Thursday Morning News

Apple has fired back at Spotify’s claims of anti-competitive behaviour, saying that Spotify is already an outlier in terms of the fees it does pay to Apple. According to Apple, none of Spotify’s paying subscribers pay the standard 30% cut to Apple, with 680,000 paying just 15% — 0.5% of Spotify’s total paying subscriber base. Apple’s argument here is that Spotify seems to be growing just fine, despite whatever claims they have against Apple’s App Store being unfair to developers, pointing out that Spotify opted-out of in-app payments back in 2016 entirely by their own choice.

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Tuesday Morning News

Research firm IHS Market is claiming that Apple will release its previously-rumoured 16-inch MacBook Pro in September this year. They claim that the LCD display for this laptop will be supplied by LG, coming in at a resolution of 3072×1920 pixels, a modest increase over the current 2880×1800 resolution of the current 15-inch MacBook Pro. Although it’s said that this new MacBook Pro will come with a new processor, that’s about all we know so far, and I think the only thing that people will really care about is whether it still comes with a Touch Bar, and perhaps more importantly, that divisive keyboard.

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Monday Morning News

CNBC gives us a peek behind the curtain into the world of App Store review. Their piece tells us about the Executive Review Board reporting to Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, whose job it is to review difficult decisions regarding App Store submissions. In meetings every week, the Executive Review Board discusses new or existing apps and their status on the App Store, and it was the Executive Review Board that was likely behind many of the higher-profile app removals that you hear about on the news. Besides that, App Review is mostly what you already know: while there’s certainly some automated review, much of the review process is performed manually by a staff of over 300 reviews, many of which are multi-lingual and work out of one of Apple’s less-glamorous offices in Sunnyvale, California.

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Monday Morning News

The former VP of the Siri team at Apple says that voice-powered virtual assistants don’t deliver on the promise of being able to understand you as well as they should. While every year brings faster, more natural-sounding virtual assistants to our devices, the problem is that they don’t understand the world like other humans do, and are only designed to perform very specific tasks. Bill Stasior says people who use virtual assistants quickly learn which commands work and which ones don’t, which greatly limits the usability of voice assistants. We’re a long way off from being able to talk to a machine and have it understand us.

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Friday Morning News

Taiwan’s second Apple Store is Apple Xinyi A13, which opens this Saturday at 10am after the black boards went up a few weeks ago. The press release calls out the diverse background of the 155 staff, who come from stores across the region (where I presume Apple means Asia as a whole, as this is Taiwan’s second Apple Store), and collectively speak over 10 languages. Like many recent and revamped Apple Stores, Xinyi A13 will feature a video wall, forum space for Today at Apple learning sessions, and the somewhat unique feature of marble composite stairs to get to the lower level.

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Thursday Morning News

Apple’s Newsroom tells us how educators all over the world are using iPads as tools for communication in cases where the native language of the country may not be the native language of their students. From classrooms in Germany teaching German as a second language, teachers in France sending students home with French language homework on an iPad, or even in Sweden where iPads are being used by teachers to teach maths lessons in Swedish, the iPad is helping teachers all over the world break down language barriers and remove much of the anxiety that comes with learning.

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Tuesday Morning News

The smallest of iOS updates was released this morning, but chances are you’ll only see it if you have an iPhone 8 Plus. Apple’s release notes for iOS 12.3.2 say that the update fixes an issue where the Camera app could capture Portrait mode photos without the associated depth effect on some iPhone 8 Plus devices, which seems like a very strange issue to begin with. Either way, someone at Apple felt it needed its own version of iOS to deal with the problem, so here we are.

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Monday Morning News

Just like its Apple-branded sibling, the Powerbeats Pro has had the teardown treatment courtesy of iFixit, who took apart Beats’ totally wireless headphones with Apple special sauce. While the teardown does reveal that you could technically replace the batteries in your PowerBeats Pro yourself, your headphones are likely to suffer some cosmetic damage as a result. If that, and the overall lack of repairability doesn’t deter you, then Powerbeats Pro are now available to order online in Australia. While delivery dates are showing up as early June, you should be able to pick up at an Apple Store before the end of the month.

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Friday Morning News

One of Apple’s biggest focuses at WWDC this year was accessibility, from the introduction of a system-wide Voice Control accessibility feature in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina, mouse support on the iPad, and various accessibility improvements across the board across all software platforms. In TechCrunch’s interview with Apple Director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives Sarah Herrlinger, it’s clear that accessibility at Apple is firing on all cylinders. Although mouse support on the iPad was a key focus for the team this year, recognising that there were a whole class of users who were unable to use their iPads without a mouse or joystick, it’s still important to recognise that it’s not supposed to be the primary input method, and will likely have limitations that touch does not.

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Thursday Morning News

One of the most visible changes to iOS 13 is Dark Mode, which comes to iPhones and iPads after being available on Macs since macOS Mojave last year. It looks good, particularly when Apple’s built-in background wallpapers adapt to the darker shades, and all of Apple’s apps have dark backgrounds with plenty of colour, similar to how the Apple Watch app looks now. Time will tell how long it takes developers to adopt dark mode in their own apps, but with many third-party apps already supporting a dark mode thanks to OLED displays on iPhones, maybe that will be sooner than you think.

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