iOS was created by Apple, and is used exclusively on Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
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.
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.