iOS

Apple may combine ‘Find My iPhone’ & ‘Find My Friends’ apps, launch a Tile-like tracking device

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Apps, Bluetooth, find my iphone, iCloud, iOS, iOS apps, iPad, iPhone, iTunes, Mobile, tracker | No Comments

Apple is working to combine its tracking apps “Find My iPhone” and “Find My Friends” into one unified app available on both iOS and Mac, according to a new report from the Apple news site 9to5Mac. In addition, the report says, Apple is developing a hardware product that can be attached to other items that Apple customers want to track — similar to what the Bluetooth tracker Tile offers today.

The idea is the new, unified app would then serve as a way to track anything — Apple devices, other important items like a handbag or backpack, as well as the location of family members and trusted friends. And all of this information would be securely synced to iCloud.

Meanwhile, the new hardware — codenamed “B389,” the report says — would represent a threat to Tile and other Bluetooth trackers on the market, as Apple would be able to capitalize on its massive install base of iPhones and other Apple devices to develop its own crowdsourced tracking-and-finding network.

The new hardware tag will be paired to a user’s iCloud account and users will be able to receive notifications when a device, like their iPhone, gets too far away from the tag. Users will also be able to configure locations to be ignored, and can opt to share a tag’s location with friends or family.

And like Tile, when the item with the tag attached goes missing, users could then put the tag into a “Lost” mode that would alert the owner when it’s found. The “finding” takes place by way of a crowdsourced network that includes every other Apple device owner who’s opted in to use this same tracking service, it would seem.

A large crowdsourced network is today one of Tile’s key advantages.

To date, the company has sold 24 million Tiles, which now connect to 4 million items daily with a 90 percent success rate, thanks to its own community-find feature. A competitive product from Apple could eat away at Tile’s business, while also serving as a new source of device revenue for Apple — and perhaps subscription revenues, too, for access to the crowd-finding network.

The reported merger of Apple’s two tracking applications comes at a time when Apple is rethinking how it wants to position its apps. Another recent report from 9to5Mac had confirmed Apple’s plans to break up iTunes, and instead bring new Music, podcasts and TV apps to Mac users. Apple will revamp its Books app as part of these changes, too, the report said.

It’s worth noting that there’s a big leak at Apple right now, and 9to5Mac is benefiting.

In addition to the news about the unified apps, Tile-like tracker and the breakup of iTunes, the site also leaked a big preview of iOS 13, which is said to include a system-wide dark mode, new gestures, visual changes and more. And just yesterday, the site reported that Apple is working on a feature that will allow users to pair a Mac with an iPad to use as a secondary display — something offered today by companies like Luna Display or Duet Display.

As for the new, unified “Find My…” app and hardware tag, no timeline to a public release is yet known.

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iOS 13 could feature dark mode and interface updates

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Gadgets, iOS, iPhone, Mobile, rumor | No Comments

According to a report from 9to5mac’s Guilherme Rambo, the next major version of iOS for the iPhone and iPad will present many new features, such as universal dark mode, new gestures, visual changes for the volume popup and more.

Dark mode should work more or less like dark mode on macOS Mojave. You’ll be able to turn on a system-wide option in Settings. Apps that support it will automatically switch to dark mode the next time you launch them. Let’s hope that third-party developers will support that feature. Otherwise, it would be a bit useless if Facebook, Instagram, Gmail or Amazon still feature blindingly white backgrounds.

The other big change is that you’ll be able to open multiple windows of the same app on the iPad. You can already open two Safari tabs side by side, but it sounds like Apple plans to expand that feature beyond Safari with a card metaphor. Each window will be represented as a card that you can move, stack or dismiss.

Other iOS 13 features sound like minor improvements that should make iOS less frustrating. And it starts with new gestures. Instead of shaking your device to undo an action, users will be able to swipe with three fingers on the virtual keyboard to undo and redo a text insertion.

Similarly, Apple could be working on a new way to select multiple items in a table view or grid view. You could just drag a rectangle around multiple items to select them. Once again, Apple is reusing a classic macOS feature on iOS.

Some apps will receive updates, such as Mail and Reminders. The default email client will sort your emails in multiple categories (marketing, travel, etc.) just like in Gmail.

Finally, that annoying volume popup could be on the way out. Apple could replace that popup with a more subtle volume indicator.

Overall, the most exciting change is probably the ability to launch multiple windows of the same app. It’ll be interesting to see how Apple plans to implement that feature and what you’ll be able to do with that. Moving away from the traditional “one app = one document” metaphor could open up a lot of different workflows.

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A powerful spyware app now targets iPhone owners

Posted by | Android, app maker, app-store, computing, data security, Facebook, iOS, iPhone, iTunes, Lookout, mobile app, online marketplaces, privacy, Security, spy | No Comments

Security researchers have discovered a powerful surveillance app first designed for Android devices can now target victims with iPhones.

The spy app, found by researchers at mobile security firm Lookout, said its developer abused their Apple-issued enterprise certificates to bypass the tech giant’s app store to infect unsuspecting victims.

The disguised carrier assistance app once installed can silently grab a victim’s contacts, audio recordings, photos, videos and other device information — including their real-time location data. It can be remotely triggered to listen in on people’s conversations, the researchers found. Although there was no data to show who might have been targeted, the researchers noted that the malicious app was served from fake sites purporting to be cell carriers in Italy and Turkmenistan.

Researchers linked the app to the makers of a previously discovered Android app, developed by the same Italian surveillance app maker Connexxa, known to be in use by the Italian authorities.

The Android app, dubbed Exodus, ensnared hundreds of victims — either by installing it or having it installed. Exodus had a larger feature set and expanded spying capabilities by downloading an additional exploit designed to gain root access to the device, giving the app near complete access to a device’s data, including emails, cellular data, Wi-Fi passwords and more, according to Security Without Borders.

Screenshots of the ordinary-looking iPhone app, which was silently uploading a victim’s private data and real-time location to the spyware company’s servers (Image: supplied)

Both of the apps use the same backend infrastructure, while the iOS app used several techniques — like certificate pinning — to make it difficult to analyze the network traffic, Adam Bauer, Lookout’s senior staff security intelligence engineer, told TechCrunch.

“This is one of the indicators that a professional group was responsible for the software,” he said.

Although the Android version was downloadable directly from Google’s app store, the iOS version was not widely distributed. Instead, Connexxa signed the app with an enterprise certificate issued to the developer by Apple, said Bauer, allowing the surveillance app maker to bypass Apple’s strict app store checks.

Apple says that’s a violation of its rules, which prohibits these certificates designed to be used strictly for internal apps to be pushed to consumers.

It follows a similar pattern to several app makers, as discovered by TechCrunch earlier this year, which abused their enterprise certificates to develop mobile apps that evaded the scrutiny of Apple’s app store. Every app served through an app store has to be certified by Apple or they won’t run. But several companies, like Facebook and Google, used their enterprise-only certificates to sign apps given to consumers. Apple said this violated its rules and banned the apps by revoking enterprise certificates used by Facebook and Google, knocking both of their illicit apps offline, but also every other internal app signed with the same certificate.

Facebook was unable to operate at full capacity for an entire working day until Apple issued a new certificate.

The certificate Apple issued to Connexxa (Image: supplied)

But Facebook and Google weren’t the only companies abusing their enterprise certificates. TechCrunch found dozens of porn and gambling apps — not permitted on Apple’s app store — signed with an enterprise certificate, circumventing the tech giant’s rules.

After researchers disclosed their findings, Apple revoked the app maker’s enterprise certificate, knocking every installed app offline and unable to run.

The researchers said they did not know how many Apple users were affected.

Connexxa did not respond to a request for comment. Apple did not comment.

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Firefox is now a better iPad browser

Posted by | Apps, Firefox, firefox focus, free software, iOS, iPad, Mobile, Mozilla, Software, tablet computers, TC, Web browsers | No Comments

Mozilla today announced a new iOS version of Firefox that has been specifically optimized for Apple’s iPad. Given the launch of the new iPad mini this week, that’s impeccable timing. It’s also an admission that building a browser for tablets is different from building a browser for phones, which is what Mozilla mostly focused on in recent years.

“We know that iPads aren’t just bigger versions of iPhones,” Mozilla writes in today’s announcement. “You use them differently, you need them for different things. So rather than just make a bigger version of our browser for iOS, we made Firefox for iPad look and feel like it was custom made for a tablet.”

So with this new version, Firefox for iPad gets support for iOS features like split screen and the ability to set Firefox as the default browser in Outlook for iOS. The team also optimized tab management for these larger screens, including the option to see tabs as large tiles, “making it easy to see what they are, see if they spark joy and close with a tap if not.” And if you have a few tabs you want to share, then you can do so with the Send Tabs feature Mozilla introduced earlier this year.

Starting a private browsing session on iOS always took a few extra tabs. The iPad version makes this a one-tap affair as it prominently highlights this feature in the tab bar.

Because quite a few iPad users also use a keyboard, it’s no surprise that this version of Firefox also supports keyboard shortcuts.

If you are an iPad user in search of an alternative browser, Firefox may now be a viable option for you. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments (just don’t remind us how you work from home for only a few hours a day and make good money… believe me, we’re aware).

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iOS developers will soon be able to offer discounts to their existing and lapsed subscribers

Posted by | Apple, Apps, developers, iOS, iOS apps, Mobile, mobile app developers, subscriptions, tvos | No Comments

As subscriptions continue to grow into a sizable revenue stream for mobile app developers, Apple has had to make adjustments to its guidelines, rules and even its tools for subscription management in recent weeks. It issued stricter guidelines around how subscriptions are to be presented to consumers, and it made the setting for canceling existing subscriptions more accessible. Now, Apple is rolling out new tools for developers that will help them retain their current customers and win back lapsed subscribers.

The company announced on Friday that apps with auto-renewable subscriptions will soon be able to offer their subscriptions at a discounted price for a specific period, as a means of growing and retaining their customer base. This will give the developers more control over their subscription pricing than was available before.

Until the change, developers could only make introductory offers to entice consumers to sign up for the first time. For example, developers could lure customers with a one-time introductory price, offer a free trial or offer a discounted rate for a specific period of time before the subscription converted to the full price.

But these offers could only be made to first-time customers. The new promotional offers will allow developers to cut similar deals for existing subscribers or to win back the business from those who used to pay for the subscription but had canceled.

While the new promotional offers allow for the same sort of discounts as introductory offers, they’re more flexible in terms of how they’re used.

With introductory offers, developers were allowed one offer per subscription, per territory. With promotional offers, developers can activate up to 10 offers per subscription. This allows them to test which ones work best for their customers, instead of having to pick just one.

And developers are in control of when an offer displays to a customer, in which territories and how many offers a customer can redeem.

In addition, while introductory offers may display in the App Store when promoted, the promotional offers will not. That means developers can use business logic that targets winning back their most valuable customers with offers that may be better from those shown to others — and no one would be the wiser. It also means developers can offer different deals to lapsed customers — like maybe a discounted subscription — compared with promos meant to retain current subscribers.

Developers will also be able to use receipt validation tools to find subscribers who turned off auto-renewal, which allows them to target those customers with new offers before their subscription lapses. They may also decide to target those who cancel during the free trial with different offers than those who cancel after using a paid subscription for a time.

As an end-user looking to save money, these changes mean it may be worth toggling off your subscriptions from time to time to see if you’re offered a better deal to resubscribe.

Developers were alerted to the new features last week, but the offers themselves aren’t yet publicly available.

To create the offers, developers have to download the latest Xcode 10.2 beta and will need to implement the new StoreKit APIs. They can then test their offers on the latest beta version of iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4 and tvOS 12.2. Apple said the offers will be made available to the public “soon.”

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Apple is offering interest-free financing to boost iPhone sales in China

Posted by | alibaba, alibaba group, Android, Ant Financial, Apple, apple inc, apple store, Asia, China, india, iOS, iPhone, iphone 6s, mobile phones, product red, Xiaomi | No Comments

Apple is looking to get over its sales woes in China by offering prospective customers interest-free financing with a little help from Alibaba.

Apple’s China website now offers financing packages for iPhones that include zero percent interest packages provided in association with several banks and Huabei, a consumer credit company operated by Alibaba’s Ant Financial unit, as first noted by Reuters.

The Reuters report further explains the packages on offer:

On its China website, Apple is promoting the new scheme, under which customers can pay 271 yuan ($40.31) each month to purchase an iPhone XR, and 362 yuan each month for an iPhone XS. Customers trading in old models can get cheaper installments.

Users buying products worth a minimum of 4,000 yuan worth from Apple would qualify for interest-free financing that can be paid over three, six, nine, 12 or 24 months, the website shows.

Apple is also offering discounts for customers who trade in devices from the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi and others.

The deals are an interesting development that comes just weeks after Apple cut revenue guidance for its upcoming Q1 earnings. The firm trimmed its revenue from the $89 billion-$93 billion range to $84 billion on account of unexpected “economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China.”

Offering attractive packages may convince some consumers to buy an iPhone, but there’s a lingering sense that Apple’s current design isn’t sparking interest from Chinese consumers. Traditionally, it has seen a sales uptick around the launch of iPhones that offer a fresh design, and the current iPhone XR, XS and XS Max line-up bears a strong resemblance to the one-year-old iPhone X.

The first quarter of a new product launch results in a sales spike in China, but Q2 sales — the quarter after the launch — are where devices can underwhelm.

It’ll be interesting to see if Apple offers similar financing in India, where it saw sales drop by 40 percent in 2018 according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple’s market share, which has never been significant, is said to have halved from two percent to one percent over the year.

Finance is a huge issue for consumers in India, where aggressively priced but capable phones from Chinese companies like Xiaomi or OnePlus dominate the market in terms of sales volume. With the iPhone costing multiples more than top Android phones, flexible financing could help unlock more sales in India.

China, however, has long been a key revenue market for Apple, so it figures that this strategy is happening there first.

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Microsoft bringing Dynamics 365 mixed reality solutions to smartphones

Posted by | Android, augmented reality, Cloud, Enterprise, HoloLens, iOS, Microsoft, mixed reality, Mobile | No Comments

Last year Microsoft introduced several mixed reality business solutions under the Dynamics 365 enterprise product umbrella. Today, the company announced it would be moving these to smartphones in the spring, starting with previews.

The company announced Remote Assist on HoloLens last year. This tool allows a technician working onsite to show a remote expert what they are seeing. The expert can then walk the less-experienced employee through the repair. This is great for those companies that have equipped their workforce with HoloLens for hands-free instruction, but not every company can afford the new equipment.

Starting in the spring, Microsoft is going to help with that by introducing Remote Assist for Android phones. Just about everyone has a phone with them, and those with Android devices will be able to take advantage of Remote Assist capabilities without investing in HoloLens. The company is also updating Remote Assist to include mobile annotations, group calling and deeper integration with Dynamics 365 for Field Service, along with improved accessibility features on the HoloLens app.

IPhone users shouldn’t feel left out though because the company announced a preview of Dynamics 365 Product Visualize for iPhone. This tool enables users to work with a customer to visualize what a customized product will look like as they work with them. Think about a furniture seller working with a customer in their homes to customize the color, fabrics and design in place in the room where they will place the furniture, or a car dealer offering different options such as color and wheel styles. Once a customer agrees to a configuration, the data gets saved to Dynamics 365 and shared in Microsoft Teams for greater collaboration across a group of employees working with a customer on a project.

Both of these features are part of the Dynamics 365 spring release and are going to be available in preview starting in April. They are part of a broader release that includes a variety of new artificial intelligence features such as customer service bots and a unified view of customer data across the Dynamics 365 family of products.

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Global smartphone growth stalled in Q4, up just 1.2% for the full year: Gartner

Posted by | Android, Apple, Asia, China, Europe, Gadgets, gartner, huawei, iOS, iPhone, latin america, Middle East, Mobile, north america, Samsung, Samsung Electronics, smartphone, smartphone market, smartphones, Xiaomi | No Comments

Gartner’s smartphone market share data for the just gone holiday quarter highlights the challenge for device makers going into the world’s biggest mobile trade show, which kicks off in Barcelona next week: The analyst’s data shows global smartphone sales stalled in Q4 2018, with growth of just 0.1 percent over 2017’s holiday quarter, and 408.4 million units shipped.

tl;dr: high-end handset buyers decided not to bother upgrading their shiny slabs of touch-sensitive glass.

Gartner says Apple recorded its worst quarterly decline (11.8 percent) since Q1 2016, though the iPhone maker retained its second place position with 15.8 percent market share behind market leader Samsung (17.3 percent). Last month the company warned investors to expect reduced revenue for its fiscal Q1 — and went on to report iPhone sales down 15 percent year over year.

The South Korean mobile maker also lost share year over year (declining around 5 percent), with Gartner noting that high-end devices such as the Galaxy S9, S9+ and Note 9 struggled to drive growth, even as Chinese rivals ate into its mid-tier share.

Huawei was one of the Android rivals causing a headache for Samsung. It bucked the declining share trend of major vendors to close the gap on Apple from its third-placed slot — selling more than 60 million smartphones in the holiday quarter and expanding its share from 10.8 percent in Q4 2017 to 14.8 percent.

Gartner has dubbed 2018 “the year of Huawei,” saying it achieved the top growth of the top five global smartphone vendors and grew throughout the year.

This growth was not just in Huawei “strongholds” of China and Europe, but also in Asia/Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, via continued investment in those regions, the analyst noted. Its expanded mid-tier Honor series helped the company exploit growth opportunities in the second half of the year, “especially in emerging markets.”

By contrast, Apple’s double-digit decline made it the worst performer of the holiday quarter among the top five global smartphone vendors, with Gartner saying iPhone demand weakened in most regions, except North America and mature Asia/Pacific.

It said iPhone sales declined most in Greater China, where it found Apple’s market share dropped to 8.8 percent in Q4 (down from 14.6 percent in the corresponding quarter of 2017). For 2018 as a whole iPhone sales were down 2.7 percent, to just over 209 million units, it added.

“Apple has to deal not only with buyers delaying upgrades as they wait for more innovative smartphones. It also continues to face compelling high-price and midprice smartphone alternatives from Chinese vendors. Both these challenges limit Apple’s unit sales growth prospects,” said Gartner’s Anshul Gupta, senior research director, in a statement.

“Demand for entry-level and midprice smartphones remained strong across markets, but demand for high-end smartphones continued to slow in the fourth quarter of 2018. Slowing incremental innovation at the high end, coupled with price increases, deterred replacement decisions for high-end smartphones,” he added.

Further down the smartphone leaderboard, Chinese OEM, Oppo, grew its global smartphone market share in Q4 to bump Chinese upstart, Xiaomi, and bag fourth place — taking 7.7 percent versus Xiaomi’s 6.8 percent for the holiday quarter.

The latter had a generally flat Q4, with just a slight decline in units shipped, according to Gartner’s data — underlining Xiaomi’s motivations for teasing a dual folding smartphone.

Because, well, with eye-catching innovation stalled among the usual suspects (who’re nonetheless raising high-end handset prices), there’s at least an opportunity for buccaneering underdogs to smash through, grab attention and poach bored consumers.

Or that’s the theory. Consumer interest in “foldables” very much remains to be tested.

In 2018 as a whole, the analyst says global sales of smartphones to end users grew by 1.2 percent year over year, with 1.6 billion units shipped.

The worst declines of the year were in North America, mature Asia/Pacific and Greater China (6.8 percent, 3.4 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively), it added.

“In mature markets, demand for smartphones largely relies on the appeal of flagship smartphones from the top three brands — Samsung, Apple and Huawei — and two of them recorded declines in 2018,” noted Gupta.

Overall, smartphone market leader Samsung took 19.0 percent market share in 2018, down from 20.9 percent in 2017; second-placed Apple took 13.4 percent (down from 14.0 percent in 2017); third-placed Huawei took 13.0 percent (up from 9.8 percent the year before); while Xiaomi, in fourth, took a 7.9 percent share (up from 5.8 percent); and Oppo came in fifth with 7.6 percent (up from 7.3 percent).

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Firefox for iOS gets persistent private browsing tabs

Posted by | Apps, Firefox, iOS, Mobile, privacy | No Comments

Firefox for iOS is getting an update today that brings a new layout for its menu and settings, as well as new organization settings in the New Tabs features to iPhone and iPad users. But more importantly, it is also introducing persistent Private Browsing tabs that allow you to keep private browsing tabs alive across sessions.

Typically, when you exit Firefox, your private browsing sessions will exit, too. Now, when you relaunch Firefox, you’ll be right back in your private browsing sessions. And while it’s important to remember that private browsing doesn’t render you anonymous, it does automatically erase your cookies, passwords and browsing history. Sometimes you want those to persist across your sessions, though, given that it’s annoying to have to re-enter your passwords every time you quite the app, for example, and now Firefox lets you do that until you actively exit the private browsing mode.

“Keeping your private browsing preferences seamless is just another way we’re making it simple and easy to give you back control of the privacy of your online experience,” Mozilla explains in today’s announcement.

With this updates, users now also get different options to organize the view they see when they open a blank new tab. You can now chose between having new tabs open to your bookmarks list, Firefox Home (which features your top sites and recommendations from the Mozilla-owned Pocket), a list of your recent history or a custom URL (with your own homepage, for example). Or, if you just like to see a white page, you can also opt to see a blank page.

As for the new settings and menu layout, Mozilla notes that these now closely mirror the Firefox desktop version. That means you can now access your bookmarks, history, Reading List and download from the Library menu item, for example.

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Daily Crunch: Apple’s subscription fix

Posted by | Apple, Daily Crunch, iOS, Mobile | No Comments

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Apple’s iOS update makes it easier to get to your subscriptions

Moving the Manage Subscriptions menu so that it’s just one click away from your App Store profile might seem like a minor change, but it was needed: As more mobile apps have adopted subscriptions as a means of generating revenue, it’s become critical to ensure consumers know how to turn off their subscriptions.

Plus, Apple is expected to launch some subscriptions of its own, namely for its streaming video and news services.

2. Instagram confirms that a bug is causing follower counts to change

Don’t panic! Instagram says it’s “aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now” and is “working to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

3. Autonomous truck startup TuSimple hits unicorn status in latest round

Today, TuSimple is taking three to five fully autonomous trips per day for customers on three different routes in Arizona.

4. Sixteen percent of US adults own a smartwatch

The latest figures out of NPD show a continued uptick in smartwatch sales here in the States. The category has been a rare bright spot in an overall flagging wearable space, and the new numbers show gains pretty much across the board.

5. JibJab, one of the first silly selfie video makers, acquired by private equity firm Catapult Capital

Founded in 1999 by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis after they saw “an animated dancing doodie streaming over a 56K modem,” JibJab’s big break came during the 2004 presidential campaign, when its satirical “This Land” racked up more than 80 million views.

6. Eight Sleep unveils The Pod, a bed that’s smarter about temperature

Eight has been focused on bed temperature for a while, first by offering a smart mattress cover and then a smart mattress that allows owners to adjust the surface temperature and even set different temperatures for different sides of the bed. But The Pod goes even further, with a smart temperature mode that will change bed temperature throughout the night to improve your sleep.

7. Ubisoft and Mozilla team up to develop Clever-Commit, an AI coding assistant

Clever-Commit is an assistant that learns from your code base’s bug and regression data to analyze and flag potential new bugs as new code is committed.

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