Apple World Today News Update: January 26, 2018

For this last Friday of January 2018, we have a series of fun and informative stories for you:

  • Apple has created clever animoji ads for Sunday night's Grammy awards featuring the music of several of the nominees
  • Revenues from the iOS App Store are almost double that of Google's Play Store, even with fewer downloads for iOS apps
  • Apple's HomePod is now available for pre-order; we talk about some of the first review comments
  • TSMC broke ground on a new plant today that will build 5nm process chips for Apple
  • The iPhone SE 2 may roll out as soon as May or June of 2018, according to sketchy rumors from DigiTimes

The text version of the podcast can be read below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. Apple News readers need to visit Apple World Today in order to listen to the podcast.

Text Version

This is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and you’re listening to the AWT News Update podcast for Friday, January 26, 2018.  

Apple has created a group of very clever ads for the Grammy awards that feature animoji singing a number of songs that will be up for the music awards on Sunday. You can see the alien animoji singing “Redbone” by Childish Gambino, with a number of unicorn singing backup vocals, or watch the animoji dog, fox and poop singing “Stir Fry” by rap group Migos. The videos are available on the Apple channel on YouTube, or you can just wait to see them during the Grammy Awards. 

The iOS App Store continues to be a huge money maker for both developers and Apple. App analytics firm AppAnnie reports that although Google’s Google Play Android App Store is leading Apple’s store in terms of app downloads, those downloads are coming predominantly from developing countries and Google Play is making 95% less revenue than the App Store. It’s thought that iOS App Store users spent $11.5 billion in the fourth calendar quarter of 2017, while Google’s store picked up about $5 billion. Android users are apparently significantly less likely to be paying for subscription content, and there is a high rate of bootleg apps and shared apps in the Android ecosystem. As a result, developers are choosing to focus their premium app development on iOS first, and in many cases are deciding to keep those premium apps iOS-only.

Now that pre-orders for Apple’s HomePod smart speaker are open, we’re beginning to see some early reviews from folks who have had a chance to use one. The common thread with most of the reviews seems to be that the speaker sounds great and that the depth of functionality — when used with Apple Music — is impressive. Siri can answer questions like “Who is the drummer in this song?”, “When was this song released?” And “What was the top song in 1983?, calling not only on the vast amount of metadata stored in Apple Music but places like Wikipedia as well. The setup process is similar to what is seen with the Apple TV 4K and AirPods, where an existing Apple device just has to be near the HomePod. In other words, it’s a very streamlined setup experience and takes very little time. HomePod will be available starting on February 9 at Apple retail stores and Best Buy.

Apple supplier TSMC today broke ground on a new advanced chip project worth $24 billion in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan. The facility will begin making pilot chip runs next year, then roll out chips using a 5nm lithography process. These chips could make it possible for iPhones running on 5nm chips to further support augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine deep learning, and even make the devices able to run for days on a single charge. Morris Chang, founding chairman of TSMC, noted that the company is confident that the’ll be rolling out even more energy-efficient 3nm chips starting in four years. 

While concentrating on the high-end models of the iPhone, Apple isn’t neglecting the low end. According to a supply chain report out from DigiTimes, a so-called iPhone SE 2 will roll out in May or June of 2018. The details are sketchy and of course subject to the typical lack of accuracy that we expect from DigiTimes, but the group says that the new phone will feature wireless charging. The report confusingly says that the new phone will not have “3D sensing”, which could either mean that it won’t have 3D Touch or that — logically — it wouldn’t have the TrueDepth 3D camera system that is used for Face ID. 

That’s all for today; I’ll be back Monday afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.