Twitter Updating iOS App With Group Messaging and New Video Features [iOS Blog]

Following a soft update that added a recap feature for top tweets last week, Twitter today announced a substantial feature update to its iOS and Android mobile apps that includes two new additions to the service: group messaging and “a new mobile video experience.”

Similar to the Direct Message feature, Group Messages will allow multiple users to converse privately amongst one another in a group chat room. Most notably, however, users won’t need to already follow one another to be able to begin and engage in a Group Message conversation.

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Private conversations on Twitter are a great complement to the largely public experience on the platform. You might prefer to read (or watch) Tweets but converse about them privately. You might want to continue a public conversation privately with a smaller group, or start one based on a Tweet you saw. Many of you use Direct Messages to reach the people and brands you’re only connected to on Twitter. Whatever the case may be, the ability to converse privately with groups gives you more options for how and with whom you communicate on Twitter.

The new video camera allows Twitter users to capture up to thirty seconds of footage and edit it in-app, with the ability to post videos as both tweets and into Group or Direct Messages. iOS owners will be able to upload a video from their camera roll, a feature which will roll out soon to Android users.

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Twitter noted the features will be rolling out to all users in the coming days, but until available to a wide audience, users will be able to interact in Group Messages started by someone else and watch videos posted by others, as well.

Twitter can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]




Western Union Now Accepting Apple Pay in United States [iOS Blog]

American payment services company Western Union announced on Tuesday that it now accepts Apple Pay as a way for customers to make money transfers and bill payments in the United States. iPhone users will be able to make NFC-based payments using their smartphones at Western Union’s flagship locations and at kiosks in over 7,600 Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide.

Apple Pay support was launched at Western Union’s iconic 1440 Broadway store in New York City and will be rolled out to other agent locations in the near future. The company operates over 65,000 agent locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico, processing over 242 million consumer-to-consumer transactions and moving over $82 billion in principal between customers in 2013.

Apple Pay Western Union

“Our customers have an expectation of using mobile technology to make money transfer service and product accessibility easier. Western Union is rising to the occasion as we harness our system with modifications to link cash and digital transfers between retail locations, mobile phones, prepaid cards, online and traditional bank accounts and ATMs,” said David Thompson, Executive Vice President, Global Operations and Technology and Chief Information Officer.

USA Technologies, a provider of mobile payment technologies for small-ticket, self-serve retailing industries, also announced today that it is rolling out Apple Pay support in the United States. The move makes Apple Pay available at over 200,000 acceptance points that rely on the company’s payment solutions, such as coffee shops, vending machines, kiosks, laundry equipment, parking pay stations and other self-serve appliances.




Foxconn to Cut Workforce as Apple Expected to Announce Record-Breaking iPhone Sales [Updated] [iOS Blog]

Foxconn Technology Group, Apple’s main assembly partner for iPhones, today announced (via Reuters) major plans to reduce its workforce due to “declining revenue growth and rising wages in China.” The announcement comes mere hours before Apple’s financial earnings announcement for the first fiscal quarter of 2015, in which the company is expected to announce record iPhone sales.

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The company doubled its labor costs in recent years following a few public scandals involving worker suicides and poor working conditions, while revenue growth has slowed. After a decade of steady increases following the explosion of popularity for smartphones and tablet devices, mostly thanks to the manufacturing of Apple products, Foxconn hasn’t faced the issue of diminishing returns until now.

“We’ve basically stabilized (our workforce) in the last three years,” Woo said. When asked if the company plans to reduce overall headcount, he responded “yes”.

Revenue growth at the conglomerate tumbled to 1.3 percent in 2013 and only partially recovered to 6.5 percent last year after a long string of double-digit increases from 2003 to 2012.

Today’s news comes on the heels of reports indicating Apple likely sold more iPhones in China than the U.S. in the last quarter, and expectations the iPhone will have record sales coming off the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Foxconn’s job cuts have not been specifically tied to its Apple business, but Apple is a major customer and hiring patterns do generally follow the iPhone product cycle, which should begin to slow a bit follow the rush of customers upgrading to the new models in the early months of availability. Foxconn is also reported to be increasing investments in Apple-related areas, including building a $2.6 billion display plant and perhaps working on sapphire displays for Apple products.

Update 7:48 AM: Foxconn has issued a statement calling the claims of workforce reductions “completely inaccurate”, but noting it will slow its hiring in the coming years as it increases automation.

Foxconn wishes to clarify that a media report that alleges that our company is reducing its workforce is completely inaccurate and totally without foundation. We continue to recruit employees to support our business and operations globally and we continue to maintain a workforce of over one million employees worldwide. As we have long said, Foxconn is investing in the automation of many of the manufacturing tasks associated with our operations, applying robotic engineering and other innovative manufacturing technologies to enable our employees to focus on high value-added elements in the manufacturing process. As we continue to increase the application of automation in our operations, the magnitude of our employee recruitment is expected to decrease in the years ahead, but we have no plans to reduce our workforce numbers now or anytime in the future. In addition, our company is confident that we will continue to achieve sustained business growth in the years to come.




iCloud.com Photos App Gains New Zoom, Email Features

Apple’s iCloud.com Photos app was quietly updated over the weekend, adding a new zoom option to the toolbar that lets users zoom in on photos that have been uploaded to iCloud Photo Library. As noted by German site iFun.de, Apple’s web-based Photos…


‘Bowling Central’ Expands Wii-Style Gaming on Apple TV [iOS Blog]

Back in 2013, Rolocule debuted Motion Tennis, an iPhone game that brought Wii-style gaming to the Apple TV via AirPlay. Using AirPlay Mirroring, users could display the game on an Apple TV while using an iPhone as a tennis racket. The setup drew natural comparisons to Nintendo’s Wii Sports, with the iPhone playing the role of the Wii Remote.

Motion Tennis wasn’t perfect, as it did suffer from minor lag and there were naturally concerns about users accidentally throwing their iPhones across the room or into their televisions, but it did serve as an interesting glimpse of both the potential of AirPlay and the possibilities for Apple TV gaming.

Rolocule is now back with an addition to its sports-themed Apple TV games, earlier this month debuting Bowling Central. The game itself is fairly simple, allowing users to bowl a classic game of 3, 6, or 10 frames, or take on a challenge mode that currently offers 30 stages with various stationary and/or moving blockers in the way of the pins.

Bowling Central is by no means the first bowling game for iOS, nor even necessarily the best or most realistic, but once again the selling point is Apple TV compatibility via AirPlay. When in AirPlay mode, the user can wave his or her iPhone side to side to set the release point and then swing the device to bowl the ball, even imparting spin depending on the trajectory of the swing.

In our testing, we found very little lag when playing via Apple TV, an important factor considering the need to accurately time throws in challenge mode. Throws also felt natural with the iPhone after a bit of practice that involved getting used to keeping a thumb on the screen during the throw rather than releasing as on Wii Sports. Rolocule co-founder Anuj Tandon notes the controls were specifically designed to keep the thumb in place during throws in order to maintain better control of the device and minimize the chances of accidentally throwing it.

We did experience some crashing problems when AirPlaying to a second-generation Apple TV, although these appear to be due more to AirPlay issues on the older set-top box than an app problem. No such issues were seen with a third-generation Apple TV.

Overall, Bowling Central is a fairly straightforward bowling game with limited gameplay options so far. For example, there is no live multiplayer option and the 30 challenge levels can be completed rather quickly, although it can take a bit longer to achieve “three-pin” ratings on each.

More challenge levels appear to be in the works, however, and the Apple TV compatibility is what makes Bowling Central an interesting concept as party entertainment. With Apple yet to allow games or any sort of App Store for the Apple TV, Rolocule’s AirPlay implementation gives a nice impression of the potential for the set-top box should Apple ultimately decide to open it up to third-party developers.

Bowling Central is available now in the App Store for $2.99. [Direct Link]




Apple to Shut Down Old TestFlight Beta Testing Website in February [iOS Blog]

Apple today began notifying developers about the upcoming closure of the old TestFlight beta testing service accessible through TestFlightApp.com, reports The Next Web. The impending February 26 shutdown of the standalone website arrives nearly one yea…


Point-of-Sale Suppliers See Massive Increase in Retailer Interest Following Apple Pay Launch [iOS Blog]

A new report by The Wall Street Journal looks at the early performance of Apple’s new electronic payments service, Apple Pay, finding strong signs of momentum behind the service. One of the key signs of interest in mobile payments comes from point-of-sales system suppliers seeing drastic increases in retailer interest following the launch of Apple Pay last October.

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Harbortouch has offered free wireless readers to its retailer clients since 2012, and in the month following the Apple Pay launch 68 percent of client orders asked for the readers supporting wireless payments. As of August of 2013, only 22 percent of its clients had installed such readers in their stores.

“It’s like night and day,” said Brendan Lauber, Harbortouch’s chief technology officer. “Now, merchants are actively coming to us and asking how to support this.”

The Wall Street Journal piece also covers the general surge in public acceptance for the service, remarking on recent stories that Apple Pay now supports cards representing about 90 percent of the credit card purchase volume in the United States, and that Apple’s upcoming financial reports for the latest quarter may provide more details.




OS X 10.10.2 Includes Fix for ‘Thunderstrike’ Hardware Exploit Affecting Macs

Apple is readying a fix in OS X 10.10.2 for the so-called “Thunderstrike” hardware exploit targeting Macs equipped with Thunderbolt ports, iMore has learned. According to the report, Apple patched the vulnerability by making code changes in the upcomin…