Archive for the ‘App Store’ Category

OurPact returns to App Store, reviving debates about Apple’s impartiality

July 12th, 2019
Tim Cook on stage during an Apple event in September 2018.

Tim Cook on stage during an Apple event in September 2018. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Software may come and go from the App Store, but this week marks a return that could have some real significance for Apple. OurPact, an app that lets parents monitor and limit their children's use of technology, has returned to the App Store after being removed this spring. Its creators posted a social message to followers informing them of the app’s return to iOS earlier this week.

“A major thank you to our community for the outpouring of support throughout these removals," the OurPact announcement reads. "Every tweet, share, and mention helped spread the word and restore the future of iOS digital parenting. We look forward to developing family screen time solutions for years to come!"

OurPact was one of 11 apps providing parental control over kids' smartphone usage to be restricted or completely removed from the App Store in April. At the time, Apple claimed the move was due to privacy concerns. It argued that the apps in question used mobile device management (MDM) technology that could "[give] 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."

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Posted in App Store, apple, iOS, screen time, Tech | Comments (0)

Supreme Court ruling could threaten Apple’s 30 percent app commission

May 13th, 2019
Supreme Court ruling could threaten Apple’s 30 percent app commission

Enlarge (credit: Chesnot/Getty Images)

A narrowly divided Supreme Court is allowing a group of consumers to move forward with a lawsuit charging that Apple overcharges customers for App Store purchases. Apple had asked courts to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that the law only allowed app developers, not customers, to bring such a case.

The lawsuit has been underway since 2011 and is nowhere close to resolution. The stakes are high. Apple's iOS platform is notable for completely shutting out alternative means of app distribution. Other major software platforms—including Android, Mac OS, and Windows—offer customers the option to download and install software they acquire from third parties without paying a commission to the platform owner. But ordinary iPhone users—those who are unwilling or unable to jailbreak or use developer tools—have no way to install apps other than through the official App Store.

Plaintiffs in this case argue that Apple's 30 percent commission on app sales wouldn't be viable in a competitive app distribution market. The class-action lawsuit seeks refunds on behalf of millions of users who have paid inflated prices for apps as a result of Apple's exclusionary practices.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, Policy, Supreme Court, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple unveils Apple Arcade subscription service for iOS, Mac, Apple TV games

March 25th, 2019
Apple unveils Apple Arcade subscription service for iOS, Mac, Apple TV games

Enlarge (credit: Apple)

CUPERTINO, Calif.—Apple today announced a new subscription service called Apple Arcade for games on its platforms, including iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV. The service will debut "this fall." Its exact price has not yet been confirmed.

The paid-subscription service will include games "unavailable on any other mobile service," Apple confirmed, and it will launch with "over 100 new and exclusive games." A sizzle reel of flashy games appeared at today's Apple event, and it largely focused on indie games that haven't yet launched on either traditional or mobile platforms yet. One notable exception: there was a brief shot of an apparently unannounced Sonic the Hedgehog game.

By paying the subscription fee, players will have access to all games for as long as they want with no limits or microtransactions attached. Shared family accounts will have access to the titles and parental controls for no additional charge. And the service's multi-device support extends to letting iOS gamers suspend an Apple Arcade game on their phone, then resume playing it on another device, or vice versa.

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Posted in App Store, apple, Apple Games, gaming, Gaming & Culture, iOS games, mobile games, Tech | Comments (0)

Spotify’s EU antitrust complaint could be a serious threat to Apple

March 14th, 2019
The Apple logo takes corporeal form outside an Apple store.

Enlarge (credit: Andrew / Flickr)

Apple is abusing its control over the iOS App Store to give its own music streaming service an unfair advantage over competitors, Spotify argued in a Wednesday filing with the European Commission.

"Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience," writes Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek. "After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition."

For years, Apple has pressured Spotify to use Apple's In-App Purchase service to collect subscription fees. Spotify has resisted, largely because Apple takes a whopping 30-percent commission. Over time, Spotify says, Apple has tightened up its app store rules to make it more and more difficult for app makers to direct users to payment methods outside the Apple ecosystem.

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Posted in antitrust, App Store, apple, competition policy, European Commission, iOS, Policy, spotify | Comments (0)

Gambling, porn, and piracy on iOS: Apple’s enterprise certificate woes continue

February 15th, 2019
Apps on an iPhone X.

Enlarge / Apps on an iPhone X. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Rival tech giants like Google and Facebook aren’t the only companies abusing Apple’s enterprise certifications to distribute unapproved apps in the Apple App Store on iOS, according to reports from Reuters and TechCrunch.

Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program is intended to facilitate distribution of apps across devices internally within corporations, governments, and other organizations. Apple explicitly forbids its use for any other purpose in its terms of service.

But the Reuters report describes the use of enterprise certificates to distribute pirated versions of popular iOS software like Minecraft, Spotify, and Pokémon Go. For example, a free version of Minecraft (which is normally a premium app) is distributed by TutuApp using the method. Another pirate distributor, AppValley, offers a version of the Spotify app with the ads that support Spotify and the music artists stripped out completely.

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Posted in App Store, apple, Apple Enterprise Developer Program, Enterprise Certificates, gambling, iOS, piracy, Pornography, Tech | Comments (0)

Apple to developers: disclose screen recording or get booted from App Store

February 8th, 2019
The home screen on the iPhone XS.

Enlarge / The home screen on the iPhone XS. (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Apple has begun notifying developers who use screen-recording code in their apps to either properly disclose it to users or remove it entirely if they want to keep their apps in the App Store. The move comes after a TechCrunch report showed that many apps do not disclose such activity to users at all, and some sensitive user data has been compromised through screen recordings.

"Protecting user privacy is paramount in the Apple ecosystem," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. "Our App Store Review Guidelines require that apps request explicit user consent and provide a clear visual indication when recording, logging, or otherwise making a record of user activity."

The initial report highlighted third-party analytics code used by Air Canada, Expedia, Hotels.com, Hollister and other companies in their mobile apps that allows them to record the screens of users while they navigate the app. These "session replays" are designed to help developers work out kinks, make informed UI decisions, and better inform them on how users are interacting with their apps in general.

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Posted in App Store, app store review guidelines, apple, glassbox, Privacy, screen recording, Tech | Comments (0)

Netflix delivers a blow to Apple’s services story by ending in-app subscriptions

January 2nd, 2019
The Netflix homepage—iPhone and iPad users will have to go here to sign up for the streaming video service.

Enlarge / The Netflix homepage—iPhone and iPad users will have to go here to sign up for the streaming video service. (credit: Netflix)

Netflix will no longer offer in-app subscription purchases for users of iOS devices like iPhones and iPads, VentureBeat reports. The change cuts off a substantial amount of revenue for Apple at a time when it is working hard to encourage app developers to adopt in-app subscriptions as a model, and when it depends on its services business to tell a growth story to its shareholders.

The change applies to customers who are new to Netflix or who have allowed their subscriptions to lapse. For now, customers already using Apple's platform to pay for Netflix can continue to do so.

Subscriptions have been a major focus for Apple of late. In 2017, the company reportedly invited app developers to a meeting in New York City where it laid out a pitch for using a subscription model for software offered in the iOS App Store. Apple positioned subscriptions as the new model for publishing financially successful apps and games on the platform. When its subscriptions program first launched, Apple took a 30 percent cut, but the portion was reduced to 15 percent, heeding developer feedback that the previous cut was too significant.

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Posted in App Store, apple, Gaming & Culture, Netflix, streaming, subscriptions, Tech, TV | Comments (0)

Tim Cook: Apple won’t tolerate white supremacists, conspiracy theorists

December 4th, 2018
Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook looks on as the new iPhone X goes on sale at an Apple Store on November 3, 2017 in Palo Alto, California. (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple CEO Tim Cook further condemned white supremacists when he accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League at an event in New York on Monday. The ADL honored Cook with its first ever Courage Against Hate Award, and the tech CEO took his time on the stage to address Apple's stance against hate speech and what he thinks are tech companies' responsibilities to customers.

"From the earliest days of iTunes, to Apple Music today, we have always prohibited music with a message of white supremacy," Cook said. "Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. And as we showed this year, we won’t give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists on the App Store."

He went on to say that tech companies shouldn't be afraid to take the moral high-ground and stand up against hate speech and discrimination of all sorts.

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Posted in App Store, apple, Facebook, hate speech, Tech, Tim Cook, Twitter | Comments (0)

iOS apps used Touch ID feature to trick users into paying hefty fees

December 3rd, 2018
Images displayed by the Fitness Balance app in Apple's App Store.

Enlarge / Images displayed by the Fitness Balance app in Apple's App Store. (credit: Eset)

Apple’s App Store has given the boot to two highly rated apps that abused the iOS Touch ID feature in an attempt to swindle users out of sums of more than $100, users on Reddit reported over the weekend.

The offending “Fitness Balance app” and “Calories Tracker app” promised to calculate body mass index, monitor calorie intake, and provide other health-related services. With no advanced warning, according to Reddit posts here and here, the apps charged users fees of $99.99, $119, or 139 Euros, depending on the country of the user. Users who had a credit or debit card connected to their Apple account were immediately billed.

The scam worked by displaying a message as soon as the app was opened. It told users to scan their fingerprint to view a calorie tracker or receive another personal service. When users complied, the apps displayed a popup window that said they had been charged a fee. Less than two seconds later, the popup disappeared, but by then it was too late for many users. Anyone with a card linked to their Apple account was already charged.

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Posted in App Store, apple, Biz & IT, fingerprint, iOS, touch id | Comments (0)