Opinion: Apple Watch + Music show intuitive software should be top priority for Apple’s new VP of UI Design

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Like many other people, I signed up for Apple Music yesterday because it was intriguing and free. Having skipped earlier subscription music services, I didn’t have Spotify playlists to worry about losing or importing, and I hadn’t experienced truly unlimited access to a giant music selection before. Apple Music’s sign-up process turned out to be great: attractive, simple, and just personal enough to learn my tastes without feeling creepy. It’s also likely to win long-term customers: sign up your family, and after 3 months, someone’s going to insist on keeping Apple Music (or just forget to cancel it).

But once the sign-up process is over, Apple Music repeats a mistake that Apple made earlier this year with the Apple Watch: throwing users into the deep end of a big new pool without adequate guidance. Despite all the talk of importantly human-curated content, Apple Music is oddly and robotically silent when it should be actively guiding new customers through a brand new service. In prior years, Apple held back products until they were polished enough that anyone could use them immediately. These days, Apple releases major products with enough rough software edges that customers and reviewers are (rightfully) complaining about learning curves and unintuitive interfaces.

As of today, Apple has a new VP of User Interface Design, Alan Dye, who is taking over software-side responsibilities from Apple’s vaunted design chief Jony Ive. In light of the Apple Watch and Apple Music launches, both of which were criticized for unnecessarily complex user interfaces, I’d respectfully suggest to Mr. Dye that fixing this problem should be a top priority…

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Opinion: Why content-blocking on iOS means advertisers, ad networks, publishers & readers all need to up their games

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Ads are things we all love to hate. While some can be amusing, and others can be useful, drawing our attention to products or services we weren’t aware of, mostly we view them as things to tolerate at best – and to be profoundly irritated by at worst.

Some think they have a simple solution to this: using an adblocker. Adblocking software has existed for desktop browsers for many years, but to date there haven’t been any effective blockers for iOS.

All that could change with iOS 9, however, with content-blocking capabilities built right into the platform. If Apple chooses to allow adblockers into the App Store (and we don’t yet know yet for sure that it will), that could require advertisers, ad networks, publishers and readers alike to up their games …  Read more

Opinion: Apple’s App Store needs to join the Confederate flag boycott

App Store Confederate Flag

Apple’s App Store should join Amazon, eBay, Walmart and others in boycotting the Confederate Flag

[Update 6/25/15: Apple has begun removing apps that “use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways” without removing apps with “educational or historical uses”.]

Apple’s Tim Cook added his voice to the chorus of CEOs speaking against displaying the Confederate Flag on Sunday, indirectly referencing it as a symbol for racism. In a tweet, Cook called to honor the lives of the victims in last week’s tragic South Carolina shooting by “eradicating racism & removing the symbols & words that feed it.” An Alabama native like myself, Cook has been a strong proponent for equality during his tenure as CEO, often speaking out against the South’s tarnished history and the changes we still need to address.

With major physical and online retailers including Walmart, Target, Sears, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy now publicly supporting the boycott against the Confederate flag by removing merchandise that displays it, I believe it’s time for Tim Cook’s Apple to join the campaign by removing digital goods that display the Confederate flag on the App Store. Read more

Changing the conversation: How Apple could modernize iMessage to be more powerful and easy to use

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At this year’s WWDC, Apple devoted a lot of onstage attention to a revamp of the Notes app in both iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. One of my favorite additions is inline web link previews. Just paste a URL, and Notes will turn the link into a preview bubble with a thumbnail for the page, as well as a title and description.

This got me thinking about the possibility of applying the same functionality to other apps. The most obvious place to start, in my opinion, is Messages. I’m constantly sending and receiving links through iMessage throughout the day, whether it’s to a web page, an image, or even just a tweet. Having to flip back and forth between Safari and Messages just to see what the link I’ve been sent is removes me from the conversation and slows down my workflow.

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Opinion: Apple Music & Taylor Swift — PR nightmare or publicity dream?

Taylor Swift Apple Music

Pop star Taylor Swift dominated the headlines yesterday after publishing an open letter to Apple in which she wrote that it was “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company” to not pay artists during Apple Music’s free trial. By the end of the day, the whole episode had an almost storybook perfect ending with Apple’s Eddy Cue announcing that the company decided it will compensate artists during the free period. Reactions today have been all over the place, but for Apple Music, the upcoming streaming music service, is the Taylor Swift episode a PR nightmare or a publicity dream? Read more

Opinion: Seven reasons I think Apple may become a bank within the next five years

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I first speculated that Apple might one day become a bank almost a year before the launch of Apple Pay. What triggered that thought was the use of Touch ID for iTunes purchases and the depth of security involved in the secure enclave used by Apple’s fingerprint system. It was clear even then that Apple had big ambitions in the mobile payment field.

Now that Apple Pay has launched, and already proven a big success, I think the argument for Apple to make the move are even stronger. So here are seven reasons I think Apple may become a bank within the next five years …  Read more

Opinion: Will the launch of Apple Music mark the beginning of the end for Spotify?

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Spotify is almost synonymous with streaming music. It may not quite have managed the Google trick of becoming a verb, but it’s pretty much the default way to stream music.

Spotify has 75M active users and, despite doubts in many quarters about its ability to convert free users to paid subscribers, it has succeeded there too. The company announced this week that it now has more than 20M paid subscribers, half of them added in the past 12 months, at a rate of one every three seconds.

It seems hard to imagine that any new entrant into the market, even one with Apple’s clout, could steal its crown. And yet early market leaders often look unassailable – until they are left behind. Look at Nokia or BlackBerry. I wondered back in February whether Apple could decimate the competition, and now the company has thrown the wraps off Apple Music, I think it’s time to revisit the question …

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Opinion: Does watchOS 2 make it time for ‘first-generation refuseniks’ to jump on board?

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I described my own journey with the Apple Watch, from smartwatch skeptic to daily user, in a four-part diary (parts one, two, three and four). My uncertainty was less to do with the specifics of the Apple Watch and more to do with whether there was a role in my life for any kind of smartwatch.

But there are those who have been holding off for another reason: they steer clear of first-generation Apple products of all kinds. Their thinking is that the 1st-gen model tends to have a bunch of glitches, with the 2nd-gen product not just getting those worked out but also adding significantly to the functionality too.

This is a perfectly reasonable viewpoint, with significant historical evidence behind it – from the original Macintosh onward (one could even say from the Apple I). But with Apple having added a whole bunch of functionality to the existing Watch via watchOS 2, has the company managed to give the first-gen refuseniks enough reason to reconsider … ?  Read more

Opinion: Beats 1 is what sets Apple Music apart from the competition

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Apple announced its streaming music service at WWDC this week after months of much anticipation. The service includes many of the features that our own Mark Gurman reported on months in advance. Earlier this year, I broke down my own thoughts on what features the service needed to have in order to convince me to switch from Spotify. Those requested features included excellent support for my previously acquired music; well-designed, cross-platform apps; exclusive content; competitive pricing; and a killer radio functionality.

In response to the requests for a killer radio functionality, Apple announced something called Beats 1. Beats 1 is a 24/7 streaming radio station that will be integrated directly into Apple Music on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and Apple TV. World renowned DJ Zane Lowe will host Beats 1 from Los Angeles, Ebro Darden, a hip hop DJ, will broadcast from New York, and Julie Adenuga, a grime DJ, will host from London. This team together poses a serious threat to not only competing streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Tidal, and Google Play Music, but also to traditional radio stations and SiriusXM.

No competitor to Apple Music has anything that even remotely resembles Beats 1. Read more

Opinion: These were the 10 game-changing WWDC 2015 announcements

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There were so many announcements during the WWDC keynote yesterday that even people who follow Apple for a living (and expected most of the details) were overwhelmed. New versions of iOS, OS X, and watchOS were only three of the biggies, alongside the official debut of Apple Music and a lot of small but interesting new details.

Since the keynote ended, I’ve been sorting through all of the stories, as well as all three new operating systems. What follows are my picks for the ten most game-changing WWDC 2015 announcements, some of them requiring more explanation than others. They’re not in rank order, but there’s definitely one that I thought was the biggest of the bunch. Share your picks in the comments section below…

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6 ways Apple Music will be better than Beats Music

Apple Music ecosystem

When news broke last year that Apple was in talks to acquire Beats, my initial response was concern that the subscription music service I’d only just started to love would change into something different. Then Apple actually bought Beats.

What happened next is Beats Music stopped all significant consumer-facing development completely. Apple TV gained a channel for the service as Apple started pushing the service to iOS users, but Beats Music never came to the Mac and the promised CarPlay app was never released.

When the Apple Watch debuted in April, both Beats Music and iTunes Radio were missing from the platform. That halt in Beats Music development meant that Spotify — which was already on the Mac and CarPlay — had months to grow and introduce compelling features to make it a better subscription music service.

While we won’t know how well Apple Music performs until it launches in three week, these six promised features will make it superior to Beats Music for me: Read more

Opinion: How Apple could improve three key areas of the iOS App Store [Gallery]

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The App Store has been around since iOS 2.0 (back when iOS was still called iPhone OS), and has undergone a variety of changes since it was launched. Aside from countless new features that have been added over time, the store has also seen several redesigns.

With iOS 9 set to be announced on Monday, let’s take a look at some ways Apple could simplify the App Store interface while making it more consistent with other apps and adding some much needed functionality tweaks.

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