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Reeder 3 for Mac public beta now available with a new loo...

Today, 02:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Months after its original announcement Mac RSS app Reeder 3 has made an appearance in the form of a public beta. Reeder 3, which will be available as a free update for Reeder 2 owners, features an updated interface, including a transparent sidebar, and an overall look more in tune with OS X Yosemite.

In addition the new interface, Reeder 3 features a number of useful updates, like unread and starred counts for your smart folders, private browsing support, and fullscreen support for minimized layout mode. The app has added full support for Instapaper for saving articles to read later, and more features from your favorite RSS services are now supported.

Keep in mind that while this is available publicly, this is beta software. As such, it's incomplete and things may be missing, or not work properly, and you may want to hold off until the official launch. Also note that because this is a beta release, many things could change by the time of the final launch.

Get the Reeder 3 public beta



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Pebble Time Steel to begin shipping first week of August,...

Today, 01:28 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Pebble has provided another update in regards to the Pebble Time Steel shipments, and the company has stated that backers should start receiving shipping information in the first week of August. The smartwatches have left the production facility on July 27, and are making their way to the distribution points now. Originally, Pebble had hoped to include the additional steel band in the same shipment, but it appears as though that plan may have changed. Here's what Pebble included in the update:

  • All Pebble Time Steel backers will receive a leather band and matching metal band with their watches. The only change is the timing of the metal band delivery, due to the supply issues we mentioned.
  • Pebble is covering the shipping costs related to this revised delivery plan.
  • If metal band availability improves, we will take metal Time Steel bands and include them with reward watches in one shipment as originally planned, whenever possible.

If you backed the Pebble Time Steel, be sure to keep your eyes on your inbox for a tracking number to arrive.

Source: Pebble Kickstarter



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How to turn off auto playing videos on Facebook

Today, 01:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Facebook makes it easy to embed video to share with friends and family, but that video can be obtrusive and annoying.

Facebook's default status is to automatically play the video once it loads. I'd prefer it not to do that, because I don't like my attention — or my Mac's attention — getting hijacked like that.

Mac Help

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Every Tuesday our Peter Cohen brings you Mac Help — a column where you can get your OS X questions answered and problems solved!

There's an easy way to fix the video auto-play problem. It doesn't involve mucking up your Mac with content blocking software or web browser plug-ins. It's right there in Facebook's preferences.

Once you've changed this setting, you will see video thumbnails on Facebooks, with a big white play button in the center. Clicking on the video will start it.

How to turn off Facebook video auto play on your Mac
  1. Open Facebook in your web browser.
  2. Click the downward facing arrow on the right side of Facebook's navigation bar.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Click on Videos in the left sidebar, below Support Box.

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  5. Auto Play Videos is the second option in that window. Its default setting is to automatically play videos. If you click the Default button, you can change it to On or Off.

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  6. Click on the Facebook icon in the upper left corner of the window or close the web browser and you're done.


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T-Mobile revenue surges in Q2 2015 as more customers join...

Today, 12:54 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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T-Mobile today released the company's full report for Q2 2015, announcing increased revenue of 14% year-on-year. As previously covered, the company also managed to add a total of 2.1 million new customers to the network during the quarter.

With more than 2.1 million customers signing up to T-Mobile, the company experienced the ninth consecutive quarter with over a million new additions. Branded postpaid phone churn rate finished at a low 1.3%, and the company has performed well overall. $6.1 billion in services revenue, up 12% year-on-year, was joined by $8.2 billion in total revenue.

What's rather interesting about this quarter is the turnaround for T-Mobile, which managed to hit $361 million net income from sinking in a loss of $63 million in Q1 2015. So while the US carrier continues to aggressively tackle the industry, finances are also starting to look more positive.

Source: T-Mobile



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Making accessibility part of your developer DNA

Today, 12:00 PM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Making accessibility a priority.

AltConf 2015 I gave a talk entitled, "Accessibility Is a Moral Imperative". It was a high-level talk about why it is so important for developers to keep accessibility in view while developing for the Mac, for iOS, and for the web. What the speech lacked was any technical details on how that can be accomplished. With this follow-up, my goal is to provide a non-technical guide to making accessibility a part of your developer DNA, whatever your app or website happens to be.

Don't get in the way of what's already there

The biggest challenge to accessibility in iOS is not coming up with new and interesting ways to make your app more accessible. Rather it is simply not getting in the way of the accessibility features that already come free with iOS. By now, all developers know that iOS is highly accessible by the blind and physically challenged. What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers, and often is.

What you may not know is that every accessibility feature can be defeated by developers.

VoiceOver can be defeated by including hidden, junk text in your app. Flipboard is a prime culprit. When you read a Flipboard article, all you see is the text of the article. But when a blind person tries to use VoiceOver to read that same article, the text is garbled and loaded with intentional misspellings. The result is that the text is rendered unreadable by the blind.

Read Screen is a little known feature that allows you to swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers and have your iPhone or iPad start reading from whatever is visible at the top of the open window. In Safari, if you are reading a long article, you can scroll to a particular section, flick down with two fingers, and have the article read aloud from that point.

But that feature is easily defeated by the way web page elements are prioritized. Instead of reading what is visible at the top of the windows, this feature can be forced to read all the invisible menus, then the ads, and then the dozens of article listings scattered about the page. You could have ten minutes of reading before getting to the main article. Furthermore, rather than starting where you want to start, the reader is forced to the top of the page to read the developer's priority instead of yours. This amazing feature is rendered useless on many pages.

Barriers to accessibility

With so much free accessibility available to developers, you might wonder why so many apps defeat the built-in features. I don't believe for a moment that any developers are twirling their mustache, intentionally crippling accessibility features critical to those who need them. Instead, here is what I think may be going on behind the scenes:

1. The Path of least resistance

It is not that any developer is evil or lazy, it's that they're human. Humans tend to take the path of least resistance. If a developer can accomplish their goal in three steps, they will do it. But including an accessibility feature might require an additional five steps. Implementing dynamic type is a good example. Even if they think about the feature, they may deem the extra effort or time not to be worth it.

2. DRM

Developers who are trying to make a living with their content do not want to allow their work to be easily copyable, or easy to read without the surrounding ads on which their monetization is based. They protect their work by employing schemes that defeat copy/paste and ad-stripping. Unfortunately, I can't think of any ways to implement DRM that do not also adversely effect accessibility. Apparently, neither can they.

3. Highly stylized features

The Verge is one of the most heavily designed sites on the web. They do award-winning work that makes their content come to life in a modern, visual context. However, almost every design choice they make clashes with accessibility. This is common for design-centric sites and apps—magazine apps in particular.

In magazine apps, layout is king. It comes in ahead of all other considerations. Developers are so focused on how they want every line to look on the page, they never consider how the reader might like to see it.

Design-heavy apps do not tend to allow for easily resizable fonts, for example, or arrangeable page elements. It is the developer's way or the highway. There is no evil intent. They have a beautiful idea in mind. They just never considered its effect on accessibility.

Accessibility is NOT a technical issue

The lack of accessibility in apps is not because developers don't know how to implement the technical details. Developers do not need anyone to tell them how to include larger fonts, for example. They already know how to implement Text-to-Speech (TTS) and other accessibility options. If it were just a matter of technical details, accessibility would be easy. The challenge is getting developers to make accessibility a priority.

Does a media company want their content to be accessible, or want it protected from theft? If that is the choice before them, accessibility is going to lose almost every time. And it does.

If some accessibility features are difficult to implement and take time away from money-making aspects of a project, what is the pitch for getting devs to put the time and energy into dynamic type? As a former salesman, and a fan of dynamic type, I can't think of such a pitch.

It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms.

For designers, making their apps more accessible would mean giving up part of their app's identity. They are reluctant to provide anyone with the opportunity to break their format. To them, it is like pouring catsup on a fine steak.

These are not technical issues. At least, they are not solvable by current technology.

I am reminded of accessibility issues in physical spaces. It took the force of law to make businesses start adding wheelchair access, parking, and restrooms. For the most part, they did the least they legally had to do. To this day, braille or large print menus in restaurants are rare. They are not technically difficult to do. Every eating establishment, regardless of size, could have at least one Braille and large print menu tomorrow. They would rather spend $100,000 on design and layout than $100 to make a plain, easy to read list.

It is not about technology. It is, and always has been about incentive. That is why I focused my talk on accessibility being a moral imperative. At the end of the day, that is the only incentive that will move the needle in the right direction.

The path to accessibility

If you want to know how to better serve those with accessibility needs, I offer this general advice:

  • Don't get in the way of what is already there
  • Make all fonts user adjustable.
  • Make as many items speakable as possible
  • Test your app on people with special needs

Having already discussed the first one, let's take a brief look at the other three:

Fonts

Sometimes, in content-heavy apps, developers will provide a few text sizes such as small, medium, and large. But those sizes are all relative. A person who does not see very well does not see those sizes as small, medium, and large. They see way too small, still too small, and nice try, but I'm still going to have to move on to another app. If you are not going to use dynamic type, at least make the fonts user adjustable. Regardless of how big you think the font is, if it is not big enough for the reader, it is not accessible.

Text-to-Speech (TTS)

I look forward to the day when everything on a screen is speakable. Text-to-Speech (TTS) is already here, and more than good enough. Imagine a lightweight script that could automatically select the text in a given section, and then read it aloud with one of the built-in voices just by tapping a Play button. Some websites already do this. There is no reason text-heavy apps can't do this as well. My understanding from developer friends is that all the APIs are freely available to devs if they wanted to go this route.

This type of solution would be ideal on the Apple Watch, as it has a small screen, necessitating small text. Having those snippets of text speakable would answer most accessibility prayers on that device.

Inclusive testing

Finally, test your apps on people with special needs. There are schools for the blind, and rehabilitation programs for the blind all over the country. Even if you do not know anyone personally, willing, blind and partially sighted testers are easy to find. (You can email me for more specifics.) The point is, unless you have tested your accessibility on someone that actually uses accessibility features, you have not actually tested your accessibility.

Accessibility for all

The good news is if you are asking how you can make your apps even more accessible, then you are already most of the way there. The special needs community is a rather forgiving lot. We reward effort, even those that are spectacular failures. Put forth the effort, and we will help you refine it.

In some ways, access is like justice: It has to be for all if it is to be fully realized.



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Manage your Wink-controlled home with your Apple Watch

Today, 08:53 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even" property="content:encoded"><p><a href='http://www.imore.com...ur-apple-watch'title="Manage your Wink-controlled home with your Apple Watch"><img src='http://www.imore.com/sites/imore.com/files/styles/large_wm_brw/public/field/image/2015/04/organize-hero.jpg?itok=EUwNXSmo' /></a></p> <p>Wink now supports the <a href="http://www.imore.com/amazon-echo-now-supports-wink-controlled-smart-home-hardware">Apple Watch</a>, allowing you to carry out your top ten commands on the wearable. All this is possible thanks to the new Wink Apple Watch app.</p> <!--break--> <p>All that's required to get started is for the Apple Watch app to be fired up on your phone. Scroll and select Wink and enable the app to be loaded on the wearable. The app will pull down the top ten shortcuts from your account, making it easy to carry out tasks you do often.</p> <p>Amazon Echo is <a href="http://www.imore.com/amazon-echo-now-supports-wink-controlled-smart-home-hardware">also compatible with Wink</a>. As for Wink, the company has some more ideas for the Apple Watch Wink app, and plans to evolve the app with the aid of Apple. Have Wink setup in your home? Let us know how you've been getting on with Apple Watch control.</p> <ul><li>Free - <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/wink-simpler-way-to-smarter/id719287124?mt=8&amp;at=10l3Vy&amp;ct=d_im" title="" rel="nofollow">Download Now</a></li> </ul></div></div></div><br clear='all'/><br/><br/><a href="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/1/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/1/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><br/><a href="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/2/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/2/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><br/><a href="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/3/rc.htm" rel="nofollow"><img src="http://rc.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/rc/3/rc.img" border="0"/></a><br/><br/><a href="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/a2.htm"><img src="http://da.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/a2.img" border="0"/></a><img width="1" height="1" src="http://pi.feedsportal.com/r/234566334500/u/49/f/616881/c/33998/s/488f4db1/sc/28/a2t.img" border="0"/><img width='1' height='1' src='http://tipb.com.feedsportal.com/c/33998/f/616881/s/488f4db1/sc/28/mf.gif' border='0'/><img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/TheIphoneBlog/~4/Ot1Dvq0LbT8" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>

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The Top Gear boys are back together on Amazon Prime

Today, 11:13 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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The Top Gear departure of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May left an explosion sized hole in the TV viewing of people around the world. But the trio are back for 2016 and you'll be able to watch their new creation on your iPhone and iPad thanks to Amazon Prime.

The ex-BBC presenters have signed up exclusively with the online giant to produce a new show for 2016. Rumors had been flying around that it was rival provider, Netflix, that was in pole position to secure the highly sought after signatures of the threesome. So it's somewhat surprising to hear this morning that Amazon emerged victorious.

The new show won't air until some time in 2016 and Amazon is making a big deal out of it, even offering an email sign up for more information as it emerges. We do know it'll be a car show at least, as Clarkson tweeted this morning:

".@AmazonVideoUK now saying I can't be their chief drone pilot. Apparently they want us to make a car show."

Can. Not. Wait.



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Understanding Apple Music

Today, 11:00 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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Could Apple have done Music differently?

Some people whose opinions I could not value more highly have wondered out loud why Apple Music, the new Music app for iOS, and latest version of iTunes on the Mac turned out the way that they did. I've not spoken to anyone at Apple about the development process but I've spent years trying to understand the company, have a background in design and product marketing, and been thinking about exactly this. A lot.

Apple's DNA

When Tim Cook said Apple loves music and that music was in the company's DNA, he meant it. Music isn't a significant business for Apple. It's practically nothing when compared to the iPhone and other devices and the movement from purchasing to streaming will only lessen its impact.

Having an integrated music service does make the overall ecosystem more valuable for owners of Apple devices, but nowhere nearly as much as it did back in the glory days of the iPod. And nowhere nearly as much as something like the App Store does today.

If Apple didn't love music, if the company didn't consider it a point of pride from those glory days, they could likely wind it down with little or no impact to their bottom line.

But one look at how much of the company's resources Apple has poured into the new music project—from the very top level executives to the usually very tightly held purse strings—should show everyone just how important it remains to them.

There are a lot of other services that could have used the attention and resources, but it went to music.

One complete thought

Likewise, when Jimmy Iovine said he approached Tim Cook and Eddy Cue with the idea of building "one complete thought around music", I also believe he meant it. During his presentation at WWDC, Iovine showed the status of music on iOS today—a myriad of different apps used for streaming music, watching videos, and following the artists who make the music and videos. Iovine didn't even include the music purchasing services, internet radio services, or music locker services.

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If you were in iTunes and wanted to stream music you hadn't bought, you were out of luck. If you were streaming music and wanted to see the video, you were out of luck. If you were listening to internet radio and wanted to add a song to your music locker, you were out of luck. If you were watching a video and wanted to check the artist's social feed, you were out of luck. At best some services would partner with others and provide links, so you could switch apps and do something else, and then try to find your way back. At worse, you had to figure it all out on your own.

The fragmentation Iovine mentioned was, from his point of view and likely the points of view of many other people, a clear and present problem in need of solving. And the solution he proposed was fusing it all together.

Paved with good intentions

So, if we take Apple at its word—and historically that's been something we can safely do—the company really wanted to make a modern, integrated music service. Even if we don't take Apple at its word, that's a very Apple thing to want to do, and a very Apple way to want to do it.

Could those goals have been realized if Apple had removed some of the functionality from the service, or if Apple had split it up across two or more apps? Let's take a look.

The tabs

The new Music app, like the old, is laid out in a series of tabs. For You is the new recommendation engine. It's a place for you to discover music, new and old, that the Apple Music service thinks you'd enjoy listening to. It replaced Genius Recommendations, and is similar in concept to the suggested media or recommendation pages of many other streaming apps.

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Putting it in a separate app would mean any time you wanted to hear one of the suggestions, you'd have to switch back to the Music app to play it and, any time you were listening to music and wanted a suggestion, you'd have to switch to the For You app to get it.

New is just what it says—all the latest music that's been added to the service. It's similar to the new releases or recently added sections of other streaming apps.

Personally, I would have preferred it if New was combined with For You as a single repository of everything "new for me" whether it was chronologically new or just content not already in my collection. If I can top-tab between Library and Playlists in My Music, I can certainly top-tab between New Releases and Recommended in For You.

Putting it in the iTunes Store app, where Featured already shows new music, might sound like a good idea but really isn't. Not only is the iTunes catalog different than the Apple Music catalog, and iTunes is for buying where Apple Music is for streaming, but you'd again have to switch apps back and forth every time you wanted to play or discover anything. It's how the iTunes App and Music used to work before iOS 8.4 and it wasn't seamless.

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Radio, which houses both Beats 1 and the multitude of other Apple Music stations is perhaps the tab that could best survive as its own, distinct Apple Radio app. You'd still have the inconvenience of having to switch back and forth between the two apps, but not as much as the other tabs.

Fewer people might use or remember to check out a separate app, though, and if pop-up reminders tried to prompt people even about important shows or releases in one app about the other, it probably wouldn't go over well. Casual exploration and discovery, in other words, would take a hit.

Connect, the new social network for artists to share rough cuts, lyrics, backstage footage, play lists, and similar content with fans, might be another good candidate for a stand alone app. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and a bevy of other social networks are stand alone apps. Hell, the Facebook and Twitter apps have been spewing off separate binaries of their own for several years now.

Yet Connect, as currently implemented, isn't designed to be stand-alone. It's designed as yet another doorway into new and interesting content for you to discover within Apple Music. So, once again, it would be annoying to have to switch between apps every time you wanted to follow an artist, see what an artist you follow is doing, or start playing the content an artist has shared.

iOS 9 backlinks could mitigate some of that, but it would still degrade the intended experience—just like selling booklets and sleeve notes separate from an LP would have been back in the days of the album. It would also hurt casual exploration and discovery as well.

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My Music is all the music you've bought from iTunes, synced over iTunes Match, or added (bookmarked) or downloaded (cached) from Apple Music. All in one big list. Could Apple Music be a separate app? Perhaps, but then you'd have to remember where a certain song was located—in your library in the Music app or in your library in the Apple Music app.

The idea of one thought around music is that you shouldn't have to care, manage, hunt down, organize, or otherwise deal with fragmented music. You should just be able to play any music you want, any time you want, regardless of whether you own it or not.

Separate your music from Apple Music, and any song you have that isn't on Apple Music can no longer be part of your playlists or queues. Separate Apple Music from your music and the same happens with any music you don't own.

The services

Instead of separating by tabs, could Apple have separated by service? It becomes much the same. If you have separate apps for purchased music (iTunes Music), streaming music (Apple Music), music locker (iTunes Match), radio (Beats 1), recommendations (Genius), and social (Connect), then instead of people simply being able to play any song, they have to remember first where that song lives. Instead of being able to tap around and discover what they want to play next, they'd be stuck in one app or constantly being switched between several.

You'd lose the ability to have a unified view of all the music you've added, to be shown more like it, to quickly find and add more, and to just listen to what's playing, all in one place.

The More button

The More button (looks like •••) is probably the poster child for Music complexity. Tap it and you get options for Playlists and Up Next, Adding and Downloading, Stations and Sharing. The More button has been around, in tab form, since the advent of the Music app. Now, however, it's accused of being the new Menu/Hamburger button (looks like ☰), and its pop-up lists the new sidebars overstuffed with options.

It's a tough problem to solve though. Typically you reduce interface clutter by reducing options. For example, do we really need Playlists and Up Next and Stations? If Apple tried to be opinionated here and decided on Playlists only, or decided to ditch Stations, significant amounts of people who prefer one over the others, or use all of them differently, would be just as unhappy as those who currently dislike the complexity.

Likewise, get rid of Add to Library or Download for Offline, and people would no longer be able to easily find the content they love most, or listen to it when there's no internet connection. And they'd be just as mad.

That leaves better design as the solution. Apple's already doing that in iOS 9, which has simpler, saner, better visually organized popups in many cases. There are still times when there are too many options, but it's an improvement and hopefully the first of many.

Only Apple

Apple is ambitious. The company tries to solve big problems in big ways. They swing for the stars. That's how you hit a lot of home runs, but it's also how you get some spectacular misses. Apple Music is no different, and it's truly to early to say which one it'll be yet.

I believe everyone at Apple, from Tim Cook to Eddy Cue to Jimmy Iovine, to all the vice-presidents and directors, and engineers and designers, went into Apple Music with the best of intentions. I believe they wanted to make a great service. Every choice they made is understandable if you consider it within the context of the stated goal: "One complete thought"—an app where all music services, from purchases to streams, radio to lockers, social to recommendations, all meet.

Whether it's the right idea and the right implementation of the idea is something Apple still needs to prove. Beyond bug fixes, beyond the critical need for better personal data protection and more timely documentation and explanations, Apple needs to prove Music something that's better than what came before, and better than the sum of its parts.

I believe Apple Music is a totally customer-centric, totally experience driven project at Apple. But the company still has to prove it's the right one.

Note: I didn't address iTunes on Mac here because it's problems, frankly, go far beyond Apple Music. iTunes carries over a decade of dependencies for Apple, for content makers, and for customers. Simply stating Apple "should or "must" scrap it and start over is fair from an "it's Apple's job to fix things!" perspective, but is less than helpful in providing scope or setting timeline expectation.*

Updating the aging iTunes Store backend, with its billions of transactions, hundreds of millions of accounts, and hundreds of thousands of vendors, is a massive undertaking all by itself. Figuring out Windows compatibility, tethered device management, and customer-facing complexity are also non-trivial. Hopefully Apple's already working on what comes next, back end and front, and will be rolling it out over time. New app(s), though, are literally just the tip of that iceberg.



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Angry Birds 2 is now available on iOS

Today, 10:54 AM

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

Although there are more Angry Birds games than Slipknot band members, Rovio hasn't made a sequel for the original title that launched all the way back in 2009. That changed today, as the Finnish manufacturer launched Angry Birds 2 on iOS, with the game featuring new strategies, levels, characters, tournaments and more.

As with recent Rovio titles, the base game itself is free, and comes with several in-app purchases. With over 1.5 billion downloads, the Angry Birds franchise certainly needs no introduction. The only question that remains is: How many of you are going to download Angry Birds 2?



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VSCO Cam's Collections let you share your favorite ph...

28 Jul 2015

Posted By x-bot in iDevice News

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VSCO Cam for iPhone and iPad has been updated to add Collections, a new way of showing off your favorite photos and interacting with other photographers using VSCO Cam. Collections allow you to find and publish your favorite images for your followers to see.

This VSCO Cam update also allows you to take photos with the Volume Up button on your iPhone. Check out what's new in the list below:

  • New Collections feature allows for unprecedented interaction within the VSCO ecosystem
  • Connect with other creatives and their work
  • Double tap to save inspiring images, then publish those images to your Collection
  • Added ability to take photos using the volume button
  • Fixed various issues and bugs

You can grab the latest version of VSCO Cam from the App Store right now.



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