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Apple takes App Analytics out of beta, adds new features

Apple has announced that its App Analytics tools for iOS Developers have been taken out of beta and are now available to all iOS Developers to assist in providing insight into how their App Store apps are performing in terms of performance, stability, and sales. New features have also been added to App Analytics, allowing developers to track crashes, paying users, and ratios. App Analytics are reported as anonymized, aggregate data from all iOS 8 users who have opted into “App Analytics” reporting during the iOS Setup process.

With the new, finalized App Analytics, crash data can now be viewed on a daily basis to measure the stability of apps, and data can be filtered by platform, app version, and operating system to help pinpoint causes and improve the user experience by addressing stability issues. Data on paying users has been improved to now be tracked by Apple ID instead of on a per-device basis, providing developers with a more precise look at how many individual purchases have been made. Number of paying users can be reported on a day-to-day basis so that developers can determine the impact of changes in spending within apps. Filtering by source can also allow users to see if users are being directed from a particular campaign or website. A new “Ratios” feature allows developers to view any two measures as a ratio so that they can gain more insight into app performance and marketing efforts, useful for tracking conversion rates, sales per paying user, sessions per active device, and more. App Analytics are available for all iOS Developers through the iTunes Connect portal for all users with a Sales, Finance, or Admin role.

iOS 9 keyboard hints at ‘iPad Pro’

A tweet from developer Steve Troughton-Smith shows Apple has made big additions to iOS 9’s keyboard, hinting at the release of a long-rumored 12” iPad. When set to larger resolutions while running iOS 9, the iPad keyboard now adds Tab and Caps Lock keys and an entirely new top row of symbols that’s traditionally found above the numbers on a standard keyboard. Curly braces and a pipe symbol are also added in their usual places, next to the “P” key. The top row of symbols is also duplicated below the numbers on the second keyboard page, which manages to contain enough keys to eliminate the need for the third screen of keys.

Apple is also bringing full support for audio plug-ins to iOS 9, 9to5Mac reports. The support will allow Audio Units effects and instrument apps currently available on OS X to be ported over with only slight changes.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta with redesigned Music app

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.4 to developers. The new iOS 8.4 beta notably includes a redesigned Music app. With Apple Music set to debut on June 30, we should see iOS 8.4 on that date or before.

Apple debuts iOS 9, introduces Proactive Assistant

At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco today, Apple took the wraps off iOS 9, the next version of its mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As expected, iOS 9 was introduced primarily as building on the “foundations” of the operating system to improve battery life and stability, however several other new features were demonstrated, most notably improvements to Siri and a new Proactive Assistant feature. The Proactive Assistant will be able to provide more contextually relevant apps and information based on the user’s location and usual routines, such as bringing up an appropriate playlist when the headphones are plugged in during workout times, setting reminders for getting into the car, creating reminders based on the user’s current context such as a web page or iMessage, and automatically adding appointments from emails and looking up phone numbers from incoming calls based on information contained in emails. Search suggestions in Siri and Spotlight also become more contextually relevant based on trends, who the user has contacted, appointments, reminders, and more, and a new search API allows for content to be searched within third-party apps, deep-linked to bring up the specific information searched for directly in the app, along with a backlink to search results.

Passbook has been renamed “Wallet” and Apple Pay has also been enhanced, and in addition to launching in the U.K. in July, support is being added for loyalty and reward cards from a wide variety of stores, which will be presented based on location. The Notes app has also received a number of enhancements including a toolbar with formatting options for styles, a new feature to add checklists in Notes, and improvements to importing photos directly into Notes. A new drawing mode has also been added to allow users to sketch in Notes, and the iOS 9 Share Sheet will allow items such as web page links to be easily added to Notes as rich links. A new attachments view will also allow users to quickly see a list of attachments in Notes and access them directly from that view.

Apple confirms Apple TV to act as HomeKit hub

A new support document confirms the long-standing rumor that Apple TVs (third-generation or later) will allow users to control HomeKit devices using Siri even when they’re away from home. Devices running iOS 8.1 or later will be able to control HomeKit devices locally after downloading an app for each family of devices and entering a unique HomeKit code. After setup, Siri will be able to control the HomeKit products inside the house, but the iOS device may need to be unlocked when giving commands to certain products. For Siri to control a user’s home remotely, the same Apple ID will have to be logged in on the user’s iOS device and an Apple TV running software version 7.0 or later. For HomeKit devices to be grouped, they’ll need to be configured through the same third-party app before Siri can control them as a unit. The document includes a link to HomeKit compatible products and instructions for reconfiguring your HomeKit settings if you move or lose the device you use for control. Notably, Siri can’t be used to unlock your door, presumably for safety purposes.

Apple may debut new ‘Proactive’ assistant with iOS 9

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.

iOS 9 Transit feature to launch in select cities

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.

Report: iOS 9 to feature Force Touch support, updated keyboard

Apple has designed iOS 9 to support Force Touch capability — rumored to be coming in next-generation iPhones — and is making improvements to the OS keyboard, according to a report from 9to5Mac. Apple’s updated iOS 9 will offer similar functionality to the Force Touch trackpads in new MacBooks, integrating the new technology to bring pressure-sensitive scrolling to media players. Force Touch will also modify the way users look up words, allow them to add new events in Calendar, and drop pins in the Maps app, according to sources who have used the new iPhone prototypes. Since the updated iOS 9 will also power upcoming iPads, there is speculation that Force Touch capabilities will end up in future iPads, as well. Apple is also weighing options for keyboard updates, including easier access to the QuickType keyboard, an improved Shift key that makes it easier to see when Shift or Caps Lock is active, and a “longer” design with additional editing controls in portrait mode. Updates to iMessage are also expected, including improved read receipt settings and preferences.

Report: iOS 9 will bring new security features, improve legacy device support

A new report by 9to5Mac provides some insight into Apple’s plans for iOS 9, expected to debut at WWDC early next month. As previously reported, iOS 9 will focus primarily on stability and optimization, however this new information reveals some new details about some of the features and improvements Apple is working on, particularly in the areas of security and legacy device support.

A new security feature, dubbed “Rootless,” is expected to significantly improve iOS security at the kernel level by preventing even “root” level administrative access to certain protected files on Apple devices. Sources have also indicated that Rootless will be a major deterrent to jailbreaking on iOS, making it much more complicated to hack iOS devices and install unauthorized apps. Apple is also said to be working on leveraging iCloud Drive for more of its back-end services. Services such as Notes — which currently uses IMAP to store notes on an email server — and the CalDAV-based Calendar and Reminders are being re-architected to store their data directly in iCloud Drive, which will provide better end-to-end encryption and faster and more reliable syncing services. A new “Trusted Wi-Fi” feature is also under development to improve security by allowing iOS devices to more transparently connect to specific, authorized wireless routers, although it’s unclear whether this last feature will be incorporated into iOS 9 or pushed back until a future point release or beyond.

In contrast to earlier reports which speculated that iOS 9 could possibly drop support for all but 64-bit devices, Apple is apparently optimizing iOS 9 to run more efficiently on older iPhones and iPads, even going so far back as the iPhone 4S and original iPad mini. The company is said to have restructured its software engineering process to ensure older hardware is better supported with iOS updates, building a “core version” of iOS 9 targeted at older devices and enabling features individually, as opposed to the former approach of building iOS 9 for newer devices and then disabling features to try and improve performance.

Report: Apple to bring Apple Watch font to iOS 9

Apple plans on bringing its own San Francisco font seen on Apple Watch to iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, 9to5Mac reports. The font will replace Helvetica Neue, which debuted in iOS 7 in 2013. Though the San Francisco font was developed “specifically for legibility,” the idea to bring the font to iOS appears to have a mixed reaction within Apple — the report claims that higher-ups believe the font will help “iOS and OS X to avoid becoming stale,” but also notes that some Apple engineers don’t like the font, “which may look particularly rough on non-Retina screens.”

Apple releases third iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, continuing to focus on the new iOS Music app. Featuring a build number of 12H4098c, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, the iTunes Store, Siri, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. The new Music app appears to continue having a long list of issues that remain to be addressed, with limited progress since the first beta, although the language of several has been softened from phrases such as “does not work” to “may not work” suggesting that Apple is perhaps slowly working on improvements in these areas.

Twitter CEO hints at larger Spotlight integration

During yesterday’s quarterly earnings call, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said his company is working on injecting more tweets into the Spotlight feature on iOS and OS X. Spotlight already displays information from Twitter when users search for specific Twitter handles or certain hashtags, but how the search prioritizes hashtags is unclear. A search for hashtags including terms already occurring in a user’s stored messages can return no Twitter results at all, and even when a hashtag search produces results from Twitter, the results don’t match up with the same search in the iOS Twitter app. Costolo said Twitter is “working with Apple to surface great Twitter content and accounts directly in Spotlight Search on iOS and OS X, that also makes it easier and quicker to find great things on Twitter.” No timeline for the added integration or information about how it will function within Spotlight was offered. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases second iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its second beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, a release that continues to focus on Apple’s new Music app introduced in the original iOS 8.4 beta. Featuring a build number of 12H4086d, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, CarPlay, App Store, iTunes Store, MFi GPS accessories, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. Notably, the list of limitations in the Music app remains the same as in the first beta, suggesting that the development process may be proceeding more slowly than expected.

Apple planning to release new iPod touch later this year?

Apple may be gearing up to release a new iPod touch model this year, according to a new report from Apple Insider. Citing “a source familiar with Apple’s future product plans” the report indicates that a new iPod touch would likely be a fall release, and may retain the same four-inch screen size as the current model, although that part of the information was less definitive. Based on the previous iPod touch release, it seems likely that a new iPod touch would feature specifications in line with older iPhones, rather than breaking new ground, although it’s unclear whether Apple would choose to align it with the 2013 iPhone 5s or the 2014 iPhone 6 in terms of design, features and capabilities.

While the first three iPod touch models saw annual updates, the fourth-generation iPod touch was released in 2010 alongside the iPhone 4 — and with the same A4 CPU — but received only the addition of a white model the following year when the iPhone 4S debuted. The fifth-generation iPod touch, originally released in 2012 at the same time as the iPhone 5, mimicked the general design and screen size of its iPhone counterpart but used the A5 processor from the prior year’s iPhone 4S. Apple made an unusual addition to the lineup in 2013 with a less-featured 16GB version, but then reversed course the following spring, releasing a new 16GB model that had feature parity with the larger capacity models, while dropping prices across the board. Throughout this, however, the basic specs of the fifth-generation iPod touch remained the same as when it first debuted, despite many hoping that a larger capacity model would appear, particularly in light of Apple’s elimination of the iPod classic and release of 128GB capacity iPhone models last fall.

YouTube app won’t work on older Apple TVs, versions of iOS starting in May

Google has announced that the YouTube app will cease to function starting in May for iOS devices running an OS older than iOS 7 — this likely refers to the older Apple-developed YouTube app that was discontinued in iOS 6. The change also impacts second-generation and older Apple TV units, which won’t be able to access YouTube starting in May unless Apple chooses to provide a software update for the older model. Users of the YouTube app on these older devices are already seeing a video notifying them of the change, but the app is still functional for now. In early May, users will only see the notification video, and will be unable to access any video content through the app. Google’s support page has directed users of older iOS versions to visit YouTube’s mobile site to view videos. Notably, Google’s official YouTube app for iOS remains listed as compatible with “iOS 6.0 or later”, so it’s unclear why iOS 6 users may be unable to access YouTube unless Google simply plans to drop iOS 6 support in the native iOS app.

Apple releases iOS 8.4 beta to developers, with new Music app

Less than a week after the public release of iOS 8.3, Apple has already begun the developer beta cycle of the next iOS update, with the release of the first iOS 8.4 beta to registered developers. As expected, iOS 8.4 appears to focus primarily on a redesigned Music experience to pave the way for Apple’s upcoming streaming music service, with a number of significant changes to the built-in Music app, paralleling some iTunes features such as Now Playing, Mini Player, and support for adding to and managing the Up Next queue.

The Music app redesign is apparently being overseen by Trent Reznor, the creative head at Beats Music, who has reportedly been working on a secret project at Apple since at least last fall. This first iOS 8.4 beta, featuring a build number of 12H4074d, is also accompanied by an Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment, and notes about a dozen limitations with the new Music app at present.

It is expected that most of these are just issues related to the new Music app not being entirely finished in this first beta, and the app experience should improve through the remainder of the beta cycle.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 4

Apple has released its fourth beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers; it’s the second beta in the new iOS Public Beta program. This latest beta features a build number of 12F61 and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, Spotlight and UIKit.

As with the third beta released earlier this month, this latest update is once again accompanied by a new beta build of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear at this point what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.

FREAK security flaws still present in popular iOS apps

Apple’s iOS 8.2 eliminated the FREAK security flaw in Safari, but FireEye researchers found a handful of popular iOS apps are still vulnerable to attack even when running on iOS 8.2. Hundreds of others still connect to vulnerable HTTPS servers, leaving them open to attack when running on iOS versions lower than iOS 8.2. Shopping, medical and finance apps were all mentioned as possible targets in FireEye’s plea for app developers to remedy the lingering issues.

Device able to access iOS 8.1 through brute-force attack

A new device allows users to access a locked device running iOS 8.1 through a brute-force attack, even with the “Erase data after 10 attempts” setting on, according to security company MDSec. The IP Box — available in England for £200 (about $293) — bypasses Apple’s security measures by cutting the iPhone’s power after each failed attempt at guessing the PIN, shutting down the phone before the attempt can be logged in flash memory. This method allows the device to break a four-digit PIN in approximately 111 hours. The vulnerability could be the issue noted in CVE-2014-4451 and addressed in Apple’s iOS 8.1.1 update, but MDSec recommends users create a “sufficiently complex” password rather than a simple PIN to protect their data regardless. [via Daring Fireball]

Microsoft to bring Cortana to iOS

Microsoft plans to bring Cortana, its Windows phone personal assistant technology, to both Apple and Android devices, Reuters reports. The company is reported to be developing an advanced version of its Siri competitor based on an artificial intelligence project it has dubbed “Einstein.”  Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has been more aggressively opening up the company’s software to non-Windows platforms, eschewing Microsoft’s traditional approach of forcing customers into using its Windows operating system. Cortana debuted on Windows phones last year, and will be coming to the desktop with Windows 10 later this year. According to people familiar with the project, Microsoft also plans to release a standalone iOS app version of the technology. New technology in Cortana to be rolled out this fall is expected to incorporate more advanced features, such as the ability to read and understand e-mail and more accurately anticipate user needs, rather than simply responding to requests as Siri does.

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