Apple just accepted a rare $999 app

Apr 14, 2015 - 12:08 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple has recently taken a tough line on super-expensive apps. There is BarMax CA, a California bar exam prep app, and a couple of industrial apps like MobiGage and Agro. But the $999 app club has only a couple of members. This week, the exclusive group gained a new member as Vizzywig 4K debuted. This hyper-deluxe iPhone application “captures full 4K resolution photos at the rate of 24 photos per second along with synched audio” rather than capturing video. You can thus get really, really, really nice clips with your iPhone 5s.

Is there any point pricing an app at a thousand bucks? Well, there might be.

The BarMax CA is actually bouncing into the list of top 40 educational iPad apps every couple of days and is even cracking into the top 400 of all iPad applications every now and then. Considering how few people are really into taking the California bar exam, it might make sense to go all out and squeeze those law school grads for all they’re worth.

The same logic may apply to the extremely small pool of people who truly, deeply care about capturing 4K video quality on their iPhones. For those of us who care slightly less about iPhone video quality, there is also a somewhat more modest VizzyWig application that is priced at $30. This editing suite is more than 30 times cheaper than the one on VizzyWig 4K… and perhaps that is the point.

A $30 price point is sky-high in the photo/video application category for the iPhone, but it suddenly seems cheap indeed when you compare it with the $1,000 price point. Sometimes, the point of having a hyper-luxury app may be making the luxury app seem reasonable.


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Report: Apple plans $10-$15 tiers for new music service, approaching artists

Apr 11, 2015 - 1:21 PM - by sparkyscott21

A new report from Bloomberg today claims that Apple is considering $10-$15 month plans for its upcoming music streaming service while the company approaches high-profile artists to get exclusive content.

The report today follows our own report last month that Apple was planning to relaunch its Beats Music streaming service at its WWDC event in June. At the time we noted that Apple was considering a $7.99 price point, but today’s report suggests Apple could go with paid tiers ranging from $9.99/month for a single user to $14.99/month for a family account.

Apple is also said to be approaching high-profile artists in order to land exclusive content for the new service. Some of those artists include Florence and the Machine, Taylor Swift, and “more than a dozen other artists,” according to Bloomberg.

Apple is thought to have even more competition in that arena as Jay-Z launched a competitive service called Tidal last month, tapping many big name artists to promote and release exclusive content for the service.

A recent report claimed that Apple exec and music industry bigwig Jimmy Iovine was attempting to lure artists away from making deals with Tidal, while Kanye West reportedly said he passed on “a multimillion dollar partnership with Apple” in a new profile published today. It’s unclear if his comments were related to Apple’s much anticipated upcoming music service, which we noted in our original report will be based on technology Apple acquired from Beats Music.


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New report reveals what might be iOS 9’s most important feature

Apr 09, 2015 - 12:30 PM - by sparkyscott21

Apple has been hearing a lot of criticism from its own user base about the quality of its recent software releases, including the truly horrible release of iOS 8.0.1 that broke iPhones’ Touch ID features and made it impossible to make phone calls with the device. Given this, iPhone users will be relieved to know that Apple has decided to take a breather when it comes to major new features on iOS 9 and is making stability one of the most important additions to the new OS.

9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman is reporting that Apple is going to put a lot of work into making sure iOS 9 will be a stable and relatively bug-free release, which would be in welcome contrast to the releases of iOS 7 and especially iOS 8.

“For 2015, iOS 9 is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements,” Gurman writes. “Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a “huge” focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions. Apple will also continue to make efforts to keep the size of the OS and updates manageable, especially for the many millions of iOS device owners with 16GB devices.”

Overall platform stability isn’t a sexy new addition like support for Touch ID, actionable notifications or the Handoff feature that lets you quickly move data between iOS devices and your Mac, but it will be a very welcome one for anyone who’s been disappointed in recent Apple software releases. Provided Apple follows through on its goals, longtime users will have a lot to look forward to on iOS 9.

Be sure to learn more about iOS 9 by reading Gurman’s full report here.


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Sony to spend $376M on expanded camera sensor production for iPhone, other devices

Apr 09, 2015 - 12:27 PM - by sparkyscott21

For the second time this year, Sony has announced plans to expand its capacity to produce CMOS camera sensor chips, particularly to deal with component orders for products like Apple's iPhone.

The company will be spending 45 billion yen ($376 million) on growing Japanese facilities in Nagasaki and Yamagata, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. Just this February, Sony said it intended to invest $872.6 million in increasing CMOS production.

Sony is believed to be chiefly responsible for the camera sensors in the iPhone, which is continuing to see higher and higher sales. Just last quarter Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones, an increase of 46 percent year-over-year. The surge has been attributed to several factors, but most commonly pent-up demand for iPhones with larger screens comparable to rival products.

The main camera on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus uses an 8-megapixel sensor with unusually large pixels, measuring 1.5 microns. Added "Focus Pixel" technology speeds up autofocus. This is paired up with an f/2.2 lens, and on the 6 Plus, an optical image stabilizer.

One rumor has hinted that the next iPhone will have a dual-lens camera, enabling optical zoom. Current iPhones (and most other smartphones) only support digital zoom, which in reality simply blows up a part of an image, sacrificing detail.


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Apple preparing for 'major, major' datacenter expansion in Oregon

Apr 09, 2015 - 12:12 PM - by sparkyscott21
Apple's Prineville facility

Apple is set to follow through on expansion plans for its $250 million datacenter in Prineville, Oregon, a Wednesday report suggests, after the Oregon legislature resolved a tax issue that could have tacked millions of dollars onto Apple's bills in the future.

The facility, which already totals nearly 340,000 square feet, could double in size. Apple had previously put these plans — which were initially revealed in 2013 — on hold pending a resolution to the tax issue, according to The Oregonian.

Apple is among a number of companies with Oregon outposts, including Facebook and Amazon, that were taken aback by a 2014 change to the state's property tax valuation methodology that could have seen their tax bills explode following the expiration of their current tax breaks.

Now, Apple is "planning on a major, major expansion," Crook County administrator Judge Mike McCabe said. "The haven't shared [their strategy] with us," he added, "and we haven't seen the plans."

That could include the building of a second, like-sized facility and the construction of a major solar plant to power it, which Apple was reportedly planning to break ground on before the tax issue cropped up. The company has already acquired a small hydroelectric project near the existing facility to add to its clean energy sources.


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Apple expands Siri support to 9 new countries, CarPlay to 6 regions

Apr 09, 2015 - 12:10 PM - by sparkyscott21

As part of its iOS 8.3 rollout on Wednesday, Apple flipped the switch on various Siri features in nine new countries, while adding CarPlay capabilities in select locales.

Revealed in an update to Apple's iOS 8 Feature Availability webpage, the additions introduce Siri to Brazil, Denmark, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Sweden, Thailand and Turkey.

iOS device owners in each of the nine countries are now able to access Twitter, Facebook, Local Search, Directions and Shazam song recognition directly through Apple's Siri virtual assistant. Another feature, Siri Sports scores, also rolled out in New Zealand.

With today's update, users living in Brazil, China, India, Thailand and Turkey can also link their iPhone to compatible automotive infotainment systems via CarPlay. The feature is not completely fleshed out, however, as China is the only country to get Maps integration.

When Apple first introduced Siri in 2011, full feature availability was limited to customers inside the U.S. The technology has slowly gained support for foreign languages, localized search and regional mapping assets and is now comes standard on all iOS devices. Siri is also a major user interface component in the upcoming Apple Watch, a device that relies on dictation for text entry and system navigation.

Compared to Siri, CarPlay is less mature having debuted early last year. In March, Apple said all major car makers have pledged support for CarPlay, announcing its in-car service would appear in 40 new models in 2015.


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