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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.

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WhatsApp vulnerability left iOS open to spyware attack

 

Facebook-owned WhatsApp on Monday disclosed the recent fix of a VoIP-related vulnerability that allowed nefarious parties to remotely install spyware on both iOS and Android handsets.

WhatsApp

Discovered in early May, the now-patched bug in the app’s audio call feature allowed hackers to deliver a spyware payload to target devices, a process that worked even if the WhatsApp call recipient failed to answer.

It took WhatsApp less than ten days to patch the security hole following its discovery, reports TechCrunch. How long the vulnerability existed without detection is unknown, but the company confirmed hackers took advantage of the window to install an unknown number of malicious payloads.

Although WhatsApp did not name a specific company or spyware variant associated with the security breach, a statement on the matter points to Israeli vendor NSO Group.

“This attack has all the hallmarks of a private company known to work with governments to deliver spyware that reportedly takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” WhatsApp said.

NSO develops and markets a well-known and notoriously effective piece of spyware called Pegasus. Typically reserved for government buyers, Pegasus is often used by law enforcement agencies to gain wide access to key device functions and data stores.

Apple has in the past attempted to patch flaws in iOS and macOS leveraged by Pegasus, but NSO continues to uncover and exploit zero-day vulnerabilities in iOS to keep its product functional.

WhatsApp believes only a small number of users were impacted by attacks, noting only advanced and highly motivated actors would be capable of leveraging the bug, the report said.

The company alerted the U.S. Justice Department and various human rights organizations after discovering the vulnerability, and urges users to update their respective app versions to protect against future attacks.

“WhatsApp encourages people to upgrade to the latest version of our app, as well as keep their mobile operating system up to date, to protect against potential targeted exploits designed to compromise information stored on mobile devices,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

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Parental control apps clap back at Apple statement on MDM technology

Parental control and screen time monitoring apps are fighting back against Apple’s decision to strike the titles from the App Store over alleged security risks, saying in separate blog posts that the tech giant’s reasoning is flawed and its statement on the matter misleading.

OurPact

One of the apps banned from distribution, OurPact, argued for its reinstatement in a post to Medium on Tuesday. As noted by CNET, which spotted the entry, OurPact also calls for Apple to allow parental control apps access to device management APIs.

Last week, a New York Times report highlighted Apple’s targeted removal of popular apps created to help users cut down on device usage or monitor their children’s screen time. Over the past year, the company pulled apps, sometimes without adequately notifying developers, or forced the removal of features that left titles stripped of key functionality.

Developers interviewed as part of the report implied the crackdown was prompted by Apple’s release of a competing iOS feature called Screen Time which debuted in iOS 12 and includes a number of tools designed to encourage iPhone and iPad owners to spend less time on their devices. Screen Time also incorporates parental control features similar or identical to those offered by the now banned apps.

Responding to fallout from The Times article, Apple over the weekend issued a statement in an attempt to explain the app removals. According to Apple, the apps in question used “highly invasive” Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology to accomplish their advertised tasks and thus posed a risk to user privacy and security.

MDM allows wide access to device functions and potentially sensitive data, Apple said. The technology was designed for use in large-scale enterprise device deployments, not public-facing apps available on the App Store. As such, integration of MDM by screen monitoring and parental control apps was a violation of the company’s App Store guidelines.

OurPact disagrees. In its blog post, the developer attempts to undermine Apple’s statement by comparing it with official Apple support documentation on MDM technology. A point-by-point rebuttal suggests properly vetted MDM apps pose little to no risk to end users, even those offered through public channels.

“Unfortunately, Apple’s statement is misleading and prevents a constructive conversation around the future of parental controls on iOS,” the company said. “We want to take the opportunity to set the record straight about MDM for our loyal users and the many families looking for solutions to guide healthy digital habits. Our hope is that Apple will work with developers in this space so that families continue to have a wide selection of parental controls to choose from.”

OurPact also includes a detailed timeline of events leading up to its dismissal from the App Store, noting four years of submission approvals before an abrupt removal in October 2018 “without any prior communication.”

OurPact suggests Apple provide developers with open APIs if it “truly believes that parents should have tools to manage their children’s device usage, and are committed to providing a competitive, innovative app ecosystem.” The call for appropriate screen time monitoring and device management tools was echoed by other app makers mentioned in the original NYT report.

As noted by MacRumors on Wednesday, the co-founders of Kidslox and Qustodio in separate Medium posts asked Apple to release the APIs it used to create the iOS Screen Time feature.

Kidslox and Qustodio last week filed a joint complaint with the European Union’s anti-competition office on allegations that Apple’s forced changes had a negative impact on Kidslox’s business.

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Cardhop contacts app comes to iOS with fast searching and powerful quick actions

A new iOS app, from the developer of Fantastical, aims to turn Contacts from something you rarely search into a tool you regularly exploit. Alongside fast search and sorting, it lets you rapidly start calling, texting and emailing directly from it.

Flexibits, the maker of long-standing Calendar app Fantastical, has brought its Mac Contacts app Cardhop to iOS. As with the Mac edition, the aim is to both speed up how you use Contacts —and to make you use them more. Rather than occasionally turning to Cardhop to check someone’s email address, you can begin the email right within the app. You can begin an email, start a text message or phone them. And where you have to be in a contact to do this when you’re using the regular iPhone Contacts app, Cardhop lets you do it all from the search field.

The search field is like a commandline, and you can use keyboard actions to act on contact cards

The search field is like a command line, and you can use keyboard actions to act on contact cards

It’s a development of the natural language parsing that originally marked Fantastical out as a unique calendar and let you enter an appointment by just typing a sentence about it, instead of tapping to enter each detail separately. While other calendars, including Apple’s own, have added this ability to understand or parse what you write, Fantastical remains particularly good at it and now Cardhop is similar.

Parsing in Cardhop works well, whether it's by voice or typing

Parsing in Cardhop works well, whether it’s by voice or typing

Also as with Fantastical, the benefit of the app is in how it handles your existing data. Fantastical uses the same calendar database that Apple provides and, in exactly the same way, Cardhop uses the same contacts. Make a change to a contact in Cardhop and the same change will be in Apple’s own Contacts app or vice versa. This means there’s no setting up and there’s no copying of contacts to a new app. You could go back and forth between Cardhop and Apple’s own at will and there would be no difference in your actual contacts list.

If you don’t use Apple’s Contacts app and instead just use the contacts list in your iPhone, it doesn’t matter. These and all major iOS contacts alternatives use the same core contacts database.

Trying out Cardhop will be easier if you are used to using Apple’s Contacts app, though. That’s because if you tend to use the Phone app when you want to call someone —or the Mail app to email, the Messages app to text —then it’s hard to remember to use anything else.

That said, it’s also hard to imagine that any other app could do more than Apple’s one. Yet Cardhop does, and what it brings you comes down to speed, organization and action.

Work your contacts app

Open Cardhop and you can see a list of your favorites —though note that this is not the same list of VIPs that you may have set up in Apple’s Phone or Contacts app. Apple’s privacy rules mean this, and this alone, is something a third-party app can’t see. If you want to have favorites for quick calling or emailing, you’ll set those up again in Cardhop.

When you do that or when you tap through your contacts list to a person you want, though, you can just go into the card for them and see whatever details you’ve got.

However, you can also search for them —but the search box where you would normally enter their name lets you do much more. It lets you take actions that range from calling an existing contact to adding a new one or updating a detail.

You start by typing in the name of a contact and Cardhop begins auto-filtering a list of existing contacts. If you type in the name to the point that it becomes unique, it displays the card for that contact.

Typing “Mike Wu” might be enough for it to display AppleInsider‘s Mike Wuerthele’s card, for instance. Or, if you’ve not entered this contact before, typing their name and one piece of information (phone or email for example) will add them to your contacts database. Rather than having to press a plus sign and tap through adding first name, surname, phone number and so on, you’ve just done it all in one go.

Similarly, if you enter an existing name and add some new information after it, that new detail will be added. So if you enter “William Gallagher [email protected]” and you’ve already got William in your contacts database, Cardhop will check to see if you have that email address too and will add it if you don’t. Or type in “call William G” and Cardhop will instantly start a phone call with William without you having to find his card and tap on the number.

Quick actions

Since you’re typically only ever going to be typing very similar things such as Call or Email, Cardhop comes with those set up in quick-action buttons. It defaults to this basic set, but there are many other Cardhop features that you can elect to include as quick actions. You can have it so that tapping on a Directions button and then typing someone’s name will get you all that contact’s addresses, for example.

Equally, you could have FaceTime Audio as a quick action. Or FaceBook Messenger, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp and more. Cardhop understands these words and acts on them whether you add them to quick action buttons or not. So as you use the app more, you can decide which buttons will be most useful and change them as you need.

Sharing and not sharing

With Apple’s Contacts app, if you AirDrop your own contact details to someone, they get everything. They might only want your work email, but they get your home one, your cell number, office address, the lot. In comparison, Cardhop lets you specify a subset of information that you’re happy to share.

Whatever you’re doing in Cardhop —typing a quick action or looking up someone’s contact —you can turn your iPhone to horizontal and the screen swaps to show your business card.

Your name, title, and three other fields of your choosing fit on this card —plus there’s a QR code that makes it easy for anyone with a reader to add your card to their own devices. Next to this business card image there’s an edit button that lets you specify just which bits of your information you want. And there’s a Share button for when you’re talking to a normal human being who doesn’t carry a QR code reader all day.

Cardhop creates a business card for sharing with reduced information from your personal contact card

Cardhop creates a business card for sharing with reduced information from your personal contact card

You’ll see the benefits of Cardhop as soon as you try it. However, if you then get into the habit of starting calls and emails and everything else to do with contacts there, you’ll feel the benefits too. From our experience with the Mac version, once you make it a habit, you come to like and rely on Cardhop hugely.

For an app that you need to use to appreciate, though, Cardhop doesn’t try to keep you to itself. You can use it via Siri Shortcuts and create workflows to show your favorites, for instance, or to show your recent contacts. That’s a particularly useful part of Cardhop —whether through Shortcuts or directly inside the app, you can see who you recently called, emailed or messaged. It’s no kind of Customer Relationship Manager, but it’s handy when you’re temporarily contacting someone a lot yet it’s not worth adding them to your favorites.

Help documentation is accessed by typing

Help documentation is accessed by typing “?” and there’s a full manual that documents use in Shortcuts

By default, Cardhop does all this with your regular iCloud contacts list. However, the new Cardhop for iOS and now also the updated Cardhop for Mac support Google Contacts, G Suite, and Microsoft Exchange’s Global Address List.

As it stands, Cardhop for iOS is excellent for turning your flat contacts list into a tool that you use to stay in touch with people. It’s great for acting on that contacts database and digging through it, but it doesn’t do anything about that database itself. It would be good to see features to make managing duplicate contacts easier.

And then there is the perennial problem that so many of us have email addresses that we only think we’ve saved in a contacts database. Apple’s Mail is so good at autocompleting addresses of people we’ve previously heard from that we don’t even realise it is doing that. We assume it’s autocompleting from our contacts database and since it isn’t, when we try to access a contact on another device or in another app, we don’t find them.

That’s systemic, it’s not something a third-party Contacts app could fix, but maybe Apple’s one should. In the meantime, as robust as Apple’s Contacts app is, Cardhop can make better, faster use of all those names and email addresses you’ve collected.

Cardhop for iPhone and iPad requires iOS 12 or later and after a launch period where it costs $3.99, it will be $4.99. There’s also the Mac version, which requires macOS El Capitan or later and costs $19.99 direct from the Flexibits“>developer’s site where you can download a 21-day trial.

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Apple ceases iOS 12.1.4 code signing following release of iOS 12.2

 

Following the March release of iOS 12.2, Apple on Thursday stopped signing code for iOS 12.1.4, ensuring iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners are running the latest, most secure version of the operating system.

iOS 12

In line with prior code signing stoppages, the end of iOS 12.1.4 signing arrives ten days after Apple issued iOS 12.2 late last month.

The latest iOS version delivers support for Apple News+, HomeKit TV compatibility, new Animoji characters and user interface updates for Wallet, Control Center and the lock screen.

With the change, iOS 12.1.4 can no longer be downloaded from Apple servers, meaning users are restricted to iOS 12.2 or higher.

Apple typically stops signing legacy code shortly after a new version of iOS is released in a bid to keep users safe from new threats. The practice also ensures devices are running the most up-to-date software.

Apple’s latest iOS 12.2 addresses a whopping 43 security issues involving WebKit, Contacts, FaceTime, GeoServices, Mail, Messages, Safari, the system kernel and other critical software.

A beta version of the company’s next iOS release, iOS 12.3, was seeded to developers last week for evaluation. Notably, the upcoming OS includes a sneak peek at the revamped Apple TV app that will host Apple TV Channels and Apple TV+.

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Everything new in iOS 12.2 beta 6: AirPower support & AppleCare+

 

Video

Release of iOS 12.2 appears imminent as the sixth beta was recently released to developers with a number of new changes and polish. AppleInsider goes through everything that is new in the latest —and possibly last —iOS 12.2 beta.

iPhone XS Max updated to iOS 12.2

iPhone XS Max updated to iOS 12.2

One of the first changes we come across in the sixth beta of iOS 12.2, is the ability to view AppleCare status. If you head to Settings > General > About you will see a new option for AppleCare. It will show you your current warranty status, whether or not you have AppleCare+.

iOS 12.2 beta 6 AppleCare plans

iOS 12.2 beta 6 AppleCare plans

Tapping into it you get additional details such as when it expires or renews if billing monthly. If you don’t currently have AppleCare+ and are elligble, Apple gives you the option to purchase it. You choose your preference —in our case AppleCare+ or AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss —and then choose how you’d prefer to pay. You can pay each month, or you can pay it off in full.

Most interesting to us, was the official support for AirPower included in the code of iOS 12.2. AirPower has special integrations with iOS such as the flashy animation that appears on your iPhone display with the charging status of your Apple Watch and AirPods. With this support finally added in the latest beta, it appears the release of AirPower is imminent.

The forthcoming iOS 12.2 update is looking to be a massive one with new icons, support for HomeKit TVs, a redesigned remote widget in Control Center, updated Wallet transactions, Apple News launching in Canada, keyboard color picker, and much more.

Apple is likely going to release iOS 12.2 to the masses around the time of its March 25th press event at the Steve Jobs Theater, where it is expected to debut the new video and News subscription services.

Be sure to check out what changed last time in iOS 12.2 beta 4>, beta 3, beta 2, and beta 1.

Find any changes or features we didn’t mention? Shoot me an email at [email protected] or reach out to me on Twitter at @Andrew_OSU.

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Apple rolls out third public beta versions of iOS 12.2, tvOS 12.2

 

Made available just one day after the developer beta, participants of Apple’s public beta program are now able to update their iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch to a new third beta build of iOS 12.2, and the fourth generation Apple TV and Apple TV 4K to tvOS 12.2.

Four new Animoji are included in the iOS 12.2 beta

Four new Animoji are included in the iOS 12.2 beta

The betas are provided to everyone registered to Apple’s Beta Software Program, with the latest build downloadable as an over-the-air update directly to enrolled devices. The contents of the public beta are typically the same as the developer beta that precedes it, in this case one that was issued just one day in advance.

The third beta of iOS 12.2 makes a number of changes to what was seen in the second build, including a redesigned Remote widget in Control Center that makes the buttons at the bottom of the display larger as well as introducing a guide to the trackpad. The About page in Settings has also been rearranged, with the top section including the software version, model name, model number, and serial number of the device along with its set name, bringing the important details together instead of making users search for it elsewhere.

The Wallet app gains an updated UI for recent transactions, as well as a refinement to the Apple Pay Cash card. The News app has a new “Apple News” logo above the date. The update also includes fixes, with the lock screen issue that perpetually showed the battery percentage reverted to show the current date below the time, and the reenabling of Group FaceTime.

AppleInsider, and Apple itself, strongly recommend users don’t install the betas on to “mission-critical” or primary devices, as there is the remote possibility of data loss or other issues. Instead, testers should install betas onto secondary or non-essential devices, and to make sure there are sufficient backups of important data before updating.

Find any changes in the new betas? Reach out to us on Twitter at @AppleInsider or @Andrew_OSU, or send Andrew an email at [email protected].

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Apple’s rumored gaming subscription could be a big change for mobile gaming

The suggestion that Apple could launch a subscription service for gaming is an interesting proposition, but is there much weight to the idea? AppleInsider examines ways the service could exist, and whether the rumors make sense at all.

Clash Royale on an iPad Pro

Clash Royale on an iPad Pro

A recent rumor suggested that Apple is planning to create a Netflix-style gaming subscription service. In theory, users would basically pay a monthly fee to gain access to a selection of games, most likely made up of paid titles on iOS, instead of paying the equivalent in in-app purchases for free titles.

Money is a motivator

Mobile gaming on the iPhone and iPad is already extremely profitable for developers producing popular titles, and even for Apple itself. Neil Campling of Mirabaud Securities noted that 82% of revenues from Apple’s App Store come from gaming, making Apple one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, even though the company doesn’t make any games itself.

If Apple doesn’t make any games, where does the revenue come from? Apple takes a 30-percent cut from every digital product sold on the App store, which includes the sale of games as well as in-app purchases, like buying VBucks in the popular free-to-play game “Fortnite.”

Fortnite on an iPad Pro

Fortnite on an iPad Pro

According to a report from Business Insider, Epic Games’ “Fortnite” made over $455 million on just iOS devices in 2018, even though it’s a free-to-play game. That revenue was made solely from in-app purchases, which ultimately means that Apple made around $136 million with its 30-percent cut.

The earnings from “Fortnite” is just a hint of how much revenue Apple is making from all games that offer in-app purchases, especially free-to-play games.

In-app purchases have driven Fortnite's iOS revenue

In-app purchases have driven Fortnite’s iOS revenue

Seeing as though some of the most successful games in the App Store are free with in-app purchases, Apple needs a good reason to compete in a way where users are asked to pay regularly.

Paying to play

There are relatively few ways that games are offered as a subscription today.

First, there are the subscription services where you pay a monthly fee and you gain instant access to play a variety of games without having to purchase them. This includes the console-oriented Xbox One Pass and PlayStation Plus, as well as EA Access.

None of these offer a mobile experience, as they all rely on games being installed on a console or desktop. In fact, there isn’t even a mechanism to offer subscription-based access to a collection of games on iOS at the moment, which would logically require Apple to create it from whole cloth if it wanted to go down this route.

On a per-game basis, there are some that rely on regular payments from users to provide a benefit. For mobile games, this could consist of game currency or extra items, while in some cases it could involve paying to play at all, such as with “World of Warcraft” and other major massively multiplayer online role-playing games.

Then there are more expensive cloud gaming services that allow you to do the same thing as the “game collection” subscription, except without requiring you to own a powerful console. All you need is a strong internet connection and a supported device.

Nvidia Geforce Now playing on a MacBook

Nvidia Geforce Now playing on a MacBook

Streaming services like Geforce Now are powered by powerful rendering servers in the cloud, which provides a video stream to your device over the Internet. The input by the user is sent back to the rendering farm, allowing users to play high-end game titles with something as simple as a smart TV and a compatible controller.

A couple of examples are PlayStation Now, GameFly and Nvidia GeForce Now, which we tried out for ourselves. We were able to use the GeForce Now to play the popular title “Overwatch” at over 200 frames per second using nothing but a 12″ Retina MacBook. We even connected it to an LG 5K display and used a mouse and keyboard for a desktop-like gaming experience.

The big benefit is that, potential response time issues aside, it is possible to play a game with an extremely high graphical fidelity that lower-powered hardware simply cannot handle. Rather than upgrading the desktop, some users could get away with subscribing and enjoying the better picture quality at a lower cost, delaying paying for an upgrade for a while.

State of the game

The thing about Apple creating a gaming subscription service is that the hardware is already close enough to the level of a console in terms of quality. Apple’s latest iPhones and iPad Pro are packing some of the most powerful mobile processors ever made.

Even the iPhone XR can play Fortnite

Even the iPhone XR can play Fortnite

The A12 and A12X processors are topping the charts of benchmarks and performance tests left and right, breaking multiple benchmark records while offering very impressive battery life at the same time. There’s obviously no need for a powerful server to render games, but even so they are still more than capable of handling cloud-rendered gaming clients.

Apple’s rumored gaming subscription service will most likely give subscribers access to a bunch of paid games on the App Store, but why would they need to do this if they’re making so much revenue from “freemium” games, or free-to-play games that offer premium in-game purchases?

The App Store is flooded with so many great freemium games, there’s little reason to make a one-time purchase of a paid title that most likely required a lot more investment and development. It’s a lot harder for a game developer to invest a lot more time and money to create a beautiful game that takes advantage of Apple’s powerful processing performance, knowing full well the free-to-play titles are more likely to get the eyeballs of potential players.

And there lies the issue: Apple’s iPhone and iPad hardware is way ahead of almost all of the game titles on the App Store, but there’s simply not enough incentive for a game developer or publisher to put extra money and time into a beautiful game that can really put Apple’s hardware to the test.

Apple's current iOS devices are highly powerful, making them ideal for gaming

Apple’s current iOS devices are highly powerful, making them ideal for gaming

Going down the freemium route and making a mediocre-quality game that can easily rake in tons of cash without as much investment is just too tempting a prospect for many developers.

A gaming subscription service would incentivize and encourage game developers to create more power-demanding games, which would shine a light on the iPhone’s and iPad Pro’s ability to really become a gaming console in its own right, a point Apple has been trying to make with its marketing for years.

On top of that, if developers are given more of an incentive to make higher-quality games, this could also impact the Apple TV. Better games on iPhone and iPad could also be played on the set-top box, which could further prompt the creation of even higher quality games that look good on the bigger screen, and possibly increasing the Apple TV’s market for gaming at the same time.

Playing a game on the Apple TV in 4K resolution

Playing a game on the Apple TV in 4K resolution

Apple’s rumored gaming subscription service could also incentivize free-to-play games by giving a certain amount of in-game currency every month, or offering discounts on purchases of said digital currency, but that’s all up to Apple, assuming these rumors are even true.

Apple already offers Apple Music as a monthly subscription, and has been tipped to create an all-in-one subscription covering Apple Music, News, and its original video content project. There’s a chance that this rumored gaming service could be included in the aforementioned all-in-one subscription.

It isn’t just Apple that’s supposedly exploring the idea, as rumors of a Google-equivalent gaming subscription service have recently sparked up as well. Specific code within the Google Play Store hinted at a new feature called “Play Pass,” which as a name is likely to be linked to some sort of subscription service.

A Google survey has also been spotted, asking participants if the word “Pass” sufficiently described a subscription that offers hundreds of dollars worth of paid apps and games for a monthly fee.

If all of these rumors come to life, the way we buy and use apps and games on mobile devices could be changed forever.

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The next HomeKit could have very precise geofencing, accurate to within feet

HomeKit could be more responsive to a user’s needs depending on where they are in a future update, with Apple considering the possibility of adding hyper-local position tracking to the smart home platform with an accuracy of just feet to suggest what items a user wants to control based on their location in the home.

HomeKit enables users to control multiple devices from their iPhone or iPad

HomeKit enables users to control multiple devices from their iPhone or iPad

Apple’s Home app is the central focal point of a user’s HomeKit network, with it used to control automation functions and to remotely change settings and modes on a wide variety of compatible network-connected devices. It is a fairly straightforward system once it is set up, and could even be managed from the compact screen of an Apple Watch if required.

Home is able to divide up devices in a Smart Home into “Rooms,” giving users a quick and easy way to sort through their connected elements, and to trigger multiple items as a group. While using Rooms is simple, Apple believes the concept could be widened further.

In a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday titled “Using in-home location awareness,” Apple suggests a future where users could be provided more items to control in the Home app, with it automatically populating items on the screen depending on the mobile device’s physical location, and without needing to select a specific room.

An example illustration from the patent application showing additional items appearing in the Home app.

An example illustration from the patent application showing additional items appearing in the Home app.

Apple notes that users perform the same or repeated actions with devices while in a particular location, such as closing the garage door from the kitchen when they return home, or changing the temperature on a thermometer while in the living room. However, since an item like a garage door wouldn’t necessarily be considered part of a kitchen, it may not be included within a designated kitchen “room.”

To solve this, the patent application suggests determining the physical location of the controlling device, and presenting items that are typically interacted with by the user while in that particular position.

The method involves the collection of data relating to various signals detected when users perform actions, such as MAC addresses of wirelessly-networked devices, Bluetooth device addresses and that device’s signal strength, IP addresses, universally unique identifiers (UUID) and truncated UUIDs.

A flowchart showing how HomeKit could determine if an accessory should be displayed (left), and graphs showing how location clusters can be determined based on signal strength and usage (right)

A flowchart showing how HomeKit could determine if an accessory should be displayed (left), and graphs showing how location clusters can be determined based on signal strength and usage (right)

In effect, by knowing what items it can sense and the signal strength, the mobile device can determine physically where it is within a home, and in turn which room it is located within. If the mobile device knows it is within range of accessories in a general location, it could also assume the user is in a usual place for specific interactions, if they have previously been performed in that area.

Once it detects the user is in a specific place, the Home app could then automatically offer up control of the usually-controlled items to the user.

The decision to provide more immediate access to certain device controls could also be influenced by other elements, such as if the user is near to a location rather than within it. Light sensors, temperature sensors, and weather sensing could also play a part in whether or not to offer controls, such as the system only automatically offering control of external lights if a light sensor says it’s dark, or the thermostat could be offered up if a temperature sensor says it’s cold.

As with other patents and applications, the publication of such filings is not a guarantee that the concepts described will make an appearance in future products or services, but do indicate where has recently put effort into research and development.

In this case, since Apple has the Home app already in existence, and does not require the need for additional hardware, it is entirely plausible for the features in the patent application becoming a reality in a future update.

HomeKit already includes support for geofencing, which can enable actions to be performed when a user is within or out of range of the home. For iOS 11, multi-person geofencing was introduced, allowing for conditional triggers to be applied if part or an entire group is out of the home, such as turning off all lights if the house is detected as empty.

It is also logical that, if Apple were able to implement location tracking in a home, it could also feasibly add hyper-local geofencing at the same time. This could take the form of lights turning on automatically when a user is in a particular room, or turning off fans or other devices if the user moves to a different floor.

One of the more recent changes made to HomeKit is the introduction of support for Siri Shortcuts, which allows users to enable various HomeKit routines via a custom Siri command.