Spotify buys podcast discovery company Podz

Image Credit: Spotify

Aiming to match Spotify users to podcasts they’re guaranteed to love, Spotify has bought podcast discovery startup Podz.

Spotify continues to push podcasts on the platform with the acquisition of Podz, a company specialising in podcast discovery.

What is Podz? The podcast discovery startup makes preview clips from podcast episodes using machine learning. Instead of browsing through the entire episode users can view specific short clips from podcasts. Spotify hopes that Podz will make finding new podcasts to listen to as easy as finding new music.

Podz uses hi-tech machine learning on 100,000 hours of audio to identify key moments within podcast episodes. Spotify has used machine learning to improve audio discovery for many years, but Podz will help to push forward its podcast strategy with renewed focus on personalised podcast recommendations – just like their innovative music discovery tools.

Spotify said that the addition of Podz will save users time and grab their interest, therefore growing creators’ fan bases and increasing their discoverability. In April, Spotify announced its premium Paid Subscription podcast platform, letting creators monetise their shows by setting their own subscription fee with two years of no cost for the creator.

Spotify users will notice the arrival of Podz within 2021, as the technology gradually integrated onto the platform.

Apple: all of the leaks, rumours and predictions for 2021 and beyond

The upcoming iPhone 13, Apple Watch Series 7, AirPods 3, Macs, iPads and more from Apple in the second half of 2021.

At the start of the year, we looked at what Apple may release within the next year or so. 2021 has been a great start for Apple, with new and updated hardware such as the Apple TV 4K, AirTags, iPad Pro and the 24-inch iMac. Now that WWDC has come and gone, unfortunately with no hardware announcements, we are taking a look at all of the products Apple may have in the pipeline. This guide should also act as a ‘think before you buy one of the following products’, as it could well be updated very soon.

None of the below information is from Apple and should be taken with a pinch of salt.


2021
  • Redesigned MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch: M1X chip with 10-core CPU, 16 or 32-core GPU and up to 64GB of RAM. More ports including MagSafe, SD card reader and HDMI. Physical function keys in place of the Touch Bar. Slimmer bezels. Flat-edged design much like the iPhone 12. Mini-LED display.
    • Due: Q3 2021
  • iPhone 12S/13 and iPhone 12S/13 Pro: Camera improvements. Faster A15 chips. Smaller notch. Under display Touch ID. 120Hz ProMotion display. Increased battery life.
    • Due: September 2021
  • Apple Watch Series 7: Thinner display bezels. Display closer to the front cover. Updated screen. Flat-edged design. New colour options. New processor. Improved wireless connectivity. Improved U1 Ultra Wideband chip.
    • Due: September 2021
  • AirPods 3: New case. Shorter stem. Improved battery life. New wireless chip.
    • Due Q3 2021
  • iPad mini 6: 8.4 to 9-inch display. Slimmer bezels. Touch ID power button. A14 chip. USB-C port. Improved speakers. Smaller Apple Pencil.
    • Due: Second half of 2021
  • iPad: 10.5-inch display with anti-reflective coating, P3 wide colour support and True Tone. A13 chip with 4GB RAM. Lighter design.
    • Due: Second half of 2021
  • MacBook Air: M2 chip with 8-core CPU and 9 or 10-core GPU. Thinner and lighter design. Thinner bezels. MagSafe charging. Similar colours to the new 24-inch iMac. Mini-LED display. 5G connectivity.
    • Due: Late 2021/2022
  • Mac Pro: Intel’s third-generation Xeon Scalable processor.

2022
  • iPad Air: OLED display.
  • Mac mini: M1X chip with 10-core CPU, 16 or 32-core GPU and up to 64GB of RAM. Smaller design, plexiglass-like top and two colour options. Four Thunderbolt ports. Same magnetic power port as the 24-inch iMac.
  • AirPods Pro 2: More compact, stem-less, rounded design. New wireless chip. Built-in motion sensors for fitness tracking.
  • Apple Silicon Mac Pro: Current Mac Pro design and a smaller form factor model. 20 or 40-core CPU and 64 or 128-core GPU.
  • iPad Pro: Glass back with MagSafe and reverse wireless charging. New Apple Pencil.

New free music download app Trebel aims to end music piracy

Image Credit: Trebel Music

Trebel Music, a streaming service that lets users download music for free, has just announced it’s going public.

New free music app Trebel launched in 2018 for people who “will not – or cannot – pay for music subscriptions.” Whilst the colossal rise of Spotify and other music streaming platforms might suggest that the dark days of music piracy are over, infuriatingly that is not the case. Illegal downloading and stream-ripping are still present across swathes of the internet. Trebel Music markets itself as an ethical solution – but how does it work?

Connecticut-based Trebel, which has 3.2 million monthly active users, sells itself as the only music app that lets users legally download songs to smartphones and tablets for offline listening. The available library of 15 million licensed songs comes from relationships with the “Big Three” record labels (Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group) as well as independent distributors.

Revenue is generated by Trebel Music through video and audio advertising and brand experiences like online surveys, as well as virtual in-app purchases. It cements itself around the idea that “on-demand music is more than entertainment; it has healing powers for fans, it is the only source of income for most artists, and it is the most effective connective tissue between advertisers and consumers who develop brand loyalty around the music and artists they love.”

Trebel says that they still believe that anyone who is able to pay for music should, but that they’ve spotted an opportunity in their demographic and also to fill a gap in offline listening.

Over three billion people who stream music are not able or unwilling to pay for music, Trebel says, and this target audience “primarily uses music piracy sites and apps, and video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, both of which deliver sub-optimal experiences for users and inequitable monetization for content owners.” Trebel wants to monetise these users for artists’ sake, using ad-supported listening to generate revenue.

Now filing to go public, Trebel Music indicates it will follow a similar business model to Spotify – not seeking short-term revenue but pushing for an expansion model, ultimately expanding their content to include podcasts, audio books and cartoons.

The company say they have a unique space in the streaming service world with their focus on smartphones and tablets, believing that “anyone with a smartphone is a music fan and a potential user of Trebel Music.” Interestingly, in the future the app will include gamification features such as musical micro-games and premium features like customisable avatars.

If, as Trebel claims, its typical target consumer can’t currently be tempted away from illegal downloads to support artists through streaming platforms like Apple Music, Trebel Music hopefully will offer unique features that make it a more tempting alternative offer – and a way for artists to get the money they deserve.

Facebook buys studio behind Roblox-style games platform Crayta

Image Credit: Facebook Gaming

What does Facebook Gaming’s purchase of game creation platform Crayta have to do with the music industry? Roblox’s use of music could offer a clue.

Facebook Gaming recently announced the purchase of Unit 2 Games, the game developer responsible for Crayta, a collaborative game creation platform. In the platform users can create their own games without needing to code, and earn money when other users play their creations.

In a statement, Facebook Gaming indicated that with Unit 2 on board, users on Facebook would in future be able to create not just games but “experiences.” So how does that tie into the music industry?

Crayta is similar in build to Roblox, the phenomenally successful games platform which the music business has been eyeing up for revenue and promotional opportunities. Roblox has hosted album launches and livestream concerts, such as Royal Blood appearing as avatars as part of an in-game awards ceremony and a Lil Nas X virtual concert that attracted 33 million views.

With the similarities between Crayta and Roblox there’s the potential for virtual events and opportunities for artists, especially with Facebook’s power behind the platform. The references to “experiences” suggest this is something that Facebook are eyeing up; as Facebook Gaming’s statement said: “Our next phase of growth will come from bringing the activities of playing, watching and connecting closer together.”

Vivek Sharma, VP of Facebook Gaming, said: “We currently have two types of creators on Facebook Gaming: video creators who livestream games and professional game developers who make games on our platform. With the addition of Unit 2 Games, we’ll expand the notion of a Facebook creator to include people who collaboratively build, publish and share games, worlds and new experiences on Facebook.”

The current Unit 2 team will keep working on Crayta as part of Facebook Gaming. Unit 2 Games’ vision was from the beginning to make game creation accessible and build communities around the content created by users.

facebook gaming and unit 2 games

Roblox attracted investment from Warner Music Group, who made an eight-figure investment in the platform at the beginning of the year – could similar music industry attention be paid to Crayta?

Before the industry gets too excited for the potential for in-game events and music licensing on the platform, however, it’s worth noting that Roblox has just come under fire for not licensing music on the platform, with the National Music Publishers’ Association announcing they will sue Roblox for illegally using artists’ music.

The difference for Crayta is that under the Facebook umbrella, there’s the potential for use of Facebook’s existing music licensing deals. Music could form a backdrop to the new games created by Crayta users, and artists would get paid whenever their tracks were used.

Facebook takes on Twitch with 100% subscription money deal

Image credit: Facebook

Facebook offers streamers using its platform 100% subscription fee revenue to lure streamers and viewers away from Twitch.

Facebook has long been looking to take on Twitch and lure its streamers over to their platform, and their latest announcement may just do that. Facebook is now offering full subscription profits for streamers for the next two years.

Speaking about the announcement Facebook Gaming Partnership, Josh Maresca said: “We’re doubling down on creators,” he wrote. “Facebook has waived all revshare from subscriptions until 2023! Yeah, you read that correctly. You’ll continue to receive 100% of your subscriptions when purchased on desktop.”

Twitch offers a default 50% but does tend to negotiate with larger streamers, it’s also solidified as the go-to platform for streaming, particularly gaming. Although, Facebook isn’t as popular it does offer creatives more revenue and allows for partners to play licensed music during streams, which stops a lot of streamers from getting copyright claims.

However, there are some are eligibility requirements a creator will need to fulfill before they are applicable for the deal and subscribe button on the page. Such as 10,000-page followers or 250+ “return viewers” and either 50,000 post engagements or 180,000 watch minutes in the prior 60 days. Alternatively, streamers can also apply to become a Facebook Gaming partner to get a sub button, this too comes with its own set of eligibility requirements. It’s also worth noting that Maresca specifically noted that this offer only applies when subscriptions are purchased via a desktop and 80% of Facebook’s users are on mobile.

Either way, it’s a bold move by Facebook and is likely to pull viewers and streamers away from Twitch. However, will it be enough to topple Twitch, that remains to be seen, but it may take more to do so.

The best new features coming to iOS 15

Image Credit: Apple

WWDC saw Apple show off the upcoming iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and much more. Here are the top features from iOS 15.

Apple took to the virtual stage earlier this week to show off the latest operating systems coming to their phones, tablets, computers, watches and more. Click here to see all of the top announcements at WWDC 2021. Sadly there was no new hardware announced, despite increasing rumours of redesigned MacBook Pros leading up to the event.

iOS 15
Image Credit: Apple

FaceTime will get some handy new features, including spatial audio. Spatial audio separate voices in physical space depending on their position on your screen. You can blur the background during video calls by enabling Portrait mode. Voice isolation lets you reduce background noise, while FaceTime tunes into your voice specifically. Wide Spectrum passes all the sound through to your call recipients. A new grid view displays all callers on one screen, with the current speaker highlighted. FaceTime links allows you to share scheduled calls and even lets Android or Windows users to join the call from their browser.

Image Credit: Apple

SharePlay lets users share their screen, listen to music or watch TV shows and films together over FaceTime. You can cast the shared TV show to the big screen, while keeping the FaceTime going on your phone. Playback, controls and the queue is synced for all users. Developers will be able to integrate SharePlay into their existing video and music streaming apps. Apple have announced partnerships with the likes of Disney+, Hulu, HBO Mac and others, who should be ready on day one.

Video Credit: Apple

Focus mode allows you to easily switch between settings such as Do Not Disturb, Work and Sleep. Each setting is designed to help you stay in the zone, by only allowing specific apps to deliver notifications and presenting a customised homescreen for each setting. This is a great way to hide distraction when working, working out or sleeping. Focus modes can be switched on manually or automatically based on time and location. If you’re texted while your phone is on Do Not Disturb, the messenger will see your status and can bypass the silencing when it’s urgent.


Shared with You works with the Messages app to collate all of the Safari links, images, news articles, music, podcasts and TV shows that friends have sent you, displaying them all together in a dedicated space in apps such as Safari, Photos, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Also new in Messages are pins, helping you find that message, image or link later. Multiple images sent by one user will appear as a collage or stack, rather than separately.

Image Credit: Apple

Updates to the Health app bring Walking Steadiness. By tracking your walking, Health hopes to improve your steadiness and may be able to notify you if your fall risk is increased. Health Sharing lets you share health data, trends and alerts with your family and doctors.

Image Credit: Apple

Wallet on iPhone is continuing to replace all other items in your pockets. iOS 15 introduces ID cards in some states and Home Keys helps you unlock your home, garage, hotel or office from your iPhone.


The Apple Maps app is getting a complete redesign, showing turn lanes, crosswalks, bike lanes, traffic lights and 3D buildings, as well as augmented reality walking directions.

Image Credit: Apple

Safari will also be getting a fresh look on iPhone. The tab bar now shows at the bottom of the screen to maximise space. Extensions will also be making their way to the mobile browser.

Video Credit: Apple

Live Text allows you to select, copy, look up and translate printed or handwritten text from the camera or image, as well as call, email or get directions with a tap when iOS recognises a number or address.


Notification are also being redesigned, with larger icons and sorted into priority, pushing up direct messages and pushing down promotional messages.

Image Credit: Apple

iOS 15 is supported on all of the same devices as iOS 14. This stretches right back to the iPhone 6s, iPhone SE (1st generation) and iPod Touch (7th generation).

Apple WWDC 2021 recap – New features coming to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and more

Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) saw Apple show off iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12, watchOS 8 and much more.

Apple took to the virtual stage yesterday to show off the latest operating systems coming to their phones, tablets, computers, watches and more. Sadly there was no new hardware announced, despite increasing rumours of redesigned MacBook Pros leading up to the event.

iOS 15
Image Credit: Apple

FaceTime will get some handy new features, including spatial audio. Spatial audio separate voices in physical space depending on their position on your screen. You can blur the background during video calls by enabling Portrait mode. Voice isolation lets you reduce background noise, while FaceTime tunes into your voice specifically. Wide Spectrum passes all the sound through to your call recipients. A new grid view displays all callers on one screen, with the current speaker highlighted. FaceTime links allows you to share scheduled calls and even lets Android or Windows users to join the call from their browser.

Image Credit: Apple

SharePlay lets users share their screen, listen to music or watch TV shows and films together over FaceTime. You can cast the shared TV show to the big screen, while keeping the FaceTime going on your phone. Playback, controls and the queue is synced for all users. Developers will be able to integrate SharePlay into their existing video and music streaming apps. Apple have announced partnerships with the likes of Disney+, Hulu, HBO Mac and others, who should be ready on day one.

Video Credit: Apple

Focus mode allows you to easily switch between settings such as Do Not Disturb, Work and Sleep. Each setting is designed to help you stay in the zone, by only allowing specific apps to deliver notifications and presenting a customised homescreen for each setting. This is a great way to hide distraction when working, working out or sleeping. Focus modes can be switched on manually or automatically based on time and location. If you’re texted while your phone is on Do Not Disturb, the messenger will see your status and can bypass the silencing when it’s urgent.


Shared with You works with the Messages app to collate all of the Safari links, images, news articles, music, podcasts and TV shows that friends have sent you, displaying them all together in a dedicated space in apps such as Safari, Photos, Apple News, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. Also new in Messages are pins, helping you find that message, image or link later. Multiple images sent by one user will appear as a collage or stack, rather than separately.

Image Credit: Apple

Updates to the Health app bring Walking Steadiness. By tracking your walking, Health hopes to improve your steadiness and may be able to notify you if your fall risk is increased. Health Sharing lets you share health data, trends and alerts with your family and doctors.

Image Credit: Apple

Wallet on iPhone is continuing to replace all other items in your pockets. iOS 15 introduces ID cards in some states and Home Keys helps you unlock your home, garage, hotel or office from your iPhone.


The Apple Maps app is getting a complete redesign, showing turn lanes, crosswalks, bike lanes, traffic lights and 3D buildings, as well as augmented reality walking directions.

Image Credit: Apple

Safari will also be getting a fresh look on iPhone. The tab bar now shows at the bottom of the screen to maximise space. Extensions will also be making their way to the mobile browser.

Video Credit: Apple

Live Text allows you to select, copy, look up and translate printed or handwritten text from the camera or image, as well as call, email or get directions with a tap when iOS recognises a number or address.


Notification are also being redesigned, with larger icons and sorted into priority, pushing up direct messages and pushing down promotional messages.

Image Credit: Apple

iOS 15 is supported on all of the same devices as iOS 14. This stretches right back to the iPhone 6s, iPhone SE (1st generation) and iPod Touch (7th generation).


iPadOS 15
Video Credit: Apple

iPad is getting many of the same updates as the iPhone, plus the following:

Larger widgets are now available on iPad and can now be placed anywhere on the homescreen. Apple are also introducing new widgets from Find My, Contact, Game Center, App Store and Mail.

Image Credit: Apple

Introduced on iOS last year, iPad will be getting the App Library, allow users to hide pages of apps and bring the Translate app.

Video Credit: Apple

New multitasking tools makes split screen app management easier. Quickly create multiple workspaces and minimize apps to the new shelf.

Image Credit: Apple

You can now view activity on shared notes, add tags to find notes easier and create notes from anywhere using Quick Notes.


iPadOS 15 is also supported on all of the same devices as iPadOS 14. Going back as far as the iPad Pro (1st generation), iPad (5th generation), iPad mini 4 and iPad Air 2.


macOS 12 Monterey
Image Credit: Apple

Universal Control is one of the neatest tricks shown off yesterday. This lets you use your MacBook trackpad or a connected mouse and keyboard across Macs and iPads. You can even effortlessly drag and drop files between devices.

Video Credit: Apple


AirPlay comes to the Mac, allowing you to cast content from an iPhone or iPad straight to your Mac.

Image Credit: Apple

As on iPhone, Shortcuts brings automated tasks to the Mac. Shortcuts can be run from just about anywhere including the dock, menu bar, Finder, Spotlight or Siri.

Image Credit: Apple

Apple are also redesigning Safari on the Mac.

Image Credit: Apple

Unfortunately macOS Monterey won’t be available to everyone currently on Big Sur. Supported devices are the iMac late 2015 or later, iMac Pro 2017 or later, MacBook Air early 2015 or later, MacBook Pro early 2015 or later, Mac Pro late 2013 or later, Mac mini late 2014 or later, and MacBook early 2016 or later.


watchOS 8
Image Credit: Apple

Apple Watch this year received a fairly minor update.

Apple are introducing a couple of new workout types, including Tai Chi and Pilates.

Image Credit: Apple

The Breathe app is getting redesigned and renamed to Mindfulness.

Video Credit: Apple

Portrait mode photos on the watch face places the time between the foreground and background.

Image Credit: Apple

watchOS 8 is supported on all of the same watches. This includes Apple Watch Series 3 or later and Apple Watch SE.


AirPods

Conversation Boost uses the AirPods built-in microphones to focus and boost voices in front of you, while reducing ambient sound. Announce Notification lets you choose the important notifications you’d like Siri to read to you. Location based reminders can be read to you as you arrive at the destination, such as a shopping list at the grocery store. With Find My, you can be notified when your AirPods become separated from your phone. Plus, spatial audio is coming to all devices, such as Macs and TVs.


Privacy

As always, Apple put a heavy emphasis on Privacy with this year’s updates. On the Mail app you can now hide your IP address, location and whether you’re opened an email. On Safari you can now hide your IP address from trackers. Borrowed from Safari, the App Privacy Report details exactly which apps are using your data. On device speech recognition means Siri requests don’t leave your phone, making it faster and work offline too.


iCloud+ will provide users with more privacy controls such as Private Relay that works much like a VPN, encrypting your web data and bouncing it to two separate relays. Hide My Email lets you create unique email addresses that are forwarded to your main inbox.


Developers can find all of the sessions taking place during the week here. Developer betas are available to download today, with public betas coming next month. All new operating systems will become available to all users in the Fall.

How to stream WWDC 2021 and what to expect from Apple

Apple will start the livestream for their Worldwide Developers Conference tomorrow (Monday 7th June) at 10am PDT.

Apple are hours away from hitting the virtual stage to show off their latest and greatest software (and hopefully hardware) at WWDC 2021.

What to expect

Thanks to leaks, rumours, predictions and potential clues thanks to Apple’s promo material leading up to the event, some have guessed at what to expect going into the event. Historically Apple just show off their latest operating systems and software at WWDC, reserving hardware for other events, however it wouldn’t be the first time Apple have dropped new hardware at their Developers Conference.

Software we will see
  • iOS 15
  • iPadOS 15
  • macOS 12
  • watchOS 8
  • tvOS 15

Hardware we’re hoping for

How to watch

YouTube will start their stream at 10am PDT, 1pm ET and 6pm in the UK. Find the stream on YouTube or on Apple’s site. Head to either link to set a reminder.

Twitter Spaces are now available on web, allowing you to join audio-only rooms on desktop

Clubhouse-competitor Twitter Spaces is an audio-only social media platform. You can now access Spaces via Twitter.com.

Launched in December 2020 just as rival Clubhouse was picking up speed, Twitter Spaces is available to all Twitter users, where Clubhouse is still invite-only and only recently launched on Android. Clubhouse are also seeing increased competition from the likes of Facebook, Reddit and Spotify.

Yesterday, Twitter launched on Twitter.com, allowing mobile web and desktop web users to join Spaces, turn on transcriptions and set reminders for scheduled Spaces. The only feature the web version unfortunately currently lacks is hosting. The left screenshot below shows a Space prior to joining, while the right shows an active Space minimized to the right of the screen, leaving the timeline free to scroll.


Twitter recently opened Spaces up, letting anyone with at least 600 followers host a room.

iPad Pro M1 Review: The Ultimate Spec Bump! (Video)

Externally the same, internally radically different. Marques Brownlee reviews the brand new iPad Pro with Apple’s M1 chip.

This week has been a busy one for Apple, as they announced Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio are coming to Apple Music on Monday, the iMac review embargo was lifted yesterday, and now iPad Pro review have started coming out too. Both the new M1 iMac and M1 iPad Pro start shipping and appearing in stores this Friday.

Apple debuted the new iPad Pro during their Spring Loaded event last month. iPad Pro’s big feature for both models is of course Apple’s M1 chip. A significant jump from the already industry leading A12Z found on the previous generation tablet. iPad Pro is the fifth device to receive the M1, after Mac mini, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac 24-inch.

Marques Brownlee talks over the highlights of using the M1 iPad Pro. This includes how the increased RAM means apps stay active in the background… seemingly forever, how even the most power hungry users will likely never hit a wall in terms of performance, the super bright mini-LED XDR display on the 12.9-inch, the limitations placed on the tablet due to iPadOS, and hopes for improvements with iPadOS 15, which we should see at WWDC next month.

The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799 for 128GB of storage and WiFi connectivity. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1099 for 128GB of storage and WiFi connectivity. Both come in Space Gray or Silver. You can pay extra for more storage (which comes with more RAM), 5G cellular and an Apple Pencil or keyboard

iPad Pro 11-inch
iPad Pro 12.9-inch