Apple & Google 'cowardice' called out for removing Russia voter app

Imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny says Apple and Google acted as accomplices of Russian president Putin when they gave in to demands and removed a voting app ahead of the country’s elections.

Russia’s Roskomnadzor (RKN) watchdog alleged that the app was being used to promote extremist activity of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). The app was devised by opposition leader Alexei Navalny, currently imprisoned, and he has now commented publicly on Twitter.

In a long series of tweets, Navalny accused Big Tech firms of capitulating.

“The giants Apple and Google have complied with the Kremlin’s demands and removed our app from their stores,” he wrote. “My beloved YouTube has deleted our video, and the Telegram messenger has blocked our bot.”

“I know that most of those who work at Google, Apple, etc. are honest and good people,” he continued. “I urge them not to put up with the cowardice of their bosses.”

According to the New York Times, Russia’s election saw the incumbent governing party retain a two-thirds majority in its lower house of Parliament.

Future iPad Pro could have rotated camera, Apple logo

A new report claims that Apple is planning to change the iPad Pro design to have both its camera and its rear Apple logo be placed horizontally.

Leaker Dylandkt, whose track record includes accurate claims about the iPhone 13 Pro, now says Apple is planning to change a key design feature on the iPad Pro.

The iPad has always been promoted as a device that can be held in any angle, but it is not completely symmetrical. Currently iPad Pro cameras are positioned so that they are right side up when used in Portrait mode, for instance.

While users can readily hold the iPad Pro in landscape to take photos and not notice any issues, certain other apps do have problems. FaceTime, for instance, expects landscape by default, but this can be changed. The Apple logo, of course, is embossed and permanently in the orientation it ships in.

If Dylandkt is correct, Apple will be addressing this in a future iPad Pro, and also suggesting that landscape is the “correct” way to hold the device. That more fits the kind of professional workflow that the iPad Pro is being used for, as opposed to the Portrait orientation that arguably better suits users reading books.

No previous rumors regarding the iPad Pro have suggested this orientation change. For the most part, they have detailed expectations about whether the iPad Pro may gain MagSafe

Apple Stores start selling new iPhones, iPads worldwide

As Apple Stores begin selling the new iPhone 13 range, iPad mini 6 and iPad, Apple has released a series of images from Beijing showing the first buyers.

The first preorders for the iPhone 13 range, the iPad mini 6, and the new ninth-generation iPad, are being delivered to customers today. At the same time, Apple Stores around the world have stocks, in some cases including ones of models like the iPhone 13 Pro Max which are now backordered online.

“On Friday, September 24, the innovative and elegant iPhone 13 lineup, powerful new iPad mini, and ninth-generation iPad went on sale around the world,” announced Apple in a press release. “Apple Store locations, as well as Apple’s online store, are open for customers who want to learn about and experience the newest iPhone and iPad lineups.”

Apple has released a series of images showing customers buying at the company’s Apple Store in Beijing.

The release means that most of the devices Apple launched at its “California Streaming” event are now available to buy. Only the Apple Watch Series 7 remains to be released, and as yet Apple has not given a date for that.

Supporting News in Ireland

Google is expanding its investment in news in Ireland. We’ve signed agreements with seven Irish publishers to bring Google News Showcase, our new product experience and licensing program for news, to Ireland. We plan to roll out News Showcase to readers across the country in the coming months. 

Supported by our $1 billion global investment in news, Google News Showcase gives news publishers a new way to curate their high-quality content on Google’s News and Discover platforms, connecting their readers with the news that matters to them and giving them a deeper storytelling experience.  

In Ireland, Google has signed partnerships with publishers including regional publishing group Celtic Media, national media consortium The Irish Times Group and online publisher Journal Media, covering almost 40 publications and a mix of local, regional and national news organizations from across the country. 

“The Irish Times’ agreement with Google News Showcase is a welcome acknowledgement of the value of trusted news sources in modern democracies,” says Liam Kavanagh, managing director of the Irish Times. “It means titles in The Irish Times Group have more support to provide high quality, independent journalism to a wider audience.”

“News Showcase is a valuable tool in our organization’s mission to provide open access to valuable journalism in Ireland,” says Adrián Acosta, the CEO of Journal Media. “Presenting headlines with meaningful context in Google News is a better news experience for the public. It builds users’ understanding of the news and the value of journalism. We are delighted to be part of this project.”

“As one of the leading local news publishers in Ireland, Celtic Media Group welcomes the opportunity to be a launch partner for Google News Showcase,” says Frank Mulrennan, the CEO of Celtic Media Group.  “We see it as a real opportunity to further build our audience through the enhanced profile of the panels which then drive readers back to our publisher sites for the fuller story.  We have been impressed by the News Showcase induction programme and the ease of panel compilation for our journalists.”

More than 1,000 news publications globally have signed deals for News Showcase since last year, including in India, Germany, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Australia, Czechia, Japan, Colombia, the U.K, Austria and Argentina, with discussions underway in a number of other countries. 

Through both our services and direct funding of news organizations, Google is one of the world’s biggest financial supporters of news, and Google News Showcase is the latest investment in our ongoing commitment to support journalism around the globe. In Ireland, Google supports news publishers in the country in a number of other ways including innovation funding, programs to support business sustainability like the Digital Growth Programme, and training for almost 2,000 Irish journalists and journalism students through the Google News Initiative. 

¡Buen Camino! Your pilgrimage starts here

Every year, for over 12 centuries, thousands of people have gone on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago trail from various parts of the world to arrive at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In a unique natural and cultural setting that amazes pilgrims with every step they take, the Camino has been and continues to be the oldest, most widely used and most famous pilgrimage route in Europe.

Today the ‘¡Buen Camino! project —  a virtual pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago —   invites everyone to explore its most emblematic routes, the cultural, natural and architectural wonders, and the stories of the people who bring it to life. The project was created by the Regional Government of Galicia and Google Arts & Culture, in collaboration with the Regional Government of Aragon, Santiago Cathedral Foundation and the Spanish Federation of Associations of Friends of the Way of Saint James. 

Thanks to over 100 online exhibitions, more than 4,700 photographs and videos and 13 360º virtual visits, you can embark on a journey to discover monuments, charming villages and even a local restaurateur ready to share his anecdotes. Best of all, the project helps you to find tips and recommendations to prepare for this great adventure.

Learn about the Path and its Pilgrims

Celebrating World Tourism Day and a bright travel future

While the pandemic has hit the travel industry particularly hard, there are hopeful signs that travel businesses are slowly but surely getting back on their feet. According to new research from ForwardKeys, international flights to European destinations in July and August reached 39.9% of pre-pandemic levels — a 13.3% increase from last year. 

This is good news for the travel sector, which had to adapt to ever-changing COVID restrictions and border closings in the last year. For many travel businesses, technology and data insights have become lifelines to understand the shifts in travel demand and better connect with potential visitors online. Throughout the pandemic, Grow with Google has continued to provide digital skills trainings for small and medium travel businesses in the region so they can use online tools to attract new guests and grow their business.

Les Courtines, a charming gîte (a French cottage) with breathtaking views of the Larzac Mountains in France, participated in one of these digital skills programs. Marc and Corinne Levitte opened the cottage after their retirement in 2018 as a serene getaway for visitors eager to spend time in nature and away from the bustle of city life. Even though Marc didn’t have much experience with technology, our French Grow with Google program — Google Ateliers Numériques — helped him optimize their Google My Business listing to make their website more visible. The effort paid off, and the cottage was completely booked for the summer season. 

Earlier this year, we launched free hotel booking links to give hotels and travel companies a free way to reach potential customers. So far, these free hotel booking links have led to increased engagement across both small and large travel partners. For example, hotels working with the Greek booking engine WebHotelier saw more than $4.7M in additional revenue from free booking links this summer. Travel Insights with Google is a zero-cost website for tourist destinations that features Destination Insights, real-time local data on how tourism demand is changing. Another tool, Hotel Insights, shows where interest for hotels and the region is highest. These resources have been useful for tourist organizations around the region.

Amazon assembles video streaming apps to fight with Netflix and Disney in India

Amazon has launched Prime Video Channels in India, allowing its customers to subscribe to eight streaming services including Discovery+ and Mubi from one hub, the latest in a series of efforts by the U.S. giant to win customers in the South Asian nation.

The new offering makes it easier for users to login and pay for additional streaming services, the company said. To make things more enticing, Amazon said the services are available at discounted prices for the first year. Discovery+ costs $4 per year, Mubi $27, Hoichoi ($8.2), DocuBay $6.8, ErosNow $4, Lionsgate Play $9.5, manoramaMax $9.5, and ShortsTV $4.

The company, which is currently at the centre of several controversies in India, did not share how much of the revenue it is taking from the streaming services and the duration of the partnerships. India is the 12th market where Amazon has launched Prime Video Channels.

Friday’s launch will likely be more beneficial to the third-party streaming services than Amazon itself. Discovery+ has amassed fewer than 4 monthly active users in India on mobile, Mubi has fewer than 100,000, DocuBay has fewer than 50,000, ErosNow has fewer than half a million, Lionsgate Play and manoramaMax each has fewer than 750,000, according to mobile insight firm App Annie (the data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch).

“With the launch of Prime Video Channels, we now take the next big step in our journey to entertain India by creating a video entertainment marketplace – first of its kind in India – which will not only delight our customers by giving them even more entertainment choices, but also benefit the OTT Channel partners who collaborate with us to leverage Prime Video’s distribution, reach and tech infrastructure,” said Gaurav Gandhi, Country Manager of Amazon Prime Video India, in a statement.

Amazon’s Prime Video, which has amassed over 55 million monthly active users in India, competes with Netflix, Disney’s Hotstar and Times Internet’s MX Player in India. Both Hotstar and MX Player have established larger reach than Prime Video in India, and Netflix has won more elite customers in the country.

Amazon, on its part, has attempted to push for more reach by securing some rights to cricket matches — though most of cricket rights are still owned by Hotstar — and has also launched a free, ad-supported streaming service.

UnitedHealthcare offers members free year of Apple Fitness+

Health insurance provider UnitedHealthcare on Thursday announced a new initiative that will provide fully insured members with a 12-month subscription to Apple Fitness+ at no extra cost.

UnitedHealthcare members in most U.S. states who own an Apple Watch will be able to access Apple Fitness+ through a free one-year subscription starting Nov. 1, the company said in a press release.

Additionally, employers with self-funded health plans will be able to buy an “Apple Fitness Bundle” that consists of a 12-month Apple Fitness+ subscription and a $25 Apple Gift Card. The bundle is expected to be made available sometime next year.

Rebecca Madsen, UnitedHealthcare’s chief consumer officer, in a statement said the Apple Fitness+ program is part of a wider effort to “help people engage in their well-being and get and stay healthier.” The initiative is the first to offer such access to Apple’s fitness product, Madsen says.

“We are very excited to work with UnitedHealthcare to bring this offer for Apple Fitness+ to millions of people who are looking to get and stay motivated to live a healthier lifestyle,” said Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies. “With our welcoming trainer team that lead a variety of workouts fueled by music that will keep you going from start to finish, the new guided Meditations coming next week, and the metrics from your Apple Watch right on the screen, Fitness+ has many ways to keep you active no matter where you are on your fitness journey.”

UnitedHealthcare first integrated Apple Watch into its insurance strategy in March 2018 when it rolled out the Motion program, offering users the chance to deduct $1,000 per year from their insurance premiums if they meet certain fitness goals. The company expanded on the plan later that year when it introduced an option to receive an Apple Watch Series 3 for free.

On Thursday, UnitedHealthcare announced another option for Motion enrollees that allows members to put earned incentives toward an Apple Fitness+ monthly subscription.

Apple TV+ shares trailers for kids series 'Get Rolling with Otis' and 'Puppy Place'

Apple TV+ continues to build out its children’s content library, with the latest efforts, “Get Rolling with Otis” and “Puppy Place,” receiving official trailers on Thursday ahead of October premieres.

Due out on Oct. 8, “Get Rolling with Otis” is an animated series based on the Penguin Random House book series by Loren Long, Apple announced.

Otis the Tractor, voiced by Griffin Robert Faulkner, is little, but he has a big heart. Throughout the series, Otis teaches kids the importance of compassion by helping friends in need.

The series is executive produced by Vince Commisso, Wendy Harris, author Loren Long, Darragh O’Connell, Angela C. Santomero and Jane Startz.

“Puppy Place” premieres on Oct. 15 and is based on Scholastic’s best-selling book series by Ellen Miles.

The eight-episode live-action show tells the story of the Petersons, a family that fosters puppies. Charles (Riley Looc) and Lizzie (Brooklynn MacKinzie) have different methods, but they both endeavor to find loving homes for wayward dogs.

Each episode follows the pair as they discover what makes individual puppies special, a task that helps them overcome their own personal hurdles.

“Puppy Place” is executive produced by Iole Lucchese, Caitlin Friedman and Jef Kaminsky of Scholastic Entertainment and Andrew Green.

The new series adds to an already strong lineup of family-friendly programming that includes award-winning series like “Helpsters,” “Ghostwriter” and “Stillwater,” which pair with films and specials such as “Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth” and “Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10.”

Before “Get Rolling with Otis” and “Puppy Place” debut, Apple’s streaming service is set to air Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new children’s animated series “Wolfboy and the Everything Factory” on Friday.

Restoring iPhone 13, new iPad models from backup might result in Apple Music and widgets bugs

Apple late Thursday warned of potential Apple Music and iOS 15 widget bugs that might crop up when restoring one of its newly released devices from a backup.

According to a pair of support documents, new iPhone 13, ninth-generation iPad and sixth-generation iPad mini owners could suffer minor inconveniences from the setup process. Both problems relate to restoring the new devices from a backup file.

Apple in a first document warns that users might not be able to access their Apple Music catalog, Apple Music settings, or enable the app’s Sync Library feature after initially setting up a new device from a backup. The issue presents on all new iPhone 13 models, the new entry-level iPad and iPad mini.

Apple says a software update should clear the problem and reactivate the lost Apple Music functions. Users can perform an update by navigating to Settings > General and tapping Software Update.

A second issue reverts widgets to their default settings after restoring from a backup. Again, the bug impacts new iPhone 13, iPad and iPad mini models.

There is no fix for the reset bug, meaning users will need to customize their widgets anew. This is completed by touching and holding a widget to open the quick actions menu, tapping “Edit [widget name]” and making changes. Modifications are saved by tapping outside of the widget.

Apple’s latest iPhone and iPad models were announced last week, with deliveries currently arriving to early preorder customers in regions where it is Sept. 24.