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  1. Federal officials have called on Apple to unlock a phone belonging to a shooter who killed three people last month at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but the company has refused to do so, saying there’s “no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys.” But the FBI has managed to unlock iPhones all on its own in the past, so why can’t the agency do it again? A search warrant obtained by Forbes indicates that investigators were able to use a phone-cracking tool called GrayKey to access information stored on an iPhone 11 Pro Max. An affidavit related to the search warrant and obtained by Forbes showed that the iPhone was locked, which was confirmed to Forbes by the owner’s lawyer. If federal investigators can crack a new iPhone model, then why can’t they crack the iPhone 5 and iPhone 7 belonging to the shooter? So, why the public spectacle demanding that Apple hand over a golden key to bypass security features? According to a 2018 blog post from anti-malware software company Malwarebytes, the time it takes to crack an iPhone password using the GrayKey device varied, but a six-digit passcode was able to be cracked in as few as three days at the time. Citing documents by the device’s maker Grayshift, Malwarebytes said that disabled iPhones could also be unlocked. But since Apple has issued numerous updates for iOS since 2018, and it’s likely that GrayKey has had to make changes to keep up with new security measures. The primary question presented by the records obtained by Forbes with respect to the Pensacola shooter’s phones seems to be why, if GrayKey was used recently to unlock a newer iPhone model, it would not be able to unlock an older iPhone. In statements to the press this week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said “both phones are engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock them without the password.” But again, the FBI has unlocked iPhones before, as with the case identified by Forbes as well as in the case of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. One possible answer is both phones are in bad shape. During his statements this week, Barr said that during a shootout, “the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device. It also appears the other phone was damaged.” Another is that the phone is set to nuke all data after several failed passcode attempts, though that security wall was able to be bypassed in the instance of San Bernardino (of course, the FBI paid $900,000 to do it). The other possibility is that the FBI is hoping to set legal precedent in order to be able to use a single incident to pave the way to gain access in future cases, which Apple seems to understand could be a dangerous and slippery slope. “We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys,” Apple told Gizmodo in a statement this week. “Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.” Source
  2. Fewer versions, more focus. Now that Microsoft has ended support for Windows 7, it has an opportunity to rethink how it manages its operating system. It would be a good time to take some lessons from its age-old enemy, Apple: Stop doing some things that make Windows upgrades onerous, and start doing some things that will keep Windows users faithful and happy. Some particularly important things to stop and start come to mind, like: Stop: Charging for upgrades Microsoft fell far short of its widely publicized goal to get a billion people to upgrade to Windows 10 within three years. It’s not hard to see why. While Microsoft offered a long grace period to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, those who missed the deadline have to pay up (unless certain unofficial loopholes to upgrade to Windows 10 for free still work). Windows 10 Home costs $139, while Windows 10 Pro, which brings “enterprise-grade security, powerful management tools like single sign-on, and enhanced productivity with Remote Desktop and Cortana,” will set you back $200. I get why Microsoft still charges OEMs for Windows 10 licenses—it makes a lot of money. Even though CEO Satya Nadella admitted, “the operating system is no longer the most important layer for us,” Windows is still the biggest cog in the trillion-dollar Microsoft machine. There are more than a billion devices, just as many active users, and oodles of third-party licenses. But the end user shouldn’t ever pay. Apple hasn’t charged a penny for an upgrade since Mavericks landed in 2013. The simple fact that Microsoft still charges for upgrades—sometimes even on new Windows 10 devices—is just plain wrong. Start: Sticking with the same UI Another big reason why so many people refused to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 or Windows 10 wasn’t budget constraints, laziness, or even hardware compatibility. It was the Big Change. Windows 8 represented a massive departure from the old way of Windows in just about every way, with a new start menu, a tablet-oriented tile interface, and an app structure. Windows 10 fixed most of Windows 8’s biggest problems, but the scars remain to this day. If you look back at the original Mac OS X release from 2000, it’s really not all that different than it is now. It’s the same with Android or iOS: Users expect annual upgrades, but the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented to keep things fresh. Microsoft has changed the look of its OS numerous times over the years. Now that Windows 7 is dead, Windows 10 needs to be the way forward. So please keep it the way it is (for the most part) for the foreseeable future. Stop: Having so many versions of Windows On the Mac, there’s just macOS Catalina, whether you’re running a $799 Mac mini or a $50,000 Mac Pro. And the next version, and the version after that, and the one after that will be the same. When a new version of macOS arrives, no one needs to figure out which version they’re getting. We click Update, it installs, and life goes on. Meanwhile, on the Microsoft side, it’s hard to keep up with all the different versions of Windows 10. There’s Windows 10 S, Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Education and Pro Education, Windows 10 Enterprise, and the dual-screen-friendly Windows 10X. Who can forget when Windows 10 Mobile was a thing? This is the most confounding thing about Windows from the perspective of Mac users. I can understand why you might need an Enterprise version, but that’s it. Why should Windows 10 Home people be deprived of the better security in Windows 10 Pro? Why sell a stripped-down, “streamlined” Windows 10 S version tied to the Windows Store, but also offer to switch users to the fuller-featured Windows 10 Pro? It’s all very confusing. Because most Windows users will stick with the OS that comes with their PC, Microsoft should simply offer a single consumer version of Windows: Windows 10. Give it all of the “pro” features, deliver regular updates, and make everyone happy. Start: Embracing the Surface Neo The Surface Neo is Microsoft’s most exciting product in years, because it wasn’t built around Windows. The biggest lesson Windows can take into the future doesn't come from Apple, but from Microsoft itself: the dual-display, 360-degree-convertible Surface Neo. It's one of the most exciting products of 2020, and even though it won’t arrive until the end of the year, it's already having an impact on the next generation of Windows. When Apple designs a product, it doesn’t try to cram it into the existing version of iOS or macOS—it designs both to work in tandem. The hardware dictates the software features and plots the way forward. That’s how it is with the Surface Neo. Microsoft didn’t try to cram the existing Windows 10 architecture into a new device. It crafted both together into a new platform, Windows 10X. Granted, I asked for fewer versions of Windows 10 earlier in this story, but Windows 10X has a distinct purpose. When you buy a Windows 10X device, you’ll know that you’re getting an experience built for the hardware that runs it, not the other way around. It’s like Apple with iOS and iPadOS: The two operating systems are largely the same, but the separation actually eliminates confusion. The Surface Neo is easily the most exciting Microsoft device since the Surface, not because of its gorgeous hardware, but because of how beautiful the hardware and software integrate. Stop: Looking backward The Surface Neo also reflects Nadella's vision that Windows isn’t the future of Microsoft—in fact, OSes aren’t all that important at all. Apps, services, and hardware are the way forward. Case in point: Next year’s Surface Duo smartphone runs Android instead of Windows—but it will still be a Microsoft device. Sometime between the launch of Windows 10 and the death of Windows 7, Microsoft finally realized that a platform and an OS needn’t be one and the same. A Microsoft device running Microsoft apps using the Microsoft launcher on a forked version of Android isn’t any less on-brand than a Surface running Windows 10. Microsoft is leading the conversation with the Surface Neo in a way the other Surface devices never did. If it’s truly going to move beyond the traditional Windows model, it needs to do more of this. You know, like Apple. Source
  3. Apple's 2020 iPhones might come with both sub-6 and mmWave 5G When Apple introduced its iPhone 11 series last year, some were surprised at the lack of support for 5G. Of course, the Cupertino firm has always been slower than its competitors to adopt new network technologies. 5G is expected to arrive in Apple's 2020 lineup of iPhones, and it should be available in all three models. According to a new report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), at least some of the models will have both sub-6GHz and mmWave support, while a lower-end one will be sub-6 only. This is significant, because at this time, there aren't any devices on the market that can do both. 5G is a combination of sub-6GHz low- and mid-band frequencies, and millimeter waves. Millimeter wave technology is fast, providing speeds in the gigabits, but it can be easily blocked. Low-band sub-6 frequencies can penetrate barriers like walls and windows, but it's slower. A robust 5G network will combine all three of those things. Unfortunately, no one is there yet, from a carrier side or a device side. Sprint's 5G network is sub-6GHz-only, while Verizon is only doing mmWave at the moment. T-Mobile is the closest, recently launching nationwide 5G on its low-band 600MHz spectrum, having mmWave in select cities, and on the verge of merging with Sprint. But at the same time, T-Mobile doesn't have any devices that support sub-6 and mmWave. There's another issue here though, which is that Apple usually sells unlocked phones, meaning that users can just pop in whatever SIM they want from whatever carrier. This is also something that's not yet available on the 5G market. All of the 5G phones we have now are tuned to that specific carrier's frequencies. Of course, Apple has until this fall to figure it out, with Kuo predicting that the 2020 iPhones will ship exactly when they always do, at the end of Q3 or beginning of Q4. In the summer of last year, Apple announced that it had acquired Intel's cellular modem division, so it should have a head start. Source: Apple's 2020 iPhones might come with both sub-6 and mmWave 5G (Neowin)
  4. Phishing for Apples, Bobbing for Links Anyone searching for a primer on how to spot clever phishing links need look no further than those targeting customers of Apple, whose brand by many measures remains among the most-targeted. Past stories here have examined how scammers working with organized gangs try to phish iCloud credentials from Apple customers who have a mobile device that is lost or stolen. Today’s piece looks at the well-crafted links used in some of these lures. KrebsOnSecurity heard from a reader in South Africa who recently received a text message stating his lost iPhone X had been found. The message addressed him by name and said he could view the location of his wayward device by visiting the link https://maps-icloud[.]com — which is most definitely not a legitimate Apple or iCloud link and is one of countless spoofing Apple’s “Find My” service for locating lost Apple devices. While maps-icloud[.]com is not a particularly convincing phishing domain, a review of the Russian server where that domain is hosted reveals a slew of far more persuasive links spoofing Apple’s brand. Almost all of these include encryption certificates (start with “https://) and begin with the subdomains “apple.” or “icloud.” followed by a domain name starting with “com-“. Here are just a few examples (the phishing links in this post have been hobbled with brackets to keep them from being clickable): apple.com-support[.]id apple.com-findlocation[.]id apple.com-sign[.]in apple.com-isupport[.]in icloud.com-site-log[.]in Savvy readers here no doubt already know this, but to find the true domain referenced in a link, look to the right of “http(s)://” until you encounter the first forward slash (/). The domain directly to the left of that first slash is the true destination; anything that precedes the second dot to the left of that first slash is a subdomain and should be ignored for the purposes of determining the true domain name. For instance, in the case of the imaginary link below, example.com is the true destination, not apple.com: https://www.apple.com.example.com/findmyphone/ Of course, any domain can be used as a redirect to any other domain. Case in point: Targets of the phishing domains above who are undecided on whether the link refers to a legitimate Apple site might seek to load the base domain into a Web browser (minus the customization in the remainder of the link after the first forward slash). To assuage such concerns, the phishers in this case will forward anyone visiting those base domains to Apple’s legitimate iCloud login page (icloud.com). The best advice to sidestep phishing scams is to avoid clicking on links that arrive unbidden in emails, text messages and other mediums. Most phishing scams invoke a temporal element that warns of dire consequences should you fail to respond or act quickly. If you’re unsure whether the message is legitimate, take a deep breath and visit the site or service in question manually — ideally, using a browser bookmark so as to avoid potential typosquatting sites. Source: Phishing for Apples, Bobbing for Links (KrebsOnSecurity - Brian Krebs)
  5. The FBI has court permission to access data on the iPhones, but both are password protected. The FBI has asked Apple for assistance in unlocking two iPhones that belonged to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the Saudi air force trainee alleged to have shot and killed three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola in December. In a letter sent to Apple's general counsel and obtained by NBC, the FBI said that investigators "are actively engaging in efforts to 'guess' the relevant passcodes but so far have been unsuccessful." The FBI has court permission to access data on the iPhones, but both are password protected. Apple said in a statement that it has been cooperating with the government's investigation. The case calls to memory the Apple-FBI legal feud of 2016, in which the Justice Department sought to compel Apple to build a backdoor that would've bypassed the encryption on an iPhone that belonged to Syed Farook, who with his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California in December 2015. Apple argued it couldn't access the shooter's iPhone 5c because of the device's encryption, but the FBI sought a court order that would've forced Apple to rework its software to bypass the encryption. Apple said at the time that it would "set a dangerous precedent" if it was forced to backdoor one of its products. The government eventually dropped the case when it unlocked the iPhone with the help of an unnamed third party. It was later revealed that the FBI spent over a million dollars to hack the device. Source
  6. Report: Apple is developing satellites so the iPhone can skip wireless carriers The company hopes to deploy something within five years, according to Bloomberg. Enlarge / The iPhone 11. Samuel Axon Bloomberg has cited sources familiar with Apple plans saying that the iPhone-maker has a "top-secret" team dedicated to developing satellite technology that could, among other things, allow Apple's mobile devices to communicate with each other without relying on wireless carriers like Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, or China Mobile. The report claims that Apple CEO Tim Cook has said it is a high priority and that the team is made up of "about a dozen" engineers from industries like aerospace and satellite design. While the long-term outcome of the work is not fully decided, it could allow iPhones to directly communicate with one another without using carrier networks, or it could improve location services and other key features of the devices. Former Google satellite and aerospace engineers Michael Trela and John Fenwick lead the team, Bloomberg's sources say. They left Google in 2017 to join Apple. They report to Apple's iPhone engineering lead. The company has also hired prominent wireless engineer Matt Ettus and established executives Ashley Moore Williams (Aerospace Corp) and Daniel Ellis (Netflix). While it's uncertain that the final outcome of this project will be freedom from carriers, it's not surprising that Apple would at least explore that possibility. It has struggled against and with carriers throughout the history of the iPhone, and Apple's philosophy of seeking end-to-end integration of all aspects of a product is well-known. The company is also rumored to be developing silicon that would replace Intel CPUs in its Mac products, for example, and it is attempting to develop its own cellular modems to include future iPhones. Apple is not the only tech company to explore launching satellites. Amazon plans to launch thousands in the near future, and other tech companies have made attempts to build satellite-based networks (though many have failed). Bloomberg's sources did not clarify whether Apple plans to build and deploy these satellites itself or if it plans to instead work with an established player in that space. Source: Report: Apple is developing satellites so the iPhone can skip wireless carriers (Ars Technica)
  7. Apple is crashing CES officially this year. What you need to know Apple is attending CES for the first time in decades. The company's Senior Director of Privacy, Jane Horvath, will attend a privacy roundtable. The event will focus on consumer privacy, how to build it at scale, and how regulation will affect it. After decades without any attendance, Apple is making an official return to the Las Vegas CES technology conference in 2020. Reported by Bloomberg, the company is attending to pitch a new product but to instead talk about consumer privacy. Jane Horvath, Apple's Senior Director of Privacy, will be speaking at a "Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable: What Do Consumers Want?" event at the conference which is set to happen on January 7, according to the CES schedule. The roundtable will also include representatives from Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission. The conference describes the event as a discussion between the invitees to answer a number of questions concerning consumer privacy: Save 40% and get three months of wireless service for just $45 Privacy is now a strategic imperative for all consumer businesses. "The future is private" (Facebook); "Privacy is a human right" (Apple); and "a more private web" (Google). How do companies build privacy at scale? Will regulation be a fragmented patchwork? Most importantly, what do consumers want? It will be moderated by Rajeev Chand, Partner and Head of Research at Wing Venture Capital. The rest of the panel will be made up of representatives from Apple, Facebook, Proctor & Gamble, and the FTC. Below is a list of who will be attending the roundtable, their role, and the company they are representing: Rajeev Chand, Partner and Head of Research, Wing Venture Capital Erin Egan, VP, Public Policy and Chief Privacy Offer for Policy, Facebook Jane Horvath, Senior Director, Global Privacy, Apple Susan Shook, Global Privacy Officer, The Procter & Gamble Company Rebecca Slaughter, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission Apple had unofficially showed up at CES last year when it hung enormous billboards across Las Vegas during the conference that touted the company's focus on privacy. The billboard featured the back of an iPhone X with the words "what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone." According to Bloomberg, the roundtable talk will mark the first time since 1992 that Apple formally attends the conference. Source
  8. If you use Safari you are frustrating advertisers. What you need to know Intelligent Tracking Prevention is impacting advertisers. Marketing executives are saying that the technology is "stunningly effective" at preventing tracking. It is causing Safari users to be devalued in the advertising market. Two years ago, Apple unveiled Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari which aimed to protect users of the browsers from unwanted tracking. It was yet another in a long-running move towards more privacy on behalf of the company for its customers, and this technology, in particular, seems to be having a major impact on the advertising industry. In a report by The Information, executives within the online publishing industry have said that the technology has been "stunningly effective" at preventing companies from identifying users' behavior across the web. One executive says that it has led to a devaluing of Safari users. "The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted," said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. "There's no easy ability to ID a user." On the other hand, it has also created somewhat of a discount market for those who want to save on advertising, as long as buyers are okay with the data being less precise. The Information reports that the cost of reaching a Safari user has dropped as much as 60% while Chrome users continue to get more expensive. The cost of reaching Safari users has fallen over 60% in the past two years, according to data from ad tech firm Rubicon Project. Meanwhile, ad prices on Google's Chrome browser have risen slightly. Apple's Safari privacy features paint a stark contrast in tracking when compared to users who chose to use a different browser like Chrome. According to Nativo, which sells online advertising software, only 9% of Safari users allow tracking whereas 79% of Chrome users do. This is in part because many of Safari's privacy features are turned on by default. Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It's a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google's Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies. Some believe that the devaluing of Safari users is a mistake, based on the demographics of those who tend to own an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. They put the responsibility on marketers to adapt to growing privacy enhancements and uncover new ways to reach the people they want to get in front of. "Apple users are more valuable to advertisers based on demographics, being higher income, et cetera," said Jason Kint, CEO of industry trade group Digital Content Next. He argues that Safari users have been "wrongly devalued" in the short term and says marketers just need to find better ways to reach them online. Source
  9. SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - Apple Inc on Monday told a federal court it has “deep concerns” that two Chinese-born former employees accused of stealing trade secrets from the company will try to flee before their trials if their locations are not monitored. At a hearing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, prosecutors argued that Xiaolang Zhang and Jizhong Chen should continue to be monitored because they present flight risks. Federal prosecutors alleged Zhang worked on Apple’s secretive self-driving car program and took files related to the project before disclosing that he was going to work for a Chinese competitor. Federal agents arrested Zhang last year at the San Jose airport as he was about to board a flight for China. Prosecutors allege Chen took from Apple more than 2,000 files containing “manuals, schematics, diagrams and photographs of computer screens showing pages in Apple’s secure databases” with intent to share them. Agents arrested him in January at a train station on his way to San Francisco International Airport for a trip to China. The men were each charged with one count of criminal trade secrets theft and pleaded not guilty. They were released on bail shortly after their arrests and have been monitored since then. Attorney Daniel Olmos, who represents the men, said Monday that both had family reasons to visit China and had shown no signs of violating their pre-trial conditions so far. Assistant U.S. Attorney Marissa Harris argued that if either man fled to China, it would be difficult if not impossible for federal officials to secure their extradition for a trial. Three Apple employees sat in the courtroom to support prosecutors, including Anthony DeMario, a strategic adviser to Apple’s global security group and veteran of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Harris read Apple’s statement to U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose, California. “Apple’s intellectual property is at the core of our innovation and growth,” the statement said. “The defendants’ continued participation in these proceedings is necessary to ensure a final determination of the facts, and we have deep concerns the defendants will not see this through if given the opportunity. Zhan stood listening through an interpreter and was dressed in a white and blue dress shirt, black jeans and Nike sneakers. Olmos told Davila GPS monitoring was unnecessary to secure Zhang’s appearance at trial. “This is not an espionage case,” Olmos said. The government “is not requesting detention, but they are requesting essentially indefinitely location monitoring.” Harris said Zhang’s wife told federal agents that Zhang, who is a permanent U.S. resident, attempted to flee to Canada when agents searched his home. During that search, agents found a laptop at the bottom of a laundry hamper that they allege contained trade secrets about Ethernet technology from Zhang’s prior employer, chip supplier Marvell Technology Group Ltd, according to court documents. Chen, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from China in 1991, listened to the proceedings through an interpreter and wore a dark blue hoodie. He has been under radiofrequency monitoring, which is less precise than GPS tracking. CONFIDENTIAL MISSILE DOCUMENT Prosecutors allege that Chen is a flight risk in part because they found documents from several other former employers - including General Electric Co and Raytheon Co - at Chen’s second residence in Maryland, where his wife and son live. Prosecutors said in court papers they found a 2011 document from Raytheon that they later determined was classified as “confidential,” the lowest level of sensitivity in the U.S. government system. “This document contains information relating to Raytheon’s work on the Patriot Missile program and was not (and is not) permitted to be maintained outside of Department of Defense secured locations,” prosecutors wrote. Olmos, the defense attorney, said it was not a file, but a single paper document “sitting in a box somewhere” in Chen’s home. Trial dates have not been scheduled. A hearing is scheduled for February. Source
  10. Intel has completed the sale of its smartphone modem business to Apple Earlier this year, Apple announced that it would be buying Intel's smartphone modem business for $1 billion. Today, Intel confirmed that the sale is now completed, meaning Intel is out of the game when it comes to developing cellular modems for smartphones, after providing Apple with modems for the iPhone for some time. The sale was originally announced after Apple and Qualcomm finally settled an ongoing legal dispute, with the Cupertino giant agreeing to use Qualcomm modems in its smartphones going forward. Losing one of its biggest customers forced Intel to drop development of 5G modems and then sell the entire business to Apple. More recently, it was announced that Intel-powered PCs with 5G will exist, but they will come with MediaTek modems, and they'll only arrive in a couple of years. Late last week, Intel released a statement accusing Qualcomm's anticompetitive business practices of forcing the company out of the modem business. Intel accused the rival company of creating "insurmountable barriers" to competition. The statements were made in light of a recent court ruling, which also blamed Qualcomm for strangling its competitors in the smartphone modem market. With Apple now owning Intel's modem business, it could potentially create a rival product that will help it avoid Qualcomm's products, but it could be some time before those products are ready. Meanwhile, since Intel PCs with 5G won't be out until 2021, Qualcomm is pretty much alone in the 5G modem market for computers, too. Source: Intel has completed the sale of its smartphone modem business to Apple (Neowin)
  11. When a decade ends, it's time to look in the mirror. Do we like what we see? How much should we blame technology? At the beginning of the decade, Gnarls Barkley wasn't wrong. It's time, to be honest. I know it's not popular these days. Look out into the world and you'll see that the merrily mendacious, the grifters with drifting allegiances and the downright fraudulent are doing quite well. But when a decade teeters to an end, perhaps it's worth somberly pondering who we are and what we've become. As Silicon Valley has moved at the speed of sound -- making loud noises about its innate world-improvement skills -- do we feel that we've improved as humans? Has the world become more open and connected, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promised? Or have we all become bitterly divided, nauseatingly irritable vessels of barely diluted bile? It's always fun to start with Zuckerberg. In the rash brashness of his youth, he broke speed limits as well as so many social certainties. At the beginning of the decade, he insisted he had the inner knowledge. He said he knew people were desperate to shake off the shackles of privacy and bare all to the world. He was so very right. How we adored exposing ourselves for who we truly are. Or, more often, for who we want others to think we are. Yet here we are, just nine years later, and Zuckerberg has enjoyed a biblical conversion. "The future is privacy," he claimed in April. He's always been wise about the future, you see. This has been a decade in which the full force of technology's futuristic thoughtlessness has been visited upon our crass, lazy souls. We got so excited about posting our every thought, mood and self-image to Facebook and Instagram that we didn't bother to consider the consequences. Equally, tech companies got so excited about releasing more and more gadgets, software and liberating libertarian ideas that they didn't stop to consider what the dark-spirited might do with them. In just a few damnably short years, we've gone from holding our iPhone wrong to wondering whether our iPhone -- and all the clever apps we've adorned it with -- is spying on our every thought and word. We've gone from the joy of being able to check our email on our phone to being driven loopy because our bosses, co-workers, lovers, hackers, and socio-political adversaries are emailing and texting us 24 hours a day. We've become hooked on notifications. We'll watch videos on our phones, leaving the volume on at full blast -- who cares about the other people in the restaurant? -- because we need the stimulation. We need to do something with or on our phones at all times. Yes, Apple might insist it wants us to use them less. Then it creates more and more services that entice us to use them more. We now talk to our gadgets. We want them to turn our lights on for us because we just can't be bothered to perform such mundane tasks. We don't stop to wonder what happens when Alexa knows us so well that she'll start dictating, rather than just listening. We want our gadgets to tell us the weather because looking out of the window is just too trying for our eyes and necks. And we're actually prepared to believe anything we see online, to the point at which the nonsense peddled by the nefarious on Facebook may have helped swing an election. And how. Technology has allowed every awful human and view a vast, unedited platform. It's allowed Russia to invade America with remarkable cost-effectiveness. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, and friends are constantly feeding us exciting, highly personalized ads. Well, when I say personalized, I fear I mean cluelessly targeted. We've all mounted the roller coaster. We want it to go faster and faster. And, when we finally feel sick, we haven't got a clue how to get off. We don't even know if there's an exit. Tech companies make sure it's hard to find. Along the way, tech has made fine contributions. Smartwatches can save lives. Just ask my colleague Jason Perlow. Creations such as Skype and FaceTime have allowed us to see the faces and hear the voices of those who are far away. Boredom has become a quaint notion when, at all times, we have at least one gadget that can instantly entertain us. Every morning, we clutch our phones before we clutch our coffee. We check our likes before we get on our bikes. We judge ourselves and our world by staring into a gadget and hoping for good news, yet expecting the worst. And then there's Twitter. The app that's become the repository of all that is news, all that is not news and all that is fear, loathing and fake has taken its place as the prime medium of, well, everything. A president tweets and a world instantly quakes. A Kardashian tweets and a world instantly buys. As the decade turns, Silicon Valley is filled with the sound of remorse. Even Google says its sole purpose in life is to protect your privacy. Much of that remorse, like much of the online world, is fake. Vast money has been made. Vast power has been gained. The only slight problem now is that the rest of the world is beginning to look around and wonder whether that's a good thing. We're wondering whether the last tech-driven decade wasn't some insane trip that's resulted in a world bathing in acid, while a very select few look on, sip champagne and gloat. In the last ten years, tech has driven us mad. Mad in the sense of constantly angry, constantly in fear of the next microaggression or macro tweetstorm. And mad in the sense that our senses are no longer our own. Or, if they are, they're being preyed upon by robots whose feelings are a little chilly. Well, those feelings were programmed by those not blessed with much emotional intelligence. In the next decade, none of this will matter. We'll all slowly -- or, in the case of the wealthy, quickly -- turn into deeply rational robots, as the (supposed) dream of chips implanted in our heads becomes real. Our madness will be controlled. Our anger will be embalmed. We'll become "godlike," says Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil. Who doesn't want to be a rich God? Source
  12. Apple preparing to build the ‘next generation of media apps for Windows’ Apple looking for UWP developers, too Apple is hunting for software engineers to help the company build media apps for Windows. The iPhone maker revealed its plans in a job listing earlier this month, spotted by Neowin, inviting potential candidates to “join us and build the next generation of media apps for Windows.” Apple maintains existing Windows apps like iTunes and iCloud, but these are both old traditional desktop apps that are showing their age. Apple revealed earlier this year that it’s breaking up iTunes into three separate macOS apps: Podcasts, TV, and Music. None of these apps have arrived on Windows, leaving PC users with just iTunes. If you’re an Apple Music or Apple TV Plus subscriber, you have to use the web versions instead of dedicated apps on Windows 10 right now. Apple’s job listing mentions “experience with UWP is a big plus,” which hints that the company is looking to build Universal Windows Platform (UWP) versions of its media apps for Windows 10. This could help Apple bring apps to both Windows 10 and Xbox One, which is particularly important for Apple TV Plus as there’s no way to watch content from that service on the Xbox One right now. It’s not clear when these new media apps for Windows will arrive, but the fact that Apple is investing in Windows 10 is good news for owners of Surface or Windows tablet devices that will benefit from new touch-friendly apps for Apple’s services. Source: Apple preparing to build the ‘next generation of media apps for Windows’ (The Verge)
  13. Tim Cook: Why Apple doesn’t always have to be first We don’t want to be the first, we want to be the best, Apple CEO says (Image credit: Apple) Apple CEO Tim Cook has opened up about his plans for the future and some of his most personal values. Speaking at the Dreamforce 2019 event in San Francisco today, the Apple chief revealed some of his most pertinent drives, including how he sees the future of the iPhone maker evolving in the near future. In a revealing fireside chat with Salesforce co-founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who himself was an intern at Apple back in the 1980s, Cook covered topics ranging from Steve Jobs, the environment, and gay marriage, as well as a look at Apple’s internal motivations. Innovation “So many people confuse innovation with change...many think innovation is change, but it's about making things better, not just merely changing something”, Cook declared. “We've never set the objective to be first, we've always set the objective to be the best,” Cook added, “that north star has helped guide us through the temptations, we just want to make the best products.” Cook noted how Apple’s business has become inherently enterprise-focused in the years since it released the first iPhone back in 2007, with the company’s devices now a popular sight in businesses across the globe. Apple and Salesforce revealed a large-scale partnership at last year’s Dreamforce, with the first fruits of the collaboration being unveiled earlier this week with the launch of an iOS and iPad-exclusive version of the latter’s Trailhead GO app. Looking forward, Salesforce looks set to continue as an important enterprise partner for Apple, with Cook noting that “I couldn’t be happier” with the work the software giant has done. With all Fortune 500 companies now using some form of Apple products, one such advocate is Benioff himself, who revealed to Cook that he completely relies on his iPhone to work. “I don't even own a computer anymore, I don't need one,” Benioff revealed. “The phone has really become an extension of my office wherever I am.” Source: Tim Cook: Why Apple doesn’t always have to be first (TechRadar)
  14. Search, Mail, and iMessage get more fixes Apple is releasing iOS and iPadOS 13.2.3 today to address a variety of odd bugs that have been introduced with the release of iOS 13. The latest update includes a fix for the Spotlight system search feature that had been failing for some users recently. Search should now work consistently at the system level and in the Mail, Files, and Notes apps. If you use an app that downloads content in the background and you’ve noticed weird issues in iOS 13.2.2 or before, Apple is now addressing this in the new update. Mail is also getting updated to fix problems fetching new messages or quoting messages from Exchange accounts. The only other fix that’s listed on Apple’s release notes for iOS 13.2.3 is concerning an issue where photos, links, and other attachments haven’t been displaying properly in the iMessage details view. Apple continues to patch up its buggy iOS 13 release, and hopefully we’re closer to a more stable OS now. Apple is also testing betas of iOS 13.3, which is expected to include some fairly minor additions like better support for FIDO2-compliant security keys that use USB, Lightning, or NFC. Today’s iOS 13.2.3 update will also include any security updates for iOS and iPadOS, and you can download it immediately from your settings menu. Source: Apple fixes more weird bugs with new iOS 13.2.3 update (via The Verge)
  15. BERLIN (Reuters) - Apple said on Friday moves in Germany to force it to open up its Apple Pay mobile payments system to rivals could hurt data protection and the security of financial information. A German parliamentary committee unexpectedly voted in a late-night session on Wednesday to force the tech giant to open up Apple Pay to rival providers in Germany. This came in the form of an amendment to an anti-money laundering law that was adopted late on Thursday by the full parliament and is set to come into effect early next year. The legislation, which did not name Apple specifically, will force operators of electronic money infrastructure to offer access to rivals for a reasonable fee. The law highlights the growing desire in Germany for tighter regulation of U.S. technology companies. Apple Pay, which lets people pay with their iPhones, is a fast growing area of the company’s business, one which threatens to undermine traditional banks’ long-standing dominance of retail payment systems. “We are surprised at how suddenly this legislation was introduced,” Apple said on Friday. “We fear that the draft law could be harmful to user friendliness, data protection and the security of financial information.” A person close to the government coalition said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office had pushed for the committee to withdraw the amendment That charge was denied by a senior official in the office who said there had been complete consensus within the government over the move. The only question mark had been over whether the Finance Ministry had checked the legislation was legally watertight. With that confirmed, the office had no further reservations, the official said. Source
  16. (Reuters) - The launch of Apple TV+, coupled with Apple Inc’s foray into digital services, could help the company increase its income from advertising by more than five fold to $11 billion annually within the next six years, analysts from JP Morgan said on Friday. FILE PHOTO: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks about Apple TV Raising his share price target for the iPhone maker, analyst Samik Chatterjee argued the company could leverage the millions of users who search its App Store and Safari browser daily to generate the stellar growth seen by Facebook and Google in recent years. He said the company had the potential to raise revenue by a third every year, from an estimated $2 billion currently to $11 billion in 2025. Apple does not currently give detailed figures on advertising revenue. Through two difficult years for iPhone sales, the California-based firm has stressed the importance of growth in its services segment, which already includes Apple Care and Apple Music and generated revenue of $12.51 billion last quarter. Along with its highly anticipated launch of its flagship triple-camera iPhone this year, it rolled out a streaming TV service in September in a bid to diversify its revenue streams away from a stagnating smartphone market. “While investors are trying to identify the next big frontier for services, we believe hidden in plain sight and underappreciated by most is the advertising opportunity within Apple’s fingertips,” Chatterjee said. He maintained his bullish ‘overweight’ rating on Apple. Only a third of Wall Street analysts currently rate the company “hold” or worse. Source
  17. It's been a long time coming, but Apple has officially launched the 16-inch MacBook Pro today.The 16-inch Retina display comes in at a resolution of 3072x1920 for a total of 226 pixels per inch, and the brightness can go up to 500 nits. In addition to being the first MacBook with a 16-inch display, it also has a new keyboard design that uses a scissor mechanism, instead of the dreaded butterfly mechanism that's been a pain point for MacBook users for the past few years. The new keys offer 1mm of key travel, and the keyboard now has a physical Escape key next to the Touch Bar. It also still has Touch ID, and the trackpad still supports Force Touch. In terms of specs, the new MacBook Pro comes with ninth-generation Intel Core H-series processors - either a six-core Core i7 or the octa-core Core i9 - along with up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of SSD storage. Apple says the new MacBook Pro will offer up to 2.1 times the performance of the previous quad-core 15-inch model. For graphics, there are AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series GPUs, with the top-end option being the Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory. Compared to last year's 15-inch model with eight cores and highest GPU configurations, the new MacBook Pro should offer up to 1.8 times the graphics performance, according to Apple. The cooling system has been redesigned for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with larger intake fans and vents, as well as a bigger heat sink, and Apple says this allows the new model to sustain up to 12 more watts of power usage compared to previous models. Speaking of which, there's a 100Wh battery, which promises up to an extra hour of battery life of web browsing or video playback in the Apple TV app. The new MacBook Pro is available today in both Silver and Space Gray models. While the specs are configurable, there are two base models you can start from. One has an six-core Intel Core i7, 512GB of storage, and an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of memory starting at $2,399. The other has an eight-core Core i9, 1TB of storage, and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of memory, starting at $2,799. Both models start at 16GB of memory. Apple also announced today that the new Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR will be available in December. The Mac Pro has Intel Xeon processors with up to 28 cores and will start at $5,999. The Pro Display XDR promises wide dynamic range, up to 1,600 nits of brightness, and more, starting at $4,999. Source: Apple launches 16-inch MacBook Pro with a new Magic keyboard (via Neowin)
  18. And yes, it’ll apparently have a new keyboard The long-rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro is due for an imminent release, according to Bloomberg. Mark Gurman reports that Apple could launch the machine as early as tomorrow, with sales immediately kicking off this week. The new MacBook Pro is expected to cost “about the same” as the 15-inch model, which starts at $2,399. That’s because, according to Gurman, it’s going to fully replace the classic 15-inch MacBook Pro in Apple’s laptop lineup. I think some people were expecting it to slot in above the existing options as a premium choice, but apparently not. Aside from its larger display, the 16-inch MacBook Pro will mark the debut of a “revamped” keyboard that’s “designed to be more reliable” than the butterfly-mechanism keyboards featured on MacBooks since 2016. Despite several revisions and tweaks, the butterfly keyboard has tarnished the reputation of Apple’s notebook line due to stuck keys, repeated keystrokes, and other problems. Bloomberg also notes that the high-end Mac Pro is set for release sometime in December, so after launching the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max earlier in the fall — followed by new AirPods late last month — Apple is ending 2019 with a focus on the Mac. Source: Apple will reportedly introduce 16-inch MacBook Pro as soon as tomorrow (via The Verge)
  19. People interact with an Apple iPad in Chicago. Photographer: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg Apple Inc. is working on a range of augmented and virtual-reality devices underpinned by a new 3-D sensor system, according to people familiar with the plans. A new iPad Pro for release as early as the first half of 2020 will feature a new module with two camera sensors, up from one on the current model, and a small hole for the 3-D system, letting people create three-dimensional reconstructions of rooms, objects and people. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant also plans to add the sensor to new high-end iPhones later in 2020, along with 5G networking capabilities, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced products. In 2021 or 2022, Apple aims to release a combined VR and AR headset with a focus on gaming, watching video and virtual meetings. The company intends to roll out a lightweight pair of AR glasses as early as 2023, one of the people familiar with the plans said. Apple had originally intended to have the technology for its initial headset ready in 2019 for a release in 2020, but recently decided to push that back, the person added. The Information earlier reported that Apple told employees it is aiming to launch its first headset by 2022 and the glasses a year later. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has talked up AR for some time, and the technology is the core of Apple’s next big hardware push beyond the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. The new 3-D sensor system will be the centerpiece of this. It has been in development inside Apple for several years, and is a more advanced version of the Face ID sensor on the front of Apple’s latest mobile devices, said the people. Augmented reality mixes the real world with the virtual world, letting a user interact with other people while also seeing digital information such as text messages and directions in a maps app. Virtual reality is all-encompassing, gluing humans to headsets, like the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift with high-resolution lenses used for gaming and video. Engineering teams for the iPhone and iPad have begun work on connecting important applications and software features to a new operating system, dubbed “rOS” internally, that will let current devices work with the future headset and glasses. Apple has about 1,000 engineers working on the AR and VR initiative, which is led by vice president Mike Rockwell, Bloomberg News has reported. The multi-disciplinary team is part of Apple’s hardware engineering division, but has its own leadership with executives who have worked on Apple’s gaming software system, earlier iPhone hardware, software engineering and manufacturing. The team also has ex-NASA engineers, former game developers and graphics experts. It is based in a nondescript area of Sunnyvale, California, not far from Apple’s main campus in Cupertino. When the devices launch, they will likely become part of Apple’s growing wearable devices segment, which currently includes the Watch, AirPods and Beats headphones. This is one of Apple’s fastest growing businesses, and has helped offset a slowdown in iPhone unit sales and revenue. Source: Apple plans standalone AR and VR Gaming Headset by 2022 and Glasses later (via Bloomberg)
  20. Apple may have known for months Apple stakes a lot of its reputation on how it protects the privacy of its users, as it wants to be the only tech company you trust. But if you send encrypted emails from Apple Mail, there’s currently a way to read some of the text of those emails as if they were unencrypted — and allegedly, Apple’s known about this vulnerability for months without offering a fix. Before we go any further, you should know this likely only affects a small number of people. You need to be using macOS, Apple Mail, be sending encrypted emails from Apple Mail, not be using FileVault to encrypt your entire system already, and know exactly where in Apple’s system files to be looking for this information. If you were a hacker, you’d need access to those system files, too. Apple tells The Verge it’s aware of the issue and says it will address it in a future software update. The company also says that only portions of emails are stored. But the fact that Apple is still somehow leaving parts of encrypted emails out in the open, when they’re explicitly supposed to be encrypted, obviously isn’t good. The vulnerability was shared by Bob Gendler, an Apple-focused IT specialist, in a Medium blog published on Wednesday. Gendler says that while trying to figure out how macOS and Siri suggest information to users, he found macOS database files that store information from Mail and other apps which are then used by Siri to better suggest information to users. That isn’t too shocking in and of itself — it makes sense that Apple needs to reference and learn from some of your information to provide you better Siri suggestions. But Gendler discovered that one of those files, snippets.db, was storing the unencrypted text of emails that were supposed to be encrypted. Here’s an image he shared that’s helpful to explain what’s going on: The circle on the left is around an encrypted email, which Gendler’s computer is not able to read, because Gendler says he removed the private key which would typically allow him to do so. But in the circle on the right, you can make out the text of that encrypted email in snippets.db. Gendler says he tested the four most recent macOS releases — Catalina, Mojave, High Sierra, and Sierra — and could read encrypted email text from snippets.db on all of them. I was able to confirm the existence of snippets.db, and found that it stored portions of some of my emails from Apple Mail. I couldn’t find a way to get snippets.db to store encrypted emails I sent to myself, though. Gendler first reported the issue to Apple on July 29th, and he says the company didn’t even offer him a temporary solve until November 5th — 99 days later — despite repeated conversations with Apple about the issue. Even though Apple has updated each of the four versions of macOS where Gendler spotted the vulnerability in the months since he reported it, none of those updates contained a true fix. If you want to stop emails from being collected in snippets.db right now, Apple tells us you can do so by going to System Preferences > Siri > Siri Suggestions & Privacy > Mail and toggling off “Learn from this App.” Apple also provided this solution to Gendler — but he says this temporary solution will only stop new emails from being added to snippets.db. If you want to make sure older emails that may be stored in snippets.db can no longer be scanned, you may need to delete that file, too. If you want to avoid these unencrypted snippets potentially being read by other apps, you can avoid giving apps full disk access in macOS Catalina, according to Apple — and you probably have very few apps with full disk access. Apple also says that turning on FileVault will encrypt everything on your Mac, if you want to be extra safe. Again, this vulnerability probably won’t affect that many people. But if you do rely on Apple Mail and believed your Apple Mail emails were 100 percent encrypted, it seems that they’re not. As Gendler says, “It brings up the question of what else is tracked and potentially improperly stored without you realizing it.” Source: Apple is fixing encrypted email on macOS because it’s not quite as encrypted as we thought (via The Verge)
  21. more than monopoly — Antitrust 101: Why everyone is probing Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google Being the biggest player isn't illegal—but cheating to stay that way sure is. Enlarge / Maybe this textbook is from the Ma Bell era? #ThanksStockGettyImages designer491 / Getty Images Once upon a time, there was a phone company—or rather, the phone company. AT&T Corp., the venerable "Ma Bell," provided nearly all telephone service to nearly all Americans for decades... until it didn't. The company infamously broke up on New Year's Day in 1984, splitting into the seven "Baby Bells," regional carriers that could compete with other long-distance providers for consumer dollars. The split wasn't just for funsies. The baby Bells were the ultimate result of a settlement between AT&T and the Justice Department, the culmination of an antitrust case that began nearly a decade earlier. It was the first time the feds broke up a communications company for antitrust reasons—and 35 years later, it retains the dubious distinction of being the last. The decades of deregulation since the Reagan administration have brought us to a whole new era of massive corporate consolidation and the rise of a new wave of conglomerates in sectors that didn't even exist 40 years ago. The growth at the top in tech has been particularly stratospheric: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and a handful of others that have risen since the turn of the century now dominate our economy and our communications in a powerful way. Critics from all sides, however, now consider today's tech titans to be too powerful, and all four companies have in recent years faced several investigations probing a central issue: antitrust law. Dozens of probes are going on right now under the auspices of dozens of state, federal, and international bodies using dozens of state, federal, and international statutes. What all of these antitrust laws have in common at their core, though, is the concept of playing fair—especially when it comes to the biggest player in the room. Antitrust 101: More than monopolies The newest antitrust law on the books in the United States dates to the 1970s; the oldest comes from more than a century ago, passed in response to the behavior of the railroad, steel, and oil magnates of the first Gilded Age. The Sherman Act of 1890 was short and sweet, as far as laws go. It declared contracts, corporate trusts, or conspiracies "in the restraint of trade or commerce" between states or nations to be illegal. The Act also outlawed monopolies: "Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony." Most of the juicy stuff in modern antitrust, however, comes from the 20th century. The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 established the FTC, with the explicit mandate not only to protect consumers from "unfair or deceptive" acts, but also to "prevent unfair methods of competition" that affect commerce. Those "unfair methods" were outlined in a companion piece of law: the Clayton Antitrust Act, also signed into law in 1914, which significantly refined and strengthened the Sherman Act. The Clayton Act expanded the scope of antitrust law to deal not just with monopolies, but specifically with anticompetitive behavior—basically, tactics that unfairly boost a company into a dominant market position or that unfairly keep a dominant company at the top and suppress competitors. At the highest level, these behaviors basically fall into two big buckets. The first is growth through acquisition: you can't just buy out your primary competitor if the field isn't big enough for other companies to pose real competition. Consider the mobile market, for example: regulators decided the imminent union of Sprint and T-Mobile isn't anticompetitive, because T-Mobile and Sprint are the two smallest of the four major players. Even with one of them taken out, the market still has three national carriers. (And under the agreement with regulators, there will theoretically be a fourth carrier again. Someday.) But if AT&T and Verizon, the two dominant US mobile carriers by far, ever tried to merge operators, even the current crop of business-friendly regulators would almost certainly bring that proposal to a screeching halt. A deal of that magnitude would create a company so far beyond the reach of any potential competitor that no current player or new business could ever reasonably be expected to stand a chance of catching up. The second metaphorical bucket holds the whole category of dominance through unfair dealings, which can be done by one company or as an agreement among several. One kind of unlawful anticompetitive behavior you find here is classic price-fixing. Recently, for example, StarKist was ordered to pay a $100 million fine after it and Bumble Bee were both found guilty of conspiring to fix prices in the canned tuna market, which is largely controlled by three companies. Unfair behavior can also include a whole array of tactics undertaken by a single company, such as price discrimination, predatory pricing, or certain kinds of exclusivity requirements. These are the kinds of behaviors a federal judge found Qualcomm guilty of back in May, when she ruled that the company's business practices "strangled competition" with exclusive deals and patent licensing fees that charged device makers even when their products used a different brand of chip. In modern analyses, regulators are concerned not necessarily with competition for its own sake, but rather with the negative effects that follow when competition disappears. A market with little-to-no competition tends to see prices go up while the quality of the product and service degrade, affecting not only individual consumers but also suppliers and commercial buyers at every level. A player with an extreme dominant market position can leverage its dominance on suppliers that can affect competition several links up or down the chain. Enlarge / This spring, Elizabeth Warren's campaign posted a billboard in the South of Market Area of San Francisco calling for a break up of Big Tech. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images So who's investigating whom? Concerns about big tech's anticompetitive behavior have occasionally bubbled up for decades. But building pressure seems to have exploded coming into this year, and most major developments in the US seem to have hit just within the past six months: March 8: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announces a proposal to break up Amazon, Facebook, and Google as one of the policy planks of her 2020 presidential run. (And within a week, she defended the proposal in front of ample tech sector employees at SXSW 2019. "My view is break those things apart, and we'll have a more robust market in America.") May 9: Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes pens a lengthy op-ed in the New York Times making the case for breaking up Facebook sooner rather than later. June 3: The House Antitrust Subcommittee announces a bipartisan investigation into competition and "abusive conduct" in the tech sector. June 3: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets report that the FTC and DOJ have settled on a divide-and-conquer approach to antitrust probes, with the DOJ set to take on Apple and Google, and the FTC investigating Amazon and Facebook. July 24: The Department of Justice publicly confirms it has launched an antitrust probe into "market-leading online platforms." The DOJ does not name names, but the list of potential targets is widely understood to include Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google. July 25: Facebook confirms it is under investigation by the FTC. September 6: A coalition of attorneys general for nine states and territories announce a joint antitrust probe into Facebook. September 6: Google publicly confirms it is the target of a DOJ antitrust probe. September 9: A coalition of attorneys general for 50 states and territories announce a joint antitrust probe into Google. September 13: House Antitrust Subcommittee sends an absolutely massive request for information to Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, requesting 10 years' worth of detailed records relating to competition, acquisitions, and other matters relevant to the investigation. September 25: Media reports indicate the DOJ is also probing Facebook. October 22: An additional 38 attorneys general sign on to the states' probe of Facebook, bringing the total to 47. Although all four of Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are US companies, they operate worldwide, and scrutiny of them is by no means limited to US regulators. Governments and regulatory agencies worldwide, especially in the European Union and its member states, also have several open investigations of all four companies in progress. What kind of stuff can they actually investigate? Bigness by itself is not a crime, and none of the four platforms currently known to be under investigation is necessarily a monopoly in the sense the Sherman Act would have it. You can use a status- and photo-sharing platform that isn't Facebook, you can shop from retailers other than Amazon, and you can buy a phone made by neither Apple nor Google. The companies also compete with each other in many ways: Apple and Google compete in phone hardware and software, and Google, Facebook, and Amazon compete in digital advertising, for example. There's no denying, however, that these four companies are dominant, and there are a couple of broad avenues of investigation available to everyone who's digging in. One has to do with monopoly power and theories of consumer harm. Generally, if a company is a monopoly or a near-monopoly, then consumers can expect to see prices increase more or less unchecked, for example. Or perhaps, with no competitor spurring one along, the quality of service severely degrades. Shoppers do pay for products on Amazon and from Apple, but for Facebook and Google the picture is murkier. Individuals don't hand over any cash to use those services. Rather, the business model of Facebook and Google is to harvest information from individuals that is then remixed and endlessly sold. DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has made the case that something like worsening privacy standards, however, may still count as diminished service. "Price effects alone do not provide a complete picture of market dynamics," Delrahim said in June. "Diminished quality is also a type of harm to competition. As an example, privacy can be an important dimension of quality. By protecting competition, we can have an impact on privacy and data protection. "Two companies can compete to expand privacy protections for products or services, or for greater openness and free speech on platforms," he added. "Where competition pushes companies to develop quality elements that better satisfy consumer preferences, our enforcement can protect that sort of competition, too." That entire line of inquiry is the subject of a great deal of debate among economists, privacy experts, antitrust experts, and basically everyone with an opinion on Facebook's existence. The existing theories of harm used under current antitrust law to codify the kind of damage a company that deals in data and that has literally billions of users may be inflicting on those users, or on other companies, requires abstract arguments and abstract thinking. Competition regulators in Germany in February became the first to use antitrust regulations to impose privacy controls. The Bundeskartellamt issued a ruling imposing "far-reaching restrictions" in the way the company uses data, calling it an abuse of market power. Among those restrictions is a requirement that Facebook only integrate data from disparate sources, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, the core app, and other Web activities, if users opt-in. Facebook appealed the ruling. A German regional court granted an injunction to Facebook in late August; the regulator said it planned to file an appeal of the lower court's ruling with the Federal Court of Justice, Germany's highest court. Enlarge / Apple has a history of using App Store sales data as something of a free focus group for its own development team. Breakdown: Competition Much more tangible, however, is the other avenue of antitrust inquiry: how did these companies rise to the top, and how do they stay there? Is everything above board, or have any dirty, underhanded, unlawful cards been played? All of the companies currently under investigation have faced repeated accusations in recent years of leveraging their size and vertical market power to shove out competitors in comparatively old-fashioned unfair ways. Some examples: Apple Apple launched the first iPod in 2001, transforming itself from a computer company to a company that understood that the future of computers was in your pocket. Jump to 18 years later, and the company is boasting well over a billion active iOS devices running worldwide. Those devices are a combination of Apple hardware and Apple software, and regulators are reportedly probing how Apple leverages its position in the supply chain over others on both ends. One major avenue of investigation? The App Store, through which every single program that wants to reach users on any of those billions of devices must pass. Apple has a history of using App Store sales data as something of a free focus group for its own development team. The Washington Post recently explained how Apple uses App Store sales and download data to see which third-party apps gain the most popularity with iPhone users. Apple can then develop a similar app or feature set in-house and distribute it as part of iOS, or the company can promote it more heavily as a native Apple program. As a result, the WaPo writes, "Some apps have simply buckled under the pressure, in some cases shutting down. They generally don’t sue Apple because of the difficulty and expense in fighting the tech giant—and the consequences they might face from being dependent on the platform." iPhone users can still choose to install third-party apps, of course, but they cannot set them as default options in lieu of any built-in iOS function, a limitation that is growing more cumbersome for developers as Apple's in-house collection of apps grows. The New York Times also recently published a feature and accompanying graphic showing just how challenging it can be for third-party apps even to be seen in the App Store. First-party programs show up first in the App Store for at least 700 different search results, the NYT reports, with some searches returning as many as 14 separate Apple apps, some unrelated to the search at hand, before displaying results from competitors. Spotify provides an example. The company, which is based in Sweden, filed a formal antitrust complaint with EU regulators against Apple in March. Spotify used to charge the same €9.99 per month. But in 2014, the company said, it finally switched to using Apple's In-App purchase service. That service means 30% of any revenue Spotify takes in goes directly to Apple. Spotify raised its prices to €12.99 per month to cover Apple's fees. Apple then launched its own competing service, Apple Music. Apple Music charges subscribers $9.99 (or €9.99, in Europe) per month, and that service does not have the same challenge Spotify and others do of having to allow for 30% of all revenue to go back to Apple. Spotify also suddenly had a harder time showing up in search results once Apple Music came on the scene, that New York Times report found. In September 2013, Spotify was the first result returned by searches for "music." By June 2016, Apple Music was the first result, and Spotify was down to fourth place—arguably, something that could have happened naturally. By February 2018, though, Apple first-party apps were suddenly the first six results for "music," with Spotify coming in at number eight. And by December 2018, Apple native apps came back as the first eight results in the same search, even though some were completely unrelated to music—and Spotify, one of the world's most popular music streaming services, was all the way down to 23. Enlarge / Logic Remote? Sure, that sounds like it's definitely got sweet tunes. (Graphic by The New York Times.) By April 2019, one month after Spotify filed its formal complaint with the EU, only two Apple results—the iTunes Store and Apple Music—showed up at the top of the same search results, the NYT reports, with Spotify appearing as result number four. Facebook The complaints against Facebook are legion, spanning basically every aspect of consumer privacy, advertising, and data-gathering you can think of. Several of the US antitrust probes, however, are focusing on something much easier to pin down under existing law: the company's behavior toward would-be rivals. Facebook has used all available data to guide its own development and acquisition plans⁠ in the past 15 years⁠—and every time it completes one of those acquisitions, it gains access to an even larger trove of data it can use to target competitors. Critics allege that all of the big tech firms make it extremely difficult for new businesses to grow and flourish long enough to become true competition, and Facebook is something of a poster child for this problem. Back in 2013, Facebook spent about $200 million—not very much at all, by its standards—to acquire a startup called Onavo. The companies at the time described Onavo as a provider of mobile utilities and "the first mobile market intelligence service based on real engagement data." Among the apps Onavo distributed was a VPN called Onavo Protect. The VPN billed itself to users as a way to keep data private by encrypting it—basically, what a VPN is for. However, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2017 that when users opened an app or website, Onavo was redirecting the traffic through Facebook servers, which logged the data. That data directly informed Facebook's largest-ever acquisition, the WSJ reported: its $19 billion purchase of messaging platform WhatsApp in 2014. "Onavo showed [WhatsApp] was installed on 99% of all Android phones in Spain—showing WhatsApp was changing how an entire country communicated," sources told the WSJ. Facebook confirmed to Congress in 2018 that it used the aggregated data gathered and logged by Onavo to analyze consumers' use of other apps. (Apple found Onavo to be in violation of its App Store policies and pulled it in 2018; Google Play followed suit a few months later. Facebook finally discontinued the service in May.) Facebook could use data it harvested from Onavo and other sources not only to target other companies for acquisition but also to identify rival services to clone or suppress. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Snapchat has a dossier, called "Project Voldemort," outlining how Facebook did exactly that. Facebook tried twice to acquire Snapchat. It first offered $3 billion in 2013; three years later, in 2016, Facebook again made overtures that Snap turned down in favor of continuing with its early-2017 IPO. After the snubs, Facebook started cloning Snapchat's most popular features: Instagram Stories launched in August 2016, and Facebook Stories followed suit in March 2017. In addition to copying Snapchat's winning formula on its own platforms, Facebook reportedly basically punished high-profile users who so much as mentioned the competition. Instagram influencers with verified accounts were reportedly warned that mentioning Snap could cost them their coveted blue check mark. Snap executives also suspected Facebook was suppressing content that originated on Snap from trending on Instagram, by blocking the word "snapchat" and certain related hashtags from trending or from appearing in search results. Facebook's list of acquisitions, and what it does with data and tools it reaps from those companies, is widely reported to be at the heart of the FTC's investigation. Congress is also clearly zeroing in on the company's acquisition strategy as part of its inquiry (PDF). None of this has caused Facebook to slow down its buying spree: the company said September 25 it had purchased CTRL-Labs, which makes hardware that can interpret signals sent by your body and translate them into virtual motion, for somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. Enlarge / "I'm not just the president [read: marketplace], I'm also a client [read: retailer]." Amazon Amazon has fingers in, well, just about everything. It's an organic grocery store. It's a bookseller. It's a streaming TV service. It's a streaming music service. It's a purveyor of smart-home goods, including surveillance doorbells beloved of police. It's running a massive percentage of the cloud that makes the modern internet work. It's making inroads into the massive digital advertising market. A huge number of Amazon's businesses could be the targets of a probe. The clues we have so far, however, indicate that investigators are zeroing in on two main lines of inquiry: Amazon's acquisition history and strategy, and the company's fraught relationship with vendors on its massive third-party marketplace. Third-party marketplace sales accounted for 58% of Amazon's retail activity in 2018, company CEO Jeff Bezos told investors earlier this year, adding that those third-party vendors sold $160 billion worth of goods. Amazon as a whole, meanwhile, is projected to capture somewhere between 37% and 47% of all US online shopping in 2019, after capturing a little less than half of the market in 2018. With that large a presence in the marketplace, its tactics not only affect consumers but also rivals. Bloomberg reported in September that investigators from the FTC have been interviewing merchants who sell their wares on Amazon, three of whom spoke to Bloomberg about the experience. "All three merchants fielded questions on how much of their revenue comes from Amazon compared with other online platforms," Bloomberg wrote. "Many sellers get 90% or more of their sales from Amazon, making them vulnerable to the company’s demands and abrupt, unexplained changes in its policy." The price pressure Amazon puts on marketplace vendors can also affect prices you see from competitors such as Walmart. As Bloomberg explained in a separate story from August: Amazon constantly scans rivals’ prices to see if they’re lower. When it discovers a product is cheaper on, say, Walmart.com, Amazon alerts the company selling the item and then makes the product harder to find and buy on its own marketplace—effectively penalizing the merchant. In many cases, the merchant opts to raise the price on the rival site rather than risk losing sales on Amazon. Merchants also spoke to The Washington Post recently about life as an Amazon vendor. The Post wrote: Early on, Amazon compelled sellers to use its warehouses to guarantee speedy Prime shipping, in addition to other programs that largely benefited consumers. But now, sellers and former employees familiar with Amazon’s internal strategy say the company is increasingly focused on boosting its profits on the backs of its sellers — often without any clear upside for customers. The services include charging sellers thousands of dollars to speak to account managers, as well as making it necessary to purchase ads to guarantee the top spot on a search page. Plus, Amazon is aggressively pushing its own brands — something that may be cheaper for consumers in the short run, but demonstrates its overall power over pricing and merchandise on the site. That gives it an advantage over rival products and sellers who rely on Amazon for their livelihood and have few alternatives if they want to thrive selling online. Perhaps even more pressingly, Amazon's dual position as both retailer and platform gives it an edge when it comes to data. That's the issue at the heart of an investigation the European Union's competition bureau is running into the company's marketplace practices, and it seems to be on US regulators' radar as well. Amazon now boasts more than 80 in-house brands, mostly of apparel and home goods, and it's often far from clear to consumers browsing for something like a shirt which products are actually made by Amazon itself. Critics accuse Amazon of using sales data it gleans from third-party merchants to determine what product lines it should launch, which of its own goods it should most heavily promote, and where and how it should do those promotions. The company has experimented with different methods of advertising its own house brands on competitors' listings for similar goods. CNBC reported on one method the company was using last year, and The Washington Post in August delved into an even more aggressive tactic Amazon apparently started using this year. More recently, The Wall Street Journal did a deep dive into the way Amazon's sorting algorithm presents search results to consumers. Sources told the WSJ that Amazon "optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company." Amazon told Ars in September that sales of its house-brand products represent about 1% of its total overall sales. That figure does indicate that any efforts Amazon may have potentially undertaken to stack the deck in its favor to date have not necessarily brought success—but it also indicates a reason the company may be motivated to push its own brands at the expense of others. Google Google—or rather, since 2015, its parent company Alphabet—likewise has its hands in a thousand different things. We're a far cry from the era when it was just the Internet's shiniest new search engine, although it is still indeed the dominant force in search. The company manufactures phones and home devices, develops the world's most-used mobile operating system, operates the world's dominant video-sharing platform, and has the most dominant Web browser in the world, among other things. The company has been the target of at least a half-dozen previous US and EU antitrust probes, and it has cumulatively paid billions in penalties and settlements over the past decade or so. But of all Google's many ventures, the biggest by far is its advertising business. Advertising accounted for $32.6 billion of Google's total $38.9 billion of revenue in the second quarter of this year, or a little under 84%. Digital advertising spending in the US is forecast to surpass spending on traditional forms of advertising (print and television, mostly) in 2019, and Google is the largest player in that market by far. Analytics firm eMarketer has forecast that Google will likely command more than 20% of all US ad spending, not just digital advertising spending, in 2019. Overall, it is forecast to capture about 37% of the digital ad market—down from its halcyon days, to be sure, but still well ahead of second-place rival Facebook, which is forecast to capture about a 22% share. That advertising business is the initial focus of the antitrust probe into Google's businesses that 50 attorneys general have banded together to launch. Bloomberg in September obtained a copy of the 29-page civil investigative demand Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office sent to the firm. The opacity of the advertising and data markets not only make it harder for consumers to understand how their data is being gathered and used, but they also make it more difficult for regulators to tease out which threads in the dense web might be anticompetitive. The request is, first and foremost, a request for information about how the marketplace even works, Bloomberg reported: The states want information about Google’s past acquisitions of advertising technology companies, including DoubleClick and AdMob; its top advertisers and publishers; data collection practices; pricing models; and the functions of the ad auction market that delivers ads across the internet. The document’s questions dig deep into the “black box” of Google’s money-making machine and ask for a thorough explanation of how it all works. Even to experts, the ad tech market can seem opaque and dizzying in its complexity. The process of showing an ad to a single person visiting a web page can involve dozens of companies and multiple auctions and transactions. Google has worked its way into controlling much of that process, and investigators want to know exactly how powerful the company has become in this space. Reports indicate that Google's advertising and search practices are the key operations at the heart of the DOJ's federal antitrust probe of Google as well, since the company's sprawling reach gives it access to almost every link in the complicated ad sales chain. Google in a company blog post countered that the digital advertising technology industry is "crowded and competitive," adding, "The industry is famously crowded. There are thousands of companies, large and small, working together and in competition with each other to power digital advertising across the web, each with different specialties and technologies." Though the antitrust probe into Google is beginning with advertising, it doesn't seem it will end there. "If we end up learning things that lead us in other directions, we’ll certainly bring those back to the states and talk about whether we expand into other areas," Paxton told the Washington Post in an interview. Enlarge / All these Big Tech companies have faced trouble abroad, but can things change here? Just last summer, the EU gave Google 90 days to end 'illegal' practices surrounding its Android operating system or face further fines, after slapping a record 4.34 billion euro ($5 billion) anti-trust penalty on Google. (Pictured: European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.) Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images But will anything actually change? Regardless of whether it should be, all regulation in the current era is highly political. Even something as theoretically anodyne and broadly popular as net neutrality is a partisan football these days, endlessly kicked, carried, and thrown back and forth. Big tech regulation is no less contentious. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have proposed reining in the tech titans, but their reasons why, and what specific form any new laws or regulatory enforcement might take, is much harder to find consensus on. Until then, the most likely outcome from an antitrust probe⁠—or even, apparently, an overflowing cornucopia of antitrust probes⁠—is a combination of financial penalties and behavioral remedies. A company might, for example, be ordered to stop using data it collects from one aspect of its business to influence decisions it makes about competitors through another aspect of its business. A breakup is considered something of a nuclear option. And even if Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Google were somehow forced to split up tomorrow\, big tech breakups might only be a short-term fix. Like beads of mercury in a dish, companies broken apart by antitrust law have a strange way of eventually all flowing back together. By the time we were 30 years out from the Bell breakup, for instance, none of the regional Baby Bell carriers existed as corporate entities any longer. A tangled web of mergers and acquisitions led all of them back to one of three places. CenturyLink inherited one, Verizon rose from another two, and all the rest ended up right back where they began: as parts of AT&T. And though the landline telephone business that made AT&T into a national monopoly has spent the current century in a state of decline, AT&T still arguably remains the nation's largest phone company. In any given quarter, it boasts either slightly more or fractionally fewer wireless customers than rival Verizon, each claiming between 150 million and 160 million subscribers. AT&T hasn't stopped with "just" phone coverage, either. In 2015, the company became the nation's largest pay-TV provider when it acquired DirecTV for $48.5 billion (although that acquisition has not been going well lately). It then followed the footsteps of fellow pay-TV provider Comcast into the content game, spending $85 billion to acquire Time Warner in 2018. So to imagine just one future from these four Big Tech antitrust initiatives, take Facebook. WhatsApp and Instagram each boast more than a billion users. If Facebook were somehow forced to divest both companies tomorrow, the businesses might stand alone for a time. Or, more likely, they might go to other deep-pocketed buyers—buyers that, themselves, would then be subject to the tug and spin of shareholders and economic forces, and the platforms might eventually start gravitating toward each other all over again until they inevitably collide. Source: Antitrust 101: Why everyone is probing Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (Ars Technica)
  22. You Cannot Submit an Electron 6 (or 7) App to the Apple Store Alright, as a follow up to the previous chapter in this odyssey I can now state that, apparently, you cannot submit an electron 6 or 7 app to the apple store: The first refusal from apple states: Your app app links against the following non-public framework(s): CAContext CALayerHost NSAccessibilityRemoteUIElement NSNextStepFrame NSThemeFrame NSURLFileTypeMappings I am not the only one having this issue and I did write back to Apple trying to explain that I am using Electron and I can't really change any of these public-framework usage (I assume is something from Chromium) and the reply was: Hello, Thank you for providing this information. Regarding 2.5.1, your app uses or references the following non-public APIs. If you do not have access to your binary or unsure how to remove the APIs in question, please contact your service provider for technical supports. and also, I would pay extra care to the next paragraph: "Next Steps If you are using third-party libraries, please update to the most recent version of those libraries. If you do not have access to the libraries' source, you may be able to search the compiled binary using the "strings" or "otool" command line tools. The "strings" tool can output a list of the methods that the library calls and "otool -ov" will output the Objective-C class structures and their defined methods. These tools can help you narrow down where the problematic code resides. Continuing to use or conceal non-public APIs in future submissions of this app may result in the termination of your Apple Developer account, as well as removal of all associated apps from the App Store." So to summarize, it appears that there is no way out of this. I did even try re-packaging using Electron 7.0.1, 6.0.12, 6.1.3. Now, anecdotally, another app that was not approved yet didn't name this "Your app app links against the following non-public framework(s):" issue so I cannot claim that all electron apps will be rejected but this is certainly worrying. Source
  23. Apple's updated patent points to a wrap-around display for the iPhone Forget foldable, here comes wrap-around (Image credit: Future) Rumors of a wrap-around iPhone screen have been floating around for years, but a newly updated patent shows Apple is still very much interested in the technology – even if it isn't going to be ready in time for the iPhone 12. As reported by Patently Apple, Apple has registered a continuation patent on the wrap-around display filing that we've seen before. Essentially, it's appending some new information on an existing patent, or tweaking the details that have already been logged. So while this patent isn't completely new, the fact that it's been updated shows that Apple is still seriously considering this technology. Whether it actually makes it into a finished product remains to be seen. New information added to the patent mentions the "continuous loop" of a glass display around a device: a screen that would function on the front and the back of your iPhone. (Image credit: Patently Apple/USPTO) Other phone makers are looking at similar ways to innovate on the standard glass-and-metal slab design we've now become so used to. The Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha features a wrap-around screen, though it's being labeled as a concept device. In other words, it's for early adopters, and it might not work terribly well. Apple is typically very cautious with any new technology, and won't push out any hardware to consumers unless it's sure that it's ready. Samsung is another company with a patent for wrap-around screens, and has been pushing the display over the edges of its Galaxy phones for several years now. Could wrap-around be the new foldable? Whatever Apple's plans, it seems unlikely that the 2020 iPhone 12 will have anything quite so innovative. One of the more recent rumors about the handset suggests it will come with a screen sporting a 120Hz refresh rate. Source: Apple's updated patent points to a wrap-around display for the iPhone (TechRadar)
  24. While Apple’s fiscal 2019 will be remembered as a year of ups and downs, growth of the company’s subscription services last quarter helped reverse serious holiday season and second quarter shortfalls. Today, Apple announced its fourth quarter 2019 results, top-lined by revenues of $64 billion, slightly higher than the year-ago quarter: Services revenue grew sharply, while earnings from both iPhones and Macs fell somewhat below last year’s levels. In July, Apple told analysts to expect fourth quarter revenues in the $61 to $64 billion range, with a gross margin between 37.5% and 38.5%. Ahead of the announcement, analysts expected sales of $63 billion, up only slightly from actual sales of $62.9 billion in Q4 2018, and $2.83 in estimated earnings per share, down from $2.91 one year ago. Actual earnings per share were $3.03, up 4%, though net income was down to $13.686 billion from $14.125 billion. “We concluded a groundbreaking fiscal 2019 with our highest Q4 revenue ever, fueled by accelerating growth from Services, Wearables, and iPad,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We’re very optimistic about what the holiday quarter has in store.” For the quarter, Apple says it sold $33.362 billion in iPhones, $6.991 billion in Macs, and $4.656 billion in iPads. Its combined “wearables, home and accessories” sales were $6.52 billion, while services hit $12.511 billion, another record. The numbers represent year-over-year drops for both iPhones and Macs: One year ago, iPhones were at $37,185 billion, Macs were at $7.411 billion. But the numbers are up for iPads, wearables, and services, which during last year’s quarter were at $4.089 billion, $4.234 billion, and $9.981 billion, respectively. Geographically, net sales eased down from $15.382 billion to $14.946 billion in Europe, and similarly slid year-over-year from $11.411 billion to $11.134 billion in Greater China, as well as Japan, which fell down to $4.982 billion from $5.161 billion. However, Apple saw some improvement in the Americas, which grew to $29.322 billion from last year’s $27.517 billion of total revenues, and the Asia Pacific region, which went up to $3.656 billion from $3.429 billion in the year-ago quarter. Apple notes that international revenues accounted for 60% of its quarterly revenues. For the first fiscal quarter of 2020, Apple is predicting revenue between $85.5 and $89.5 billion, in any case higher than its disappointing Q1 2019 holiday numbers, and possibly above its $88.3 billion 2018 holiday quarter. It also expects a gross margin between 37.5% and 38.5%, operating expenses between $9.6 and $9.8 billion, $200 million of other income, and a tax rate of 16.5%. Once again, the company is issuing a $0.77 per share cash dividend, payable on November 14 to shareholders on record as of November 11, 2019. Today’s results come one year after Apple decided to stop reporting unit sales for key products such as iPhones, iPads, and Macs, in favor of merely reporting revenues across those categories. In prior years, the company had sold well over 200 million iPhones annually, but the numbers were expected to flatten or dip for a variety of reasons after impressive 2018 quarters. Meanwhile, the “other products” or “wearables, home and accessories” category’s sales of wireless AirPods headphones and Apple Watches grew in dollar value without any breakdown of units sold, leaving their individual sales figures to be estimated by analysts. The Q4 2019 numbers include early contributions from the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, released in September, as well as the Apple Watch Series 5 and substantially discounted Series 3. Apple has also launched multiple subscription services in recent months, including Apple News+, Apple Card, and Apple Arcade, with Apple TV+ arriving two days from now, though early reviews have been decidedly mixed, leaving the upside for Apple somewhat unclear after significant investments in the offerings. Source
  25. At least Apple will recycle them iFixit has completed its traditional teardown of Apple’s latest AirPods and, just as Apple promised, it’s bad news for repairs. The organization awarded the noise-canceling buds a big fat zero repairability score, noting that their “non-modular, glued-together design and lack of replacement parts makes repair both impractical and uneconomical.” That’s the same score as both versions of the original AirPods. This means that once the battery in your $249 AirPods Pro degrades and eventually dies, there’s no chance of repairing them yourself. Instead, you’ll have to send them back to Apple for recycling, or take part in the “battery service” program at a cost of $49-per-earbud out of warranty. The teardown does reveal a couple of interesting details about the design of the earbuds. First is the fact that they’re a whole third heavier than the original AirPods, thanks to new features like active noise-cancellation, and an inward-facing microphone. The teardown also notes that the one user-replaceable part of the earbuds, the silicone ear-tip, uses a custom design that makes them incompatible with third-party models. That said, the popularity of the AirPods all but guarantees other companies will be making third-party tips soon. Most intriguing is the discovery of a watch-style battery inside each earbud. iFixit notes that it’s a similar battery to what it found in Samsung’s Galaxy Buds which could be replaced. However, the same is not true of the AirPods Pro, whose battery is tethered by a soldered cable. It’s no surprise that the AirPods Pro are a disposable product, designed to be as small and lightweight as possible. And compared to the amount of waste generated by the consumer electronics industry, the environmental impact of each AirPod Pro is likely to be low. But as Apple boasts about the amount of renewable energy its buildings use, and the amount of recycled materials it uses in its products, it’s a shame to see one of its biggest product successes in recent years remain so disposable. Update October 31st, 6:45AM ET: Updated with details of Apple’s “battery service” program. Source: AirPods Pro teardown confirms that they’re just as disposable as ever (via The Verge)
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