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Gaming News

Apple's New Policy Hurts Mobile Game Review Sites

August 2, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Screenshot: ustwo (Monument Valley 2)

Apple is ending its affiliate program for apps which could mean the end of review sites like TouchArcade that have relied on a cut from Apple to keep their mobile game review sites afloat. The tech giant made the announcement in its August newsletter saying that members of the program will stop receiving commissions starting October 1, a move the editor of TouchArcade, Eli Hodapp, called a “big middle finger” to his site and others like it.

“Moments ago, Apple announced that they’re killing the affiliate program, citing the improved discovery offered by the new App Store,” he wrote in a post that went up on the site late yesterday. “It’s hard to read this in any other way than ‘We went from seeing a microscopic amount of value in third party editorial to, we now see no value.’”

TouchArcade has been around since 2008, offering reviews and news about new mobile games worth paying attention to. Mobile gaming is huge, and Hodapp says a respectable couple million readers pass through TouchArcade each month. That traffic, however, doesn’t result in much money from ads. To keep the lights on, the site has long used affiliate links. Basically, every time you click through a TouchArcade link to a game on the App Store and buy it the site receives a small commission. “Each individual purchase was almost inconsequential, but when you put them all together it’s sort of in line with the plot of movies like Superman III or Office Space,” Hodapp wrote citing cinematic examples of small amounts of money adding up to huge sums. TouchArcade and other outlets covering iOS games and apps rely on the revenue brought in through the affiliate links to stay alive, but in May of 2017 Apple cut the commission rate from 7% to just 2.5%.

Hodapp told Kotaku in an email that revenue from affiliate links had also fallen due to the shift toward free-to-play games filled with microtransactions and supported by in-game ads. He said that because TouchArcade focuses mostly on premium games that people have to pay upfront to play, the affiliate links were still an important. “I’m not super sure just how big of a dent this is going to make in our bottom line, but it’s going to be significant,” he said.

In 2015 the site launched a Patreon to try and help with funding following drop-offs in ad buys. “Without financial support from developers buying advertising, some sites have closed,” Hodapp wrote at the time. “TouchArcade, being the largest site, is the farthest up the proverbial river, but the drought has reached us too and even our continued existence is in question.” Crowdfunding from Patreon currently brings in $4,045 of a $10,000 monthly goal, with other funding coming largely through Amazon and App Store affiliate links.

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Apple’s relationship to gaming has been fraught ever since it launched the iOS App Store back in 2008. Apple’s desire to have tight control over its technology and platforms was a problem cited by Doom developer John Carmack in a Facebook post in May. “Apple has made this move because if you watch Apple as a company, everything they do is to gain more control over a market they’re in,” said Hodapp. This is just another step forward in that plan, as they clearly want the App Store to be the sole source of curation of iOS content.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year’s App Store redesign included a more visible editorial team devoted to in-house curation of games on the platform as well as changes to how they were featured. In my experience the App Store is still incredibly hard to navigate, even when searching for popular games like Fortnite Battle Royale. With more obscure games, it can be even harder.

One of the most notable changes was the addition of the spotlight feature, a way for Apple to highlight a different game every day whether or not it was the most popular. Think stuff like Florence, the innovative romance game inspired partly by earlier mobile successes like Monument Valley. However, Hodapp argues that publicizing a few games off the beaten path doesn’t make up for the general state of the rest of the App Store’s gaming section.

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“Third-party sites have always done a better job of highlighting great apps and deals,” tweeted Marianne Schultz, editor of AppShoper, another site that relies heavily on affiliate links. “I’d rather have a trusted third party recommend apps to me over Apple, who has a vested interest in selling you every single app in the App Store, regardless of quality or usefulness.”

Tech News

Apple will repair devices damaged by flooding in Japan for free

July 27, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

MARTIN BUREAU via Getty Images

Earlier this month heavy rain caused devastating flooding throughout western and central Japan, resulting in more than 200 deaths and causing millions to evacuate. Now, Apple has announced that it will repair devices damaged in the floods for free. Any repairable iPhones, Macs, iPads, iPods, Apple Watches and Apple displays directly damaged by flooding will be fixed by the company for no charge. Accessories are not included as part of the offer. Apple expressed its sympathy to those affected by the floods and wished for speedy reconstruction.

Residents of Japan that want to request service for damaged devices can call a support line at 0120-27753-5 and devices will be accepted through the end of September. Repaired devices will be returned through delivery, though Apple notes that pickup and delivery services may be suspended or delayed due to flood damage. You can find more information through Apple’s Japanese website.

Tech News

Stealth horror game 'Hello Neighbor' arrives on mobile devices

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Stealth horror game Hello Neighbor puts you at odds with the creepy next-door neighbor, tasking you with sneaking in to his house to find his secrets while you avoid getting found out. Just one day before the game is slated to launch on PS4 and Switch (it originally came out for Xbox and PC), it’s available on mobile platforms.

Developer TinyBuild is releasing the first act for free on mobile so you can try before you buy; the full game can be unlocked for $15. That’s not a bad deal, as it will run you $30 on PS4 and Xbox and cost $10 more on Switch. Hello Neighbor is available on both the App Store and Google Play now. Supported mobile devices include iPhone 6s, iPad 5 (2017), iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 4 or newer iOS gadgets, along with select Android devices.

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'PUBG Mobile' adds fast-paced War Mode and clans

July 25, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Sparktour, Wikimedia Commons

PUBG Mobile just got some spicier gameplay, whether you’re just looking for a quick fix or striving for glory. Both Android and iOS versions of the game now include War Mode, which ditches the familiar battle royale in favor of a deathmatch-style experience where respawns are available and kill counts are the key to victory. At the same time, competitive players are getting their fill with clan support (including insignia, missions and a Clan Shop).

There are plenty of other additions. There’s a new team chat channel for finding partners, and a community system to find relevant topics. You can send players likes (similar to Overwatch‘s Endorsements) when you appreciate their gameplay, complete achievements to win titles and apparel, and navigate through redesigned interfaces that help you jump into the action that much sooner.

The updates won’t necessarily have Epic worrying about Fortnite‘s, competitiveness, but they do reflect PUBG Mobile‘s importance in mobile gaming. It has over 10 million active players — that’s huge for any mobile game, and additions like this are crucial to both keeping those players engaged and expanding the base — including PC and Xbox One players who might might avoid PUBG Mobile when their favorite modes aren’t included.

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Apple might have to approve India's anti-spam app in six months

July 22, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has introduced a new policy to fight spam calls and text that could impact Apple’s huge expansion plans in the country. Under the new rule, carriers have to ensure that their subscribers can install TRAI’s “Do Not Disturb” app on their phones. Problem is, Apple refuses to allow it on the App Store over privacy concerns, since it needs access to users’ call and message logs in order to report spam activities to the agency. Apple has been at odds with the regulator for over a year due to the issue, and this new development could force the tech giant to find a solution once and for all.

Based on the rule’s wording as reported by India Today, carriers have six months to make sure the devices they offer are capable of installing the app. If any of the models in their roster still can’t install it by then, they’ll have to cut off its access to their networks:

“Every Access Provider shall ensure, within six months’ time, that all smart phone devices registered on its network support the permissions required for the functioning of such Apps as prescribed in the regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d).

Provided that where such devices do not permit functioning of such Apps as prescribed in regulations 6(2)(e) and regulations 23(2)(d), Access Providers shall, on the order or direction of the Authority, derecognize such devices from their telecom networks.”

Late last year, Apple agreed to help TRAI develop a version of the anti-spam app without some of its most worrisome features, such as its ability access to call logs. It’s not entirely clear if the company can release the revised application within the next six months or if it has to think of another way altogether. As India Today notes, though, iOS 12 already has built-in anti-spam capabilities — Cupertino might be able to use that to its advantage.

Tech News

Amazon's Part Finder helps you find those weird screws you need

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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mihalec via Getty Images

If you have a home hardware part you can’t really identify but need more of, you might find that the camera in Amazon’s iPhone app is a bit more useful after a low-key recent update. The new Part Finder tool uses computer vision to determine the type of screw, nut, bolt or other fastener you have, and points you to where you can buy more in its store.

Amazon added the feature to its iOS app a couple of weeks back, it confirmed to TechCrunch, but didn’t announce Part Finder or even mention it in the App Store release notes. There’s no sign of an Android release as yet.

To use the feature, you’ll need to place the part on a white surface next to a penny (likely for scale). The app will tell you how to line up the camera, and once it has scanned the item, Amazon will display some results. The following screen will ask you for more details to narrow down the suggestions, including whether a screw has a flat or round head, as well as with the type of screwdriver it needs (which you’d assume the algorithm would be able to determine).

It’s certainly a useful feature, especially if you’re not much of a home hardware type and need some guidance on which parts you need. Part Finder can currently identify more than 100 types of fasteners, which “represents thousands, if not millions of parts,” Amazon says. If it can help us locate the parts we need for flat-pack furniture but never seem to have enough of (so we don’t have to make follow-up IKEA trips), so much the better.

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This day in Engadget history: The iPhone jailbreak era begins

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Mark Mathosian/Flickr

Engadget has been around for 14 years and counting, which means our archives contain a veritable treasure trove of technology history. From notable reviews and news to the more mundane or ridiculous finds from across the internet, there’s a lot to explore here. “This Day in Engadget History” will take you on a historical voyage as we look at what made the headlines in years past. Join us, won’t you?

It’s definitely been a while since anyone seriously needed to jailbreak their iPhone. While undoubtedly some people still do, it seems like there’s little need now that we’ve seen the tenth anniversary of the iOS App Store. There are plenty of apps these days and a whole different OS (Google’s Android) for those who want something a little more customizable.

Back in 2007, however, the walled garden of Apple’s ecosystem was firmly in place; there wasn’t even an App Store to go find third-party apps in. On July 19, 2007 — just a few weeks after the iPhone launch — a hacker called “Nightwatch” compiled and launched the iPhone’s first third-party app, a “Hello World” program. A typical first program on any computing platform, the app didn’t do much but display those words. It did, however, usher in a whole new era of “jailbreaking” iPhones, along with app repositories like Cydia and the like.

So, whenever you bemoan Apple’s fierce gatekeeping around the apps it allows on the iOS App Store, remember it wasn’t that long ago when there weren’t any at all. And pour one out for Nightwatch, the one who started it all.

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Google Assistant adds a snapshot of your daily agenda

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Google is no stranger to serving up contextual info and commands when they’re relevant. But wouldn’t it be nice if could curate and organize that info in a way that could help with a jam-packed schedule? It does now. The search firm is currently trotting out a “visual snapshot” for Assistant on mobile devices that provides the info and controls the AI helper believes you’ll need to make it through the day. It prioritizes navigation, but scrolling down will show you your itinerary, reminders, reservations (such as flights and movies) and eventually less essential content like stock prices and Assistant action suggestions.

As you’d expect, the data will vary based on the time of day, where you are and your recent history with Assistant.

The feature will expand over time, Google said. You’ll eventually see an overview of your notes and to-do lists (whether or not they’re from Google apps), a discovery section for new activities, music suggestions and even your parking spot. Clearly, Google is hoping that you’ll have a reason to keep returning to Assistant over and over again, rather than remembering to juggle apps at the right times.

You may have to wait a few days for the feature to show up, but you’ll know when it’s ready. There will be an inbox-like icon when you invoke Assistant on Android, while iOS users will see it as soon as they launch the Assistant app. It’s not a radical departure for Google, especially if you’re used to receiving “leave now” notifications and similar alerts, but the consolidation could prove supremely helpful for those days where the sheer number of tasks proves overwhelming.

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Google brings accessible Morse code typing to Gboard on iOS

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Google is expanding the reach of Gboard’s Morse code support. The search firm has introduced the accessibility-focused keyboard to Gboard for iOS, making communication easier for iPhone and iPad owners with limited motion. As before, it replaces the usual letters with giant dot and dash buttons and offers text suggestions that include the Morse code for a given word. If you’re not sure how to write, don’t worry — Google is providing some help on that front as well.

The company has introduced a Morse Typing Trainer web game for Android and iOS that teaches you how to write Morse code using Gboard. You’ll have a grasp of Morse code within an hour, Google said. While you might want to turn elsewhere if you want complete mastery, this could get the ball rolling if you want to start typing as quickly as possible.

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Apple alters its contracts to comply with Japan's antitrust laws

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Toru Hanai / Reuters

Japan’s antitrust regulatory agency just wrapped up an investigation into Apple, and in order to ensure its compliance with the country’s antitrust rules, the company will change the sales contracts it has with three of Japan’s major mobile service providers. The Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) looked into four sales practices, but just one stuck out as potentially anticompetitive — Apple’s requirement for service providers to offer iPhone subsidies.

The JFTC noted that contracts requiring subsidies were signed with NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank and they were meant to lower the initial cost of purchasing an iPhone. But the commission said that requiring a certain amount of subsidies hurt competition because it led to higher-priced monthly service plans and no choice for consumers to instead pay more up front and less each month.

Apple has agreed to change its contracts going forward, and while carriers will still be required to offer subsidized plans, they’ll also be able to offer plans without subsidies that have lower monthly charges. The JFTC found those changes to be acceptable and it closed its investigation into Apple.