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Google announces crackdown on in-app billing, aimed at Netflix and Spotify

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With a lot of focus lately on how smartphone app developers are treated on Apple’s and Google’s app stores, Google has decided right now is a great time to announce more stringent app store billing rules. A new post from the official Android Developer Blog promises a crackdown on in-app billing that sounds like it’s targeted at big streaming services like Netflix and Spotify.

Google’s post really beats around the bush trying to sugar-coat this announcement, but it starts off by saying, “We’ve always required developers who distribute their apps on Play to use Google Play’s billing system if they offer in-app purchases of digital goods, and pay a service fee from a percentage of the purchase.” This rule has not been enforced, though, and a lot of big developers have just ignored Google’s billing requirements. Today, Netflix and Spotify don’t use Google’s in-app billing and instead kick new accounts out to a Web browser, where the companies can use PayPal or direct credit card processing to dodge Google’s 30-percent fees.

“We have clarified the language in our Payments Policy to be more explicit that all developers selling digital goods in their apps are required to use Google Play’s billing system,” Google continues. “For those who already have an app on Google Play that requires technical work to integrate our billing system, we do not want to unduly disrupt their roadmaps and are giving a year (until September 30, 2021) to complete any needed updates.”

That’s basically the meat of the blog post: everybody needs to use Google billing by this time next year. A look at the “Payments Policy” shows examples like “subscription services” that offer things like “music” and “video.” It also warns readers at the top that “changes are coming to this policy!” and that “any existing app that is currently using an alternative billing system will need to remove it to comply with this update.”

Google draws a clear distinction between Android and iOS by pointing out that on Android, developers have a “choice of stores” and that most Android devices ship with multiple app stores. Google mentions twice that “each store is able to decide its own business model and consumer features” with the implication being that if developers want to be on Google Play, which has 2 billion active users, they’re going to have to start following the rules or look elsewhere.

Better third-party app store support in Android 12?

One other tidbit in this post is news of an Android 12 feature: “We will be making changes in Android 12 (next year’s Android release) to make it even easier for people to use other app stores on their devices while being careful not to compromise the safety measures Android has in place. We are designing all this now and look forward to sharing more in the future!”

Currently, installing a second app store requires a few extra checkboxes, but given that stepping outside of Google’s walled garden really does expose users to more threats, the two warning messages don’t seem excessive. Google regularly publishes stats comparing the malware rate of Google Play-only devices versus devices that have installed apps from outside the Play Store. While Google Play is by no means perfect, Google is one of the few app store operators big enough to put every app through some kind of vetting process, and as a result, users have been anywhere from 5 to 10 times more likely to get malware outside the Play Store than inside it for the past two years.

The current app store install process is not that arduous. If you’re downloading something like F-Droid (an open source app store), first Chrome will give you a warning that this type of file (an APK) can harm your device, which you can click through. If you’ve never installed an app from the browser before, you’ll be forwarded to the device settings so you can flip the “allow installs from source” checkbox for Chrome. Then you can install the app store. Android requires any app that installs apps to be given the “install unknown apps” checkbox, so you’ll also need to flip this setting to allow the new app store to install apps.

Android 11's alternative app store install process.
Enlarge / Android 11’s alternative app store install process.
Ron Amadeo

This move to make third-party app stores easier to use makes a bit more sense as a response to Fortnite‘s developer, Epic, which is currently suing Google over its alternative app store policies. “Directly downloading Fortnite on an Android device can involve a dozen steps, requiring the user to change default settings and bravely click through multiple dire warnings,” Epic’s antitrust lawsuit reads. “And even if a persistent user manages to install a competing app store, Google prevents such stores from competing on equal footing with the Google Play Store by blocking them from offering basic functions, such as automatic updating of apps in the background.”

Like any lawsuit, Epic’s filing is a bit blustery. By my count, installing a third-party app store takes five taps, not “a dozen steps.” While any pre-installed app store (in the locked-down system partition) can install app updates, Epic is right that user-downloaded app stores can’t automatically update apps. Letting downloaded apps install new code in the background without user consent sounds just a little scary, but maybe Google could add a highly privileged “app store” permission for downloaded apps to make companies like Epic happy. Epic also says it doesn’t like “dire warnings” attached to these permissions either, though, and correctly informing users of how powerful an app store permission would be would require a pretty scary-sounding warning. Epic was already caught irresponsibly using these powers once, when the Fortnight Installer opened up Samsung devices to a security vulnerability.

Source:- Ars Technica

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Apple Launches AirPods Pro Repair Program Over Sound Issues – iPhone in Canada

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Apple has launched an ‘AirPods Pro Service Program’ on Friday afternoon, to address a problem with sound issues on its wireless earphones.

“Apple has determined that a small percentage of AirPods Pro may experience sound issues. Affected units were manufactured before October 2020,” reads the company’s support bulletin.

Apple says affected AirPods Pro may see one or more of the following behaviours:

  • Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone
  • Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

“Your AirPods Pro will be examined prior to any service to verify that they are eligible for this program. AirPods Pro (left, right or both) with a confirmed issue will be replaced. The AirPods Pro case is not affected and will not be replaced,” says Apple.

The program covers affected AirPods Pro for 2 years after the first retail sale of the unit.

Apple says it can fix this issue at no cost for customers, with the program also available at Apple Authorized Service Providers. Your AirPods Pro (left, right or both) will be fixed says Apple, free of charge. The program is available for Canada.

To start a repair, start a chat with Apple Support. You will need the serial number of your AirPods Pro (found via the Bluetooth menu on your iPhone or iPad when they are connected). If you are eligible, Apple will send you replacement AirPods Pro and you send back the old ones (the charging case stays with you).

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Bose and Beats headphones get early Black Friday deals from $120 on Amazon – BGR

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We’re all anxious for Black Friday 2020 to arrive, but Amazon is apparently even more anxious than any of us because it decided to launch a slew of early Black Friday deals. We’ve already told you about a bunch of them, including all-time low prices on 36 different Amazon devices and bundles, Apple’s AirPods Pro for Prime Day’s price of $199, and Bose’s best-selling soundbar ever for just $149 instead of $250. Now, there are two more early Black Friday deals we want to tell you about.

First and foremost, Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless noise cancelling headphones are on sale at an all-time low of just $199. These beloved ANC headphones normally sell for $350 and they’re worth every penny at that price. The new Sony WH1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones are a steal while they’re on sale for $278 at Amazon, but the $199 Bose QC35 deal is even better.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice contr… Price:$199.00 Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

If you want to spend even less cash and you don’t need noise cancelling (seriously, is anyone flying anywhere anytime soon?), there’s a terrific one-day deal on Beats Solo3 wireless headphones that slashes them to just $119.95. There are other Beats headphones deals available today at Amazon, but this is probably the hottest one.

Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones – Apple W1 Headphone Chip, Class 1 Bluetooth, 40 Hours O… List Price:$177.99 Price:$119.95 You Save:$58.04 (33%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless noise cancelling headphones – $199


Image source: Bose

The noise-rejecting microphone system means you don’t need to take your headphones off to make a phone call. The noise cancelling technology offers you up to three levels of quiet. You can even control this pair with your voice.

  • Three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening experience in any environment
  • Alexa-enabled for voice access to music, information, and more
  • Noise-rejecting dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice pick-up
  • Balanced Audio performance at any volume

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice contr… Price:$199.00 Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now

Beats Solo3 wireless headphones – $119.95


You won’t have any problems connecting this with Bluetooth devices. You won’t even have to charge these every day, as they offer up to 40 hours of battery life. Your phones will sync with this quickly.

  • High-performance wireless Bluetooth headphones in satin silver
  • Features the Apple W1 chip and Class 1 wireless Bluetooth connectivity
  • With up to 40 hours of battery life, Beats Solo3 wireless is your perfect everyday headphone
  • Compatible with iOS and Android devices

Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones – Apple W1 Headphone Chip, Class 1 Bluetooth, 40 Hours O… List Price:$177.99 Price:$119.95 You Save:$58.04 (33%) Available from Amazon, BGR may receive a commission Buy Now


Follow @BGRDeals on Twitter to keep up with the latest and greatest deals we find around the web. Prices subject to change without notice and any coupons mentioned above may be available in limited supply.

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Best Buy’s three-day sale on OLED TVs, headphones, and more ends Saturday – The Verge

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Saturday is your last chance to get in on Best Buy’s multi-day sale, but don’t worry if you miss out. Black Friday is a few weeks away, and this year, retailers are offering very good sale prices almost every day. Wherever those deals come from, we’ll be putting them in deal posts for you to check out. What follows are the best deals that have made the rounds on The Verge earlier this week, as well as some new inclusions we think you’ll enjoy.

Sony’s WH-1000XM4 wireless noise-canceling headphones come recommended if you want a comfy over-ear model with excellent sound quality and long-lasting battery life. Normally $350, they’re down to $278. This matches the lowest price yet.

There are some big discounts happening on LG and Vizio OLED TVs at Best Buy. Their design and feature set vary slightly, but with both you’ll get great picture quality and rich contrast. They’re still very expensive compared to LED TVs, but it’s a good investment if you watch a lot of movies and play games. Both TVs have HDMI 2.1, so they can display compatible PS5 and Xbox Series X games at 4K resolution and up to a 120Hz refresh rate.

Samsung 70-inch 4K TV

If having a bigger TV is more important than the kinds of features it has, Samsung’s 70-inch 4K TV is just $530 at Best Buy through Saturday.

Amazon discounted most of its Echo and Fire TV devices earlier this week, and those deals are still going strong. You should definitely expect most of these to remain somewhat constant throughout the holiday shopping season. But if you want to shop early, here are the standout deals from its sale.

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