Author: Sarah Perez

Amazon is shutting down its “Underground Actually Free” program that gives away free Android apps

TECHCRUNCH Late on Friday, Amazon announced it will be shutting down its “Underground Actually Free” program which offers customers free versions of Android apps that would typically cost money, including those that relied on in-app purchases but were otherwise free downloads. Though it promised long-term support when it debuted back in August 2015, Amazon today says the “Actually Free” program will be fully discontinued in 2019. Well, to be fair, in the tech world, four years is a long time. At launch, the lineup then included several well-known gaming titles, like Frozen Free Fall, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, Angry Birds Slingshot...

Read More

Tumblr just added a switch in the iOS Settings that lets you turn the porn back on

TECHCRUNCH Here’s an interesting change: Tumblr’s iOS application just received an update which now lets you turn on or off adult-oriented, NSFW search results just by toggling a switch in iOS’s Settings. That’s right: you can now switch on or off the Tumblr porn with ease. Weirder still, Tumblr’s note about the change in the App Store update text says this was implemented “per Apple’s content guidelines.” Why is that weird? Because Apple’s developer guidelines – at least today – explicitly tell app developers not to do this sort of thing. Above: Tumblr’s iOS app update text  While Apple has...

Read More

Rollout.io’s Rox lets app developers deploy new features safely – just like the big guys do

TECHCRUNCH Rollout.io, a company that had developed technology that allowed mobile app developers to update their apps without having to go through the App Store approval process, is now entering a new business after Apple cracked down on apps using its software. Today, the former TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield finalist has transitioned to a new product that allows developers to selectively roll out new features in their apps to subsets of users before deploying them the wider user base. Rollout.io’s original product was well-received, as it solved a problem that many app developers’ face – the need to quickly patch a bug or address a critical security hole in a timely fashion. The App Store approval process can slow down getting those sorts of changes released to all users, and then it still relies on users updating the apps on their mobile device in order to see them applied. Rollout.io’s original solution, on the other hand, could actually “hot patch” applications on the fly, thanks to developer tools (the Rollout SDK) where it packaged pre-defined solutions, like those that could disable functions that were causing crashes, for example. Developers could also inject JavaScript code to fix more complex problems. But Apple wasn’t having it. In March, Apple began alerting developers that they would have to remove Rollout.io’s code because it was not in compliance with its guidelines for developers. For Apple, the decision was likely...

Read More

Alexa learns to talk like a human with whispers, pauses & emotion

TECHCRUNCH Amazon’s Alexa is going to sound more human. The company announced this week the addition of a new set of speaking skills for the virtual assistant, which will allow her to do things like whisper, take a breath to pause for emphasis, adjust the rate, pitch and volume of her speech, and more. She’ll even be able to “bleep” out words – which may not be all that human, actually, but is certainly clever. These new tools were provided to Alexa app developers in the form of a standardized markup language called Speech Synthesis Markup Language, or SSML, which will let them code Alexa’s speech patterns into their applications. This will allow for the creation of voice apps – “Skills” on the Alexa platform – where developers can control the pronunciation, intonation, timing and emotion of their Skill’s text responses. Alexa today already has a lot of personality – something that can help endear people to their voice assistants. Having taken a note from how Apple’s Siri surprises people with her humorous responses, Alexa responds to questions about herself, tells jokes, answers to “I love you,” and will even sing you a song if you ask. But her voice can still sound robotic at times – especially if she’s reading out longer phrases and sentences where there should be natural breaks and changes in tone. As Amazon explains, developers could have...

Read More

Google search on iOS will now help you find TV shows, movies and music on streaming services

TECHCRUNCH Google is today launching an update for iOS users that will make it easier to find media content – like TV shows, movies and songs –  on various streaming services and content marketplaces, including iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Spotify and others. The feature, which is still rolling out, will show you the icons for the services where the content is available when you perform a Google search. You’ll also be able to click those icons to be taken to that service and immediately start watching or listening. For example, if you search for a movie title on iOS, the Knowledge Panel box at the top of the search results will offer details about the film, like its description, its cast, plus photos and reviews. Beneath this, it will now show where you can view the movie right now, by listing the services that have it available for streaming or for sale. In addition to marketplaces like iTunes and Google Play, these links will also include streaming services like ABC, Amazon, Hulu and others, which will bring you directly to the piece of content when clicked. Google will also display pricing information for the content on these services, when applicable. For music searches, Google will now offer links to streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, also right from the Knowledge Panel that appears in search results for artists. These links will take you to...

Read More

Government requests for Facebook user account data up 9% in second half of 2016, but content restrictions declined

TECHCRUNCH Facebook today released its latest report on global government requests for the second half of 2016, noting there has been a 9 percent increase in requests for user account data compared with the earlier part of that year, but a 28 percent decrease in content restrictions for violating local law. However, that latter decrease doesn’t necessarily indicate that content restriction-related requests are dropping as a trend, but rather that earlier reporting had been impacted by unusually inflated figures. This was due to a sizable number of requests related to a single image from the terror attack in Paris in 2015....

Read More

Report: Apple Music revamp planned for iOS 11, service to include up to 10 original series

TECHCRUNCH A new version of Apple Music will ship later this year that puts an increased emphasis on video content, and particularly its own original video programming, according to a new report from Bloomberg out today. The piece delves into Apple’s larger video plans, and suggests that the platform may host up to 10 original shows by year-end. We already know about some of Apple efforts on video, including its documentaries on Drake’s music label, Cash Money Records and Clive Davis; its celeb-filled pitch off series “Planet of the Apps;” and the recently delayed “Carpool Karaoke.” Another show called “Can’t...

Read More

App stores saw record revenue and downloads in Q1 2017

TECHCRUNCH Mobile applications saw a record number of downloads and revenue in the first quarter of the year, according to a new report from app store analytics firm App Annie out this morning. Across both iOS and Android, downloads grew by 15 percent year-over-year to reach nearly 25 billion worldwide – a figure that includes only new downloads, and not re-installs or downloads from prior quarters. In addition, consumer spend on apps also grew 45 percent year-over-year in Q1, to reach over $15 billion across iOS and Android worldwide. However, the amount of money developers are making from their...

Read More