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Apple Store’s search engine has come under scrutiny recently for favoring Apple’s company created apps in its results.  Scrutiny by regulators in Europe and the United States forced Apple to change its search algorithm in July. The New York Times had analyzed the search results for six years and found that Apple’s own apps ranked first with at least 700 search terms used in the store. According to the newspaper, the analysis since 2013 included a ranking of more than 1,800 specific apps for 13 keywords. The Wall Street Journal confirmed The Times reporting with its review that found similar results; Apple’s own apps often took priority. Before changes to the algorithm, when one searched for common terms such as “music” or “podcast,” Apple Music or Apple podcasts would come up and you’d see unrelated Apple apps, forcing Apple’s competitors down the lists. This is a natural result of the company’s tight control of the process.  iPhone apps can only be installed from Apple’s Store and Apple’s software competes with many of the independent developers in the store. Newspapers get involved when governments get involved.  This issue is the subject of a civil lawsuit in the US and the US Department of Justice is considering an Apple investigation. The Dutch are looking into it as well. Apple told The Times that it has made changes to help users better find the apps they are looking for.  After the changes, it appears that fewer of Apple’s own apps appear at the top of search results.
Apple TV+ is entering the video streaming space to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and now Disney.  They have been working on original content to bolster their library and have already announced “The Morning Show,” the network headliner featuring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. Now they’ve released a list of other original shows:

1. Snoopy in Space

Original series from Peanuts Worldwide.

2. Oprah Winfrey Docuseries

Several documentaries and shows with Oprah.

3. Amazing Stories

Reboot from 1980’s show by executive producer Steven Spielberg.

4. Truth Be Told

Based on a Kathleen Barber novel; features Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad.

5. Dickinson

Comedy starring Hailee Stienfeld.

6. Ghostwriter

Teenage / fictional series where ghosts come to life out of books.

7. See

Sci-Fi drama where humans are born blind.

8. For All Mankind

Sci-Fi drama based on a Cold War space race that never ended.

9. Helpsters

Children’s program in partnership with Sesame Workshop.

Apple’s fall conference was packed with new product announcements. First among them are the next generation iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro.  The base model comes with an attractive glass design, a choice of six colors, a 6.1-inch display, a spacial audio sound field, a dual camera system allowing for wider photos, a night mode for brightening photos taken in the dark and, what the company claims is, the highest quality video ever available in a smartphone.

The iPhone 11 Pro is even more advanced, with the highest pixel density of any prior Apple phone, a super display, machine learning accelerators, better battery capacity, water resistance and something called Filmic Pro App, which allows for making multiple videos at once in different directions.

The iPhone 11 will sell for $699 while the iPhone 11 Pro will sell for $999.

Another featured product was the Apple Watch that the company claims is helping people with health research. Multiple, ongoing studies include:

  • A hearing study researching how daily sound experiences influence long-term hearing health.
  • A women’s health study that focuses on how menstrual cycles influence infertility and osteoporosis.
  • A heart and movement study that monitors the heart to understand its influence on overall human health.

Apple’s research promises users the right to data privacy.

Apple Watch Series 5 offers several new safety features including fall detection and international emergency calling. The Series 5 Apple Watch starts at $399. The Series 3 is still available at a lowered price of $199.

The 7th generation iPad comes with a large 10.2-inch display with 3.5 million pixels, a wider viewing angle for photos and claims to be two times faster than top selling PCs.

On the content front, trailers for the Apple TV Plus program lineup where shown to what was reported to be a great response. Many of the shows will be available starting November 1st for $4.99 per month.

The company also revealed a new subscription service for accessing games, editorial content and personalized recommendations called Apple Arcade. It will be available starting on Sept. 19th for $4.99 a month – with a one-month free trial.   You’ll have to raid the piggy bank for all these toys.

Mobile tech company, DeNA, just released a Nintend-based, free-to-play Pokemon game called Pokemon Masters for iOS and Android phones. The game involves players forming teams of trainers and fighters. The combat involves three teams of trainers and fighters in combat with each other on the artificial island of Pasio. This exciting new contribution to the Pokemon gaming series started with a popular first week debut. According to Sensor Tower estimates, Pokemon Masters had a great first week having earned about $26 million.  It may be free-to-play, but if you want to really compete you will need to increase your chances with expert coaching.  That costs money. The strong opening week – second in the series to Pokemon Go – means that players are willing to spend to enhance their chances. Sixty-two percent of the revenue came from Japan, Nintendo’s home market, which was followed by United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan and France to fill out the top five markets.  Seventy-two percent of the revenue came from iOS phones. Nintendo will also release Pokemon Sword and Shield on November 15th, as well as a special edition of the Nintendo Switch Lite.

In the new world of media, content companies must make all their offerings available to their audience wherever and however they want it – broadcast, cable, PC or stream, mobile or wired, scheduled or on-demand.  In that regard, our friends at Apple Music will be launching a browser version of its music streaming service. Paid subscribers will be able to access the streaming service from any web browser by logging in using their Apple ID. The browser version of the application is currently in beta, offering listeners full access to their playlists and Beats 1 Radio. As part of the overall strategy, Apple confirmed that it is withdrawing iTunes and replacing it with a new package: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Apple clearly has a strategy for matching every new trend in music technology with a clear and impactful response.

If money equals success, our friends at Apple are going for it.  The Financial Times reports that the company is increasing its budget for content from $1 billion – which sounds a lot like Netflix’s reported budget for this year – to $5 billion.  With that bankroll they’ll assure themselves of a competitive position against Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu and Disney +.

One particular Apple program, The Morning Show, is reportedly budgeted at $300 million for just the first two seasons, which makes it more expensive than HBO’s Games of Thrones that is estimated to have cost a mere $15 million a season.  The math says one season of The Morning Show will cost more than the entire run of Thrones. Nuts.

Apple is throwing big money and a-list talent into its efforts to establish a dominant position in the streaming industry. Jennifer Anniston, Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon lead in The Morning Show cast while producing talent like Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are also contributing content. An interesting side story that comes out of all this content expansion is the need for lots of talent, both back stage and in front of the camera.  There will be fewer starving actors in the future.

Nintendo is close to delivering on last year’s promise to put Mario Kart on mobile devices.  The game is already being played on PCs, but it’s time for Nintendo to follow its audience to the phone where they increasingly live and breathe. Just how they adapt this well known game to the mobile medium will be interesting…what elements will they keep and what will they drop as they live within the phone’s restrictions.  The fun will be playing the new versions of Rainbow Road or Koopa Troopa Beach on your phone.

The beta version is said to be close to release, but in a break from the past, it will be available on Android devices first, which puts iOS users at the back of the line.  While nothing quite beats the classic N64 version of Mario Kart, having the ability to compete with this timeless title on your phone will be a fresh experience. Check back in for more updates on Mario Kart as the beta release unfolds.

Scientists are now using phone movements to predict personality traits. Many interesting correlations have been found between certain personality traits and phone usage style. Patterns of physical activity and social activities also predict a person’s personality type. Researchers have used tiny sensors on people’s phones to track their behavioral patterns. The speed and length we tend to walk often shows patterns about our personality types. Some of the patterns noticed from the study include the following. People with consistent movements on weekday evenings were generally more introverted. Agreeable people had more random activity patterns and were busier on weekends and weekday evenings. Friendly and compassionate females made more outgoing phone calls than any other group. Conscientious and organized people didn’t typically contact the same person frequently in a short amount of time. Sensitive and neurotic females checked their phones a lot during the night; in contrast, sensitive and neurotic males did the opposite. Inventive and curious people made and received less phone calls than others. Study leader Nan Gao said that the results of the study have exciting potential applications. Gao thinks the results of this study could be used to improve social media and online dating. He also thinks that we can use self-knowledge of our own personalities to improve our lives. It will be interesting to see how technology-based research might be able to improve our social lives in the future.

Japanese Breakfast has created an authentic sound built around indie pop and atmospheric synths that pleasure the ears. A sound that for one fan could have been more “rudimentary”. This past Tuesday, Michelle Zauner- lead singer of the band received some rather interesting Twitter criticism for her song “Till Death”. The self proclaimed musician who slid into her DMs essentially tried to rewrite her song by offering opinions that no one asked for.

This fan sent a lengthy and unnecessary message to the band’s account on Twitter. His main criticism was that the bass line on the song “sounded forced” and that the song “deserves a simple dropping bass riff that isn’t too flashy”. Most of the message consisted of the critic telling Michelle how she should have recorded her own music. Basically, this is a horrible way to get one of your favorite artists to notice you. Not to mention, this critic is representing the toxicity of mansplaining that many women face regularly.  

Zauner cleverly replied to the critic on Twitter,  joking “*rerecords album*”. The advice given from this “fan” caused a stir of interesting tweets and Twitter jokes related to his comments. While the Twitter critic certainly got his voice heard, hopefully he learned that there are more pleasant ways to reach out to one of your icons. Before offering unsolicited advice, it may be smart to take a friendlier approach and not be too demanding- so that you don’t make a fool of yourself.  On the plus side, this situation can teach us how to properly combat internet mansplainers- one snarky tweet at a time.

 

Many new music and unexpected collaborations have been coming out of the woodwork as of recent. This week we saw exactly that, and the results were pretty jarring. Zedd and Katy Perry have teamed up to create the overwhelmingly average “365”. Around this time last year, Zedd released “The Middle”  with country pop singer-songwriter Maren Morris. Is he expecting “365” to carry the torch the Grammy nominated “Middle” lit up? “365” is far from a disaster, but it borderlines generic pop as opposed to the grandiose and creative electronica Zedd used to wow us with. We’ll have to see if it lives up to the success “The Middle” generated. Oh yeah, and there’s the overtly weird and creepy themes of obsession Katy throws in the lyrics. Yikes.

(Listen to “365”- Zedd & Katy Perry here).

Shockingly, Avril Lavigne partnered up with Nicki Minaj and released “Dumb Blonde” from Avril’s new album Head Above Water, released February 15th (Yes, you’re reading that sentence correctly). Many suspected Avril died after internet memes and various fans stated she was replaced by a clone named Melissa. She’s proving us that she’s here, in the flesh, with an extremely bland and unseasoned song. This song is very much Avril trying to revisit her old school Canadian punk rock chick era, which she proves on this track she’s far outgrown. The lyrics have been done before, and its style is attempting to mirror Avril’s 2007 banger, “Girlfriend”, which simply cannot be recreated. And Nicki Minaj is practically lifeless in this, her presence isn’t bad but doesn’t really do anything to enhance this track.

(Listen to “Dumb Blonde”- Avril Lavigne & Nicki Minaj here).

In the world of pop music collaborations this week, one song took the cake and managed to be bearable. Cardi B and Bruno Mars released “Please Me” which once again showcases Bruno as a ladies man, being wooed by girls in the club. We already know these two have amazing chemistry and they’ve proven this with how successful the “Finesse (Remix)” ended up being. This, much like “Finesse” highlights Bruno’s cockiness and magnificently powerful vocal range. This mixed with Cardi’s wit and bubbling personality is what makes these two unstoppable. Both Cardi and Bruno deliver amazingly, and give us something new to grind at the bar to.

(Listen to “Please Me” – Cardi B & Bruno Mars here).