Posts in news

Apple Airs New iPad Pro Commercial, Asks “What’s a Computer?”

Apple posted a new iPad Pro commercial today, highlighting the nature of the device as a new kind of computer.

The ad follows a simple model: it showcases common usage of an iPad Pro with accessories, apps, and system features that aren't available on traditional computers. The video jumps from showing the Apple Pencil to mentioning the iPad's touch screen, the detachable Smart Keyboard, and apps like Office and Procreate that offer unique functionality on iOS 9. At the end, iMessage in Split View and Picture in Picture (also two features of last year's iPad-focused iOS 9 update) make an appearance.

In the narration of the ad, Apple explains:

Just when you think you know what a computer is, you see a keyboard that can just get out of the way. And a screen you can touch and even write on. When you see a computer that can do all that, it might just make you wonder – "Hey, what else can it do?"

The video closes with the tagline "Imagine what your computer could do if it was an iPad Pro".

The iPad Pro's new commercial comes at an interesting time for Apple. The company announced its latest iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as the "ultimate PC replacement" for Windows switchers, but its upcoming iOS 10 update only includes minor iPad changes – a departure from iOS 9's iPad breakthroughs. On the other hand, the iPad line recently returned to revenue growth after several quarters, likely thanks to the iPad Pro and its higher selling price.

Explaining to consumers how an iPad can be a PC replacement and, at the same time, a new take on desktop computing has always been one of Apple's toughest propositions. This new iPad Pro commercial seems to start from the basics again, asking what a computer truly is and how it can be different. It'll be interesting to see if a wider marketing campaign and more commercials will follow.

You can watch the video below.

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Apple Refreshes Emoji with iOS 10 Developer Beta 4

Apple refreshed over 100 of its emoji with iOS 10 beta 4, which was released earlier today. Some of the highlights include:

  • gender-diverse emoji, including female athletes and professionals;
  • a new rainbow flag;
  • new family options; and
  • a water pistol.

In addition to the new emoji, Apple redesigned many of its existing emoji. For instance, ‘grinning face with smiling eyes’ no longer looks like someone gritting their teeth. Many other emoji received a subtler update as a result of a new shading gradient.

Existing emoji were updated too.

Existing emoji were updated too.

It appears as though Apple is not quite finished with its emoji refresh because some of the approved Unicode 9 emoji, including the much anticipated bacon emoji, are not part of the iOS 10 beta 4 release.

Currently, the new, updated emoji are only available as part of the iOS 10 developer beta.


Australian Banks Ask Competition Regulator to Allow Collective Boycott of Apple Pay

In a rather extraordinary move, four of Australia's largest banks have written to Australia's competition regulator requesting permission to join together in a collective boycott whilst they negotiate with third-party mobile wallet services including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. The banks seeking permission include 3 of the 'Big 4' banks in Australia, being the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank, and Westpac Banking Corporation, but it also includes Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. Notably, the fourth bank in the 'Big 4' absent from this request is ANZ which reached an agreement with Apple earlier this year to launch Apple Pay for its customers.

In a lengthy, 121-page submission, the four banks have written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) requesting such permission for a period of three years. The banks also flag the possibility that the arrangement could be extended to other card issuers in Australia who wish to participate in the collective negotiation and boycott. The banks argue that the collective negotiations will be limited so as to encourage the introduction of mobile wallet and mobile payment services in Australia that best promotes competition, best practice standards, and efficiency and transparency.

At the heart of their request is the claim that third party wallet providers have the power to "impose highly restrictive terms and conditions". The banks point out that 90% of smartphones sold in Australia run iOS or Android, and Samsung is the leading manufacturer of Android phones. Therefore, they claim, Google has significant bargaining power over Android, Samsung over Galaxy phones, and Apple over iPhones. But it is Apple that the banks say "has particularly significant bargaining power in negotiations relating to Apple Pay due to its control of both a key operating system and key mobile hardware". They point out that in Australia the iPhone has a share of 41.2% of the market and Apple sells the two most popular phones on the market.

The banks also make the argument that Apple has refused to permit third-party apps from accessing the NFC functionality contained in recent iPhones, unlike other manufacturers. They argue that it is inconsistent with other hardware and software features Apple has introduced such as the iPhone camera, accelerometer, and Touch ID sensor which are available to third-parties. Unfortunately, the banks also cite concerns over high rates of fraud which have since been debunked as spurious and unrelated to Apple Pay. The final key arguments from the banks relate to regulatory asymmetry - the fact that banks are faced with regulatory obligations in relation to fees and charges, but third-party wallet providers are not.

The objective of the banks here is to reach a deal with Apple that would allow them to use their own mobile payment solution on top of the NFC technology in iPhones and other smartphones. That seems to me to be highly unlikely given Apple's desire to control its platform, grow its services revenue and protect the privacy of its users. Besides, Apple has already been willing to negotiate for nearly 2 years since Apple Pay launched, it seems likely that they are content with playing the long game. Nonetheless, this submission from the Australian banks will likely concern Apple if it is approved as it may inspire banks in other regions to undertake similar actions.

You can read the banks' full submission to the ACCC here.

[via @TapDownUnder]


Apple Music Buys ‘Carpool Karaoke’ TV Series

Cynthia Littleton writing for Variety:

Apple has emerged as the surprise buyer of the unscripted TV series based on the “Carpool Karaoke” segment of CBS’ “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”

The tech giant’s Apple Music service will distribute the series to its members in 100 countries worldwide. Apple sees the show as a natural vehicle to drive online activity for its streaming-music venture.

This is not Apple's first foray into original video content, and at this point it is quite clear that Apple is actively exploring the idea. For now at least, most of the focus (including today's announcement of Carpool Karaoke) has been on video content that can be part of Apple Music, but if these early projects go well it's likely that we'll see Apple's video ambitions expand in scope and scale. In the last year Apple has reportedly approved a scripted series from Dr. Dre, launched a music docu-series from Vice, partnered to produce the 'Planet of the Apps' reality competition series, and exclusively streamed a Taylor Swift concert from her 1989 world tour.

“We love music, and ‘Carpool Karaoke’ celebrates it in a fun and unique way that is a hit with audiences of all ages,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services. “It’s a perfect fit for Apple Music — bringing subscribers exclusive access to their favorite artists and celebrities who come along for the ride.”

It should be noted that James Corden, who has hosted the Carpool Karaoke segments as part of 'The Late Late Show' will not be hosting these standalone episodes of Carpool Karaoke for Apple - though he will be an executive producer. The new host and premiere date has not yet been announced, but Variety reports that production is expected to begin soon. Apple has licensed 16 episodes of Carpool Karaoke and they will air the episodes weekly to members of Apple Music in over 100 countries.

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Apple Q3 2016 Results: $42.4 Billion Revenue, 40 Million iPhones, 10 Million iPads Sold

Apple has just published their financial results for Q3 2016, which covered the three months from April to June 2015. The company posted revenue of $42.4 billion. The company sold 10 million iPads, 40 million iPhones, and 4 million Macs, earning a quarterly net profit of $7.8 billion.

“We are pleased to report third quarter results that reflect stronger customer demand and business performance than we anticipated at the start of the quarter,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We had a very successful launch of iPhone SE and we’re thrilled by customers’ and developers’ response to software and services we previewed at WWDC in June.”

“Our Services business grew 19 percent year-over-year and App Store revenue was the highest ever, as our installed base continued to grow and transacting customers hit an all-time record,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “We returned over $13 billion to investors through share repurchases and dividends, and we have now completed almost $177 billion of our $250 billion capital return program.”

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Google Tweaks the Design of Maps and Adds Areas of Interest

Google Maps is on the move. Just last week, Google added enhanced crowdsourcing features to Google Maps making it easier for users to edit map locations and add richer information about them. Now, Google has updated the design of its iOS, Android, and web apps to make them easier to explore visually too.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

Downtown San Francisco before and after.

The goal of the Google Maps update was to create a less cluttered look:

… as part of this update, we’ve removed elements that aren’t absolutely required (like road outlines). The result is a cleaner look that makes it easier to see helpful and actionable information like traffic and transit.

Google also modified the typography and color scheme of Maps to make it easier to identify different map elements.

The update to Google Maps includes an all-new feature as well – areas of interest, which are shaded orange. The shading, which is determined algorithmically and by humans makes it easy to spot areas where you may want to zoom in to browse points of interest.

I like the design changes that Google has made. In the before and after screenshots of downtown San Francisco above, the neighborhood names and other points of interest are much more legible than they were previously, which should make it easier to use Google Maps to explore and navigate new places.

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New Video Policies for iOS

Jer Noble on the WebKit blog:

Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, Safari on iOS has required a user gesture to play media in a <video> or <audio> element. When Safari first supported <video> in iPhoneOS 3, media data loaded only when the user interacted with the page. But with the goal of returning more control over media playback to web developers, we relaxed this restriction in iOS 8: Safari began honoring the preload="metadata" attribute, allowing <video> and <audio> elements to load enough media data to determine that media’s size, duration, and available tracks. For Safari in iOS 10, we are further relaxing this user gesture requirement for silent <video> elements.

There are a few new <video> policies in iOS 10, and the WebKit blog goes into great technical detail about what they all are. But for most users, there will be two main changes that you'll notice in iOS 10. The first is that iOS 10 will now support the ability to play videos automatically if they are silent. For example, some websites have a silent video background (e.g. The Life of Pi movie website), and others use it as an alternative to displaying GIFs. In iOS 10 these will be able to play automatically without a user interacting with it. It is important to note that this feature of automatic playback will only be triggered if a video has no audio tracks or is muted.

The second change is that on the iPhone, user-triggered video will not automatically enter full screen mode. Instead, videos will play inline, just as they do currently on the iPad and on Android. Full screen mode is still available, but a user will have to trigger that manually.

These may seem like small tweaks, but they are notable improvements to the video experience on Safari for iOS. The first brings the iPad and iPhone one step closer to the Mac/PC web experience, whilst the second is a recognition that iPhones have become large enough and powerful enough that it is entirely feasible that users may wish to view videos inline and continue browsing the webpage that has embedded the video.

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Pixelmator for iOS Adds Quick and Magnetic Selection Tools

Pixelmator 2.3 for iOS was updated today to add the same Quick Selection and Magnetic Selection tools that were introduced on the Mac with Pixelmator 3.5 in May. The Quick Selection Tool lets you paint over an image with your finger to select it. Magnetic selection grabs the outline of an object based on anchor points you create as you trace around the object with your finger. Pixelmator detects the edges of the object in the image and snaps the section to them. In my brief tests, both selection tools worked well and are particularly well-suited to touch.

In addition to the new selection tools, Pixelmator 2.3 adds many small refinements and other improvements, including:

  • Apple Pencil pressure sensitivity support for the Quick Selection Tool;
  • Greater Apple Pencil precision when using the Free Selection Tool;
  • a 'tap to invert selection' button;
  • improvements to the precision and speed of the Color Selection Tool; and
  • snap to pixel precision for the Free, Rectangular, and Elliptical Selection Tools.

Pixelmator 2.3 for iOS is a free upgrade for existing Pixelmator customers and is available to new customers on the App Store for $4.99. Pixelmator 3.5 for Mac, which we previously covered, is available for $29.99 on the Mac App Store.


Apple Pay Launches in France

Starting today, Apple Pay is now available in France for credit and debit cards issued by Banque Populaire, Ticket Restaurant, Carrefour Banque, and Caisse d'Epargne. Apple's website also notes that support will soon be added for cards issued by Boon and Orange.

Out of the 4 big banks in France, just BPCE is supported (Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne merged to become BPCE in 2009). There is no word on when cards issued by the other three big banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole or Société Générale) will be supported by Apple Pay.

The international expansion of Apple Pay is slowly but surely gaining momentum, with France now the eighth country which has some level of Apple Pay support. Today's launch in France comes after Apple Pay launched in Switzerland earlier this month, and all 5 of Canada's big banks signed up for Apple Pay in early May. The other 5 countries with support for Apple Pay are the US, UK, Australia, China and Singapore.