Apple Highlights Useful Apps, Accessibility Tips and More for Autism Acceptance Day

Today is Autism Acceptance Day, and as it has done in the past, Apple is recognizing the occasion by highlighting top apps, accessibility tips, and education resources, while also sharing art created by individuals on the spectrum.


In the Today section of the App Store, Apple is offering a collection of apps that are designed to support neurodiversity and people with autism spectrum disorder.

These apps include Proloquo2Go for those who can't speak or need help being understood, Speech Blubs language therapy app, Streaks to-do app, Calm meditation app, and more.

Apple has dozens of apps that can be accessed through the Autism Acceptance section of the App Store, organized into categories like Communication, Life Skills, Games and entertainment, and Apple Watch tools.

To assist with remote learning, Apple Education is offering support resources for teachers and parents, including one-on-one virtual coaching sessions with Apple Professional Learning Specialists. There's also a collection of Learn and Study From Home apps that families can take advantage of, and Apple's website has a section on customizing the iPad to make learning more accessible.

In addition to these resources, throughout the month of April, Apple will celebrate artistic talent from individuals on the spectrum, highlighting their art and sources of inspiration.

Apple is collaborating with the Art of Autism nonprofit for a "Created on iPad" online exhibit that features 15 emerging artists who identify as autistic.

Apple also plans to feature Kayla Cromer, who stars in Freeform comedy show "Everything's Gonna Be Okay." Cromer is one of the first people on the spectrum to play the role of a character on the spectrum in a major series, and she will share films that have inspired her passion for acting.
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Apple Adds British Government Coronavirus PSA to UK App Store

U.K. iPhone and iPad users who open the App Store this morning are being met with a COVID-19 public service announcement from the British government, signaling an expansion of Apple's efforts to prominently display official coronavirus alerts on its devices.


Tapping on the prioritized card takes users to an NHS app link and a video containing coronavirus protection guidance from the UK government's chief medical officer, professor Chris Whitty:
To help save lives, stay at home. Anyone can spread coronavirus. You should now only go out when absolutely necessary, for food, medicine, work, or exercise. Always try to stay two meters apart. Do not meet others outside your household – even friends and family.

Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.
The ‌App Store‌ is an unfamiliar home for a PSA – Apple News would be the normal location for this kind of content – but Apple is obviously trying to get out the official guidance to as many users as possible, including anyone browsing for new apps and updates on their devices.

In the U.S., Apple began displaying White House public service announcements at the top of the ‌App Store‌ on March 21, offering official guidance on the "dos and don'ts" of social distancing. Users in other countries are also likely to see similar advice from their national governments.

This is just the latest of several other measures that Apple is taking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Apple said earlier this month that it is critically evaluating coronavirus-related apps submitted to the ‌App Store‌ to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions.
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Apple Lets Developers Know That Universal Purchase for Mac Apps is Now Available

macOS versions of apps can now be included as part of a universal purchase, which allows customers to purchase a single app (or in-app purchase) that works across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

Apple says that developers can get ready to use the feature by assigning a single bundle ID for apps in Xcode and setting up their app record for universal purchase using App Store Connect.

A single purchase option for iOS, ‌iPadOS‌, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS apps was added in the Xcode 11.4 beta, which was first released in February. After developers have implemented single purchase options, customers will be able to buy one app that works across all of their Apple devices.

With the option to make a purchase of an app that works on all devices, Apple is unifying the categories in the iOS ‌App Store‌ and macOS App Stores, so there will be minor changes coming to the categories available in Apple's App Stores.
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Apple Rejecting Coronavirus Apps Not From Health or Government Organizations

Apple is rejecting apps that are related to the COVID-19 coronavirus that aren't provided by health organizations or government institutions, according to CNBC


Four independent developers that spoke to CNBC said that their coronavirus apps, which were designed to let people see stats about which countries have confirmed cases, had been rejected.

One developer was told over the phone by an Apple employee that anything related to the coronavirus needs to be released by an official health organization or government, while another received a notice that "apps with information about current medical information need to be submitted by a recognized institution."

Apple has been evaluating and rejecting coronavirus apps to prevent the spread of misinformation, looking at where the health data is sourced from and whether developers represent organizations that users can trust to publish accurate data.

Searches for coronavirus and ‌COVID-19‌ on the App Store bring up few results, including a ‌COVID-19‌ virus tracker from Healthlynked that uses World Health Organization data, the Epoch Times, and an app from the Brazilian government.

Other tech companies have taken similar steps to prevent the spread of misinformation. Facebook and Twitter have banned misleading coronavirus-related ads, and Amazon has banned coronavirus products and sellers attempting to price gouge on items like face masks and hand sanitizer.

Google also has a policy against apps that capitalize on a natural disaster or profit from a tragic event and there are no apps related to the coronavirus available from Google Play in the United States.


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As of April 30, All Apps Submitted to App Store Must Use iOS 13 SDK or Later

Apple today informed developers that starting on April 30, 2020, all iPhone and iPad apps submitted to the App Store must be built with iOS and iPadOS 13 SDK or later.


Apple previously told developers that iOS and ‌iPadOS‌ 13 SDKs would be required as of April, but did not give a specific date.
iOS 13 is now running on 77% of all iOS devices introduced in the last four years, worldwide. Deliver great user experiences by seamlessly integrating with Dark Mode, Sign in with Apple, and the latest advances in ARKit 3, Core ML 3, and Siri. Starting April 30, 2020, all ‌iPhone‌ apps submitted to the ‌App Store‌ must be built with the ‌iOS 13‌ SDK or later.

Take advantage of Xcode features such as storyboards (including launch storyboards), Auto Layout, and SwiftUI, to ensure your app's interface elements and layouts automatically fit the display of all ‌iPhone‌ models, regardless of size or aspect ratio. Starting April 30, 2020, all apps submitted to the ‌App Store‌ must use an Xcode storyboard to provide the app's launch screen and all ‌iPhone‌ apps must support all ‌iPhone‌ screens.
Apple also says that as of April 30, all apps must use an Xcode storyboard to provide the launch screen. All ‌iPhone‌ apps must support all ‌iPhone‌ screens, and all ‌iPad‌ apps must support all ‌iPad‌ screens.


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Apple Shares Updated App Store Review Guidelines on Spam, Push Notifications, App Store Reviews, MDM Apps and More

Apple today informed developers that it has released updated App Store Review Guidelines, with changes that cover reviews, spam, push notifications, Sign in with Apple, data collection and storage, mobile device management, and more.


Apple's new guidelines can be found on its developer website, but we've highlighted a few notable changes below.

  • 1.4.4 - Apps used to commit or attempt to commit crimes of any kind by helping users evade law enforcement will be rejected. (This previously was a rule limited to apps about DUI checkpoints).

  • 4.3 - Apple has added new content types to its "Spam" list of app categories it considers already saturated. Fortune telling and dating apps join fart, burp, flashlight, and Kama Sutra apps as apps that will be automatically rejected unless they provide a "unique, high-quality experience."

  • 4.5.4 - New language around Push Notifications says they should not be used "to send sensitive, personal, or confidential information," nor should they be used for promotions or direct marketing purposes unless customers have explicitly opted in to receive them via consent language displayed in an app's UI. Developers must also provide a method in the app to allow users to opt out of receiving such messages.

  • 5.1.1 (ix) - Apps in highly regulated fields like banking and financial services, healthcare, and air travel or that require sensitive user information should be submitted by a legal entity that provides the services and not by an individual developer.

  • 5.1.5 - A rule that previously prohibited the use of location-based APIs for emergency services now says that developers can use location-based APIs to provide emergency services "only if you provide notice to your users in your app's UI that such services may not work in all circumstances."

  • 5.5 - There is new language related to Mobile Device Management apps that says apps offering configuration profiles cannot use third-party analytics to collect data: "In limited cases, third-party analytics may be permitted provided that the services only collect or transmit data about the performance of the developer's MDM app, and not any data about the user, the user's device, or other apps used on that device. Apps offering configuration profiles must also adhere to these requirements."

  • 5.6.1 - There's a new section dedicated to ‌App Store‌ reviews that requires developers treat customers with respect when responding to comments and says custom review prompts are not allowed: "‌App Store‌ customer reviews can be an integral part of the app experience, so you should treat customers with respect when responding to their comments. Keep your responses targeted to the user's comments and do not include personal information, spam, or marketing in your response. Use the provided API to prompt users to review your app; this functionality allows customers to provide an ‌App Store‌ rating and review without the inconvenience of leaving your app, and we will disallow custom review prompts."
Apple also provided new resources and guidelines for ‌Sign in with Apple‌, which is an iOS 13 feature that's designed as a privacy-focused alternative to Sign in with Facebook and Sign in with Google options.


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YouTube TV Ending Support for App Store Subscriptions in March

YouTube today sent out emails to customers who are subscribed to its YouTube TV service through Apple's App Store, letting them know that ‌App Store‌ subscriptions are going to be discontinued in March.


From the emails:
You're currently subscribed to YouTube TV through Apple in-app purchases, so we're writing to let you know that, starting March 13, 2020, YouTube TV will no longer accept payment through Apple in-app purchases.

YouTube TV members will still be able to watch YouTube TV content on Apple devices.

You'll be billed for one final month of service and then your in-app purchase subscription will be canceled automatically on your billing date after March, 13, 2020.
There's no word on why YouTube is ending YouTube TV subscriptions through the ‌App Store‌, but Apple does take a cut of all subscription purchases, so avoiding in-app purchases will allow YouTube to skirt that fee.

When it comes to subscriptions, Apple takes a 30 percent cut of the subscription price paid by each subscriber for the first 12 months, and then if a subscriber remains subscribed, Apple's cut drops to 15 percent.

The YouTube TV app will need to remove all references to subscribing and signing up from its app when in-app purchases disappear, as Apple does not allow apps to link out to third-party subscription purchase options.

Apps that offer subscriptions on Apple's platform have complained about Apple's cut for years. Some apps raise their subscription prices through the ‌App Store‌ to compensate for the fee, while others choose not to offer subscriptions in Apple's apps.

YouTube TV users will be able to continue using the YouTube TV app on Apple's platforms, but will need to sign up for a subscription on the website.

(Thanks, Kyle!)


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After Suing Apple, BlueMail Calls on Other Developers ‘Kicked Out’ of App Store to Join the Fight

Back in October, the developers behind email app BlueMail sued Apple, alleging that the "Hide My Email" feature of "Sign in with Apple" infringes on its patented technology. The complaint [PDF] also accuses Apple of anticompetitive behavior, including removing BlueMail from the Mac App Store.


"Hide My Email" hides a user's personal email address by substituting it with a unique, random email address when setting up an account in an app or on a website that supports "Sign in with Apple."

Apple explains how the feature works in a support document:
A unique, random email address is created, so your personal email address isn't shared with the app or website developer during the account setup and sign in process. This address is unique to you and the developer and follows this format: @privaterelay.appleid.com

For example, if j.appleseed@icloud.com is your Apple ID, your unique, random email address for a given app might look like dpdcnf87nu@privaterelay.appleid.com.

Any messages sent to this address by the app or website developer are automatically forwarded to your personal email address by our private email relay service. You can read and respond directly to these emails and still keep your personal address private.
After writing a public letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, BlueMail co-founders Ben Volach and Dan Volach said that they were contacted by Apple within a few hours, but they claim that the correspondence was merely a delay tactic.
We were overjoyed when we heard back from Apple within the day – within just a few hours in fact. It seemed to share our desire for a mutual solution and we worked quickly to meet its requests, but these too were just tactics meant to delay us.

Rerouted to teams that didn’t respond for weeks, told outright that our app doesn't run on macOS Catalina when we can prove it does, and given contradictory guidance from different teams within Apple, we found ourselves back at square one. Perhaps even worse than square one, because Apple’s legal team saw our willingness to work together as weakness and strengthened its stance against us.
Now, the Volach brothers have penned an open letter to the developer community, encouraging any developers who feel that Apple has kicked them out of the App Store or otherwise treated them unfairly to reach out to BlueMail and share their stories.
If any of that sounds familiar to you, if Apple has kicked you out of its App Store, used its developer guidelines to control your innovation, hijacked your store ranking, or (let's be honest with each other) lied to you while it steals your technology, it's time to talk. Even if you're not sure you want to go through with it (because we know how scary it can be), tell us your story. We won't share anything about you without your consent.

A lot of attention was placed on the congressional hearings in Colorado on January 17, but there are many who don't have the standing of Sonos or Tile. Together, we will have a voice.

We want to be back on the App Store, but we also want fairness. For us. For you. For all developers. Take a stand with us and email fair@bluemail.me with your experience.
BlueMail was removed from the Mac App Store in June 2019, the same month that Apple introduced "Sign in with Apple." In a nutshell, Apple found the app to be violating several App Store Review Guidelines, but the Volach brothers disagree and are now looking for other developers similarly situated to bolster their case.

BlueMail remains available on other platforms, including iOS and Android.

More Details: "A Call for Unity Against the Biggest Tech Company"


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iPhone App Makers Questioned by U.S. Department of Justice in Apple Antitrust Probe

The United States Department of Justice is continuing with its antitrust investigation into Apple and has recently reached out to developers who create apps for Apple's iOS devices, reports Reuters.

Suren Ramasubbu, CEO of app development company Mobicip, was interviewed by a U.S. investigator in November and questioned about Mobicip's interactions with Apple. Mobicip makes parental control software that parents can use to monitor and control what their children are doing online, similar to Screen Time.

The app was temporarily removed last year for a failure to meet App Store requirements put in place by Apple, which is why its CEO was contacted. A "handful" of developers are said to have been in touch with the Justice Department.

Apple declined to comment on the news of the interview with Mobicip's CEO, but highlighted a statement on its website that says that Apple expects apps to adhere to a "high standard for privacy, security, and content."

Apple, along with Facebook, Google, and Amazon, is facing a government query into whether the way it operates stifles competition. Launched in July, the probe is examining information from industry participants to determine whether there are antitrust problems that need to be addressed, but when it kicked off, it had no specific aim.

Apple has been accused of anticompetitive business practices when it comes to the ‌App Store‌, as some developers and companies believe that Apple's own apps, features, and services have a significant advantage over third-party apps. Investigating claims from third-party companies who operate on the ‌App Store‌ appears to be the first part of the Department of Justice's investigation into Apple.

Screen Time, which was introduced in 2018 with iOS 12, has led to disputes with developers who make similar software. Screen Time offers parents built-in controls for limiting access to apps and monitoring app usage, a set of options previously handled by third-party apps.


When Screen Time came out, Ramasubbu was told by Apple that the Mobicip app violated ‌App Store‌ rules with features that had been allowed in the past. The app was eliminated from the ‌App Store‌ for approximately six months and has been available since October 2019, but Ramasubbu believes his business has shrunk in half.

According to Reuters, six other executives from companies that create parental control apps had a "comfortable" relationship with Apple until mid-2018 when Screen Time came out.

Apple said that it was cracking down on parental control apps because they were using Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology for device monitoring, which is not what MDM was designed for.

Multiple parental control app developers petitioned Apple to release a Screen Time API that would allow them to match the functionality provided by Screen Time, ultimately leading to Apple allowing parental control apps to once again use Mobile Device Management technology.

Apple has faced other accusations over its ‌App Store‌ apps, including complaints from Spotify that Apple Music has a distinct advantage because Spotify has to pay Apple a portion of its subscription fees. Spotify's complaints have led to an investigation of Apple's ‌App Store‌ policies by the European Commission.

Apple is also facing a lawsuit over its anticompetitive ‌App Store‌ business policies related to ‌App Store‌ fees taken for subscriptions, which has been allowed to proceed by the Supreme Court.

It's not clear how the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation will go, but it's clear the government is looking into Apple's ‌App Store‌ practices. Apple in September was asked to provide the U.S. House Judiciary Committee with details related to its policies for the ‌App Store‌, with a specific focus on parental control apps, search rankings, in-app purchase revenue split, in-app links to non-Apple payment systems, and more.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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Apple Expands Free Developer Program Memberships for Eligible Organizations to Additional Countries

Apple offers free Developer Program memberships to nonprofit organizations, accredited educational institutions, and government entities that distribute free apps on the App Store.

These free memberships have been available in countries that include the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Japan, and Brazil, but as of today, they're also expanding to eight new countries.

Eligible companies and organizations in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, and South Korea can now apply to have their Developer Program memberships waived.

More information about waivers for Apple Developer Program membership fees can be found on Apple's developer website.


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