Apple Watch: What We Know … And What We Don’t

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The iWatch from Apple is real. Apple went no-holds-barred in the announcement of its Apple Watch, a new wearable computer that is packs more features and functions than anybody could have rightfully predicted before it was announced.

Apps, dials, touch, voice, Siri, health, fitness, communications, drawing, emoji … Apple had the mother of all gee-whiz on stage demos during the Apple Watch announcement yesterday. From a 1,000-foot view, it is very impressive.

Until you realize that we actually don’t know anything about the Apple Watch.

Outside of the announcement and stage demonstration, Apple didn’t let anybody actually try out the watch during the hands-on period after the announcement. Apple had models wearing it running on treadmills, some fancy setups with a looping video and likely plenty of “look but don’t touch” Apple employees hovering over the available demonstrations.

We don’t yet know how apps will be made for the Apple Watch. We don’t know if they will be a form of app extension or custom-built apps through the WatchKit framework that Apple announced. The developer documentation and outlines for WatchKit has not yet been published to Apple’s iOS Developer Portal, so we do not yet know anything specific about the Apple Watch and how its apps will work. Apple has promised that developers will be able to make native apps for the Apple Watch starting in 2015.

Apple’s approach to the smartwatch market is directly opposite from that of Google. In Android Wear, Google announced its design guidelines and released a design primer in March, well before the official announcement of Android Wear at the Google I/O developer conference in late June. The software came before the devices, which we are now waiting to be released and iterated upon by manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Motorola.

Apple has a device, but no software … yet. The early 2015 release of the Apple Watch will effectively serve as the beta period for iOS developers to build Watch apps, when Apple does release the WatchKit documentation. We also know little about the internal components of the Apple Watch or what the battery life will be.

What do we know about the Apple Watch? Mostly, just the features that Apple announced which, on surface level, are quite impressive for a smartwatch. Let’s take a look.

Not One Watch, But Six

Really, Apple didn’t just announce one watch, it announced six. The Apple Watch comes in three varieties, each of which will come in two different sizes— 38 mm and 42 mm. The standard Apple Watch is scheduled to come out in early 2015. Apple also announced the Watch Sport and the Watch Edition built specifically for activity and style, respectively.

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Wednesday Webinar: “Making Your App Useable: Remote Unmoderated Is The Future Of Mobile Testing”

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Join us on Wednesday for the first of a two-part webinar series around usability testing.

Usability testing extended outside the lab to where users live, work and play empowers companies to deliver winning mobile experiences. Remote unmoderated testing isn’t a nice-to-have methodology that complements traditional usability testing; it’s an essential component of usability testing and represents the future of usability testing for mobile.

During this webinar you will discover:

  • How to build a world-class mobile usability testing strategy
  • Why remote unmoderated testing is the future of mobile usability testing
  • Mobile usability testing best practices that all companies need to embrace today

Join our Lead Usability Expert, Inge De Bleecker next Wednesday, September 17th at 1PM EDT to discover why remote unmoderated is the future of mobile testing.

Register for our webinar today!

Apple Makes Big Entrance Into Mobile Payments With Apple Pay

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Editor’s Note: This article comes from our friends at Prolific Interactive, a digital agency in San Francisco and Brooklyn that provides design, strategy and engineering to companies for mobile product development. The article was authored by Russ Wallace, managing director of Prolific Interactive in San Francisco. It has been republished here with permission.

Apple announced today its NFC payment system, Apple Pay. We expect it to take mobile commerce mainstream, so below is a quick recap of the announcements and some of our takeaways.

Key Announcements Regarding Apple Pay

– Apple Pay comes with every iPhone 6 & iPhone 6+ (the two models introduced today). While this means all currently existing iPhones will not support Apple Pay, adoption of new iPhones is very fast: in the US, the iPhone 5S and 5C represented over 5% of all active iOS devices just one month after release. We should see similar adoption with the iPhone 6 models.

– Support for Apple Pay launches in October 2015 in the US, with international support coming later.

– Activating payments on Apple Pay is powered by NFC (more on NFC below), which is supported in 220,000 retail locations around the US already. The user will simply tap their phone against an NFC payment terminal and then (optionally) swipe their fingerprint to use Touch ID for authentication.

– Security is handled via the new Secure Element chip, which means that no payment info is actually shared with merchant (more on security & privacy below).

– The API will be available for developers in iOS 8, expected to be released around the same time as the iPhone 6 (September 16).

Apple’s Support For NFC Could Mean Big Things

NFC stands for “near-field communications,” a radio transmission protocol based on RFID technology that allows your phone to communicate with nearby devices. NFC is notable for its low power requirements but also its small range of communication (typically only a few centimeters). It gained popularity with Android users and overseas markets, but prior to the iPhone 6 NFC has not been supported in Apple devices.

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6 Things You Need To Know About The iPhone 6

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Bigger and bolder, Apple has finally embraced the large screen. Apple latest iPhones were announced today and it comes in two variants: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Each is bigger  and more powerful than any iPhone Apple has ever made.

In its announcement today, Apple referred to the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus at the greatest phones every made. It is a bit of hyperbole that Apple has been prone towards in its iPhone announcements through history, a legacy of the late Steve Jobs. But nearly everything about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is bigger and badder, a worthy successor to Apple’s smartphone franchise and likely to be the most sought-after gift this coming holiday shopping season.

What do you need to know about the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus? Let’s break it down.

Screen Size And Resolution

Apple has finally broken out of its mold and listened to what people want. Consumers want bigger screens on smartphones. Thus, mobile app developers want bigger screens on because that is what consumers want.

Well, Apple has delivered.

The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen with a 1334-by-750 screen that translates to 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi). Good news for developers, this is the exact same pixel count as the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S and iPad Mini with Retina Display.

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The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen with a 1920-by-1080 resolution with 401-ppi. The new pixels-per-inch count will be what developers are going to focus on because it is this metric that will directly effect what their existing apps will look like on larger screens. To this end, Apple has created a desktop-class scaler in the Xcode integrated developer environment to deal with all the new screen sizes and (limited) pixel variation among iOS devices. Apple also employs the Adaptive Layout feature introduced in iOS 7 (and advanced in iOS 8) to help developers make apps that fit any of its device sizes.

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Everything You Need To Build iWatch Apps May Already Be In iOS 8 Beta

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Apple’s iWatch is near. Apple is expected to make its entrance into the Arm Race tomorrow in conjunction with its announcement of the iPhone 6. The iWatch is expected to be beautiful and useful, integrating the core components of iOS 8 into its functional aesthetics.

If you have been developing new apps with the iOS 8 beta all through the summer, you may be skeptical that an iWatch is on the way. Nowhere in the documentation or developer libraries for iOS 8 is there a section that discusses smartwatch app development.

iWatch?! What iWatch?

Take a closer look at what is actually in iOS 8. If you have studied iOS 8 through the beta period this summer, there is a good chance that you already know everything you are going to need to build iWatch apps.

To note, the following description of how iWatch apps might work is a best guess based on the information we have before Apple announces the device or releases any developer documentation.

A Lesson From Android

It may seem counterintuitive, but how iOS handles iWatch apps may be well informed by how apps are developed for Android Wear.

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It Means More When Apple Does It

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“To ascertain the meaning of an intellectual conception one should consider what practical consequences might result from the truth of that conception—and the sum of these consequences constitute the entire meaning of the conception.”  ~ Philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, “the father of pragmatism,” in Maxim of Pragmatism, 1905.

It means more when Apple does it.

Apple is like a fickle journalist: if it doesn’t break the story, it may not cover the story at all. Apple has been the first to popularize the Mobile Revolution with technologies like the iPhone and iPad, biometric authentication with Touch ID and digital assistants with Siri. At the same time, Apple has ignored innovations until they matured, coming late to the party on Near Field Communications and 4G LTE. Apple is methodical and thoughtful by nature, striking at soft spots in the competitive landscape and disregarding others until the time is right.

This week Apple will reportedly dive headlong into two industries that entrepreneurs have been trying to disrupt for decades yet Apple has seemingly ignored: health and payments. With the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 Apple has a chance to succeed in these two massive (and massively frustrating) industries where near every other technology company has failed.

Why? Let’s call it the Essence of Apple.

Apple does two things that are endemic to its worldview that will be effective in disrupting the health and payments markets: 1) it is extraordinarily pragmatic and; 2) it is one of the most revered and respected brands in the world.

Branding plus pragmatism (backed up by one of the biggest corporate war chests in history) allows Apple the chance to take its time and make the most effective entrance into difficult-to-penetrate industries, starting this week with payments and health.

Apple & Health

Fundamentally, I think that Apple will have a hard time of penetrating the health market through the use of consumer technology. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t done everything it can do to succeed.

We’ve already seen Google go down the health road with its now-discontinued Google Health software only to flame out miserably before shutting down the service in 2011. A countless number of startups across the United States have tried to break into the health market, only to find a backwards industry that doesn’t want to change, a government that implements draconian (and necessary) regulation on health-related information sharing and entrenched, wealthy interests that can crowd out any up-and-comer.

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Microsoft’s Cortana Gets Smart In Lumia Denim Update

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Windows Phone 8.1 is getting an update for the first timesince its public release that introduced the Cortana digital assistant in April. Announced at the IFA conference in Berlin this morning, Microsoft is planning on giving Windows Phone a series of competitive features to battle Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android this fall.

In tandem with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1, Microsoft is also rolling out Lumia Denim, a new software update exclusively for Nokia Lumia devices. Foremost among the new features is a “Hey Cortana” feature that allows users to activate the digital assistant with their voice without pushing a button. Voice activation has been available in Android smartphones for a couple of years while Apple’s Siri is getting voice activation with iOS 8.

In addition to Denim, Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 brings updates to Cortana, making it available to the United Kingdom and China as a beta release and India, Canada and Australia as an alpha. Cortana will have improved natural language recognition, car kit integration for contacts through Bluetooth, calendar improvements and snooze reminders for alarms.

According to Nokia Conversations blog, Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 will include several new features in addition to the improvements to Cortana:

  • Live folders to organize apps into tile folders on the homescreen.
  • Customized Start screen where only specific apps or games are available.
  • The ability to select individual text messages to merge into a message stream, delete or forward.
  • Customizable snooze times in the alarm app.
  • Consumer facing VPN service for public and home Wi-Fi.
  • Improved download speeds from websites using Internet Explorer.
  • A live tile for the Windows Phone Store in the United States that shows featured apps.

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Applause Analytics Introduces International App Store Support & Enhanced Review Alerts

Maybe you can’t wear white now that we’re past Labor Day, but do you know what you can do? Let Applause Analytics help you get inside the heads of your customers. Applause Analytics assists you in understanding exactly what’s delighting your users (or what’s upsetting them) about their app experiences.

We’re kicking off September with a fantastic update for Applause Analytics that introduces two great new features:

  • International App Store Support
  • Enhanced Review Alerts

International App Store Support

We’re expanding Applause Analytics’ reach from U.S. app stores, to app stores around the world. This initial release includes support for Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, but we’re not stopping there! We’ll be rolling out support for additional countries by the end of the year, so stay tuned.

Accessing an international app store is simple. Just select the desired country’s app store from the selection menu, found next to the app search field.

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Note that we’ve also added app store identifiers to each app’s info box to help you keep track of which app store it’s from:

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Enhanced Review Alerts

Review alerts are a great way to keep an eye on what’s most important to you, in regards to what your users are talking about and what they’re saying. With our September release, we’ve made them even better.

To get started, click on the Review Alerts icon in the nav bar:

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Rating Trends

Review Alerts now offer two different options: Rating Trends and Review Keywords.

User sentiment can be fickle, especially in response to a new product or a new build release. A newly introduced competing app can also trigger a response in your own user base. Rating Trends helps you stay on top of this shifting tide.

When enabled, Applause Analytics will alert you when it detects an emerging sentiment trend (either positive or negative) as expressed by changes in the star ratings that users are giving an app. It can be a great way to monitor how users are reacting to your competitors’ releases, as it can help speed up your own response time by helping you quickly identify when user sentiment is shifting towards or away from your app.

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Review Keywords

Custom keyword alerts will keep you up to date with what users are saying about the topics that are most important to you. You can also create multiple alerts to help you monitor multiple conversations.

For example, a Product Manager might want to keep tabs on a crashing issue that they hope was resolved with their latest update, while a Marketing Manager might want to see how users react to newly introduced in-app purchases.

Setting up a keyword alert is easy: Just click on the ‘+’ icon to create a new alert, enter in an alert title, and then the keywords that you want to watch.

Haven’t tried Applause Analytics yet? There’s no better time than now! To see Applause Analytics in action with a FREE mobile app snapshot, or to sign up for your own FREE 60-day trial: Click Here!

Why Your iOS App Was Rejected From Apple’s App Store

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Over the years, many app developers have come complaining to anybody that will listen that their app has been rejected from Apple’s App Store. The developers would brandish cryptic rejection letters from Apple and run to social media, prominent publications or just grouse with their app developer buddies and lament how unfair Apple was to their well-meaning app.

The common refrain: Why?

Apple is notoriously uncommunicative with developers after apps have been rejected. The human reviewers of the App Store will send a form letter and answer some questions from irate developers, but often the app’s maker is stuck to figure out exactly what when wrong on their own.

Yesterday, Apple lifted the curtain as to why it rejects apps. If you’ve ever read Apple’s App Store guidelines in the iOS Developer Center then most of these will come as no surprise.

According to Apple, 14% of all App Store rejections are for “more information needed.” Apple requires developers to be able to fully explain their apps or fill in missing bits of information and context in a submitted. For instance, if a feature requires a sign-in registration, provide Apple with valid demo registration credentials so the reviewer can see what is behind the sign-in page.

Another 6% of apps are rejected because they do not comply with Apple’s Developer License Program Agreement (which is essentially the terms of service for being an iOS Developer).

After those two ambiguous reasons for rejection, Apple gets very specific on why it turns away apps based on its App Store Review Guidelines:

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How Apple Aims To Improve App Store Discovery With iOS 8

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Sometimes you can’t find the app you are looking for.

A single app in Apple’s App Store is just the perfect one that you are seeking. With 1.2 million apps, it has to be in there somewhere, right? It may be a new calendar app to that syncs your iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook meetings. Or it is a messaging app that focuses on standard and proper English, eschewing the craze of emoji and emoticons endemic today’s popular communication methods. You know somebody at some point must have built this app, but it is impossible to find.

App Store discovery has been a massive problem for developers, users and Apple for the last several years. App Store search is inadequate for most people’s needs and the top lists that Apple relies upon have created a top-heavy capitalistic market that breeds poor quality apps.

Apple is not ignorant to this problem. In 2012 it spent a reported $50 million to improve the App Store and acquired app search engine Chomp to enhance discoverability. The improvements proved minimal and Apple eventually shuttered Chomp and rolled its intellectual property into iOS 6. Judging by the current discourse among the iOS developer community, Apple still has a lot of work to do to help app makers sell their wares.

Apple has some more improvements for the App Store coming with iOS 8 that it hopes will arrest the issue.

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