Siri learns Russian, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai and Turkish for iOS 8.3 beta 2

In addition to Wireless CarPlay, more diverse Emojis, and improved logging in for Google services, iOS 8.3 adds a major new feature: several new languages for Siri. Over three years following the initial Siri beta in 2011, iOS 8.3 adds support for the following languages in Siri: Russian, Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, and English for India…

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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 releases iTunes 12.1 with OS X Notification Center widget, syncing improvements, and more

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 7.08.22 PM

Apple has released a new update for iTunes on OS X that introduces support for a Notification Center widget. The widget will allow users to control their music and buy songs from iTunes Radio directly from the system-wide panel.

iTunes 12.1 also includes a “quick tour” feature that runs on the app’s second launch. It’s the same quick tour that has been available on Apple’s website since last year, but it is now included natively in the app to help users get acclimated to the new design.

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Apple shutting down legacy TestFlight next month following iTunes Connect integration

TestFlight iTunes Connect

Apple today began informing legacy TestFlight users that the services on TestFlightApp.com will no longer be available after February 26th, 2015. Apple bought the popular software testing distribution service through its acquisition of Burstly almost a year ago, and announced plans at WWDC 2014 to roll out its own version of the service in the future. Since then, Apple has integrated TestFlight beta testing for app developers with iTunes Connect. Read more

Spotify updating iOS app with neat touch preview and new swipe gestures

Spotify has announced an update to its iOS app to add some very handy new features. You’ll be able to preview any song just by touching the track and holding your finger down. Tapping it then plays the full track.

The app is also getting two new swipe gestures designed to make it even easier to queue music and save tracks to My Music …  Read more

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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Apple apparently cutting back on the freebies, Single of the Week the latest casualty

singleoftheweek

There was surprise expressed when Apple quietly dropped its annual 12 Days of Christmas promotion this past year, just one year after it first reached the US. The app provided a free digital gift–which could be a song, app, book, TV show or movie–for each of 12 days, starting on December 26th.

A number of our readers noticed that it has now apparently done the same with the Single of the Week, which has offered a free music track on iTunes every week since 2004. No track was offered last week, and a participant in a support communities thread spotted by Business Insider says he’s been told by an Apple employee that the promotion has been discontinued …  Read more

Spotify now reports 15 million paid subscribers

Spotify 15 million premium users

Streaming music subscription service Spotify shared its latest user numbers today, announcing that it now has 15 million paid subscribers to its premium service and 60 million active users. Spotify’s paid user count of 15 million accounts is up from the 10 million paid subscribers it previously reported just over six months ago.

Since then, Apple has officially closed on its $3 billion deal to acquire Beats Electronics and Beats Music, which gave it access to its own on-demand music streaming subscription service. Before Apple’s Beats acquisition last year, the Spotify competitor was believed to have just over 110,000 paid subscribers of its own. Read more

Apple adds Games for Kids sub-section to App Store in ‘5 and under’, ‘6-8′ and ‘9-11′ groupings

games-for-kids

Following the dedicated Kids section added to the App Store back in 2013, Apple has now addedGames for Kids sub-section. Like its parent category, Apple has split it out into three different age ranges: 5 and under, 6-8 and 9-11.

Apple is also featuring the free book Family Time with Apps in the new section, created by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center to “help parents better understand the variety of ways that apps can support children’s healthy development and family learning, communication and connection” …  Read more

Higher European app store pricing takes effect in line with earlier email to developers

itunes

Update: It appears subscriptions through iTunes (like magazines) that saw price increases have seen the auto-renew function disabled, a 9to5Mac reader reports, likely to avoid a higher subscription rate being charged, although users have not yet been notified of the change.

Apple has increased the prices of apps in all countries in the European Union in line with the email sent to developers a couple of days ago. Apple has made the move in response to shifts in currency exchange rates and varying tax rules.

Prices are also being increased in Norway and Russia, though Icelandic residents will see a price cut …  Read more