What App Developers Want to See In The New Apple TV

With a new Apple media streamer reportedly weeks away, we asked app makers what’s worked for competing platforms like Roku and Chromecast.

Apple has a lot of catching up to do if it’s going to launch a new Apple TV in September.

Apple’s current streaming set-top box dates back to 2013, and even that was just a minor update from the previous year’s model. The software has also stayed largely the same—with the exception of an iOS 7-like visual refresh last year—and while the app selection has grown, there’s still no proper app store to rival those of Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Google’s Android TV.

No one feels the pain of this quite so much as app makers, who would love to feature their software and services on a modern Apple media-streaming box. So rather than coming up with my own wish list for the next Apple TV, I reached out to some of these developers to hear what a brand-new Apple TV box could do to stand out.

Freedom From The Cookie Cutter

Apple currently offers about 60 third-party apps for Apple TV, and all of them are on a tight leash. Every app must fit into a strict template, defined by its top navigation bar and text-heavy lists atop a featureless black background. If Apple opens its platform to more apps, as expected, several developers I spoke with hope they won’t be stuck with those rigid templates.

Nuvyyo, for instance, has created a custom Roku app for its Tablo broadcast DVR hardware, letting users find and record shows through a grid-like channel guide. That same system couldn’t exist in Apple TV’s current format, says Steve Brambilla, Nuvyyo’s director of client engineering.

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Tablo’s custom Roku app

“The live TV grid that we have right now in our Roku app, we had to develop that from the ground up, and just having that ability to do it was awesome,” Brambilla says. (Roku still offers templates for making quick-and-dirty apps, which Tablo used before overhauling its Roku app earlier this year.)

Apple’s current templates do have one advantage: They create consistency, so users don’t feel lost as they move between apps. But that’s something Apple could solve with strong developer guidelines, says Scott Olechowski, cofounder and chief product officer for media server software Plex. With Android TV, for instance, Plex tries to follow Google’s guidelines as best it can, even though it is free to diverge from them.

“If people actually adhere to those, I think you can get apps that behave fairly similarly, even if they don’t look identical.” Olechowski says.

Solving The “What to Watch” Problem

An influx of new Apple TV apps would also complicate the process of figuring out what-to-watch problem that other platforms have experienced while allowing more developers into their app stores.

One likely solution from Apple will involve universal search, which is already headed to the iPhone and iPad with iOS 9. By letting app makers index their contents to appear in Siri and Spotlight searches, users could just ask for the name of an actor or TV show, and get results from individual apps. Rumors have suggested that Apple TV might include this feature as well, which makes sense given that every other major set-top box now has some kind of universal search built in.

Beyond just the typical searches for cast, crew, and titles, Tablo’s Brambilla hopes Apple will support more advanced searches, letting users ask for the next episode of a show they like, or popular shows from a certain time period or genre.

“We’re kind of seeing that a little bit now with Siri and Apple Music integration, where you can search for ‘top hits of 1986’ and be able to fulfill that request,” Brambilla says. “To extend that to third-party developers would be huge.”

Other media streamers have also been trying to pull content out of individual apps and into the main menu system. Roku, for instance, has a section called “My Feed,” where users can track unreleased movies and get notified when they’re available in an app. Amazon’s Fire TV interface places even less emphasis on apps, and more on video from Amazon Prime and other sources. Android TV offers a “Recommendations” bar on the top of its main menu, which third-party apps can feed into.

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Android TV’s Recommendations feature

Brambilla points out that Apple TV already offers recommendations, but right now they’re entirely based on video from iTunes. “I would suspect that if the UI doesn’t change too dramatically, that that might be opened up for some kind of recommendation API, which would ultimately be fairly similar to what Android TV has.”

Making The Second Screen More Useful

AirPlay used to be Apple TV’s killer feature. By letting iPhone and iPad users beam nearly any video or audio to the big screen, AirPlay served as a crutch for Apple TV’s limited app selection, and was often faster than using a regular remote control.

With Chromecast, there are a lot more capabilities there that are just unavailable with AirPlay.

But a couple years ago, Google devised a better system with its $35 Chromecast dongle: Instead of beaming video directly from the phone or tablet, Chromecast receives a set of instructions so it can stream that content directly from the Internet itself. This frees up a phone or tablet do other things, like browse the current app, make a phone call, or leave the house without disrupting the video. Chromecast also allows for volume controls from the phone or tablet, and lets others take control of the current stream with their own devices.

“With Chromecast, there are a lot more capabilities there that are just unavailable with AirPlay,” says Albert Reinhardt, vice president of product for the indie streaming video service Fandor.

Reinhardt would like Apple to do more than just replicate Chromecast’s ease of use. He’s also hoping for deep connections between iOS 9’s universal search functions and AirPlay, and a faster way to log into various streaming services. (Apple TV does let users log into apps by visiting a special activation page on those apps’ websites, but it’s still a pretty clunky procedure that could be improved through something like Handoff.)

Plex’s Olechowski also praises Chromecast’s ability to fling TV guide data to the big screen as you’re browsing, which is useful for choosing what to watch with a group. “Being able to open that communication channel allows you to do a lot more in concert with the TV than you can with AirPlay today,” he says.

Better Hardware, More Features

With rumors of an A8 processor inside the next Apple TV, developers are hoping it can handle more than just a new wave of apps.

For instance, Apple could bring over the picture-in-picture mode that will debut on iPads in iOS 9, letting users play videos in thumbnail mode on top of other apps. While this is a very old concept for TVs, it’s not a feature you currently find in streaming devices.

“With multitasking coming to the iPad, I would love to see that extended to the big screen,” says Ilya Pozin, cofounder and chief growth officer for Pluto.tv, an app that strings various web video sources into live TV channels. “With more screen space comes more options for picture-in-picture or multiple viewports that could be especially useful for sports or even Pluto TV.”

Plex’s Olechowski is also hoping for a touch pad in the next Apple TV remote, a feature which is rumored, if only as a way to quickly scroll through menu items. No one likes to mash a directional button repeatedly, and Plex users can be quite vocal when existing hardware shortcuts aren’t being utilized. “Sometimes, people are trying to do things, they know what they want to do, and there’s just a speed component to it,” he says.

More than any of these feature suggestions, however, developers who aren’t part of the current Apple TV’s exclusive lineup are simply hoping they can get on the platform in the first place.

“I just hope they do it, man,” Olechowski says. “I mean, honestly, that’s the thing that’s been really frustrating for us for a long time.”

Via FastCompany

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Roll up, roll up: LG targets mobile accessory market with portable Rolly Keyboard

Touchscreens may be extremely versatile and a good fit for mobile devices, but one thing they don’t lend themselves to well is extended typing sessions. As a result, we’ve seen numerous portable keyboards designed to easily fit in a pocket alongside your smartphone. Now LG is getting in on the act with its Rolly Keyboard, which it calls the industry’s first solid rollable wireless portable keyboard.

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Rollable keyboards are nothing new, so long as they’re made from silicone. While these provide more tactile feedback than an onscreen keyboard, they still can’t hold a candle to the feel of a desktop keyboard. Designs like the Jorno and Thanko’s offering have attempted to effectively put a solid desktop keyboard in your pocket using different origami-like approaches. Now LG has brought the flexibility of rollable keyboards and the rigidity of foldable keyboards together in its Rolly Keyboard (model KBB-700).

Fashioned from impact-resistant polycarbonate and ABS plastic, the four rows of the Rolly’s keys are flexible, allowing them to roll around an elongated rectangular box that sits at the top of the keyboard when in use. This box houses two arms that fold out to support a smartphone or tablet, and the single AAA battery that powers the device for up to three months of average use.

Unrolling the keyboard will activate the auto-pairing function to connect to a mobile device via Bluetooth 3.0. The Rolly can also be paired to two devices at once and switch between them with a single button press. Rolling up the keyboard powers it down and sees the keyboard form a “stick” that can be carried in a pocket or purse.

Despite its portability, LG says the Rolly boasts a pitch, (the distance between the centers of two side-by-side keys), of 17 mm, which is close to the 18 mm pitch found on most desktop keyboards.

LG will unveil the Rolly Keyboard at IFA 2015 in September and says it is part of an effort to grab a greater slice of the mobile accessory market pie. The device will be released in the US next month, ahead of a fourth-quarter release in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Pricing details are yet to be announced.

Source: LG

Mobile Payments: The Delay of Instant Gratification

Platforms like Apple Pay and Google Wallet will need to ensure a seamless and secure experience for merchants and consumers.

In October 2014, when Apple debuted its iPhone 6 with an electronic wallet called Apple Pay, people immediately began to wonder whether it would overtake its competitors in the mobile payments business. The company has an impressive track record of releasing products and technologies that quickly disrupt and dominate markets. Nearly a year and well over 100 million iPhone 6 sales later, Apple Pay has emerged as the clear leader — but we’re still waiting for disruption. Smartphones have yet to displace cash or credit cards at the retail point of sale.

To put the waiting game for mobile payments into perspective, consider the history of credit cards. They made their first appearance as Diner’s Club Cards in New York City in the 1950s, but it took 28 years for credit cards to be used by 50 million consumers. It took debit cards 12 years and PayPal accounts five years to reach the equivalent penetration level. The same milestone will probably be reached with mobile payments, but to get there, merchants and financial institutions must work together to deliver a seamless experience. Adding further complexity, retailers will need to make a significant investment — an estimated US$8 billion to $10 billion across the industry — to upgrade existing technology.

Countless mobile payment systems are active today — Apple Pay, Google Wallet, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) CurrentC platform, and so on — but none has yet gained significant traction with merchants or consumers or become the standard for mobile transactions. (See “Competing Mobile Payment Solutions”.) And none of them look likely to seize that role for a while. Several events, all of which took place in early 2015, highlight the rough and rapidly shifting waters ahead for all players: Best Buy, an MCX member, announced it would accept the rival system Apple Pay; PayPal announced it would acquire Paydiant, the underlying technology supporting MCX; and MCX announced that its CEO was stepping down and being replaced.

COMPETING MOBILE PAYMENT SOLUTIONS

Apple Pay (Apple)
Launched October 2014

Strengths

  • Has not attempted to supplant any player in the current ecosystem, which has allowed Apple to create partnerships.
  • Uses a combination of tokenized and biometric security.
  • Has a strong consumer following.

Limitations

  • Its NFC contactless technology is accessible only to iPhone 6 users.
  • Disabled by some merchants aligned with CurrentC.
  • Is not yet integrated with merchant loyalty programs.

CurrentC (Merchant Customer Exchange, or MCX)
2015 (forthcoming)

Strengths

  • Uses QR codes and scanners rather than NFC terminals.
  • Is device-agnostic and works with Android and iOS.
  • Uses tokenized security.
  • Allows customers to use points earned at one store at other retailers within the MCX network.
  • Has lower transaction fees for merchants.

Limitations

  • Privacy concerns over CurrentC’s intentions to share purchasing data with developers, app stores, and phone manufacturers may deter consumer adoption.
  • Requires multistep payment process: opening the app, scanning, and confirming the codes.

Google Wallet (Google)
Launched September 2011

Strengths

  • Accepts store loyalty cards, gift cards, and coupons.
  • Allows funds transfer through Gmail.
  • Works on hundreds of Android phone models, arguably giving it the broadest global reach.

Limitations

  • Limited traction with mobile carriers and merchants.
  • Impact of Softcard (the app previously supported by Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile) acquisition unclear.

Samsung Pay (Samsung)
2015 (forthcoming)

Strengths

  • Partnerships with major credit cards and financial institutions.
  • Proprietary security tokenization technology.
  • Could work with retailers that have not directly signed up.

Limitations

  • Available only on a limited number of Samsung phones.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of services in the global mobile payments marketplace.
Source: PwC, “Payments on the Go: Making Sense of the Evolving Mobile Payments Landscape,” March 2015

During the next few years, many competitors, from both financial services and the hardware and software industries, will jockey for control of the sector. Payments for retail purchases through smartphone apps still represent a tiny fraction of transactions for the $2 trillion worth of goods and services that pass through retail establishments and banks each year in the United States; still, by 2018 digital wallet transactions will likely grow to represent about 6 percent of total card transactions — the majority being small-ticket purchases made online or within apps. This figure may sound small, but it’s a significant shift: Few would argue that e-commerce isn’t mainstream, yet Internet sales represented only 6 to 7 percent of all retail sales in the United States in 2014.

By 2018, digital wallet transactions will represent about 6 percent of total card transactions.

Globally, mobile payments are making significant inroads, especially in regions where consumers aren’t as accustomed to a physical point-of-sale. In Kenya, M-Pesa, a mobile money service, is used by 19 million people, and 25 percent of the country’s commerce flows through the mobile service. In China, Alibaba now has some 350 million active users. The company reports that close to 80 percent of the transactions on its various platforms are made using mobile payments.

Just as people tend to compartmentalize their use of credit cards — one card for daily purchases, another for big purchases, and several for specialty retail — they are likely to use different mobile payment apps for different brands and different types of transactions. But only a few general-purpose branded e-wallets are likely to be left standing when the industry shakes out; that’s the nature of shared platforms. The companies that ultimately control the mobile payments platform may be technology companies or banks or retailer consortiums, or a combination of all three. The winners will be those platforms that offer five critical elements:

Only a few general-purpose branded e-wallets will be left standing when the industry shakes out.

  1. Merchant acceptance. Apple Pay is accepted at more than 700,000 merchant locations, but that number is less than 10 percent of the 8 million to 10 million merchant locations in the United States. This is significant: Consumers are less likely to use a credit card that’s not accepted everywhere. As a point of contrast to mobile adoption, Visa and MasterCard’s traditional plastic cards are accepted at 99 percent of merchant locations.
  2. Interoperability. In its current version, Apple Pay does not support all cards or merchants; some private-label store credit cards and regional debit networks are excluded. Eighty-three percent of the credit-issuing market had agreed to be part of Apple Pay when it launched, but that left almost 20 percent of the market unsupported. Recently, Apple has started to expand its coverage. For example, the company worked out an agreement with Discover in April 2015 that will give Discover customers access to the app beginning the following fall. Further expansion will be critical if Apple is to ensure that any customer is able to make a transaction from his or her bank.
  3. Security. For consumers and merchants alike, the fear of a breach is currently the number one obstacle to adopting mobile payments. Retailers have taken to heart the experience of Target, whose profits declined 45 percent after its well-publicized security breach in late 2013. The CEO and CIO were let go, and the company spent $250 million, excluding insurance offsets, to address the issue. Apple advanced the game by “tokenizing” the transaction (removing account information from the data flow) and using fingerprint recognition technology. But until end-to-end encryption is in place to secure the entire transaction, security holes will persist. Financial institutions and merchants will continue to battle global criminal sophisticates.

Fear of a breach is the number one obstacle to adopting mobile payments.

  1. Platform integration. Many single-point mobile innovations exist, but they do not fit together seamlessly. One such app is Milo (acquired by eBay in 2010), which performs online searches for specific products in stores near its users’ location. Another app acquired by eBay in 2010, RedLaser, allows consumers to scan a product’s barcode in a store and immediately uncover the lowest price for that product, online or at nearby retailers. Some major retailers, including Starbucks and Walmart, have their own mobile apps with payment capabilities.

At first glance, apps like these may seem to offer little more than convenient electronic credit cards. But an app, compared to a mobile-based website, is a more controllable, customizable handheld environment for the retailer. It enables businesses to better analyze customers even as customers gain more intelligence about products and services. With the people on both sides of the point-of-sale becoming smarter about one another, the behavior of shoppers and retailers is poised to change. As part of this transition, retailer loyalty, reward, and payment programs need to be supported by and integrated into shared mobile payment platforms.

  1. Marketing data integration. Historically, for a variety of reasons, merchants have been unable to consistently and correctly link an individual consumer record directly to every payment transaction. Today, the convergence of the mobile phone, the payment transaction, and the online environment enables companies to track individual customers from the initial marketing impression all the way through the purchase. Those providers that leverage their mobile platforms for one-to-one marketing — before, during, and after a retail payment transaction — will have a leg up on the competition. They can achieve the holy grail of consumer marketing: precise marketing ROI calculations for segments of one. For example, a merchant could send a digital coupon via text and allow consumers to opt in, and then send personalized reminders only to those consumers. The merchant could then track coupon usage from mobile payments to determine the conversion rate and the overall marketing ROI.

Such scenarios hold great promise. But realizing them requires the establishment a complex web of institutional relationships. Who will track the data? Who will store the data? How will different institutions coordinate? Which standards will be used? And what emerging business models can monetize the new value creation? Not all the answers are obvious. But it is clear that traditional banks and financial institutions will find their greatest opportunity by leveraging their data. When financial institutions couple internal data with external data sources, they can begin to help merchants grow their business and provide consumers with a more personalized and robust shopping experience. The winners will convert that data into enhanced solutions across the value chain: targeted local and national offers, multifactor authentication, and security alerts.

The payment providers that stitch together merchant acceptance, mobile solution integration, and marketing fueled by data will be well on their way to success. Once that finally happens — and it will — customer relationships and marketing will never be the same.

strategy-business

Apple will reportedly reveal the iPhone 6s on September 9

If you’re wondering when you can hear about Apple’s next iPhones and iPads, you might want to keep a weather eye on September 9, as a report indicates that’s when Apple could hold its biggest product launch of the year.

According to Buzzfeed’s John Paczkowski, who has accurately reported on Apple launch dates in the past (this time citing the token “sources familiar with Apple’s plans”), the company will launch its next iPhones, iPads and Apple TV at a media event during the week of September 7 – with Wednesday, September 9 standing as the most likely day.

While Apple has previously launched iPhones and iPads at separate events, the iPad’s prominence has dropped of late along with its sales, and the tablet will reportedly join the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus at the event.

The report says the rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a “wild card” for the event.

Multiple sources have pointed to the next iPhones as having the Force Touch sensors found in the Apple Watch and recent MacBooks, as well as faster A9 chips and better cameras.

That long-rumored Apple TV set has yet to materialize, but the updated Apple TV set-top-box that Apple is rumored to be announcing at the event may be the closest we’ll get. It allegedly has an A8 chip, overhauled OS, a remote control with a touchpad on it and Siri voice control.

Even when sources have proven track records, you’ll always want to take these reports with a few grains of salt (and plans can change, even when reports are legit). But it also couldn’t hurt to grab your calendar and pencil in a big fat Apple logo on Wednesday, September 9.

Source: Buzzfeed

Your Fingerprint Could Be Stolen Remotely If Your Android Phone Has A Scanner

At the Black Hat conference on Wednesday, researchers revealed that fingerprint sensors on Android phones are vulnerable to hackers.

Wiping your fingerprints won’t do you any good in this day and age. During the Black Hat conference on Wednesday, security researchers presented findings that reveal hackers can remotely obtain fingerprints from Android devices that use biometric sensors.

At the moment, FireEye scientists Tao Wei and Yulong Zhang say the threat is specific to Android smartphones that use a fingerprint sensor, which limits the number of vulnerable devices. Though companies like Samsung, Huawei, and HTC currently produce Android devices with those sensors, Apple still has a significant hold on the market. Its Touch ID sensor has proven to be more secure because it encrypts data gleaned from the scanner.

“Even if the attacker can directly read the sensor, without obtaining the crypto key, [the attacker] still cannot get the fingerprint image,” Zhang told ZDNet.

Android users, however, are not so lucky: The researchers detected four methods of attack, the most disconcerting of which could remotely hack the sensor and steal any fingerprint that it encounters. Called the “fingerprint sensor spying attack,” it would allow a hacker to continuously use fingerprint data however they please. Wei and Zhang tested the hack on the HTC One Max and Samsung’s Galaxy S5 phones.

By 2019, industry watchers predict that more than half of smartphones will have fingerprint sensors—which means phone makers must improve their device security.

[via ZDNet]

Preorders open for Swiss-made Mondaine Helvetica 1 smartwatch

The Helvetica 1 smartwatch, unveiled in March at Baselworld by Swiss watch manufacturer Mondaine, is now available for pre-order. Packing MotionX and Sleeptracker sensors, the first batch of the Swiss-made smartwatch will be limited to only 1,957 units in honor of the year the Helvetica font was introduced.

mondaine-smartwatch@2x

Unlike other smartwatches that essentially attempt to put a smartphone on your wrist and display like display text messages and emails, the Helvetica 1’s “smart” functions are limited to fitness and sleep tracking capabilities, which users transition between hrough a dial on the side.

The device also departs from the traditional smartwatch crowd by featuring an analogue face, and although basic activity and sleep tracking data (and the date) can be viewed on the sub-dial, users will need to pair the watch with an iOS or Android device for accessing more in-depth data.

The activity tracker monitors daily steps, calories burned and total distance covered, with users able to set goals based on intensity and steps taken. At night it can be worn or placed under the pillow to monitor the length of time spent in deep or light sleep or awake, and wake you during the lightest phase of sleep.

One of the biggest advantages over most other smartwatches is the Helvetica 1’s battery life, which Mondaine claims is over two years.

Mondaine has put the Helvetica 1 up for presale at US$850, with the price set to increase to $950 in September.

Source: Mondaine

Apple simply lost $62 billion in quality in 8 minutes by Matt Phillips

Apple’s offer value fell pointedly after its profit hit this evening. Shares dropped to a secondary selling low of $119.96 from an end cost of $130.75. A decay of that request, 8.3%, isn’t inconceivable in twilight exchanging. Yet, given that Apple is the world’s biggest traded on an open market organization by business sector valuation, that likens to a gobsmacking $62 billion in worth. (For correlation’s purpose that is more than the business sector estimation of advantage administration goliath BlackRock or customer items organization Colgate-Palmolive.)

http://atlas.qz.com/outlines/4kmBkjPY

Be that as it may, don’t feel sorry for Apple, pity yourselves. Since Apple has the biggest weighting of any organization in the S&P 500 securities exchange list, practically everybody with a list store has an overweighted position in the Cupertino tech monster. Today we are all Apple. Also, it harms.

http://atlas.qz.com/graphs/NkIN6IvK