Graham Spencer

872 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Google Paid Apple $1 Billion to Keep Search Bar on iPhone

Joel Rosenblatt, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google Inc. is paying Apple Inc. a hefty fee to keep its search bar on the iPhone.

Apple received $1 billion from its rival in 2014, according to a transcript of court proceedings from Oracle Corp.’s copyright lawsuit against Google. The search engine giant has an agreement with Apple that gives the iPhone maker a percentage of the revenue Google generates through the Apple device, an attorney for Oracle said at a Jan. 14 hearing in federal court.

It's not surprising at all that Google is paying Apple for the benefit of being the default search engine on iOS, but this is the first time it has been confirmed, and a dollar figure provided. But it is also an awkward revelation for Apple, which has recently started to more aggressively position itself as the company that protects its user's privacy. Remember Tim Cook's note on "Apple's commitment to your privacy"?

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

Apple's subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) privacy dig at Google looks a bit absurd and hypocritical in light of this court transcript. Apple may not build a profile on its users to sell to advertisers, but it lets Google do that (by default) and then profits from Google's actions.

Unsurprisingly, Google and Apple weren't happy about the disclosure by an Oracle attorney and sought to seal and redact the transcript. As Bloomberg reports;

The specific financial terms of Google’s agreement with Apple are highly sensitive to both Google and Apple,” Google said in its Jan. 20 filing. “Both Apple and Google have always treated this information as extremely confidential.”

The transcript vanished without a trace from electronic court records at about 3 p.m. Pacific standard time with no indication that the court ruled on Google’s request to seal it.

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Remote Buddy Display: Control Your Mac From Your Apple TV Using The Siri Remote

It's still the very early days for tvOS and the App Store on the new Apple TV, but we're starting to see some really neat apps for the new platform. Some of my early favorites (aside from the obvious content-delivery apps like Netflix and HBO Now) include Plex, VLC, GIFtv, and now Remote Buddy Display.

Remote Buddy Display is an app that enables you to wirelessly mirror your Mac onto your TV. What differentiates it from AirPlay Mirroring, built into OS X, is that you can also control your Mac, using just the Apple TV's Siri Remote. Provided you have installed Remote Buddy onto your Mac, you can take control of your Mac via your Apple TV simply by launching the Remote Buddy Display app on your Apple TV.

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Facebook’s WhatsApp Is Now Free

WhatsApp announced earlier today that it would be removing its annual subscription fee (US$0.99 per year, after the first year). From Re/code's report of the announcement:

"It really doesn’t work that well,” Koum [WhatsApp founder] said Monday, speaking at the DLD conference in Munich. He noted that while a buck a year might not sound like much, access to credit cards is not ubiquitous. “We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.”

Until now, WhatsApp has been free for the first year and 99 cents for additional years. It will stop charging subscription fees immediately but it will likely be a few weeks before the payments infrastructure is completely out of all versions of the app. And, in case you were wondering, you won’t be able to get back your buck if you have already paid for this year.

WhatsApp will stay ad-free, and instead the company will begin testing new tools that will enable WhatsApp users to communicate with businesses and organizations. The WhatsApp blog post about this announcement gives the example of being able to communicate with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent. Which, as Re/code's report points out, is a familiar strategy:

It’s the same idea behind Facebook Messenger, the company’s other standalone messaging service. With Messenger, Facebook already offers users the chance to chat with businesses, and it’s building out other features, like payments or the ability to hail a ride through Uber.

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VLC Now Available for Apple TV: Our First Impressions

VLC is now available for the Apple TV. Just like every other version of VLC, the Apple TV version aims to play video files and streams in "their native formats without conversions". Felix Kühne, lead iOS developer for VLC, writes on his blog:

Today, we are proud to announce VLC on the Apple TV. It’s a full port of VLC media player combined with platform specific features.

VLC for Apple TV integrates with a plethora of devices and services on your local network and includes a custom way of casting files directly to the TV from your other computers using a web browser!

I was able to test the VLC Apple TV app for a few hours earlier today, and whilst it is early days yet, I am pretty impressed at what the VLC team has been able to accomplish. Jump the break for all the details and screenshots.

You can get VLC by searching for it on the Apple TV App Store.

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Apple Doesn’t Have Accurate Apple News Reader Statistics

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has mistakenly been underestimating the number of readers using Apple News and providing those inaccurate numbers to publishers:

Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said the company missed the error as it focused on other aspects of the product. The company didn’t explain how the problem occurred or say exactly when it might be rectified.

“We’re in the process of fixing that now, but our numbers are lower than reality,” he said. “We don’t know what the right number is,” but he added that it was better to undercount than overcount traffic.

A curious admission from Apple, particularly given that the issue has not been fixed yet. No details are given about the scale of the miscalculation, so it's unclear as to whether this will result in a minor adjustment or significant adjustment in reader statistics.

Executives from Apple, including Mr. Cue, met with publishers late last year to discuss the product and address concerns. Mr. Cue said Apple will continue to spend a lot of time getting feedback from publishers.

Two months ago there were a few reports, including this one from Digiday, which noted that publishers were "underwhelmed" and "dissapointed" by Apple News, and the reader numbers.

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Petition for Apple to Keep Headphone Jack Reaches 200,000 Signatures

There's a petition on SumOfUs.org, calling on Apple to keep the standard headphone jack on the iPhone, following more reports that Apple is planning on removing it with the next iPhone.

This is right out of the Apple corporate playbook. A few years ago it swapped out the original iPod-dock connector with a new one, making countless cords, cables and chargers obsolete.

Apple plays up its green credentials, but the truth is that Apple only invested in renewable energy, and began phasing out toxic chemicals when public pressure became too strong to ignore. People power did it before, and we can do it again.

Tell Apple to keep the standard headphone jack and ditch planned obsolescence!

Look, this is a ridiculous and hysterical petition which blows the situation completely out of proportion. But having said that, the fact that this petition (on a website I've never heard of before) has exceeded 200,000 signatures in just a single day just goes to show how big a task Apple has if it does decide to remove the headphone jack with this year's iPhone (remember, these are just rumors for now).

Last month, when these rumors first started circulating, I took the time to document some of my own thoughts about how Apple could minimize the frustration of consumers – as well as explaining why it will be a more painful transition than the 30-pin to Lightning switch, and some other tangential questions that this scenario raises. I don't want to rehash it all again here, but here's a snippet:

In essence, I think Apple should do three things. Firstly, acknowledge the trade-off Apple have made and the frustration some customers may feel. Secondly, clearly enunciate the benefits of switching away from the 3.5mm audio jack to the Lightning connector and Bluetooth audio. And thirdly, make the customer's transition away from the 3.5mm audio jack as painless as possible. I'll leave the first two up to Apple's marketing team, but I do have some thoughts on the third.

Who knows if these rumors will even turn out to be true, but there's an awful lot of smoke already. But even if it doesn't happen with this year's iPhone, it will inevitably happen – and when it does, expect an almighty backlash. The real question is how many steps Apple takes to reduce the pain to consumers.

(Via 9to5Mac)

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Record-Breaking Holiday Season for the App Store

Apple Press Release:

In the two weeks ending January 3, customers spent over $1.1 billion on apps and in-app purchases, setting back-to-back weekly records for traffic and purchases. January 1, 2016 marked the biggest day in App Store history with customers spending over $144 million. It broke the previous single-day record set just a week earlier on Christmas Day.

“The App Store had a holiday season for the record books. We are excited that our customers downloaded and enjoyed so many incredible apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV, spending over $20 billion on the App Store last year alone,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We're grateful to all the developers who have created the most innovative and exciting apps in the world for our customers. We can't wait for what's to come in 2016.”

These are some incredible numbers and unsurprisingly Apple dedicates a significant portion of the press release to spruiking how Apple creates and supports 1.9 million jobs in the U.S., 1.2 million jobs in Europe, and 1.4 million jobs in China.

Apple also details some of the most popular apps in the App Store:

Gaming, Social Networking and Entertainment were among the year's most popular App Store categories across Apple products, with customers challenging themselves to Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Trivia Crack and Heads Up!, and staying in touch with friends and family using Facebook Messenger, WeChat and Snapchat. Games and subscription apps dominated this year’s top grossing titles including Clash of Clans, Monster Strike, Game of War - Fire Age and Fantasy Westward Journey, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Match.

The launch of the all-new Apple TV® and Apple Watch® have paved the way for entirely new app experiences, changing how people consume content through their television and providing useful information at a glance on Apple’s most personal device yet. Since its launch in October, the new Apple TV’s most popular apps include Rayman Adventures, Beat Sports and HBO NOW. Chart-topping apps for Apple Watch owners include fitness apps Nike+ Running and Lifesum, and iTranslate and Citymapper in the Travel category.

Curiously (or perhaps not), there was nothing in the press release specifically about the Mac App Store – which today celebrates its fifth anniversary (more on that shortly).

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Apple’s App Charts: 2015 Data and Trends

For the past two years, Gilad Lotan (Chief Data Scientist at Betaworks) has been collecting data from Apple's App Store RSS feeds. Last week Lotan published nine interesting findings in a post on Medium – complete with over a dozen fascinating charts.

Here we can clearly see both weekly cycles in app usage, but also longer term trends throughout the year. Facebook Messenger, which relaunches as ‘Messenger’ in June, stays very close to the top position throughout the whole year, while both Viber and Tango start strong and slowly drifts down the chart. Find My Friends, on the other hand, displays high volatility — drastic changes in ranking, hence app engagement — especially throughout the summer months, and Twitter has clearly weekly cycles.

The best part of Lotan's story is definitely the accompanying charts, which really help tell the story alongside his commentary. But here's one more snippet to encourage you to read his whole article:

Here we look at new applications that not only reach a notable spot in the top chart, but also sustain it to some degree. As you can see below, a handful of these apps are music related: SongFlip (free music streaming), Musicloud (stream music from your Dropbox mp3's), and Free Music HQ (what it sounds). Moments is the Facebook app that helps you find yourself in friends’ photos, and Triller helps users make music videos on their phones. There are also two applications that help upload content into Snapchat. See a trend here? Media, media, and more rich media!

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