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The Almighty Buck

Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments (appleinsider.com) 45

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

Microsoft

Windows 10 is Adding SwiftKey, Laying the Groundwork For Dual-Screen Tablets (cnet.com) 41

Sean Hollister, writing for CNET: Microsoft-owned SwiftKey was one of the first virtual keyboards to offer intelligent, predictive swipe-typing on Android and iOS phones, and now Microsoft has announced that it will become the default keyboard for touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 computers as well. "SwiftKey will now power the typing experience on Windows when using the touch keyboard to write in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), or Russian," reads a portion of Microsoft's blog post. Which could be pretty handy if the rumors are true: Microsoft is reportedly planning to ship several new Surface tablets this year, including a new low-cost Surface slate and the dual-screen "Andromeda." Dual screens were a theme among laptop manufacturers at Computex last week, too.
Bitcoin

Apple's App Store Officially Bans Cryptocurrency Mining (venturebeat.com) 38

Apple has updated the App Store's Review Guidelines to explicitly ban on-device mining across any type of app, and all of Apple's platforms. The new section 3.1.5 (b), titled Cryptocurrencies, provides five clear rules for what will and won't be allowed in macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS apps going forward. VentureBeat reports: The upshot of the new rules is that while Apple will permit cryptocurrencies to exist on its platforms, it's adding requirements to stop scammers and individuals from exploiting App Store customers, while making explicit that it's blocking developers from eating Apple device processing power for mining activities. As AppleInsider notes, the Review Guidelines were previously less concerned with cryptocurrencies, allowing an app to facilitate crypto and ICO transactions if it complied with the laws in the app's distributed territories.

Since the App Store is virtually the only place to acquire software for iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches, Apple's decision will effectively end crypto mining on those devices. On macOS, however, users will continue to be able to acquire apps outside of the Mac App Store, enabling mining and other activities to continue without Apple's seal of approval.

Software

Should Apple Let Competitors Use FaceTime? (cnet.com) 211

In 2010, Steve Jobs first introduced FaceTime and promised it would become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple's competitors -- not just Apple. Well, eight years later and that still hasn't happened. CNET's Sean Hollister provides a theory as to why that is: There's also an ongoing lawsuit to consider -- as Ars Technica documented in 2013, Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX. Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added "relay servers" to help the phones connect. Presumably, someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open. But that doesn't make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well. A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That's something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.
Privacy

Ticketfly Says 27 Million Accounts Compromised During 'Malicious' Attack (billboard.com) 11

Earlier this month, we reported of a "cyber incident" that compromised the systems of Ticketfly, a large ticket distribution service. We have now learned that roughly 27 million user accounts were compromised during the attack. The information includes names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers; thankfully, no credit/debit card info and passwords were stolen. Billboard reports: Ticketfly's website is fully back online a week after being targeted by what it describes as a "malicious cyber attack," though its mobile app for iOS remains offline "as we continue to prioritize bringing up the most critical parts of the platform first." Following the hack, the company rolled out a network of temporary venue and promoter websites so that events, including Riot Fest and Celebrate Brooklyn, could continue selling tickets. The "vast majority" of the temporary sites are now live, the firm said. All passwords for both ticket buyers and venue/promoter clients were reset following the hack, though they found no evidence that they were accessed. "It is possible, however, that hashed values of password credentials could have been accessed," the site warned. "Hashing is a way of scrambling a piece of data, making it generally incomprehensible."
Programming

Apple Deprecates OpenGL and OpenCL in macOS 10.14 Mojave 269

In macOS 10.14 Mojave, which Apple unveiled on Monday, the company is deprecating OpenGL and OpenCL technologies in its desktop operating system. In an announcement post to developers, the company wrote: Apps built using OpenGL and OpenCL will continue to run in macOS 10.14, but these legacy technologies are deprecated in macOS 10.14. Games and graphics-intensive apps that use OpenGL should now adopt Metal. Similarly, apps that use OpenCL for computational tasks should now adopt Metal and Metal Performance Shaders. PCGamer reports that several developers have expressed disappointment over the decision. AnandTech reports that the company is doing away with OpenGL and OpenCL in iOS and its other operating systems as well.
IOS

Apple Is Testing a Feature That Could Kill Police iPhone Unlockers (vice.com) 187

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard: On Monday, at its Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple teased the upcoming release of the iPhone's operating system, iOS 12. Among its most anticipated features are group FaceTime, Animoji, and a ruler app. But iOS 12's killer feature might be something that's been rumored for a while and wasn't discussed at Apple's event. It's called USB Restricted Mode, and Apple has been including it in some of the iOS beta releases since iOS 11.3.

The feature essentially forces users to unlock the iPhone with the passcode when connecting it to a USB accessory everytime the phone has not been unlocked for one hour. That includes the iPhone unlocking devices that companies such as Cellebrite or GrayShift make, which police departments all over the world use to hack into seized iPhones. "That pretty much kills [GrayShift's product] GrayKey and Cellebrite," Ryan Duff, a security researcher who has studied iPhone and is Director of Cyber Solutions at Point3 Security, told Motherboard in an online chat. "If it actually does what it says and doesn't let ANY type of data connection happen until it's unlocked, then yes. You can't exploit the device if you can't communicate with it."

Facebook

Apple Jams Facebook's Web-Tracking Tools (bbc.com) 117

The next version of iOS and macOS "will frustrate tools used by Facebook to automatically track web users," reports BBC. At the company's developer conference, Apple's software chief Craig Federighi said, "We're shutting that down," adding that Safari would ask owners' permission before allowing the social network to monitor their activity. BBC reports: At the WWDC conference - held in San Jose, California - Mr Federighi said that Facebook keeps watch over people in ways they might not be aware of. "We've all seen these - these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields. "Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not." He then pointed to an onscreen alert that asked: "Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?" "You can decide to keep your information private."

Apple also said that MacOS Mojave would combat a technique called "fingerprinting", in which advertisers try to track users who delete their cookies. The method involves identifying computers by the fonts and plug-ins installed among other configuration details. To counter this, Apple will present web pages with less details about the computer. "As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else's Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device," Mr Federighi explained.

Transportation

Apple CarPlay Will Now Support Third-Party Navigation and Mapping Apps (techcrunch.com) 44

Apple today announced that it will now let third-party navigation and mapping apps work with CarPlay starting with iOS 12. "Up to now, Apple only allowed its own mapping app, Maps, to work over CarPlay, but now you can use Waze, Google Maps, Here, or whatever other app you might want to use to get from A to B," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The change marks a big shift for Apple, which is well known for favoring its own native apps and generally a more tightly controlled ecosystem on iOS and across devices. But Maps hasn't been the most popular mapping app by some measure, even for users of iOS. This is in a sense is a tacit acknowledgement that iPhone owners are using a wide variety of other services, and so to get CarPlay used more, this needed to be enabled. It's not clear why Apple didn't extend third-party support for other mapping and navigation apps until now. Perhaps it was to sweeten the deal for more people to use its own Maps app.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Brings iOS Apps Into Mac, But Won't Merge Platforms (cnet.com) 46

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET: With its next-generation MacOS Mojave software, Macs will be able to run some apps written for iPhones and iPads, a big new step in bringing the two technology platforms closer together. Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, announced the change Monday at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Jose. And he said Mojave will include four apps Apple itself brought from its iOS mobile software to MacOS: Home, Stocks, News and Voice Memo. "There are millions of iOS apps out there, and we think some of them would look great on the Mac," Federighi said. For now, it's only Apple that has the ability to move iOS apps to MacOS. But that'll change in 2019.
Operating Systems

Apple Unveils macOS 10.14 Mojave With Dark Mode and Finder Photo Tools (venturebeat.com) 99

Alongside iOS 12, at its developer conference WWDC on Monday, Apple also unveiled macOS 10.14 -- named "Mojave" -- the upcoming software update for the company's laptop and desktops lineups. The headline feature of macOS 10.14 is dark mode, a feature that people who work during late hours might appreciate. VentureBeat: A new Mojave feature called Dynamic Desktop can subtly change the desktop throughout the day, morning, afternoon, and evening. There's also Desktop Stacks, which can automatically clean up a messy desktop by arranging desktop contents into stacks based on content, date, or tag. Gallery View in the Finder lets you see content in a Photos-like display, including full metadata from cameras that can appear in an optional second sidebar; you can rotate photos and do basic automation of Actions within the Finder. The macOS screenshot creation tool has been expanded, as well, to enable instant creation of screengrabbed videos from current screen content.

Continuity has been expanded with Continuity Camera, leveraging your phone's camera to instantly add photos and scans to programs that request them. It also includes a Mac version of the Apple News aggregation app that debuted on iOS two years ago, including the Stocks feature and new sidebar that were shown off for the updated iPad version of News earlier in the Keynote. Voice Memos is also being brought to the Mac, as is Home, the HomeKit app from iOS. Apple also announced a collection of heightened security features for macOS, including protection by default of camera access, microphone access, your mail database, message history, and other private data.
Apple has also redesigned the App Store, and is bringing favicons to Safari tabs.
IOS

Apple Unveils iOS 12 (apple.com) 77

Apple on Monday unveiled iOS 12, the major software update that is coming later this year to all the iPhones and iPad models the company has released since 2013. iOS 12 offers a handful of new features but the focus this year, said company's VP of engineering Craig Federighi onstage, is on performance improvements. Apps will launch up to 40 percent faster, and you can slide to take a photo at up to 70 percent faster than with iOS 11, Federighi said. Part of the major push this year is also on augmented reality. The company is introducing a Measure app, which will people to use their phone's camera to measure real-life objects accurately. There's also 3D graphics that you can place into the real world through AR. Apple made a new file format called USDZ, which was developed in conjunction with Pixar.

Apple is also introducing something called "personalised Memoji characters," ability to have a group FaceTime call, and minor new features and improvements to Siri, and Photos. There is also grouped notifications, a feature that Apple claims to have invented. (Android has had it for more than 8 years.) Additionally, Apple is also bringing new tools to iOS that will allow users to take better control of the time they spend interacting with their iPhones and iPads. Note from the press release: New modes in Do Not Disturb automatically end based on a specified time, location or action and Do Not Disturb during Bedtime helps people get a better night's sleep by dimming the display and hiding all notifications on the lock screen until prompted in the morning. To help reduce interruptions, iOS 12 gives users more options for controlling how notifications are delivered. They can instantly manage notifications to be delivered quietly or turned off completely. Grouped notifications make it easier to view and manage multiple notifications at once. Screen Time provides users with detailed information and tools to help them better understand and control the time they spend with apps and websites. Daily and weekly Activity Reports show the total time spent in individual apps, usage across categories of apps, how many notifications are received and how often iPhone or iPad are picked up.
Cellphones

Smartphone Shipments Declined For the First Time In 2017 (theverge.com) 144

2017 was the first year that smartphone unit shipments didn't grow, according to a new Internet Trends report. "Shipments actually declined by 0.5 percent, as IDC noted in February," reports The Verge. "In 2016, shipments were lukewarm at 2 percent yearly growth, but this downturn is significant." From the report: Among smartphone shipments, Android and iOS have all but completely pushed out every other mobile operating system. And despite the growing price of today's top flagship devices, the average selling price of a smartphone has steadily fallen over the years. As more of the world now owns smartphones, growth has basically stalled. Similarly, internet user growth has only grown 7 percent in 2017, compared to 12 percent in 2016. More people are accessing the internet than ever, on an average of 5.9 hours a day. And they're browsing on mobile, indicating that they're just holding onto older models of phones instead of buying new ones.
Google

Google Quits Selling Tablets (techcrunch.com) 143

Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out.

Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support.
Android Police was first to break the news.
Media

Imgur Launches Video 56

The online image sharing community Imgur is launching video after years of hosting still images and GIFs on its platform. "This is a monumental shift for our future, and it furthers our commitment to becoming the world's greatest community powered entertainment destination," the company said in its blog post. The Verge reports: Roy Sehgal, Imgur COO, tells The Verge that the company is "breaking the sound barrier to make Imgur an even better community-powered entertainment experience." Videos play everywhere you can use Imgur (on both mobile and desktop), but so far, only iOS users are able to upload them. The feature is expected to come soon to other platforms. Imgur has also told TechCrunch that it plans to add video editing tools in the future. Videos will thankfully have sound off by default but you can click or tap to play the audio. You can search for videos with the hashtag #unmuted. Like GIFs, videos on the Imgur platform are meant to be short and have a limit of 30 seconds. And Imgur is likely going to use the opportunity to insert video ads to help make the service more profitable.
IOS

AirPlay 2 Brings HomePod Stereo Pairs and Multi-Room Audio To iOS 11.4 (betanews.com) 109

Today sees the release of iOS 11.4 and with it Apple is adding AirPlay 2. From a report: This brings some important changes to HomePod, including the stereo pairing option that was missing at launch. AirPlay 2 also adds multi-room audio to HomePod, bringing Apple's smartspeaker in line with Amazon Echo and Google Home. Other new features of iOS 11.4 include the ability to access iMessages via iCloud on any Apple device. The lack of stereo pairing and multi-room audio was seen by many as a failing of HomePod, but Apple has now addressed this. The company says that when two speakers are paired, they are capable of "delivering room-filling sound that is more spacious than a traditional stereo pair."
Businesses

Apple Blocks Steam's Plan To Extend Its Video Games To iPhones (reuters.com) 202

Citing "business conflicts," Apple has blocked Steam's plans to distribute PC-based video games to iPhones. It's "a sign that Apple is serious about protecting its ability to take a cut of digital purchases made inside games on its mobile devices," reports Reuters. From the report: Steam, the dominant online store for downloaded games played on Windows PCs, had planned to release a free mobile phone app called Steam Link so that gamers could continue playing on their mobile phones while away from their desktop machines. But Apple has rejected the app, blocking its release, according to a statement from Steam's parent company, the Bellevue, Washington-based Valve. Steam did not give a precise reason for the App Store denials, saying only that Apple cited "business conflicts with app guidelines." But the conflict likely centers on what are known as in-app purchases or micro-transactions, in which gamers can spend small sums of money inside games to buy tokens, extra lives or others so-called digital goods. Lombardi said Steam disabled purchasing its iOS app but did not elaborate on how the change was made. Many analysts believe Apple could lose revenue if they allow Steam's app, which is essentially a store-within-a-store. "Apple takes a 30 percent cut of such purchases made within apps distributed through its App Store," Reuters notes. "[T]hose purchases are among the primary drivers of revenue in Apple's services business."
Youtube

Vevo To Shut Down Site, Giving In To YouTube Empire (rollingstone.com) 92

Vevo, the video-hosting service founded in 2009 as a joint venture between the big three record companies, is shutting down. The company announced in a blog post Thursday that it is shuttering its mobile apps and website, and that "going forward, Vevo will remain focused on engaging the biggest audiences and pursuing growth opportunities." Vevo is almost entirely succumbing to YouTube. Rolling Stone reports: The major record labels set up Vevo -- an abbreviation for "video evolution" -- in 2009 as a designated streaming service for music videos that would ideally bring in greater revenue from more high-end advertisers. Via a distribution deal with YouTube, it received a cut of revenue from putting its music videos on the Google-owned site. But YouTube's might has grown: The video-streaming service recently took Vevo's branding off its music videos, while also securing permission under a new licensing deal to sell Vevo's clips directly to advertisers, cutting out the smaller company's sales force. Though Vevo has been trying to peel away from its dependence on YouTube by touting its own suite of apps and offerings for years, it seems those efforts haven't been met with much success. "Our catalog of premium music videos and original content will continue to reach a growing audience on YouTube and we are exploring ways to work with additional platforms to further expand access to Vevo's content," the company said in its blog post. Vevo users on its website and Android, iOS and Windows Mobile apps will receive a tool to migrate their playlists to YouTube.
Network

Pornhub Launches VPNhub, Its Own Virtual Private Network App (venturebeat.com) 68

"Adult entertainment" giant Pornhub is entering the busy virtual private network (VPN) space with the launch of its very own VPN service. From a report: Dubbed VPNhub, the new service is available for free via native apps on Android, iOS, MacOS, and Windows, though there is a premium subscription available that gets rid of the ads and promises faster speeds. In the U.S., this will cost between $12 and $14 per month, depending on the platform. VPNhub promises unlimited bandwidth, even on the free service, which is key given that Pornhub's core selling point is bandwidth-intensive video, while it offers around 1,000 servers across 15 countries. And it promises that it logs no user data.
Privacy

'TeenSafe' Phone Monitoring App Leaked Thousands of User Passwords (zdnet.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: At least one server used by an app for parents to monitor their teenagers' phone activity has leaked tens of thousands of accounts of both parents and children. The mobile app, TeenSafe, bills itself as a "secure" monitoring app for iOS and Android, which lets parents view their child's text messages and location, monitor who they're calling and when, access their web browsing history, and find out which apps they have installed. But the Los Angeles, Calif.-based company left its servers, hosted on Amazon's cloud, unprotected and accessible by anyone without a password.

"We have taken action to close one of our servers to the public and begun alerting customers that could potentially be impacted," said a TeenSafe spokesperson told ZDNet on Sunday. The database stores the parent's email address associated with their associated child's Apple ID email address. It also includes the child's device name -- which is often just their name -- and their device's unique identifier. The data contains the plaintext passwords for the child's Apple ID. Because the app requires that two-factor authentication is turned off, a malicious actor viewing this data only needs to use the credentials to break into the child's account to access their personal content data.

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