Connectivity down globally, but issue resolved by 11:30AM ET
A widespread but apparently brief outage was reported to have affected Apples online digital storefronts this morning, such as the App Store, iTunes Store and Mac App Store. The problem appeared to occur worldwide, but Apple's System Status Page did not acknowledge the issue until hours after it was resolved, which occurred at approximately 8:30AM Pacific. The company suffered a much longer and more severe outage just two weeks ago.
Disrupting industries is the new black, great apps and fair app prices, bad jokes
The MacNN Podcast episode seven is now available, and this week we looked at the rumor that Apple is preparing to revamp the Apple TV and sweeten the pot with an optional package of channel offerings that don't require a cable subscription; Google's entry into the MVNO space; the recent Microsoft announcements about Windows 10; Facebook getting into inter-site payments; the return of Launcher to the App Store, and the removal of so-called "anti-virus" iOS apps; our latest "Living With" column; and our favorite apps of the week.
Leading reseller B&H gets Apple mini-store at brick-and-mortar Manhattan HQ
Although many MacNN readers will be familiar with B&H Photo Video through the company's online site via its frequent mention in our various deals posts, the firm is actually the largest non-chain electronics retailer in the United States, having a midtown Manhattan location since 1973 and being a widely-recognized photo, video, and Apple specialist. Earlier this week, the store opened its Apple-authorized "store within a store" focusing on Apple products.
Small but meaningful changes enforce company's strong privacy, ethical outlook
On Thursday, Apple updated App Store Review guidelines to reinforce privacy, consent, and other ethical concerns regarding the implementation of apps that work with medical data (specifically ResearchKit), Apple Pay, and apps that download or stream music or video. The guidelines generally reinforce more transparency or set minimum standards, but also target apps that illegally "rip" copyrighted material from video and audio sites like Vimeo and Soundcloud.
Outage may have cost apple up to $8 million in lost media sales
After nearly a 12-hour downtime, Apple's Internet-facing services such as the iTunes Music Store, iOS App Store, iBookstore and Mac App Store have returned. Apple calls the issue related to an "internal DNS" problem, and with estimates of hourly revenue at about $1 million an hour, this may be the most costly Internet service outage ever.
Mac App Store, iTunes Store preventing users from buying content
[Update: Apple acknowledges issues] A range of Apple's online services are experiencing issues, with the majority of problems relating to the company's online stores. The iTunes Store, App Store, and Mac App Store are all apparently having issues loading up elements of some store pages, though the issues are also apparently affecting back-end services as well as those on the consumer side.
Clever route map for walkers
Footpath -- usually $1 but at time of review free on the App Store -- is a route map app for walkers and runners that does one thing very well. We would like it to do just a little more for the ambulatory, but it's one of those apps you'll play with just to see how it works.
Migration assistant set up; users have until March 31, or could lose purchases
Along with the death of AOL logins for use in Messages, the ability of AOL members to use AOL credentials to log into iTunes and its various stores is ending next month, Apple reports. The move, which appears to have been instigated by AOL, will mean that users who use AOL logins will need to migrate to an Apple ID in order to preserve purchase records and access to purchased items from iTunes, the iOS App Store and the iBookstore.
Take control of your own shipping company with this fun puzzle game.
Puzzle games are a great way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon, or on a long morning commute on the bus or train. The comfortable, familiar feeling of sitting down with a puzzle game is well known among game enthusiasts of all types, and the App Store reflects this. There are so many puzzle games on the App Store that it's entirely possible to miss a great game without realizing it. One such hidden gem is RGB Express by Bad Crane, a game about little trucks making big deliveries.
win 1 of 2 copies of Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut
Late last year, Harebrained Schemes released their latest title Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut. This RPG game features 17 missions, intuitive touch interface, team customizations options and more. Last week, our staff completed a Hands On review, and also obtained two iOS App Store redemption codes to give to our readers.
Google drops IMAP client Sparrow for Inbox Gmail/Google Now hybrid
Once again, a popular Mac product originally developed independently and later bought by Google, has been discontinued. Like Snapseed before it, Google has decided to kill off popular email client Sparrow for both Mac and iOS in favor of its own Inbox product. The former program has been removed from both the iOS and Mac App Stores. The Mac program never received an update after Google's purchase of Sparrow in 2012, while the iOS one has languished since October of 2013.
win 1 of 5 copies of OCRKit!
Recently, our staff finished up a review of ExactScan Pro scanner software. ExactCode, makers of ExactScan, also have another great software title called OCRKit, which is used for extracting information from a scanned document, and converting it into searchable file formats. We have teamed up with ExactCode to give away five Mac App Store redemption codes.
Companies agree to make in-app purchase systems more visible
Major app store operators Amazon, Apple, and Google -- as well as French publisher Gameloft -- have reached a deal with Italy's Antitrust and Competition Authority that will let them avoid fines for misleading people about so-called "free-to-play" or "freemium" apps. The Wall Street Journal reports that the companies have agreed to remove the word "free" from apps that may require in-app payments to be useful. The parties have also committed to making it clearer when a person is about to make an in-app purchase. All of the changes will be applied across the European Union.
US, Japan, South Korea generate most app revenue
Google Play is vastly outpacing the iOS App Store in terms of downloads, but the latter is generating more revenue, according to analytics company App Annie. Google saw about 60 percent more downloads than Apple during 2014, but the App Store produced 70 percent more revenue. This includes both initial and in-app purchases.
Company mum on iPad results in official press release
Apple has posted the results of its first fiscal quarter for 2015, which actually ended on December 27. The company says it achieved record quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion, and similarly record-setting net profits of $18 billion, or $3.06 per share. The figures compare against $57.6 billion, $13.1 billion, and $2.07 in Q1 2014; gross margins increased from 37.9 percent to 39.9 percent. Apple notes that international sales made up 65 percent of the recent quarter's revenues.
Parents gain new one-stop category, but in-app purchases still lurk
Over the weekend, Apple launched a new subsection of the App Store called Games for Kids, following the opening of the dedicated Kids category in September 2013. The Games for Kids section breaks out groups of games for various age groups, mirroring the other actions that offer more educational apps for children divided by age. Interestingly, most of the featured games avoid in-app purchases.
Apple blames shifting currency values
(Updated with detailed price increases) Apple has sent an email to developers, notifying them of App Store price hikes in Canada, Norway, and the European Union, according to the Vancouver Sun. The company blames the change on foreign exchange rates. It has not, however, said by how much prices will go up. While a detriment to the people buying apps, higher prices should benefit many developers.
Claims New Year's Day was best day ever for App Store sales
Apple has released some updated statistics for the App Store, revealing that billings rose 50 percent in 2014, generating over $10 billion in revenue for developers. The store has produced roughly $25 billion for developers since its inception in 2008, which points to the tremendous growth in the stores over the last two years. Apple adds that the first week of January set a new record for billings, totaling almost $500 million in combined app and in-app purchase numbers; New Year's Day, in particular, is said to have been Apple's best day ever for app sales.
Refunds previously just loosely allowed
European shoppers now have a definite 14-day window in which to claim refunds for iTunes Store purchases, according to updated support documents (PDF). Customers can ask for a refund "without giving any reason," the documents say, and in most cases simply need to find the "Report a Problem" tool. In other instances -- namely those involving iTunes Match, Season Pass, Multi-Pass, or unredeemed iTunes gifts -- a person has to contact iTunes Support.
Or how to use up all those iTunes gift cards you're going to get
Although we have mentioned some app bargains in our "beyond the last minute" gift guide this morning, the elves at MacNN and Electronista have been hunting up some additional discounts by shaking the App Store tree and seeing what falls out. We found a few more, so click through to save a bundle on some awesome app deals -- and don't forget to check back with us regularly for DealNN reports, Apple refurb store bargains, and our usual Friday Deals all year long!
'Floppy Cloud' likely to get pulled, junior reviewer fired for missing illegal content
Once again, a rogue developer has attempted -- and succeeded, albeit temporarily -- in sneaking an app onto the iOS App Store that actually contains an emulator for a classic game system, forbidden under App Store rules. This time, it is Floppy Cloud ($2), which has taken the novel approach of pretending to be a file management app rather than the more-obvious Flappy Bird copycat. The app works exactly as described, but if users add a NES or SNES ROM file to the cloud-based management, the file will play in a full emulator.
Apps now almost double 2013 prices
Apple is increasing the prices of both apps and in-app purchases at the Russian App Store, according to a new memo issued to developers. An app that would normally be $1 in the US, for example, is now 62 rubles. That indicates that apps have almost doubled in cost in Russia during 2014, though the increase is largely due to recent currency pressures.
Could raise costs in some regions
Apple has sent an email to iOS developers, notifying them of a change to the way it handles VAT (value-added taxes) at European App Stores. Currently the company charges a single VAT rate across the European Union; soon, though, it plans to charge on a per-country basis. The change is due to take effect on January 1.
Updates to existing apps must switch by June
Apple has issued a new notice to developers, reminding them of two important deadlines concerning 64-bit support in iOS apps. As was previously announced, those submitting new titles to the App Store must implement 64-bit support -- and use the iOS 8 SDK -- by February 1. Additionally, the company now says that updates to existing titles must meet the same standards as of June 1.
Company says rejection was misunderstanding
The newly-launched iPad version of Papers, Please has briefly been censored by Apple, reports note. Players assume the role of a passport control agent in the fictional Eastern Bloc country of Arstotzka. Later into the game players have access to a full-body scanner; in the original PC title, players could toggle whether this presented characters in full (but cartoonish and low-resolution) nudity or simply in their underwear. A version with both options was initially rejected from the App Store, forcing developer Lucas Pope to remove the nudity.
App replaced by 'Amazon Shopping' app with no links to app store
As a result of a revised developer's agreement, Google has made the original Amazon Android app undiscoverable in Google Play. Amazon has replaced the removed app with a new "Amazon Shopping" app, which notably removes access to the retailer's app store through a Google Play-sanctioned app, leaving users forced to "sideload" a separate app from another source in order to facilitate downloads and purchases from Amazon's app store.
Could open up iCloud Drive-related functions in apps
Apple has quickly reversed course on a policy that broke "Send To" commands in the FTP app Transmit for iOS, app developer Panic now says. The company writes that it got a "nice call from Apple" on Wednesday, and it has resubmitted Transmit to the App Store with Send To restored. This includes the "Send to iCloud Drive" command that formed the basis of Apple's complaint.
Take control of a tank in this simple WWII simulator
Developer Atypical Games has had success in the App Store before with their war simulation apps, titled Sky Gamblers: Cold War and Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders, in which both games focused largely on air combat. Now, the company has released Battle Supremacy, which puts players in control of their own tanks in this World War II-era simulation game. Will the company be able to win the ground game as it did with air supremacy? Read on to find out.
Top iPad apps previously promoted by Apple
Apple has introduced its annual "Best of 2014" list at the iTunes Store, promoting content in different media categories. The top iPad app, for instance, is Pixelmator, the image editing app Apple also highlighted during its recent press event for the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3. The top iPad game is Monument Valley, an Apple Design Award winner from WWDC.
Standard annual procedure
For 2014, the annual shutdown of iTunes Connect will run from December 22 through to December 29, Apple has announced via its developer portal. Connect is the service used by app developers and book publishers to submit material for sale on iTunes, change prices, and study analytics. During the downtime, app makers won't be able to submit new apps, any updates, or introduce new in-app purchases. Changes to TestFlight betas will also be impossible, although people will be able to continue using beta apps.
Term is essentially ruled too generic due to popularity of concept
On Wednesday in Sydney, Australia, a court ruled against Apple in an appeal by the iPhone maker to overturn a previous ruling that denied the company a trademark on the term "app store," despite the fact that Apple had clearly invented the term back in 2008. The fundamental problem Apple has had in trying to secure a trademark on the term is two-fold: the word "app" as short for "application" had been coined far earlier by others, and the burgeoning popularity of the phrase almost from the get-go has turned it into a generic description.
Raises awareness alongside 'Apps for (RED)' promotion
Following a promotional push to raise money for the Global Fund, using the "Apps for (RED)" even on the App Store to offer discounted prices or in-app purchases to help fund the fight against AIDs and other diseases, Apple on Monday tinted many of its iconic signs at its retail locations red to commemorate World AIDS Day, which is held every year on December 1. The tradition began in 2012 after Tim Cook became the CEO of the company, and follows precedents established by others since at least 1991.
iPhone buyers likely grabbing 'vital' apps
App Store downloads surged to a record 7.8 million per day average for the top 200 free iOS apps in October, says mobile marketing firm Fiksu. That represented a 42 percent increase from September, and a 39 percent jump year-over-year. The firm says it expects the trend to continue into the holiday season. It appears to have been kickstarted by sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which first launched on September 19, but which has been been gradually rolling out to more and more countries.
Proceeds from participating apps being donated to Global Fund
To mark the upcoming World AIDS Day on December 1, Apple has launched a trio of initiatives. On the 1st itself, Apple says it will donate "a portion" of its Black Friday sales at its online and retail stores to the Global Fund, which is mainly dedicated to combating AIDS but also tackles diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. On November 28, some random product purchases will include a Product (RED) iTunes gift card; any purchases made with the card in future will go to the Fund. From today through December 7, a program called "Apps for (RED)" will donate the sales from 24 iOS apps - and in some cases, special in-app purchases -- to the same cause.
May be response to complaints about free-to-play apps
Apple has today made a small change at the App Store, renaming the "Free" button for zero-cost downloads, particularly those that feature in-app purchases to "Get." Paid apps continue to show the purchase price. It's not clear why Apple decided to make the change, but it may be a response to ongoing complaints about marketing of free-to-play/"freemium" apps.
May significantly expand store's reach
Apple's Chinese App Store is now accepting payments via China UnionPay, the only native bank card organization, and the country's most popular. In an announcement, Apple notes that UnionPay has issued more than 4.5 billion cards worldwide. "The ability to buy apps and make purchases using UnionPay cards has been one of the most-requested features from our customers in China," reads a prepared statement from Apple's Senior VP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue. "China is already our second largest market for app downloads, and now we're providing users with an incredibly convenient way to purchase their favorite apps with just one tap."
Photo filter application tool excels at a low price
There's no doubt that iPhones are being used more for photography each and every day. This is especially apparent in the vast amount of photography apps that are available in the App Store. Users are sure to be overwhelmed, especially if they're looking for an app that promises to do it all, in terms of photo editing, filters, and camera tools. It's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, but Faded, by Vintage Noir is definitely worth a look.
App makes it easy to turn the 'caption a picture' technique on its head
These days, graphic design is king (again). More and more people are looking to play around with typography and imagery, particularly using their own photos -- whether it be captions on photos or a Facebook graphic. Rather than shell out money or invest time in learning complicated programs like Photoshop to accomplish this, a visit to the App Store is a great way to get started. TextMask, by youthhr, is a pretty neat app that allows users to create impressive text-masking imagery in just a few taps.
Company hadn't anticipated possibility
In another sudden turnaround, Apple has reversed a decision to block apps with calculator widgets from the App Store. An Apple spokesperson says that PCalc and other similar apps will be permitted in the store without changes. It's suggested that the company simply hadn't anticipated the possibility of widgets serving as calculators, hence reviewers being confused as to whether they can give the greenlight.
Change marks sudden policy reversal
Apple has forced the developer of PCalc, James Thomson, to remove an iOS 8 Notification Center widget that let people do calculations without opening the app. The decision is an apparently sudden reversal, given that the app was previously approved with the widget intact. PCalc has been featured in several sections of the App Store, such as "Great Apps and Games for iOS 8," and even "Extend Your Apps," which focuses on software with unusual widgets.
Company admits to sagging iTunes music sales
Apple's 2014 10-K filing, just published by the Securities and Exchange Commission, shows major increases in acquisitions and research spending. Even excluding its $3 billion Beats takeover, the company still managed to increase acquisition spending from $496 million to $957 million during the last fiscal year. Annual research and development spending has more than doubled during the past three years, rising from $2.4 billion to $6 billion.
Should improve performance on more recent devices
As of February 1, all new or updating iOS apps must not only be based on the iOS 8 SDK, but contain 64-bit code, Apple is informing developers. At the moment, developers are still being allowed to submit 32-bit-only apps or universal binaries. The problem is that more recent iOS devices -- namely those based on 64-bit A7, A8, and A8X processors -- have to load extra resources into memory to handle 32-bit code, taking a toll on performance.
Analytics portal to be taken offline for maintenance for six hours next Sunday
According to a brief notification sent to developers, Apple is planning to take iTunes Connect offline for approximately six hours starting at 6AM Pacific on Sunday, October 26. The portal is used by developers to submit, take down, update, adjust pricing and study analytics of apps submitted to the Mac and iOS App Stores. The modest maintenance downtime is unusual in light of Apple annual and longer downtime that usually happens in December.
Figure just 1 percent higher than post-iPhone 6 launch data
Adoption of iOS 8 has slowed dramatically, having only gained a single percentage point between September 21 and October 5, according to new App Store tracking data from Apple. The company's iOS 8 and iOS 7 are now in equal use. In fact, use of pre-iOS 7 firmware has somehow increased from five to six percent, even though Apple no longer supports it on any substantial level.
iOS and 'free-to-play' game blamed
A 15-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium has managed to accumulate over 37,000 euro ($46,000) in iTunes charges on a credit card through in-app purchases, according to local publication Nieuwsblad. The teenager was reportedly playing a free-to-play iOS game called Game of War: Fire Age; several months in, his mother asked him to buy some e-books using her credit card. The boy then discovered he could buy virtual gold in-game using real money, greatly accelerating his progress. The title even has a casino minigame.
Issue inconsistent between users, devices
Customers trying to use the App Store are currently experiencing a variety of problems, according to complaints. Some are seeing vague error messages, while others are simply unable to finish downloads; many users are unaffected. For those who are impacted, the trouble can interfere with both the iOS and Mac App Stores, and any version of iOS or OS X.
Apparently tied to iOS 8
A bug involving the iOS App Store is causing it to display inappropriate apps under the various Kids categories, according to complaints. Browsing those categories' Top Charts sections, users can currently spot many apps that would normally fall under the All Categories umbrella. This includes obvious mistakes, such as gambling and dating apps.
Yosemite coming soon, contract confusion and more
With the release of the golden master candidate of Yosemite to developers, there has been renewed interest in the MacNN forums about when this next update will be out of beta and in the App store for everyone. Forum Regular "webraider" was attempting to purchase a contract free factory unlocked iPhone 6, but has run unto some problems and wonders if anyone has an answer.
Allowed users to create app, task shortcuts
Apple has removed an app called Launcher from the App Store, citing "misuse" of iOS 8 Notification Center widgets, says developer Cromulent Labs. The app lets users create create shortcuts for various tasks, such as calling a specific person via phone or FaceTime, navigating to a location, or simply opening an app. These shortcuts then appear in a widget.
iOS 8.0.2 finally paves way
Following the release of iOS 8.0.2, HealthKit-enabled apps are beginning to reach the App Store. One of the first is noted to be FitPort, a dashboard that serves as an alternative to iOS 8's own Health app. HealthKit was supposed to premiere alongside iOS 8.0, but Apple briefly delayed it citing bugs.