Spotify Hits Back, Calls Apple a Monopolist

In the ongoing saga that is Spotify’s frustration with Apple’s App Store policies, the streaming music company has responded to Apple’s pointed statement. According to a response to news outlet ‘Variety,’ a Spotify rep said:

Every monopolist will suggest they have done nothing wrong and will argue that they have the best interests of competitors and consumers at heart. In that way, Apple’s response to our complaint before the European Commission is not new and is entirely in line with our expectations.

Spotify’s positioning of Apple as a monopolist bring fighting words to the Apple/Spotify drama. The accusation that Apple has a monopoly over their own App Store will certainly add fuel to the heated battle between the two companies.

In Spotify’s view, Apple is hurting consumers by taking a cut of all App sales, in-app purchases, and subscriptions. They also feel that Apple’s limitation in how third parties can promote external payment options results in diminished competition.

Apple’s remarks from last week suggest that they feel they are providing a service to their customers and third parties by offering a centralized platform for purchases, as well as providing attention and promotion of apps and services from a wide range of third party developers.

Another key take away from Spotify’s comments to Variety are that they feel Apple’s restrictions prevent customers from truly being a customer of the third party. According to the Spotify representative,

This is evident in Apple’s belief that Spotify’s users on iOS are Apple customers and not Spotify customers, which goes to the very heart of the issue with Apple.

In all App Store purchases and subscriptions, Apple takes a 30% cut of the transaction. According to Apple, this covers their share of facilitating financial transactions as well as providing the framework for discovery and promotion within the App Store. For Spotify, losing 30% of their earnings from iOS subscribers could boil down to a massive sum.

The accusation that these customers aren’t really Spotify customers is a bit of a gray area. All Spotify users require accounts on the service, which the company can use to gain valuable insights on.

The battle between the two companies will likely continue for the foreseeable future, as both rely on each other for their success. For Spotify to continue to find success, they need to reach iOS users through Apple’s App Store. For Spotify users on iOS devices to remain loyal to the platform, they need count on Spotify to stay on the Apple’s products.

Where the story ends remains a mystery. For now, the playground fighting has us all watching carefully.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Stanford Medicine Shares “Apple Heart Study” Results

After more than 400,000 Apple Watch users volunteered to participate in a heart study, Stanford University School of Medicine has published the results of “the largest study ever of its kind.” Participants from all 50 states shared heart rate data collected by their Apple Watch over the course of 8 months to “evaluate Apple Watch’s irregular rhythm notification.”

Through the study, if an irregular rhythms detected, the notification would alert the user that there was a reading that would suggest atrial fibrillation (AFib). Study participants who received the notification would then have the opportunity to have a “telehealth” consultation with a doctor, and could elect to wear an ECG patch for further monitoring.

Stanford Medicine’s findings were also presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session and Expo on March 16. Of the 400,000 participants, 0.5% received the notification. 34% of users who received the notification and followed up with the ECG patch were later found to have atrial fibrillation.

One major takeaway from the study is the general accuracy of the Apple Watch at detecting potential heart conditions. According to the results:

comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiography patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm (indicating a positive tachogram reading) has a 71 percent positive predictive value. Eighty-four percent of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of the notification.

The other major takeaway that can be drawn from the results is that Apple Watch is enabling users to gain meaningful insight into their well being. Without the irregular heart rhythm notification, many of these users may not have detected AFib during a regular medical visit. Atrial fibrillation can be deadly, and is often undiagnosed. Having a medically accurate consumer electronic device can provide valuable information that may otherwise go undetected.

Qualifying Apple Watch devices in the study included the Series 1, 2, and 3. The Study was underway before the release of the Series 4, which includes a built-in ECG feature. Apple’s dominant position in the smart watch and health markets allow it to play a major role in research like the Apple Heart Study. The Apple Watch has also been credited for saving the lives of multiple people after the release of the irregular heart rhythm notification and the Series 4 ECG feature.

Apple shared additional comments about the study in their Newsroom, highlighting how Apple Watch is making a difference in health care.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Consumer Study Finds AirPods are “Most Preferred” Wireless Headphone

The findings of a consumer research study by Counterpoint Research were released today. The main objective – determine “the penetration of wireless hearables among global smartphone users.”

In studying current and potential hearables (wireless earbuds, headphones, and headsets) buyers, Counterpoint found that 19% ranked Apple’s AirPods as their number one most preferred hearable brand, with Apple-owned Beats ranking 5th at 6%. Filling out the rest of the top 5 were Sony (17%), Samsung (16%), and Bose (10%).

In investigating the key drivers for choosing preferred brands, the study found that – unsurprisingly – sound quality wasn’t Apple’s strongest category. Instead, comfort and fit ranked highest, followed by ease of use, and portability for consumers when choosing AirPods. On the flip side, those that preferred Bose ranked sound quality as the key driver, followed closely by noise cancellation.

The report also offered a glimpse into current usage habits and future plans for the hearable market. According to their findings, almost 2/3 of respondents are listening to music for more than 40 minutes per day, with “at home” and “leisure/working out” being the two most common use cases.

According to the report, Apple sold an estimated 35 million pairs of the wireless earbuds in 2018, claiming nearly 75% of the wireless “hearables” segment. The study cites expected updates to the AirPods, as well as increased competition from Sony, Bose, and others, in projecting the market to top 129 million units this year.

Advancements in AI, and the addition of voice assistant features are also expected to play a key role in the growth of the category. Over half of respondents indicated they had intentions to buy AI-based wearables in the future.

The summary report is available from Counterpoint Research, and the full detailed insights can be purchased through their research portal.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

Even Apple Won’t Pay Artists For Their Work

It seems that Apple may be pinching its pennies when it comes to “Today at Apple”. At least, that’s what artists are telling San Fransisco NPR station KQED. According to sources in the article, Apple has been stealing a line from Craigslist posts, effectively telling presenters they won’t be getting paid, but the exposure will be great!

According to Ayodele Nzinga, a playwright who presented last month at San Fransisco’s Union Square Apple Store, several artists gathered to share their expertise and art. At the end of the night, none were paid – not in the monetary sense. Instead, they were presented with Apple products.

Other artists interviewed by KQED corroborated the story. Instead of paying in cash, artists were offered a choice of an Apple Watch, AirPods, or Apple TV.

While receiving goods can be seen as a form of “payment”, many artists feel (and we agree) that it’s taking advantage of people who are working hard to share their craft. Additionally, paying in “exposure” isn’t something the world’s largest company should deem acceptable.

The “Today at Apple” series is designed as a way for artists and creatives to showcase their talents and expertise with their fans and visitors in the Apple Store. In doing so, Apple is creating a bridge for the fans to be customers in their store.

According to sources, the entire experience leaves significant work to the performer. Apple provides no promotional or marketing materials to presenters for the “Today at Apple” series. This leaves the work up to the performer, adding time, and potentially money, on to their commitment.

“I was a little disappointed that they weren’t maximizing the moment as much as they could because they’re a huge tech company,” said Nzinga. “They think the platform is sufficient,” she adds. “Of course, we have to pay rent like other people.”

The “Today at Apple” series was introduced shortly after Angela Ahrendts was introduced as SVP of Retail at Apple. Since then, the series has seen mixed results. Last month, Ahrendts announced that she was leaving Apple, so the future of the series – and its compensation practices – may change.

For now, it’s important for artists and presenters to understand the arrangement in advance, and decide whether some moderately priced tech is an acceptable form of payment. In the long-term, if Apple intends to keep the series around, they should be doing more to show that they care about the arts. Whether that means providing more promotion or simply compensating artists, Apple has the resources to make a difference.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast

New Rumor Suggests Size Change for 7th Gen iPad

After reports last week suggested minimal changes to the 2019 entry level iPad, a tweet by previously accurate leaker CoinX suggests there may be changes after all.

According to the Tweet posted Wednesday:

A 10.2-inch “entry level” iPad would align with much earlier rumors about the anticipated 2019 product. A 10.2-inch screen could fit in the current 9.7-inch body, meaning slimmed down bezels without a physical redesign.

What is less clear is whether the current 9.7-inch model would stick around for educational markets, and what “but not at the same time” is meant to imply.

It seems unlikely that Apple would release non-pro model iPads at varying times throughout the year, and currently, the 10.5-inch slot is taken by the 2017 iPad Pro.

In the past, CoinX accurately predicted the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr names, as well as some details about the 2018 iPad Pro models. In this case, it’s possible that they are correct once again, but it’s equally possible that there is some confusion about which products are in which line ups.

A possible alternative is a reduction in the price of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, allowing the Pro line-up to cover a wider range of price points. It is also possible that a 10.5-inch, non-Pro model is coming, and the 10.2-inch device is a smaller Pro model. Either would allow both the entry-level and professional line-ups to expand to another size option.

In addition, rumors continue to come out suggesting an updated iPad mini in 2019. Offering a trio of both high-end Pro and lower-cost non-Pro devices would allow Apple to hit a huge range of sizes and use cases in both configurations.

Expectations are that Apple will introduce new iPads at their event on March 25. WWDC 2019 could also serve as a possible platform for new hardware. Additionally, a fall event could feature an annual update to the iPad Pro.

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from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast