Categories
Apple Apps

Dark Sky Weather Gets a new Home

There are some apps that are absolutely stand out on iOS. A few come to come, including PCalc, Overcast, and Carrot, just to name a few. Another one is the Dark Sky app. Dark Sky has been purchased by Apple.

Today we have some important and exciting news to share: Dark Sky has joined Apple.

Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy.

There is no better place to accomplish these goals than at Apple. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach far more people, with far more impact, than we ever could alone.

What happens to our existing products?

iOS App

There will be no changes to Dark Sky for iOS at this time. It will continue to be available for purchase in the App Store.

Android and Wear OS App

The app will no longer be available for download. Service to existing users and subscribers will continue until July 1, 2020, at which point the app will be shut down. Subscribers who are still active at that time will receive a refund.

Website

Weather forecasts, maps, and embeds will continue until July 1, 2020. The website will remain active beyond that time in support of API and iOS App customers.

API

Our API service for existing customers is not changing today, but we will no longer accept new signups. The API will continue to function through the end of 2021.

As part of this transition, use of Dark Sky by Apple is subject to the Apple Privacy Policy, which can be found at apple.com/privacy.
Thank you!
To our customers, family and friends, we are grateful for your support over the past eight years. We look forward to continuing to build great products, so stay tuned…

The Dark Sky Team

Apple purchasing the Dark Sky app makes complete sense. The weather app that is currently available on iOS works, however, it has not seen that many additions in the past few years and has remained largely unchanged since it’s initial release of the iPhone.

The acquisition of the Dark Sky team can mean some significant improvements not only on iOS, but also on macOS where macOS could get its own weather app.

One of the reasons why users used Dark Sky was not only the design of the app, but also due to the privacy stance of Dark Sky. They did not need access or attempt to gather information. It is a loss for the independent app development community, but it will be a great asset for all iOS users overall.

Furthermore, the API will remain up until the end of 2021,, which is more than generous, but somewhat unsurprising because so many other places rely on the Dark Sky weather APIs. Those who have signed up will be able to continue to use them, but nobody else can sign up.

I really hope Apple maintains the API for others to use, even if there is a minor fee. It may only be a subset, of the APIs available within the Dark Sky app itself.

Source: Dark Sky

Categories
Apple

Apple Releases Covid-19 App and Website

It should come no surprise that one of the biggest news items at the moment is the Covid-19 virus. Many people are currently in quarantine and have been practicing social distancing to help reduce the spread of the virus. There is a lot of information that is being shared by a variety of individuals that is false. Particularly during this time it is important to get the correct information

Today Apple, in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to produce a new Covid-19 app that is also available on the web at apple.com/covid19.

With the app, or website, you can begin answering questions about symptoms that you, or someone else, have had. Some of these questions include symptoms, travel, if the person lives with someone who has Covid-19, and related questions.

There are a couple of things to note. First, “Your answers will not be shared with Apple or the CDC without your permission”. This means that it is completely anonymous. The second item is

By using this tool, you agree to its terms and that Apple will not be liable for any harm relating to your use.

Recommendations provided by this tool do not constitute medical advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

Once you have finished the questionnaire, it will provide a recommendation, based upon your answers. One result that everyone should follow is:

You Should Practice Social Distancing

Help stop the spread. When outside the home, stay at least six feet away from other people, avoid groups, and only use public transit if necessary.

It is good to see Apple provide accurate and timely information.

Besides the app, Apple is helping in other ways, as outlined in a video by CEO Tim Cook.

Source: Apple

Categories
Apple iPad Pro

Apple Releases new iPad Pro

Today Apple unveiled a pair of new iPad Pro models, the 2nd Generation 11-inch iPad Pro and the 4th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. These two models are the same with the exception of the physical size. Both models still support the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil.

Processor

The new iPad Pro models have A12Z Bionic Chip. This is a slightly modified version of the A12X, which was in the previous generation iPad Pros. The new processor has 8 graphics and CPU cores, instead of the 7 GPU, and 8 CPU cores that were present in the previous models. This means that graphics and processing should be even faster. To quote from the press release

The eight-core GPU in the A12Z Bionic, along with an enhanced thermal architecture and tuned performance controllers, gives iPad Pro the highest performance ever in an iPad. Combined with the eight-core CPU and the powerful Neural Engine, which enables next-generation apps

Until we get our hands on the new iPad Pro and put it through its paces, it will be hard to see the real world improvement. One area where there will definitely be improvement is with the cameras.

Cameras

The new iPad Pros have an all new redesigned cameras. They now include two cameras, as 12MP wide camera and 10MP ultra-wide camera, similar to the cameras on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. This means that you can now take wider pictures. This also means that there is a new physical capability, optical zoom out with the Ultra-wide camera. The new cameras also include 240fps recording on both cameras. The Ultra-wide camera is capable of recording at 60fps. There is one last new feature to the cameras and is new to iOS entirely, it is called a “LiDAR Sensor”.

LiDAR Sensor

Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, “is used to determine distance by measuring how long it takes light to reach an object and reflect back…and opens up tremendous possibilities for augmented reality and beyond.” The LiDAR Sensor will be able to measure depth, which is absolutely necessary for Augmented Reality apps.

It will be interesting to see what App developers are able to accomplish with the new LiDAR Sensor.

Sound

The 1st Generation 11-inch iPad Pro and the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro had four speakers for audio and would automatically adjust depending on the orientation. The new iPad Pros have that as well. However, the change with the new models is in the number of microphones. There were five microphones on the previous models, and there are on the new models but they are now “Studio Quality”, similar to the speakers in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. This should improve sound quality for your videos.

Magic Keyboard

The iPad is great with touch, however sometimes you need a physical keyboard to be able to handle the input. Previously, this can be accomplished using any Bluetooth keyboard or the Smart Keyboard Folio. There is a new option called the “Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro”. The Magic Keyboard is more than just a simple keyboard, but it is also an iPad Stand that can be adjusted to whatever viewing angle you need for your iPad Pro.

The Magic Keyboard for each model is significantly more than a regular case or stand. The 11-inch model is $299 and the 12.9-inch model is $349. Both will be available in May and will be available in over 30 languages, so you will be able to get the keyboard that is right for you.

One thing that should also be mentioned is that the Magic Keyboard will be compatible with the 1st Generation 11-inch iPad Pro as well as the 3rd Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

iOS 13.4

The new iPads come with iOS 13.4. iOS 13.4 brings a new feature that some might expect to never arrive, trackpad support. This is not the same as the accessibility pointer support that has been in iOS 13, up until now. You can now use a connected mouse or trackpad and a cursor will appear on the screen. It will only show up on screen when you are using the mouse or trackpad. Some developers will need to improve their applications in order to fully utilize the new cursor support.

Pricing

The iPad Pro models are available in the same size, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB. models, and are available in both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. What has changed is the price of all of the models, except for the base price.

The 11-inch iPad Pro is $799, $899, $1099, and $1299 respectively. For the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the prices are $999, $1099, $1299, and $1499. You can order the models today and they will be delivered starting on March 25th.

Source: Apple

Categories
Apple Thoughts

Apple forces changes for some Parental Control apps

On Friday, April 27th, 2019, the New York Times posted a story that claims that Apple is crippling competitors to its Screen Time feature, by either forcing changes or removing apps altogether.

The story provides some information from several developers regarding that their applications have been pulled and that their businesses have been shutdown and/or the apps they have created had to be modified because “Apple began purging apps that offered similar services.”

According to one developer,

“They are systematically killing the industry,”

In response to story, Apple has provided its reasoning for the requesting changes, and if the apps were not updated, removing the apps.

Part of Apple’s statement says:

We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk. It’s important to understand why and how this happened. Over the last year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history. We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017.

As some quick background, Apple unveiled its Screen Time feature on June 4th, 2018 at their World Wide Developer Conference. The feature is part of iOS 12, which was released on September 19th, 2019.

My Thoughts

I am sure that some will argue that this is Apple abusing its dominant position. However, I do not think this is the case, given that some of the parental control apps were using Mobile Device Management to provide the significant access. As Apple states, third parties have FULL CONTROL OVER YOUR DEVICES. This cannot be understated. For some of these apps, if you install an MDM certificate and agree, that third-party developer now has access to everything on your device. So when Apple says they are requiring the changes due to privacy and security, I think they are being honest about it.

There is a line from the New York Times article from a developer whose app was removed. The reason that the developer received was: “Your app uses public A.P.I.s in an unapproved manner, which does not comply with guideline 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines”.

Section 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines states, as of this writing, “Apps should use APIs and frameworks for their intended purposes and indicate that integration in their app description.”. It is the first half of that statement that many developers seem to be reason why they were asked to make changes and/or why their apps were removed from the App Store.

It is only my guess, but it seems to me that the developer was using MDM to provide additional settings, then they were in violation of the rule. The reason they were in violation is because MDM is only to be used by businesses and schools to control devices that they own and provide to users of their company or students. MDM is not designed to allow developer access to end-user devices.

Even though these developers were in violation, it does not seem as though Apple made it clear that the developer’s use of MDM was the reason why their app was being removed.

What Apple Can Do

There are a few different ways that Apple can change things to make robust apps available in the store.

Specifically regarding parental control apps, Apple could provide more granular controls both within the Screen Time section, within the Settings app, as well as allowing developers access to configure these settings. However, I can see the significant reluctance for this to occur. Allowing applications access to change when applications are available, could allow a developer to programmatically limit access to apps, possibly without the user’s consent; which would not be a good situation. If there is no interface for developers, it would honestly not surprise me if there are additional settings with the next release of iOS, possibly with more granular control.

I also do think that Apple could be a bit more explicit when communicating with developers. I understand not wanting to provide exact steps for having applications come into compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines, as there are exceptions to each rule. I also get that indicating exactly how to fix an app might come off as a way of exerting excessive control and explicitly dictating how applications should be created. Even with that, additional information provided to developers can go a long way.

In this case of the removed apps, something along the lines of “The application’s use of MDM certificates violates the App Store guidelines, because MDM is intended for business or school usage”, or something along those lines could have gone a long way to making it clear as to why the apps were being removed.

Closing Thoughts

I think that use of MDM by companies does need to come to light. One of the arguments of the story is that once Apple introduced Screen Time that competing apps were being targeted and removed. However, I do not think this is the case. I take Apple at its word that the reason that they removed the apps was because they were violating user’s privacy and/or abusing the MDM certificates.

The New York Times story does state that some of the developers were contacted in August of last year, about needing to change their apps. Apple likely began looking into these some of the apps, that utilized MDM certificates, after it came to light that Facebook and Apple were violating the use of MDM certificates by doing the same thing. And if Apple is going to revoke Facebook’s and Google’s MDM certificates, then there is no reason why they would not do the same thing for smaller developers.

Categories
Apple

Apple’s March 25th Event Announcements


Today Apple held their March event. With the release of last week’s hardware, this event was all about Services. Today Apple announced a few new services, Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+. Let us go in order of announcements, but before that Apple had a new video., which can be seen on their YouTube channel.

The first item on the agenda is Apple News+.

Apple News+

Apple news was introduced with iOS 9 in September of 2015. While it seemed like an odd prospect at the time, Apple News has become a place where users can get personalized news articles based upon your interests. There are over 5 billion articles read every month. That is a lot of news.

Apple News Plus uses the smarts of Apple News and adds some additional features. Apple News+ is a monthly subscription service that provides access to more than 300 magazines. Some of the magazines included are National Geographic, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, O: the Opera Magazine, and many many more. But that is not all. Apple News+ also adds a couple of newspapers as well. Both the Los Angeles Times as well as the Wall Street Journal are included.

Typically when new subscription services are released they tend to be U.S. only for a while. That is not the case with Apple News+. Apple News+ will also be available in Canada. Apple News+ subscribers in Canada will have access to the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspapers.

Apple News+ will cost $9.99 per month, or $12.99 in Canada. For your subscription fee you will get access to all of the magazines as well as the newspapers, in your country. But you can also share the subscription with your family members, who are in the a Shared Family. Each member of a family will get access to Apple News+, as well as their personalized feed.

When you use Apple News+, none of the articles that you read are not tracked and advertisers cannot track you based upon what ads you see.

Apple News+ is available today by updating to iOS 12.2 or macOS 14.4. When you get started with Apple News+ you will get the first month free, and the subscription will be automatically renewed after the free trial ends. The next item announced is related to Apple Pay.

Apple Pay and Apple Card

Apple Pay is Apple’s mobile payment service that was introduced in October of 2014 with iOS 8.1. Apple Pay is extremely popular, with billions of transactions per year, with this year being on track to have more than 10 billion transactions. Apple Pay is expanding in a couple of different ways. The first is that Apple Pay is coming to major transit systems, including Portland, Chicago, and New York. All of these will be available at some point this year.

The second change is a bigger deal, an Apple-based credit card. The Apple Card takes what we all have come to expect from a credit card and enhances it. Apple Card is a credit card that lives on your iPhone and integrates with Apple Pay.

Apple Card can provide you with a breakdown of different categories of items that you have purchased. Each category will have its own color. You can also get your balance, what you have spent, and your payment due date all from the Apple Card screen.

When you are looking at your transactions, you can get a location of any of the transactions, including a map, of where your purchase was made. This uses Apple Maps to show the locations.

Credit cards often provide rewards. The Apple Card does as well. The rewards are quite simple. You get 2% Daily Cash for all purchases that you have used with Apple Card. This is deposited directly into your Apple Pay Cash account. If you purchase something from Apple, including in a physical store, as well as the App Store, or the Apple Store app, you will actually get 3% daily cash.

There is one last benefit that is will be welcome by just about anyone; No fees. There are no fees what-so-ever. This means no annual fees, no cash-advance fees, no over-the-limit fees, and no late fees.

Even though Apple Pay is accepted in a wide variety of places, including 99% of establishments in Australia, 70% in the United States. There are places where you cannot use Apple Pay, or Apple Card. So There is a physical Apple Card for those times. This card is a titanium card and even the physical card has privacy in mind. The Apple Card has no card number, no CVV, no expiration date, and no signature.

However, all of this information is available in the wallet app. For any purchases made with the physical card, you will get 1% Daily Cash, so even those purchases will provide some money back.

Apple Card will be available this summer, for those who qualify for the card. You can find more information about Apple Card at https://www.apple.com/apple-card/.

The next item that was announced relates around gaming, and it is called Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade

The iOS App Store is a very popular app, with over 500 million people visiting the app eery single week. The biggest category for the App Store is gaming. Gaming on mobile is becoming an ever-increasing activity on iOS devices.

iOS provides two different types of games, either free games or paid games. Free games are typically supported by in-app purchases or by ads. Paid games are games that are paid up front and you generally get the whole experience with your purchase. One of the problems with paid games is that it is not always possible to determine how popular a game will be and putting a significant amount of development effort into a game does not always mean that the game will be successful.

In order to make sure that the gaming experience is the best across all of Apple’s platforms, Apple is introducing a service called Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade will allow customers to get a subscription that will provide access to bring over 100 brand new games. Apple Arcade is an all you can play subscription that does not include any ads nor any in-app purchase. You can even play while you are offline with no internet connectivity. Just like Apple News+, an Apple Arcade subscription can be used by any family member through family sharing.

Apple Arcade games is still privacy focused by now allowing the apps to learn how you play, or any of your information without your explicit consent.

Apple Arcade will be available this fall to over 150 countries and revisions. Apple Arcade will be available on iOS, macOS, and tvOS. You can find more information, as well as see preview of some of the games at https://www.apple.com/apple-arcade/.

There is still one last announcement for the event, Apple TV+.

Apple TV+

It is well known that Apple is making a huge investment into original video content. It is no surprise that Apple will have a subscription service, they have named it Apple TV+. The way that you get all of this content is through the Apple TV app. Apple TV+ will be available in more than 100 countries. All of the content will be available for downloading for off-line viewing.

Apple TV+ will be available this Fall. There is more information available at https://www.apple.com/apple-tv-plus/.

Closing Thoughts

Today’s event was absolutely focused on services. There was an over-arching theme, services that protect your privacy. All of the services announced today, protect your privacy by performing any recommendations on device as well as not providing any of your usage information to the providers, that includes Apple. Along with protecting your privacy, you will also be able to share any of the services with your family members.

While most of the services are not available today, they will be available by the end of the year. Excluding Apple News+, the services will be available in multiple countries.

Apple News+ is available today ,with a free trial for $9.99. The cost of the other services, Apple Channels will be available in May through the new Apple TV app, and Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ will be available this fall.

The entire keynote can be streamed on Apple’s page for the event.