Apple appears to have made some significant improvements to the way App Store searches work in recent weeks, returning more relevant, intelligent results whenever a keyword search for an app is conducted, reports TechCrunch.
Several developers, including Tapbots’ Paul Haddad and Contrast’s David Barnard began noticing changes to App Store search results starting in early November, with a major algorithm update occurring on November 12.
App rankings for search results now appear to take into account factors that go beyond simple keyword listings, like partial keyword matches and competitor brand names, somewhat de-emphasizing the keywords that developers enter manually. As an example, a search for “Twitter” now brings up relevant apps like Tweetbot, something that didn’t happen before the shift.
It’s also the first time the App Store has ranked apps for keywords that are not in the title or the “keyword,” slot, we understand.
For developers searching against their own app name, what this change means is that they’ll now see a number of competing apps that didn’t show up before, and an overall expanded list of matches.
AppFigures CEO Ariel Michaeli told TechCrunch the App Store uses a new suggestion function that takes into account the “essence of the app” and puts more emphasis on on-page components.
Apple is constantly making changes to the way apps come up in charts and through search, in an effort to improve app discovery. The recent search algorithm changes appear to be bringing up much more useful results, but as TechCrunch points out, Apple could make further improvements by utilizing metrics like whether an app was featured, positive reviews and press mentions from the web, and its overall usage.
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For this week’s giveaway, we’ve teamed up with Case Logic to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a backpack, satchel, or attaché from the company’s new LoDo collection. For those unfamiliar with Case Logic, it’s a popular brand that specializes in bags and backpacks for MacBooks and other electronic devices.
The LoDo collection includes a series of pocket-laden commuter bags to hold a MacBook and other gear. The entire LoDo lineup is made from high quality cotton canvas, with padding for delicate electronics and padded straps to make carrying a lot of gear more comfortable. All of the bags come in gray, navy blue, or olive green.
There are two backpacks, both of which include a laptop compartment for up to a 15-inch MacBook, an iPad compartment, a phone pocket, and pockets for accessories and other gear. The larger size has leather accents while the smaller size has two exterior water bottle pockets.
The LoDo Laptop Satchel is able to fit a 15-inch MacBook Pro in its padded laptop compartment, along with an iPad Pro and tons of other gear. There are two exterior pockets for accessories and two exterior water bottle pockets, along with a two internal water bottle pockets that can also be used for general storage.
Along with the satchel, the LoDo collection also includes two Laptop Attachés, sized to hold a 13 or 15-inch MacBook. The Attachés are slimmer than the satchel, but are still able to safely house a laptop and its necessary accessories.
The LoDo collection is priced between $69.99 and $99.99, but one MacRumors reader will win either a backpack, attaché, or satchel, in the size and color of their choice. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prize.
You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page. Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter.
The contest will run from today (November 13) at 1:15 p.m. Pacific Time through 1:15 p.m. Pacific Time on November 20. The winner will be chosen randomly on November 20 and will be contacted by email. The winner has 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before a new winner is chosen. The prize will be shipped to the winner for free.
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The Shift 5+ will be similar, yet quite different from Project Ara. For starters, you can change even the operating system to Windows 10 Mobile or Android 5.1. More expected swappable changes are, the battery, display, memory, and more.
As for the specs, we can’t confirm anything just yet, but it’s looking like it will feature a Snapdragon octa-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 5-inch IPS display, a 13 megapixel rear camera, 5 megapixel front facing camera, and options for a 2500 and a 3000 mAh battery.
Pricing is said to start around 399 Euros. Expected delivery is Q3 2016.
Come comment on this article: Project Ara isn’t the only modular smartphone anymore
Back in mid-September, Logitech’s Ultimate Ears brand rolled out the UE Boom 2, an upgraded version of its popular mid-level Bluetooth portable speaker. With Apple adding the new speaker to its online store and retail locations a few weeks ago, we decided to take a look at the new and improved speaker.
Priced at $200, the UE Boom 2 isn’t the cheapest Bluetooth speaker on the market, but its feature set will be appealing to many. The rugged, waterproof design is extremely portable, puts out a lot of sound, and keeps things simple for those who want to just toss a speaker in a bag and go. It’s roughly the size of a water bottle, so you can also easily put it in a cup holder or water bottle holder when you’re out and about.
Aside from the speaker grille wrapping nearly entirely around the cylindrical body of the UE Boom 2, the dominating feature of the device is its pair of oversized buttons along a rubber strip on the side that make it easy to adjust the volume with a quick grab.
If you own a Moto X 2013 on Sprint, you will be happy to know that Android 5.1 is coming your way. The software version is LPA23.12-39.10, and should be available now.
Of course, Android 5.1 brings Material Design, quick settings changes, device protection, and a Stagefright exploit fix.
The update was released a few days ago, with many users just seeing it now. If you haven’t received it yet, head to your settings, about phone, and check for the update.
Come comment on this article: Android 5.1 update out now for Sprint’s Moto X 2013
While Cricket’s selection of phones might not be the largest, they have several compelling choices for those looking for a solid Android device without paying a fortune. Even better, they often run a number of great deals (port-your-number discounts, etc) that allow you to save even more.
With the holidays coming around they are slashing prices even further, as the AT&T-owned prepaid carrier is now offering discounts on several of its phones from now until January 7th.
For those that are looking to spend the absolutely least possible, Cricket is offering the LG Risio, ZTE Overture 2, and Moto E for free, after mail-in Cricket Visa rebates. Before the rebate, pricing is set at $29.99, $39.99, and $49.99 respectively.
On the slightly higher end of the spectrum, Cricket is offering up the Samsung Galaxy Grand for $30 after $50 mail-in Visa rebate and $20 instant discount. The LG G Stylo will set you back $50 after $50 mail-in Visa rebate and $50 instant discount.
None of these phones are quite “flagship” level devices by any means, but they are great prices for handsets that should be able to provide a great budget-friendly Android experience. The deals above will be offered both at Cricket stores and online. What do you think, considering picking up a new phone with Cricket?
Word on the street is that Google is in talks with chip manufacturers in an effort to gain more control over the chip design process. Clearly the company is striving to patch up the fragmented Android ecosystem, but is this a step toward becoming more like Apple? And would such standardization be a good thing?
If Google succeeds in convincing microchip producers to start building their chips based on Google’s specs, this could bring a lot of uniformity to Android smartphones. On the one hand, this may make Android more competitive with iOS and make developing for the operating system simpler. On the other, the Android ecosystem stands to lose the very thing that originally defined it: diversity.
If Google succeeds in convincing microchip producers to start building their chips based on Google’s specs, this could bring a lot of uniformity to Android smartphones.
Google has quite a few hoops to jump through if they’re to succeed in this endeavor. For one, convincing chip manufacturers to produce chips not of the their own design is fraught with complications. If they’re unsuccessful on that front, there’s talk of Google going rogue and making their own phone entirely, but that’s a complex issue as well.
One thing is certain, and that is that the mobile market is viciously competitive and that profit margins tend to be fickle and razor thin. If Android is going to thrive in this ever-changing environment, will it need to become more like iOS? And what would that even look like?
Effects of iOSification
Apple has full control over every last physical detail that goes into making the product that their operating system runs on. I mean, they even designed their own core processor. Their devices are rigidly standardized – some even say stiflingly so.
However, with that standardization comes a high degree of efficiency and economic safety. Apple consistently makes massive profits year after year selling upgraded versions of the same device, and that means app developers for iOS don’t have to consider how their program will run on a vast array of different devices.
Google is in a completely different boat. The Android ecosystem is colorful and diverse, but a less pleasant way to say that is “fragmented.” Although Google has a lot of control over how Nexus devices come out, there is still no ‘standard’ Android device, and Google doesn’t have the liberty to dictate hardware specifications. They must ask.
Also, if you’re an app developer, developing on iOS means you only have to make sure that your app runs well on, like, five different iPhone and iPad models. If you’re an Android developer, your stupid little balloon popping game or whatever has to run smoothly on more than 24,000 different devices, and you better believe that your inbox is going to be destroyed by the thousands of bugs that users are experiencing on models you never took into consideration.
To be fair, Android has gone out of their way to make developing apps for the OS more streamlined. With improved development tools and Google-provided data, it’s easier for devs to strategize app development. But this is still a far cry from iOS dev work, and it remains one reason why a lot of apps release on iOS first and then eventually migrate over to Android.
What benefits might come from standardizing Android hardware? Faster updates, for one. iPhone updates roll out far quicker than Android updates, which can sometimes take months. Hell, I’m still waiting for Marshmallow to hit my phone and there are other devices that never even saw Lollipop or are still waiting. Keeping phones up to date is obviously a security concern as well, though Google has been making important moves there by introducing security updates to the mix. Another possible benefit is general speed and optimization. If Google has more control over the chip building process, it becomes easier to optimize the OS, allowing Android to run smoother even on devices with less cutting edge hardware.
What benefits might come from standardizing Android hardware? Faster updates, for one.
Having greater control would also allow Google to ensure that all Android phones are capable of the same kinds of hardware/software features. Apple’s absolute control over hardware specifications means the company will have no trouble integrating the latest technological innovations into their iPhones, but Google has less control over how this situation evolves, with its individual OEMs playing a greater role in deciding what tech they wish to include, and what they don’t. For example, the OnePlus 2 is famous (infamous?) for its decision to leave out NFC because they felt “their users didn’t need it”. What might have been good for OnePlus isn’t so great for Google, as the lack of NFC closes the door to Android Pay and many other NFC features that Google might want to offer Android users.
Going into 2017, phones are expected to have more advanced sensor hubs that take in a vast amount of information from their surroundings, and new detectors will make interacting with these devices a much more fluid experience. Software can’t pull this off; it’s a hardware issue. Fragmentation across Android means the best Google can do is plead with OEMs to build the designs they need to integrate the features that will keep Android competitive with iOS in the near future.
If Apple is able to offer hardware features that Android can’t guarantee due to fragmentation, it will be a hard hit to Android in the court of public opinion.
However, if hardware manufacturers bend to Google’s will and start making standardized components, then Android devices across the map will start looking and behaving much more similarly. This may take pressure off of app developers and accelerate update rollouts, but it will also make the Android ecosystem a lot more… samey. After all, one of the main points of the Android operating system was to offer users choice, right? It’s a backlash against the ivory monotony that befell the MP3 marketplace, which might as well have been called the iPod marketplace. An Android device is whatever you make it to be, and if Google moves toward iOSification, don’t we lose some of that?
What will an Android smartphone look like in 2017?
Maybe we have to chart this course by coming at it backwards. Let’s take a look at the potential future of Android devices and see what strategies Google will have to consider to get there.
In their talks with chip manufacturers, Google has reportedly expressed interest in nurturing camera components, sensors, and the main processor. If Google were to build their own ideal phone, a kind of showcase to demonstrate Android’s full capabilities with no compromises, what would such a device look like two years down the line? Where does Google want to take their products?
First of all, Google wants to kick up image processing capabilities so that the time between snapping photos is functionally zero. A top-of-the-line Android device in 2017 should be able to capture a “video-like stream” of photos that the device can then push to Google for comprehensive analysis. This would apply not only to smartphones, but to wearables that will act as a “third eye,” giving the user feedback and information about their surroundings whenever they need it. This will require adding memory to main processors so that they don’t have to rely on separate memory chips to accomplish this and other tasks. Google has the camera processing designs they want manufacturers to use to implement this technology, but chipmakers may be reluctant to license these for a variety of reasons (we’ll get to reluctant chipmakers in a second).
In their talks with chip manufacturers, Google has reportedly expressed interest in nurturing camera components, sensors, and the main processor.
Android devices are also expected to have support for a wider array of sensors in the next two years, including Tango, a component that Google is currently developing that can measure distance. These sensors will assist in virtual and augmented reality, and they’ll help collect more useful information about the phone’s surroundings.
What kind of useful information? Google wants these advanced sensor hubs to quietly collect data without waking up the device’s application processor. If some bit of information is important enough, the device will wake up and perform whatever function is necessary.
Consider the always-on microphone that a few Android devices use to respond to “OK Google” without having to be manually woken up. Just a few years ago, such a feature drastically drained battery life, but now the device doesn’t even bother the main processor unless it senses that key phrase. Another example can be found in phones that activate their ambient display when they’re picked up. Extrapolate these abilities out to a variety of sensors, and you have a lot of potential for the device to react organically to a number of situations.
To pull this off, Google simply must increase uniformity. Many Android devices don’t have that passive listening feature, for example. To really make the most of these upgrades, Google has to be able to lean on device makers to ensure smartphones to have the same key hardware.
You said something earlier about reluctant chipmunks or something?
Yeah. So, why don’t chipmakers just build what Google is asking of them? These aren’t new technologies, after all, the capabilities just have to be taken into consideration during chip manufacturing. Google is offering the designs, why not just make what they want? Ultimately, these chipmakers are looking out for themselves, and you can’t really blame them for that. Like I said, it’s a cutthroat market.
Consider the big names in chip manufacturing like MediaTek and Qualcomm. These guys don’t want to be Google’s errand boys. They want to be creating their own technology and licensing their own intellectual property, not cranking out chips designed by Google that are probably going to be exactly like those produced by anybody else that Google is partnering with.
Nevertheless, the chip business is chaos right now. A lot of companies have been forced to cut back amid falling hardware prices, and competition is vicious. Google may find someone in the fray who is willing to take their deal in return for brand recognition.
However, you’ve still got the device manufacturers to think about. Even if chipmakers create Google-specific products, adding in these features jacks the price of chips up. If you’re an Android device manufacturer, and profit margins on these devices are extremely tight, then it’s hard to justify the cost of these high-dollar chips when you can get a whole batch of good-enough chips for a lower price.
So, is this even possible?
Maybe. One solution on the table, as I noted briefly earlier, is for Google to build their own phone. If Google is able to set a high bar, OEMs may follow suit. In fact, this may even be the only way any sort of standardization can move forward since experts in the industry are dubious that chipmakers will adhere to Google’s checklist of design specifications.
But hey, a Google-designed phone standard is not unprecedented. Google hand-crafted the Android One as a smartphone platform designed specifically for first-time users in developing nations. They had full control over the minimum hardware specifications and even ordered the parts themselves. They handled distribution, orchestrated software updates, the whole shebang.
How’d that go?
It turns out that the $100 devices just can’t hack it against $60 and $70 Android devices created by ZTE and other brands. Also, a lot of partners aren’t really thrilled about selling Android One phones since they were basically identical to any Android One phones being sold by their competitors. Marketing it is a nightmare because there’s no way for a specific model of Android One phone to distinguish itself.
Man, standardizing the ecosystem is hard.
If Android aims to become more like iOS, at least when it comes to component/OS integration, then it’s got a long road ahead of it. It seems like the operating system needs some kind of hardware standardization if it’s going to move forward into an era in which smartphones are increasingly adept at anticipating our needs. If Google fails to standardize, the Android ecosystem risks becoming increasingly fragmented.
In practical terms, what we would see is a handful of elite devices living up to Android’s full potential, presiding over a peasant soup of mix-and-match hardware. All this while the iPhone marches on, unencumbered by the negative aura of a divided lower caste of devices. As far as first-world orwellian scenarios go, that one pretty much takes the cake. Nevertheless, it’s the situation Google is going to be striving to avoid in the months and years to come. This is a complicated problem, but then again, Google is a notoriously good problem solver. It will be interesting to watch how this all shakes out.
What do you think? Is Android going to start looking more like iOS over the next few years? And would that be a good thing or a bad thing?
Verizon Wireless is the only major carrier in the United States that has not introduced Wi-Fi calling, but it appears that could change in the near future as the FCC today approved the company’s request for an FCC waiver [PDF] that will allow it to move ahead with its plans.
Like AT&T, Verizon applied for an FCC waiver to delay implementing a teletypewriter (TTY) service for deaf and hard-of-hearing people until December 31, 2017. Verizon plans to use real-time text (RTT) as an alternative and the waiver will allow it to avoid offering a TTY service until its RTT technology is deployed and operational.
On its website, Verizon says it plans to support Wi-Fi calling “in the future,” but has not specified when Wi-Fi calling could be implemented. When AT&T was approved for Wi-Fi calling, the feature was turned on within days of receiving the go ahead from the FCC.
Wi-Fi calling will allow Verizon customers to make phone calls over Wi-Fi in situations where their cellular signal is low, automatically transitioning between Wi-Fi and a cellular connection as needed. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have all already implemented Wi-Fi calling, but Sprint and T-Mobile have done so without obtaining the necessary waivers from the FCC.
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Earlier this week, a group of black teenagers were asked to leave an Apple Store in Australia by employees who were concerned about theft. The exchange was caught on video and has since gone viral, leading to a series of apologies, from the store’s senior manager and from Apple.
Image via The Sydney Morning Herald
Apple has released two statements on the matter, one from Apple CEO Tim Cook who said he wants “every customer visiting our stores or calling for support to feel welcome,” and a second general statement clarifying Apple’s core values.
“Inclusion and diversity are among Apple’s core values. We believe in equality for everyone, regardless of race, age, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
That applies throughout our company, around the world with no exceptions. We’ve looked into the details of the situation and we apologize to the customers involved. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure all our customers are treated the way they should be.”
Following the public apology, Tim Cook has now sent an internal memo to its employees, which has been shared by BuzzFeed. In the letter, Cook calls what happened “unacceptable” and says the video “does not represent our values.”
He goes on to remind employees that “Apple is open” to people from “all walks of life” regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, income, language, or point of view.
I’m sure you are all aware of the unacceptable incident which took place at our store at the Highpoint shopping center in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday. Several young men, who are students at a nearby school, had been asked by a security guard to leave the store. In an attempt to address the situation, one of our store employees gave an answer which shocked many of us.
What people have seen and heard from watching the video on the web does not represent our values. It is not a message we would ever want to deliver to a customer or hear ourselves. Our employee immediately expressed his regret and apologized to the students.
None of us are happy with the way this was handled. But we can all be proud of Kate, one of the senior managers at the Highpoint store.
On Wednesday, she greeted the same group of students to express a heartfelt apology on behalf of our store and our company. She reassured these young men that they and their fellow classmates would always be welcome at our store. The school’s principal later told a reporter that she delivered her message “with good grace,” and one of the students said, “It feels like we have justice now.”
Her words that day echoed a message you’ve heard many times from me and from Angela. It’s a simple pledge we all make to our customers and to ourselves:
Apple is open.
Our stores and our hearts are open to people from all walks of life, regardless of race or religion, gender or sexual orientation, age, disability, income, language or point of view. All across our company, being inclusive and embracing our differences makes our products better and our stores stronger.
The Apple Store Highpoint is staffed by people who share these values and illustrate our commitment to diversity. The team is made up of coworkers from Australia, as well as Egypt, Italy, India and five other nations. Collectively they speak 15 languages, including Urdu, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin.
While I firmly believe that this was an isolated incident rather than a symptom of a broader problem in our stores, we will use this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow. Our store leadership teams around the world, starting in Australia, will be refreshing their training on inclusion and customer engagement. These are concepts and practices they know well, but can always stand to reinforce.
Respect for our customers is the foundation of everything we do at Apple. It’s the reason we put so much care into the design of our products. It’s the reason we make our stores beautiful and inviting, and extend their reach to benefit the communities around them. It’s the reason we commit ourselves to enriching people’s lives.
Thank you all for your dedication to Apple, to our values, and to the customers we are so very fortunate to serve.
Following the incident, the senior manager at the Apple Store where the teens were ousted invited them back along with their school principal to make a formal apology and to make it clear they are welcome in the store any time. Following the apology, one of the teens said “She apologized to us and told us that we are welcome here anytime. It feels like we have justice now.”
Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.
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The OnePlus X breaks new ground for the young Chinese company. Making the X, OnePlus eschewed its usual formula of stuffing the best processor in a ridiculously cheap phone. Instead, it has repurposed the internals of its debut OnePlus One into a smaller phone with a lower $249 price tag. But in achieving that admittedly impressive feat, it’s gone against its own mantra. Slideshow-336543