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iOS 13 could add support for Hong Kong’s Octopus transit card

 

Lines of code discovered on a public Apple services content server reference iOS 13 support for Hong Kong’s Octopus, suggesting the widely used touchless payment system could arrive on iPhone this fall.

Smart Octopus in Samsung Pay

Spotted by Japan-centric Apple blog Ata Distance, a code snippet in Apple’s JSON backbone for Wallet now displays supported credentials for Octopus card on iPhones running iOS 13. The transit and retail payment card is also available via Express Card NFC technology.

Apple Watch is not yet supported, with Apple’s server showing a minimum supported watchOS value of “999.0,” though that could change as the company continues work on watchOS 6.

Launched in 1997, Octopus card was the second contactless “smart card” to hit the consumer market and is considered a forebear of modern reloadable electronic payment solutions. Initially marketed as a physical tap-to-pay card, Octopus expanded to smartphones with Smart Octopus for Samsung Pay in 2017.

Since it is based on the FeliCa standard, Smart Octopus is technically compatible with iPhone 7 and newer Apple devices, though an exclusivity agreement has so far kept the payment platform restricted to Samsung handsets. That could change this fall with the launch of iOS 13.

Initially developed by Sony as an RFID chip solution, FeliCa was later hybridized for cellphone use with the cooperation of Japan’s leading cellular provider NTT Docomo. That version, called Mobile FeliCa, served as the basis of Apple’s NFC Type-F implementation in iPhone and Apple Watch, and ultimately Apple Pay integration with Japan’s Suica mobile transit card system in 2016.

According to Ata Distance, Octopus’ Apple Pay device profile is identical to that of Suica, meaning users can generate and manage new cards without leaving the Wallet app on Japanese market iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and all iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS and XS Plus and iPhone XR variants.

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Review: GigSky, an eSIM service for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

GigSky is a mobile cell service provider with a history of catering to Apple users, providing service in more than 190 countries. When they announced their eSIM for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, AppleInsider gave it a shot.

You may not have heard of GigSky, but they aren’t new; they’ve been around since 2010. In 2015, the firm began offering support for the Apple SIM for iPads, a SIM Apple provides which lets you select providers from within iOS.

From the very beginning, they’ve placed an emphasis on providing service for international travelers, and the eSIM offering fits right in that niche.

What it is

The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are equipped with an eSIM.

A SIM card contains the SIM chip, essentially a very small computer that is programmed with all the carrier’s settings to enable phone service. With most modern phones, you have to insert a SIM to activate mobile phone service.

The eSIM, or embedded SIM, is that same functionality as a programmable computer built into the iPhone.

The advantage of doing this is that it saves space in the phone: you don’t need to have physical space for the physical card, you don’t need the contacts inside to receive it, you don’t need the ejector mechanism, which means Apple can use that interior space for something else.

With the 2019 iPhones, excluding the dual-SIM model for China, it’s possible to set up a mobile phone data provider directly from an app, such as the one provided by GigSky.

How it works

When Apple announced eSIM functionality, they mentioned using a QR code to set it up. In GigSky’s case, you download the GigSky app and are guided through choosing a plan.

GigSky has a range of four plans covering time, data and cost ranges

GigSky has a range of four plans covering time, data and cost ranges

GigSky has data plans starting from 300MB (1 day, $10), and rising through 500MB, 1GB, 2GB (15 days, $15, $20, $30 respectively), and up to 5GB (30 days, $50.) After selecting the plan, the destination needs to be chosen from the long list of countries. For this review, Las Vegas was selected as the location.

Las Vegas is a difficult city for mobile data. The tall buildings of the strip negatively affect signal, and the increased number of people for conventions place huge demands on the cell towers, especially when tech conferences are in town.

In years’ past, we’ve used Verizon reasonably well, AT&T with poor results, and T-Mobile with mixed results, seemingly depending on how high up a building we were.

It’s not clear which providers GigSky uses in the US, or which providers they use in any of the 190 countries. We asked for this information, but had not received answers at time of publication. This was important to us, because if our regular carrier was Verizon, and they’re using Verizon’s towers, then it provides limited benefit to add as a secondary data provider.

After selecting a data plan, you give the eSIM a nickname, or can delete it if you need to, because perhaps you selected the incorrect plan or wrong country.

Payment for the plan was easy, but the steps that followed were a little more complicated, because you have to leave the GigSky app and be prompted to add the cellular plan within some screens that the iPhone displays. GigSky offers some screen images to help guide you through the process.

You add the plan to your phone, and have to give it a label, as well as changing any further settings, such as selecting it as a data-only plan.

Setting up GigSky is relatively easy

Setting up GigSky is relatively easy

After doing this, reviewing the plan will show that the credits are active, and the signal strength bar will have a second line of bars below it indicating an additional plan is in use.

Using Control Center shows both signal bars with the names of the services, and indicators for whether they’re primary or secondary. In Settings > Cellular, it’s easy to change which service is primary or secondary, and it’s possible to set one service as primary for voice, and the other as primary for data.

And then completing the iOS setup to get GigSky working

Completing the iOS setup to get GigSky’s eSIM connected

When the screen is locked, you also get the carrier labels, although the labels are on the left side of the screen with the signal strength bars on the right side of the screen.

The lock screen and control center display both service's signal strength

The lock screen and control center display both service’s signal strength

Speedtest.net’s app shows the GigSky eSIM tested at 74.21 Mbps, with AT&T detected as the nearest site to speed test through. The app also thought the provider was Zayo. As Zayo has 12.3 million miles of fiber according to their Web site, it’s possible that GigSky eventually routed back to Zayo’s backbone.

The different kinds of results from Speedtest.net

The different kinds of results from Speedtest.net. The slow result was my default Verizon Wireless service.

Testing Verizon Wireless against GigSky was revealing: download speeds were 10.4 Mbps. Even testing GigSky with different destinations offered better results than Verizon’s 10.4 Mbps. The worst GigSky result scored on the iPhone XS Max used for testing was 40.2 Mbps.

It’s important to note that this may not be similar to your experience if you don’t live or travel in Las Vegas or the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, but we are encouraged that GigSky partnered with competent carriers.

What we thought of it

Set up was easy, as at no time did we feel confused or lost, although we did take a minute to read all the steps, where normally we might have just tapped through. Even where setup is mildly complex (the handoff between GigSky and Apple), they do attempt to make it easy by providing the necessary information before hand.

Speeds are fast, at least in the areas we tested: Eastern USA and Las Vegas. We never felt like we were without signal in either region.

GigSky is probably the easiest method for having local data service, especially over the old ways of finding a cell phone store, buying a pay-go SIM, and having to figure out how to top up.

The use of the eSIM in general makes this easy, and doing it through an app is even easier. The downside we predict with international travel would be the fact that you need to have some sort of data connection to buy GigSky data in the first place, in which case users abroad have to find someplace with Wi-Fi long enough to set it all up.

The notion of buying 5GB for $50 is fine, but the notion of that being time-limited is lousy, and a real shame. If you buy 5GB for $50 and the unused portion expires, it’s fair to feel a little cheated. We understand this is how data is priced among carriers, but it’s a disappointment that there isn’t a carrier willing to change this.

Score: 4 out of 5

The GigSky app is available on the iOS App Store.

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‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite’ lands on iPhone in 25 more countries

 

Niantic and WB Games is expanding the availability of the wildly-popular ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” bringing the AR-based iOS game to 25 more countries around the world just one day after the title launched in just four major markets.

Harry Potter Wizards Unite iOS

“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” went live on Friday in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, following a beta period in the latter two countries. Joining those four are another 25 countries, with players able to download the game from the App Store straight away.

The long-awaited launch in a limited number of countries is thought to be Niantic’s attempt to limit how many players are in the game at the start, so as to not strain its infrastructure. Niantic’s previous and similar title “Pokemon Go” rolled out at a far slower pace, with servers reaching capacity as the game went live in each region.

The latest countries to get the “Harry Potter” title are: Austria, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The official website advises the game will roll out to more countries “soon.”

“Harry Potter: Wizards Unite” puts players in the role of a protector of the secret wizarding world, tasked with covering up events of “The Calamity” from the non-magical “Muggles.” Similar in concept to “Pokemon Go,” players can walk around their local environment to collect items and to complete challenges, as well as to take part in multiplayer Wizarding Challenges.

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ICYMI: iOS SCUBA diving HUD, Hot Wheels Smart Track, Quad 4K dock & more

During the week we don’t always have time to cover everything, so here are a few releases this week that went under the radar including a new iOS compatible dive computer, a futuristic Hot Wheel set, and more.

SCUBAPRO Galileo HUD

SCUBAPRO Galileo HUD

SCUBAPRO Galileo HUD

SCUBAPRO has launched a new mask-mounted dive computer that works wirelessly with iOS devices and Macs.

The Galileo HUD dive computer is built on the popular Galileo 2 wrist-worn dive computer but built into a more convenient heads-up display. By bringing a display right into view instead of affixed to your wrist or your console, divers can keep their surroundings in view. It allows divers to see their critical dive information such as bottom time, NDL, ascent/descent rate, and remaining air through their mask on a full-color OLED panel.

SCUBAPRO Galileo HUD

SCUBAPRO Galileo HUD

Galileo HUD is both Trimix and Nitrox compatible thanks to the included gas-integration transmitter. It can be mounted to many popular SCUBAPRO masks.

Post-dive, dive information can be transferred wirelessly via Bluetooth through to an iOS device or Mac (as well as Android and PCs) with the SCUBAPRO LogTRAK software.

The Galileo HUD dive computer is available on Amazon for $1,699 with the air transmitter bundled.

Hot Wheels id

Hot Wheels is bringing its popular cars to the future with Hot Wheels id. Available exclusively at Apple Stores, this new track and car set still features high-quality die cast cars but with embedded NFC chips that allow you to add them to the app and keep track of stuff like their speed around the track.

Hot Wheels id

There is also a new track available that has been redesigned, while still somewhat working with pervious Hot Wheels track.the new track works with the Race Portal which is how you add cars to the app and helps monitor their speed, total distance traveled, and more. The new track also enhances jumping, racing, and — of course — crashing.

Each car will run you $6.99, the Race Portal comes in at $39.99 and the Smart Track Kit is $179.99.

Orico M.2 transparent SSD enclosure

Orico has unveiled a transparent series M.2 NVMe SSD hard drive enclosure. The new enclosure supports UASP and TRIM, and connects through USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port. Orico claims that the enclosure can read & write up to 950 megabytes per second, assuming the drive is fast enough.

Drives up to 2TB are supported, and the enclosure fits the 2230, 2242, 2260, and 2280 sizes.

The enclosure retails for $39.99 without a drive, and is available with a heatsink in a variety of colors. A USB-C to USB-C and USB-A to USB-C cable is included.

Targus Quad 4K Docking Station

The new Targus DOCK570USZ docking station uses DisplayLink to allow a single host to connect to four DisplayPort monitors at 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz, or HDMI displays at 3840 x 2160 at 50Hz. Beyond just the displays, the dock provides up to 100W of power to an upstream device via the USB 3.1 type C connector, and has four USB-A ports connecting at USB 3.0 speed.

Network connectivity is supplied by a Gigabit Ethernet port, and it also has a 3.5mm combination audio in and out port.

The Targus DOCK570USZ retails for $399. It debuted at the InfoComm trade show, and will be available for purchase “later in 2019” according to the company.

Other notable releases

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Apple’s iOS soft keyboard target of new patent lawsuit

Apple’s vaunted iOS keyboard, a piece of user interface technology that helped usher in the smartphone revolution, is in infringement of a nearly 20-year-old patent covering similar input solutions, according to a new lawsuit.

Illustration of Higginson’s “Universal keyboard.” | Source: USPTO

Filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, a patent suit from Princeps Interface Technologies alleges Apple’s keyboard infringes on the work of Timothy Higginson, a technology industry lawyer and inventor.

At issue is Higginson’s U.S. Patent No. 6,703,963 for a “Universal keyboard.”

Filed in 2002 and granted in 2004, the intellectual property covers a multifunctional input device in which a set of static keys are programmed to output command signals based on a plurality of functional modes. An example provided presents functional sets, or modes, relating to email, PDA, fax and internet inputs.

These modes are further divided into multi-level domains which, when selected, dynamically change the output model of the device’s keys. For example, alphanumeric mode domains might display different sets of words, symbols or numbers, while domains in an internet navigator mode display URLs. Users can access more than one mode at any given time.

Other keys on the device are dedicated to traditional controls found on QWERTY keyboards. Patent language describes these keys as covering Esc, Alt, Ctrl, Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Enter, Backspace and other typical inputs. A cursor control, in this case a joystick, is also offered.

According to the lawsuit, the ‘963 patent resolves “technical problems related to data input devices, and particularly, to problems related to the utilization of small profile data input devices.” More specifically, the input device adapts the QWERTY keyboard for one-handed or two-thumb use.

Apple debuted its first onscreen keyboard for a portable device with iPhone in 2007. Offering basic functionality at launch, the UI has been refined over more than a decade to include advanced features like AI-powered predictive text, multi-function key support, gesture integration and more. Apple is slated to introduce a new swipe-to-type keyboard called QuickPath when iOS 13 and iPadOS see release this fall.

Princeps appears to be a non-practicing entity created for the sole purpose of leveraging Higginson’s patents in court actions. The firm owns six properties invented by Higginson that were previously assigned to Yuvee, a tech consultancy and UI development firm he founded in 2004. While Yuvee holds active status in some third-party corporate databases, the company seemingly shuttered in 2016.

Princeps in its suit seeks damages and legal fees from Apple.

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Former App Store review chief discusses process, says concerned about competition with Apple apps

 

In an interview published on Tuesday, Apple’s former senior director of App Store Review Phillip Shoemaker provided rare insight into the company’s process for approving third-party apps, and expressed concerns over increasing competition with Apple’s own software.

Speaking with Bloomberg, Shoemaker, who worked as Apple’s head app regulator 2009 to 2016, outlined the beginnings of Apple’s App Store review process, saying SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller mandated that humans put eyes on incoming apps instead of relying algorithms and automated tools.

Initially, the company tasked three reviewers to each app, but the time-consuming procedure ultimately gave way to a one person, one app method.

Even with humans gatekeepers, however, Shoemaker said, “There’s a lot of stuff in the store that shouldn’t be there.”

Early on, reviewers working in conference rooms would come in each morning, select 30 to 100 apps and download them to Mac, iPhone and iPad for evaluation. The review team has grown and now rates work spaces that are larger and more collaborative, the report said.

Shoemaker adopted an egalitarian view of the approval process, putting independent app makers on the same tier as industry heavyweights like Google and Facebook. Whether small apps received equal prioritization in the review queue is unknown.

That said, Apple has in the past denied apps — at least temporarily — that posed competition for first-party services. In 2009, for example, Apple blocked Google Voice entry to the App Store, a move that prompted an investigation by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

According to Shoemaker, Apple was concerned that competitors would create a host of apps designed to replace core iPhone functionality.

“That was a real thing. I mean the fear that somebody would come along, a Facebook, a Google, whomever and wipe off and remove all of our items,” Shoemaker said. “Once they started using these other apps, they’d be thinking more about Google now.”

Apple later approved Google Voice in late 2010.

Competition with third-party software is apparently an ongoing at Apple, which continues to grapple with potential disruptions to its ecosystem to this day.

“There is now a conflict as Apple goes into these spaces that are ripe with competition,” Shoemaker said. “I’m really worried about the competition.”

Bloomberg’s conversation with Shoemaker can be heard on this week’s episode of the “Decrypted” podcast.

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Apple Card is the subscription that pays you to use it

Apple Card works just like any other Apple Pay account, but the software experience Apple is creating around it to enhance digital banking represents both a new Services venture and also an additional reason for users to keep buying hardware. That’s why Apple is paying its customers to use it.

Apple Card and the reverse subscription

Compared to the other new Services Apple announced in March — Apple Arcade video games, News+ periodicals and TV+ original content — Apple Card isn’t a subscription. Apple Card is actually the opposite of a subscription: using it pays you back via Daily Cash rebates.

This “free money” comes from the merchants who accept credit cards. Whenever you pay with any card, the merchant accepting your payment pays the card-issuing bank a fee. It’s common for card issuers to offer buyers “cash back,” which returns part of the fee collected to the buyer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=152&v=HAZiE9NtRfs

The cash back idea — along with no annual fee — was devised by Sears in the mid 80s when it introduced Discover in an attempt to break into the card business. By offering users cash back, it could attract customers otherwise happy with their existing cards. Additionally, the cash back promotion served as an incentive to spend more.

The idea of using credit to not just finance but incentivize consumer behavior was also explored by Apple. A 1984 Byte advertisement outlined “Apple Card,” a credit card exclusively for buying “Apple Computers, peripherals and software.” Twenty years later, Steve Jobs proposed a vanity credit card that paid out points for use in buying iTunes songs. Today a variety of cards offer some system of rewards in the form of points, airline miles, cash back or other incentives.

A less advanced Apple Card, 35 years ago, also sought to influence buyer behavior.

Apple’s original spin on the idea of cash back is to make rebates immediate and obvious, so you are aware that you are “getting money” every time you use it. But it also has a second component: rather than simply applying your cash back to your account, the Daily Cash credits are loaded onto your separate Apple Pay Cash account. That’s the personal spending account Apple earlier set up with Discover to enable free person-to-person Apple Pay transactions similar to PayPal or Venmo.

Offering its vast installed base of the world’s most affluent buyers a new Apple Card account is therefore a two-pronged strategy to induce Apple Pay transactions: when you make a purchase, a small rebate is applied to Apple Pay Cash, encouraging you to use that money to pay a friend or split a tab using a second Apple Pay transaction.

Apple wants to encourage NFC Apple Pay transactions, but more importantly it wants to make using Apple Pay routine. The company has previously noted that in countries where there’s an NFC transit system driving a critical mass of transactions, Apple Pay is more rapidly adopted as a payment system for other purchases, too.

Apple Card’s “Daily Cash” feature also promotes the use of Apple Pay Cash

Apple Pay and NFC vs the Mag Stripes

Apple Pay has been working to push the world toward more secure NFC transactions, which never expose your account number and protect the near field wireless transaction with an encrypted conversation between the terminal reader and a device’s silicon “secure element.”

However, much of the world — including a lot of the United States — is still stuck in the really old world of 1960s-era magnetic stripe transactions, which requires a physical card with a stretch of old cassette tape stuck on the back that can be read by a magnetic head in a credit card swipe machine.

That status quo at the launch of Apple Pay in 2014 informed Samsung’s plans to acquire LoopPay, a company that had developed a way to fake a magnetic swipe by generating an encoded magnetic field conveying the same data recorded on physical credit cards.

Apple — like Google — focused entirely on NFC, meaning that if you have a card enrolled in Apple Pay and a vendor doesn’t accept NFC payments, you have to pull out your physical card to either swipe it or insert it to use the card’s EMV chip.

Rather than try to retain compatibility with old mag stripe readers, Apple built an NFC-only system for iOS with an archaic card to serve as a legacy shim

Apple wasn’t simply trying to move all transactions to its devices; it was purely interested in promoting NFC as the payment solution. One of the benefits of only supporting NFC is that unlike Samsung, Apple doesn’t have to include and support a second mag stripe reader system on its devices, now and into the future.

Apple is notorious for killing legacy and aggressively dragging its users kicking and screaming into the future. If the world were being lead by Samsung, we would never need to phase out mag stripes, and probably wouldn’t. But by shifting its large, affluent base of users exclusively to NFC payments, Apple can make the future happen sooner, just as it did back in 1998 with USB, and now with USB-C.

Many pundits found it very convincing that Samsung would outperform Apple in mobile payments by offering legacy support for the once-ubiquitous old mag swipe readers. Three years after it adopted LoopPay’s technology on its Samsung Pay enabled phones, however, Samsung’s share of mobile wallet transactions was at 17% compared to 77% for Apple Pay.

In 2014, it looked like LoopPay was going to help Samsung Pay beat Apple Pay.

Certainly part of that disparity is due to Apple’s much larger installed base of premium users. Virtually all modern iPhones in use support Apple Pay; Samsung Pay is limited to the company’s higher-end Galaxy S and Note flagships, a much smaller base of users that’s only about a sixth of all Samsung phone buyers. That’s another example of how Samsung’s impact on the future of tech is far lower than its shipments would suggest.

However, NFC use isn’t simply a matter of technology availability. Google pioneered NFC support for Android long before Apple Pay was introduced, and yet despite broad support for NFC on various Androids, the same report noted that Google Pay adoption was only at 6%.

The real challenge for inducing NFC adoption wasn’t merely rolling out technology. It was changing behavior, both in convincing buyers to use it and in convincing banks and merchants to support it. That’s been the task of Apple VP Jennifer Bailey, the executive in charge of Apple Pay.

It certainly helped Apple that Google had spent years and tons of money trying to promote NFC. However, Bailey’s group has also worked to promote Apple Pay to users. Most recently it has worked to link Apple Pay to common transactions, notably transit fares and the area of “access,” which uses NFC to enable campus, hospitality and enterprise Wallet app ID cards to open doors as well as make payments.

NFC is used at Apple Park to control access. Apple has also issued NFC badges to attendees at its Worldwide Developer Conference, but these aren’t loaded into Wallet because it appears there’s currently no way to install a globally unique, non-transferable pass to a specific device. We will likely hear more about Apple Pay and NFC at WWDC19, which is now just over a week away.

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Apple ceases iOS 12.2 code signing following iOS 12.3 release

 

Apple on Thursday stopped signing code for iOS 12.2 following the May release of iOS 12.3, ensuring iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices are operating on the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system.

iOS 12

As with past iOS updates, Apple’s halt to iOS 12.2 code signing arrives ten days after iOS 12.3 was pushed out to customers earlier this month.

The latest version of iOS integrates Apple’s refreshed TV app, an entertainment hub that has grown to include new offerings like Apple TV Channels subscription options and the upcoming Apple TV+ service. In addition to laying the groundwork for Apple TV+ original programming, the new TV app includes a revamped user interface with a focus on curated shows funneled into the app from a range of content providers.

Alongside TV app improvements, Apple’s Wallet app also received some attention in preparation of Apple Card. Apple’s branded credit card offering is slated to launch this summer with advanced in-app features like activity tracking, Apple Pay integration, enhanced security features and a cash back rewards system.

Apple routinely stops signing legacy code after the release of current iOS builds to ensure customers are running the most secure version of the operating system. A halt to code signing also keeps iOS devices on the most up-to-date, feature-rich software.

Apple is already beta testing iOS 12.4, with developers and public beta testers furnished with a second evaluation build on Monday.

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Steam Link debuts on iOS and tvOS a year after Apple rejected title for violating App Store guidelines

 

A year after Apple rejected it from entering the App Store, Valve’s Steam Link app is now available to stream games from user Steam libraries on Mac and PC to compatible iPhones, iPads or Apple TV devices.

Announced more than a year ago, Steam Link promised to deliver iOS and tvOS access to desktop class games through a clever software solution that streams game video to a client device while simultaneously relaying controller commands back to the host computer.

The app works with both a wired ethernet connection or a 5GHz Wi-Fi network, which is responsible for ferrying the video and game data between linked devices.

Apple initially approved Steam Link for distribution but recanted the endorsement three days later. Valve in a statement at the time said Apple cited a breach of App Store Guidelines, specifically “business conflicts with app guidelines,” in revoking its approval.

Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller confirmed the move in an email to customers, saying the app “violates a number of guidelines around user generated content, in-app purchases, content codes, etc.” The ability to purchase games — through roundabout methods — from the Steam store was thought to be among the issues at play in Apple’s decision.

Schiller went on to say that Apple was working with Valve to update the app for reinstatement. Why it took the gaming company a year to facilitate the changes needed to return to the App Store is unknown.

The recent App Store addition was noted in a tweet from former Valve VR engineer Nat Brown.

Steam Link is a free 28.8MB download from the App Store.

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Apple contributes to new Statue of Liberty audio tour and AR app

 

Apple reportedly lent a hand in — or at least facilitated — the creation of a new iOS app designed for the soon-to-open Statue of Liberty Museum, with the title serving both as a modern location-based audio tour and an augmented reality tool that brings Lady Liberty into the homes of millions.

Statue of Liberty

Called “Statue of Liberty,” the app is the brainchild of renowned fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, who spearheaded a three-year fundraising initiative to build the new Statue of Liberty Museum slated to open its doors on Liberty Island on Thursday.

Developed by Yap Studios in association with the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the app melds a year’s worth of digital scans and photographs to generate a highly detailed 3D model of sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s iconic figure, reports Vogue.

Leveraging Apple’s ARKit latticework, the title allows users to soar above the statue, view it from different angles, scales and during different times of day, as well as peer inside its skin to reveal the internal frame designed by Gustave Eiffel. A time-lapse mode offers a look at the statue against an ever-changing Manhattan skyline.

According to CNET, the app also includes a location-specific audio guide that details 15 points of interest on Liberty Island and another 20 in the museum itself. MapKit was used to enable indoor mapping, which triggers the audio assets on location.

Apple CEO Tim Cook touted the launch of “Statue of Liberty” in a tweet on Tuesday. It appears a chance meeting with Cook sparked von Fürstenberg’s interest in AR as an innovative solution for the museum.

“I met Tim Cook from Apple, and discovered first of all that he had never been to Liberty Island, so I arranged for him to go,” von Fürstenberg told Vogue. “Not even knowing what I was talking about, I said, Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give people an Apple experience when they go on the Island?’ I met the people who do apps and we started, not knowing where it would all end up. The foundation created this app that will reach hundreds of millions of people.”

At a launch event on Tuesday, von Fürstenberg said she met Cook after filming “Mother of Exile,” a documentary about the statue slated for release on HBO later this year. The designer also narrated a podcast called “Raising the Torch” to go along with the museum’s opening. It is unclear if Cook is involved in the documentary or podcast.

Vogue cites Apple as a “star donor” to von Fürstenberg’s project, though it remains unclear if the company committed funds to the initiative, assisted in development of the app or took part in the podcast production process. Considering the company is not affiliated with Yap or FRQNCY Media, co-producers of “Raising the Torch,” it seems the publication is confusing Apple’s technologies and platforms for active participation in the enterprise.