Yesterday as Federico was putting the finishing touches on an in-depth review of iOS and iPadOS 14.5 that we will publish next week, he discovered something interesting: Apple Music is in the process of establishing a presence on Apple News. The content added to Apple News so far is limited, but it appears that the company is in the process of enhancing both services by connecting them in a way that is reminiscent of the way it brought Apple News to the Stocks app with iOS 12, but so far, also different.
A Music and News integration has been on Federico’s wish list ever since iOS 12. As he imagined in his iOS 12 review:
Using Apple News as a content provider for Stocks is fascinating as it could be applied to a variety of other Apple services in the future. Imagine, for instance, if Music news became part of the Music app and if you could read interviews and album reviews on an artist’s page.
It’s an idea that he returned to in 2019:
and that we have discussed repeatedly on AppStories.
Apple has released the first beta for macOS 11.3 Big Sur, which includes new Safari features, changes that parallel yesterday’s updates to iOS and iPadOS, and more.
Some of the most interesting features of the latest Big Sur beta are in Safari. As I wrote in my Big Sur review, I like most of the changes made to Safari’s start page but wished I could reorder the default sections. That’s now possible, which is terrific, but there’s also a new third-party extension point for developers to build start page integrations, which is very interesting. We’ll have to see what developers do with the new feature, but I expect it will allow RSS clients to list recent articles on the start page that could be opened directly in Safari, for example. There’s a new Web Speech API that allows speech recognition functionality to be built into a webpage too.
Similar to iOS and iPadOS, Reminders is gaining the option to print lists. Music adds a dedicated ‘Made For You’ section in the sidebar that includes your annual Replay playlists and Apple’s personalized algorithmic playlists. The Listen Now tab will also suggest upcoming live events tuned to your music tastes. There’s an enhanced News+ tab in Apple News designed to make it easier to access magazines and newspapers and manage downloaded issues. Sony PS5 DualSense and Xbox Series X/S controllers are supported too.
Finally, the experience of using iOS and iPadOS apps on the Mac got a boost too. There’s a brand new Preference pane in iPhone and iPads running on an M1 Mac that provides more keyboard control over touch commands. Apps can also be opened in larger windows.
February is Black History Month, and Apple has announced a long list of ways it is celebrating across its products and services. In a press release the company said:
Apple is bringing customers a variety of new and updated collections and exclusive content that highlight and amplify Black creators, artists, developers, and businesses. From curated features across the App Store, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Books, and Apple Podcasts, to new Apple Maps Guides, the Apple Watch Black Unity Collection, Today at Apple sessions, and more, here is a look at what is in store across Apple’s products and services this February.
In the App Store, Apple is featuring stories with Black developers and highlighting social justice apps along with entertainment and gaming apps. The month-long feature extends to other services too:
- Music will feature Black musicians and include related content like playlists, essays, videos, and custom artwork
- Maps Guides, which has seen many updates recently, will feature Black-owned businesses in collaboration with EatOkra
- The Apple TV App will include ‘Essential: Stories That Honor Black Families,’ plus two free episodes of The Oprah Conversation featuring ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by author Isabel Wilkerson
- Apple News will have curated topic groups and Apple Books will showcase a collection of relevant books and audiobooks
- The Podcasts app will highlight Black voices including Michelle Obama, Joe Budden, Phoebe Robinson, and Baratunde Thurston, plus an extended promotion of shows featuring relevant topics
- Fitness+ will spotlight songs from Black artists, and the first Time to Walk episode for February will feature author Ibram X. Kendi who will discuss racial justice and resiliency
- Today at Apple will feature virtual sessions and tutorials moderated by Kimberly Drew with Black artists including typographer Tré Seals, creative director, filmmaker, and photographer Joshua Kissi, and visual artist, photographer, and educator Shan Wallace
- Shot on iPhone will feature 30 Black photographers
On the product side, Apple has introduced the Black Unity Collection that includes a limited-edition Apple Watch 6, a Black Unity Sport Band, and a Unity watch face. Apple is also supporting six groups dedicated to promoting and achieving equality and civil rights in the US and around the world. The Watch and Sports Band will be available beginning February 1st and the watch face will debut with watchOS 7.3, which Apple says will be out later today.
The Black Unity Sports Band and Unity watch face, which changes dynamically as the Watch moves, include the green, red, and black colors of the Pan-African flag, and the Sports Band has ‘Truth. Power. Solidarity’ laser etched on the inside of the band’s fastening pin. Similarly, the limited-edition Watch has ‘Black Unity’ etched in the Watch’s crystal back. Apple will also kick off a special month-long Unity Activity Challenge on February 1st that is achieved by closing Move ring at least seven days in a row.
In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:
Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.
Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:
The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.
Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.
In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:
- Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
- The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
- TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
- Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
- Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
- Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
- Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
- Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
- Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
- iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication
Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.
Today, Apple launched its previously-announced Apple One subscription bundles, which offer the following three combinations of services:
- Individual – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $14.95
- Family – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of shared iCloud storage for $19.95 for up to six family members
- Premier – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Fitness+, Apple News+, and 2TB of shared iCloud storage for $29.95 for up to six family members
Compared to paying for each service separately, the Individual plan saves users $6, the Family plan saves $8, and the Premier plan has the greatest savings at $25 but is only available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia because News+ is limited to those countries. Apple is also offering a 30-day free trial and 3% cash back if you use the Apple Card.
You can currently sign up for an Apple One bundle by going to the App Store on an iOS or iPadOS device and tapping your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen. Tap on your profile at the top of the next screen and then Subscriptions, where you should find a banner promoting Apple One.
If like me, you have separate Apple IDs for iCloud and media purchases, you will be asked to move your storage plan to the Apple ID you use for iCloud, which cancels the old iCloud Storage subscription.
Signing up for the Premier tier was a no-brainer as someone who already paid for 2TB of storage, a Family Apple Music subscription, and Apple Arcade. News+ isn’t something I was willing to pay for separately, but it’s nice to have, and I’m very interested in trying Fitness+ as the weather gets colder here in Chicago, making outdoor walks and runs more difficult.
Today during an event in which Apple revealed new Apple Watch and iPad models, the company also had some big services news to share: to increase adoption of the company’s growing slate of services, a new Apple One bundle will be launching soon to bring together multiple paid services at a discounted price.
Although Apple One doesn’t carry an official release date yet besides simply ‘fall,’ Apple did detail the breakdown of pricing and included services across three different Apple One tiers:
- Individual: Includes Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage for an individual at $14.95/month, a savings of $6/month.
- Family: Also includes Apple Music, TV+, and Arcade, but with 200 GB of iCloud storage and Family Sharing for all services, at $19.95/month for savings of $8/month.
- Premier: This is the big bundle, including Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, News+, the newly announced Fitness+, as well as 2 TB of iCloud storage for $29.95/month, a savings of $25/month.
The Individual and Family tiers of Apple One will be launching in over 100 countries to reach the widest number of users possible. Premier, however, since it includes services like News+ which are only available in limited territories, will only be available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia at launch.
When Apple One launches, users will be able to try any of the three tiers with a 30-day free trial for services that they aren’t already paying for. It’s also worth noting that according to Apple’s website, Fitness+ likely won’t be available until after Apple One debuts, since it carries a launch window of ‘Late 2020’ while Apple One is ‘Coming this fall.’
Apple One’s tiered structure makes a lot of sense, and the savings seem pretty enticing, especially for the Premier plan. As someone who already subscribes to every Apple service, Premier will be a no-brainer to me as I’ll gain Fitness+ and a higher iCloud storage plan for less than the $38/month I’m paying right now.
You can follow all of our September event coverage through our September 2020 event hub, or subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.
Today Apple announced big enhancements to its Apple News offerings paired with the launch of iOS 13.6. Apple News is entering the world of audio through two main products: a daily news program called Apple News Today, which is available free to all users, as well as premium audio versions of News+ stories which are exclusive to paying News+ subscribers. iOS 13.6 also introduces curated local news experiences to Apple News in a handful of regions, and brings initial support for the digital car key feature first announced at WWDC.
Kellen Browning and Jack Nicas, writing for The New York Times:
The New York Times said on Monday that it was exiting its partnership with Apple News, as news organizations struggle to compete with large tech companies for readers’ attention and dollars.
Starting on Monday, Times stories were no longer appearing alongside other publications’ articles in the curated Apple News feed available on Apple devices.
The Times is one of the first media organizations to pull out of Apple News. The Times, which has made adding new subscribers a key business goal, said that Apple had given it little in the way of direct relationships with readers and little control over the business. It said it hoped to instead drive readers directly to its own website and mobile app so that it could “fund quality journalism.”
This is a major loss for Apple. According to an Apple statement in the piece, the publication “only offered Apple News a few stories a day,” but losing access to the most prestigious newspaper in the US is nonetheless a bad look.
Apple News readers will doubtless still have plenty of quality journalism options to choose from, yet perhaps the most significant problem for the company is that this move may inspire other partners to follow suit. Apple’s 125 million monthly News readers are a formidable audience, and few publishers have near the clout of The New York Times and thus can’t necessarily afford to take similar risks. However, Apple News has long held a reputation – fair or not – for failing to be very profitable for most publications, so this move could indeed spark a larger exodus if Apple doesn’t work hard to keep its partners happy.
Benjamin Mayo, reporting for 9to5Mac:
Apple News is expanding its mail notifications with a new ‘Good Morning’ daily newsletter. Previously, users could opt in to receive email alerts from Apple News about select featured stories. The company appears to be formalizing that into a regular daily newsletter.
If you were already signed up to receive emails from Apple News, you’ll now receive this new daily newsletter; personally, I never cared for the previous emails focusing on featured stories, but this newsletter looks more suited to my interests, so I’ve just signed up. Here’s how the first new email describes itself:
Welcome to the new Apple News email, now coming to your inbox every morning with top news, smart analysis, and fascinating features. We’ll bring you the best stories from the most trusted sources — everything you need to be informed (and entertained) as you start your day. Enjoy!
Apple News used to have a digest section where, at different times during the day, you could get a quick overview of several important stories of the day in a similar curated fashion to what this newsletter represents. The digest disappeared following the debut of Apple News+, which is a shame because it was one of my favorite features of the app. I’m hopeful this newsletter will serve as an adequate replacement, despite not being quite as convenient as the in-app digest.
If you’d like to start receiving the newsletter, or you’re already subscribed but don’t like the idea of a daily email, you can visit appleid.apple.com and adjust your email subscriptions from the ‘Messages from Apple’ page.