iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
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."
WhatsApp is adding to its features to fight the spread of misinformation. Already, messages forwarded more than five times have a special icon. Now, those messages will also have a search button next to them. The new "search the web" button performs a Google search on the relevant info, to enable message recipients to perform their own fact-checking. The feature is being rolled out starting today in the US, Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and UK, for those on the latest versions of WhatsApp for Android and iOS.
Netflix is rolling out variable speed playback to its mobile apps, starting with a rollout to Android users over the next few weeks. The company plans to test the feature with its iOS app and web playback as well. Four new playback speeds are available: 0.5x, 0.75x, 1.25x, and 1.5x. Similar features have been available in YouTube and podcast apps for some time.
Google has sweetened its Google One service to offer full, automatic phone backup for free for all Android phones. (Full automatic phone backup previously required a paid subscription.) The company is also launching a Google One app for iOS, which will offer a free backup service and storage manager for that platform. On iOS, Google One will be able to back up photos, videos, contacts, and calendar events. The Google One service on both platforms uses the 15 GB of storage that comes free with all Google accounts. Google One will continue to offer paid subscriptions that offer more storage and enhanced support.
Facebook has updated its Messenger app for iOS and Android to support screen sharing. Screen sharing lets you share a live view of your screen as you use other apps such as your camera roll, browser, games, or social media. The feature works with group video chats of up to 8 people. In Messenger Rooms, the feature works with up to 16 people, a limit that will soon be raised to 50.
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.
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.
The Google Photos app and service has been redesigned, and now includes a map feature that lets you explore all of the photos you've ever taken as pins on a map. The map feature is part of a new Search tab in the redesigned app interface. The new Search tab also includes automatic shortcuts to specific people and pets that you frequently photograph, using automatic facial recognition. The new Google Photos app "rolls out over the next week" on Android and iOS.
OnStar, the roadside- and emergency-assistance service for GM vehicles, is now available as an app for iOS and Android phones. The new OnStar Guardian app uses phone sensors to detect when you've been in a vehicle crash, including non-GM vehicles without OnStar. It will then automatically connect you with an OnStar Advisor who can provide emergency assistance. On Android, the connection is fully automatic, while on iOS, OnStar will call your phone when a crash is detected. The app also lets you contact an OnStar Advisor at any time for roadside or emergency assistance. Finally, the app has a location-sharing feature for families. The app is available free for six months for any existing OnStar subscriber and up to seven additional family members. OnStar did not disclose what the app may cost after the first six months.
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.
Twitter has started to roll out a new audio feature that lets users record and share voice clips. It's similar to recording a video of yourself. However, on iOS, when playing them, you can play the audio while continuing to scroll and read other tweets. Audio clips can be up to 140 seconds long. For now, only users of the iOS version of the Twitter app can record and attach audio, but the clips are playable on other platforms, including Android.
The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) has updated its TrainTime app with real-time visualizations of how crowded each car is on each train, as well as real-time train locations updated every three seconds. Commuters in New York City can use the app to position themselves on the platform so they'll board a less-crowded car when their train arrives, helping riders practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new technology is the first of its kind to be deployed in North America. LIRR is using different technology to measure passenger loading depending on train car model. Older trains effectively weigh the car using sensors in the train car suspension. Newer trains use door sensors to count passengers entering and leaving at each stop. The data is reported to a central server, which powers the app. The app displays the data visually as a train, with crowded cars in red, and emptier cars in green. The updated app is available now for both iOS and Android.
A new streaming video service launched today called Whatifi, that's exclusively for mobile devices and offers only interactive (choose-your-own-adventure) content. It's currently available only for iOS, for free. The content is in vertical format. At various points, viewers can make a choice between two options by swiping up or down, to send the story in one of two directions. There's also a watch party mode, where friends can watch and vote together. The app includes a messaging feature and helps you keep track of all the different endings. The service is launching with two shows, each of which takes 10-15 minutes to watch, but can easily be re-watched with different choices, for up to 30 hours of total content. The company has $10 million in funding, and is currently soliciting scripts for new interactive content with a contest offering $35,000 for winning scripts. Asked about the Android platform, a company rep said "We don't have anything to share on an Android version at this time."
Google marked today's Global Accessibility Awareness Day with the launch of new accessibility features across several of its apps and services. Google Maps now indicates wheelchair accessibility for businesses and other destinations in the US, UK, Japan, and Australia. When the (opt-in) feature is enabled, search results will include a wheelchair icon for accessible locations, and full listings will show more detail, such as whether the entrance, parking, seating, and restroom are wheelchair-accessible. The updated Maps app is now available for both Android and iOS. Google also added several major features to Live Transcribe, its Android app that provides real-time, speech-to-text transcriptions of everyday conversations for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. You can now set your phone to alert you by vibrating when someone nearby says your name to get your attention. Live Transcribe can also now be customized with a personal dictionary of custom names or terms for different places and objects. Finally, an optional feature makes it easy to search all conversations from the past three days. Google has also improved its Sound Amplifier Android app to support Bluetooth headphones. Sound Amplifier clarifies the sound around you. Now you can leave your phone near the source of the sound, like a TV or a lecturer, and have your phone transmit clarified sound to your Bluetooth headset up to 30 feet away. Finally, Google announced a new Android app: Action Blocks. A simple shortcut interface, Action Blocks is designed to make multi-step tasks on your phone simpler. People with cognitive disabilities or age-related cognitive conditions can now perform tasks like "call my daughter" in one step, right from their Android home screen.
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.
Google has updated its Google Lens computer-vision app with several new features. The app already recognizes printed and hand-written text in the real world, letting you copy it into other apps on your phone, or translate it to another language. A new option lets you select text and send it to you computer's clipboard, where it can be pasted into other apps. The feature requires the Chrome browser on your computer, and that both devices be signed in to the same Google account. Also new in Google Lens is a feature that tells you how to pronounce translated words. Google Lens is available for both Android and iOS.
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 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%.
Google has updated its Duo video calling service with several new features. First, the maximum number of people on a group video has been increased from eight to 12, and will be increased further in "the coming weeks". Google has also added a photo snapshot feature that will capture a moment and send the still photo of everyone to all participants, to save. Finally, Google is upgrading to the new AV1 video codec, "to improve video call quality and reliability, even on very low bandwidth connections." All of these new features work across both Android and iOS versions of Duo, and most work across other platforms as well.
Facebook has launched Facebook Gaming, a new app for Android that lets users watch and comment on video streams from top gamers. It also has its own "instant games" built in, which are multiplayer. It offers community features around various games, and you can stream your own gameplay using the app. An iOS version is expected soon.
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 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.
A new app for iOS called Krisp uses machine learning technology to filter out all kinds of background noise on your end while making voice calls. It can completely filter out background sound such as nearby conversations, screaming kids, barking dogs, coffee machines, air conditioners, etc. It offers calendar integration for easily joining conference calls, including Zoom, Webex, Hangouts, and more. It works as an alternate dialer, used in place of the built-in Phone app in iOS. The app is free to download from the App Store and offers up to 240 minutes of free noise-free calls per week.
Today is launch day for Quibi, the new video subscription service with original content created exclusively for mobile devices. There are a number of original shows available including A-list celebrities. Episodes are ten minutes or less and are filmed so they can be viewed in either landscape or portrait orientation. The service is $5/month after a 90-day free trial. The ad-free version is $8/month. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
Google has redesigned its Podcasts app, and made a version available in Apple's App Store for iPhone users. Google Podcasts now stays fully synced between all platforms, including Android, web, and iOS, so you can pause a podcast on your phone and automatically pick up where you left off on the web. The new interface design has three tabs: Home, Explore and Activity. The Home tab features a feed of new episodes and gives you quick access to your subscribed shows. When you select an episode you want to listen to, you'll now see topics or people covered in that podcast. In the Explore tab, you can browse popular podcasts by category, and the app will make personalized show and episode recommendations. The Activity tab displays your listen history, queued up episodes, and downloads. For each show in your subscriptions, you can now enable automatic downloading and/or push notifications for when new episodes come out. The new Google Podcasts is available on iOS today and rolling out to Android this week.
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.
Google has updated its Maps app for iOS and Android with a new tab bar. The standard default view is now the "Explore" tab. A new "Commute" tab lets you specify your daily commute route and receive real-time traffic updates, travel times, and suggestions for alternative routes. It works for both driving and public transit. A "Saved" tab lets you see lists of your saved places, as well as upcoming reservations flagged by Gmail, and your saved maps. The new "Contribute" tab makes it easier to send Google reviews, recommendations, corrections, and photos to make Maps better. Finally, the new Updates tab highlights new places nearby, and new articles about places nearby.
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 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.
The Byte app is now available to everyone, for both iOS and Android. Byte is a social network based on short video clips, with comment features similar to Instagram, and a "rebyte" feature similar to retweets on Twitter. Byte was founded by Dom Hofmann — one of the original creators of Vine — and is similar to Vine in many ways. (Vine was purchased by Twitter, which then shut down the service at the end of 2016.) The Byte app includes a search/explore section that lets you explore content by category, such as animation, pets, fitness, music, comedy, travel, and experimental, as well as latest and most popular content. The camera section lets you string together multiple short clips at once, recorded from either the front or back camera, and/or include sections of previously-recorded video. An onion-skinning feature helps you visually align the start of a new clip with the last frame of the last clip.
Razer has introduced a new accessory that adds full-size physical game controls to a much wider range of phones than its previous Junglecat accessory. The Kishi comes in versions for both iOS and Android. The iOS version has a Lightning connector and is compatible with the iPhone 7 and newer. The Android version is designed to work with most phones that have a centered USB-C connector on the bottom. Kishi's controls are full-size and close to the ergonomics of a typical console game controller. The bottom of the right controller has a USB-C (or Lightning) connector for pass-through charging. The Kishi is powered directly by the phone, so it never needs charging. Kishi will be available in a few months for a price in roughly the same range as the Junglecat, which currently sells for $100. Read on for our hands-on impressions and notes.