Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Four years after launching its program to allow outside developers to write apps for Alexa, Amazon’s voice system has some 80,000 “skills” — but no huge hit. In fact, most people with Alexa-enabled smart speakers still use them only to listen to music or make simple requests. That compares to Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store, each of which are home to over 550,000 apps, many of which have been huge successes for developers. But voice-centric apps are challenging to build and don’t appear to attract consumers. Continue reading Developers Are Struggling to Create Alexa-Centric Killer App

Unfold, an App for Designing Instagram Stories, Gains Steam

Instagram’s Stories — featuring short, disappearing photos and videos — are now read by 400 million people per day. An app called Unfold, created specifically for Instagram Stories, is growing in popularity. Alfonso Cobo, an architect, created Unfold in March 2017 and the app already has 11 million users. Cobo is also opening a design agency to help brands and companies that need to create compelling content for Stories. Cobo originally created Unfold as an app for designers to use the iPad to create portfolios. Continue reading Unfold, an App for Designing Instagram Stories, Gains Steam

Apple Shares Dip Despite Report of Record Revenue, Profit

Apple reported record revenue and profit for the fourth consecutive quarter, due to higher iPhone prices and App Store sales, but shares fell 6.5 percent to $207.76 in after-hours trading. Investors were unhappy about the company’s announcement that it plans to stop reporting unit sales for products. Apple’s numbers reflect a trend of tech share price drops, due to investor concern about the combination of high valuations, slowing revenue growth and rising costs. Apple forecasts that December quarter revenue will be between $89 billion and $93 billion. Continue reading Apple Shares Dip Despite Report of Record Revenue, Profit

Senators Ask FTC to Examine Kids Apps’ Privacy Violations

Two Democratic senators — Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — sent a letter on Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into whether the thousands of “child-friendly” apps in the market are actually collecting children’s personal information. To do so would violate a federal law protecting children’s online privacy, since it requires sites and apps targeting persons under 13 years old to obtain verifiable parental permission before collecting data. Continue reading Senators Ask FTC to Examine Kids Apps’ Privacy Violations

Facebook Suspends Apps, Removes its Own From Apple Store

Facebook has suspended 400 apps, about double the number it previously said it removed due to “concerns around the developers who built them or how the information people chose to share with the app may have been used.” The company is now investigating these apps and developers. Elsewhere, after Apple ruled that Facebook’s data-security app violated its data collection policies, Facebook pulled the app from the store. Facebook used the app to track the competition and learn more about new product categories. Continue reading Facebook Suspends Apps, Removes its Own From Apple Store

Netflix Deletes All Customer Reviews Based on Declining Use

After last month’s announcement, Netflix began to remove all customer reviews of TV shows, movies and other programming from its site, saying it was due to “declining use.” Although Netflix did allow customers to post new reviews until July 30, the company said it will have erased more than ten years’ worth of reviews by mid-August. Netflix removed the five-star rating system a year ago. Rival services Amazon, Apple’s iTunes and App Store, Google Play and Rotten Tomatoes still display user reviews and ratings. Continue reading Netflix Deletes All Customer Reviews Based on Declining Use

Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi

Verizon debuted a VPN (virtual private network) product, dubbed Safe Wi-Fi, marketed as a security measure for smartphone users who log onto public networks, as well as an ad-blocker. Public Wi-Fi networks can make it easy for advertisers and bad actors to track a user’s IP address, which the VPN will hide from public view. Safe Wi-Fi — available to Verizon customers on Android and iOS devices — is priced at $3.99 per month per account. Safe Wi-Fi can protect up to 10 devices on a single account. Continue reading Verizon’s VPN Product Protects Mobile Users on Public Wi-Fi

Popular Game ‘Fortnite’ Racks Up 100 Million iOS Downloads

According to Apptopia, Epic Games’ free game “Fortnite” can now count 100 million downloads on the Apple iOS platform in 138 days, or less than five months, earning $160 million in iOS in-app purchases. Counting versions for the PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, “Fortnite” has posted $1 billion in revenue since its “Battle Royale” version was introduced in September 2017. That compares with “Super Mario Run” (100 million downloads in 68 days) and “Pokémon Go” (100 million iOS downloads in 71 days). Continue reading Popular Game ‘Fortnite’ Racks Up 100 Million iOS Downloads

Pokémon to Develop Games for Nintendo’s Next-Gen System

“Pokémon Go” — produced by Pokémon Co., an affiliate of Nintendo, and developed by Google spin-off Niantic — has been downloaded more than 500 million times since its July introduction. Now, Pokémon chief executive Tsunekazu Ishihara says his company plans to create games for Nintendo’s next-generation system, which sources say will combine features of traditional consoles and handheld devices. Ishihara also says the company hopes to bring “Pokémon Go” to China and South Korea. Continue reading Pokémon to Develop Games for Nintendo’s Next-Gen System

Snapchat Working on AR, Gamer Developers Turn to VR Titles

Snapchat has been making hires and acquisitions in augmented reality that may signal development of smart glasses. The company has brought in key people from Microsoft HoloLens, PTC’s (formerly Qualcomm’s) Vuforia and Eyefluence, an eye-tracking technology company. Snapchat’s interest in AR dates back to March 2014, when it quietly acquired Vergence Labs, maker of glasses with an embedded camera, for $15 million. At the time, the acquisition seemed out-of-place but now appears to be part of a larger AR strategy. Continue reading Snapchat Working on AR, Gamer Developers Turn to VR Titles

Apple’s Plan to Dominate Streaming Music Off to a Good Start

Since launching Apple Music on June 30, Apple reports 11 million users have signed up for a three-month trial to access 30 million songs. If they all become paying members, by October the Silicon Valley firm will have half the membership of leading music streamer, 10-year old Spotify. Apple is launching a comprehensive marketing campaign — with billboard, TV and radio ads — for the new streaming service. In the fall, it will roll out its Android version of Apple Music in beta. Continue reading Apple’s Plan to Dominate Streaming Music Off to a Good Start

Jay Z to Perform Free Concert Only for Tidal Music Subscribers

Rapper and producer Jay Z is promoting his new artist-backed music streaming service Tidal with an exclusive concert. “Tidal X: Jay Z B-Sides” will be held May 13 in New York City. The only way people can get tickets is by submitting a playlist on Tidal. The artist plans to play songs that he has not performed in over 10 years. The concert announcement follows in the wake of Jay Z vehemently defending Tidal on Twitter after other musicians had criticized the service for being too elitist. Continue reading Jay Z to Perform Free Concert Only for Tidal Music Subscribers

Popcorn Time Circumvents Apple App Store with iOS Installer

The anonymous developers behind Popcorn Time, one of the fastest growing torrent platforms in the world, have figured out a way to get their new app on iPhones and iPads without going through the Apple App Store. Apple’s security team will not approve apps that facilitate copyright infringement, so the developers have created a new software called iOS Installer for Windows. This software will allow people to download the Popcorn Time app without jailbreaking their phones. Continue reading Popcorn Time Circumvents Apple App Store with iOS Installer

Pinterest Looks to Help App Discovery and In-App Purchasing

Social bookmarking service Pinterest is adding new features that will allow people to download new apps and purchase their favorite furnishings and clothing directly from the site or mobile app. Pinterest teamed up with Apple to launch “App Pins” last week, so that users can discover new apps as part of their searches and download them without leaving the Pinterest app. Since the service is used by many for discovery, Pinterest may also integrate a “buy button” into pins as early as this year. Continue reading Pinterest Looks to Help App Discovery and In-App Purchasing

Reddit Acquires Alien Blue, Now the Official Reddit Mobile App

Before Wednesday, social media startup Reddit, which has 174 million regular monthly users, did not offer a mobile app. Instead, the online message board worked with a variety of third-party, unofficial programs. However, in the wake of a large round of venture funding, Reddit announced that it has purchased the most popular of these third-party programs, Alien Blue. The app will now become the official Reddit app, available for download via Apple’s App Store. Continue reading Reddit Acquires Alien Blue, Now the Official Reddit Mobile App

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