Apple may be working toward incorporating user ratings into its App Store Top Charts rankings, according to some new analysis by Fiksu, an app marketing startup. The report notes that based on some in-depth and ongoing analysis, it would appear that Apple has been at least testing changes to the iTunes ranking algorithms to factor in user ratings and reviews in addition to the traditional number and frequency of downloads—apps with four stars or more seem to be receiving a consistent ranking boost.
The report also notes that the position of apps in the App Store appear to be updating with less frequency—every three hours as opposed to every 15 minutes previously. Fiksu speculates that this change may be to add a ‘buffer’ period to prevent developers and marketers from trying to game the system through short download bursts. It is unclear at this point whether these changes are part of a new strategy on Apple’s part or simply the result of the company experimenting with the App Store rankings. [via 9to5Mac]
Heckler Design has introduced the HighSign ($79), a new secure mountain frame for the iPad. Featuring a sleek, minimalist design intended for creating a kiosk iPad experience in retail and hospitality settings, HighSign is constructed from commercial-grade steel. It is available in six colours and is compatible with the iPad 2, and third- and fourth-generation iPad models; it also offers compatibility with a number of standard card readers and payment systems.
A new report from Quartz suggests that Apple is continuing to pursue talks for a future television offering. The report suggests that Apple has shifted its focus to negotiating directly with individual content providers rather than traditional cable companies. New sources familiar with the matter have revealed that Apple is negotiating with production studios and networks such as Disney’s ESPN, Time Warner’s HBO, and Viacom about possible strategies. Additionally, Apple reportedly has concluded that it “doesn’t need all, even most, content providers on board before it can release a TV set that people would buy,” rather just “enough good programming to distinguish the new product.”
While it remains unclear what stage these talks are at, sources indicate that Apple’s strategy could involve forming its own pay television service with content delivered entirely over the Internet—a virtual multichannel video programming distributor (“MVPD”), akin to planned offerings from Google, Intel, and Sony. With agreements from content providers, Apple could also offer channel-specific apps without the need for an existing cable television subscription. Apple has already gradually rolled out new services to the current Apple TV set top box, with both ESPN and HBO GO being added in a software update in June. These apps, however, depend on existing cable television subscriptions to the ESPN and HBO channels, as well as streaming agreements with specific cable providers.
Apple appears to have opened its iWork for iCloud beta to the general public, allowing anybody with an Apple ID to access its new web-based productivity suite. Originally only available to registered iOS Developers, Apple later sent out invitations to some users to the beta to for early access to the service.
Users can check out the new Pages, Numbers, and Keynote web apps by logging on with their normal Apple ID and password at iCloud.com. It is unclear at this point how long this public beta period for iWork for iCloud will run or whether Apple will continue to provide the web apps as a free service to iCloud users following release. [via Engadget]
In a continuing quest to improve the quality of its mapping services, Apple has reportedly acquired transit app development firm Embark, a small Silicon Valley startup that develops free transit apps for iOS. While it is unclear how much Apple paid for the acquisition, the report notes that Apple plans to integrate Embark’s technology into Apple Maps, according to people knowledgeable about the deal. This is the second transit-related company Apple has acquired in the past few weeks, following its acquisition of HopStop in July, and suggests that Apple is working to develop its own transit guidance system to fill the gap in Apple Maps since it switched away from Google Maps last year. [via 9to5Mac]
Gameloft has released Asphalt 8: Airborne (iLounge Rating: A), an extremely impressive new instalment in the company’s long-running Asphalt racing game series. Asphalt 8 sets a new high standard for iOS gaming, taking the player through eight “seasons” with 180 diverse, fun, and interesting racing events. As its name hints, Asphalt 8: Airborne also introduces vehicular acrobatics to the mix, with ramps scattered throughout courses allowing players to flip their car through barrel rolls, 360-degree spins, and more. Visually and sonically fantastic, a tremendous amount of fun to play, challenging, and diverse in unexpected ways, it’s the best driving game we’ve yet seen in the App Store.
Real Racing 3 has been updated to version 1.3, introducing a whole new iconic collection of big Dodge and Shelby V8 muscle cars hailing from Detroit, along with a new racing series to feature the collection. The update also makes improvements to difficulty tuning, visual physics, and cameras, and adds additional social networking options for Time Shifted Multiplayer and Cloud Save.
Apple’s system status page is reporting problems with several iOS and iCloud services since approximately 12:30 AM EDT. The site notes that some users may be unable to use iCloud Documents, Photo Stream, iPhoto Journals, Backup & Restore, or send or download attachments in iMessage. While the status update notes that less than 1% of users are affected by the service outage, with over 250 million iCloud users, this potentially represents over 2 million people.
Following previous reports that music video site Vevo is developing an Apple TV app, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that Vevo—a joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group—has already signed a deal with Apple to deliver on-demand music videos to the Apple TV along with a new channel of original programming. The Wall Street Journal cites “people familiar with the matter” as noting that Apple could release the Vevo Apple TV app as soon as this week. A similar deal has been made with Samsung, however its launch is reportedly “a few weeks away.”
With over 1,100 votes from iLounge readers, our latest poll – “What new feature in iOS 7 are you most excited about?” – has now ended. With more information coming out on iOS 7 with every new beta, we asked readers to let us know which of the new features in iOS 7 they were most excited about.
A majority of respondents—thirty-five percent—stated that it’s the new design that they’re most excited about, with the new Control Center coming in second at twenty-eight percent. iOS in the Car support was a distant third with only seven percent of readers choosing that as the feature they’re most looking forward to, edging out the remaining listed iOS 7 features—iTunes Radio, automatic App updates, new camera and photo features, AirDrop, Notification Center, and Activation Lock.
Following news last week that Apple will be unveiling its next-generation iPhone at a September 10th event, reports have surfaced from both Japan and Greece pointing to a September 20th release date for the new iPhone. This schedule tracks with the past two major iPhone releases, which traditionally landed on the Friday of the week following Apple’s announcement of new hardware. While Apple is expected to unveil both high-end and low-end models at the event, it’s unclear whether they will both hit stores on the same day, or separately. [via 9to5Mac]
With the return of Apple’s annual iTunes Festival for 2013, the company has once again added a dedicated Apple TV section allowing users to access and stream content directly onto the Apple TV. An update to the free iTunes Festival universal iOS app has also just been released, refreshing the design and allowing users to stream live and on-demand content directly to their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Content can also be streamed directly to a Mac or Windows PC via the iTunes Festival Page in the iTunes Store.
The Festival will feature 30 nights of free, live music from more than 50 artists performing at the Roundhouse in London from September 1 to September 30, 2013. Previous shows are expected to be available for a limited time via iTunes, the Apple TV, and the iOS app, and it is unclear for how long the iTunes Festival section will remain available on the Apple TV following the conclusion of the event on September 30th.
AdAge reports that Apple’s new iTunes Radio service will be joined by a number of high-profile advertising partners when it debuts next month, including such big names as McDonald’s, Nissan, Pepsi, and Proter & Gamble. The multi-million dollar deals will include twelve-month advertising campaigns that will run within the streaming music service, as well as exclusivity within each of their respective industries through the end of 2013.
iTunes Radio will reportedly include three forms of advertising: interstitial audio and video ads in addition to interactive full-screen “slate” ads that will appear on iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and desktop PCs and Macs via iTunes. Audio ads will apparently be served up once every 15 minutes, while video ads will appear once per hour, at times that users are likely to be looking at their device’s screen. At launch, ads will be run across all devices, however plans are said to be in the works to allow advertisers to target ads to specific devices, with advertising costs based on screen size. As previously announced by Apple, an ad-free option will be available for iTunes Match subscribers.
Google has announced new Waze integration with Google Maps. The Google Maps app for iOS will now show real-time incident reports from Waze users, such as accidents, construction, and road closures. The feature is rolling out on the back-end Google Maps servers—there is no need for an update to the Google Maps app for iOS—and will be available in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, U.K. and the U.S. An update to the Waze app is also in the works that will add Google Search along with Street View and satellite imagery in the Waze Map Editor.
OverDrive has released a major update to its OverDrive Media Console for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The OverDrive app provides free library book borrowing-style access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks for members of over 22,000 libraries around the world. Version 3.0 provides a whole new look with simplified menus and a built-in tutorial to help first-time users get started. The update also adds variable speed audiobook playback and the ability to sync recent position and bookmarks across multiple devices. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Wacom has announced the Intuos Creative Stylus ($100), a new professional-grade, pressure-sensitive stylus designed specifically for the iPad. Although Wacom is well known in the industry for its dedicated tablets and other drawing peripherals — including the comparably simple Bamboo Stylus — this marks its first electronic iPad drawing accessory.
The new Intuos stylus is powered by a single included AAAA battery, uses a Bluetooth 4 connection to communicate with the iPad, and promises over 150 hours of life on a single battery. The package includes a carrying case with both an extra battery and additional nibs, promising compatibility with the iPad mini as well as third- and fourth-generation iPad models. As with other electronic iPad styli, application-specific support is required to communicate with the stylus.
Logitech has announced the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio and Folio Protective Case for the iPad mini. Designed to be extremely thin and light, both folios provide two-sided protection with water-repellant materials.
The basic Folio doubles as a multi-position iPad stand, while the Ultrathin Keyboard Folio includes a built-in Bluetooth keyboard with iPad mini-optimized key size and iOS shortcut keys. Pricing has not yet been announced for either model; they will both debut in September.
Following the release of updated App Store Guidelines for Children’s Apps last week, Apple has sent out an e-mail to iOS developers outlining the new Kids category that will be appearing in the App Store with the debut of iOS 7. For apps made specifically for children under the age of 11, developers will now be able to choose one of three age ranges: 5 and under, 6 to 8, or 9 to 11.
The e-mail notes that only one age range can be chosen for each app. Kids apps will still have a primary and secondary category as with any other app, but will also appear in a new, separate area of the App Store designated for Kids Apps. Starting in the fall, the existing Kids subcategory for Games will be removed from the App Store. Further, developers who wish to assign the Kids category to any of their existing apps will be required to submit a new version of those apps for review, suggesting that Apple will apply more specific standards to apps within this particular category.
Incipio Technologies today announced the acquisition of Braven, a Utah-based company responsible for a collection of solidly-built wireless Bluetooth speakers. While Incipio previously focused mostly on protective accessories, it has been angling to get into the speaker business for some time, and expects the acquisition of Braven to “create a more diverse product offering.” Braven will remain based in Provo, Utah and the Braven brand will be maintained as a separate product line as part of the Incipio family.
Apple has released iTunes 11.0.5, intended to fix an iTunes in the Cloud related issue where “some purchased may download or play unexpected items.” In addition to the public release of iTunes 11.0.5, Apple has also posted iTunes 11.1 beta 2 to the iOS Developer Site. The initial iTunes beta added support for iTunes Radio; it is unclear what has changed in beta 2, although it presumably addresses the same iTunes in the Cloud issue as the public release.
A few TV-related Apple rumors have popped up today, with one report claiming the company is planning on introducing a flat-screen TV set protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The report from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (translated link) claims Apple met with Foxconn and Corning about 55-inch and 60-inch TV sets that could feature Gorilla Glass extending to the very edge of the television for a full flat-panel display. The TV could be launched in the first half of 2014.
Additionally, as noted by Business Insider, MG Siegler said on John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast that Apple could introduce “some sort of television product,” though not a TV screen, as soon as this November. Siegler said there have been whispers that interaction with the product “could be the interesting thing,” and that voice interaction may be “out the window.” Conceivably, such a product could be as small as Google’s Chromecast, or could involve a camera. Both rumors should be taken with numerous grains of salt at this point.
A lawsuit alleging that Apple maintains a monopoly over iPhone apps was dismissed, Bloomberg reports. A judge ruled the plaintiffs couldn’t legally continue the lawsuit, because plaintiffs hadn’t bought the apps — though the complaint can be amended and refiled. “At a minimum, plaintiffs must allege facts showing that each named plaintiff has personally suffered an injury-in-fact based on Apple’s alleged conduct,” U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote. The consumers filed the suit in 2011, arguing that because iPhone apps are only available within Apple’s App Store, Apple holds a monopoly. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the case can easily be refiled to meet the requirements. Apple asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed in March.