPad. [via The Verge]
Apple has started to censor out the word “jailbreak” on all listings on the iTunes & App Stores. MacRumors reports that the filtering extends to even song and album titles, including an entire album from Thin Lizzy and two episodes of The Roy Rodgers Show. Apple has long been opposed to jailbreaking, which the company has argued is tantamount to copyright infringement.
Apple may launch both developer-accessible Siri APIs and Siri for iPad with the release of iOS 6, according to a new report. Citing an anonymous source, TechCrunch reports that the software, codenamed “Sundance”, will indeed feature a new, Apple-based replacement for Google Maps in the Maps application, and while the 3D mapping feature is said to be neat, it is also unlikely to be used very often. The report goes on to state that there have been “whispers” backing up the idea that Apple might announce a set of developer-accessible APIs for Siri, which would also make its debut on the iPad in iOS 6. Regarding the latter, the report claims that the difficulty with Siri on the iPad has been in designing a UI for the larger screen, rather than any technical challenge.
Finally, the report claims that new iCloud functionality and deep ties to OS X Mountain Lion will also be key parts of the software, which it claims may arrive at the same time as a completely revamped version of iTunes, and potentially even a “full-on Spotify competitor.” Apple is expected to unveil iOS 6 at its Worldwide Developers Conference next month.
Apple has been sued by a New York-based iTunes customer who claims he was double-billed for a song. Justia reports that Robert Herskowitz was charged twice for the song “Whataya Want from Me”, and Apple refused to refund him for the extra charge. “Your request for a refund for “Whataya Want from Me” was carefully considered; however, according to the iTunes Store Terms of Sale, all purchases made on the iTunes Store are ineligible for refund,” Apple’s response read, according to the lawsuit. “This policy matches Apple’s refund policies and provides protection for copyrighted materials.” Herskowitz is seeking class action status for the suit.
Apple is in the process of rolling out its iTunes Match service in a number of new countries. 9to5Mac reports that users in Italy, Portugal, Greece, Slovenia, and Austria can now sign up for the service, although they have yet to be added to Apple’s official list of countries in which the service is available. Launched in the U.S. in November, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices.
Apple has offered a settlement relating to the ongoing eBook pricing case in Europe. The Telegraph reports that according to European Union competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia, the body has received settlement offers from Apple as well as all the publishers, save for Penguin. “[The publishers] are making proposals to reach an early resolution of the case,” he said; terms of the proposals were not disclosed. Notably, Apple has not made an effort to settle a similar case in the US, possibly due to the differing conditions of the two markets at the time of the alleged collusion.