Benjamin Mayo

@bzamayo

Benjamin develops app for iOS, writes news, reviews and other items on 9to5mac, whilst also studying economics at university. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his writing on his personal blog. Contact Benjamin on Twitter or via email.

 

You can also support Benjamin by trying out his apps on the App Store, Bingo Machine and Writing Aid.

Benjamin Mayo's Recommended Gear

July 9

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Apple alerted developers to some App Store price adjustments earlier in the week and the alternative price tier details have now been posted. Apple has added other alternative price tiers in the past, but what’s interesting with these changes in particular is is that they are specifically targeted at offering really low price options for apps in a select few countries.

The new tiers enable developers to set prices for their apps way below the usual $0.99 price floor in India,  Russia, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. (Special pricing for China has existed for some time.)

For example, using the ‘Alternative Price Tier A’ means that apps are priced at 10 Indian Rupees. This is equivalent to about 16 cents in USD. Before the addition, the lowest price developers could charge in India was 60 rupees, which is about 96 cents.

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July 8

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Following reports that said Apple had begun manufacturing the next-generation iPhone in late June, a new report by the Wall Street Journal is oloorroborating the story. It says that Apple is asking suppliers to produce a record number of ‘iPhone 6S’ units for the upcoming fall launch, topping 90 million units by the end of the year. Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the equivalent quarter in 2014, spurred by the success of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The report also matches previous rumors that the new iPhone will feature Force Touch, which 9to5Mac extensively covered back in May. The iPhone 6S is expected to look almost identical to the iPhone 6 with improvements focusing on the camera, new pressure sensitivity screens and internal component improvements.

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Using data by Mixpanel, Apple Music seems to be quickly driving adoption of Apple’s latest iteration of its operating system, iOS 8.4. The chart shows that, in just one week, iOS 8.4 usage now makes up more than 40% of all iOS device usage. This is a rather staggering rate of uptake for a point-release. Clearly, the interest and advertisement around Apple Music is having an effect on update rates. Obviously, this only tracks OS adoption and says nothing about how well Apple Music itself is being received.

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July 7

Bryan Jones has taken close up images of the Apple Watch screen, magnified such it is possible to discern the individual pixels and sub-pixels. The images show the arrangements of red, green and blue light that make up the images users see on the Apple Watch Retina Display.

Jones compares the screen technology with that of iPhone screens (shown below). They look quite different likely due to the fact that Apple Watch uses an AMOLED display rather than a LCD. iPhone pixels are tightly packed together with the red, green and blue aligned vertically. With the Apple Watch, the blue sub-pixels act as spacers for the stacked red and green sub-pixels. Jones also notes that the imaging specs are a lot smaller than compared with an iPhone which seems to be in aid of maximising battery life. When zoomed in to this level, it means you can see a lot more black space. Jones says this contributes to the Apple Watch’s excellent contrast ratios.

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June 28

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Update: Apple has confirmed in a statement to Buzzfeed that Apple is working with Sonos to get Apple Music available on the connected speaker system by the end of the year. Original story below.

Apple Music senior director Ian Rogers — ex Beats Music CEO — has announced on Twitter that integration with Sonos for Apple Music is coming as soon as possible. Although Beats Music did have native support on the popular internet-connected speaker system, there have been no announcements about a partnership with Apple Music so far. In the tweet, Rogers confirms that there will be no Sonos integration at launch.

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Apple directors have been somewhat talkative over the weekend about the imminent release of Apple Music. Former Beats Music CEO Ian Rogers, who now works as a Senior Director of Apple Music, blogged about the product’s launch. He reminisces on the history of digital music and radio saying that seeing Apple Music on stage at WWDC ‘it was hard not to feel like the last 20+ years was leading to this day’.

Interestingly, Apple will be releasing iOS 8.4 at 8 AM on June 30th which includes the newly revamped Music app to support Apple Music. This is slightly earlier than the usual 10 AM release window. The change in scheduling seems to be in service of Beats 1, Apple’s worldwide radio station, which will start streaming from 9 AM on the same day.

Meanwhile, Eddy Cue has also been leaking some tidbits about Apple Music on Twitter …

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June 24

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Apple Pay is going international starting with the United Kingdom next month. The precise nature of how Apple Pay will work in the UK has been murky, with banks saying different things. Apple has now posted a FAQ to explain the situation.

Apple Pay will work with any current contactless reader. By default, it uses the same technology as other UK contactless cards. This means that performing an Apple Pay purchase will not require a PIN (as is standard with UK Chip and PIN payments). However, the usual £20 limit on contactless transactions does apply … for the time being. When Apple Pay launches in July, almost all merchants will only allow Apple Pay purchases up to £20 …

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June 23

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Earlier in the year, the Bluetooth SIG appointed an Apple employee as secretary of the board. The two institutions are developing their relationship further today with the announcement that Apple is now a Promoter Member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. This is the highest level with the organization and gives Apple voting rights.

Promoter members get voting rights on Bluetooth corporate matters and a guaranteed seat on the board of directors. Current promoter members Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia and Toshiba ‘unanimously welcomed’ Apple to the position.

This means that Apple will now have significant influence over the technological roadmap for Bluetooth in cooperation with these other companies.

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June 21

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Update: Apple has responded to Swift’s blog post.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Taylor Swift’s latest album ‘1989’ will not be available on Apple Music, Apple’s streaming music service launching on June 30th with iOS 8.4. She has written a blog post on Tumblr explaining her position.

We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

Swift explains that she respects Apple for their innovation but says the terms associated with the Apple Music free trial are ‘unlike this historically progressive and generous company’. Swift says that under the 3 month free trial period, artists and rights holders are not paid at all for the duration and notes Apple has plenty of money to reimburse the artists for their work. Swift says that she is holding back 1989 not because she cannot support herself but as a retaliation for ‘the new artist or band that has just released their first single’.

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June 18

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Update: The problem should now be resolved. Watch apps should upload as normal once again.

Developers are flocking to Apple’s developer forums today as the iTunes Connect submissions process is currently experiencing a glitch which makes it impossible for developers to submit apps that include Apple Watch extensions.

Rather than continuing submission process as normal, the system is incorrectly flagging up misuse of an Apple private framework called SockPuppetGizmo. Naturally, this is causing frustration in the developer community at the moment because it prevents apps from being submitted to the App Store.

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June 15

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Following on from the Apple Watch native apps hack, Steve Troughton Smith has also found that the keyboard view in iOS 9 has much better adaptability support on Apple’s latest operating system. As shown by the screenshots, at larger resolutions, the iPad keyboard rearranges itself to make use of the space. Tab and Caps Lock keys are notably added onto to the left side as well as an entirely new top row of symbols.

This new row reflects the symbols normally found on hardware keyboards above the number keys: @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) _ +. Next to the ‘p’ on the first row, the keyboard also gains curly braces and a pipe symbol.

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June 14

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Popular podcasting app Instacast for iOS and Mac is shutting down as the founders can no longer fund it or any of Vemedio’s other projects.

In an email sent to paid members, Martin Hering says that all of Vemedio’s products will be ‘discontinued’, with Instacast being the most well known app affected by this. The company says they will keep the servers up for as long as possible so current users will not be left with non-functional apps immediately.

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June 12

Well-known developers Steve Troughton-Smith, Saurik and Adam Bell have managed to hack the Apple Watch on watchOS 2 to run truly native apps on the device. Although Apple is advertising native apps with watchOS 2, it isn’t as ‘native’ as some developers wanted or expected. The logic code now runs on the watch, but raw access to the user interface is still not allowed on watchOS 2.

This means frameworks like UIKit cannot be used to draw truly custom UI. Instead developers must rely on the same techniques employed with current WatchKit apps that revolve around image sequences to create more interesting effects.

In the demo, video embedded below, the team managed to get a fully interactive 3D object running on the Apple Watch powered by Apple’s SceneKit framework.

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June 10

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Apple has changed its policy regarding permissions required to build and run apps on devices. Until now, Apple required users to pay $99/year to become a member of Apple’s Developer Program in order to run code on physical iPhone and iPads. As part of the new Developer Program, this is no longer required. Apps can be tested on devices, no purchase necessary.

However, this technically means that developers will be able to release apps outside of the App Store as long as they are open-sourced. Interested users could then open the code in Xcode, compile and run it on their own devices — avoiding the App Store completely.

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Ad blocking extensions have been possible on Safari for Mac for a long time, but plugin architecture for Safari on iOS is much more limited. With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.

The inclusion of such a feature at this time is interesting. Apple is also pushing its own news solution in iOS 9 with the News app, which will include ads but not be affected by the content blocking extensions as they only apply to Safari. There is also clearly the potential for Safari ad blockers to hurt Google, which seems to be a common trend with Apple’s announcements recently…

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Xcode listing running processes on an iOS 9 iPhone.

When OS X 10.10.4 betas dropped discoveryd a couple of weeks ago before iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 were announced, there was some speculation about whether it was just a temporary intermediate fix until Apple reworks discoveryd for the next generation operating systems. Using Xcode’s Instruments developer tools for iOS and Activity Monitor on the Mac, we can confirm that Apple has also dropped discoveryd on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

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With iOS 9, developers can cutoff younger devices in a way that was not previously possible. Although iOS 9 runs on every device that runs iOS 8, app developers are free to specify more restrictive compatibility requirements.

In fact, with iOS 9, developers can choose to make their apps exclude any non-64 bit architecture. This means all iPod touch models, all iPhones before the iPhone 5s and all iPads before the iPad Air will not be able to install apps where developers have required 64-bit CPUs.

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June 9

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UK bank Barclays is the only major holdout from the launch of Apple Pay in the UK. From next month, users with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch in the United Kingdom will be able to use the NFC mobile payments chip inside their iPhone to use Apple Pay.

Apple announced yesterday a whole swathe of partners, including Santander, HSBC and Lloyds. The notable omission from the ‘big four’ British banks is Barclays. Barclays’ Twitter support has come under fire in the aftermath from customers and has issued the following statement, which shows that all hope is not lost for Apple Pay for iPhone users who bank with Barclays.

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June 8

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For iOS 9, Apple is launching a public beta in July. You can sign up at beta.apple.com to get listed. The iOS 9 update will be available for free in the fall for all users.

Most importantly, iOS 9 will support the same set of devices as iOS 8. Every user on iOS 8 can upgrade to Apple’s next version of the mobile operating system. Features vary per device. You can read everything that’s new with iOS 9, including new split-screen multitasking, smarter Siri and revamped Spotlight, here.

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