Apple Inc.

How to Cancel Your Useless iOS App Subscriptions

Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

If you’ve never checked on your app subscriptions, I don’t blame you. It’s a feature buried pretty deeply in your iOS device. But then, you could discover an app charging you $100 per week, so it pays to be vigilant.

Developer Johnny Lin got curious during Apple’s WWDC 2017 keynote, when CEO Tim Cook announced a $70 billion payout to developers from the App Store.

That’s a huge spike, and surprising to me because it didn’t seem like my friends and I were spending more on apps last year. But that’s anecdotal, so I wondered: Where are these revenues coming from? I opened App Store to browse the top grossing apps.

Lin took a look at some high earning iOS apps and discovered a few suspect apps, many of them with exorbitant subscriptions to which users were seemingly subscribing. Some apps—VPN apps in this instance—were charging a recurring…

All the Ways Apple’s iOS 11 Will Change Your iPhone

After Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last week, everyone was talking about new hardware. The company introduced its new HomePod speaker, a competitor to Amazon’s Echo, and unveiled a new iMac Pro, along with upgraded iMacs and MacBooks.

The company also announced an update to its mobile operating system — the one that powers the millions of iPhones and iPads that have become a common part of everyday life for many people. Apple will roll out iOS 11 this fall, with a host of new features.

What are they? Let’s take a look.

We all know how dangerous texting, or using your phone in general, while driving can be, but it doesn’t stop people from thinking they can get away with it. Plus, buzzing alerts on your phone are distracting even if you don’t look at them (and sometimes it seems like they never stop). Apple’s next update will include a possible solution to that problem: It will automatically block notifications when your phone thinks you are behind the wheel.

Texts sent via iMessage will also be intercepted. When one arrives, the phone will send an automatic reply saying you are driving and that you’ll respond when you get to your destination. (You can program your phone to let some numbers through the blockade, so loved ones can reach you in a pinch.) When the phone has determined that you’ve stopped driving, your screen will come back to life, and you can catch up on everything you’ve missed.

The Control Center, that panel full of easily-accessed buttons and tools you see when you swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone screen, will also get an overhaul in the new update. Soon all the controls will be located on one colorful, widget-filled page.

Some have complained that the new layout is confusing and cluttered, but it doesn’t have to be: The Control Center will be customizable, so you can add as many (or as few) widgets as you like, including quick access to your camera, calculator or Apple TV.

Additionally, there’s a new toggle for the iPhone’s “Low Power” mode, designed to save battery life while you’re out without a spot to charge your phone. The new Control Center also features quick accessibility settings, including options to magnify your…

How Apple’s Siri will soon help you make payments and track personal finances

At WWDC this week, we learned about many ways Apple plans to make Siri smarter, many of which will have to do with your money. Starting with iOS 11, Siri will be able to help you complete money transfers, as well as help you stay on top of your checking, savings, and credit card accounts.

“Users will now be able to transfer money from one account to another or search for account information,” said Sirikit engineer Sirisha Yerroju about changes coming to the public with release of iOS 11 scheduled out this fall. “If the user wants to know more about each account, you can just click on any of the items to get a detailed view. Search for account intent not just shows all the accounts but can also be used to provide specific account information.”

The ability to search for and pay bills with Siri was added with version 10.3 of Siri, while send and request payment functionality came last fall with iOS 10.

Yerroju spoke in a session Wednesday titled “What’s New With Sirikit?” to go into greater detail on Siri updates first mentioned in the opening keynote address.

Some of the changes coming to Siri were first announced onstage during the keynote address Monday, such as the ability to do on-the-spot translations, personalized recommendations in native apps within iOS 11 like Safari, Maps, and News, and both male and female versions of the assistant will get a more…

AI Weekly: Apple and Google are making smartphones smarter

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It’s happening again. Smartphones are getting smarter. At WWDC this week Apple announced Core ML, a programming framework for app developers seeking to run machine learning models on iPhones and other devices. Think of this as AI on your iPhone, which means your favorite apps may soon intuitively know what you want to do with them.

Meanwhile, Google made a similar announcement a few weeks ago at its I/O developer conference. The company’s new TensorFlow Lite programming framework will make it possible to run machine learning models on Android devices.

And these announcements are in addition to Google Assistant now being available for the iPhone. (It’s already become my most used app.)

So what does this mean?

These moves suggest yet a third front for more artificial intelligence battles by the tech giants. First, intelligent assistants: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Second, smart speakers: Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the new Apple HomePod. And third: smartphones and their apps. Of course, Microsoft, Samsung, and others may stir things up further.

If you have an AI story to share, send news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson, and send guest post submissions to John Brandon. To receive this information in your inbox every Thursday morning, subscribe to AI Weekly — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,

Blaise Zerega

Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video of Kai-Fu Lee, CEO and founder of Sinovation Ventures, delivering the commencement address to the Engineering School of Columbia University.

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Do Creative People Really See the World Differently?

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Symbols matter. Companies spend tons of money and many patient months developing logos that represent the soul of their mission. The idea is to associate that mission with a visual symbol so that every time a consumer views the mark those ideals are inseparable from the graphic.

Could such a symbol affect personal creativity, however? That’s what researchers aimed to find out when briefly exposing over 300 students to the Apple and IBM logos. By design, Apple wanted its brand to suggest creativity, whereas IBM has long been a stalwart of responsibility and integrity.

After subliminally exposing students to each logo researchers administered the unusual uses test, a measure for creativity in which you’re shown an everyday object to test how many different applications you can dream up. Sure, a paper clip binds papers, but would you imagine it as an earring? One measure of the test is that it must be realistic—circumnavigating the planet flying on your magic clip is not an acceptable response.

As it turned out the students who were exposed to the Apple logo scored higher. As marketing and psychology professor Adam Alter writes:

Merely exposing people to a symbol that implies creativity for less than a tenth of a second can cause them to think more creatively, even when they have no idea they’ve seen the symbol.

Creativity is associated with ways of seeing, to borrow a phrase from John Berger, but could our actual visual perception affect creative output? That’s what three Australian researchers tried to find out. Trading course credit for their time, 134 undergrads at the University of Melbourne were tested on binocular rivalry. Using…

AR/VR Weekly: Apple enters the fray

Apple VR demo

About time, Apple. Welcome to 2015.

This week at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, Apple finally jumped into the augmented and virtual reality world. ARKit is Apple’s tool for making AR applications, and it was the first of several announcements that show that the iPhone company is ready to take the next step into a larger world.

AR and VR could be a market that has more than 1 billion users and $60 billion in global revenues by 2021, tech adviser Digi-Capital estimates. And in a guest post for us, DC founder Tim Merel says that Apple “took the mobile AR war to the next level” with this announcement.

And Merel’s not the only one bullish on Apple and AR.

“With more than 130 million active iPhones in the U.S. alone and far less hardware/software fragmentation than Android, Apple’s move into AR stands to make it the largest player in the space virtually overnight. It will mint millions of new consumers for AR developers, all of whom have been shown the promise of the medium by Apple itself and are ready to see more,” says Randy Nelson of research firm Sensor Tower. “At the same time, the qualities that have made iOS the preferred platform for app developers will undoubtedly carry over to AR, so I believe Apple will make iOS the most attractive target platform possible for AR developers and content creators.”

And on the VR side, Valve says it’s bringing SteamVR to Macs. You’ll be able to play VR games on an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift — though you may need an external graphics chip solution that Apple also announced (because, let’s face it, Macs just can’t cut VR without a little help, and Apple loves selling you accessories).

All of this has made game devs excited to see what comes from this new foray from the Mac maker.

I’m not so excited about VR coming to the Mac. I want to see something better than a slap-dash cobbling together of a Mac and an external video chip. Why do that when I can buy a VR-ready PC for less than $1,000 — or just hook up a headset to my powerful gaming rig? Yeah, my Air can keep being an email and Hearthstone machine.

But AR and iOS? That’s a dream team.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser….

Five Useful Things You Can Do With The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar

Enjoy the Touch Bar, but wish you could get more out of it? There are all sorts of ways you can customize and better utilize this thin touch screen; here are five we recommend.

There’s a lot you can do with the Touch Bar on your MacBook Pro. You could change the buttons, removing things you don’t use (Siri) and adding buttons you do (Pause/Play). Or you could add entirely new features, like a way to switch applications quickly.

Change the Default Touch Bar Buttons

Before the Touch Bar came along, you couldn’t really change the top row of keys on your keyboard. Sure, there were third party apps that let you change what the keys did, but they’d still look the same—meaning it was on you to remember the new features.

That’s different now. You can add or remove icons from your Touch Bar from within System Preferences.

This means you can customize the Control Strip—those four buttons on the right side. I personally replace the Siri button with Notification Center, but you could just as easily add a dedicated Mission Control or even Dashboard button if you really want to. Seriously, Apple still thinks about the useless Dashboard enough to offer a Touch Bar button for it.

You can also customize the buttons shown by applications themselves. How flexible you can get depends on how many buttons the application itself offers, but usually there’s quite a few.

Add Custom Buttons to Your Touch Bar

Apple and apps only offer so many buttons, and you probably won’t find every single function you want. Fortunately, you can add custom buttons to your Touch Bar with an app named BetterTouchTool. The app makes things totally customizable. You can choose any icon or color for the button,…

Twitter Thinks Apple’s HomePod Looks Like A Roll Of Toilet Paper

Yesterday Apple unveiled HomePod, a home speaker system that plays music and takes commands. The cylindrical, motor-driven device comes in white and space gray and will retail for $349 when it hits stores in December.

HomePod is going to be the most expensive scratching post my cat has ever had.

— Jessie Char (@jessiechar) June 5, 2017

please do NOT eat the homepod it is NOT an electric marshmallow try ordering…

Your iPhone Could Stop You From Texting And Driving Soon

Apple unveiled a new iPhone feature this week that aims to cut down on the number of distracted drivers.

The “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting will automatically silence incoming texts and notifications while an iPhone is connected to a car via Bluetooth or cable, the tech giant announced Monday.

DNDWD, which will be available in fall 2017 with the release of Apple’s mobile operating system iOS 11, will allow users to send autotomatic replies to contacts attempting to reach them while they are behind the wheel.

The auto-reply messages will consist of two responses, according to New York Magazine. The first will read: “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going,” followed by: “If this is urgent, reply ‘urgent’…

Mobile AR could hit $60 billion by 2021 thanks to Apple and Facebook

The mobile AR platform war kicked off at F8 with Mark Zuckerberg’s proclamation that “we’re making the camera the first augmented reality platform.” That simple sentence transformed what had been a one-hit wonder in Pokémon Go into an epic battle between Facebook, Apple, Google, Tencent, Snap, Alibaba, Baidu, Samsung, Huawei and more. Apple’s announcement of its ARkit for iOS this week as “the largest AR platform in the world” took the mobile AR war to the next level. They’re fighting over a market that could hit over a billion users and $60 billion revenue globally by 2021 (as detailed in Digi-Capital’s new Mobile Augmented Reality Report).

Software is eating the (mobile AR) world

While folks were distracted by the prospect of an iPhone AR being launched by Apple, Facebook changed the game fundamentally by launching its mobile AR Platform. But Apple secretly had its own mobile AR software plans brewing ahead and countered with ARkit for iOS. So where mobile AR hardware from Apple, Samsung, Huawei and others could deliver an installed base over 400 million users by 2021, Facebook, Tencent, Apple, Snap and others could drive a mobile AR software user base in the hundreds of millions next year, and billions by 2021. Mobile AR software platforms could deliver over 4 times the number of users of dedicated mobile AR hardware.

All about that base

Some folks might be incredulous at these sorts of numbers. So let’s look at hard data on installed bases and conversion rates for the major players to get a sense of scale.

Facebook’s AR platform could be rolled out to Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp’s 1.2 billion MAU, and Instagram’s 700 million MAU. While it’s tempting to add these numbers together, significant overlap means that is too aggressive (i.e. Facebook doesn’t have 3.1 billion unique MAU). It’s more conservative to think about either Messenger or WhatsApp as a starting point for the number of unique users Facebook could try to migrate to its AR Platform. And Facebook knows what it’s doing when migrating users to new features. 15 percent of WhatsApp users use Status 10 weeks after launch, 29 percent of Instagram users use Stories less than a year after launch, and 54 percent of Instagram users use Direct 4 years after launch. Now that’s a growth curve.

But let’s not forget that Apple is expert when it comes to converting existing users to new software, with 86 percent of Apple’s nearly 700 million iPhones installing iOS 10 a year after launch. That’s a pretty compelling prospect for the rollout of ARkit.

Tencent has 846 million MAU for WeChat, and migrated 61 percent of them to use Moments every time they open WeChat 5 years after launch. While Tencent hasn’t formally announced its AR platform yet, it battled Alibaba in the mobile AR market earlier this year. Of Snap’s 300 million MAU, they’ve migrated 45 percent to Stories 4 years after launch. Snap doesn’t describe Lenses as mobile AR yet, but it’s still fighting a head-to-head battle with Facebook and Apple over mobile AR. And this is before considering LINE, Kakao, Snow, Baidu and more.

The platforms entering the mobile AR software market have billions of users. They’re great at migrating them to new features. If hard data is anything to go by, the only user numbers that make sense for mobile AR software platforms are big ones.

Hard wearing

We’ve been saying for the last 2 years Apple is…