App store “free trials”

App store “free trials”

MarsEdit developer Daniel Jalkut on Apple’s announced free trials:

On Monday Apple announced that they are officially supporting so-called “free trials” for non-subscription apps. The reaction has been a breathless celebration that Apple has finally relented and given developers something we’ve been asking, no begging, for since the dawn of the App Store.

But what really changed? Not much. Apple announced no functional changes to the way the apps are categorized, how pricing is conveyed to customers, or how the physical transaction of downloading, trialing, and potentially purchasing an app takes place. What they did announce is a change to the App Review Guidelines, adding a bullet item to section 3.1.1 describing a kind of ersatz substitute for actual free trials, built on the in-app purchase system:

Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: “14-day Trial.”

This change to the review guidelines is fantastic, because it will give app developers greater confidence that such a workaround will continue to be approved by Apple. But the practice of offering free trials in this manner is not new, and is not particularly great by any stretch of the imagination.

[…]

I  think it’s particularly important, in the face of all the celebration this week about Apple’s perceived changes to the App Store, to understand the many ways in which this solution falls short of what many developers still hope for: bona fide support for real free trials in the App Store.

In summary: none of the mechanics of supporting ersatz free trials are substantially supported by the App Store. Every aspect of the solution is bolted on to a system which was not designed for, yet is somewhat admirably being used to simulate real support for free trials. Let me elaborate by listing several shortcomings and how they affect both users and developers in significant ways. Just off the top of my head …

  • Paid apps are listed as free, even though payment is required to unlock core functionality. This is confusing to many users and leads some to a feeling of bait-and-switch, and that they’ve been betrayed by the developer. This is particularly problematic with apps whose price points make them most suitable to free trials. MarsEdit is $50, so some users who download the “free app” are understandably annoyed when the first thing they learn is that it will cost a significant amount to unlock it.
  • Bulk purchase programs are unavailable. Apple’s Volume Purchase Programs for business and education are based on a system of allocating a certain number of “primary” App Store products to an institution. In the case of a free app with paid in-app purchases, there is no mechanism by which a school or company can for example purchase 500 copies of MarsEdit from the App Store. They can “purchase” 500 free copies and then proceed to unlock each copy individually through the in-app purchase dialog in each app. This is a particularly unfortunate limitation for apps that are uniquely suitedeither to education or to business uses.
  • Family sharing is unavailable. For the same reasons that bulk purchases are off the table, a developer who wants to allow families to purchase an app once and share it among their family’s devices and accounts is unable to do so unless they sell their app with a fixed, up-front cost in the App Store.
  • Not applicable to all app types. Although Apple doesn’t explicitly state it in their revised App Review Guidelines, I strongly suspect that a continuing requirement for ersatz free trials is that the app must continue to function in some way as a perpetually free, unlocked app. For document-based apps such as Omni’s, they went with an approach whereby the app becomes a read-only document viewer when it is not paid for. In MarsEdit, I took a similar tack by allowing all features to function except for publishing changes to blogs. In many cases it is possible to contrive a free/paid functionality divide, but for some apps it would be very awkward, or maybe impossible to do so.
  • Apps are ranked and featured in the wrong charts. A problem rooted in these paid apps being listed as free is that there is no natural place for them to be honestly ranked among the App Store’s two-tier division of apps into “Paid” and “Free” charts. An app that is $50 and sells very well will never make its way to the top of the “Paid” charts, and if it is lucky enough to beat out actually free apps in the free charts, it will only confound users who are surprised to learn that one of the top free apps actually costs money. The presence of a “Top Grossing” category provided a sort of compromise category for such apps, but Apple removed the ranking from iOS 11, and appears to be set to remove it from the Mac App Store in macOS Mojave.
  • Transaction mechanics are pushed onto developers. One of the primary advantages of the App Store to developers is being able to get out of the business of managing direct sale transactions. With the paid-up-front approach, users browse the store, conduct a transaction with Apple, and download the app. In exchange for taking on this work, Apple is rewarded with a 30% cut. With ersatz free trials, almost every aspect of this complexity is pushed into the app, where developers have to laboriously devise a mechanism for conveying app limitations to users, blocking pertinent functionality, transacting an in-app purchase, facilitating the unlock of app functionality, and so on.
  • Free trials cannot be easily reset. It is typical outside of App Store marketplaces for developers who offer free trials to periodically reset free trials so that users who, for example, enjoyed a free trial on version 1.0 of an app, can give it a fresh look on 1.1. The use of in-app purchases for accommodating free trials would, strictly speaking, require that developers perpetually add new SKUs to the App Store representing a different “free trial” product for each of the timeframes in which a developer wants to reset things.
  • Apps cannot be made to “just work” out of the box. One of the main rationales for offering free trials is to get prospective customers to download and start using the great features of an app as quickly and with as little effort as possible. With ersatz free trials a customer must first authorize Apple to allow the download of the free app, and then they must commence a confusing in-app purchase process during which they will be asked again whether they want to start a free trial.

[…]

For starters, real free trials would allow developers who currently list their apps as “free” in the App Store to list them by their actual price. The App Store could convey that information both more honestly and more informatively to users. Instead of “Free with in-app purchases,” MarsEdit could be identified succinctly as “$49.95 with 14-day free trial.” These apps would no longer be erroneously featured among free apps, but would rank alongside other paid apps, where they belong.

Having a bona fide price associated with the main App Store SKU would re-open access to the bulk purchase programs and family sharing. You know you want 500 copies of MarsEdit for your company? Go ahead and purchase 500 copies. The fact that the App Store happens to support free trials would be irrelevant to your conducting this transaction with Apple.

Real free trials would open the functionality up to any developer who chooses to participate, regardless of their app’s functionality. Instead of forcing developers to come up with arbitrary lock-downs on functionality in the app, they would simply flip a switch in App Store Connect, ideally specifying a trial duration. When free trials are downloaded from the store, the receipt would have the trial information baked right in.

Putting the logic in the store itself would also empower developers to start or stop offering free trials whenever they like, and to reset free trials across the board with major updates, in the same way they can choose to reset star ratings today. And all the tedious mechanics of offering, transacting, and enforcing free trial limitations would obviously be back in Apple’s court, where they can efficiently support such functionality in one place instead of requiring every developer to re-implement the same kind of support in every app.

Finally, and probably equally importantly to users and developers alike, real free trials would enable users to effortlessly download and use all the features of an app without having to labor through any of the administrative tedium that is currently required by ersatz free trials. Happy customers trying excellent apps and ultimately paying for them is something that we can all get excited about.

Source: https://bitsplitting.org/2018/06/06/ersatz-free-trials/

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100 features coming in iOS 12

The guys at 9to5 Mac have put together this neat video of 100 features coming in IOS 12.

Changes covered in this video:

  • GeekBench 4 Compute Comparison
  • New iOS 12 wallpaper
  • New Measure app
  • Leveler moved from Compass app
  • Swipe up to kill apps
  • Redesigned Voice Memos app
  • Voice Memos for iPad
  • Date in iPad Status Bar
  • Faster performance
  • Updated QuickType keyboard UI
  • Updated Stocks app
  • iPad Stocks app
  • New iPhone X-inspired iPad gestures
  • Redesigned News app
  • More Markup color options
  • Change markup thickness and opacity
  • Control Center Scan QR Code shortcut
  • QR Codes now highlighted in frame
  • Face ID Alternative Appearance
  • Apple Books
  • Updated Apple Books preferences
  • Enhanced battery statistics
  • Persistent battery usage data
  • Hey Siri works with Low Power Mode
  • Security code autofill
  • New ‘Strong Password’ verbiage
  • Updated Passwords and Accounts preferences
  • Ask Siri for passwords
  • Password reuse auditing
  • Automatic system updates switch
  • English thesaurus
  • New dictionaries
  • CarPlay supports third-party navigation apps
  • Do Not Disturb during bedtime
  • New Do Not Disturb options
  • Grouped notifications
  • Instant tuning for notifications
  • Deliver notifications quietly
  • Updated Notification Center
  • Updated Notifications preferences UI
  • Sounds and Haptics preferences relocated
  • Control Center preferences relocated
  • New Stocks preferences
  • New Voice Memos preferences
  • New Measure preferences
  • No System Services Location icon
  • Favicons in Safari tabs
  • Podcast app custom skip settings
  • Remote control skip support for Podcasts
  • Animoji tongue detection
  • Animoji wink detection
  • Memoji
  • Memoji Maker
  • Longer Animoji (30 secs)
  • Messages app Camera
  • Photos iMessage app
  • Messages app Camera effects
  • Messages app Animoji
  • Messages app filters
  • Messages app text effects
  • Messages app shapes
  • Redesigned App Strip
  • Quick Messages app contact shortcuts
  • New Photos Search and For You app tabs
  • New Photos app Album media types
  • New Photos app Search
  • New Photos app For You
  • Updated photo/video import interface
  • Find My iPhone intents for Siri
  • Add Shortcuts to Siri
  • Screen Time
  • Screen Time (Downtime)
  • Screen Time (App Limits)
  • Screen Time (Always Allow)
  • Screen Time (Restrictions)
  • Screen Time (for kids)
  • FaceTime enhancements
  • Group FaceTime
  • Group FaceTime Messages
  • Search for Music via lyrics
  • Rescan failed Face ID
  • Trackpad mode via space bar
  • Dark now playing Lock screen UI
  • Siri flashlight control
  • Workflow scripts work with Siri Shortcuts
  • Extended email preview on notifications
  • Dictation works with third-party keyboards
  • Updated Apple Music artist page
  • New Spotlight Suggestions (open links)
  • Scrollable Reachability
  • Live Listen Control Center Hearing shortcut
  • New Control Center brightness control animation
  • Apple Music Featured Radio Stations
  • New home settings icon in Home app
  • New notifications section for Home app
  • Weather app air quality settings
  • Screen Time widget
  • Enhanced Spotlight Siri suggestions
  • Updated Screen Recording UI for iPad

Source: https://9to5mac.com/2018/06/05/100-ios-12-changes-features-video/

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Otamatone, that fun weird musical instrument

Otamatone, that fun weird musical instrument

The Otamatone, it’s this weird looking musical instrument. It is a singing toy whose body is shaped like an eighth note (it also somewhat resembles a tadpole, “otamajakushi” being Japanese for “tadpole”), with sound emerging from a “mouth” on the notehead.

I got this for my daughter for her 10th birthday as a fun gift, but she was quickly taken by it and has been learning to play it, even listening to songs on her headphones and converting them to Otamatone.

There are a lot of youtube videos like this one ^ as well which show what you can do with this interesting little toy.

It’s fun to play with and learn new music on, and the wide variety of colours make it even more interesting.

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You can find the Otamatone for sale on:

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iOS 12 will bring live listen to AirPods

Steven Aquino, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple has one hardware-specific feature planned that wasn’t announced at Monday’s WWDC keynote. In iOS 12, users will be able to use Live Listen, a special feature previously reserved for hearing aids certified through Apple’s Made for iPhone hearing aid program, with their AirPods.

After enabling the feature in the iPhone’s settings, users will be able to use their phones effectively as a directional mic. This means you can have AirPods in at a noisy restaurant with your iPhone on the table, for example, and the voice of whomever is speaking will be routed to your AirPods.

Live Listen is a feature Apple developed and eventually launched in 2014 that allows iPhone users with hearing aids to hear people in noisy environments or from across a room, such as a crowded restaurant or lecture hall. If a compatible hearing aid is paired to a user’s phone, there are options to turn Live Listen on and off, adjust volume and even set it as their preferred Accessibility Shortcut.

Live Listen support in AirPods is key. The inclusion of this feature makes AirPods more capable and more alluring; it’s significant given they are almost universally hailed as one of Apple’s best products in years. Soon, anyone — particularly someone with limited hearing — will have access to this feature without needing to buy dedicated hardware to get it.

Still, it’s critical to note AirPods with Live Listen is not a full replacement for a hearing aid. It’s obviously best to speak with your audiologist to determine the best solution for your ears.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/05/airpods-to-get-live-listen-feature-in-ios-12/

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Craig Federighi Shares More Details on Porting iOS Apps to the Mac

Near the end of yesterday’s WWDC keynote, Craig Federighi shared that Apple was at work on tools that would enable developers to more efficiently bring their iOS apps to the Mac. The ship date for those tools isn’t until 2019, but this was still a major announcement, with plenty of questions left unanswered. Today Lauren Goode of Wired has published a new interview with Federighi in which a few additional details are shared on exactly how porting apps from iOS to Mac will work.

Federighi shares that this internal effort began two years ago, and largely involves an updating of UIKit to make it more Mac-friendly. Even after the release of this updated UIKit to developers, however, it won’t be as simple as hitting a button to make an iOS app run on the Mac. Goode writes:

For app makers, some aspects of app porting will be automated and others will require extra coding. Using Xcode, Apple’s app-making software that runs on Macs, a developer will be able to indicate they want to write a variant of their iOS app for macOS. Certain interaction UIs will happen automatically, like turning a long press on iOS into a two-finger click on a Mac. App makers may have to do some extra coding, though, around things like menus and sidebars in apps, such as making a Mac app sidebar translucent or making share buttons a part of the toolbar.

Translating iOS paradigms to the Mac will be full of challenging decisions for developers, but Apple is giving an early voice of direction – at least indirectly – by adding the previously iOS-only Home, News, Voice Memos, and Stocks apps to macOS Mojave. The company has made the Mac versions of those apps practically identical to their iPad counterparts, a sign that Apple expects the best path for developers will be designing two primary interfaces – one for iPhone, another for iPad and Mac – rather than three.

Some have speculated that Apple building a unified UI framework for iOS and the Mac is a stepping stone in its rumored transition to ARM-based chips for Macs. Goode touched on this point in her interview:

I asked Federighi whether the fact that iPhones and Macs run on different chip architectures would impact how the same app runs across both devices. “At this level, not so much,” he said. “In a lot of our core APIs, things like Metal, we’ve done the hard work over the years of making them run well on both Mac and its associated CPUs and GPUs, and on iOS.”

There certainly is a natural progression found in bringing iOS apps to the Mac now, knowing that later both platforms may live on the same chip architecture. However, clearly this upgraded UIKit isn’t in any way dependent on Macs making the transition to ARM. That change might make things easier in the future, but for now, when iOS apps start making their way to the Mac in 2019, users shouldn’t need a new Mac to get them running.

Source: https://www.macstories.net/news/craig-federighi-shares-more-details-on-porting-ios-apps-to-the-mac/

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Tim Cook to Facebook: “We’ve never been in the data business”

In reply to Facebook’s response to the New York Times piece:

Tim Cook fired back in this NPR interview:

“We’ve never been in the data business,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told NPR on Monday, responding to a report that Facebook struck agreements giving Apple and other device makers access to Facebook users’ personal information.

[…]

“The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all these kinds of stuff, this is so foreign to us, and not data that we have ever received at all or requested — zero”

[…]

“What we did was we integrated the ability to share in the operating system, make it simple to share a photo and that sort of thing,” Cook added. “So it’s a convenience for the user. We weren’t in the data business. We’ve never been in the data business.”

The New York Times article tried to make it sound like Apple was involved with Facebook sharing user data so this reply from Tim is a smart move on his part.

Source: https://www.npr.org/2018/06/04/616280585/apple-requested-zero-personal-data-in-deals-with-facebook-ceo-tim-cook-says

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iOS 12 brings iPhone X gestures to iPad, swipe from top-right to open Control Center

iOS 12 brings iPhone X gestures to iPad, swipe from top-right to open Control Center

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple is adding a few new gestures to iPad on iOS 12, that mirror how users navigate on the iPhone X. iPad users can now swipe up to the home screen and open Control Center with similar gestures to how the iPhone X works (and the 2018 notch-screen iPhone lineup coming later this year.)

It’s also worth pointing out that the time in the status bar on iPad has been moved to the left side of the screen. Both of these changes hit at a bezel-less iPad with a notch coming later this year  …

The new gestures in iOS 12 extend the four- and five-finger gestures that have been available for a while.

Apple says that you can now go to the home screen by swiping anywhere on the Dock. This is a rough approximation of how the iPhone X works with the home indicator. To use it on iPad, you first need to swipe up once to activate the dock and then swipe again to jump to the home screen.

Source: https://9to5mac.com/2018/06/04/ios-12-brings-iphone-x-gestures-to-ipad/

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Facebook gave device makers deep access to data on users and friends

New York Times:

As Facebook sought to become the world’s dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users’ personal information.

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said.

[…]

Facebook allowed the device companies access to the data of users’ friends without their explicit consent, even after declaring that it would no longer share such information with outsiders. Some device makers could retrieve personal information even from users’ friends who believed they had barred any sharing, The New York Times found.

[…]

Some device partners can retrieve Facebook users’ relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data. Tests by The Times showed that the partners requested and received data in the same way other third parties did.

Once you read that article, go and read the reply from Facebook:

Given that these APIs enabled other companies to recreate the Facebook experience, we controlled them tightly from the get-go. These partners signed agreements that prevented people’s Facebook information from being used for any other purpose than to recreate Facebook-like experiences. Partners could not integrate the user’s Facebook features with their devices without the user’s permission. And our partnership and engineering teams approved the Facebook experiences these companies built. Contrary to claims by the New York Times, friends’ information, like photos, was only accessible on devices when people made a decision to share their information with those friends. We are not aware of any abuse by these companies.

This is very different from the public APIs used by third-party developers, like Aleksandr Kogan. These third-party developers were not allowed to offer versions of Facebook to people and, instead, used the Facebook information people shared with them to build completely new experiences.

This is all just a fustercluck, and you can thank the Cambridge Analytica incident for it.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/03/technology/facebook-device-partners-users-friends-data.html

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Microsoft confirms it’s acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Microsoft is acquiring GitHub. After reports emerged that the software giant was in talks to acquire GitHub, Microsoft is making it official today. This is Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s second big acquisition, following the $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn two years ago. GitHub was last valued at $2 billion back in 2015, and Microsoft is paying $7.5 billion in stock for the company in a deal that should close later this year.

GitHub is a large code repository that has become very popular with developers and companies hosting entire projects, documentation, and code. Apple, Amazon, Google, and many other big tech companies use GitHub. There are 85 million repositories hosted on GitHub, and 28 million developers contribute to them. GitHub will now be led by CEO Nat Friedman, the founder of Xamarin, who will report to Microsoft’s Cloud and AI chief Scott Guthrie. GitHub CEO and co-founder Chris Wanstrath will now become a technical fellow at Microsoft, also reporting into Guthrie.

It’s easy to imagine why Microsoft would want to acquire GitHub. Microsoft killed its own GitHub competitor, Codeplex, in December and is now the top contributor to GitHub, Microsoft now has more than 1,000 employees actively pushing code to GitHub repositories. Its popularity among developers could see Microsoft earn some much-needed trust and respect from developers. In bigger enterprises and slower moving businesses, the fact Microsoft has acquired GitHub will make it more trusted to use for projects and source control, simply because Microsoft is already trusted across many software and services by these companies. “We will accelerate enterprise developers’ use of GitHub, with our direct sales and partner channels and access to Microsoft’s global cloud infrastructure and services,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Trust and respect won’t be easy for Microsoft to win, though. Developers are already voicing their concerns about Microsoft’s past abuses, and the company’s botched acquisition of Skype and Nokia’s phone business. GitHub itself hasn’t scaled well and has faced its own issues over the years, and there are legitimate concerns that Microsoft will need to address. GitLab, a GitHub competitor, claims it has seen a 10x increase in the amount of developers moving their repositories over to its service, an early sign that there’s some developer unrest.

Microsoft won’t be able to address the general concern that important tools and internet services keep being consolidated into the hands of a few big tech companies. “When it comes to our commitment to open source, judge us by the actions we have taken in the recent past, our actions today, and in the future,” says Nadella, in an attempt to ease concerns around Microsoft’s acquisition.

For all the concerns, there are plenty of reasons to see this as a positive for Microsoft and GitHub users. Microsoft has been actively pushing open source technology, and the company has open sourced PowerShellVisual Studio Code, and the Microsoft Edge JavaScript engine. Microsoft also partnered with Canonical to bring Ubuntu to Windows 10, and acquired Xamarin to assist with mobile app development. These are moves that have been met with surprise by developers initially, but that have earned respect. It’s essential that Microsoft stewards the GitHub community forward to earn even more trust and developer love. The Microsoft old isn’t the Microsoft of new, and this GitHub acquisition is a chance for Microsoft to prove that even further.

Microsoft has struggled with developer love for years, and it’s a big part of the reasons Windows Phone failed and that its Universal Windows Apps platform hasn’t taken off. Microsoft has spent recent years improving Windows 10 so it’s a respectable development box, and tools like Visual Studio Code — which lets developers build and debug web and cloud applications — have soared in popularity with developers.

[…]

Microsoft clearly knows it needs to treat this acquisition with care. “Most importantly, we recognize the responsibility we take on with this agreement,” explains Nadella. “We are committed to being stewards of the GitHub community, which will retain its developer-first ethos, operate independently and remain an open platform. We will always listen to developer feedback and invest in both fundamentals and new capabilities.”

 

Interestingly enough, since the rumours started yesterday, GitLab has been seeing a massive jump in users moving over to their service:

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/6/4/17422788/microsoft-github-acquisition-official-deal

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Valve removes ‘Active Shooter’ from Steam amid outcry

Timothy J. Seppala, writing for Edgadget:

Valve has removed Active Shooter from its Steam platform. The game allowed players to play through school shooting scenarios either as a civilian, the shooter or the police. As The Guardian reports, the game apparently started as a SWAT team simulator, but a recent update added the ability to play as the shooter, with an on-screen counter tallying how many police and civilians you’d killed. “We have removed the developer Revived Games and publisher ACID from Steam,” Valve said in a statement to The Guardian.

Valve continued that the developer and publisher is, in fact, a person calling himself Ata Berdiyev, who operated as “Elusive Team” and “[bc]Interactive.” While those names might not sound familiar, one of the latter’s games should: Piccled Ricc. That title was removed from Steam last fall for other legal reasons; it was an extremely thinly veiled copyright violation based on Rick and Morty. The developer was also responsible for Fidget Spinner Simulator 2.

All that to say, Active Shooter‘s alleged developer has a history of making crass tie-ins that attempt to capture the zeitgeist, regardless of subject matter. This time, critics say he crossed the line of good taste, going beyond cheap shovelware and trying to capitalize on tragedy.

Active Shooter was originally scheduled for a June 6th release, but Valve has promised that’s not going to happen.

“[Developer] Ata is a troll, with a history of customer abuse, publishing copyrighted material and user review manipulation,” Valve told the BBC. Valve said it discovered who the developer was while “investigating the controversy surrounding” Shooter.

“We are not going to do business with people who act like this towards our customers or Valve,” the game-seller said. Now Valve finds itself in a position of explaining how this game is different from the likes of Hatred and others that glorify dark, headline-grabbing violence yet remain for sale on Steam.

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/30/vale-active-shooter-game-removed-steam/

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