Posts tagged Apple’s

What To Expect From Apple’s June 8 WWDC Keynote: The Roundup

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference will take place June 8-12, the company announced Tuesday. As usual, the iPhone maker will kick things off with a keynote address that essentially maps out its iOS and OS X initiatives, perhaps with a smattering of other things this time around.

June used to mark iPhone season, but since Apple moved its iPhone hardware announcements to the fall, the summer timeframe has become wide open for covering different ground. Apple has plenty of other ground to cover. Apart from usual suspects iPhone and Mac software, the company could also announce a few updates on schemes ranging from software improvements to streaming services, as well as some other surprises. 

Here’s a look at what could be on tap. 

WWDC Rumor Round-Up

First thing’s first: If you’re a developer interested in attending the show, you can apply for tickets here. Apple will accept attendees at random, letting people know if they’ve gained entrance by April 20. Registration costs $1,600. If you won’t (or can’t) get a seat at San Francisco’s Moscone West, come, take heart: The keynote will also stream online on Apple.com.

As for what to expect, the only thing you can be sure of at this point is that the Web will overanalyze the invitation to within an inch of its life.


The graphic and tag line don’t offer much in the way of clues. Good thing we’ve been keeping our eyes open for rumors and other indications signaling what Apple might be up to. Here are a few things that may or may not come our way: 

iOS 9


June has long been iOS season, and naturally, the world expects the new version of the iPhone software. We’ll probably get that, but unfortunately, iOS 9 probably won’t quicken any pulses. The “big reveal” already happened last year with iOS 8, which brought new layouts adapted to suit ginormous phone displays, new notifications that let people respond without opening apps, payments and fitness features, tools to extend phone functions to the Apple Watch, and more.

See also: Apple Reportedly Wants To Make iOS 9 Bulletproof

This time, Apple is expected to concentrate on stability and performance. One specific thing we may look forward to: kissing huge iOS-update files. After getting sued for hogging space on users’ handsets, the company supposedly focused on shrinking files for the operating system and software updates. The Maps app may also get indoor maps and transit data for buses and trains (finally).

Other rumors—or are they wish-list items?—revolve around iOS 9 bringing a split-screen mode to the iPad, iPhone-based remote ignition to CarPlay (based on this patent right here), and a brand-new Beats music service, about which more below.

Beats Music Streaming


Apple’s Eddy Cue and Beats’ Jimmy Iovine

A new Music app nestled inside the developer version of iOS 8.4 and falling iTunes sales have given rise to rumors that Apple will finally roll out Beats music streaming. Backed by music industry heavyweights Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, the service joined the Apple family last year, and now may become one cornerstone of Apple’s strategic move to become a media provider. (See Apple TV below.)

If it sees the light of day this time, the Beats service could become part of iTunes, absorbing the existing iTunes Radio service and forming a single music destination on Apple devices. The subscription price is expected to land anywhere from $8 to $10 per month, the latter of which would be on par with rivals like Spotify and Rdio.

If Apple hopes to make an impact with music streaming, now may be a great time. The space just got more attention, thanks to Jay Z’s millionaires club and its new Tidal service. Despite Tidal’s name, however, it doesn’t seem to be making any waves (at least not in a positive way), so the opportunity could be ripe for a Beat-down.

Mac OS X 10.11


OS X 10.10 Yosemite’s desktop

Considering WWDC is a developer conference, it’s likely Apple will have other software-related announcements beyond iOS. Updates to its Mac operating system seem like a lock. But what could the follow-up to OS X 10.10 Yosemite hold? Well, apparently, even the Web can’t hazard a paltry guess, as rumors have been practically non-existent.

See also: How The New Apple MacBook Retired Steve Jobs’s Vision Of Computing

Given the way the company has been pushing its computer and mobile platforms closer together in recent years, however, our money is on more of the same. Ideally, that will include changes to AirDrop that allow simple file exchanges between our computers and iPhones. That alone would thrill us—especially since the latest MacBook just lost almost all of its ports.

Apple TV & TV Streaming Service


If we look really, really hard at the invitation graphic, the colors might suggest the warm and cool tones in a TV’s color sync settings. That would seem like a huge stretch, if not for one of the biggest rumors circulating ahead of WWDC: Supposedly Apple will unveil new hardware and a new service for its Apple TV set-top box. It’s about time. 

Streaming has ramped up quite a bit over the past couple of years—with Chromecast, new Rokus, Amazon Fire TV devices and others dominating living rooms, and new streaming-only services from HBO, CBS and others giving consumers new reason to reconsider their cable subscriptions. Somehow, despite not having had a product refresh in two years, the Apple TV has managed to remain in the mix as one of the most popular TV streaming gadgets.

See also: Here Are The Best Ways To Watch HBO—Ahem, “Game Of Thrones”—Online

If the rumors are true and Apple announces a new TV device that supports downloadable apps and voice features, its former “hobby” will officially take its place among the company’s other marquee initiatives. it could also help seal cable TV’s fate—especially if Apple launches a new TV streaming service, as expected. For a monthly fee that will be presumably cheaper than standard cable, those users could get live TV piped in from the Internet to the box, as well as other Apple gadgets, before long.

What’s Left In The Balance


As Apple launches ResearchKit, spotlights HealthKit-related features in its shiny new Apple Watch and tweaks CarPlay, it has issued nary a peep over other matters.

Either HomeKit has gotten comparatively short shrift in Apple’s attention department lately, or it’s much more complicated than the company anticipated. (The only notable related tidbit is that the Apple TV could play into it as a sort of smart home hub for Apple.)

Meanwhile, as the super-model skinny 12-inch MacBook and its lonely USB-C port grabbed the spotlight, there was hardly any mention of MacBooks Air and Pro, apart from some incremental hardware updates, including the Air’s new support for external displays of up to 3840 x 2160. While Apple could have saved its biggest Macbook Air or Pro updates for a featured spot in its WWDC address, that seems unlikely at this point—particularly since anyone who ordered an Apple laptop earlier would be royally ticked off at not having all the options laid out. 


It seems like rumors of an iPad Pro circulate every year, and this year’s no exception. Apple could finally put this story out of its misery and make it happen—obviously, some folks want this so much, they’re not willing to let this notion die. Even if the company does have a bigger, 12-inch iPad in the works, the chances that it would announce the device this June—eight months after revealing its latest iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3—seem remote.

If we plot the trajectory from homes, laps and hands, over to wrists now, that brings us to the Apple Watch and its Watch OS. They’ve now gotten a once-over by the press corps, which seems impressed by the former, but mixed over the latter. So far, tricky, complicated interfaces and slow performance seem to dog Apple’s latest, which the company probably already knows. WWDC could introduce some improvements to help smooth some bumps over, just as some customers receive their new Apple wearable. 


When it comes to WWDC, the only certainties at this point are the date, registration process and price, and the fact that Apple hates selfie sticks. Apple Insider noticed that the company has banned attendees from whipping out such camera monopods during the conference—which means, if you go and actually cross paths with Apple CEO Tim Cook or rockstar design honcho Jony Ive, keep your sticks to yourself. There will be other things you can distract yourself with. Hopefully. 

Screenshots courtesy of Apple; Apple TV photo by smlp.co.uk; Apple product images courtesy of Apple

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Apple’s Small iOS 8.3 Updates Speak Volumes About Where It’s Headed


Apple may have finally succumbed to common sense: A reader at 9to5Mac spotted some new settings in the upcoming iOS 8.3 software that suggest iPhone users should get ready for easier app downloads and more convenient voice features.

Judging by the iOS 8.3 beta, people will be able to nix the password requirement for free downloads. The update also points to a new Siri feature that can launch speakerphone calls without touching the phone at all. 

These feature updates might seem incremental, but they hint at Apple’s larger play: They are stepping stones to a future in which enjoying new Apple features and talking to our Apple devices—on our wrists, at home and on the road—will become second nature.

Password Play

Passwords weren’t always necessary for freebies, but the iPhone maker inexplicably built in the requirement. Now it appears users will be able to toggle it on or off in iOS 8.3. The beta version, released last week, shows the setting under the new “Password Settings” configuration page (in the iTunes & App Store settings). Note that the change covers free apps, media or other iTunes offerings only; there is no way to turn off passwords for paid downloads.

9to5Mac notes that the setting hasn’t been activated in the beta software, but it will likely be available in the final release.

See also: Apple’s Emoji Characters Will Soon Look More Like The World

The new password option joins other changes spotted in iOS 8.3, including:

  • Ethnically diverse emoji characters
  • Two-factor authentication for Google services
  • Apple Pay for China
  • Expanded Siri support for seven new languages
  • Improved keyboard
  • Wireless CarPlay features

The latter may offer a clue as to why Apple gave Siri control over the speaker.

What The Updates Are Saying

AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety took aim at voice features—Siri, in particular—last fall, so Apple’s efforts to appease critics with a simpler hands-free calling for drivers makes sense, especially as part of Apple’s overall push to make its technology vehicle-friendly.

Initially, users could only trigger the Siri voice feature by holding down the home button. Apple eventually gave users the ability to activate it by saying “Hey Siri” (when the device is plugged into power). Users can now place calls this way, but they’d still have to use headphones or hold the phone up to their ear. 

By allowing speech activation for the speakerphone, there’s no need to physically handle the device at all, just to place a call. Ideally, that should reduce driver distraction. 

The company seems to be firing on all cylinders now. Its previous iOS 8.2 software, released a couple of weeks ago, brought Apple Watch support into the fold, as well as improvements to HealthKit and other bug fixes. Apple also filed a patent for an iPhone dock that could feasibly turn into a smart home hub for its latent HomeKit initiative, and is expected to release a brand-new Apple TV with the App Store and Siri, plus a new streaming live TV service.

The common thread in most cases are apps and, increasingly, voice features. Given that, Apple’s focus on these areas should come as no shock. They all play into the windfall of Apple technologies about to head our way. That much seems to be loud and clear. 

Lead image created by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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4 Ways Apple’s New TV Service Could Beat Back The Competition

The world has waited four years to learn what Steve Jobs meant when he told biographer Walter Isaacson that he’d “cracked” the television conundrum. Anticipation ran high for new hardware, in particular an Apple-branded integrated TV set. Now it looks like the company has other plans in mind—namely, a revamp of its existing TV set-top box and a new online service that blends streaming live TV and on-demand online programming. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple aims to debut its new TV service this fall. If the report is true, the iPhone maker may have a competitive advantage. Only a few online services offer both live TV and a streaming catalog of shows and movies (for now, anyway).

Even fewer would-be competitors can boast a potential customer base as enormous as Apple TV—which has moved some 25 million units and is reportedly worth billions. And that’s to say nothing of the huge iOS-wielding user base.

See also: Cord-Cutting For Some: HBO Now Launches With A Limited Apple TV Exclusive

It might seem like this is Apple’s game to lose. But the company can’t cut corners. Expectations around television are different than for mobile gadgets. So if Apple wants its new TV offering to become more than just its latest “hobby,” it needs to cover some key bases.

Apple’s Fascination, And Challenge, With Television


The state of TV today “sucks,” as Apple senior vice president Eddy Cue said at last year’s Code Conference—which should have been a major clue that his company would aim to improve it. 

Apple has had television on its mind for years—long before it joined forces with HBO as its exclusive launch partner for HBO Now, the premium cable channel’s standalone streaming service. The recent WSJ report lines up with what Jobs told his biographer several years ago:

“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,” he told me. “It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

The hardware reference to “television set” aside, Jobs’ overall theme was simplicity, which matches up nicely with the all-in-one approach Apple reportedly wants to launch later this year. With one box (the Apple TV) and one subscription (for streaming live television and on-demand titles), Apple could eliminate the need for cable or satellite TV.

Apple, of course, isn’t alone in trying to blend live TV and streaming. Dish’s Sling TV offering, launched in February, and Sony’s new PlayStation Vue (which just debuted Wednesday in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago) do exactly the same thing.

Older stalwarts like TiVo are also experimenting with streaming features and app integrations. The digital video recorder maker works with TV signals from antennas, cable or satellite providers, but that may change before long. TiVo already supports apps like Netflix and Hulu and the Opera TV app store—and it will have some new additions, courtesy of Aereo. The company got a green light from a U.S. bankruptcy court to scoop up assets from the defunct startup, which attempted to grab OTA (over-the-air) TV signals and stream them online.

See also: Would-Be TV Disrupter Aereo Files For Chapter 11 Reorganization

With the fight for the living room heating up, Apple’s new service will need to lock down a few essentials.

What Apple TV’s New Service Needs To Compete


According to BuzzFeed, the new Apple TV device will come with voice control and access to the App Store for the first time ever. That may drive product sales, but it won’t compel users to plunk down even more money on a subscription streaming service. 

To drive the new offering home and make it enticing, especially in the face of growing competition, Apple needs to:

Make the selection good

Reportedly, Apple has been talking to broadcast and cable partners to flesh out its offerings. ABC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, Disney and FX may be on deck, while the chances of NBC coming on board seem slim. Apple almost partnered with NBCUniversal parent company Comcast on another streaming television offering last year, but talks appear to have fizzled.

The WSJ’s sources say the company aims to offer around 25 channels. That would be far less than basic cable packages, as well as Sony Playstation Vue’s lineup, which ranges from 50 to more than 85 available channels. But at least it’s more than Sling TV’s 16 channels. 


For on-demand streaming, Apple TV currently hooks to iTunes, which offers plenty of movies and TV shows via á la carte purchases or rentals for films, TV seasons or episodes. However, Netflix has proven the market for all-you-can-stream service for a flat monthly subscription.

Although Apple TV won’t ditch Netflix—it’s too popular to overlook—Apple should rethink its iTunes strategy if it wants to start holding its own against its future rival. For starters, it should think about making at least some selection of videos available for a flat fee, similar to Amazon’s Prime Instant Watch.

Make the system work with other gadgets


Apple doesn’t play well with competing platforms. But it may need to, if it wants to give its online TV service its best chance at success.

What that could look like: Suppose Apple were to open up and give competing devices some basic remote-control functions—say, via an Android app? Likewise with allowing some iTunes streaming on Android or Windows devices. Sling TV, Playstation Vue, TiVo and others stream to mobile gadgets outside their own platforms.

The company should also think about casting support. Made popular by Google’s Chromecast TV stick, casting—that is, wirelessly flinging videos via mobile devices—is one of the hottest features in streaming TV products. Samsung smart TVs, TiVo set-top boxes, Nexus Players, Rokus and other devices support it from a variety of phones and tablets, using either the DIAL protocol or Google Cast technology. 

Apple TV supports something similar through AirPlay, but the feature is limited to Apple gadgets only. That rigid and stand-offish approach may work for mobile, but television is another matter. Unlike smartphones, which are designed for individuals, TVs are usually shared among household members—not all of whom may be Apple users. To get whole families on board, the company may have to loosen its grip.

Make it easy to use


Apple’s new service will test its mantra about simplicity. The experience will have to be as easy as navigating traditional television while managing more complexity, given all the ways people want to watch Internet TV—whether live programming, rentals or purchases, or other streaming options. If it’s too basic or overly complicated, users could wind up wanting to throw something at their TV instead of enjoying it. 

Adding Siri to the box will help, but only if it works flawlessly. Ideally, it will allow for both search and navigation, but even if it can only do one, it has to be reliable. But that’s only part of the equation. 

TiVo, Sling TV and Playstation Vue all allow for passive viewing. Playstation Vue offers a clean interface channel guide that makes it easy to find and play live shows, or save favorites. Sling TV brings channel-surfing to live streams, letting users easily fly through whatever’s on by pressing a button.

TiVo has built a loyal following based on the strength of its easy-to-use interfaces and remote controls. Since it relies on cable, satellite and broadcast pipes (for now), it’s very good at old-fashioned channel-surfing. But its primary function is recording shows, and as a DVR, it recently stepped up its approach. Now it offers a new OnePass feature, that can track and save your shows from live television or the Internet in one interface.

Make it cheap(er)


Apple will reportedly charge $30 to $40 a month for the service, which will work on the newly reduced Apple TV boxes, now $69 (from $99), and most certainly on whatever new model Apple has up its sleeve. It will reportedly work on iPhones and iPads as well. 

That’s not out of whack compared to the competition. TiVo service starts at $15 monthly, while Sony’s Playstation Vue goes for $50 per month to start. Sling TV charges $20 per month, and unlike the others, isn’t restricted to a single hardware line at all—it comes via an app you can download to Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and Mac and PC computers.

Apple’s service, limited to its Apple TV and iOS devices, is neither the least nor the most expensive. It comes in way under the cost of cable or satellite service, which can easily run two or three times what Apple will reportedly charge.

But there’s a rub: You need broadband Internet connectivity to make Apple’s service work, and the cable operators still control those strings. 

See also: Belatedly, TiVo Makes Its Play For Cord-Cutters

Unbundled, broadband access can cost $40 to $60. Add the Apple TV service subscription, and suddenly the savings don’t look so steep. If you have to hunt down missing channels or shows somewhere else, the cost only go up from there. 

That would put the company and its new service in a tough spot. Because as it stands, the Apple TV service’s selection and pricing are on the  mediocre side, and striking deals to reduce the cost could be an uphill battle. Apple successfully managed to muscle the music industry, thanks to the influence of iTunes. But it’s not at all clear whether the company has the same bargaining power in Hollywood. 

Lead photo by Robert S. Donovan; TV with streaming apps and Android device images by Shutterstock;  product images courtesy of Apple; Apple TV and box photo by ReadWrite

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Apple’s ResearchKit Is A Nice Idea, But It’s Built On Sand


At Monday’s launch event for a series of new products, Apple spent a surprising amount of time on a subject most would find boring: medical research. Apple introduced a new software framework, ResearchKit, which scientists and doctors are already using to poll patients for health data. 

ResearchKit will be available to developers beyond those early adopters in April.

It’s a noble cause, and perhaps Apple feels it burnishes its corporate image and boosts employee morale to talk about efforts to improve people’s health. The problem is Apple’s track record in health and fitness software. Which is, so far, egregious.

See also: Apple’s Health App Is An Embarrassment

There’s clear promise in using self-reported data in medical science. Researchers are mining calorie-counting data from MyFitnessPal to understand what leads to sustained weight loss, for example. And it’s far easier and cheaper to get people to use a device they already have and a free app than to sign them up to use specialized equipment, write in paper diaries, or visit offices to participate in traditional studies.

As an example, Apple offered up an app that used iPhones to test for Parkinson’s by measuring patients’ ability to tap targets on the phone. It’s a sensible idea, though not one that particularly required a new software framework to deliver—it just leverages existing sensors in the phone.

The problem with ResearchKit is that Apple’s HealthKit software and its companion Health app are horribly buggy, hard to use, and unappealing to consumers. They don’t even come close to our expectations for Apple products. They come from some alien planet closer to Microsoft. Since ResearchKit is built on top of HealthKit, then that means it has shaky foundations indeed.

One way to look at this is that Apple is acknowledging that HealthKit-enabled apps aren’t catching on with consumers, and so it’s turning to medical research as a justification for the effort it’s poured into trying to enter the health and fitness market. 

The grace note on all this is that Apple is releasing ResearchKit as open source. That means someone else—not the software engineers behind Apple Health—might fix its bugs. It also means that ResearchKit-enabled apps might find their way to Android and other platforms, which would be a boon for medical science, if not iPhone sales.

Photo via Apple

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Apple’s Going To Talk More About Its Watch On March 9


Apple has just set a date and time to reveal more about the Apple Watch.

The company Thursday sent out invitations to an event on March 9 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. The invitations simply say “Spring Forward,” which many are interpreting as a pun on traditional watch technology (or, alternatively, daylight savings time).

Apple first announced the smart watch during a September press conference, then informed attendees it wouldn’t be available until spring. In January, CEO Tim Cook gave an update to say development was progressing “right on schedule.”

See also: What You Can Do With The Apple Watch

As a result, we’ve got only a general idea of what the watch is supposed to do. Cook said the watch will “redefine what people expect from its category,” serving not only as a wrist-mounted communicator, but a health tracker loaded with sensors, too.

Hopefully, Cook will take the March event to answer some of the more pressing concerns about the watch, like whether it really needs to be charged every couple of hours. Constructed with luxury metals like 18k gold, it’s also possible that Apple will announce a fleet of brick-and-mortar stores exclusively for Apple Watches, according to recent reports.

See also: The Apple Watch Could Get Its Own Dedicated Store

Apple may have eliminated more of the mystery than usual by announcing the watch months before it would become available, but it’s clear consumers still have plenty of questions. Now we only need to wait until March 9 before all is revealed. 

Lead image courtesy of Apple

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Apple’s Emoji Characters Will Soon Look More Like The World

Beware, expressionistic faces of Simpsonesque yellow hue and traditional nuclear families—your emoji dominance of texting is drawing to a close.

Apple has unveiled new, diverse sets of emoji representing a variety of ethnicities and family types in the latest beta versions of iOS (for iPhones and iPads) and OS X (for Macs). The change lets you pick new, realistic skin tones for many emoji characters, ranging from dark brown to pasty white, all in addition to traditional crayon-yellow. To change the color of a human representative emoji, just select and hold until the new tones appear.


Credit: <a href=”https://twitter.com/AndLup/status/569932530029346816/”>Andrea Luppichini</a>

Of course, the diverse emoji aren’t available to the general public yet, although the wait probably won’t be that long. In the meantime, we’re stuck with a turban-wearing young Sikh boy as the only emoji available to represent all people of color. For all Apple’s recent proclamations of diversity, it’s actually taken the company nearly four years to start representing the people who use its products.

See also: Tim Cook Takes A Diverse Stance: Apple’s Gay And Disabled Employees Matter Too

The same, of course, is true of Google and any other company using emoji. That’s because the new characters are only possible thanks to a change in the Unicode standard’s “skin tone modifier.” (As of writing, there was no word as to when Android will update to use the new emoji set. I pinged Google for comment and will update if I hear anything back.)

 A Brief History Of Emoji

Emoji first appeared in 1999 on mobile phones in Japan. According to Unicode, it was unclear at the time “whether these characters would come into widespread use,” which may explain why there’s been such a be blamed for the lack of diversity early on.

For frequent emoji users, it’s hard to remember a time before we could express ourselves only on text message. In fact, Unicode 6.0 encoding with emoji didn’t become available on iPhones until November 2011. But in just a few short years, they would overtake iMessages everywhere.

Of course, the immediate predecessor of emoji—typographic emoticons, which may have been around for a very long time—didn’t have racial or orientation-related diversity issues. The simple :) is a universally understood smile, devoid of any gender, sexuality or racial signifiers.

See also: Facebook Provides 56 New Gender-Identity Options

Emoji likewise tried to sidestep racial identification thanks to their yellow hue, which may have made them somewhat more relatable to a broader audience than if they’d actually been colored white. Yet as technology has spread to vast numbers of people around the globe, so has a desire for emoji that more closely resemble their users. Better late than never.

Lead photo by Fred Benenson; new emoji screenshot by Andrea Luppichini

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Surprise! Now There’s A Charlie Hebdo App In Apple’s App Store And Google Play


Five years after the staff of Charlie Hebdo gave up on the idea of submitting an app to Apple due to its notoriously restrictive approval process for political and controversial content, the French satirical magazine now has one live in the App Store, as well at Google Play.

What a difference a bunch of dead cartoonists makes.

Last week, Apple approved a “Je Suis Charlie” geo-tracking app for people who want to show their support for free expression in the wake of the massacre at the publication’s office in Paris.

“Contrary to what you thought would happen if Charlie Hebdo was to submit its app, it did get approved,” a spokesperson from Le Monde, the French daily newspaper which built the app, said.

Groupe Le Monde, which owns Le Monde, is one of several media outlets in France to offer material support to Charlie Hebdo following the January 7 terrorist attack, which left 10 staff members dead. Along with with the daily newspaper Libération, Radio France and France Televisions, Groupe Le Monde volunteered staff and equipment to ensure Charlie Hebdo’s continued publication.

As part of that support, Le Monde’s mobile team began building the Charlie Hebdo app the day after the massacre. They wanted to have the app available for download on Friday, the day the first post-shooting issue of Charlie Hebdo hit the newsstands, the spokesperson told ReadWrite. Now, anyone unable to find a print copy of Charlie Hebdo’s 7  million-issue run (up from its standard 60,000) can download the app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The Charlie Hebdo app is free to download, but you have to make a $2.99 in-app purchase in order to access the latest issue, or shell out $89.99 for a year’s subscription. The latest issue is available in English and Spanish as well as French. But Anglophones and Hispanophones take note: future issues will be only appear in French.

According to Le Monde’s spokesperson, time limitations proved the greatest obstacle in getting the Charlie Hebdo app on the market. “We needed to build the app, to translate all the content to Spanish and in English, and hurry a way to display the translations,” he told ReadWrite. “Second, we needed to get the proper documents from Charlie’s survivors to open the official accounts, and as you can guess they were mourning their loss, working on the survivor’s issue, dealing with the press.”

Despite Charlie Hebdo’s caustic content, receiving Apple’s approval for the app was not a problem. “Apple and Google both have been very kind and helpful and of course they never asked to limit the content in any way,” the spokesperson told ReadWrite.

Even the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s latest edition, which depicts the prophet Muhammad holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign while shedding a tear, appears in the App Store. Depicting Muhammad’s image—something that Charlie Hebdo does regularly—is considered heretical to some Muslims.

The necessity of making an in-app purchase to access Charlie Hebdo’s content may provide Apple with enough comfortable distance to approve the free app. Regardless, it’s a dramatic change for Apple, which rejected comparatively tame American political cartoonist Mark Fiore’s animation app in 2009. According to Apple’s rejection letter at the time, Fiore’s offending images included cartoons that criticized torture and White House party crashers. It wasn’t until 2010, when Fiore won the Pulitzer Prize, that Apple relented.

An onslaught of customer complaints following Fiore’s rejection also led to changes in Apple’s rules, which now allow apps that feature ridicule of public figures and the like. Apple’s difficult relationship with satire remained an issue, however. In 2013, the App Store rejected the iOS game Sweat Shop, which dealt with the conditions in Third World factories.

Whether the Charlie Hebdo app is an aberration greenlighted in the aftermath of a horrifying tragedy, or this marks a real change to Apple’s App Store and iTunes restrictions, remains to be seen. 

Lead image courtesy Valentina Calà

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Surprise! You Can Now Buy Terrorist-Baiting Charlie Hebdo App In Apple’s App Store And Google Play


Five years after the staff of Charlie Hebdo gave up on the idea of submitting an app to Apple due to its notoriously restrictive approval process for political and controversial content, the French satirical magazine now has one live in the App Store, as well a Google Play.

What a difference a bunch of dead cartoonists makes.

Last week, Apple approved a “Je Suis Charlie” geo-tracking app for people who want to show their support for free expression in the wake of the massacre at the publication’s office in Paris.

“Contrary to what you thought would happen if Charlie Hebdo was to submit its app, it did get approved,” a spokesperson from Le Monde, the French daily newspaper which built the app, said.

Groupe Le Monde, which owns Le Monde, is one of several media outlets in France to offer material support to Charlie Hebdo following the January 7 terrorist attack, which left 10 staff members dead. Along with with the daily newspaper Libération, Radio France and France Televisions, Groupe Le Monde volunteered staff and equipment to ensure Charlie Hebdo’s continued publication.

As part of that support, Le Monde’s mobile team began building the Charlie Hebdo app the day after the massacre. They wanted to have the app available for download on Friday, the day the first post-shooting issue of Charlie Hebdo hit the newsstands, the spokesperson told ReadWrite. Now, anyone unable to find a print copy of Charlie Hebdo’s 3 million-issue run (up from its standard 60,000) can download the app in both the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The Charlie Hebdo app is free to download, but you have to make a $2.99 in-app purchase in order to access the latest issue, or shell out $89.99 for a year’s subscription. The latest issue is available in English and Spanish as well as French. But Anglophones and Hispanophones take note: future issues will be only appear in French.

According to Le Monde’s spokesperson, time limitations proved the greatest obstacle in getting the Charlie Hebdo app on the market. “We needed to build the app, to translate all the content to Spanish and in English, and hurry a way to display the translations,” he told ReadWrite. “Second, we needed to get the proper documents from Charlie’s survivors to open the official accounts, and as you can guess they were mourning their loss, working on the survivor’s issue, dealing with the press.”

Despite Charlie Hebdo’s caustic content, receiving Apple’s approval for the app was not a problem. “Apple and Google both have been very kind and helpful and of course they never asked to limit the content in any way,” the spokesperson told ReadWrite.

Even the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s latest edition, which depicts the prophet Muhammad holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign” while shedding a tear, appears in the App Store. Depicting Muhammad’s image–something that Charlie Hebdo does regularly–is considered heretical to some Muslims.

The necessity of making an in-app purchase to access Charlie Hebdo’s content may provide Apple with enough comfortable distance to approve the free app. Regardless, it’s a dramatic change for Apple, which rejected comparatively tame American political cartoonist Mark Fiore’s animation app in 2009. Offending images included, according to Apple’s rejection letter at the time, cartoons that criticized torture and White House party crashers. It wasn’t until 2010, when Fiore won the Pulitzer Prize, that Apple relented.

An onslaught of customer complaints following Fiore’s rejection also led to changes in Apple’s rules, which now allow apps that feature ridicule of public figures and the like. Apple’s difficult relationship with satire remained an issue, however. In 2013, the App Store rejected the iOS game “Sweat Shop,” which dealt with the conditions in Third World factories.

Whether the Charlie Hebdo app is an aberration greenlighted in the aftermath of a horrifying tragedy, or this marks a real change to Apple’s App Store and iTunes restrictions, remains to be seen. 

Lead image courtesy Valentina Calà

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How Apple’s New App-Refund Policy Could Hurt Developers


European Apple users got a holiday bonus recently: Apple now offers a new two-week return policy for iTunes, App Store and iBooks customers in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France and other countries in the European Union.

Apple’s previous policy restricted refunds to a narrow set of circumstances where the user might claim they never got the app in question—before “delivery of the product has started.” Apple support reps could make exceptions when glitches or busy servers made downloading impossible, but people had to contact them first.

Now residents in many European countries won’t have to deal with that hassle. But their win could be a thorny issue for app developers.

European Users May Cheer, But Not All App Makers Will


The official change in policy likely stems from an E.U. mandate last June that requires retailers to provide a 14-day right of cancellation or return period. Likewise, the new terms expand the review period to 14 days, within which users can get a refund, no questions asked.

Right of cancellation: If you choose to cancel your order, you may do so within 14 days from when you received your receipt without giving any reason, except iTunes Gifts which cannot be refunded once you have redeemed the code.

The refund policy does not apply to iTunes gift cards. In all other cases, however, there’s little to stop people from trying out apps and then getting their money back. (They can request it online via the “Report a Problem” tool, or by writing to the company). 

See also: Apple Services iOS Developers With New App Store Analytics

That may be a welcome change for users, but it can complicate matters for app makers. Thanks to the policy, people may try out paid apps and choose to keep ones they wouldn’t have downloaded before. In the best-case scenario, it could wind up lifting its already exploding digital economy even further. The iTunes store brought in $4.6 billion in revenue last quarter, including 85 billion App Store downloads.

Sounds great. But developers who make high-value apps—like games—could wind up being collateral damage if users get in the habit of grabbing them for a specific purpose, then demanding refunds. 

For instance, you can keep your visiting brother out of your hair with “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” and then ask for the $6.99 back after he leaves in a week. No questions asked. It would be the equivalent of buying a DVD, watching the movie, and then returning it—something most retail stores don’t allow.

It’s already hard enough to get users to pay for apps up front. The refund policy will likely push more app developers to offer free games with in-app purchases, such as new levels or abilities that can only be unlocked if the player pays up.

On the other hand, a more liberal refund policy could prompt users to download paid apps they might otherwise have passed up. If those users end up keeping the app, that’s money the developer might not otherwise have seen.

A Test Case

In the U.S., brick-and-mortar retailers tend to offer a similar refund policy that can run anywhere from one week to a couple of months, depending on the purchase and the location. But there’s no universally applied law covering all retailers, both physical and digital—and in most cases, playable media like movies and video games can only be returned unopened.

Apple’s new terms apply to E.U. countries only. The old, annoying restrictions on refunds live on for Mac and iOS users in the U.S., Canada and other non-E.U. countries. 

Photo collaged by Adriana Lee, based on image by OTA Photos

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Mastering Apple’s Gigantic iPhone 6 Plus With Puny Hands

When I held an iPhone 6 Plus for the first time, I laughed. It looked comically huge in my little grip. Now I can’t imagine life without that big screen.

If you’ve dismissed large phones due to their unwieldy size, here’s something to consider: Despite tiny hands and normal-size pockets, I’ve managed just fine with Apple’s “embiggened” new iPhone. No hand cramps. No finger spasms. Believe it or not, I can even use most features with one hand.

If you’re wondering what dark magic this is, let me fill you in on my secret: A couple of cheap add-ons have made all the difference, transforming the super-sized phone from ridiculous gizmo to one of the most useful, usable Apple mobile devices I’ve ever relied on.

The Add-On That Makes The 6 Plus Sing In My Hands


The Plus is so big, it can literally hide my whole hand.

The iPhone ditched its squarish design, going for a super-slim profile with rounded sides that feel good, but make the iPhone 6 Plus a dicey proposition. Perhaps more than other huge smartphones, this potentially delicate device feels like it could slip easily out of my hands. Having butter fingers really doesn’t help.

I took the plunge anyway, and I’m glad I did. My own clumsiness and an upsetting phone-snatching incident this summer put me on the hunt for a phone case with finger loops. What I found was even better. Meet the Bunker Ring



This is no cockamamie thumb extender. The Bunker Ring (available on Amazon for $16) is a simple metal loop that attaches to your phone. The add-on can rotate 360-degrees, double as a kickstand and be reused on different devices. 

Initially, I doubted the grip of the tacky material that adheres it, but after several weeks now, I can attest that it hangs on for dear life. (It’s actually rated for 8 to 9 pounds of weight.) But if it ever starts to feel wiggly, just pull it off and rinse it under water. There’s no actual glue or adhesive, so water won’t ruin it, and it won’t damage your phone’s finish. Just let it dry, and it’s sticky again, ready to be reapplied. 

See also: A Thief Snatched My iPhone—And I Learned A Lot About Smartphone Crime

Concerned about the holding power being too good—Would pulling it off bend my device?—I picked up an inexpensive phone case and tacked it to that instead. 

Presto.



Bonus, the case even has a little nub for a hand strap or dongle.

Even less expensive options exist, of course, but for an item that holds up my very expensive phone, I didn’t want to go too cheap. 

A Bunker Crop Of Goodness

With my gear complete, the 6 Plus has taken on new life for me. I can reach up to the top …


… down to the bottom …


… and all the way to the left. 


No need for that weird workaround Apple calls “Reachability,” which lowers the screen so users can touch the tippy top. I kept setting it off accidentally, which had me rushing to shut it down. Now I don’t ever have to trifle with it again.

With the ring on the back, the phone feels more stable in my hand. My fingers can stretch to reach buttons or inputs without any phone-teetering now. I can hold the device above my head to snap photos, reach most controls on the opposite side of the screen, as well as do some basic texting. 

“Basic” is the operative word, though. The shift key and numbers button on the lower, far left side still remains out of reach. So if I need to text more than “lol,” “ok,” “c u” or “be right there,” the effort may require my other hand.

This hasn’t been a huge problem. I use a smartphone with one hand much less often than I realized. And when my hands are full, I tend to dictate to Siri anyway. Your mileage may vary.

The iPhone 6 Plus: 6 Weeks Later


Apple needs to stock this item, because it makes an incredible difference to the usability of the iPhone 6 Plus.&nbsp;

More than a month in, and I’ve noticed changes in my habits. I’ve barely touched my iPad mini (which may partially explain the downturn in Apple’s tablet business). I watch a lot more video on my phone now, and I tend to reach for the Plus for viewing photos, documents and websites.

Through all that usage, I have yet to drop my device. Apparel makers want to help too; they’re already redesigning pockets to fit large phones. But there’s one scenario I haven’t solved yet: taking it on a bike ride. Massive arm bands for the 6 Plus are nothing short of ridiculous.

There are two items that might resolve that: the $29 Flip Belt and the LD West Holster ($120 CAD, roughly $106 USD). Once again, both accessories work for different devices. 

The holster might be a bit pricey, and I could question the value of a smartphone that requires add-ons to make it functional. But then I remind myself of one thing: With the 6 Plus—or, for that matter, a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or Nexus 6—I don’t need a tablet anymore. If the 6 Plus can save a bit of money, why not dedicate a fraction of those savings to accessories? 

Product photos courtesy of related companies; all others by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite 

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