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Google, Apple Demand That Parler Moderate Incitements to Violence

Jan 9, 2021, 2:04 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 10, 2021, 10:00 AM

Google and Apple have removed social media app Parler from their respective app stores. Both companies are insisting that Parler implement much stronger moderation of user-submitted content — including posts that encourage illegal behavior or incite violence — if it wants its app listed again. Google stated: "We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S. ... In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." Parler was created as a "free speech" safe haven for those on the political right that feel censored by more popular social media platforms such as Twitter. Wednesday's deadly storming of the US Capitol Building was planned in public forums and social media, including Parler. Apple initially gave Parler 24 hours to correct the issue, then on Saturday followed through on its threat to remove the app. Parler is facing an even larger threat from Amazon, which says it will remove the service from its AWS hosting platform, a move that will make it difficult for the company to keep the social network online in any form. Parler has pledged to rebuild, a process that its says will take at least one week, during which time the social network will be unavailable.


Apple Intros Pricey Over-Ear AirPods Max

Dec 8, 2020, 11:39 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple is taking on its own iconic Beats over-ear headphones with AirPods Max, a new super-premium over-ear headphone set for $549. Features include Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. The design includes a stainless steel headband frame, breathable knit mesh canopy where it touches the top of the head, and acoustically engineered memory foam ear cups. The right side sports a rotating "digital crown" control — similar to that on the Apple Watch —and a button. The AirPods Max are powered by 10-core dual H1 chips offering advanced computational audio features, including Adaptive EQ "to adjust the sound to the fit and seal of the ear cushions by measuring the sound signal delivered to a user and adjusting the low and mid-frequencies in real time". The 40mm dynamic drivers are custom designed by Apple. The headphones include standard AirPods features such as a simplified setup process with iPhones and sensors so music is automatically paused when an ear cup is lifted or the headphones removed. AirPods Max feature up to 20 hours of battery life, even with Active Noise Cancellation and spatial audio enabled. AirPods Max will run $549 and come in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink. They're available to order starting today, shipping December 15th.


Stadia and GeForce Now Coming to iOS as Web Apps

Nov 19, 2020, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Both Google and Nvidia today announced that they are bringing their respective cloud-based game-streaming services to Apple's iOS in the form of a Safari web app, following similar announcements from Microsoft and Amazon. Nvidia GeForce Now is available in beta form today. The beta version of Google Stadia for iOS will be available "in the coming weeks". Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming (formerly Project xCloud) will come to iOS next year. Amazon's Luna was the first game-streaming service to launch on iOS as a web app. Apple has made life difficult for game-streaming services by effectively banning each service from offering a native iOS app to access the whole service. Apple's App Store rules require that each game be approved and offered separately, which is generally not how game-streaming services work. Those rules do not apply to web apps that run within the browser, however.


Apple Reduces App Store Commission to 15% for Smaller Developers

Nov 18, 2020, 9:36 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple today announced the "App Store Small Business Program", which amounts to a major reduction of the company's controversial 30% commission from app developers. Starting January 1, 2021, businesses earning $1 million or less in annual proceeds can apply for the program and enjoy a reduced commission of 15% on paid apps and in-app purchases, instead of the usual 30%. Apple has faced increased pressure this year to change its rules and lower its commission rates. Epic Games and Spotify have been most vocal, and helped form the Coalition for App Fairness lobbying group. Google also charges a 30% commission for its app store. According to Apple, its App Store ecosystem facilitated $519 billion in commerce worldwide in 2019.


New RokuOS Plays Well with iPhones

Nov 11, 2020, 3:39 PM   by Rich Brome

Roku's latest software update for Roku streaming devices includes support for Apple's AirPlay 2 and HomeKit. It will be available in the coming days for Roku TVs, and is available now for most standalone Roku devices.


Apple Updates iPhone 12 Pricing

Oct 16, 2020, 10:16 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 20, 2020, 3:53 PM

Apple has revised its pricing for the iPhone 12 and 12 mini for T-Mobile, matching the $30 "instant discount" for AT&T and Verizon that puts the starting price at $799 and $699, respectively. That means iPhone 12 series pricing is now the same for all major US carriers. The iPhone 12 and 12 mini do not come with the instant discount when purchased "SIM-free". That means an effective $30 premium for purchasing an iPhone 12 or 12 mini SIM-free. The iPhone 12 Pro models have consistent pricing across carrier and SIM-free options.


Apple Intros Four 5G iPhones

Oct 13, 2020, 2:04 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 16, 2020, 9:59 AM

Apple today announced the iPhone 12 series, the company's largest lineup of new iPhones to date. All four new models share same new design with flat metal sides and thinner bezels than previous iPhones. All four also include a bevy of high-end features, including:

  • A14 Bionic chip, made with a bleeding-edge 5nm process that offers better performance and efficiency. It has 11.8 billion transistors and offers 50% faster graphics performance and 70% faster machine learning computations.
  • 5G, including mmWave in US models.
  • Super Retina XDR OLED displays, offering HDR and ~460 ppi sharpness.
  • "Ceramic Shield" display glass from Corning that Apple claims is the toughest of any smartphone.
  • MagSafe for iPhone, a new magnet system that aligns wireless charging coils, (which have been upgraded to support 15W fast wireless charging,) and supports snap-on magnetic cases and accessories.
  • A new 12 megapixel main camera with a 7-element lens and f/1.6 aperture, for 27% better low-light performance.
  • Advanced camera app features like Night Mode now work with all cameras, including wide-angle and selfie cameras. Also new is a Night mode Time-lapse feature.
  • Water resistance.
The four iPhone 12 models and their differences:
  • iPhone 12: The same 6.1-inch screen size as the iPhone 11, but upgraded to the same "Super Retina XDR" OLED technology as the Pro models. The new design fits a 6.1-inch display into a body that's lighter and 15% smaller. The secondary camera is a 12 megapixel "ultra wide" camera similar to that on the iPhone 11. Apple is offering five color options: black, white, Product Red, green, and blue. Available October 23rd for $799 with any major US carrier, or $829 unlocked.
  • iPhone 12 mini: All the features of the standard iPhone 12 in a smaller body with a 5.4-inch display. Apple claims it's the smallest, thinnest, lightest 5G phone in the world. Available November 13th for $699 with any major US carrier, or $729 unlocked.
  • iPhone 12 Pro: Similar in size to the standard iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch display. As with last year's Pro models, the main step-ups are better materials (stainless steel and milled glass) and the addition of a telephoto camera. New is a LiDAR scanner, which aids low-light focusing and AR features. A new ProRAW photo format combines the best of Apple's Deep Fusion computational photography with the flexibility of a RAW format. It's also the first phone that can record and edit Dolby Vision HDR video at up to 60 fps and 4K resolution. Color options: silver, Deep Graphite, gold, and Pacific Blue. Available October 23rd starting at $999 with 128 GB of storage.
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: Steps up a 6.7-inch display, the largest Apple has put in a phone. The main camera has a 47% larger sensor area and sensor-shift OIS, for 87% better low-light performance. It also upgrades the telephoto lens from 2x to 2.5x, providing 5x optical zoom range across all three rear cameras. Shipping November 13th starting at $1099.


New York Launches COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Oct 1, 2020, 1:49 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 2, 2020, 11:45 AM

New York State has launched COVID Alert NY, its official app enabling the COVID-19 Exposure Notification system developed by Apple and Google. New York is the largest US state to date to launch an app using the system, and joins ten other states that have already launched similar apps: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming. New York's app supports the national key server that allows Exposure Notifications to work across state lines, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Exposure Notifications is an opt-in system that uses Bluetooth to track which phones come near which other phones, how closely, and for how long. When someone reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, the service can alert other people that may have come into contact with that person, so they can get tested as well. The service does not track users' locations, and protects privacy by using randomly-generated, frequently-changed ID codes to keep everyone anonymous. The system is more effective the more people participate. New York's app is available now for Android and iOS. Several other states are working on similar apps they plan to launch soon, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, DC. New York's app was developed by NearForm, which also developed Exposure Notification apps for New Jersey, Scotland, and Ireland.


New Coalition Will Fight for Better App Store Policies

Sep 24, 2020, 9:10 AM   by Rich Brome

A new alliance of app developers have come together to form the Coalition for App Fairness. The new organization will pressure Apple and Google to change their app-store policies and commission rates to be more favorable to developers. The group includes Epic Games (developers of Fortnite), Spotify, Basecamp, and the developers of Tinder and ProtonMail. The group claims that Apple and Google collect excessive commissions and give unfair advantages to their own products and services. One specific demand is the ability to use third-party payment services for certain transactions. The nonprofit group is registered in Washington, DC and plans to push for legal and regulatory changes governing how the companies operate app stores.


Apple One Bundles Apple Services, Including new Apple Fitness+

Sep 15, 2020, 1:48 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple today introduced Apple One, a new bundle of Apple services offering savings of $6 – $25 per month. The basic Individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage for $15/month. The Family plan ups the iCloud storage to 200 GB and can be shared among up to six family members. It runs $20/month, an $8/month savings compared to subscribing separately. Finally, the Premier plan adds Apple News+ and the new Apple Fitness+, as well as upping the storage to 2 TB. It will run $30/month, a $25/month savings. Apple Fitness+ offers a variety of trainer-led workouts and incorporates real-time data from Apple watch sensors. Apple Fitness+ is also available separately for $10/month or $80/year. A one-month free trial is available, and new Apple Watches now come with a free three-month trial of Fitness+.


Apple Watch SE Starts at $279

Sep 15, 2020, 1:28 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple today announced a new, more affordable Apple Watch variant: Apple Watch SE. It will start at $279, a full $120 cheaper than the new Apple Watch Series 6, even though it has most of the same features. The cellular version is an even better deal at $329, $170 cheaper than the cellular Series 6. The features sacrificed for cost are the always-on display, blood oxygen sensor, and ECG function. It also uses last year's S5 processor instead of the new S6. However the design, functions, and specs are otherwise identical to the new Watch Series 6. That includes the large Retina display, waterproof aluminum body in two sizes, optical heart sensor, GPS, fall detection, compass, always-on altimeter, noise monitoring, and digital crown with haptic feedback. It's available to order today, and in stores this Friday, September 18th.


iOS 14 Available Tomorrow

Sep 15, 2020, 1:16 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has concluded the beta testing period for its latest OSes. The final version of iOS 14 will be available tomorrow, September 16th.


Apple Watch Series 6 Measures Blood Oxygen

Sep 15, 2020, 1:11 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has revealed Apple Watch Series 6, which adds a new blood oxygen saturation sensor. Blood oxygen is an important vital sign that can drop to dangerous levels in those with COVID-19. Apple has started three research studies that use the new sensor, including one focused on COVID-19 and the flu. The other studies are focused on asthma and heart failure. The Watch can measure blood oxygen periodically in the background, or on demand in 15 seconds. Series 6 also uses a new S6 processor, has a display that's 2.5 times brighter in always-on mode, and has an always-on altimeter. Apple also announced new family features designed to make Apple Watch better-suited for kids and seniors. Family Setup lets you use your iPhone to set up someone else's cellular Watch, such as your phone-free kid. It also lets you control the contacts your kid can communicate with, and set up location alerts. A School Time mode restricts functions to help kids focus during school hours. Series 6 is available in new color options, including a blue or red aluminum body. New band options include "Solo Loop", a single fixed band without a clasp, available in nine sizes. Solo Loop is available in a variety of colors, and either solid silicone or a woven design made with silicone yarn. To reduce electronic waste, Series 6 does not come with a USB power adapter. Apple Watch Series 6 is available to order today, and in stores this Friday, September 18th, starting at $399, or $499 with cellular (LTE).


Apple, Google Launch Simpler COVID-19 Exposure Notifications

Sep 1, 2020, 11:31 AM   by Rich Brome

Google and Apple are updating their COVID-19 Exposure Notification system to support US states that have yet to develop their own Exposure Notification app. While the initial release of Exposure Notifications required countries or states to release their own app supporting the system, the new Exposure Notifications Express removes that requirement. States must still opt in to the system, but once they do, most iOS and Android phones in that state will receive a push notification inviting them to opt in to the system. On iOS, opting in will activate the new Exposure Notifications Express feature built in to the just-released iOS 13.7. Android users opting in will be prompted to download an app from Google to enable the feature. As with all variants of Exposure Notifications, privacy is protected since personal-identifying and location data is neither collected nor sent to states. Instead, randomly-generated ID numbers are exchanged with nearby phones via short-range Bluetooth, to keep track of which phones are near which other phones, and for how long. When someone enrolled in the system self-reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, others enrolled in the system that have been near that person are notified, so they can seek testing. Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have already announced that they will participate, while six states have already released their own apps to enable Exposure Notifications.


Epic Handed Mixed Ruling in Apple Fight

Aug 25, 2020, 9:19 AM   by Rich Brome

In the ongoing legal drama between Epic Games and Apple over App Store rules and fees, a judge has granted Epic a temporary restraining order preventing Apple from cutting off Epic's access to Apple developer accounts and tools. Apple had tried to cut off Epic completely, which would have put Epic's Unreal Engine for Apple platforms in serious jeopardy. Unreal Engine is the foundation of many popular 3D games, including some that are part of Apple Arcade. Epic also requested an order to keep Fortnite in the App Store, but the court declined.


Fortnite's Biggest Battle Yet: App Stores

Aug 13, 2020, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 14, 2020, 10:04 AM

Epic Games, the maker of popular battle royale game Fortnite, has filed suit against Apple and Google for anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior related to their app store policies. Epic is challenging the companies' monopolies on both app purchases and in-app purchases on their respective mobile platforms, and their 30% cut of such purchases. Instead of monetary damages, Epic is asking the courts to force the companies to change their policies. In apparent preparation for the suit, this morning Epic started offering a discount for players who purchased in-app content directly from Epic, instead of via the standard in-app purchase systems provided on iOS and Android, in violation of Apple and Google's policies. Apple quickly responded by pulling Fortnite from the App Store. Google pulled Fortnite from its Play Store hours later. Epic initially resisted listing Fortnite in Google's Play Store in protest of these policies, before relenting this April. Fortnite can still be installed on Android phones by working around the Play Store, but it can no longer be installed on iOS devices. Existing installations on both platforms still function for now.


Apple Bans Game-Streaming Services From iOS

Aug 6, 2020, 5:02 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has issued a statement explaining that it will not allow cloud-based game streaming apps like Google Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming on iOS unless each game available via the platform is individually submitted to Apple for review. That is not generally how game-streaming services work, and may be impractical for the providers of such services. Says Apple: "Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable to all developers, including submitting games individually for review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store."


Google, Apple Tweak COVID-19 Exposure Notifications to be More Useful

Jul 31, 2020, 2:14 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today provided an update on the quickly-evolving Exposure Notifications System (ENS) they developed and launched in partnership with Apple to augment pandemic contact tracing efforts. The system now supports interoperability between countries and states, including a "national key server" run by the Association of Public Health Laboratories to allow the system to work across the 20 US states and territories using ENS with their own official public health apps. Also, "Bluetooth calibration values for hundreds of devices have been updated to improve the detection of nearby devices". As always, ENS is completely anonymous, does not track your location, and is opt-in. Google also explained the technical reasons users may be asked to turn on "location services" to use ENS, even though ENS does not us location data and ENS apps are prohibited from collecting location data. At a system level, in Android 10 and earlier, permission for an app to use Bluetooth is linked to "location services" because the app may connect to Bluetooth beacons, which are intended to mark locations. But ENS apps are prohibited from gathering this data. In Android 11, ENS apps will be given an exemption that allows the location services setting to remain off, since those apps cannot collect such data.


AT&T to Shut Off 3G in Early 2022

Jul 24, 2020, 3:10 PM   by Rich Brome

AT&T has set a date for switching off its 3G WCDMA network. Starting February 2022, customers will need a 4G phone with VoLTE technology (a feature AT&T refers to as HD Voice) to connect to AT&T's network. Most smartphones released since 2014 support this technology, as well as most feature phones released in the last two-three years. Phones that will stop working include the Apple iPhone 5s and older, Samsung Galaxy S4 and older, the original Google Pixel, and the OnePlus 6T and older. Shutting down the 3G network will allow AT&T to allocate all of its airwaves to more-efficient 4G and 5G technologies, enabling greater network capacity and data speeds for 4G and 5G customers. AT&T sent an email to some customers earlier this week saying they needed to upgrade their phone without making clear the 2022 deadline. AT&T issued the following statement about the email: "This email was one of many planned to keep customers informed about the shutdown of our 3G network in early 2022. It should have included the date that certain devices would no longer be supported. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused and will be more clear in future updates."


iOS 14 Public Beta Now Available

Jul 9, 2020, 1:55 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has released a beta version of iOS 14 to the public. Users with a compatible iPhone can choose to install the software for an early look at new features like homescreen widgets, a new App Library screen, redesigned Siri interface, Translate app, and the ability to make a third-party app the default email or web browser app. As a beta version, the software carries an extra risk of bugs, crashes, and perhaps even data loss. Some third-party apps many require a yet-to-be-released update to work properly with the new OS. Beta software should only be installed on non-critical devices where the user is willing to take that extra risk, and only after making sure any important data is backed up. Installing the beta iOS starts with opting in at Apple's Beta Program web site.


New Video Compression Standard Uses Half the Data

Jul 7, 2020, 11:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Fraunhofer HHI, the institute that has created many of the world's most popular audio/video coding and compression standards, has finalized the next standard for video: H.266, AKA Versatile Video Coding (VVC). The new standard is supposedly twice as efficient as its predecessor, H.265/High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). For example, it will be possible to store a 90-minute 4K video in just 5 GB, instead of the 10 GB that would be required with H.265/HEVC, with no loss of visual quality. The new standard can be used for saved as well as streaming video, and supports resolutions from 8K down to SD. It also supports HDR and 360º video. The standard will be licensed by an industry group that includes as its members Apple, Canon, Dolby, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Oppo, Orange, Sony, and Tencent. Companies are already designing chips for hardware-accelerated use of the new standard. Fraunhofer has committed to publishing the first software to support the standard this fall.


iOS 14 Will Allow Quick Biometric Login for Web Sites

Jun 26, 2020, 11:34 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple's Safari 14 web browser — part of the forthcoming iOS 14 for iPhones — adds support for the Web Authentication (WebAuthn) API, part of the industry-standard FIDO2 specification. This will allow mobile web sites to add an option for users to quickly log in via fingerprint or Face ID instead of entering a username and password. This feature is already available in the Chrome browser on Android, and within full apps on both iOS and Android.


Apple Opening Up "Find My" to Non-Apple Devices.

Jun 22, 2020, 5:22 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple is opening up its "Find My" service — originally launched as Find My iPhone — to third parties, enabling non-Apple devices to be located using the vast network of Apple devices in the world. The functionality is similar to Tile, although Apple's solution would provide more coverage as it would not require installation of the Tile app. It's not clear whether the service could be compatible with Tile, or compete with it. Like Tile, the new Find My service can use Bluetooth to locate devices that lack their own connectivity to the Internet. Also like Tile, the technology is designed to be encrypted, anonymous, and data- and battery-efficient.


Apple to let iOS Users Choose Default Email and Browser Apps

Jun 22, 2020, 3:49 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has released a full list of new features in iOS 14, which includes many not mentioned in today's WWDC keynote presentation. One notable new feature is a setting that will let users choose which app launches when a user clicks on a web link or email address. For example, in iOS 13, clicking on an email address always launches Apple's Mail app. In iOS 14, you will be able to set this to Gmail instead.


BMW Lets you use Your iPhone as Your Car Key

Jun 22, 2020, 1:17 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple today announced that the 2021 BMW 5-series will support digital car keys, letting owners use their iPhone with Wallet and NFC to unlock and start the car. Users can share key copies with others via iMessage, and choose full or restricted driving profiles. The feature works with iOS 13 and newer.


iOS 14 Promotes Widgets to Home Screen

Jun 22, 2020, 1:02 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 22, 2020, 1:47 PM

Apple has revealed iOS 14, which brings a number of new features to the OS for Apple's iPhones:

  • Widgets: Apple has promoted Widgets to the main home screen. Just as Android has always allowed, you can now mix re-sizable widgets in with your app icons. A special widget called Smart Stack collects several widgets into one rectangle that lets you scroll through multiple widgets while taking up minimal home screen space.
  • App Clips: A new kind of micro-app designed to let you complete a single transaction using a rich app interface, without installing a full app. App Clips are limited to 10 MB so they download quickly. App Clips can be launched from a Maps listing, a message, a QR code, or a new type of physical sticker that includes an NFC tag and a visual code similar to QR codes. App Clips can leverage Sign in with Apple and Apple Pay so users don't need to spend time creating a new account. App Clips can be used to order take-out or delivery, rent a scooter, pay for parking, and more. To help small businesses to take advantage of App Clips, Apple will work with larger services like Yelp to help them create App Clips for individual business listings.
  • App Library: A new screen past the right-most home screen with auto-generated folders of apps, including Suggestions, Recently Added, Arcade, Social, etc. To make it easier to access, you can now hide infrequently-used home screens.
  • Picture in Picture: Video apps can now display playing video in a floating window over other apps. (Android has supported this since 2017.)
  • Translate app: Apple now has its own dedicated app for language translation. In landscape orientation, it switches to a Conversation Mode, for seamless two-way conversation with someone while both people look at the display. It auto-detects the language for each phrase spoken. The app supports English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian.
Apple has also updated Siri so it's no longer a full-screen experience every time it's activated. A small animation pops up at the bottom of the screen while it's listening, and many results pop up in a small box at the top, like a notification. Apple has also updated Maps to finally add directions for cycling, including elevation info. At launch, this feature is available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Shanghai, and Beijing. Maps also now has dedicated features for electric cars. It can track your battery status and estimate range, as well as direct you to charging stations compatible with your specific car. At launch, it's compatible with BMW and Ford EVs. Finally, CarPlay now supports various wallpaper options, and supports new types of apps, including parking, EV charging, and fast food ordering. Apple is also adding a new indicator in the status bar to show when apps access your camera and/or microphone. Apple said iOS 14 will launch for consumers "this fall".


Apple and Google Launch COVID-19 Exposure Notification

May 20, 2020, 1:31 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple and Google have started to make their new, jointly-developed Exposure Notification technology available for public use. The technology automatically tracks which other phones your phones has been near for a certain period of time, using a new, Bluetooth-based system. When one user reports that they have tested positive for COVID-19, other users they have come into contact with are automatically alerted, so they can get tested. The system uses anonymous, frequently-changed tokens to preserve privacy. To use the system, users must install an official app from their local public health agency and explicitly opt in to the service. Apple and Google are only allowing one app per geographic region, and have multiple safeguards in place to protect user privacy, including a ban on collecting users' locations. The system is available now for public health agencies to develop and release their apps using the system, although not all governments plan to do so. It requires a new OS version to function. Apple released iOS 13.5 today, which includes Exposure Notification as well as other features specific to the ongoing pandemic. New versions of Android are expected soon that support Exposure Notifications. The two companies have promised a more comprehensive version of Exposure Notification in the coming months that will not require the installation of a special app, although it will remain opt-in.


Mophie Launches Huge Wireless-Charging Battery for iPhones

May 14, 2020, 2:28 PM   by Rich Brome

Mophie's latest external battery for iPhones is the Powerstation Wireless XL, with 10,000 mAh capacity, capable of adding 55 hours of use to an iPhone. It can charge an iPhone or other Qi device wirelessly, and simultaneously fast-charge an iPhone or other USB-PD device via its USB-C port. The battery itself can be charged via Lightning, USB-C, or wirelessly. The Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL is available now for $100, from mophie.com, apple.com, and soon in Apple stores worldwide.


iOS 13.5 Can Automatically Share Medical Info with 911 Operators

May 7, 2020, 10:53 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has added a new feature to iOS that can electronically share your "Medical ID" data with emergency dispatchers when you call 911. Apple's Health app already lets you input medical info such as blood type, allergies, medical conditions, and emergency contacts. Users can opt to make this information available on an iPhone's lock screen without unlocking, so first responders can access the info when you might be unresponsive. In the forthcoming iOS version, 13.5, this data can be automatically transmitted to 911 operators in areas where emergency call centers have been upgraded to receive Enhanced Emergency Data. The feature also works in conjunction with the fall detection feature in newer Apple Watches, which automatically calls 911 if you fall and don't move for one minute.


Apple WWDC Set for June 22

May 6, 2020, 9:06 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has set a date for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC): June 22nd. The conference will be held online due to the pandemic, and will be free for all developers.


Apple, Google Lay Ground Rules for COVID-19 Exposure Notification Apps

May 6, 2020, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple and Google are preparing to launch Exposure Notification, a new technology to address the COVID-19 pandemic based on the principles of contact tracing. The first phase will center around downloadable apps developed by various government public health agencies. These apps will have exclusive access to new Exposure Notification APIs in forthcoming versions of Android and iOS. Apple and Google recently announced special rules that will apply to such apps. The companies will only allow one app per geographic region. The apps can only be used for pandemic response and no other purpose. To protect privacy, the apps must minimize the amount of data they collect, and are barred from collecting location data. The apps must also gain explicit user consent for initiating Exposure Notification technology, which operates using Bluetooth in the background.


iOS 13.5 Adds Face Mask Detection, Contact Tracing

Apr 29, 2020, 1:28 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple today released a beta version of iOS 13.5 to developers. The new software includes two key features specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic. First, FaceID will now detect if you're wearing a face mask and automatically prompt for a passcode as an alternate way to unlock the phone. Second, the update includes the first version of Apple and Google's COVID-19 Exposure Notifications technology, which provides an automated, opt-in alternative to traditional contact tracing. Today's beta release will help public health authorities prepare their own contact-tracing apps that will be able to use the technology when iOS 13.5 is released to everyone. Google is providing Android developers with a similar beta release of Android. Germany has already announced that it will adopt this Apple/Google technology.


Smartphone Contact Tracing Tech to be Released Ahead of Schedule

Apr 23, 2020, 10:20 AM   by Rich Brome

A new contact-tracing technology developed by Apple and Google to address the COVID-19 pandemic will see its first release to developers on April 28th, earlier than originally planned. The technology uses Bluetooth to keep a history of which phones come near which other phones for certain periods of time, as an approximation of people who have come into contact, so that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, other people who need to be tested can be identified quickly. The technology is fully interoperable between iOS and Android phones, thanks to a unique collaboration between Google and Apple. The API being released next week will enable verified public health authorities to use the technology in their own apps. Such apps will need to be installed on a large percentage of phones for the technology to be useful in any given population. Later, Apple and Google plan to integrate a more complete contact-tracing technology into both iOS and Android, which would not require an app install. Apple and Google have designed the technology to be anonymous, voluntary, transparent, temporary, secure, and interoperable, and EU regulators are working with the companies to ensure the technology meets their strict standards in those areas.


Fortnite Goes Legit on Android with Play Store Listing

Apr 21, 2020, 9:52 PM   by Rich Brome

The popular battle royale game Fortnite is finally available via Google's Play Store on Android phones. Previously, those with Android phones had to jump through hoops to download and install the game, bypassing Google's security warnings. The game's developer has been protesting Google's 30% cut of Play Store purchases, including in-app purchases. Fortnite has been available via Apple's App Store on iOS for some time, even though Apple takes the same 30%.


Apple's New iPhone SE is $399

Apr 15, 2020, 10:37 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Apr 15, 2020, 11:25 AM

Apple has announced a new, second-generation iPhone SE. Just as the first iPhone SE was based on the iPhone 5, the new iPhone SE is based on the iPhone 8, with its rounded metal frame, glass back, 4.7-inch display, and TouchID fingerprint-sensing home button on the front. It has essentially the same camera hardware as the iPhone 8, but updates the processor to the newer A13 Bionic found in the current iPhone 11 series, along with the new camera features the A13 enables, such as advanced portrait modes and Smart HDR. The new iPhone SE also has faster gigabit LTE. Like the iPhone 8, it has Apple Pay, fast charging, wireless charging, an IP67 water rating, and can record 4K video. The new iPhone SE will be available in white, black, and (PRODUCT)RED, all of which have a black glass front. The version with 64 GB of storage will run $399. The new iPhone SE is also available with 128 or 256 GB of storage, for $449 or $549, respectively. Pre-orders start April 17th, with full availability on April 24th.


Apple Adding COVID-19 Test Sites to Maps

Apr 12, 2020, 12:35 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple is collecting information on COVID-19 testing locations to add to its Maps app. Apple is collecting information such as testing hours, whether a referral or appointment is required, and location type, such as drive-through.


Apple, Google Team up on Phone-Based Contact Tracing to Fight Pandemic

Apr 10, 2020, 12:25 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Apr 10, 2020, 3:46 PM

Apple and Google will work together to build interoperable contact-tracing technology into both the Android and iOS phone OSes. The technology will use Bluetooth — which has a typical range of about 30 feet — to keep track of everyone you come near, so that public health workers can quickly look for additional new infections when someone is diagnosed with COVID19 (Coronavirus). This new OS-level technology will have an API designed to integrate with official apps offered by public health authorities. Google and Apple have committed to making "user privacy and security central to the design". The technology will roll out in two phases. First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will build a full contact-tracing function into each OS that is opt-in and works without a special app.

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Apple Buys Dark Sky, Kills Android Version

Mar 31, 2020, 3:18 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has acquired the popular weather app Dark Sky. Dark Sky announced that it is pulling its Android and Wear OS apps from app stores, and existing installations on those platforms will stop working on July 1st, 2020. The company is also phasing out its API service, which is used by other apps and services. Dark Sky won't accept any new applications to use its API going forward, and the API service will shut down at the end of 2021. The iOS version of the Dark Sky app will continue to be sold in Apple's App Store.


Apple App Store Now Supports Single Purchase for Both iOS and macOS Apps

Mar 24, 2020, 9:17 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has now fully launched Universal Purchase, a new feature of its App Store that lets customers make a single app purchase to gain access to that app across all of Apple's OS platforms, including macOS and iOS. For example, buying an app on your iPhone would automatically give you access to not only the iOS version, but also the macOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS versions of that same app, if they exist. Developers need to update their apps and App Store listings to support Universal Purchase.


Apple Will Now Allow Push Notification Ads

Mar 6, 2020, 11:50 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has updated its rules for iOS apps to now allow push notifications for marketing purposes, as long as users opt in and are allowed to later opt out. The company made several other changes, such as tighter restrictions on dating and fortune-telling apps.


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