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Putting Recent App Review Time Improvements in Visual Context

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

As many have noted this month, including Bloomberg, App Review has been processing app updates at a much quicker rate than usual. In the past week the average time for an iOS app to be approved by App Review has fallen to just 1.5 days. Apple itself doesn't publish times, but there is unofficial crowd-sourced data at AppReviewTimes.com.

Dave Verwer of AppReviewTimes.com was kind enough to share the raw data with MacStories, and we produced the above and below charts which provide some visual context and demonstrate just how out of the ordinary the recent improvement in App Review time is. It is too early to say conclusively, but given the extent of the reduction (and the sudden nature of it), I think it is fairly safe to guess that Apple has made some internal changes in order to improve the speed of App Review.

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Data courtesy of AppReviewTimes.com

Earlier this year we published an extensive survey which detailed a number of frustrations that developers had with App Review, and suggestions for how Apple could improve App Review. At the top of that list of developer frustrations was the slow speed of App Review, with 78% saying it was bad or terrible.


Earnest: Take Control of Your Student Loans [Sponsor]

Did you know you can refinance your student loans, save thousands, and make your new loan incredibly easy to manage? Our sponsor this week, Earnest, has created the most flexible refinancing experience to help financially responsible grads take control of their student loans, at earnest.com.

Their product helps clients save an average of almost $18,000, with variable rates starting as low as 2.13% APR. Earnest never charges any fees — so no fees for origination, and no penalties for paying off your loan quickly or changing your terms down the line. They let you customize your payment to match your budget and timeline, and their simple dashboard makes it easy to manage your loan – even from your phone.

Earnest can do this because they’re a new kind of lender — one that looks at things traditional banks don’t, like your savings habits and earnings potential — to give you the lowest possible rates. And even better, their expert in-house customer service team is available via phone, email, and chat for the life of your loan.

It takes less than two minutes to find out how much you could save, and they even have a special offer for our readers: get a $150 bonus when you refinance through earnest.com/macstories.

Don’t get stuck paying more than you have to — check out earnest.com/macstories and take two minutes to see your personalized rate estimate today.

Our thanks to Earnest for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Celebrates Chinese Music With GarageBand Update

Apple issued a press release earlier today, announcing a GarageBand update which adds Chinese instruments and sounds:

Apple today announced an update to GarageBand that celebrates the rich history of Chinese music with new instruments and extensive Chinese language localization throughout the app. Building on GarageBand’s extensive collection of sounds, this update adds traditional Chinese instruments — the pipa, erhu and Chinese percussion — along with 300 Apple-created Chinese musical loops, giving users the power to tap into their creativity and make beautiful Chinese-inspired music right on their iOS device or Mac. GarageBand for iOS users also get two new Chinese templates for Live Loops, and new sharing options to popular Chinese social networks, so they can easily share their music creations with friends and followers across QQ and Youku.

There's also a video of Tim Cook and Chinese musician JJ Lin making some music with these new Chinese instruments in GarageBand.

There's no doubt that this is a very nice update to GarageBand which will be appreciated by many millions of users in China and around the world. But what I find even more interesting is that Apple took the time to publicize the update in a press release. It's yet another example of Apple's strong efforts in courting Chinese users and the Chinese government as the region becomes even more important to Apple's future.

Below the break I've listed every single press release from Apple since the beginning of May last year and you'll notice that five press releases are dedicated to China-specific announcements (in bold). The only other country-specific announcements are the UK Apple Pay announcement and Europe's first iOS App Development Center in Italy.

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Apple Releases iTunes 12.4 and OS X 10.11.5

Apple released iTunes 12.4 today with various design enhancements. iTunes 12.4 brings the sidebar back to the left side of the app when you are navigating your library of media, whether that’s music, movies, TV shows, apps, podcasts, or audiobooks. The sidebar is hidden when you navigate Apple Music, the App Store, and the iTunes Store.

Apple has also redesigned the media picker that sits just above the sidebar. Previously the picker consisted of a row of icons representing each media type and could be edited to include only the media types you wanted to show. The new media picker is a dropdown menu that like its predecessor is editable, and adds the name of each type of media next to its icon. Music is the one media type that cannot be removed from the media picker. iTunes 12.4 also includes simplified menus.

It is not clear from the release notes whether iTunes 12.4 includes fixes related to a recently-reported bug that deleted music files from iTunes in rare circumstances that Apple has been unable to reproduce.

Today’s updates also include a minor revision to OS X. Version 10.11.5 of OS X “improves the stability, compatibility and security” and addresses a handful of enterprise-related issues.


Google Releases Gboard, a Search Keyboard for iOS

Despite some shortcomings in the way iOS handles third-party keyboards, they seem to have taken off recently. Just in the last month Microsoft’s Garage project released the Hub keyboard and Word Flow. Now, Google’s getting into the keyboard game with Gboard, which lets you search Google for all sorts of information.

I’ve only been playing around with Gboard for a short time, but the results have been impressive. Gboard solves a common problem on mobile devices – sharing information. Whether you’re using Twitter, email, or a chat client, it’s not uncommon to have to leave the app you are using to find the information you want to share, whether that’s a location, a GIF, a photo, or even something like a stock price or the weather.

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Apple Shortening App Review Times

Apple appears to be shortening review times for new app and update submissions to the App Store. According to data collected by independent app review tracking website AppReviewTimes and as reported by Bloomberg today, review times have approached 2 days as opposed to the 7-10 days it took Apple to review apps in the past.

Read more


Instagram Says Goodbye to Skeuomorphism with New Icon, Redesign

Long after Apple abandoned skeuomorphism with the introduction of iOS 7, Instagram held onto the past with its Kodak Instamatic-inspired icon. It had been so long since Instagram’s icon was updated that you could count on a flurry of snarky jokes on Twitter every time the app was updated without an icon redesign.

Today, nearly three years since iOS 7 was introduced at WWDC in 2013, Instagram has unveiled a redesigned icon, not only for its flagship app, but also for Layout, Boomerang, and Hyperlapse.

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Quip Launches Slack Integration Featuring ‘Sign in with Slack’

Since Google ended up offering one of the worst productivity suites on the iPad, we've moved several of our Relay FM show documents and MacStories research material to Quip.

Quip is a powerful alternative to Google Docs and Sheets with proper support for iOS 9 and multitasking on the iPad Pro. Despite some minor issues (the Apple Pencil can't scroll or select text in the app; there's no search in spreadsheets on iOS), I work better with Quip on iOS because they respect the platform and they take advantage of the latest iOS tech.

It's unsurprising, then, that I'm excited about Quip's integration with another service I use on a daily basis – Slack. Starting today, you'll be able to create Quip documents in Slack and mirror notifications from Quip to Slack conversations.

Spark ideas in Slack conversations and give them structure in Quip docs where you can organize, discuss, and evolve your team’s most important work. Use the Slack slash-command to create a new Quip doc where things can really take off.

And:

You won’t lose track of those groundbreaking, killer, disruptive ideas even if they’re happening in both the Slack channel and a Quip docu- ment at the same time. Any @mentions, messages, and edits to your Quip docs will in- stantly post to Slack so you can easily follow along and jump in on the action.

I haven't been able to test these features prior to today's launch, but I'm interested. I'm already mirroring notifications from a bunch of services (such as RSS and GitHub) into Slack channels, and adding Quip document status to the mix could be useful.

Also new today: Slack is rolling out a new 'Sign In with Slack' feature to quickly start using a service/app with your Slack identity and automatically get people from your Slack team on it.

Here's the Slack blog with an example for Quip:

When a user signs up for your app using Sign in with Slack, they’ll be instantly connected to their teammates within your product. For customers, this is an invisible but delightful feature. It exemplifies our mission in action — making people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive — by keeping teams effortlessly in sync.
[...]
Upon signing in with Slack you are automatically connected to your Slack team within Quip. No extra team creation required — your team already exists within Quip in one fell swoop. From there, you can use Slack and Quip to supercharge the way that you brainstorm and create documents with your team.

As the owner of a Slack team, I'm also eager to take this for a spin.


Earnest: Take Control of Your Student Loans [Sponsor]

Did you know you can refinance your student loans, save thousands, and make your new loan incredibly easy to manage? Our sponsor this week, Earnest, has created the most flexible refinancing experience to help financially responsible grads take control of their student loans, at earnest.com.

Their product helps clients save an average of almost $18,000, with variable rates starting as low as 2.13% APR. Earnest never charges any fees — so no fees for origination, and no penalties for paying off your loan quickly or changing your terms down the line. They let you customize your payment to match your budget and timeline, and their simple dashboard makes it easy to manage your loan – even from your phone.

Earnest can do this because they’re a new kind of lender — one that looks at things traditional banks don’t, like your savings habits and earnings potential — to give you the lowest possible rates. And even better, their expert in-house customer service team is available via phone, email, and chat for the life of your loan.

It takes less than two minutes to find out how much you could save, and they even have a special offer for our readers: get a $150 bonus when you refinance through earnest.com/macstories.

Don’t get stuck paying more than you have to — check out earnest.com/macstories and take two minutes to see your personalized rate estimate today.

Our thanks to Earnest for sponsoring MacStories this week.