iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Amazon has launched Kindle Vella, a twist on e-books that offers a serialized storytelling format designed to be mobile-first. Available first for iOS and the web, Vella offers "episodes" that are 600 – 5,000 words long, ideal for reading on a phone in short periods of time. Users can "follow" their favorite stories and be notified when new episodes are available, much like podcasts. The first few episodes of every story are free, after which users can buy episodes using "tokens". Users who have purchased tokens can "Fave" one story each week, which is used to recommend the best stories to other users. The service also offers Thumbs Up (likes) and tagging for topics and genres. Thousands of stories containing tens of thousands of episodes are already available, with new episodes being published regularly.
Apple today launched a public beta version of iOS 15. Adventurous users can test drive the software by signing up at the Apple Beta Software Program web site. Apple announced iOS 15 a month ago. Notifications, FaceTime, Maps, and Siri all get major upgrades in iOS 15, and it introduces SharePlay, Focus Modes, and Live Text. iOS 15 is compatible with the iPhone 6s and newer. Until today, beta versions were officially only available to developers. Making a beta version available to the public is a milestone that typically means the software is more stable and any major bugs have been fixed. However the software is not final; users are still strongly encouraged to make backups before installing, and not use the software on their primary phone. Apple will release a final version of iOS 15 this fall.
T-Mobile has released a new app that lets iPhone users with other US carriers test out T-Mobile's network for free using their existing phone before switching. While T-Mobile has offered a free 30-day test drive using a mobile hotspot — and that program remains available for Android users — the new app leverages the eSIM capability in newer iPhones. Once the eSIM is activated with T-Mobile, both the eSIM and existing physical SIM remain active, letting users try both networks at the same time, without switching carrier, phone, or phone number. The offer includes 30 GB of data and access to 5G. T-Mobile has published a video explaining the app. A T-Mobile spokesperson called the service a "pilot program".
Beats has finally launched its first fully in-ear true wireless earbuds: the Beats Studio Buds. These $150 Bluetooth earbuds feature active noise cancelling (ANC) as well as transparency mode to let you hear limited background noise. And even though Apple owns Beats, the Studio Buds are designed to be fully "native" compatible with both Android and Apple devices, including one-touch pairing on Android and a companion Android app. They're are also compatible with the Find My services of both iOS and Android. The buds are rated IPX4 for sweat- and water-resistance. Class 1 Bluetooth offers extended range. Beam-forming mics ensure clear voice calls free of wind and background noise. Each bud houses a proprietary 8.2mm, dual-element diaphragm driver, that's optimized for better ANC performance. The buds also support Spatial Audio / Dolby Atmos when used with Apple Music. Each bud connects directly to the source device, meaning either bud can be used by itself. The buds themselves provide up to 8 hours of listening time, or 5 hours with ANC enabled. The included USB-C charging case boosts total playback time to 24 hours. Beats Studio Buds are available to order today, and come in black, white, and red.
Apple today announced iOS 15, the next version of its core software that powers iPhones. Version 15 is not a major overhaul, but does add a long list of new features. An early beta version is available to developers starting today, with a more-polished public beta coming "next month". The final version will launch in the fall, likely alongside new iPhone models. New features include:
- Revamped FaceTime with SharePlay: FaceTime will now support scheduled calls and web links for Android and Windows users to join calls. New features make it easier to share your screen or streaming media with everyone on a group call.
- Live Text: System-wide recognition of text and objects within images.
- Updated Wallet: Will support digital home keys, driver's licenses, corporate badges, hotel keys, and more.
- Updated Maps: Adds AR mode for walking directions, 3D highway interchanges while driving, and greatly enhanced 3D views in select major cities.
- Focus modes: The new Focus feature will let you create Work, Personal, Sleep, Do Not Disturb, and custom Focus modes. Each mode can have its own notification settings and filters, and even its own home screen with specific apps and widgets. iOS can intelligently suggest personalized settings for each Focus mode, but they can also be customized. The current Focus mode is automatically synced across Apple devices.
- Notifications Summary: Can collapse all "non-time-critical" notifications into a morning summary and an afternoon summary, for example. Messages with contacts are still surfaced as received. iOS prioritizes information in notification summaries using on-device intelligence. Outside of Summaries, notifications will also have a more visual design with large icons.
- On-Device Siri: Siri will now process voice recognition directly on-device by default, instead of sending your voice to the cloud. This change enhances privacy, make Siri much faster, and allows Siri to process certain simple commands without an Internet connection.
A revamped Maps app in iOS 15 will offer a number of new and improved features to better compete with Google Maps. While giving real-time driving directions, the app will now show complex highway interchanges in an accurate 3D view. In certain cities, a new AR mode provides walking directions visually overlaid on your surroundings, similar to a feature Google has offered since 2019. Certain areas will also show enhanced 3D views, including stylized 3D landmarks, illuminated night mode, and accurate elevations. New transit features let you set certain transit lines as favorites, and alert you when approaching your stop. The more advanced city features will be available first in LA, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Washington DC, and London.
Apple today announced Live Text, a new feature of iOS that provides intelligent text and object recognition for images. In iOS 15, photos (new and existing), screenshots, and images on the wen have a new icon that runs text recognition on that image. All text — including handwritten notes — can easily be copied and pasted to other apps. Text in recognized formats, such as phone numbers, are presented as tappable links. The feature also recognizes certain kinds of objects — including animals, plants, and landmarks — and offers links to more information about that object.
Apple has released iOS 14.5, a relatively large update that brings several notable new features to the company's operating system for iPhones. The update brings a new mask-friendly version of Face ID for users with an Apple Watch. Most controversial in industry circles is App Tracking Transparency, which requires apps to get the user's permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising. Many users are expected to opt out of the tracking, which companies like Facebook consider a threat to their business model. The update also includes new Siri voices, new emoji, a revamped Podcasts app, support for AirTags, and more. iPhone users can download and install the free update starting today by going to Settings, then General, then Software Update.
Apple today announced AirTag, the company's widely-expected competitor to Tile. The small circular device comes with several keychain-style holder options, including an Hermes luxury option. AirTag uses Apple's global Find My network to find lost items, and UWB (available in the iPhone 12 series) to help users home in on an exact location. UWB allows the Find My app to show you the exact direction and distance to a nearby AirTag. The devices can be ordered with custom engraving, including emoji. A single AirTag runs $29, or you can get a four-pack for $99. They ship April 30th, with orders opening this Friday.
Apple today announced a purple color option for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. It can be pre-ordered starting this Friday, with availability on April 30th. Purple joins the existing white, black, green, red, and blue color options. Color options for the iPhone 12 Pro models remain unchanged.
Apple has officially opened up the technology behind "Find My iPhone" to non-Apple devices. The first devices using the new program ship next week, including bicycles from VanMoof, true wireless earbuds from Belkin, and a keychain-style tracking tag from Chipolo. If lost, these items can be located using Apple's Find My app. The Find My network uses iPhones and other Apple devices worldwide to find items reported missing. When an iPhone (etc.) comes within Bluetooth range of a device reported missing, the approximate location can be reported back to the owner, and the owner can send a command for the missing device to play a sound. The entire process is end-to-end encrypted and anonymous, so no one else, not even Apple or the third-party manufacturer, can view a device’s location or information.
Apple has introduced changes to the voice options of its Siri voice assistant in the newest beta of iOS 14.5. For US English, there are now two additional voices to choose from. Further, the OS no longer defaults to a female voice, instead presenting users with a choice during setup. In a statement to TechCrunch, Apple says "This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in." The new voices take advantage of Apple's Neural speech engine, for more natural-sounding contextual phrasing.
Metro by T-Mobile customers now have access to T-Mobile Tuesdays, the rewards program that gives out freebies and special deals on a variety of products and services every Tuesday. Next week's T-Mobile Tuesdays deal is a free, season-long subscription to MLB.tv, a $130 value. T-Mobile claims that the combined annual value of T-Mobile Tuesdays deals is almost $1,000. To access the deals, Metro customers need to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, available for both iOS and Android.
Google and Apple have teamed with VaccineFinder.org — a project of Boston Children's Hospital — to add COVID-19 vaccine location information to both the Google Maps and Apple Maps apps. iPhone users can find nearby vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu, or by asking Siri, "Where can I get a COVID vaccination?" On Android, users can search for "vaccines near me" or "covid vaccine (city name)" in Google Maps. The data includes over 20,000 vaccine locations in the US.
Apple has taken the unusual step of making it easier to switch from an iPhone to Android by launching a new web tool that helps you copy photos and videos stored in iCloud Photos to Google Photos. Available at privacy.apple.com, the service supports photos, videos, and basic albums, including a variety of file formats and "some" RAW files. The service does not support Smart Albums, Live Photos, and certain RAW files. Also unsupported are shared albums, photo stream content, and certain metadata. The process takes three to seven days, and Apple renames albums and videos to start with "Copy of ".
Qualcomm has introduced a new initiative called Snapdragon Sound that aims to improve sound quality, battery life, and latency of Bluetooth earbuds powered by new Qualcomm chips when used with phones that are also powered by new Qualcomm chips. Snapdragon Sound also promises to improve the robustness of the Bluetooth connection and make pairing easier. Snapdragon Sound is a suite of many tweaks and optimizations made at nearly every level of hardware and software, from end to end of the phone+earbuds system. Snapdragon Sound seems to be Qualcomm's answer to the improved Bluetooth performance that Apple has been able achieve with its custom Bluetooth chips in AirPods and iPhones. Qualcomm says Snapdragon sound will offer better sound quality in the form of double the sampling rate compared to Apple for both music (96 kHz instead of 48) and voice calls (32 kHz instead of 16). Qualcomm also claims 45% lower latency compared to Apple. Devices bearing the Snapdragon Sound branding must pass a series of quality, performance, and interoperability tests in a new facility Qualcomm has established in Taiwan. The first Snapdragon Sound devices should hit the market "before summer".
Clipper Card — the universal transit fare card for all 24 San Francisco Bay Area transit agencies — will be supported in Apple Pay and Google Pay digital wallets "this spring". Residents and visitors will be able to add a stored-value Clipper card to their digital wallet and tap their phones to ride transit, replacing a physical Clipper card. The system differs from those in cities (such as New York and Chicago) offering "open" fare payments made directly from a credit or debit card in Google Pay / Apple Pay. Apple has launched a page where people can sign up to be notified when Clipper is available for iPhone and Apple Watch. Separately, Google announced a new feature of Google Maps that lets users buy and present transit fare payments — including Clipper, when available — without leaving the Maps app, as part of turn-by-turn directions that include transit.
Google today announced a new video editor as part of Google Photos. The company also announced that some advanced, AI-powered features previously available only on Pixel phones will now be available on more phones, but only for Google One subscribers. The new video editor adds features to "crop, change perspective, add filters, apply granular edits (including brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth) and more." This is in addition to existing features to trim, stabilize and rotate videos. It's available now in Google Photos for iOS, and "will be rolling out to most Android users in the coming weeks". In the coming months, iOS users will also get the revamped photo editor that rolled out to Android users late last year. Google One subscribers on Android will also get several new features that were previously restricted to Pixel phones. In the coming days, those users will see an updated Google Photos app that includes Portrait Blur, Portrait Light, and new "Dynamic" and "sky" filters. All of these new feature use machine learning to apply advanced effects in a realistic way to any photo, including those captured without depth information. Google One memberships start at $2/month.
Google Fi today announced that its free VPN service is exiting beta for Android, and will "roll out ... to iPhone starting this spring." The VPN service protects against IP address tracking and hacking while using unsecure Wi-Fi networks.
Visible just launched a variety of new service offerings and revamped plans. Customers with compatible phones can now access Verizon's 5G network at no extra cost. The company's unlimited voice service now includes calling to Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Visible also now supports phone activation via eSIM on iPhones launched in 2018 (Xs and Xr) and newer, "with Android devices coming soon". Finally, the company has tweaked its Party Pay plans and added a referral program. Whereas Party Pay shared plans were previously capped at four people, they are now unlimited, with groups of four or more paying $25/month each. The company has also launched a community forum to help people find Party Pay groups to join. (The company does not require that groups be related, and in fact nearly one third of all customers using Party Pay are in a group with someone they don't know.) The referral program reduces your bill to $5 the month after you refer a new customer.
A beta version of iOS 14.5 introduces the ability for Face ID to unlock your phone even when wearing a lower-face mask, provided the user is also wearing an Apple watch. Face ID by itself offers reduced security in this new mask mode, but the presence of an authenticated, unlocked Apple Watch provides enough of an extra security signal to compensate. In the beta version currently available, the feature must be enabled manually in Settings. The beta software was first made available to developers on Feb. 1st, then to consumers on Friday, Feb. 5th. Apple has not announced when iOS 14.5 will exit beta testing.
Beeper is a new $10/month app and service that unifies over a dozen different messaging services into one unified, searchable chat interface. It supports iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Android Messages (SMS), Telegram, Twitter, Slack, Instagram, Skype, Discord, Signal, and more. It's available for iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows, and Linux. The service supports iMessage via one of two "bridge" methods: 1. the Beeper app running on a Mac that is always connected to the internet, or 2. "we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage". Beeper offers an open API called Matrix that enables bots, extensions, plugins, and integrations. The various "bridges" that power Beeper are open-source, enabling security audits as well as free self-hosting.
Twitter is making it easier to share Tweets on competing social networks Instagram and Snapchat with an enhanced "share" option for each Tweet within the Twitter app. The feature will require fewer steps than taking a screenshot, and give the resulting story post a more polished look and — in the case of Snapchat — a link back to the original Tweet. The feature is available now in Twitter for iOS to share to Snapchat Stories. Sharing to Instagram Stories will be tested with a limited number of users in the coming days.
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.
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.
Google today launched a major revamp of its Google Pay app with a new interface and several major new features. Instead of a stack of cards and list of transactions, the new interface centers around the people and businesses you exchange money with, with a conversation-style interface for each person, group, and business. Threads for groups include a simple "split bill" tool. New built-in tools make it easier to order food at over 100,000 restaurants, buy gas at over 30,000 gas stations, and pay for parking in over 400 cities. Participating retailers can also offer cash-back rewards and discounts that automatically appear within the app. A new Insights tab lets you explore your finances and spending in several ways, including a new search feature. It can search not only Google Pay transactions, but also — with your permission — all of your bank accounts and credit cards, as well as receipts from both Gmail and your photos. For example, you can search for "food last month" and it will show all relevant transactions as well as a total dollar amount. The new Google Pay app is available now for both Android and iOS. Finally, Google also announced Plex, "a new mobile-first bank account". Plex includes checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. You can choose which FDIC-backed financial institution backs your account, but the Plex interface is provided by Google, within the Google Pay app. It includes tools to help you set saving goals. 11 banks and credit unions have committed to participating in Plex, and a waitlist is now available for Plex accounts backed by Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Plex is very similar to Samsung Money by SoFi, which launched in July.
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.
Google Photos will no longer offer unlimited free backup of new "High quality" content from non-Pixel phones starting June 1, 2021. Since launch, Google Photos — available for both iOS and Android — has been unique in offering this free lifetime service. Google's definition of "High quality" means compressed copies of photos up to 16 megapixel and videos up to 1080p resolution. "High quality" content uploaded to the service before the deadline will be grandfathered and kept in the cloud for free, for life, without counting against storage limits. But starting June 2021, all new "High quality" content will be treated the same as Original quality content, counting against the 15 GB total storage available with every free Google account, shared among all Google services. Users can buy more storage with a Google One subscription. The cheapest plan offers 100 GB for $2/month. All existing Google Pixel phones are exempt from this change, and will continue to enjoy free, unlimited High quality media storage. Google says the average user will still be able to store about three years of photos with a free account, but the company also launched a simple tool offering a personalized estimate. Google is also changing its storage policies across all services. Google may delete content for a particular account/service if the user is inactive or over the storage limit for two years. The company also says it will "notify you multiple times before we attempt to remove any content so you have ample opportunities to take action." Users can easily manage storage and delete old files to make space using the Google One app.
Google has added a VPN feature to its Google One service at the 2 TB and higher levels, which start at $10/month or $100/year. The feature will roll out in the "coming weeks" for Android, and will come to other platforms including iOS in "coming months". Like any VPN, it offers extra security when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or any untrusted internet connection.
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.
- 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 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.
Amazon today announced Luna, the company's entry into the new field of cloud-based gaming. The service will be available on a variety of platforms, including iOS and Android. Starting today, gamers can sign up to request an invitation for the "early access" period that starts next month. It will cost $6/month during "early access". Final launch date and pricing were not announced. The iOS version will be available from the start and runs as a web app, thereby sidestepping the App Store policies that have tripped up Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud on iOS. The Android version will be available in a few weeks. Although gamers can use their own Bluetooth game controllers, Luna works best with the official Luna controller, which runs $50. Like Google's Stadia controller, it connects directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi, offering lower latency. The Luna controller has built-in Alexa, which can launch games by voice, for example. Luna offers Twitch integration, and makes it easy to pause a game and pick up right where you left off on another device. Luna will offer several different "channels" of games that users can subscribe to individually. Luna+ is the channel included with a basic subscription, and will include around 50 titles at some point during the Early Access period, with more added over time. The initial slate will include Resident Evil 7, Control, Tacoma, Rez Infinite, Metro Exodus, The Sexy Brutale, Overcooked! 2, and more. Ubisoft will also offer its own channel for Luna, also with around 50 titles.
Adobe has released a new version of its free Acrobat Reader app for iOS and Android that can intelligently reformat the content of PDF files to make it easier to read on a mobile phone. The new feature, called Liquid Mode, uses Sensei, Adobe's AI engine. It converts all content into a single column the width of the phone screen, eliminating the need to zoom in or scroll sideways. All text is automatically made large enough to read easily, and also made searchable. The tool also automatically identifies headings and sections, auto-generating a table-of-contents menu for navigating longer documents. Controls also let the user adjust the font size and line spacing.
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have officially launched ZenKey, a new way quickly log in to apps that leverages the authentication that happens automatically every time your phone connects to the cellular network. Apps must be updated to support ZenKey, and developers have the option of enabling ZenKey as the primary login, or as the second token in two-factor logins, replacing PIN codes sent my text message, for example. Customers must also download the ZenKey app (available for both iOS and Android) to start using ZenKey. Currently, only a handful of apps support ZenKey login, (mostly the carriers' own apps,) but carriers hope more apps will add support.
Apple has concluded the beta testing period for its latest OSes. The final version of iOS 14 will be available tomorrow, September 16th.
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 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.