MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Colony Organizer and Leather Sleeve From Quell & Company

For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with Quell & Company to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Colony Organizer and a Leather Sleeve for their iOS and Mac devices.

The Colony Organizer, priced at $60, is essentially a charging dock for your iPhone and iPad, designed to securely and stylishly hold your devices while they charge. Made from Maple or Walnut wood, the Colony Organizer can hold up to four devices and two charging cables between its series of pegs, keeping them neatly stored away on a desk or surface while charging.


Charging cords (not included) run up through a center cutout in the organizer, and a felt base protects your devices from any scratches or damage. Micro suction pads on the base ensure that it's stable, so it's not going to fall over or slip off of your desk even when loaded with iPhones and iPads. It's compatible with the iPhone 5 and later, all Lightning-based iPads, the 12-inch MacBook, and the Apple Watch.


Quell & Company's Leather Sleeve, priced at $95, is designed to work with the 12-inch MacBook or any 9.7-inch iPad, including Apple's newly released $329 model. The Leather Sleeve, as the name suggests, is made from a high quality black leather lined with felt.


It features a zippered main pocket that fits your Apple device, along with three front pockets that can be used for other accessories like the Apple Pencil, charging cables, and even an iPhone.


Quell & Company is offering a Colony Organizer and a Leather Sleeve to three MacRumors readers, who will be able to pick the color (organizer) and size (sleeve) of their choosing. To enter to win, use the Rafflecopter widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winner and send the prize. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the giveaway restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The contest will run from today (March 24) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 31. The winners will be chosen randomly on March 31 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

Along with the giveaway, Quell & Company is offering an exclusive 20 percent discount on all of its products for MacRumors readers. To get the discount, enter the code "macrumors" when checking out on the site. The discount will be available for one week.

Nintendo Prefers Super Mario Run Pay-Once Model, Calls Freemium Structure of Fire Emblem Heroes an 'Outlier'

As Nintendo keeps launching new properties onto smartphones, the company has taken different strategies in regards to each app's payment model, including free-to-play (Miitomo, Fire Emblem Heroes) and pay-once-and-play (Super Mario Run). According to a senior official at the company, Nintendo actually "prefers" the Super Mario Run model over Fire Emblem Heroes, despite the more lucrative future that Fire Emblem Heroes' in-app purchases have in store for Nintendo (via Nikkei).

According to Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima, Super Mario Run's revenue "did not meet" the company's expectations. Ahead of the game's release, it was reported that Nintendo was eyeing a pay-once model so that parents could download Super Mario Run for their kids without the added anxiety of in-app purchases appearing later in their iTunes purchase history.


It appears that the gaming company still intends for most of its future apps to follow in Super Mario Run's footsteps and not those of Fire Emblem Heroes, with a senior company official referring to Heroes as "an outlier" in the grand scheme of Nintendo's mobile strategy.
Yet [Super Mario Run] was less of a moneymaker for Nintendo than might have been expected, due to the pay-once-and-play model. Revenue from the game "did not meet our expectations," Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said.

Even so, Nintendo has no intention of switching focus to freemium games. "'Heroes' is an outlier," a senior company official said. "We honestly prefer the 'Super Mario Run' model."
The company is believed to care more about expanding the reach of its intellectual properties to a wider audience and "aims to do more with its smartphone games than make money." Another goal for Nintendo is to mine the potential synergy future apps could have with the new Switch console, where players pick up the app to get hooked, and are convinced to further explore -- and spend more money -- on a larger version of the game.

According to Nikkei, the long-term success of Super Mario Run will be measured in how well it turns new Nintendo fans into console players and buyers: "The game's true value will be measured by how much it expands the ranks of Nintendo fans and helps sales of the Switch."

Last year, Isao Moriyasu -- Chief Executive of DeNA, Nintendo's mobile app developer partner -- said that the next two Nintendo apps would be "free-to-start apps," referring to Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing, which was recently delayed. Super Mario Run is technically free-to-start as well, allowing players to mess around with a few story levels and modes before asking for the monetary investment to unlock the full game. This week, that free section was expanded slightly in the game's version 2.0 update.

Players can purchase game-boosting "Orbs" in Fire Emblem Heroes

In terms of payment models, the distinction between Fire Emblem Heroes and Super Mario Run is clear, and it appears that Nintendo intends to keep focused on higher-priced gaming apps instead of the more popular freemium model. Looking towards the future, we still only know that Animal Crossing is set to appear next on mobile devices, likely sometime later this year. Unfortunately, today's news muddies the waters regarding that game's payment strategy, since it's now unclear whether it will lean towards Fire Emblem Heroes' freemium model, as Moriyasu said, or be part of Nintendo's preference for a pay-once option.

Super Mario Run launched in December and saw massive launch day download numbers, but the app has since dwindled down the Top Grossing charts for the Games section of the iOS App Store, amid users raising uncertainties over its $9.99 price tag and always-online requirements. At the time of writing, Super Mario Run is the 117th game on the Top Grossing Games list, while Fire Emblem Heroes sits at the 48th spot.

Casetify Debuts Red iPhone 7 Case Collection

Casetify, a site that specializes in custom designed iPhone and iPad cases, today debuted a collection of shine-through design cases especially curated for Apple's special edition (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which also debuts on Friday.

In total, 60 different designs make up the collection, which includes repeating pattern designs, favorite quotes, and vector graphics, among other illustrations. Individual cases cost $40 each for both 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch handset sizes.


The cases are made in a soft polycarbonate (TPU) Classic Grip, which safeguards the phone from any accidental drops. The matte, soft-touch frame enables a soft grip, while the semi-transparent back exposes the anodized aluminum red finish of Apple's new iPhone colorway.

Using the site's design feature, or the company's mobile app, users also have the ability to create their own see-through designs, by adding photos from their computers, Instagram, or Facebook to personalize their case.

Tag: Casetify

Facebook Debuts Message Reactions and Mentions for its Messenger App

Facebook's Messenger app for iOS devices was today updated with a new Message Reactions feature, which is similar to the Tapback features introduced in Apple's Messages app in iOS 10.

Message Reactions are designed to allow Facebook users to react to a message with an emoji symbol to express an emotion without needing to type out a response. Users can choose from emoji like thumbs up, thumbs down, a sad face, an angry face, a smiling face, and more.


To add a reaction to an incoming message, press and hold on the message and choose an emoji. For those who use Apple's Messages app, this action is already familiar.

The emoji reaction is added to whichever message it's attached to in the form of a small animation. Messenger Reactions work on one on one conversations and group conversations, and can be used on text, photos, stickers, videos, and more.

Also new in Messenger is "Mentions," designed to allow users to notify someone when they've been mentioned in a conversation. This is, of course, mainly useful for group conversations that have multiple participants.

A Mention can be sent by using the "@" symbol before someone's name, and the person who has been mentioned will receive a notification.

Both Mentions and Reactions are rolling out to the Messenger app today.

Facebook Messenger for iOS can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tag: Facebook

Instagram Continues to Build 'Safer, Kinder' Community With Two-Factor Authentication and Blurred Posts

Instagram today continued its rollout of pressure free, community-focused updates that now include a blur filter to obscure potentially sensitive content, as deemed by the Instagram review team when a particular post is reported. Instagram said that this means users are "less likely to have surprising or unwanted experiences in the app," but they can still view the image or video by simply tapping on the blurred post.

Security is getting beefed up in the new update as well, with Instagram enabling two-factor authentication for every user. As it is everywhere else, when the security measure is implemented by a user they will have to type in a code -- sent through a text message -- every time they log in to their Instagram account. Instagram said that these updates will help the app continue to move towards "fostering a safer, kinder community."


Instagram's kindness-focused hopes for its community will be represented in a worldwide meet-up happening March 25 and 26, where users everywhere can find local meet-ups "to share their stories and spread kindness in the world."
The first step is to celebrate the kindness our community is already known for. On March 25 and 26, tens of thousands of Instagrammers all over the world will come together for Worldwide InstaMeet 15 to share their stories and spread kindness in the world. You can find an InstaMeet near you or spread kindness by leaving an encouraging comment, giving an inspiring person a like or sharing a message of support with a friend.

Our teams are focused on making Instagram a kind, welcoming place for everyone, and we’re just getting started.
Earlier this week, a Bloomberg report stated that Instagram is working on a way to let users book appointments directly within the app by visiting pages of hair salons and restaurants. The move is said to be intended to take on the likes of Yelp by also adding a way for users to post reviews of businesses on their Instagram page, fostering a community of opinions to inform potential customers of the quality of the location.

Tag: Instagram

VUDU iOS App Updated With $2-$5 Disc-to-Digital Movie Conversions Using Barcodes

Walmart today announced that a new update to the mobile app for its streaming movie service, VUDU, will allow customers to scan and digitize any physical DVD or Blu-Ray into digital form for a price between $2 and $5, right from their smartphone. The update is an expansion of Walmart's "Disc-to-Digital" in-house service, which encouraged customers to bring their physical movies to a local Walmart to transfer them into cloud storage, and in recent years also added digital conversion on home computers.

Now, Mobile Disc-to-Digital will work on both iOS and Android devices and will support nearly 8,000 films from Lionsgate, Paramount Home Media Distribution, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. VUDU said it intends to keep adding support from more distributors over the coming months.

“The average movie collector owns nearly 100 DVDs and Blu-rays. We know these customers have invested a lot into building their physical movie collections,” said Jeremy Verba, general manager, Vudu. “As more and more customers create digital libraries, we are constantly looking for ways to help them unlock additional value from the movies they already own.”

“Like Walmart, at Vudu we’re always striving to save our customers time and money,” added Verba. “Our Mobile Disc-to-Digital service is a key part of Vudu’s broader effort to make digital entertainment access simple and convenient.”
To convert a movie into a digital copy, customers must navigate to the new disc-to-digital section of the VUDU app and scan the physical barcode of the film they want to digitize. Here they will be presented with digital options and prices: converting a DVD to SD or a Blu-ray disc to HDX costs $2, while converting a DVD to the higher-definition HDX costs $5. Users can keep scanning and adding movies in bulk, and once the digitalization is finished, all of the movies can be viewed on any VUDU-enabled device.

To ensure that users are scanning in copies of films that they have already purchased, the VUDU app will enable disc-to-digital conversions only when it can determine that the user is at their designated home/billing address.

VUDU is available on the iPhone and iPad [Direct Link], and today's Mobile Disc-to-Digital update will go live at 12:00 p.m. EDT. An engineer working for the streaming company recently confirmed that an Apple TV app is in development, with no clear timetable as to when it might debut.

Tag: VUDU

Apple to Begin iPhone 6, 6s, and SE Manufacturing in India Over Next Few Months

Government officials in India today confirmed that Apple will begin manufacturing iPhone devices within its Bangalore plant over the next few months, in a bid to boost the company's presence within the Indian smartphone market.

As was previously reported, Wistron will take the brunt of iPhone manufacturing in the country, focusing on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE.

In terms of timeline, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s will begin production in the next four-to-six weeks, while Wistron will hold off adding the iPhone SE to the production line for another three months, according to the officials familiar with Apple's plans speaking to The Wall Street Journal. Today's news falls directly in line with a report from February that said Apple was planning to begin assembling iPhone SE devices within India in the coming months.
“Almost all preparations have been done for launching Apple’s first phase project in Bangalore through Wistron,” the official told The Wall Street Journal.

“We’ve been working hard to develop our operations in India,” an Apple spokeswoman said. “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with government about further expanding our local operations.” A Wistron spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on “rumor or speculation.”
Apple has been slowly and steadily ramping up its presence in India, over the past few months laying the groundwork by negotiating terms with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking tax concessions from locally manufactured iPhones, and setting up a local distribution center to streamline logistics as its presence in the country grows.

In regards to the tax concessions, the Indian government has yet to accept Apple's demand, but it did mention that it "will try to accomodate as much of their demands as possible" as the relationship between Apple and India grows.
“Apple is closely working with [the] government to move forward with its India plans. We want Apple to manufacture in India. They are also very keen,” an official who works closely with Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, declining to be named. ”We will try to accommodate as much of their demands as possible, but they too appreciate and understand our limitations.”
Last summer, a report from Strategy Analytics detailed Apple's struggle within India due to the iPhone's expensive price tag, outlining a total 35 percent fewer iPhone devices sold in 2016 than in 2015.

Tag: India

Google Photos and Duo App Updates Coming For Users in Low Connectivity Areas

Google announced a couple of notable updates for its Duo and Photos apps yesterday at the company's São Paulo event, where it pitched the features as ideal solutions for users in Brazil who live in low connectivity areas.

Google Photos received two new features to make photo backup and sharing easier when using the app in locations with poor network coverage.


Photos now backs up images in a lightweight preview quality that Google says "still looks great on a smartphone" and can be easily shared over poor connections. When a good Wi-Fi connection does become available, the backed up photos are automatically replaced with high quality versions.
We’re also making it easier to share many photos at once even on low connectivity. Never mind if you're at the beach or hiking in the mountains, with Google Photos you can now share pictures quickly even with a spotty connection by sending first in low resolution so friends and family can view them right away. They'll later update in higher resolution when connectivity permits.
Video calling app Duo gained an audio-only calling feature that users can switch to when an internet connection is poor. The features for both apps are available in Brazil from today, and Google says it will be rolling them out to users around the world in the coming days.

Yesterday, Google also announced a new feature for Maps that lets users share their real-time locations with friends and family.

Nintendo's 'Super Mario Run' for iOS Updated With New Characters, Easy Mode and More Free Content

Nintendo today released version 2.0 of Super Mario Run, its popular Mario-themed platform game for iOS devices. Today's update adds a host of new features, including new playable characters, an easy mode, additional free content, and more.

Starting today, players can get different colored Yoshis in Super Mario Run. Using a Yoshi of a particular color to play Toad Rally will result in more Toads of that color when a rally is won.


For customers who have not purchased the full Super Mario Run game, Nintendo is adding more free content, in the form of Bowser's Challenges. Completing one of Bowser's challenges will unlock the previous locked 1-4 course. Clearing 1-4 will then unlock new courses to play in Toad Rally, new Toad colors, and new Shop buildings.

For tough challenges and for players who aren't as skilled, an Easy Mode has been added to the game that can be selected when using World Tour mode. This will make the basic Mario levels easier to complete.

Nintendo has also made adjustments to the tutorial to make it easier to understand special actions, pink coins, and more, and there have also been tweaks to the number of Rally Tickets received from the ? Block and it's now easier to get some of the buildings in the shop.

For Toad Rally, the appearance rates of various Toads have been adjusted, making it easier to get Toads to purchase buildings.

In the future, Nintendo also plans to add additional buildings that will be unlocked by an event.

Super Mario Run can be downloaded from the App Store for free, but it will cost $9.99 to unlock the full game. [Direct Link]

Best Buy Offering $25 Gift Card With Purchase of New iPad

With the purchase of one of Apple's new iPads, announced yesterday, Best Buy is offering a free $25 Best Buy gift card that can be used towards future Best Buy purchases.

The $25 gift card is a small amount, but it's the best sale we've seen on the as-of-yet unreleased iPad, effectively dropping the price of the entry-level tablet to $305.


In its retail stores, Best Buy is also offering a $150 Best Buy gift card with the trade-in of any working iPad mini 2, mini 3, mini 4, iPad Air, or iPad Pro, with the total able to be put towards the price of the new iPad. Devices must be in working condition with no cracks to be eligible for trade-in.

Customers can't yet place an order for the new iPad from Best Buy, but can sign up for email notifications. The new iPad will go on sale at 8:01 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, March 24.

Apple's new iPad is positioned as a low-cost 9.7-inch tablet designed to replace the iPad Air 2. It features an upgraded A9 processor, a brighter display, and a thicker iPad Air-style body.

Prices on the iPad start at $329 for the entry-level 32GB Wi-Fi only model. A 128GB model is available for $429, and Wi-Fi + Cellular models are available for an additional $130.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals
Tag: Best Buy

Hackers Claim Access to 300 Million iCloud Accounts, Say Apple Refused to Pay $75,000 Ransom

A single hacker or group of hackers who have identified themselves as the "Turkish Crime Family" allegedly have access to at least 300 million iCloud accounts, but they are willing to delete the alleged cache of data if Apple pays a ransom by early next month, according to a report from Motherboard.


The hackers have allegedly demanded $75,000 to be paid in cryptocurrencies Bitcoin or Ethereum, or $100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards, by April 7, or they will reset a number of the iCloud accounts and remotely wipe victims' Apple devices. The email accounts are said to include @icloud.com, @me.com, and @mac.com addresses.

The report said that the hackers "provided screenshots of alleged emails between the group and members of Apple's security team," while the hackers also shared an unlinked YouTube video that seemingly shows proof of them accessing "an elderly woman's iCloud account" and "the ability to remotely wipe the device."

If the screenshotted email is accurate, which it very well might not be, a member of Apple's security team turned down the ransom, noting that Apple does "not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law."
"We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it's seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law," a message allegedly from a member of Apple's security team reads. (Motherboard only saw a screenshot of this message, and not the original). The alleged Apple team member then says archived communications with the hacker will be sent to the authorities.
Apple did apparently request to see a sample of the dataset, according to the report, but it is unclear if the hackers obliged.

"I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing," one of the hackers said.

The report should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism, as these allegations could be untrue, and Apple has yet to confirm or comment on the matter.

Update: The group claims additional hackers have stepped forward and shared additional account credentials, putting the number of accessible iCloud accounts at over 627 million, according to security-centric website CSO Online.

Google Maps Introduces New Location Sharing Feature With Real-Time Friend Tracking

Google today announced an update coming to the iOS, Android, and desktop versions of Google Maps will introduce a way for users to share their real-time locations with friends and family. Google's update differs from the location sharing in Apple Maps, Messages, and Find My Friends, which all lack the ability to follow friends around on a map in real-time.

In Google Maps on iOS, users will be able to tap into the app's side menu, choose "Share Location," and pick from a selection of approved contacts who will see their current location. Contacts are pulled from existing Google accounts, and users can also send links through Messages to friends who aren't on their contacts list when they need to share their location.


After a user's location is shared, their chosen contacts will see where they are within Google Maps, represented as a small face icon that moves in real-time according to where the sharer is located. A small icon above the compass in the app will remind users that their location is being shared for the period of time they requested, but they can also choose to end sharing early.

Google today posted a video to detail a real scenario where its location sharing feature could come in handy, focusing on the creation of a surprise birthday party. The video also shows off how users can share their car trips with friends, so they can see an ETA on when the sharer should be arriving.


Google said that location sharing will be rolling out worldwide sometime soon. Google Maps can be downloaded for free from the iOS App Store. [Direct Link]