The European Commission has announced a joint decision between Apple and Audible to end their exclusive arrangement for the sale of audiobooks on the iTunes Store, potentially opening up competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe. Audible has been Apple’s exclusive supplier of audiobook titles for the iTunes Store since its debut in 2003, preventing other companies that provide downloadable audiobooks from accessing the iTunes Store, as well as precluding Audible from supplying its titles to other third-party platforms — although the agreement has not prevented Audible, which is now owned by Amazon, from selling its audiobooks directly to consumers. The new agreement between Amazon/Audible and Apple came following communications with the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office, who were looking into antitrust concerns around the exclusivity arrangement following a complaint raised by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which raised several other complaints against Audible as well.
Nintendo has posted a video announcing its next game for iOS, Fire Emblem Heroes. Originally announced last April, Fire Emblem Heroes is a tactical RPG designed specifically to work on smaller screens, and it’s designed for a quick pick-up-and-play style. Players undertake strategic battles in the fantasy world of Fire Emblem, leveling up their characters and taking advantage of character attributes to plan attacks and match heroes and enemies appropriately. The game is played across multiple 8x6 maps designed to easily fit on a smartphone and allow for short burst play. Players drag-and-drop or select locations to move their party around the map while attacking, with the goal of defeating all of the enemies on the map to win each level. While the controls have been kept simple, maps get more challenging as players advance through the game, requiring them to plan their moves carefully and factor in terrain. In-game orbs can be found during gameplay or purchased as in-app purchases that will allow players to summon heroes as their allies to fight alongside them in specific battles. A Training Tower mode allows players to practice combat and gain experience and rewards, Special Maps provide seasonal events, and Arena Duels allow players to compete for high scores in multiple battles. Fire Emblem Heroes is expected to be available on the App Store on Feb. 2. No pricing details have been announced yet.
New rumors from Apple’s Asian suppliers suggest that Apple may be working on an update to Apple Pencil to be released alongside new iPad Pro models widely expected to be unveiled in March. While the rumors are vague on what new capabilities will be included, a Bloomberg report several months ago noted that Apple was working on “wider operating-system support for Apple’s stylus accessory” with the possibility of allowing users to annotate objects throughout iOS, rather than only in those apps specifically designed for the Apple Pencil. The Bloomberg report speculated that such features could be added as part of an iOS software update in early 2017, in which case the update would likely be released around the same time as the new iPad Pro models. It seems that such enhancements wouldn’t require a new Apple Pencil model, although there’s also been speculation that the new Apple Pencil could incorporate functionality Apple has outlined in several patents, such as an antenna, and a magnet for attaching to the iPad when not in use. [via MacRumors]
Apple has released an update to GarageBand for iOS, adding new integration with Logic Pro X 10.3, along with a number of more sophisticated music creation options. With GarageBand 2.2, Logic Pro X users can now create GarageBand-compatible versions of Logic projects in iCloud that can be opened on iOS devices to add new recordings while on the go, with new recordings automatically synced back to the original Logic project the next time it’s opened on Mac. The new update also includes the Alchemy synthesizer well-known to Logic Pro users, with a rich collection of more than 150 Apple-designed patches across a variety of genres. Alchemy’s Transform Pad also lets users morph between eight sonic snapshots in real-time for more expressive performances.
The Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint against Apple supplier Qualcomm, accusing the company of “using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a key semiconductor device used in cell phones.” The FTC alleges that Qualcomm violated the law by forcing cell phone manufacturers to agree to its preferred license terms to gain access to its processors. The company is also accused of suppressing competition by charging Apple reduced patent royalties from 2011 to 2016 to keep the company loyal.
Government officials in India have signaled they won’t be providing Apple with its desired 15-year exemption on duties typically charged to electronics manufacturers in the country, but they are open to relaxing the regulations on the industry as a whole to boost the “Make in India” campaign, The Economic Times reports. After being denied an exemption to India’s requirement that at least 30 percent of the materials in devices it sells in the country be sourced locally, Apple reportedly asked for a full exemption on the 12.5 percent duty that India charges manufacturers on imported raw materials, equipment and components in order to save on setting up local manufacturing facilities.
In a new interview with Complex, Larry Jackson, Zane Lowe and Bozoma Saint John spelled out their ambitions for expanding Apple Music’s impact on popular culture and driving new users to the subscription service. As in previous interviews, the Apple Music creative team focused on exclusive deals with artists like Taylor Swift and Drake as a cornerstone of what the service offers to distinguish itself from competitors like Spotify and Pandora. But Jackson is quick to point out that those arrangements go far beyond simply getting an artist’s album a week before it hits stores. “When we did [Please Forgive Me, Drake’s 20-minute music video, which Jackson co-wrote] in particular, that was in South Africa, and it was really difficult for Drake,” Jackson recalled. “He’s at the height of everything for, like, six weeks, and uprooted his life to go to Africa for seven days in the middle of BET [Awards] week, when he’s nominated for more awards than anybody. All for an idea that we had.”
Apple is raising App Store prices in the UK by more than 25 percent in response to the country’s sharp currency devaluation after the Brexit vote, the BBC reports. Apple raised the prices of iPhones and iPads in the country by a similar margin in September, then upped the price of Macs in October. UK customers will now pay 99 pence for apps that cost 99 cents in the United States, an increase from the 79 pence the same apps cost previously. The increase also affects in-app purchases, but hasn’t changed subscription charges. “Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business,” Apple said in a statement. “These factors vary from region to region and over time.”
Jimmy Iovine seems to be lending credibility to last week’s report that Apple is looking to bring scripted TV series to Apple Music, telling The Hollywood Reporter what the company is “trying to create is an entire cultural, pop cultural experience, and that happens to include audio and video.” Iovine told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that in a battle for users with free music services like Spotify and Pandora, “a simple utility where, ‘here’s all the songs, here’s all the music, give me $10 and we’re cool,’ is not going to scale.” While Apple has been developing a scripted series about Dr. Dre’s early life and a full-length version of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke bit, the company had previously been insistent that the Apple Music video projects were simply a component of its music offerings.
A new report from The Korea Herald claims that Apple is planning to add the highest possible level of dust and water resistance to next year’s iPhone. Citing “multiple sources,” the report indicates that the “iPhone 8” will feature an IP68 rating similar to Samsung’s current Galaxy S7, allowing it to handle submersion in about 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The iPhone 7 was certified with an IP67 rating, which makes it certified for only about 3 feet of water for the same amount of time, by comparison. The report notes that, according to an industry source, the higher rating will be one of the “drastic upgrades marking the 10th anniversary of the iPhone this year.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that iPhone users are free to sue Apple for its alleged App Store monopoly on iPhone apps, Reuters reports. This latest ruling resurrects a legal challenge that was originally filed back in 2012, which accused Apple of engaging in anticompetitive behavior by restricting iPhones to only run apps purchased from Apple’s own App Store, thereby artificially inflating the prices of apps by stifling market competition. In response, Apple argued that users did not have any standing to sue Apple because apps are sold by individual developers, and that Apple simply provides the storefront for developers, in return for a cut of app sales. A lower court originally sided with Apple on the matter, however, Judge William A. Fletcher of the appellate court ruled this week that since iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, iPhone users have a right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.
Apple has announced to developers that the size limit for tvOS app bundles has been significantly increased, with the new maximum size going up to 4GB from the prior 200MB limit. This change will allow developers to include more media content bundled in their app package so that it installs at the same time the user installs the app on their Apple TV, which should minimize the number of games and other apps that need to download additional content when first opened. tvOS apps can also now host up to 20GB of additional content on the App Store using On-Demand Resources.
This is likely to have an impact on users’ Apple TV storage capacities, meaning users with a lot of larger apps and the lower capacity 32GB Apple TV model may find themselves constrained for space as their apps are updated to include media content within the app bundles. The prior 200MB limit kept the apps small and allowed storage on the Apple TV to be optimized by discarding on-demand data from apps when the Apple TV ran low on space; this will not be an option for an app that stores a large amount of media content within the app bundle itself. This could also be a sign that Apple is preparing to release higher-capacity Apple TV models in the near future.
Apple quietly released a fourth beta of iOS 10.2.1 to registered developers late in the day on Thursday. The new beta features a build number of 14D27 and eliminates virtually all of the “known issues” in the release notes, suggesting that a public release is imminent. The single listed issue remaining simply notes that the Emergency SOS feature which debuted in iOS 10.2 continues to only be supported in India, which appears to be a test area that Apple is using for the new feature. watchOS 3.1.3 and tvOS 10.1.1 have not received new beta updates, and there also still appears to be no sign of the iOS 10.3 beta that was rumored to appear this week.
A new report in The Wall Street Journal has resurrected speculation from last year that Apple is still working on creating original television — and movie content — to offer as part of a subscription service. Citing people familiar with the matter, the WSJ report indicates that Apple is looking to “build a significant new business” in the area to make it a bigger player in Hollywood to offset slowing sales of its iPhone and iPad devices. Sources suggest that Apple would offer this programming to existing Apple Music subscribers to give it a competitive edge over rival streaming music services.
The FBI has released 100 pages of documents related to its efforts to break into a locked iPhone owned by terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, but most of the useful information has been redacted, The Associated Press reports. The release excludes the name of the group paid to unlock the phone, the cost of the services rendered, and the method used to unlock the phone, essentially shedding very little light on how the government gained access to the device. The documents do reveal that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor who finally unlocked the phone, and show that at least three other companies expressed interest in the job but couldn’t deliver a solution fast enough.
After launching its CareKit platform in April of last year, Apple has announced a new partnership with Tresorit to offer that company’s ZeroKit to app developers looking to offer more secure data encryption. CareKit apps allow users to track their health information and keep that data encrypted on the user’s iPhone, but when the data is shared with servers, it’s up to developers to provide security for that transmission. Tresorit’s ZeroKit framework provides a shortcut for those looking to add “zero-knowledge end-to-end encryption” to their apps without doing all the leg work. Tresorit’s website claims their authentication service can guard against many of the most common methods used in data breaches, including “pass the hash,” dictionary, and brute force attacks. Some companies, like Dr.near.me and The Diary Corporation, are already using ZeroKit to secure their apps. [via Apple Insider]
The latest version of the ESPN and WatchESPN apps for iOS now offer support for Apple’s Single Sign-On feature. Both apps provide access to streaming video, provided the user has a valid cable subscription with a supported partner. With an update to the latest versions of each app, users with a valid cable subscription set up on their phone will be able to sign in using their Touch ID rather than entering a password each time.
Spigen has created the first AirPods-specific charging stand, designed to hold the AirPods charging case upright while plugged in to charge. At $12, the stand could provide users looking to plug in the case without futzing with a cord each time a cheaper option than another Lightning dock. The dock’s opening requires an original Apple Lightning cable to fit through the dock opening. The AirPods Stand isn’t showing up on Spigen’s site yet, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, promising to be in stock February 15. [via iPhone in Canada]
Blogger Robert Scoble is stoking rumors that Apple is working with Carl Zeiss to create augmented reality optics after an encounter at CES. Scoble said he noticed that the Carl Zeiss booth was located in the AR section at CES despite not having any products to showcase. When he suggested to an employee that reason was, “Tim Cook didn’t let you,” Scoble said all of the “employees around me smiled nervously.” Other commenters on the thread said Carl Zeiss confirmed to them that they were “in development with a lead customer” on a pair of light AR or mixed reality glasses, but declined to say who the customer was. Scoble is speculating that the glasses could be released as early as this year, but given his sourcing it’s difficult to put too much stock in the rumor at this point. Zeiss currently offers the VR One Plus headset that turns smartphones into VR optical devices. [via Apple Insider]
Apple has topped Greenpeace’s Click Clean list of the most environmentally friendly tech companies for the third year in a row. The report praises the company’s on-going leadership in matching its growth with an equal or larger supply of renewable energy. Apple led all other companies in its sector, with “A” ratings in energy transparency, efficiency and policy. Despite Greenpeace touting Apple “using [its] influence to push vendors, utilities, and governments to create access to renewable energy where previously there was none,” the company fell to a “B” rating this year in the advocacy department. Still, its total score of 83 percent was still enough to place Apple well-ahead of its nearest competitor, Facebook, at 67 percent. The report raised some concerns over Apple’s concentration of data center power demands in one location, worried that the high power need in such a small space might not align with the company’s renewable power goals. While the expansion of green tariff products — offered by utility companies to large customers looking to obtain certified renewable energy — is allowing Apple to supplement, the report raises concerns that the move doesn’t lead to new renewable energy development, instead relying on existing infrastructure.