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The Almighty Buck

Amazon Will Refund Millions of Unauthorized In-App Purchases Made By Kids (techcrunch.com) 49

Amazon will refund millions of dollars worth of unauthorized in-app purchased made by kids, having dropped its appeal of last year's ruling by a federal judge who sided with the Federal Trade Commission in the agency's lawsuit against Amazon. "The FTC's original complaint said that Amazon should be liable for millions of dollars it charged customers, because of the way its Appstore software was designed -- that is, it allowed kids to spend unlimited amounts of money in games and other apps without requiring parental consent," reports TechCrunch. From the report: The issue had to do with the way the Amazon Appstore's in-app purchasing system worked. The Amazon Appstore is the store that comes preloaded on Amazon mobile devices, like Kindle Fire tablets, for example, though there is a way to load it onto other Android devices, too. In Amazon's Appstore, which launched back in 2011, the company didn't originally require passwords on in-app purchases. This allowed kids to buy coins and other items to their hearts' content. One particularly awful example involved a game called "Ice Age Village" that offered an in-app purchase of $99.99. Amazon introduced password-protected in-app purchases in March 2012, but then only on those where the purchase exceeded $20. In early 2013, it updated the system again to require passwords, but also allowed a 15-minute window afterwards where no password was required. The FTC said Amazon didn't obtain "informed consent" until July 2014. To make matters worse, parents complaining weren't told how to get a refund and Amazon had even suggested at times that refunds weren't possible, the FTC's complaint had said. More than $70 million in in-app charges made between November 2011 and May 2016 may be eligible for refunds, the FTC notes. It's not likely that all affected customers will take the time to make their requests, however.
Apple

Apple Opens App Accelerator in Bangalore, India To Foster iOS App Development (mashable.com) 33

From a report: Apple is taking further steps to foster the developer ecosystem in the world's fastest growing smartphone market. The Cupertino-based company said it has opened a new App Accelerator in Bangalore, India. The announcement comes less than a year after the company said it would open an iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in India's Silicon Valley. Through the new App Accelerator, the company hopes to offer specialised support to developers as well as tools to help them push the boundaries. At the centre, a group of experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers. [...] With Apple's push to turn India into its next major market, it will pay in the long run to have quality apps that solve local problems on the App Store.
Android

App Store Sales For Android To Overtake Apple's iOS, Research Firm Says (sfgate.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, Apple's App Store, the place where people download apps for games and social networking services on their iPhones, has generated far more revenue worldwide than its Android competitors. This year, things are changing: The App Store will fall second to the amount of revenue generated by Android app distributors, predicts analytics firm App Annie. In 2017, the App Store will generate $40 billion in revenue, while Android app stores run by Google and other parties will generate $41 billion, App Annie said. That gap is expected to widen in 2021, with Android app stores generating $78 billion in revenue and Apple's App Store at $60 billion in revenue, according to App Annie's report released on Wednesday. The surge in revenue for Android comes from a growing number of consumers in China who are buying Android phones and are willing to pay for apps. In 2021, App Annie expects there to be eight Android smartphone users to every single iPhone user in China.
Software

Canonical Helps Launch A Snap Store For The Orange Pi Community (ubuntu.com) 55

"Developers can distribute their applications packaged as snaps to Orange Pi owners," explains a new blog post from Canonical, bragging that "hackers and tinkerers can install complex IoT and server projects in seconds." An anonymous reader quotes Ubuntu's Insights blog: Orange Pi maker Shenzhen Xunlong Software Co. Ltd is launching an app store in partnership with Canonical to foster an active community of developers and users. Through this app store, developers gain a simple mechanism to share their applications, projects and scripts between themselves and with the wider Orange Pi community...

With snaps developers can distribute their application in a secure, confined package bundled with all its dependencies, so users can install applications that could take half an hour to install in just a few seconds. The Orange Pi App Store uses the whitelabel app store offering from Canonical, which lets them distribute applications to the Orange Pi community under its own brand. The store is a place for developers to share their Orange Pi specific applications. It also benefits from the wealth of applications available in the Ubuntu snap store, also available through the store.

Are there any Slashdot readers who are actually using snaps? Or -- for that matter -- are there any Slashdot readers developing with the Orange Pi?
Apple

Apple Begins Rejecting Apps With 'Hot Code Push' Feature (apple.com) 149

Apple has long permitted "hot code push", a feature that allows developers to continuously deploy changes to their mobile apps and have those changes reflect in their apps instantly. This allowed developers to make quick changes to their apps without having to resubmit the new iteration and get approval from the Apple Store review team. But that's changing now. In response to a developer's query, Apple confirmed that it no longer permits "hot code push." The company told the developer: Your app, extension, and/or linked framework appears to contain code designed explicitly with the capability to change your app's behavior or functionality after App Review approval, which is not in compliance with section 3.3.2 of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement and App Store Review Guideline 2.5.2. This code, combined with a remote resource, can facilitate significant changes to your app's behavior compared to when it was initially reviewed for the App Store. While you may not be using this functionality currently, it has the potential to load private frameworks, private methods, and enable future feature changes.
Businesses

Nobody Likes Uber Anymore, Recent Reviews and Ratings On App Store Suggest (qz.com) 179

Alison Griswold, writing for Quartz: The public is not happy with Uber. Incensed by allegations of sexism and harassment in the company's corporate halls, people are once again #deleting Uber, while one-star ratings and withering critiques of its service are piling up in Apple's iOS App Store. From Jan. 1 through Feb. 22, Uber accumulated 4,479 one-star reviews from US users in the iOS App Store, according to data from analytics firm App Annie (the highest possible rating is five stars). Several of the most recent reviews cite the horrifying and explosive account of sexual harassment published by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler over the weekend. "Was harassed and scammed by an Uber driver for two hours in the car," reviewer "Jorwl" wrote on Feb. 20. But far more reviewers have another gripe: Uber's apparent disregard for user privacy. The monthly volume of one-star ratings for Uber in the App Store first spiked last November, after the company redesigned its app and infringed on user privacy by eliminating an iOS setting that let users grant Uber access to their location only "while using" the app. Users are now forced to choose between letting Uber track their location "always" and "never".
Businesses

Story of Two Developers Who Are Reporting Growth in Revenue After Leaving Apple's App Store (techcrunch.com) 65

John Biggs, writing for TechCrunch: In what amounts to one of the purest and most interesting experiments in assessing the value of Mac OS's App Store, the founder of Rogue Amoeba posted a description of what happened when he pulled his app Piezo. The result? More revenue as a whole without much damage to sales. The impetus for the move came after Apple pulled the Dash app off of the App Store. In the 100-day period since the move, Dash maintained and even increased revenue and found that its users didn't care which platform they were using -- 84% of the customers simply moved over to the independent app license from the App Store license. The bottom line? "It feels great to have full control over my business and to avoid App Store installation/updating/purchasing issues," wrote Dash creator Bogdan Popescu. When Paul Kafasis tried to move away from the App Store he was worried he'd lose half of his sales. After all, many months saw about 50% of sales coming from the App Store directly. When he pulled the app a year ago, however, all of those App Store sales turned into direct sales through his website, a fact that surprised and amused Kafasis.
Businesses

Worldwide App Downloads Grew 15% and Revenue Soared 40% in 2016 (venturebeat.com) 19

Downloads, revenue, and time spent in apps all grew by double digits during 2016, according to a report by market researcher App Annie. From a report on VentureBeat: Time spent in apps grew more than 20 percent to nearly 900 billion hours in 2016, according to the year-end report. That's just one sign that the global app economy saw healthy growth during the past year. In its year-end retrospective, App Annie said U.S. time spent in apps grew more than 25 percent. Worldwide, downloads increased 15 percent by more than 13 billion across both iOS and Google Play. The platform owners paid out nearly $89 billion in revenues to publishers from in-app ads and app store revenue, up 40 percent from the year before. That means apps generated $127 billion in revenues overall, as platform owners take about 30 percent of the revenue.
China

China Orders App Stores To Join Register (bbc.com) 23

China's internet regulator has ordered mobile app stores to register themselves with it immediately. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the move would help "promote the healthy and orderly development of the mobile internet." From a report on BBC: Most smartphones in the country run Android, but Google does not operate its Play Store locally, meaning users go elsewhere to add software. A report last year linked this to the spread of malware. Cheetah Mobile Security -- a Beijing-based firm -- reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users' mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place. This follows previous efforts to censor what appears online, including a recent demand that Apple remove the New York Times from the Chinese version of its iOS App Store. The US newspaper was the first to report the watchdog's move outside of China itself. Because of the Play store's absence, Android users in China typically go to stores operated by local tech giants including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Huawei.
China

WeChat Beats Google in Releasing Apps That Don't Need Downloading or Installing (mashable.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a Mashable report: Click on a link in China's top messaging app, WeChat, and you'll be taken to a rich app-like experience, but without needing to download or install anything. Tencent, WeChat's maker, on Monday released "mini programs." The new mini programs work within the messaging app, and the early crop at launch include a Prisma-like photo editing app, a Pomodoro Timer productivity app, a flight search engine, and one for recipe searches. With the mini programs, the already-dominant WeChat continues its march to become practically ubiquitous on Chinese handsets, where people already use the messenger for real-life tasks like paying at restaurants, to hailing a Didi Chuxing ride. Last year, Google too announced that it would soon allow users to check out apps without downloading or installing them. The feature is yet to go live.
Businesses

Apple App Store Developers Earned $20 Billion in 2016, Up 40 Percent Year Over Year (cnbc.com) 26

Apple said Thursday its App Store generated $20 billion for developers in 2016, a 40 percent increase from 2015, helped by the popularity of games such as Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run and increased revenue from subscriptions. From a report on CNBC: "2016 was an amazingly great year for the App Store," Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, told CNBC. "We continue to advance what is available for developers to create. And our catalog of apps grew 20 percent to 2.2 million." Schiller said the biggest drivers for the App Store included games such as "Pokemon Go," which was the most downloaded app in 2016; "Super Mario," which was the most downloaded app on Christmas and New Year's days; and subscription-based apps, such as Netflix, Hulu and Time Warner's HBO Go. The tech giant said its biggest day of sales on the App Store was on Jan. 1, 2017, when customers spent a record $240 million. The top grossing markets included the U.S, U.K., Japan and China, which saw 90 percent year-over-year growth.
Programming

Apple Delays App Store Security Deadline For Developers 25

Reader Trailrunner7 writes: Apple has pushed back a deadline for developers to support a key transport security technology in apps submitted to the company's app stores. Officials said at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year that developers would have to support Apple Transport Security by the end of 2016. But on Thursday, the company announced that it has decided to extend the deadline indefinitely. ATS is Apple's collection of transport security standards designed to provide attack resistance for data that's sent between iOS and macOS apps and backend servers. It requires apps to support a number of modern transport security technologies, including TLS 1.2, AES-128 or stronger, and certificates must be signed using SHA-2. ATS also requires the use of forward secrecy, a key-exchange method that protects encrypted sessions even if the server certificate is compromised at some point in the future.
Nintendo

Nintendo's Mobile Mario Game Sets Download Record But Pricing Proves Sticking Point (reuters.com) 92

Nintendo's first Mario smartphone game has set a download record but gamers baulked at the one-time cost of unlocking content, prompting investors to push the Japanese game makers' stock to a one-month low. From a report on Reuters: Super Mario Run hit 25 million downloads just four days after its Dec. 15 release in 151 countries on Apple's App Store, earning gross sales of about $21 million, showed data from app analyst Sensor Tower. But Nintendo shares have lost 11 percent since the launch as the latest game to feature Nintendo's princess-rescuing Italian plumber received negative reviews from users mainly complaining about its $9.99 one-time cost, rather than the usual model of paying small amounts for special features. "Mario is arguably the most popular gaming franchise in the world, yet we see only about 8 percent of those who try the game actually purchasing it," said Sensor Tower analyst Spencer Gabriel. Super Mario Run is free to download on the App Store where, in Japan, it is rated 2.5 stars out of 5 based on 1,095 reviews.
Nintendo

Bad Reviews For Super Mario Run Are Sending Nintendo's Stock Tumbling (fortune.com) 221

People aren't loving Nintendo's newly released Super Mario Run. Nintendo's stock plunged 7.1% Monday, bringing its total drop since the game's release last week to more than 11%, Bloomberg reports. The game's mediocre reviews had a similar impact on DeNA, the Nintendo partner that helped with the game's development: Since the game's introduction, its stock has fallen 14%. From a report: Reviews in Apple's App Store (so far, the game is only available on iPhone) show an average rating of two and half stars out of five. Overall, there have been nearly 50,000 reviews. Its reviews make it among the lowest rated app among those at the top of the download rankings, according to Bloomberg.
Businesses

Fitbit Won't Kill Off Pebble Services At Least Until 2018 (thenextweb.com) 33

Earlier this week, Fitbit announced that it was buying up the assets of smartwatch maker Pebble, and a lot of questions still exist around exactly how Pebble's existing products will work. Today a member of Pebble's developer team attempted to address some of those questions. From a report on The Next Web: In a blog post, it noted that it will keep Pebble software and services running through 2017. Jon Barlow, who was previously on Pebble's Developer Evangelist team and is now part of Fitbit's transition effort, wrote: "To be clear, no one on this freshly-formed team seeks to brick Pebble watches in active service. The Pebble SDK, CloudPebble, Timeline APIs, firmware availability, mobile apps, developer portal, and Pebble appstore are all elements of the Pebble ecosystem that will remain in service at this time. Pebble developers are welcome to keep creating and updating apps. Pebble users are free to keep enjoying their watches."
Desktops (Apple)

The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams (howtogeek.com) 117

Over the years, Apple may have improved security, filters, and screening process of apps for its Mac's App Store, but even today things the quality of fraudulent apps continue to not only seep through its gatekeepers, but often times outnumber the good apps. How To Geek did some investigation over this and published the findings yesterday in a story titled, "Don't Be Fooled: The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams". It didn't take long for the publication to find scam apps on Apple's marquee app store for Mac computers. A search for "Microsoft Excel", for instance, returns "Office Bundle" made by a third-party. The app offers templates -- and just that -- for $30. Same is the case with any Office suite application. This might not seem as a real problem to many, but as How to Geek points out, there is one more problem: almost all these apps have icons and title names that are similar to those of Microsoft's, and Apple has had no issues with that. From the article: Let's be blunt: these customers were ripped off, and Apple pocketed $10 each (Editor's note: Apple charges 30 percent on all transactions on App Store(. And you'll only see these comments if you scroll past the two five star reviews that mention the word "app" numerous times. All of these fakes use Microsoft brands like Office, Word, and Excel in the product names. The logos aren't one-to-one copies of Microsoft's official logos, but they're almost always the correct color and letter (blue "W" for Word, green "E" for Excel, etcetera).
Privacy

Fake Shopping Apps Are Invading the iPhone (nypost.com) 41

An anonymous reader shares a NYPost report: For tech-focused scammers, knocking off sneakers and handbags is so last decade. Thieves in the digital age are slamming consumers right in the app. A slew of knockoff shopping apps have quietly infiltrated Apple's App Store in recent months, looking to lure unsuspecting iPhone owners with bogus deals on everything from jewelry to designer duds. The fake apps mimic the look of legit apps -- and have proliferated since this summer, experts said. It didn't help that earlier this month, Apple introduced search ads in its App Store. The fake apps are buying search terms, it would appear, to increase their exposure to consumers. The crooks are looking to tap into the fast-growing market for mobile sales, which last year leaped 56 percent to $49.2 billion, according to comScore.Further reading on NYTimes (NYTimes has opened its paywall till November 9).
Google

Google Moves To Upgrade App Store, Aims To Help Developers Bolster Revenue (reuters.com) 25

Google plans to double down on its efforts to help developers of Android apps build their businesses as concerns mount that the app economy has reached saturation. The company is sharpening Google Play store recommendations with AI and expanding support for various payment platforms, among other initiatives, reports Reuters, citing company's top executive. From the article:Many smartphone users, meanwhile, appear to have tired of downloading apps altogether, especially as messaging services like Snapchat perform more of the functions that once required a separate app. Games remain a focus of the Google Play store, and Nintendo is building a version of its popular Super Mario Run game for Android, said Sameer Samat, who leads product management for the Google Play store. The store is also expanding to new platforms, including wearable devices, virtual reality headsets and Google's Chromebook laptops. "What we are excited about is giving developers that single entry point for more and more of the computing ecosystem," said Samat. Google has eased the once-complicated process of developing apps for the Play store, said James Knight, a former Google employee who launched Pembroke, a consultancy that helps developers convert Apple-compatible iOS apps to Android. A big part of Google's new effort involves emerging markets, where Android is stronger relative to the iPhone. To improve app recommendations for users, the Play store has also made extensive use of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that gleans insights from vast troves of data.
China

China Overtakes the US in iOS App Store Revenue (techcrunch.com) 53

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch: China has now overtaken the U.S. to become the largest market in the world for App Store revenue, according to a new report out this morning from app intelligence firm App Annie. The country earned over $1.7 billion in Q3 2016, which puts it ahead of the U.S. by over 15 percent. The U.S. had been the number one iOS market since 2010, the report notes. Today, Chinese consumers spend more than 5 times the amount they were spending compared with just two years prior. In addition, the report predicts that China will drive the largest absolute revenue growth for any country by 2020. The estimations are likely accurate -- App Annie had said at the beginning of the year that if China's rapid App Store revenue growth continued at the same pace, it would overtake the U.S. by year's end. And that has now occurred. This growth is largely being driven by games, and here, China's lead has also widened over the U.S. during the past quarter. Games drive 75 percent of App Store revenue, even though non-game apps make up the majority (75%) of those distributed in Apple's mobile marketplace.
Apple

Apple Has Removed Dash from the App Store (kapeli.com) 104

Popular API documentation browser Dash was pulled from the App Store this week after a routine migration request, its developer Bogdan Popescu wrote in a blog post. He said the migration was successful, but some features in iTunes Connect weren't available during account migration, Apple warned him. Later in the day, Apple sent another email saying the app has been pulled because of "fraudulent conduct," and did not offer any explanation. From the post: Today I called them and they confirmed my account migration went through and that everything is okay as far as they can tell. A few hours ago I received a "Notice of Termination" email, saying that my account was terminated due to fraudulent conduct. I called them again and they said they can't provide more information. Update: Apple contacted me and told me they found evidence of App Store review manipulation. This is something I've never done. Apple's decision is final and can't be appealed.Apple blogger Federico Viticci said. "This seems like a major screwup. Apple dev relationships should fix this soon." Marco Arment, the co-founder of Tumblr and founder of Instapaper, said This is a story with two major paths: Either the developer did something to deserve the rug being pulled out from under, something worthy of their developer credentials being cancelled. Or there's a colossal misunderstanding here. I suspect there's more to this than meets the eye. Either way, don't think this is the way this should have played out.

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