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 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 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.
Apple has concluded the beta testing period for its latest OSes. The final version of iOS 14 will be available tomorrow, September 16th.
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).
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.
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.
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 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 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 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."
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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'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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
Mophie has a new line of Powerstation portable battery packs that are designed specifically to support the connectors and charging options of the iPhone 11 series. All three of the new Powerstations can charge an iPhone quickly using 18W fast charging. The Powerstations themselves are charged with a built-in Lightning power input, for easy use with existing Apple chargers. The standard Powerstation has a 6,000 mAh battery and outputs power via a USB-C port designed to work with the USB-C-to-Lightning cable included with the newest iPhones. The step-up Powerstation Plus is similar except it has a built-in Lightning cable instead of USB-C port. The larger PowerStation Plus XL is similar to the smaller Powerstation Plus, but has an 8,000 mAh battery and adds Qi wireless charging (at 5W) for charging an additional device. All three new Powerstations also have a full-size USB port for charging other devices using common USB-A cables. All three are available now in black, gray, navy, and pink, from mophie.com, apple.com and in select Apple stores. The Powerstation is priced at $60; the Powerstation Plus at $80; and the Powerstation Plus XL at $100.
Apple's icloud.com web site is now available in a mobile-friendly version with access to four iCloud services: Notes, Photos, Reminders, and Find iPhone. Although it seems designed to work in both Apple an Android mobile web browsers, key features — such as editing notes and uploading photos — are not currently working in Google's Chrome browser on Android. The mobile web site does not yet offer access to other services available in the desktop version of the web site, such as Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iCloud Drive, Pages, and Find Friends.
Apple's WebKit web browser engine team has proposed a new standard for SMS-based two-factor authentication (2FA) that would allow the process to be automated, requiring no extra user interaction when logging into a web site on a mobile device. Currently, SMS-based 2FA requires that users receive and view a text message containing a one-time passcode (OTP) that is typically a six-digit number, then enter that number on a special login page. In some cases, the process can be automated, but it is not standardized. Mobile OSes have attempted to semi-automate the process by offering one-tap copy-and-paste options for OTPs. Apple's proposed standard would include a special login URL in the text message body. This would allow mobile browsers and/or OSes to complete the login automatically, as well as provide protection against phishing attempts. Google's web browser engine team is also on board with the proposal.
Apple today announced that it has completed the US roll-out of revamped, more-detailed map data for its Maps app. Apple claims the new map data offers "faster and more accurate navigation and comprehensive views of roads, buildings, parks, airports, malls and more". Apple also today added real-time transit information for Miami. The new map data will begin rolling out across Europe in the coming months.
Amazon, Apple, and Google have joined forces on a new working group within the ZigBee Alliance to create a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products. The new group, called Project Connected Home over IP, will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of the new protocol, including a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. By basing the new standard on IP (internet protocol) technology, the need for proprietary smart home "hubs" should be reduced or eliminated, and proven security technologies can be used. The first version of the standard will be designed to work over three different radio types: Wi-Fi (up to and including Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth LE 4.1-5.0, and 802.15.4 (using Google's Thread at 2.4 GHz). The first compatible devices may implement the new protocol over any one (or more than one) of the three radio types, in addition to existing smart home protocols. Rather than starting from scratch, the group intends to accelerate development by leveraging existing, market-tested technology contributed by the founding companies. Google will contribute its Weave and Thread technologies, both of which are used in its Nest products. Apple will contribute HomeKit, Amazon will contribute its Alexa Smart Home technology, and the Zigbee Alliance will contribute its Dotdot data models. Other participating companies include Samsung SmartThings, IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Somfy, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, and Wulian. The Working Group has a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in late 2020.
Apple Arcade, the company's subscription service for exclusive, curated games, is now available for $50/year upfront. The monthly price is $5/month, which works out to $60/year.
Apple has released iOS 13.3, which brings new abilities to restrict who your kids can contact and when. It also supports USB security keys that use the FIDO2 standard.
iOS 13.2 is now available from Apple. It adds the previously-announced Deep Fusion feature to the iPhone 11 (and 11 Pro) camera. The update also adds new emoji and Siri privacy settings. Deep Fusion takes multiple exposures with each shot, and uses machine learning to combine the best parts of each exposure, producing photos with "better texture, details, and reduced noise, especially for mid to low light scenes."