apple tv

Apple reportedly plans to give away its TV content, because that worked well with U2

Posted by | Apple, apple tv, Gadgets, Media | No Comments

Apple has answered two questions in one day, or rather a CNBC report citing someone within the company has. Why are the shows it’s planning so allegedly boring? And what does it plan to do to get a foot in the door in an increasingly competitive streaming-media market? They’re going to repeat the success they had with U2’s “Songs of Innocence” and just shunt it right onto everyone’s device.

To be clear, the report suggests that Apple will give its original content away for free to anyone with an iOS or tvOS device (Macs appear to be excluded). Users will find a shiny new app early next year called “TV,” in which will be Apple’s full lineup of PG-rated comedy and drama, free of charge.

Users will have the opportunity to subscribe to “channels,” for instance HBO, through which they can watch shows from those providers. Who will be allowed on this platform? It’s unclear. How will the billing work? Unclear. Will it replace standalone apps for the likes of Netflix? Unclear. How will it differ from iOS to tvOS? Unclear.

The only thing that is clear is that Apple is working from a position of massive leverage as the only company that can or has reason to launch a shared media channel through a billion-dollar giveaway. No doubt there will be other ways they’ll pinch the competition: search and Siri functionality will probably be better for TV; it’ll have integrations with other first-party apps; they’ll default users to using the TV app when they find a show they like — that sort of thing.

Some of you may be wondering: Can Apple really just spend a billion dollars on content and then give it away for free? The answer is unequivocally yes. This company is rich beyond imagining and they could do this every year if they wanted to (and in fact they might have to for a bit). Besides, this is a billion-dollar investment in a platform it hopes to entrap every other popular media company in.

Here’s the plan: First you get a base level of okay shows on the TV app so it isn’t a wasteland and people can get used to it always being there along with the other two dozen permanent apps. Then you nag some partners and channels into putting their stuff on there because it’s a “more streamlined experience” or something and collect rent when they do.

Once you have critical mass you reveal your second round of content — the good stuff — and a ridiculously cheap price, like $30 per year, or less bundled with iCloud stuff. Apple doesn’t need to make money on this, unlike other companies, so it can charge literally whatever it wants. Too low and people think it’s just a hobby, too high and they won’t pay for it on top of Netflix and HBO. Sweeten the deal with special pricing you wring out of channels because they can’t afford to leave this new walled garden, and say consumers come out ahead.

Meanwhile of course this is only available on Apple hardware, so you lock people into the ecosystem more, and maybe even sell a few Apple TVs.

Ultimately what they’re doing is buying their way into the market with a big up-front payment to shift and lock a non-trivial portion of the existing audience into their own app — a familiar maneuver.

The money, well, they’ve already spent that. And possibly on content of questionable quality. That’s the one big fault in the plan: Apple’s squeamishness may result in a TV app with a bunch of garbage on it, in which case (hopefully) no one will use it at all and the company won’t get the leverage it needs to bully other media companies into joining up.

You may remember how this kind of forced-content play worked out with U2. After they put “Songs of Innocence” on everybody’s computer, the backlash was so strong that Bono personally apologized. Turns out Apple isn’t actually a tastemaker — they just make the phones that tastemakers use.

In that case it may be that their quest to unseat the actual tastemakers of this era — the likes of Netflix and HBO, which rebuilt the TV industry from the ground up — is quixotic and doomed to failure (or at least a period of ignominious limbo).

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HQ Trivia downloads spiral downward as it hits Apple TV

Posted by | apple tv, Apps, Gaming, Mobile, Social, Startups, TC, trivia | No Comments

HQ Trivia’s app store ranking has continued to sink the past three months, but it’s hoping a new version on your television could revitalize growth. HQ today launched an Apple TV app that lets users play the twice-daily live quiz game alongside iOS Android players. “Everything about the game is still the same – same questions, same time, same rules,” says a spokesperson, except you’ll play with the Apple TV remote instead of your phone’s screen. But that might not be enough to get HQ’s player count rapidly growing again.

According to App Annie’s app store ranking history, on iOS HQ has fallen from the No. 1 U.S. trivia game to No. 10, from the No. 44 game to No. 196, and from the No. 151 overall app to No. 585. It’s exhibited a similar decline on Android. Analytics firm Sensor Tower estimates HQ has seen 12.5 million lifetime installs by unique users, with about 68 percent on iOS. “Installs have been on the decline. For last month, we estimate them with about 560K, which is down from their height of more than two million per month back in February,” Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights Randy Nelson tells TechCrunch.

 

The question is whether this is just a summer lull as people spend time outside and students aren’t locked in the schedule of school, or if HQ is in a downward spiral beyond seasonal fluctuations. But if we zoom out, you can see that HQ has been dropping down the charts through the school year since peaking in January. At one point it climbed as high as the No. 3 game and No. 6 overall app. The app’s record high of concurrent players has also declined from a peak of 2.38 million in late March.

[Update: The CEO of HQ Trivia parent company Intermedia Labs and the former co-founder of Vine, Rus Yusupov, weighed in on the decline in downloads and HQ’s plans. He says, “Games are a hits business and don’t grow exponentially forever,” signalling the drop-off was expected and the team is still optimistic. But he also notes that HQ is “developing new game formats, one of which we think is really special and complements Trivia nicely”, indicating that HQ will branch out beyond its 12-question everyone vs everyone approach.]

Games are a hits business and don’t grow exponentially forever. HQ has massive early traction and still millions playing daily. Also developing new game formats, one of which we think is really special and complements Trivia nicely. More soon! Until then thanks for playing 🎮https://t.co/wnAcztBuJU

— Rus (@rus) August 14, 2018

Meanwhile, new clones keep popping up. After the initial wave of Chinese live trivia apps, now U.S. television studios are getting into the mix. This week Fox unveiled FN Genius, which looks and works almost exactly the same as HQ. One of HQ’s long-time rivals, Trivia Crack, where users play asynchronously over the course of days, also declined earlier this year, but has bucked HQ’s trend and started rising on the App Store charts again. There are also new 1-on-1 trivia games like ProveIt that let players bet real money on whether they can outsmart their opponent.

Fox’s FN Genius. Image via Deadline

With themed games, celebrity hosts, big jackpots like a recent $400,000 prize and new features like the ability to see friends’ answers, HQ has tried to keep its app novel. But it’s also encountered cheaters and people playing with multiple phones that make normal players feel like they’ll never win. While the live aspect adds urgency, it also can feel interruptive with time as users aren’t always available for its noon and 6pm Pacific games. HQ may need to launch a second game app, come up with some new viral hooks or find ways to revive lapsed players if it’s going to make good on the $15 million its parent company raised in March.

 

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Apple’s Shortcuts will flip the switch on Siri’s potential

Posted by | Amazon, Android, app-store, Apple, apple inc, apple tv, Apple Watch, Apps, artificial intelligence, Assistant, Column, computing, Craig Federighi, Google, google now, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, mobile devices, operating system, screen time, siri, Software, virtual assistant | No Comments
Matthew Cassinelli
Contributor

Matthew Cassinelli is a former member of the Workflow team and works as an independent writer and consultant. He previously worked as a data analyst for VaynerMedia.

At WWDC, Apple pitched Shortcuts as a way to ”take advantage of the power of apps” and ”expose quick actions to Siri.” These will be suggested by the OS, can be given unique voice commands, and will even be customizable with a dedicated Shortcuts app.

But since this new feature won’t let Siri interpret everything, many have been lamenting that Siri didn’t get much better — and is still lacking compared to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo.

But to ignore Shortcuts would be missing out on the bigger picture. Apple’s strengths have always been the device ecosystem and the apps that run on them.

With Shortcuts, both play a major role in how Siri will prove to be a truly useful assistant and not just a digital voice to talk to.

Your Apple devices just got better

For many, voice assistants are a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have.

It’s undeniably convenient to get facts by speaking to the air, turning on the lights without lifting a finger, or triggering a timer or text message – but so far, studies have shown people don’t use much more than these on a regular basis.

People don’t often do more than that because the assistants aren’t really ready for complex tasks yet, and when your assistant is limited to tasks inside your home or commands spoken inton your phone, the drawbacks prevent you from going deep.

If you prefer Alexa, you get more devices, better reliability, and a breadth of skills, but there’s not a great phone or tablet experience you can use alongside your Echo. If you prefer to have Google’s Assistant everywhere, you must be all in on the Android and Home ecosystem to get the full experience too.

Plus, with either option, there are privacy concerns baked into how both work on a fundamental level – over the web.

In Apple’s ecosystem, you have Siri on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod, CarPlay, and any Mac. Add in Shortcuts on each of those devices (except Mac, but they still have Automator) and suddenly you have a plethora of places to execute these all your commands entirely by voice.

Each accessory that Apple users own will get upgraded, giving Siri new ways to fulfill the 10 billion and counting requests people make each month (according to Craig Federighi’s statement on-stage at WWDC).

But even more important than all the places where you can use your assistant is how – with Shortcuts, Siri gets even better with each new app that people download. There’s the other key difference: the App Store.

Actions are the most important part of your apps

iOS has always had a vibrant community of developers who create powerful, top-notch applications that push the system to its limits and take advantage of the ever-increasing power these mobile devices have.

Shortcuts opens up those capabilities to Siri – every action you take in an app can be shared out with Siri, letting people interact right there inline or using only their voice, with the app running everything smoothly in the background.

Plus, the functional approach that Apple is taking with Siri creates new opportunities for developers provide utility to people instead of requiring their attention. The suggestions feature of Shortcuts rewards “acceleration”, showing the apps that provide the most time savings and use for the user more often.

This opens the door to more specialized types of apps that don’t necessarily have to grow a huge audience and serve them ads – if you can make something that helps people, Shortcuts can help them use your app more than ever before (and without as much effort). Developers can make a great experience for when people visit the app, but also focus on actually doing something useful too.

This isn’t a virtual assistant that lives in the cloud, but a digital helper that can pair up with the apps uniquely taking advantage of Apple’s hardware and software capabilities to truly improve your use of the device.

In the most groan-inducing way possible, “there’s an app for that” is back and more important than ever. Not only are apps the centerpiece of the Siri experience, but it’s their capabilities that extend Siri’s – the better the apps you have, the better Siri can be.

Control is at your fingertips

Importantly, Siri gets all of this Shortcuts power while keeping the control in each person’s hands.

All of the information provided to the system is securely passed along by individual apps – if something doesn’t look right, you can just delete the corresponding app and the information is gone.

Siri will make recommendations based on activities deemed relevant by the apps themselves as well, so over-active suggestions shouldn’t be common (unless you’re way too active in some apps, in which case they added Screen Time for you too).

Each of the voice commands is custom per user as well, so people can ignore their apps suggestions and set up the phrases to their own liking. This means nothing is already “taken” because somebody signed up for the skill first (unless you’ve already used it yourself, of course).

Also, Shortcuts don’t require the web to work – the voice triggers might not work, but the suggestions and Shortcuts app give you a place to use your assistant voicelessly. And importantly, Shortcuts can use the full power of the web when they need to.

This user-centric approach paired with the technical aspects of how Shortcuts works gives Apple’s assistant a leg up for any consumers who find privacy important. Essentially, Apple devices are only listening for “Hey Siri”, then the available Siri domains + your own custom trigger phrases.

Without exposing your information to the world or teaching a robot to understand everything, Apple gave Siri a slew of capabilities that in many ways can’t be matched. With Shortcuts, it’s the apps, the operating system, and the variety of hardware that will make Siri uniquely qualified come this fall.

Plus, the Shortcuts app will provide a deeper experience for those who want to chain together actions and customize their own shortcuts.

There’s lots more under the hood to experiment with, but this will allow anyone to tweak & prod their Siri commands until they have a small army of custom assistant tasks at the ready.

Hey Siri, let’s get started

Siri doesn’t know all, Can’t perform any task you bestow upon it, and won’t make somewhat uncanny phone calls on your behalf.

But instead of spending time conversing with a somewhat faked “artificial intelligence”, Shortcuts will help people use Siri as an actual digital assistant – a computer to help them get things done better than they might’ve otherwise.

With Siri’s new skills extendeding to each of your Apple products (except for Apple TV and the Mac, but maybe one day?), every new device you get and every new app you download can reveal another way to take advantage of what this technology can offer.

This broadening of Siri may take some time to get used to – it will be about finding the right place for it in your life.

As you go about your apps, you’ll start seeing and using suggestions. You’ll set up a few voice commands, then you’ll do something like kick off a truly useful shortcut from your Apple Watch without your phone connected and you’ll realize the potential.

This is a real digital assistant, your apps know how to work with it, and it’s already on many of your Apple devices. Now, it’s time to actually make use of it.

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Apple could bundle TV, music and news in a single subscription

Posted by | Apple, apple music, apple news, apple tv, Apps, Entertainment, Mobile | No Comments

According to a report from The Information, Apple could choose to bundle all its media offerings into a single subscription. While Apple’s main media subscription product is currently Apple Music, it’s no secret that the company is investing in other areas.

In particular, Apple has bought the distribution rights of many TV shows. But nobody knows how Apple plans to sell those TV shows. For instance, you could imagine paying a monthly fee to access Apple’s content in the TV app on your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.

In addition to that, Apple acquired Texture back in March. Texture lets you download and read dozens of magazines with a single subscription. The company has partnered with Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp., Rogers Communications and Time Inc. to access their catalog of magazines.

Texture is still available, but it’s clear that Apple has bigger plans. In addition to reformatting and redistributing web content in the Apple News app, the company could add paid content from magazines.

Instead of creating three different subscriptions (with potential discounts if you subscribe to multiple services), The Information believes that Apple is going to create a unified subscription. It’s going to work a bit like Amazon Prime, but without the package deliveries.

For a single monthly or annual fee, you’ll be able to access Apple Music, Apple TV’s premium content and Apple News’ premium content.

Even if you don’t consume everything in the subscription, users could see it as a good value, which could reduce attrition.

With good retention rates and such a wide appeal, it could help Apple’s bottom line now that iPhone unit sales are only growing by 0.5 percent year over year. It’s still unclear when Apple plans to launch its TV and news offerings.

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Apple TV gets Dolby Atmos and streamlined sign-ons for channels and services

Posted by | Apple, apple tv, Gadgets, hardware, Media, WWDC 2018 | No Comments

Apple TV, still definitely not a hobby, has some new features being added as it grows. Tim Cook mentioned there are 50 percent more users now than there were last year, and no doubt they’ll be happy with the addition of Dolby Atmos audio and some nice sign-on streamlining.

Apple TV is now the only streaming player to be both Dolby Atmos and Vision certified. Assuming you’ve got a 4K HDR-capable TV, it could be nice to have, as iTunes boasts the biggest selection of content for those — but because hardly anyone does, it’s more of an aspirational feature at present.

There are more than 100 video channels now after the addition of several live news and sports ones. In France, Apple TV will be the exclusive provider of Canal+, and in Switzerland, Apple has partnered with Salt for a similar exclusive. And Charter Spectrum will also be coming to Apple TV later this year, so around 50 million people will be able to watch their normal cable content through the device. Finally!

Helpfully, many of these apps won’t require a separate log-in, including Charter Spectrum — as any smart TV user or cable cutter knows, managing these logons can be incredibly annoying. So a single sign-on (or zero sign-on, in some cases) will be a boon.

It is unclear what this means for those of us who share passwords between friends and family. Possibly not good.

If you’re a TV background video aficionado, you’ll also be interested in the new orbital video of Earth that can be displayed while nothing else is going on. It’s exclusive to Apple.

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Amazon Prime Video finally lands on Apple TV

Posted by | Amazon, amazon video, Apple, apple inc, apple tv, computing, consumer electronics, Gadgets, iOS, iPhone, iphone 5c, technology | No Comments

 Tim Cook said six months ago Amazon Prime Video was coming to Apple TV sometime before the end of the year. And here it is: the long-awaited app is finally available on Apple TV and the iOS flavor was updated to support the iPhone X. The native tvOS versions is compatible with Apple TV 3rd generation devices or later. If the app isn’t visible yet, try searching for Amazon Prime Video on… Read More

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Nvidia Shield TV gets a new, lower price ahead of Apple TV 4K launch

Posted by | 4k, apple tv, Gadgets, Media, nvidia, Shield, TC | No Comments

 Nvidia’s Shield TV, an Android TV-based device that’s currently the best option available for 4K streaming fans, is getting a price drop with a new package that leaves out the included video game controller. Bundled with just the remote, the 16GB Shield TV is now $179 – $20 cheaper than the Shield TV bundle that also includes the joypad, and in line with the pricing of the… Read More

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Everything Apple announced at its iPhone X keynote

Posted by | Apple, apple tv, Apple TV 4K, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Series 3, Apps, Gadgets, iPhone, iPhone 8, iphone event, iphone event 2017, iPhone X, Mobile, TC | No Comments

 Apple’s September event is always a big one. And this year is no different. There were new iPhones, a new Apple Watch and even a new Apple TV. Surprisingly, Apple announced not one, not two but three different iPhone models — including a mysterious iPhone X.
In case you missed it, here’s everything Apple announced today. Read More

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All the videos from Apple’s iPhone event

Posted by | Apple, apple tv, Apple Watch, Gadgets, iPhone, iPhone 8, iphone event 2017, iPhone X, Mobile, TC, Wearables | No Comments

 In case you happened to miss the presentation of Apple’s latest iGear, we’ve got your back. The company today announced Apple Watch Series 3, a new 4K Apple TV, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, as well as the much-rumored iPhone X (pronounced “ten”). As Apple is wont to do, the company peppered videos into the presentation. Some were straight-up advertisements, others… Read More

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