Graham Spencer

802 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university and connoisseur 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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11 Million Customers Sign up for Apple Music Trial, App Store Has a Record July

Apple's Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine spoke to USA Today reporter Marco della Cava about Apple Music's early numbers:

One month after unveiling its new streaming music service, Apple has locked in 11 million trial members, company executives tell USA TODAY.

"We're thrilled with the numbers so far," says Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, adding that of that sum 2 million have opted for the more lucrative family plan at $14.99 a month for up to six people.

Whilst there are still 2 months of the Apple Music free trial period before user's credit cards start being charged, there's little doubt that those numbers represent a solid launch. For those curious about how those numbers compare to other services, Spotify announced in early June this year that they had "more than 20 million subscribers and more than 75 million active users".

Cue also revealed to USA Today that July was a record breaking month for the App Store:

July also brought a fiscal high-water mark for the company's App Store, which did a record $1.7 billion in transactions, "with particular momentum in China," says Cue. That brings the total amount paid to app developers to $33 billion, up from $25 billion at the end of 2014.


Apple Pay Now Available for UK HSBC and First Direct Customers

HSBC and First Direct customers in the UK can now use Apple Pay, two weeks after Apple Pay launched in the UK. Both banks had been expected to support Apple Pay when it launched in the UK (HSBC even accidentally leaked the launch date), and both were listed as a participating bank right up until the Apple Pay launch date, when HSBC revealed that it had to delay Apple Pay support due to "some issues".

HSBC and First Direct join several other financial institutions including Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express, Nationwide, Natwest, Santander, and Ulster Bank in supporting Apple Pay in the UK. Out of the four big banks in the UK, two now support Apple Pay (HSBC & Royal Bank of Scotland), with the other two (Lloyds Bank and Barclays) committed to support it in the future.

Apple Pay support from HSBC seems to be limited at launch to those who have a personal bank account with a Visa Debit Card. For more information on setting up and using Apple Pay, see this Apple Support article.

‘Apps at a Tap’: Apple Posts Three New Apple Watch Ads Focusing on Travel, Fitness and Music Apps

Apple tonight debuted three new ads for the Apple Watch, each featuring the new tagline of 'Apps at a tap'. Unlike Apple's most recent Apple Watch ads from earlier this month which showed the Apple Watch in use by people in real world situations, today's ads (which are brief 15 second clips) simply feature quick demos of various Apple Watch apps.

The three ads each have a different theme, with one focused on travel apps, another on fitness apps and a third on music apps. Some of the apps featured include Uber, Expedia, WaterMinder, Shazam and StubHub.

You can view the new ads below the break or on YouTube: Travel Apps, Fitness Apps, Music Apps.

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Tracking TV Shows with iShows 2: Welding Great Design with Extensive Customization

I watch a lot of TV – almost certainly too much TV. Years ago I used to keep track of the TV shows I watched mentally and through a TV guide from the Saturday newspaper. But as I started to watch more TV it became harder to keep track of when shows air. Fortunately, I started to use iPhone TV tracker apps, which make it effortless to keep track of your favorite TV shows. I’ve probably used 4 or 5 different apps for a solid period of time, and this February I switched to what I think is the latest and greatest TV tracker app: iShows 2, which officially launches today in the App Store.

I had briefly used the original iShows app, but I never permanently switched to it. Whilst the design was quite good, it had this very odd layout that left a gap on the side of the screen which (as petty as it sounds) I couldn’t get over. Somewhat embarrassingly the other issue I encountered was that I never discovered some of the gestures, without which the app was a lot harder to use. Some of those gestures persist in iShows 2, and I’ll discuss them shortly.

Prior to switching to iShows 2 whilst it was in beta, I had been using iTV Shows for around a year. It never looked quite as good as iShows or TeeVee 3 (another popular and very pretty app), but I preferred the way iTV Shows worked. I’m still a fan of iTV Shows, but I’ve been convinced (after months of use) that iShows 2 is the better option for me.

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Gestimer: Effortlessly Set Timers on a Mac

When I think about what makes a great app, I don't think it needs to be packed full of every imaginable feature. It doesn't need to be as precisely and extensively engineered as Editorial or Tweetbot. A great app can just as easily be an app like Pedometer++ or Blink, apps which enable users to accomplish a specific task in a way that is delightful and useful. Which brings me to Gestimer, a Mac App that launched in late June.

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Apple Prevents App Store Reviews From Users on iOS 9 Betas

Within the last 12 hours Apple has modified the App Store to prevent users running "prerelease" software from leaving app reviews on the App Store. Now when a user running a beta version of iOS 9 tries to leave an app review, they will get the following error message:

This feature isn't available.
You can't write reviews while using a pre-release version of iOS.

However it appears that the change only applies to iOS 9, because users running OS X El Capitan can still post reviews on the Mac App Store.

The change should help end the annual frustration experienced by app developers when users running beta versions of iOS discovered a third party app wasn't compatible with the beta software and then left a 1-star rating on the App Store. Poor reviews on the App Store can hurt sales, and developers often can't do anything to fix the problem because they can't submit software built for the new versions of iOS whilst it remains in beta, and the bug could be one for Apple to fix, not the developer.

As Federico wrote earlier this month:

In this day and age of high competition and over 1.5 million apps available, having negative reviews displayed on the app's product page is a problem for developers. But it gets worse when those negative reviews cite problems that developers can't fix yet. At that point, developers feel that it's not fair to receive a negative review for something that's completely out of their control. And when the livelihood of independent app markers is at stake, it's hard to argue aganst their sentiment of frustration and disappointment. There's nothing they can do to fix their app issues on betas of iOS and OS X and they can't respond directly to reviews on the App Store – and yet they're taking all the blame. This, every year, repeatedly for every beta of iOS and OS X, and it's possibly becoming more of a problem now that Apple has two public betas.

The problem of permitting app reviews from users on beta software was always a problem, but it risked being a much bigger issue this year because it is the first year that Apple has begun offering public betas of a major iOS release.

Apple Posts New iPhone Advert: “Amazing Apps”

Apple's third advert featuring the new "If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone" tagline was today posted online. The new advert, "Amazing Apps", focuses on highlighting the huge amount of apps ("over one and a half million") available on the App Store, and the notion that apps on the iPhone are "hand-picked" and "awe-inspiring".

This is an iPhone, and it comes with something amazing. An App Store with over one and a half million of the best apps available. That's over one and a half million, hand-picked, awe-inspiring, just plain surprising, who knew a phone could do that, apps. If it's not an iPhone, it's not an iPhone.

You can watch the new advert below the break, or on YouTube.

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Apple Releases New iPod touch, New Colors for Entire iPod Line

Apple this morning released an updated slate of iPods, featuring a big update to the internals of the iPod touch and updated colors for the entire line of iPods. The new iPods are available for purchase now on the Apple Online Store and Apple Retail Stores.

"iPod touch gives customers around the world access to Apple Music, the App Store and iOS, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, starting at just $199,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS Product Marketing. “With big advancements like the A8 chip and the 8 megapixel iSight camera, customers can experience next-level gameplay, take even more beautiful photos and enjoy their favorite music, TV shows and movies.”

The iPod touch can now be purchased in space gray, silver, gold, pink, blue, and red. The same new colors are available for the iPod nano and shuffle, also updated today with new colors but without changes in price or tech specs.

The new iPod touch now has an 8 megapixel rear camera, a big increase from the previous 5 megapixel camera. The internals have also been brought up to date with a 64-bit A8 processor and an M8 Motion chip to track steps and elevation. The iPod touch still starts at $199 for a 16 GB device, with the 32 GB model available at $249 and $299 for 64 GB, but there's also a new 128 GB model for $399. Today's update to the iPod touch is the first since Apple released the fifth generation iPod touch in October 2012.

Aside from the new colors, the iPod nano and iPod shuffle remain the same feature-wise, including the pre-iOS 7 style icons on the iPod nano. The iPod nano costs $149 and the iPod shuffle costs $49.

Apple Pay Launches Today in the UK

Update: Apple Pay is now available. But in a last minute change, Apple has removed HSBC and First Direct from its list of participating banks and they are now listed as "coming soon". We captured this image less than 24 hours ago which showed both these financial institutions as participating banks. One of our readers, Mitch got in contact with HSBC and they told him that support had been delayed by 2 weeks due to "some issues". We understand that HSBC and First Direct will support Apple Pay on July 24. One other minor change is that MBNA, which was previously listed as "coming soon" is now listed as a participating bank.

After weeks of speculation, The Telegraph reports that Apple Pay will be available today in the UK. The UK is the second country to support Apple Pay, following the initial launch in the United States in late October 2014. Earlier today, several users on Twitter began noticing Apple Pay setup screens on their iPhones, suggesting that Apple was getting ready to roll out the service.

The Telegraph quoted VP of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey:

“In America we’re not as advanced in using contactless as the UK, we’re only transitioning to chip and pin now,” she said. “Today there’s virtually no contactless from a card perspective - Apple Pay is the first contactless for the most part.”

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