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Apple Updates iTunes Connect Design, Rolls Out TestFlight App

iTunes Connect

iTunes Connect

Last night, Apple launched the redesign of the iTunes Connect developer portal first previewed at WWDC in June. With an iOS 7-inspired design reminiscent of web apps for iCloud.com, the updated iTunes Connect offers developers and content producers easier access to information about items they made available on the iTunes Store and App Store.

One of the most notable announcements at WWDC was Analytics, a new set of data that will allow developers to monitor how users are discovering their apps and using them; new analytics will be opt-in for users, who will be able to decide to share anonymous analytics data or not.

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Withings Announces ‘Home’ Smart HD Camera with HomeKit Support

Withings, makers of popular smart devices such as the Smart Body Analyzer and Pulse activity tracker, announced Home earlier today. Featuring a variety of environmental sensors with field capture of 135 degrees and HD recording up to 1080p, Withings Home will allow users to monitor their home from an iPhone or iPad through a dedicated app, optionally using the Home device as a 2-way video calling solution.

Compatible with iOS 7 and above and carrying support for Bluetooth Low Energy, Withings Home will be capable of detecting motion and alerting users through push notifications sent to the free Monitor app for iOS. According to Withings, Home will recognize different types of activities such as pets moving or a crying child; each time a "noteworthy event" is registered by the camera, a 5-second video and a photo are saved for two days in a user's Home Diary, where they can be downloaded or kept in the cloud for a longer period of time by purchasing a subscription plan.

In addition to a VOC sensor to measure indoor air quality, Withings confirmed that Home will support HomeKit, a new framework in iOS 8 to access and control smart accessories in a user's home. Announced at WWDC 2014, HomeKit will let apps discover HomeKit-enabled devices, configure them, and assign them to groups (like "Living room" or "Kitchen"); HomeKit devices will also benefit from Siri integration and a unified API for developers to interact with. Withings Home will also work with IFTTT's existing Withings channel, which lets Withings products communicate with web services and apps that feature IFTTT integration.

Home will retail at $219.95 and is launching "soon" according to Withings. You can watch a promo video below.

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Rdio Focuses on Freemium Model, Updates Apps with New Design

In the face of growing competition in the streaming music market, Rdio, a four-year-old service that charges for online subscriptions, has moved into a new phase with abundant free music — as well as free music’s ever-present companion, advertising.

“What we’ve learned collectively over the last few years,” said Anthony Bay, Rdio’s chief executive, “is that the most successful models are freemium models.”

As The New York Times reports today, Rdio has done well over the past few years, but it is clear that other competitors (most notably Spotify) have been doing far better by placing a strong focus on a freemium business model. As a result, today's updates to Rdio aren't much of a surprise to me, but I'm glad they have also taken the time to once again refine the design of their apps.

For those curious, the free version of Rdio will be available in 20 countries initially and will allow unlimited access to stations. Rdio Unlimited will unlock the ability to play albums and playlists, as well as remove ads for $9.99.

Rdio’s move is a result of a deal with the radio network Cumulus Media that was announced a year ago, in which Cumulus was granted an equity stake of at least 15 percent in Rdio’s parent company, Pulser Media, in exchange for providing content and promotional services that Cumulus says are worth $75 million over five years.

The new design is not a major departure from their existing designs, but rather a welcome refinement. For example the new apps get rid of the confusing to distinguish 'Heavy Rotation' and 'Top Charts' sections and are instead replaced with a far more understandable section called 'Trending'. There is also a new 'Browse' section which has curated Rdio stations into various categories including 'Top Stations', 'Aussie Hits', 'Alternative' and 'Fitness'.

The other big new feature isn't actually available yet, but there will also be a 'Home' tab which promises to be "an evolving feed of personalized music stories that surfaces the best of Rdio in a single destination". It'll be built from what you listen to, your friends listening activity, recommendations from Rdio, and other factors. On the whole it seems like a more advanced music discovery tool than the currently available 'Recommendations' page, which is mostly based on your music listening habits.


App Store Review Guidelines Updated to Consider New iOS 8 Features

To take into account of new iOS 8 and Yosemite features including app extensions, HealthKit, HomeKit and TestFlight, Apple has this week updated their App Store Review Guidelines for developers. The bulk of the new features are covered in the new guidelines in sections 25 to 28.

Whilst the new guidelines cover everything from requiring keyboard extensions to provide a number keyboard type and prohibiting HealthKit apps from writing false or inaccurate data, a majority of the new rules focus heavily on protecting the privacy of users. For example, keyboard extensions and apps using HealthKit or HomeKit must provide a privacy policy, apps using HealthKit or HomeKit cannot use data for advertising or marketing purposes and any apps using the HealthKit framework cannot store any health data in iCloud.

Furthermore, Apple has slightly changed one of its introduction dot-points to specifically warn developers not to create "plain creepy" apps.

We have over a million Apps in the App Store. If your App doesn't do something useful, unique or provide some form of lasting entertainment, or if your app is plain creepy, it may not be accepted.

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Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant on Your Smart Phone [Sponsor]

Automatic is a smart driving assistant that plugs into your car's data port and lets you connect your smartphone (either iPhone or Android) with your car. By  talking to your car’s onboard computer and using your smartphone’s GPS and data plan to upgrade your car's capabilities, Automatic will allow you to easily diagnose your engine light, never forget where you parked your car, and save hundreds of dollars on gas.

Automatic learns your driving habits and gives you suggestions through subtle audio cues to drive smarter and stop wasting gas. Thanks to a map view available on your phone, Automatic can display a trip timeline after every driving session, showing you how you're doing with a Drive Score; the app can even track local gas prices and tell you how much you're spending.

In case of engine problems, Automatic can decipher what the "check engine" light means and show you a description of the issue with a possible solution. And thanks to a feature called Crash Alert, Automatic can detect many types of serious crashes and automatically alert local authorities as well as your loved ones when you can't.

Automatic is currently available in the US for iPhone and Android devices, with a 45-day return policy and free shipping in 2 business days. Automatic retails at $99.95 with no subscription fees.

MacStories readers can go to automatic.com/macstories to get 20% off and buy Automatic at just $80. For more information, check out Automatic's website.

Our thanks to Automatic for sponsoring MacStories this week.






iTunes Festival Schedule Updated with New Acts, Apple TV Channel Available Again

The eighth annual iTunes Festival is on again from September 1st, and in anticipation of the month-long festival, Apple has again updated the schedule with new musical acts. The schedule is now mostly complete, with headline acts announced for all but two of the thirty days. Some of the recent additions have included deadmau5, Ed Sheeran, Placebo and Mary J. Blige amongst others. You can view the full iTunes Festival schedule here.

Apple also appears to have made the iTunes Festival channel available on the Apple TV once again overnight. The channel will let you view performances live and on demand during the festival, as well as view the full schedule. The other way to watch the iTunes Festival is through the iOS app or iTunes.