iOS

Mobile games now account for 33% of installs, 10% of time and 74% of consumer spend

Posted by | Android, android apps, App Annie, app stores, app-store, Apps, games, Gaming, Google Play, iOS, iOS apps, Mobile | No Comments

Mobile gaming continues to hold its own, accounting for 10% of the time users spend in apps — a percentage that has remained steady over the years, even though our time in apps overall has grown by 50% over the past two years. In addition, games are continuing to grow their share of consumer spend, notes App Annie in a new research report out this week, timed with E3.

Thanks to growth in hyper-casual and cross-platform gaming in particular, mobile games are on track to reach 60% market share in consumer spend in 2019.

The new report looks at how much time users spend gaming versus using other apps, monetization and regional highlights within the gaming market, among other things.

Despite accounting for a sizable portion of users’ time, games don’t lead the other categories, App Annie says.

Instead, social and communications apps account for half (50%) of the time users spent globally in apps in 2018, followed by video players and editors at 15%, then games at 10%.

In the U.S., users generally have eight games installed per device; globally, we play an average of two to five games per month.

The number of total hours spent on games continues to grow roughly 10% year-over-year, as well, thanks to existing gamers increasing their time in games and from a broadening user base, including a large number of mobile app newcomers from emerging markets.

This has also contributed to a widening age range for gamers.

Today, the majority of time spent in gaming is by those aged 25 and older. In many cases, these players may not even classify themselves as “gamers,” App Annie noted.

While games may not lead the categories in terms of time spent, they do account for a large number of mobile downloads and the majority of consumer spending on mobile.

One-third of all worldwide downloads are games across iOS, Google Play and third-party app stores.

Last year, 1.6+ million games launched on Google Play and 1.1+ million arrived on iOS.

On Android, 74 cents of every dollar is spent on games, with 95% of those purchases coming as in-app purchases, not paid downloads. App Annie didn’t have figures for iOS.

Google Play is known for having more downloads than iOS, but continues to trail on consumer spend. In 2018, Google Play grabbed a 72% share of worldwide downloads, compared with 28% on iOS. Meanwhile, Google Play only saw 36% of consumer spend versus 64% on iOS.

One particular type of gaming jumped out in the new report: racing games.

Consumer spend in this subcategory of gaming grew 7.9 times as fast as the overall mobile gaming market. Adventure games did well, too, growing roughly five times the rate of games in general. Music games and board games were also popular.

Of course, gaming expands beyond mobile. But it’s surprising to see how large a share of the broader market can be attributed to mobile gaming.

According to App Annie, mobile gaming is larger than all other channels, including home game consoles, handheld consoles and computers (Mac and PC). It’s also 20% larger than all these other categories combined — a shift from only a few years ago, attributed to the growth in the mobile consumer base, which allows mobile gaming to reach more people.

Cross-platform gaming is a key gaming trend today, thanks to titles like PUBG and Fortnite in particular, which were among the most downloaded games across several markets last year.

Meanwhile, hyper-casual games are appealing to those who don’t think of themselves as gamers, which has helped to broaden the market further.

App Annie is predicting the next big surge will come from AR gaming, with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite expected to bring Pokémon Go-like frenzy back to AR, bringing the new title $100 million in its first 30 days. The game is currently in beta testing in select markets, with plans for a 2019 release.

In terms of regions, China’s impact on gaming tends to be outsized, but its growth last year was limited due to the game license regulations. This forced publishers to look outside the country for growth — particularly in markets like North America and Japan, App Annie said.

Meanwhile, India, Brazil, Russia and Indonesia lead the emerging markets with regard to game
downloads, but established markets of the U.S. and China remain strong players in terms of sheer numbers.

With the continued steady growth in consumer spend and the stable time spent in games, App Annie states the monetization potential for games is growing. In 2018, there were 1,900 games that made more than $5 million, up from 1,200 in 2016. In addition, consumer spend in many key markets is still growing too — like the 105% growth in two years in China, for example, and the 45% growth in the U.S.

The full report delves into other regions as well as game publishers’ user acquisition strategies. It’s available for download here.

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A closer look at the best new iOS, macOS and watchOS features from WWDC

Posted by | Apple, Apps, iOS, iOS 13, macos, Mobile, watchOS, Wearables, WWDC 2019 | No Comments

As expected, there was a lot at yesterday’s big WWDC keynote. In fact, you got the sense watching the whole thing unfold that Apple had to race through a number of its new features to cram everything into the two-hour-plus event.

For many, the new Mac Pro was the star of the show, but for Apple, the clear the focus was on software. The company is keenly aware as hardware sales slow that its future is all about software, services and content. This week at the show, we got a guided look through the best new features iOS, macOS and watchOS have to offer.

No surprise, iOS 13 brings the biggest changes of the bunch. Dark Mode is the highlight so to speak. The feature has the same selling points as it does on other operating systems — namely being easier on the eyes and the battery. With a touch in settings, users can turn set it as a constant or have it switch when the sun goes down.

The feature swaps in dark wallpapers and will work with all of Apple’s native apps. Third-party supports is coming as well and will be a part of its development platforms like Swift, going forward.

Apple Maps, a major underdog at launch, continues to get some key upgrades. Most notable is Lookaround — a competitor to Google’s longstanding Street View, which brings seamlessly stitched photographs to help users better navigate around. The feature was extremely smooth in our brief demo. It’s hard to say how it will behave on cellular networks out on the street, but the preview was certainly impressive.

Imaging is a key part of every iOS upgrade, and this one’s no different. Photo editing has been much improved, with more pro-style control over aspects like white balance, contrast, sharpening and noise reduction.

There are some handy dummy proof additions as well, like the ability to adjust saturation without impacting flesh tones. iOS’s editing tools are coming to video as well, this time out, with the ability to adjust settings and even rotate orientation. The photos app also gets a new dynamic view that groups images by occasions like birthdays, giving you another opportunity to mark the unwavering march of time.

This year’s show marked a big moment for iPad as well, as the tablet’s operating system broke free from iOS. For users, that primarily means more functionality on the larger screen, including the ability to to open up multiple windows of the same app for additional multitasking. That joins various other features like improved gesture based highlighting and cut and paste that help iPadOS behave more like a PC.

Far and away the most exciting addition here, however, is actually on the mac side. macOS Catalina brings Duet/Luna style second screen functionality to the tablet, letting it serve as an external monitor. The feature can be used wirelessly (over bluetooth) or tethered.

Our demo was the latter (WWDC is a busy place for wireless signals), but operated pretty flawlessly in spite of some complicated demands. With an iPad Pro, users can draw with the Apple Pencil. There’s also a handy Touch Bar-style menu tray at that populates the bottom of the iPad display.

A couple of watchOS additions are worth mentioning, as well. The most significant is native menstrual cycle tracking. The feature, which is also coming to iOS, gives users a way to keep track of another key aspect of health.

Other additions to the wearable operating system include a native app for audiobooks and a noise app that uses the watch’s built in mics to alert wearers of loud sounds that can lead to hearing loss.

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Apple’s Voice Control improves accessibility OS-wide on all its devices

Posted by | accessibility, Apple, Gadgets, hardware, iOS, macos, Mobile, Speech Recognition, TC, voice control, wwdc, WWDC 2019 | No Comments

Apple is known for fluid, intuitive user interfaces, but none of that matters if you can’t click, tap, or drag because you don’t have a finger to do so with. For users with disabilities the company is doubling down on voice-based accessibility with the powerful new Voice Control feature on Macs and iOS (and iPadOS) devices.

Many devices already support rich dictation, and of course Apple’s phones and computers have used voice-based commands for years (I remember talking to my Quadra). But this is a big step forward that makes voice controls close to universal — and it all works offline.

The basic idea of Voice Control is that the user has both set commands and context-specific ones. Set commands are things like “Open Garage Band” or “File menu” or “Tap send.” And of course some intelligence has gone into making sure you’re actually saying the command and not writing it, like in that last sentence.

But that doesn’t work when you have an interface that pops up with lots of different buttons, fields, and labels. And even if every button or menu item could be called by name, it might be difficult or time-consuming to speak everything out loud.

To fix this Apple simply attaches a number to every UI item in the foreground, which a user can show by saying “show numbers.” Then they can simply speak the number or modify it with another command, like “tap 22.” You can see a basic workflow below, though of course without the audio cues it loses a bit:

Remember that these numbers may be more easily referenced by someone with little or no vocal ability, and could in fact be selected from using a simpler input like a dial or blow tube. Gaze tracking is good but it has its limitations, and this is a good alternative.

For something like maps, where you could click anywhere, there’s a grid system for selecting where to zoom in or click. Just like Blade Runner! Other gestures like scrolling and dragging are likewise supported.

Dictation has been around for a bit but it’s been improved as well. You can select and replace entire phrases, like “Replace ‘be right back’ with ‘on my way.’ ” Other little improvements will be noted and appreciated by those who use the tool often.

All the voice processing is done offline, which makes it both quick and robust to things like signal problems or use in foreign countries where data might be hard to come by. And the intelligence built into Siri lets it recognize names and context-specific words that may not be part of the base vocabulary. Improved dictation means selecting emoji and adding dictionary items is a breeze.

Right now Voice Control is supported by all native apps, and third party apps that use Apple’s accessibility API should be able to take advantage of it easily. And even if they don’t do it specifically, numbers and grids should still work just fine, since all the OS needs to know are the locations of the UI items. These improvements should appear in accessibility options as soon as a device is updated to iOS 13 or Catalina.

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Apple restricts ads and third-party trackers in iPhone apps for kids

Posted by | Android, app-store, Apple, Apps, computing, Google Play, iOS, iPhone, iTunes, privacy, smartphones, WWDC 2019 | No Comments

Apple has told developers to stop including third-party trackers in apps designed for kids — or they face having their apps pulled from the app store.

The tech giant quietly updated its guidelines for apps that are submitted to the app store’s kids category following the keynote address at its annual developer conference on Monday.

“Apps in the kids category may not include third-party advertising or analytics,” the new guidelines say. Previously, the guidelines only restricted behavioral advertising tracking.

Apple also currently prohibits apps in the kids category from including links that point outside the app or contain in-app purchasing.

Apple has come under fire for its recent marketing campaign claiming “what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,”  which critics say is misleading. All too often apps include ads or tracking code that allows app makers to collect information about the device, including its location and other data, and send it back to base so companies can better target its users with ads, learn more about how you use the app, and more.

Just last week, the Washington Post found over 5,400 app trackers were uploading data from an iPhone over a single week — even at night when the phone owner was asleep.

As a TechCrunch investigation earlier this year found, some apps use so-called session replay technology, a kind of analytics software that records the screen when an app is open. Apps built by Expedia, Hollister and Hotels.com were found in violation of Apple’s rules and developers were told to remove the code.

Apple follows in the footsteps of Google, which last week set out new policies around kids’ apps available for Android through Google Play. The move came following a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission filed by close to two-dozen consumer advocacy groups, which accused the mobile giant of not ensuring app compliance with federal children’s privacy laws.

Now with Apple’s new restrictions, at least kids have a fighting chance of keeping their iPhone data private.

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Leaked screenshots confirm dark mode is coming to iOS 13

Posted by | Apple, Apps, iOS, iOS 13, Mobile, rumor | No Comments

9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo managed to obtain screenshots of iOS 13. While it still looks like iOS, there’s a twist — there will be a system-wide dark mode to make your apps look better at night. Apple is expected to announce the new version of iOS at its WWDC keynote on Monday.

With iOS 13, users can enable dark mode in the Settings app or with a toggle in Control Center — you may have to add the Control Center button in the Settings app first.

And here’s what it’ll look like according to 9to5Mac’s screenshots:

As you can see, the home screen doesn’t change much, except the dock at the bottom. But the Music app looks completely different with white text on top of a black background. The tab bar at the bottom also switches from transparent white to transparent black. Apple still uses red for buttons and links, which makes the app slightly less readable.

Enabling dark mode also affects user interface elements at the operating system level. When you take a screenshot and tap on the screenshot thumbnail, top and bottom menus are dark, for instance. Developers should be able to support dark mode in third-party apps as well.

In other news, Rambo also shared a screenshot of the new version of the Reminders app. It now features four different menus — today, scheduled, all and flagged. The user interface has been refreshed as well.

Finally, 9to5Mac also confirms a previous scoop with the icon of a new app called “Find My.” Apple plans to merge Find My Friends and Find My iPhone into a single app on both the iPhone and iPad.

Rumor has it that there will be more fundamental changes with iOS 13. Apple plans to let you open multiple windows of the same app. This way, users will be able to work on multiple documents or see multiple conversations at the same time. This will be a key new feature for iPad users in particular.

You can also expect smaller updates to Safari, Mail, font management, the volume indicator, the keyboard, etc.

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Apple announces a new… iPod touch

Posted by | Apple, Gadgets, iOS, iPod touch, TC | No Comments

Apple is updating the iPod touch with an A10 Fusion system-on-a-chip. Other than that, it looks pretty much like the old iPod touch with a four-inch display, a classic home button and many different color options.

The A10 Fusion chip was first introduced with the iPhone 7. In other words, the new iPod touch performs more or less just like an iPhone 7. Just like the previous version of the iPod touch, it supports iOS 12. But you can now launch ARKit apps and start group FaceTime conversations — the A8 wasn’t powerful enough for those features.

This is a surprising move as the iPod touch hasn’t been updated since 2015. Many people believed that Apple would focus on the iPhone as there’s less demand for a smartphone without cellular capabilities. The device doesn’t support Touch ID or Face ID, so you’ll have to use a good old passcode. But it’s worth noting that there’s a headphone jack at the bottom of the device.

And yet, the iPod touch is cheap when you compare it to an iPhone. Apple is releasing three models. For $199, you get 32GB of storage; for $299, you get 128GB of storage; and for $399, you get 256GB of storage — a 32GB iPhone 7 currently costs $449. It is available in six colors and should be available today on Apple’s website and later this week in retail stores.

There are many potential use cases for such a device. It can be a great standalone music and video player for kids or people who don’t want to get a smartphone. You can also use it as a remote to control music on your Sonos speakers and other connected speakers.

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Apple & Google celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day with featured apps, new shortcuts

Posted by | accessibility, Android, Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, Mobile | No Comments

With last fall’s release of iOS 12, Apple introduced Siri Shortcuts — a new app that allows iPhone users to create their own voice commands to take actions on their phone and in apps. Today, Apple is celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) by rolling out a practical, accessibility focused collection of new Siri Shortcuts, alongside accessibility focused App Store features and collections.

Google is doing something similar for Android users on Google Play.

For starters, Apple’s new Siri shortcuts are available today in a featured collection at the top of the Shortcuts app. The collection includes a variety of shortcuts aimed at helping users more quickly perform everyday tasks.

For example, there’s a new “Help Message” shortcut that will send your location to an emergency contact, a “Meeting Someone New” shortcut designed to speed up non-verbal introductions and communication, a mood journal for recording thoughts and feelings, a pain report that helps to communicate to others the location and intensity of your pain and several others.

Some are designed to make communication more efficient — like one that puts a favorite contact on the user’s home screen, so they can quickly call, text or FaceTime the contact with just a tap.

Others are designed to be used with QR codes. For example, “QR Your Shortcuts” lets you create a QR code for any shortcut you regularly use, then print it out and place it where it’s needed for quick access — like the “Speak Brush Teeth Routine” shortcut that speaks step-by-step instructions for teeth brushing, which would be placed in the bathroom.

In addition to the launch of the new shortcuts, Apple added a collection of accessibility focused apps to the App Store which highlights a ton of accessibility focused apps, including Microsoft’s new talking camera for the blind called Seeing AI, plus other utilities like text-to-speech readers, audio games, sign language apps, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) solutions, eye-controlled browsers, smart home apps, fine motor skill trainers and much more.

The App Store is also today featuring several interviews with developers, athletes, musicians and a comedian who talk about how they use accessible technology.

Apple is not the only company rolling out special GAAD-themed collections today. Google also unveiled its own editorial collection of accessible apps and games on Google Play. In addition to several utilities, the collection features Live Transcribe, Google’s brand-new accessibility service for the deaf and hard of hearing that debuted earlier this month at its annual Google I/O developer conference.

Though the app’s status is “Unreleased,” users can install the early version, which listens to conversations around you, then instantly transcribes them.

Other selections include home screen replacement Nova Launcher, blind assistant app Be My Eyes, head control for the device Open Sesame, communication aid Card Talk and more.

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Developers can now verify mobile app users over WhatsApp instead of SMS

Posted by | Android, Apps, authentication, Facebook, iOS, Mobile, Security, SMS, Social, social media, social network, text messaging, verification, WhatsApp | No Comments

Facebook today released a new SDK that allows mobile app developers to integrate WhatsApp verification into Account Kit for iOS and Android. This will allow developers to build apps where users can opt to receive their verification codes through the WhatsApp app installed on their phone instead of through SMS.

Today, many apps give users the ability to sign up using only a phone number — a now popular alternative to Facebook Login, thanks to the social network’s numerous privacy scandals that led to fewer people choosing to use Facebook with third-party apps.

Plus, using phone numbers to sign up is common with a younger generation of users who don’t have Facebook accounts — and sometimes barely use email, except for joining apps and services.

When using a phone number to sign in, it’s common for the app to confirm the user by sending a verification code over SMS to the number provided. The user then enters that code to create their account. This process can also be used when logging in, as part of a multi-factor verification system where a user’s account information is combined with this extra step for added security.

While this process is straightforward and easy enough to follow, SMS is not everyone’s preferred messaging platform. That’s particularly true in emerging markets like India, where 200 million people are on WhatsApp, for example. In addition, those without an unlimited messaging plan are careful not to overuse texting when it can be avoided.

That’s where the WhatsApp SDK comes in. Once integrated into an iOS or Android app, developers can offer to send users their verification code over WhatsApp instead of text messaging. They can even choose to disable SMS verification, notes Facebook.

This is all a part of WhatsApp’s Account Kit, which is a larger set of developer tools designed to allow people to quickly register and log in to apps or websites using only a phone number and email, no password required.

This WhatsApp verification codes option has been available on WhatsApp’s web SDK since late 2018, but hadn’t been available with mobile apps until today.

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Google Fit comes to iOS

Posted by | Android, Apple, Apps, Google, Google Fit, google now, Health, iOS, iPhone, Mobile, mobile software, operating systems, smartphones, TC, wear os | No Comments

Google today announced that Google Fit, the company’s fitness tracking app that launched on Android back in 2014, is now available on iOS.

It definitely took Google a while to bring the app to iOS. Until today, the only way to get your Fit data on your iPhone was in a special section of the Wear OS app on the iPhone. Without a Wear OS device, though, that section would’ve been empty.

If you’ve seen the Fit app on Android, then the iOS version will look very familiar. It features the same focus on Move Minutes and Heart Point, as well as the ability to pick up different activities based on your movement. You can also connect the app with apps connected to Apple Health like Sleep Cycle, Nike Run Club or Headspace can also sync with Google Fit.

Indeed, as a Google spokesperson told me, all of the movement data in the app also comes from Apple’s Health app — or from a Wear OS smartwatch, though few iOS users have opted to cross streams and use a Wear OS watch with their iPhones.

Since Apple Health already tracks your movement data, I’m not sure all that many iOS users will make the switch to Google Fit. It’s still good to see Google bring its service to this competing platform for those who maybe use multiple devices

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Tim Cook wants you to put down your iPhone

Posted by | app developers, app stores, Apple, Apps, iOS, iOS App Store, iOS apps, iPhone, iTunes, Mobile, mobile apps, Opinion, push notifications, screen time, smartphones, Tim Cook | No Comments

Tim Cook thinks people should get off their iPhones and decrease their engagement with apps. The Apple CEO, speaking at the TIME 100 Summit today, was discussing the addictive nature of our mobile devices and Apple’s role in the matter when he made these comments. He said the company hadn’t intended for people to be constantly using their iPhones, and noted he himself has silenced his push notifications in recent months.

“Apple never wanted to maximize user time. We’ve never been about that,” Cook explained.

It’s certainly an interesting claim, given that Apple designed a platform that allowed app developers to constantly ping their users with the most inane notifications — from getting a new follower on a social app to a sale in a shopping app to a new level added to a game and so much more.

The very idea behind the notification platform, opt-in as it may be, is that developers should actively — and in real time — try to capture users’ attention and redirect them back to their apps.

This is not how such an alert mechanism had to be designed.

An app notification platform could have instead been crafted to allow app developers to notify users in batches, at designed intervals within users’ control. For example, users could have specified that every day at noon they’d like to check in on the latest from their apps.

Or, in building out the iOS App Store, Apple could have implemented a “news feed” of sorts — a dedicated channel wherein users could opt to check in on all the latest news from their installed apps.

Or perhaps Apple could have structured a notification platform that would have allowed users to pick between different classes of notifications. Urgent messages — like alerts about a security breach — could have been a top-level tier; while general information could have been sent as a different type of notification. Users could have selected which types of alerts they wanted, depending on how important the app was to them.

These are just a few of many possible iterations. A company like Apple could have easily come up with even more ideas.

But the fact of the matter is that Apple’s notification platform was built with the idea of increasing engagement in mind. It’s disingenuous to say it was not.

At the very least, Apple could admit that it was a different era back then, and didn’t realize the potential damage to our collective psyche that a continually buzzing iPhone would cause. It could point out how it’s now working to fix this problem by putting users back in control, and how it plans to do more in the future.

Instead, it created a situation where users had to turn to the only defense left to them: switching off push notifications entirely. Today, when users install new apps they often say “No” to push notifications. And with Apple’s new tools to control notifications, users are now actively triaging which apps can get in touch.

In fact, that’s what Tim Cook says he did, too.

“If you guys aren’t doing this — if you have an iPhone and you’re not doing it, I would encourage you to really do this — monitor these [push notifications],” the CEO suggested to the audience.

“What it has done for me personally is I’ve gone in and gutted the number of notifications,” Cook said. “Because I asked myself: ‘Do I really need to be getting thousands of notifications a day?’ It’s not something that is adding value to my life, or is making me a better person. And so I went in and chopped that.”

Yep. Even Apple’s CEO is done with all the spam and noise from iPhone apps.

The comment, of course, was supposed to be a veiled reference to the addictive nature of some apps — social media apps in particular, and especially Facebook. Today, Apple throws barbs at Facebook any time it can, now that the company has fallen out of public favor due to its ongoing data privacy violations and constant scandals.

But a more truthful telling of the iPhone’s past would recall that Facebook’s app — and all its many notifications — was originally a big selling point for Apple’s mobile device.

When the App Store first launched in 2008, Facebook proudly sat in the top row in a featured position. It was heavily promoted to users because it was a prime example of the iPhone’s utility: here was this popular social network you could now get to right from your phone. Amazing! 

The fact that Facebook — and every other app — later leveraged the iOS push notification platform to better its own business without regard to how that would impact users isn’t entirely app developers’ collective fault. The notification platform itself had left the door wide open for that sort of psychological abuse to occur, simply because of its lack of user-configured, user-friendly controls.

Above: The App Store at launch, via The NYT

A decade after the App Store launched, Apple finally started to dial back on the free-for-all on user attention.

It announced its suite of digital wellness tools at WWDC 2018, which included Screen Time (a dashboard for tracking and limiting usage); increased parental controls; and finally a way to silence the barrage of notifications, without having to dig around in iOS Settings.

Now Tim Cook wants to have us believe that Apple had never wanted to cause any of this addiction and distraction — despite having created the very platform that made it all possible in the first place, which in turn, helped sell devices.

Isn’t it telling that the exec has had to silence his own iPhone using these new tools? Isn’t that something of an admission of culpability here?

“Every time you pick up your phone, it means you’re taking your eyes off whoever you’re dealing with, are talking with, right?,” Cook continued. “And if you’re looking at your phone more than you’re looking at somebody else’s eyes, you’re doing the wrong thing,” he said. “We want to educate people on what they’re doing. This thing will improve through time, just like everything else that we do. We’ll innovate there as we do in other areas.”

“But basically, we don’t want people using their phones all the time. This has never been an objective for us,” said Cook.

Except, of course, for those 10 years when it was.

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