Google Follows Apple’s Lead By Reducing Play Store Fee for App Subscriptions

Google revealed on Thursday that it would follow Apple's lead in lowering the amount of money app developers must pay for mobile subscriptions processed through the company's Play Store (via The Verge).

Adoption of the subscription model by iOS developers has increased over recent months, causing some controversy within the app-using community. Apple incentivized developers to sell their apps for a recurring fee instead of a one-time cost when it made changes to its App Store subscription policies in September of last year.


Usually, Apple takes 30 percent of app revenue, but developers who are able to maintain a subscription with a customer longer than a year see Apple's cut drop down to 15 percent.

Google is adopting the same policy for subscriptions in its Play Store – an Android developer selling a subscription service will be eligible for the cut if the customer in question has been subscribed for more than a year. The company plans to bring the change into effect starting January 2018.

As The Verge notes, Google is trying to stay competitive with Apple by offering a reduction in its fees. This way the company ensures that subscription services like Spotify don't try to bypass the Play Store in an effort to avoid paying the fee. But it also encourages developers to work harder to keep users subscribed for longer, given that the free reduction doesn't take effect until 12 months into the initial subscription.


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U.S. Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed From China App Store

Two U.S. senators have written to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking why the company removed third-party VPN apps from its App Store in China (via CNBC). Reports that Apple had pulled the VPN apps first arrived in July, following regulations passed earlier in the year that require such apps to be authorized by the Chinese government.

In the open letter dated October 17, Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Cruz write that China has an "abysmal" human rights record when it comes to freedom of expression and free access to online and offline information, and say they are "concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government's censorship and surveillance of the internet".

Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas, left) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
"While Apple's many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the internet privately does not enable people in China to 'speak up'."

"To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China's new regulations targeting online anonymity."
The senators go on to note that Cook was awarded the free speech award at Newseum's 2017 Free Expression Awards, where he said: "First we defend, we work to defend these freedoms by enabling people around the world to speak up. And second, we do it by speaking up ourselves."

In the bipartisan request, the senators then ask Cook to explain Apple's actions by answering a list of questions, including whether Apple was personally asked to remove the VPN apps by Chinese officials, and if the company expressed its concerns to the Chinese authorities before the country's anti-freedom laws were enacted.

In addition, the senators question what Apple has done to promote free speech in China and whether it has pushed for human rights and better treatment of oppressed groups in the country.

During an earnings call, Cook spoke about his decision to remove the VPN apps. "We would rather not remove apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law where we do business." Cook went on to say that he hopes China will ease up on the restrictions over time.

Apple has yet to respond to the letter.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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‘Ulysses’ iOS Writing App Gains Drag and Drop, Image Previews, and More

Popular text editor Ulysses received a substantial update on Thursday, adopting features and UI design concepts that bring the universal app into greater alignment with iOS 11.

Foremost in the changes is support for Drag and Drop in iOS 11, enabling users to rearrange sheets by picking them up and moving them around. It's also now possible to drag images and text passages from other apps to Ulysses' editor, or the other way around.


In terms of functionality, Ulysses for iPad has aligned more closely with its Mac counterpart: The library now grants access to all texts, regardless of whether they are stored on iCloud, in Dropbox, or locally, which should save users a couple of steps when switching between those sections.

In addition, users can now work with open sidebars, for example to leave attached writing goals, keywords and images open for quick reference.

A new, much-requested feature has also made it into this Ulysses update: Image previews in the text editor window. Up until now, images in a text were only indicated via a small tag — and adding a visual representation within the text was high up on the customer's wish list, according to the developers.


Elsewhere, the new version refines Ulysses' filter and search capabilities, improves the accessibility for the visually impaired, and enhances performance.

Ulysses for iOS can be downloaded for free on the App Store, while the macOS version, which was updated over weekend, is available on the Mac App Store. After a 14-day trial period, a subscription is required to unlock the app on all devices. A monthly subscription costs $4.99, while a yearly subscription costs $39.99. Students can use Ulysses at a discounted price of $11.99 per six months. The discount is granted from within the app.

Tag: Ulysses

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YouTube Singer Follows Up ‘iPhone Antenna Song’ With Sticky MacBook Keyboard Tune

Popular YouTube singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann has uploaded a humorous Apple-related tune that is currently doing the rounds on social media and tech blogs.

Mann originally rose to prominence among Apple watchers for catching the eye of Steve Jobs, who opened his iPhone 4 press conference by playing to the audience Mann's 2010 "iPhone Antenna Song", which criticized parts of the media for its "Antennagate" fixation. But it's unlikely Mann's latest song will receive a similar reception in Cupertino.


Titled "I Am Pressing the Spacebar and Nothing is Happening", Mann's new song centers on the singer's hatred for the "butterfly" keyboard on his MacBook Pro.

Apple introduced a revamped butterfly-mechanism keyboard on its first-generation 12-inch MacBook, and later on the 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pro, which featured flatter keys built using a second-generation butterfly mechanism. However, a significant number of customers have run into issues with both versions, the most common being sticking keys – the theme of Mann's latest song.

In the music video, Mann's chorus sees him persistently pressing the space bar of his 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, frustrated that it no longer works.

He refers to the MacRumors Buyer's Guide to express how long he waited to upgrade, and that his "very expensive" MacBook Pro is only about a year old, and yet here he is, victim to an unresponsive spacebar.


Mann laments that Apple has informed him that his machine will need "extensive surgery for a speck of dust lodged beneath the butterfly" mechanism – referencing Casey Johnston’s article in The Outline about a piece of dust breaking her MacBook Pro.

Mann's solo continues by explaining that Apple's arguably awkward-to-follow keyboard-cleaning instructions didn't work for him, leaving him feeling like an idiot.

If you don't fancy listening to this potential earworm, the full lyrics to the song can be found below.
I'm pressing the space bar / I'm pressing the space bar / I'm pressing the space bar / I'm pressing the space bar / And nothing is happening / This computer is about a year old / And it was very expensive / I had been waiting to upgrade / For a long time / And now you're telling me / It would need extensive / Surgery for a speck of dust / Lodged beneath the butterfly / I found your instructions / They were not helpful / I bought this can of air / I feel like an idiot

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Apple Pay in Spain Now Supported by CaixaBank and ImaginBank

Apple Pay support in Spain has been extended to CaixaBank and ImaginBank, according to reports out of the country this morning.

Spanish tech blog AppleSfera first reported that cards issued by the banks were working with Apple's mobile payment system as of Tuesday, and CaixaBank has now officially confirmed the support.


Apple Pay integration with Caixabank had been promised "before the end of the year". Previously the biggest financial entities in Spain to support Apple Pay were American Express and Banco Santander (Mastercard cards), so the addition of CaixaBank and ImaginBank (CaixaBank's mobile arm) should see the digital payment platform get a lot more coverage in the country.

Apple Pay is expected to be introduced in the near future to several more countries including Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

(Thanks, Eduardo!)


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iTunes U App Update Completes Migration of Course Collections to Apple Podcasts

Apple pushed an update to users of its iTunes U iOS app on Tuesday, bringing the education-focused service up to speed with recent changes introduced in iTunes 12.7 last month.

Apple launched iTunes U in 2007 as a free repository of educational content through the iTunes Store, allowing educators to create course collections comprising audio, media, handouts, ebooks, and other bundled content. In 2012, Apple introduced the iTunes U iOS app, enabling users to access their collections within an app container.

However, September's iTunes update completely removed the App Store, and with it the section for managing iTunes U Collections. Apple previously notified educational institutions using iTunes U that it would be migrating their collections to Apple Podcasts.

iTunes U collections can now be found in the Podcasts section of iTunes on Mac or PC, or in the Podcasts app on iOS devices or Apple TV. After the iTunes U iOS app is updated to version 3.6, it will only include courses, not collections. The app version history also indicates performance improvements for accounts with a large number of courses.


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macOS High Sierra Users Report Significant Delays Receiving iMessages and SMS Texts

A bug in macOS High Sierra is causing users to receive iMessages and SMS texts on Macs and other iCloud-connected devices long after they were originally sent, according to reports that have been gradually building up over the last week or so.

First spotted by AppleInsider, a growing number of complaints on Apple's support forums detail the issue, which is affecting Mac owners with iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches. The issue has also been picked up on MacRumors' forums, while at least one MacRumors staff member has experienced the same problem.


On updating to macOS High Sierra, some users report that iMessages only appear on their Mac after a long delay compared to their iPads and iPhones. Others have noticed that notifications are not coming through at all on other devices connected to the same iCloud account.

Some contributors to Apple's support forum and the MacRumors forum have suggested a couple of temporary fixes, including disabling and re-enabling messages, or sending messages on a Mac instead of an iOS device. Recent beta versions of macOS High Sierra don't appear to solve the problem, making reverting to macOS Sierra the only persistent workaround. Meanwhile, a community bug report has been created to alert Apple to the issue.

There's some speculation that the bug could be related to changes to the way iMessages function behind the scenes. Apple is working to bring iCloud syncing to iMessage in macOS High Sierra and iOS 11, so that deleting a message on one device removes it from all devices linked to the same account, for example. The advertised feature was pulled when the two operating systems were launched, but Apple hopes to introduce it later this fall.

Related Roundup: macOS High Sierra

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Microsoft Claims Upcoming ARM-Powered Laptops Offer Multi-Day Battery Life

Microsoft and Qualcomm have revealed they hope to release ARM-powered laptops by the end of the year, with the two companies promising multi-day battery life from the new machines (via Trusted Reviews).

At its annual 5G summit in Hong Kong, Qualcomm revealed new details about the PCs it is developing in partnership with Microsoft. Known as "Always Connected PCs", the laptops are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and rely on an ARM emulation layer to run x86 Windows 10 desktop applications.


ARM processors require fewer transistors, which enables a smaller die size for the integrated circuitry. Their smaller size and lower power consumption are two reasons why they can be found in iPhones and iPads, but the increasing performance and efficiency of the chips is making the step up to laptops a realistic proposition.

Microsoft said it is already testing "hundreds" of the ARM-powered laptops internally on a daily basis, with battery life in particular exceeding expectations.
"To be frank, it's actually beyond our expectations. We set a high bar for [our developers], and we're now beyond that. It's the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don't take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It's that kind of battery life."

Bernard added: "I would consider it a game-changer in terms of the way people have experienced PCs in the past."
The first round of Always Connected PCs are said to be coming from the likes of Asus, HP, and Lenovo, but they aren't expected to be cheap. Qualcomm said more affordable Windows 10 Always Connected PCs should become available once the portfolio expands.

Apple is reportedly looking into using ARM-based core processor chips for future MacBooks, which would reduce the company's dependence on Intel. Industry sources claim that Apple would instead build its notebook chips using ARM Holding's technology, a British company that designs ARM architecture and licenses it out to other companies.


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Apple CarPlay Support Comes to BBC iPlayer Radio App

The BBC today updated its Radio iPlayer app to support Apple CarPlay, allowing vehicle drivers with the feature to listen to BBC radio more safely when behind the wheel.

A simplified touch interface has been adopted for the new in-car version, designed to be easy to fast-forward in a show or skip through entire episodes.


Apart from CarPlay and Android Auto support, the update also brings additional features to help make radio listening a more personalized in-car experience.

The new app interface is split into four sections titled Following, Listen Later, Downloads, and Stations. The Following section gathers favorited shows for easy access from within CarPlay, Listen Later lists shows tagged by users for future listening, while the Downloads section keeps shows ready for listening offline in areas with poor signal.

The BBC iPlayer Radio app is a free download for U.K. listeners available from the App Store. [Direct Link]


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Walking Route Calorie Estimator Removed From Google Maps After User Criticism

Google is removing an experimental calorie estimator from its Maps iOS app, following criticism from users that the feature amounted to unsolicited health advice and could do more harm than good (via TechCrunch).

The feature began rolling out to some users last week and shows an estimate of the calories that would be burned if a selected walking route was taken.


The calorie estimator not only displayed the potential number of calories burned, but also how many "mini cupcakes" they were worth. "The average person burns 90 calories by walking 1 mile," the app states. "To help put that into perspective, we've estimated how many desserts your walk would burn. One mini cupcake is around 110 calories."

Some users reportedly welcomed the feature, but it sounds as if a good proportion of them didn't, as Google has taken the decision to roll it back "based on strong user feedback".



Some user criticism related to an inability to disable the feature, while others questioned its usefulness, given that rates of calorie burn vary widely from person to person, and no context is given about how the estimate is calculated.

Critics also noted that an excessive preoccupation with calorie counting is a symptom of anorexia and other eating disorders, therefore getting calorie estimates every time a route is looked up could have a negative impact on sufferers.

Google Maps can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link] For those who found the calorie estimator feature useful, other calorie-counting apps are available, such as CityMapper and MyFitnessPal.


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