The arrival of iOS 9, and the pointlessness of user app reviews
This week, the MacNN Podcast takes a good look at some of the burning issues of the past week, including of course the release of iOS 9. We talk both about the entire downloading experience -- one of the smoothest we've seen in a long while -- and our first impressions on some of the new features and optimization of the release. We also talk about two of Apple's biggest court cases, the Move to iOS app on Google Play, and how useless most app store reviews are.
Tool helps users move data to iOS devices securely, wirelessly
In a gracious move, the Google Play store has added a new Android app from Apple -- only the second such application the iPhone maker has offered for the rival platform -- that helps users who wish to transition from Android to iOS (or use both but transfer data) to do so. Called simply "Move to iOS," even the program's description reads as a pitch for users currently on Android devices to consider switching -- with the application promising to move contacts, message histories, photos and videos, web bookmarks, mail accounts, and calendars over seamlessly.
Phantom adverts affecting data caps, defrauding advertisers
Over 5,000 fraudulent apps currently available for iOS and Android are displaying ads users cannot see, but which are causing problems, using up cellular data, and costing advertisers around $850 million per year, says online fraud research company Forensiq in a new report. The ads are not visible on screen, yet the volume of them contributes to an overal slowing down of iPhone or Android devices while stealing data from often-limited cellular data plans.
Google Play adds option to pre-register for Android apps
Android users are now able to pre-register for apps due for release in the near future on Google Play. According to Android Central, Glu Media's Terminator Genisys: Revolution game currently gives the option to sign up for an alert when the app is released, allowing them to buy it as soon as it becomes available. The same system also allows users who have registered their interest to unregister, if they no longer want a release alert for the app.
Android apps on Google Play inspected by team of experts before being sold
Google is making one major change to its Android app store, and has revealed it already made another significant alteration. Apps in Google Play will now be covered by a new global content rating system, advising buyers of the kind of content they can expect within the app, and new apps are being subjected to an improved app review process, which will involve a team of human experts inspecting apps before they go on sale.
First episode of Better Call Saul free on iTunes, Google Play
Better Call Saul, the long-awaited spin-off to Breaking Bad, is now available on iTunes and Google Play. The premiere episode of the series, which is set in the years before the protagonist becomes Walter White's lawyer, is free to acquire from both services, with extra episodes priced at $2 each or $17 for the season pass in standard definition. The high-definition version on iTunes costs $3 per episode and $26 for the entire season.
Large proportion of dating apps on Google Play contain vulnerabilities
Users of dating services may be leaving themselves and their employers at risk, by using mobile apps, according to research performed by IBM Security. Researchers claim that a high proportion of dating apps on Android are vulnerable to attack, with 26 out of 41 apps analyzed on Google Play having medium or high severity vulnerabilities, opening the user up to attack.
Samsung brings Gear VR demonstrations to Best Buy stores
The Samsung Gear VR will be on hand to show to Best Buy customers from February 8. The Samsung virtual reality headset, used in combination with the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, with SamMobile reporting it will be available in up to 100 stores as part of the Samsung Experience. A set of four demonstrations will apparently be available to try out, each for three minutes, including Samsung's Milk VR service.
Avast discovers Android app malware that triggers days after initial installation
Millions of Android users are at risk from malicious apps offered for download on Google Play, an antivirus firm has revealed. A card game called Durak downloaded between 5 million and 10 million times, an IQ test, and a history app are all said by an Avast researcher to include malware which can trick users into paying for services or buying apps they do not need.
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.
Google, Sony, Microsoft all hosting the movie for purchase or rent
Sony and others have unveiled a massive effort to make the Sony Pictures title The Interview available online. Google's YouTube Movies paid service paved the way with its announcement a bit earlier today, with Google Play, Xbox Videos, and a special Sony website all having declared that the movie would be available at 1PM ET. The picture will cost $6 to rent, and $15 to own in HD.
Microsoft brings Cortana to France, Germany, Italy, Spain
Microsoft is bringing the Cortana virtual assistant to more countries in Europe. An update as part of the Windows Phone Developer Preview Program rolling out today will grant access to Cortana in France, Italy, Germany, and Spain. Released as an alpha version, Microsoft warns many of the advanced features will not be available, such as flight tracking and some reference data, but the team is working to add localized content for each language, along with a slightly tailored personality.
Dropbox for iOS updated, allows file and folder renaming
Dropbox has released an update for its iOS app, now available through iTunes. Dropbox allows users to store files and folders within 2GB of free cloud storage upon sign-up, and can be shared with other as links instead of attachments. Dropbox v3.6 now includes the ability to rename files and folders. Files now have a More Actions button accessible with viewing files and folders. Office documents can be edited, and then save them back to Dropbox.
Store access granted to developers despite lack of Google Play Store in China
Google is now accepting apps created by developers based in China on the Google Play Store. While the change now allows for developers in the country to sign up as merchants for Google's Android app marketplace, distributing the apps to users in more than 130 countries, the apps themselves will not be available in China itself, as Google Play does not currently operate there.
LG G Watch R available to purchase on Google Play for $299
LG's G Watch R is now available to purchase from Google Play, just as the smartwatch is about to appear in stores in the United States. The Android Wear smartwatch, complete with a 1.3-inch round P-OLED display and a heart rate monitor, finally joins the original G Watch on the Google online store, though it is priced at a rather expensive $299.
PlayStation Now will be available on PlayStation TV from October 14th
The PlayStation TV set-top box will have PlayStation Now from its launch on October 14th in North America, the PlayStation Blog has confirmed. Opening as an open beta, the streaming service will also be made available to owners of the PlayStation Vita handheld console, with the service said to offer rentals of over 150 PlayStation 3 games, with cloud storage used for save games, and online multiplayer support also included.
Google officially extends app refund window from 15 minutes to 2 hours
Google has extended the opportunity to receive a refund from purchases in the Google Play Store to two hours. Android Central notes the support page for the store has been updated to show the upgraded refund period for apps and games, up from the previous 15-minute limit. It is understood that Google offered the longer refund window to some customers over the last few weeks, and has only just made the policy official recently.
WhatsApp for iOS adds option to archive chats and more
Smartphone messenger app WhatsApp has released a major update of its version for iOS. Using a 3G or WiFi connection, WhatsApp allows users to send messages to other WhatsApp users in lieu of SMS. Featuring a new archival function, users can elect to save chats and groups as archives. WhatsApp v2.11.9 includes several additions specific to photo and video content: users can add captions; trim videos prior to sharing; capture content faster with a new access button;, and slow-motion videos can be shared if using an iPhone 5s.
Apple, Google, Microsoft required to delete Secret from customer phones or face fines
A Brazilian judge has ordered Apple, Google, and Microsoft to remove Secret, an app used for anonymously sharing information with others, from citizen's phones. The unusual ruling requires both Apple and Google to delist Secret from the App Store and Google Play, with Microsoft ordered to do the same for the Windows Phone-equivalent Cryptic, as well as deleting it remotely from mobile devices in the country.
HTC allegedly moving into app business with Zoe, more apps on the way
HTC is preparing to release some of its apps on Google Play, for use on other non-HTC devices, according to a report. Starting with the Zoe video app later this week, the 260-employee strong HTC Creative Labs unit will apparently bring more of the HTC-specific apps to the online store, as the company attempts to use its software knowledge to try and improve its financial outlook.
Google Glass developer kit adds support for external webcams
Google has added support for external cameras to Google Glass, on top of the existing built-in imaging sensor. Android Police reports the latest Glass Development Kit update enables the use of an external webcam connected via a USB On-The-Go (OTG) cable, though it warns plug-and-play does not work, and if it includes a microphone, it may disable voice commands. Glass owners looking to try it out will have to wait for a developer to create an app for it, as Google does not supply an application to view through a connected webcam.
Google rolls out partial Material Design upgrade of Play Store app
Google has started to roll out its rumored changes to the Play Store, in an update to the Android app. Version 4.9.13 brings a number of smaller tweaks, reports Android Police, along with refreshed app and content pages which uses Google's Material Design rules, including an increased use of images and iconography. A future update is expected to roll out Material Design to other aspects of the store.
Company yet to offer commitment, details for required changes
[Updated with Apple rebuttal] Despite both Apple and Google being asked to take measures to make the "true cost of apps" clearer before they're downloaded from an app store, Apple is providing "no firm commitment and no timing" for action, according to a statement from the European Commission. At issue are so-called "free-to-play" or "freemium" apps, which are technically free to use, but often require in-app purchases to make real use of them. Some games, in particular, have exploited lax authorization measures around those purchases to lure children into buying dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars' worth of digital content without their parents' consent.
Android L UI design appears in alleged Play Store upgrade screenshots
Google may be preparing a visual upgrade to the Play Store, if leaked screenshots are to be believed. The images, apparently taken from within the Android app, appears to show a greater emphasis on screenshots, video stills, and other graphical elements to create a large background, while the core app information and pricing details are made more apparent to the viewer via a central placement on a white background.
General counsel forwarded Consumer Reports article to commissioners
Apple's general counsel, Bruce Sewell, tried to get the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate in-app purchase policies at Google Play, an email obtained via the Freedom of Information Act shows. Days after Apple agreed to pay a $32.5 million settlement over its own approach to in-app purchases, Sewell forwarded a Consumer Reports story to FTC commissioners Edith Ramirez and Julie Brill. The article accused Google of being equally lax, and letting children spend their parents' money "like a drunken sailor."
Sony Xperia Z Ultra, LG G Pad 8.3, HTC One M7 removed from Google Play
The roster of Google Play Edition devices available from Google Play directly has halved in size. Thee of the six smartphones involved in the program, which offered stock Android on popular devices, have been permanently removed from sale after being listed as out of stock since last month, though neither Google nor the manufacturers involved have provided any explanation for the disappearance.
Skype rolls out iPhone app update, re-introduces voice-message support
Microsoft has released v5.2 of the iPhone version of its Skype app. Users can now receive recorded messages from when they are offline within a conversation stream, and it can be listened to directly. User profiles can be viewed from one's contacts, displaying status, username, location and more. Additionally, participants can be added to existing conversations through the main menu on the bottom right-hand side. Skype v5.2 is free to download through iTunes.
Companies ordered to make changes to refund systems
South Korea's Fair Trade Commission has ordered Apple and Google to change their app store policies, according to the Korea Herald. Apple will have to change its default no-refund policy, and send out notifications to App Store users whenever it changes contract terms; Google will have to devise a refund scheme for Google Play that can be tailored to developers' individual policies. The two companies may also have to address other "unfair provisions," though the FTC's announcement doesn't specify what those might be.
Google adds Android Wear section to Google Play
Google has started to compile a list of apps compatible with Android Wear smartwatches. The "Apps for Android Wear" collection, spotted by The Next Web, currently includes 29 apps, including Google's own Android Wear companion app, with the list consisting of a number of contributions from prominent apps and their developers, including IFTTT, Duolingo, Pinterest, and American Airlines.
New Radio-Frequency Identification blocking vest launched
ScottEVest, a developer of tech-enabled clothing, has launched a new series of products that aim to protect wearers from others exploiting weaknesses in cell phones, credit cards and passports. The Radio-Frequency Identification Blocking Vest features pockets lined with RFID-blocking materials, so that vulnerable objects can be carried securely. ScottEVest's travel vest is its flagship product, with a "men's" style offering 26 pockets and "women's styles" 18 pockets.
Google extends reach of Play Books, Movies to more countries
Google has expanded the reach of its Android film and book stores into more countries. Android Central reports Google Play Movies has gone live in 21 new countries, including a large number of markets in eastern Europe, while Google Play Books is now available in 11 extra regions. This now means Google Play Books has a presence in 56 countries, with Movies appearing in a total of 90 markets.
Claims Google abusing position over third-party app store measures
Google is abusing its position as the dominant Android app store, according to an antitrust complaint from another app marketplace. Aptoide, a store from Portugal that hosts 200,000 apps and has 6 million active users, has met with European Commission representatives in the last week, and claims that Google makes it unfairly difficult for Android users to use a different app store with their device instead of Google Play.
Motorola adds 'Talk to Me' text reading feature to Assist app
Motorola today updated its Assist app, adding a "Talk to Me" feature that reads text messages aloud. Users can have calls verbally announced as well as incoming text messages, and the update also includes improved driving detection using audio. The "Talk to Me" feature is the new home mode for the app, and needs to be enabled to use. The Motorola Assist app is available for download from Google Play.
Ten-year old game makes its way to mobile devices with optimized experience
After showing up on the New Zealand iTunes store, Square Enix has officially announced that Dragon Quest VIII has been released for iOS and Android. The game, which was a popular Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) released for Playstation 2 in 2004, comes to mobile gaming almost 10 years after its release in North America.
Apps allowed to be marketed as 'free' despite costing money for progress
The Italian Antitrust and Competition Authority has launched an investigation into Amazon, Apple, Gameloft, and Google over complaints that the corporations are misleading people in the way they market "free-to-play" games. A number of mobile games -- including many targeted at children -- are nominally free, but in reality require in-app purchases of digital items, currency, levels, or features in order to make progress. Figures from the European Commission suggest that 80 percent of app revenues now stem from in-app transactions.
Google Play now accepting PayPal as payment for digital goods
PayPal is now an official payment option for purchasing digital content within Google Play. Though a direct competitor with Google's own Wallet payment service, users can activate the new payment option by clicking "Add PayPal" and typing in one's login details. Google Play has also expanded its carrier billing and gift card availability to more regions, including Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.
Platforms now in more equal competition
Apple and Google are each offering game developers special incentives to prefer their app store over their rival's, according to sources for the Wall Street Journal. The prime example given is EA's Plants vs. Zombies 2, which Apple promised to advertise prominently at the App Store. In return, EA was expected to keep the game an iOS exclusive for two months, which pushed the Android release into October. Another developer, ZeptoLab, agreed to three-month App Store exclusivity for Cut the Rope 2 in order to get better advertising. Asphalt creator Gameloft says it was offered exclusivity, but decided that a simultaneous iOS/Android release made more financial sense.
Google refunds, provides extra credit to buyers of fake antivirus tool
Google is providing refunds to buyers of the fake Virus Shield app for Android. Discovered by Android Police, the paid $3.99 app was discovered to just switch between different sets of graphics, and failed to provide any protection. The app was removed from the Play Store shortly after the discovery, with more than 10,000 downloads recorded. Google has started to send e-mails to affected customers, promising a refund within 14 days and a $5 promotional credit for Google Play.
Latest Chrome beta for Android improves Chromecast support
Google has announced that it has begun rolling out a Chrome 35 beta for Android users today. Featuring improved Chromecast support, users can now send some video clips from the browser to a Chromecast-equipped TV. Additionally, Chrome now offers full-screen videos and improved support for multi-window devices. The update is available through Google Play.
Play Movies and TV reaches 39 more countries on Android, 32 on iOS
Google has expanded the reach of two of its Google Play services, allowing more users access to its content. Google Play Music and Music All Access has been enabled in four more countries, while the Google Play Movies and TV apps gain increased language support and a service expansion into up to 39 new markets on Android, 32 new countries on iOS.
Password can be requested for all in-app, store purchases
Google is starting to roll out an update to the Google Play Store app, changing the way it deals with purchases. Version 4.6.16 of the store now allows users to request for the account password to be entered for every single purchase from within apps and from the store itself, rather than allowing for a 30 minute password-free window after the password's entry.
Europe asks for safeguards to prevent accidental purchases
Apple and Google will soon be meeting with the European Commission to talk about problems with in-app purchases, according to a press release from the political body. The two companies will be asked to provide measures to protect customers, primarily parents, from accidental in-app purchases. A number of game developers publishing to the iOS App Store or Google Play have been accused of marketing "free" games that lure and/or deceive kids into buying digital items and currency; Apple and Google have sometimes been blamed as lax about putting up barriers to those purchases.
iTunes and Google Play putting a stop to more flappy clones
Applications trying capitalize on the success of Flappy Bird in order to jump to the top of the charts on iTunes and Google Play will have to take another approach today, as both Apple and Google has started to reject applications that contain the word "flappy" in the title and descriptions. In the wake of the original game being pulled by developer Dong Nguyen, both services have been flooded with clone applications trying to fill the void left by the game's departure.
Copied the look of iOS 7, icons too closely; return delayed
A customization app for Android called Themer, which featured a number of themed "looks" for modifying Android smartphones including an iOS 7-like theme, has been removed from the Google Play store with no indication of when it will return. Google pulled the app on February 2 after Apple complained that the iOS 7-esque theme used icons that infringed on Apple's patents. The developer says it has since addressed Apple's concerns, but Google has not yet restored the app.
Game hinders users ability to rate lower than five stars
Information has surfaced about the new free-to-play Dungeon Keeper game that has lead to a public outcry against Electronic Arts by gamers and fans of the series. In information reported by Gamasutra, the game uses questionable means in order to secure five star ratings on the Google Play.
Red Nexus 5 joins white, black versions, sold at same price
Google has released a third color option for its popular Nexus 5 smartphone, with the rumored device fitting alongside its existing black and white-colored offerings. The red version of the LG-produced device has gone on sale through Google Play, with the smartphone sharing the same specification, storage options, and price as its more stand-colored stablemates.
Chrome apps offers early developer preview of Apache Cordova-based toolchain
Outage affected Gmail, Google+, Hangouts, Google Play
Google suffered an outage on its e-mail service that affected all users of Gmail, as well as affecting Google+, Hangouts, and Google Play. Starting at approximately 2pm Eastern Time today, the outage prevented Gmail users from accessing the service at all, instead presenting "Temporary Error (500)" message, though after 20 minutes, a number of users started to regain access to various affected services.
Supports Chromecast, but currently acts as little more than a catalog
In an odd move, Google has release an iOS app for its Google Play movies and TV offerings, but limited it to streaming already-purchased movies and TV shows. The application also supports the company's Chromecast TV device, finally bringing a way for iPhone users to stream purchased content from the phone to the device -- but does not allow users to purchase or rent content from within the app.