Opinion: How Apple News can improve so it doesn’t fail like Newsstand

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I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been rooting for iOS 9’s upcoming Apple News app to succeed. I’ve been a dedicated Reeder user since it debuted in the App Store, quickly dumped alternatives such as Flipboard and Pulse, and don’t need to change my daily news reading routine. But ever since Apple launched Newsstand in 2011, I’ve been waiting for a truly next-generation iOS news reading experience. Apple hasn’t just missed the boat on this; it actually sank the ship it launched, and lost a lot of talented sailors to rival companies that were developing next-generation reading apps.

Having paid for Newsstand digital magazine subscriptions, I (like many people) was beyond disappointed when Apple abandoned Newsstand and the publishers who supported it. Newsstand was a great first step, and had the potential to become much better. Today, it seems obvious that Apple was hoping to coax Newsstand publishers over to Apple News, but after testing iOS 9, I don’t think News is ready to replace Newsstand. Moreover, unless something major changes over the next few months, I’d be very surprised to see News succeed where Newsstand failed.

Whether it’s Apple or someone else (say, Amazon), I’d like to see a bold company take the next big step and unify published content — at least traditional newspapers and magazines, and probably also traditional books and Internet-based publications — into a single Reading app with the best features of News, Newsstand, and iBooks. Below, I’ll explain why this would be a great next move for publishers, consumers, and Apple itself…

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Verizon will sell HBO Now directly to wireless and FiOS subscribers as Apple’s exclusivity expires

HBO NOW iPhone iPad iPod touch 21When Apple and HBO announced the launch of the HBO Now streaming service, they said that their app would be exclusive to Apple devices for three months. Now, a quarter year later, that agreement has expired and other providers are looking to distribute access to the television network’s streaming app.

One of the biggest names looking to get into the HBO Now market is Verizon. The mobile carrier and FiOS provider announced today that it will be bringing the service to its 100 million customers…

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Pandora’s ‘Sponsored Listening’ rewards ad interactions with commercial-free playback

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After a pilot of its new “Sponsored Listening” advertisements last year, streaming music service Pandora Radio announced today that it’s rolling out the feature to all advertisers and listeners in its mobile apps. The feature rewards users with an hour of ad-free, uninterrupted listening as long as they first interact with an ad for at least 15 seconds. Read more

Google Spotlight Stories arrives on iOS – beautiful, 360-degree, immersive animations

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There aren’t too many cool apps that launch first on Android, but Google Spotlight Stories is one. It plays sweet, animated stories using a mix of 2D and 3D imagery – the cool part being that you can ‘look around’ the scene simply by rotating your phone.

Immerse yourself in a world of storytelling made just for mobile. Engineers and critically-acclaimed filmmakers are bringing stories to life using the latest advances in mobile technology. Using 3D and 2D animation, 360° spherical cinema-quality video, sound sphere audio and sensor fusion techniques, the screen is now a window into a story that unfolds all around you. Look anywhere, follow individual characters, watch it over again and again. It’s a little different each time. Google Spotlight Stories is your mobile movie theatre.

There’s some heavy-duty talent behind the creation of the stories, the debut story Windy Days being created by former Pixar animators, and Help by Justin Lin, director of The Fast and the Furious … 

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Apple highlighting Accessibility apps to celebrate anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 5.33.07 PM

Apple today has launched a new page on the App Store dedicated to showcasing apps that take advantage of the Accessibility features on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Apple says that the section is meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Accessibility featured page on the App Store is further broken down into sections for Vision, Hearing, Speech, Learning and Literacy, and Physical and Motor Skill.

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Microsoft pilots hybrid not-quite-email, not-quite-IM iPhone app – ahead of Windows Phone

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Microsoft has today launched Send, an experimental iPhone app that offers a kind of cross between email and instant messaging. Microsoft says that it is designed for “brief, snappy communications” where you want an instant response but also want to retain a record of what was said within Outlook. The app was previously leaked as Flow by Outlook.

While tools like text messaging and IM are great for short messages, you often don’t have your co-worker’s cell phone number or an IM app on your work phone. And we’ve heard loud and clear from people at work, they want all their communications available in Outlook—even if they send them from other apps. This is where Send comes in! Send gives you the simple, quick text message-like experience while allowing you to reach all co-workers and have all of your communications in Outlook for reference later.

Tellingly, Microsoft is launching first for iPhone – ahead of not just Android, but also its own Windows Phone platform …  Read more

Dozens of popular apps found ‘vulnerable to password cracking’

Image: n3rdabl3.co.uk

Image: n3rdabl3.co.uk

Popular iOS and Android apps from companies like Walmart, ESPN, Slack and SoundCloud have been found vulnerable to password cracking, according to a recent report from AppBugs. The security firm found that dozens of the most popular apps are lacking, in that they allow you to make any number of attempts to login without restriction. These clearly opens up a gap for attackers who have the means to guess those passwords and gain access to your accounts.

The most secure apps will force you to reset your password if you don’t enter it correctly, or they’ll lock you out after you’ve made a certain number of attempts.

AppBugs tested the most popular apps to see how they stacked up. It checked 100 popular apps which support password-protected web accounts and limited themselves to apps which had been downloaded at least 1 million times. Of those 100 apps, 53 were found to have the vulnerability.

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Researchers are developing apps to diagnose coughs, sleep apnea, & detect bipolar episodes

ResearchKit iPhone

First pitched by Steve Jobs in 2007 as “an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator,” the iPhone has since evolved into a medical device of sorts as software has gotten smarter and sensors have become more advanced in recent years.

Apple embraced this with iOS 8 and the rollout of HealthKit, a framework which allows medical and health apps to share data with each other and your doctors with your permission. Apple’s open source ResearchKit took it a step further by allowing developers to turn apps into scientific health and medical research tests.

Scientific American recently profiled three smartphone apps in development that point to how the iPhone could become even better at monitoring our health. The apps in development aim to determine what a patient’s cough means, diagnose sleep apnea, and even predict a bipolar episode before it starts… Read more