Opinion: Could Apple’s integrated streaming music service decimate the competition?

Image: Forbes

Image: Forbes

When Apple enters a new business, you know it’s not going to do so in a half-hearted, small way. When it launches its Apple-branded Beats Music service later this year, it’s a no-brainer to predict that it’s going to be a big deal for the music industry. With Apple’s deep integration of Beats into its existing iOS/iTunes ecosystem exclusively revealed by Mark Gurman added into the mix, I wonder whether the unique selling points being notched up by Apple could be enough to leave existing big-name players like Spotify, Google Play and Rdio dead in the water?

That’s rather a grand idea, of course. As of last month, Spotify reached 15 million paid subscribers–up 50% in the last six months alone. Beats Music had only a little over 100,000 subscribers at the time Apple bought the company, and is rumored to have only 2-3 times as many now. But an Apple-ified Beats Music service has four things going for it …  Read more

Apple’s new Photos app means big future changes for free photo storage

Photos for Mac

Apple yesterday released a preview of its upcoming all-new Photos app for Mac, which replaces iPhoto and Aperture with a simpler all-in-one photo editor and library manager. Most of the discussion of Photos focused on the huge number of changes from iPhoto and Aperture, burying one very important detail: Apple is changing the way it handles cloud-based photo storage.

Before Photos, Apple offered free storage of photos with limitations in a feature called Photo Stream, which didn’t count against iCloud storage. But the new Photos app uses Apple’s beta iCloud Photo Library feature, which was recently added in iOS 8.1. iCloud Photo Library promises to let you synchronize your entire photo collection including edits and albums across all of your devices… but you have to share your iCloud storage with photos, and album syncing and edits don’t apply to the free 1,000 – 25,000 image storage of Photo Stream.

As most long-time iOS users know, the free 5GB of iCloud storage Apple offers is often not enough to store much more than a single device backup, and for many that will mean no spare room for a photo collection. Consequently, Apple is suggesting that users should buy additional iCloud storage, paying monthly fees to store and sync their photos. As the Photos app is rolling out, Apple is allowing users to stick with the old Photo Stream feature and continue using the new Photos app without turning on the iCloud Photo Library. But it remains to be seen if that will be an option long-term once Photos is released publicly and how users will respond when they find out their free 5GB iCloud storage isn’t cutting it for their photo collection…

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Opinion: Square Enix’s flip-flop on iOS 8 support spotlights App Store ambiguities, risks

worldendswithyou

Square Enix’s The World Ends With You

 

Buying an app from the App Store is designed to be as easy as possible. A large button with a price tag sits as close to the app’s icon and name as possible, while additional details linger below. You’re not supposed to think or worry too much about each purchase — the transaction is impulse-driven when the price is low — and the implication is that the app will work when you get it, and keep working for a long time thereafter.

But what happens when an app — marketed as compatible with current iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches — is never updated for the latest version of iOS, and either stops working after an iOS upgrade, or never works at all on new devices? That’s the situation buyers of Square Enix’s $18 The World Ends with You: Solo Remix (and $20 iPad version) have found themselves in since iOS 8 was released. The game’s description claims that it “requires iOS 4.3 or later” and is compatible with devices that shipped with iOS 8, but it wasn’t actually iOS 8-compatible. Yesterday, Square Enix publicly flip-flopped on whether it would leave the game unplayable or fix it. Before changing its tune, the company told customers that they’d need to continue to keep using iOS 7 in order to play the game — an unrealistic alternative, though one that’s faced by users of numerous iOS apps that aren’t being updated by their developers.

By considering abandonment of the 69% of iOS users who are currently on iOS 8, Square Enix wasn’t just making a business choice; it was also spotlighting the risk App Store customers take every time they purchase an app. And it also revealed how long-unsolved App Store listing ambiguities are subjecting users, developers, and Apple itself to unnecessary problems.

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A double-edged sword: did the iPhone preserve RadioShack…or kill it?

radioshack-1991The day has finally come. It seems struggling electronics retailer RadioShack is finally dead. This doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the company at all in the past few years. The chain hasn’t turned a profit since 2011, and several attempts to reboot its image have failed miserably.

How RadioShack reached this point is also no surprise: it failed to keep up with the ever-evolving technology market, choosing instead to attempt to walk the line between DIY hobbyist and mainstream electronics.

While no one would argue that RadioShack’s insistence on keeping one foot in each world eventually led to its demise, it could also be argued that it’s exactly what kept the company around for so long.

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Why my next car probably won’t have CarPlay (Spoiler: Apple Watch)

Apple Watch CarPlay

My next new car probably won’t have CarPlay. I’ve reached this decision in part due to automakers’ slow crawl to put CarPlay in vehicles that you can actually buy today. While 2015 may bring the feature to more vehicles on the road with more than 30 automobile brands committed to ship CarPlay in the future, we’re still not there yet and the roll out is slow.

More influential, though, is my experience using aftermarket CarPlay in my current car for several months convincing me that CarPlay’s features are not yet where they need to be. As I noted in my hands-on review last fall, CarPlay introduces a new set of problems while trying to make using your iPhone in the car safer and easier.

So if CarPlay isn’t ultimately the answer to creating a better iPhone experience on the road, then what is? I’m convinced the Apple Watch will be better suited…

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Opinion: Apple’s pricing and sales experience will make or break Apple Watch

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.45.40 AM

It has a date — sort of. And it has a price — mostly. But less than three months before its release, the Apple Watch is still enigmatic in ways that the similarly pre-announced iPhone and iPad were not. Apple still hasn’t said more than one thing (“starting at $349″) about how the 34 different Watch models will be priced, and despite hiring a new team of sales executives from the fashion and watch worlds, no major changes are obvious at the Apple Stores where the watches will be sold.

What’s going to happen between now and April? 9to5Mac’s editorial team has been actively discussing the possibilities, and we’re ready to share our thinking with you today. Read on…

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Opinion: Could there be method in Apple’s apparent madness in removing freebies?

itunes-single-of-the-week

I was extremely surprised when Apple made the decision to drop its Single of the Week, after doing the same thing with its 12 Days of Christmas promo. As I wrote then, the free single seemed a win-win-win: consumers got free music, lesser-known artists got exposure, Apple got the goodwill that stems from giving away free stuff.

But thinking more about it, perhaps there is method in Apple’s madness after all. Let’s start with the obvious point: the company is about to launch an Apple-branded Beats Music service, and it would then make sense to say that this, not iTunes freebies, is the way to discover new music.

But it’s not just music: 12 Days of Christmas was content of all types, apps included, so I think there could be a bigger picture here. Bear with me while I make that case in a slightly roundabout fashion …

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Will Apple allow ads on Apple Watch?

apple-watch-ad

With more developers and businesses taking advantage of Bluetooth beacons for advertising to nearby iPhone users, many consumers have concerns that the experience could be intrusive from an end user’s perspective. Apple Watch, scheduled for release later this year, could potentially add to that problem if Apple decides to allow iOS apps sending info to the smartwatch to also send advertising as we come in contact with beacons. It hasn’t yet, however, provided public details about what it plans for advertising on the device.

Despite the fact that there aren’t specific references to advertising in Apple’s guidelines for app developers building features for Apple Watch, a couple companies have already announced plans to deliver ads to the device. But do they know something we don’t? Or has Apple not yet made up its mind regarding what it plans for advertising policies on the Watch ahead of a launch expected in the next couple of months?

Sources at large advertising companies tell us Apple is being very cooperative, but that the company hasn’t relayed anything in the form of final guidelines. Read more

Opinion: Does the minimalist 12-inch MacBook Air design represent the future of MacBooks?

comparison-copy

While we’ve been expecting the 12-inch MacBook Air for quite some time and some of the details have long been rumored, the design exclusively revealed in Mark Gurman’s report has raised eyebrows throughout the tech world. Especially the most dramatic element: the reduction of the ports to just one multifunction USB-C socket, a headphone socket and a pair of microphones.

The $64,000 questions are: will this ruthlessly cut-down approach prove workable—and is this a design unique to this one machine, or does it represent the future of all MacBooks … ?

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Twitterrific 5 for Mac may become the first casualty in Twitter’s war on developers, but it won’t be the last

twitter-image

If you open the Mac App Store right now and do a search for “twitter,” you’ll find results just like the ones in the image above. You may recognize the official Twitter app along with some of the most popular and prolific third-party clients. Right below Twitter for Mac you’ll find Twitterrific.

Twitterrific has been around for quite a while now, and was the very first native Twitter application ever built for Mac. It was also the first app to use the word “tweet” to refer to the posts on the network, and introduced many modern staples like conversations and replies. To this day it remains a popular choice among users and has seen many major updates and redesigns. It’s currently on its fourth major version.

In December 2012, Twitterrific 5 was released for iOS devices. The Iconfactory, Twitterrific’s developers, promised that a Mac version of the updated app was in development and would include support for the new iCloud syncing feature and an all-new design. Three days shy of a year after releasing the iPhone update, however, users were given what is currently the app’s most recent update. It included only two bug fixes. The developers have noted that the 5.0 update for Mac is facing big delays.

So what’s going on here? Why has it taken two years for any more news of the update? When will the new version finally be available?

The unfortunate truth? Not even the developers know.

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Passcode vs. Touch ID: A Legal Analysis

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[Ed. note: Jason Stern is a Criminal Defense Attorney in private practice in New York City]

8:34 am. A college professor receives a text message threatening to blow up the history building. The professor immediately contacts law enforcement, who trace the origin of the call to a student who lives off-campus.

When FBI agents arrive at the student’s residence, they arrest the student and seize his smartphone. In an attempt to search the device to recover evidence of the crime (and perhaps stop other related crimes), they find the smartphone is protected by fingerprint security measures.

With the suspect in handcuffs, the agent swipes the student’s finger across the phone to access his call history and messages. Once the FBI swipes the suspect’s finger and bypasses the biometric security, the phone asks for the student’s passcode. The FBI agent asks for his password but the student refuses to speak. How can the FBI agent access the phone? Whereas a fictional Federal Agent like Jack Bauer would simply pull out his gun, jam it in the suspect’s mouth and scream, “WHERE IS THE BOMB?”, in our example, the FBI agent would hit the proverbial brick wall.

Yes, the phone could be brought back to the lab for analysis and hacking by forensics personnel, but the suspect in this case could not be forced to disclose the password on the phone… Read more

iPhone 6 Plus and Nexus 6 compared: is Google’s bigger display really that much of an advantage?

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TechCrunch

TechCrunch went hands-on with Google’s newest smartphone, the Nexus 6, and took some time to compare it to the iPhone 6 Plus. In the photo above, you’ll see that the two phones share near identical dimensions, though the Nexus still manages to pack a larger 6.22-inch display space into the same body.

The Nexus is actually a bit bigger than it looks in the photo, though the perspective makes it a little hard to tell. When compared spec-for-spec, the Nexus comes in at 6mm taller, 5mm wider, and 3mm thicker than the iPhone. It’s not a huge difference, but the Nexus display is still noticeably bigger than the iPhone 5.5-inch screen. How?

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