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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’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.

Spotify is among the top three applications for streaming and sharing music, having grown significantly in recent years. That makes being associated with it appealing for other applications.  Instagram and Facebook already have options for users to broadcast the song(s) they’re currently jamming to.  Now Snapchat is joining the party.

Spotify is happy with the new relationship saying, “With Spotify, you can listen to your favorite music and podcasts anytime, anywhere. With Snapchat, you can share what you’re up to instantaneously. Soon you’ll be able to combine the two seamlessly and share what you’re listening to in a Snap story.” Here’s how it will work: Users will share their songs to Snapchat via Spotify. To begin with, there will not be a reverse share feature like Instagram has. Users will load a Spotify song into their Snap story and viewers will see the song thumbnail that links to the song on Spotify’s platform. There have been several third party hacks that let you share Spotify songs on Snapchat, but this one will be the real thing.

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.

Remember how awesome it was to play Snake on your phone?  Cell phone games have come a long, long way since those early days and so have those early games. You had the likes of Tetris, Solitaire, Black Jack, Texas Hold‘em and other card games that evolved into Words with Friends, Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja type games. Now games are at a whole new level, they’re practically console quality in your hand.

Here are five of our favorite interactive, smartphone gaming apps:

1. Fortnite

The uber popular, free console game is also available on your phone and you can “drop in” with players across all platforms – PS4, Xbox, PC, etc. The game is constantly providing new content, weapons, maps and worlds, which makes it easy to come back to on iOS and Android devices. Did we mention the best part, its free!

2. Pokemon Go

After dropping back in 2016, Pokemon Go quickly became the hottest game on the market and it remains one of the most popular, fun smartphone games to this day. Available on iOS and Android, Pokemon Go, like Fortnite, is a free to download and play. There are in-app purchases available, which is the way they make money. Wherever you go, there are Pokemon to be caught and gyms to be won and defended.  So catch them all, if you can, and hold down the gyms like you’re defending your own home!

3. Peter Panic

is a musical adventure game where you get to combine the fun nature of mini-games (think Super Mario World) with the musical aspect of Broadway. Your character is Peter, and by completing games successfully, you help him save the town theater where he loves to perform. The game is available on Android and iOS, however, if you want to save your progress, it will cost you a onetime fee of $2.99. Great for children of all ages!

4/5. Telling Lies & Her Story

We combined the two in a tie for fourth and fifth because they are practically the same game, just different versions. Created by Sam Barlow, who did Fortnite and Pokemon Go, these games are solve-the-mystery thrillers that feature real interactive clips from real actors to help you get to the bottom of the cases. Her Story is a murder mystery while Telling Lies is a multi-character story in which all characters are connected in unknown ways. Both games only available on iOS devices and cost $6.99 and $3.99 respectively. Check out video clips of each game.

 

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.