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  1. 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
  2. (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
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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
  9. 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)
  10. 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
  11. 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)
  12. Apple’s 5G iPhones will reportedly be powered by its first 5-nanometer chips And will feature Qualcomm’s X55 5G modem Three of Apple’s phones will release with 5G connectivity next year with Qualcomm’s X55 5G modem, Nikkei reports. This modem will reportedly be paired with a new Apple chipset — likely to be called the A14 Bionic — that’ll be the first from the company to be built using a 5-nanometer process. In general, moving to smaller manufacturing processes makes chips more efficient while allowing more processing power to be packed into a smaller space. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors that Apple is planning on releasing its first 5G phones in 2020, nor is it the first time we’ve heard there’ll be three of them. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made a similar prediction back in July. What’s new are the reports of the exact Qualcomm modem Apple plans to use after the two companies settled their ongoing legal dispute back in April. In the longer term, Apple is thought to be working on its own in-house modems having acquired the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business in July. The report also corroborates previous rumors that Apple is planning to switch to a 5nm fabrication process for its chips next year, moving away from the 7nm process that it’s used since the A12 Bionic chip debuted in 2018. Apple rival Huawei is also thought to be working on a 5nm chip of its own that’s set to launch in a similar period next year. As well as 5G connectivity and a new chip fabrication process, next year’s iPhones are also expected to be Apple’s first redesign of its flagship phones since 2017, and could feature an in-display fingerprint sensor. In addition to its three flagship devices, Apple could also release a low-cost successor to the iPhone SE towards the beginning of the year. Source
  13. Earlier this month, on October 9, in a report by the Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, we got a preview of the tentative release schedule and the lineup that Apple potentially has in store for next year. In his report, the analyst claimed that the firm might update its MacBook lineup somewhere around the second or third quarter of 2020. He also claimed that Apple might finally be doing away with its infamous butterfly switch mechanism in its MacBooks. But that isn't anything nothing new. Indeed, the California giant has been rumored to be exploring alternatives for it in the scissor-switch mechanism keyboard. Now, it seems there's more reason to suspect that Apple might be definitively transitioning its MacBook lineup to the scissor-switch mechanism. In a research note today for TF International Securities, Kuo has claimed that Wistron—a Taiwanese manufacturer—will be the primary supplier of the parts for the scissor-switch keyboards next year. Since the latest from Kuo says that Wistron will be the leading supplier for 2020, it is unclear whether this presents a delay for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, whose release was anticipated for some time at the end of this year around the $3,000 price point. There were also some rumors that Apple might announce the 16-inch MacBook Pro this morning in a press release, just like it quietly dropped the AirPods Pro a couple of days back, but that did not happen. While we are certainly getting more news for Apple's 2020 lineup as we near the end of this year, nothing is set in stone for now. Whether the California giant fixes the chink in the armor of its MacBooks, will only be confirmed once the devices are actually released. For those, we shall invariably be on the lookout for. Source: 1. There is more reason to suspect that scissor-switch mechanism MacBooks might be next (via Neowin) - main article 2. Kuo Says New MacBook With Scissor Keyboard to Launch in Mid 2020, Unclear if 16-Inch Model Delayed (via MacRumors) - reference to the main article
  14. Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.1, the first update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October. ‌macOS Catalina‌ can be downloaded from the Mac App Store for free using the Update feature in the System Preferences app, and it is available to anyone who has a compatible Mac. macOS Catalina 10.15.1 is a fairly significant update, introducing new emoji characters that were added in iOS 13.2 earlier this week, adding support for the AirPods Pro that are launching tomorrow, and bringing Siri privacy controls to the Mac to allow users to opt out of sharing their Siri recordings with Apple. HomeKit Secure Video support is included, as is support for adding AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in scenes and automations in the Home app. There are also quite a few bug fixes for Photos, Messages, Contacts, and more. Apple's release notes for the update are below: The macOS Catalina 10.15.1 update includes updated and additional emoji, support for AirPods Pro, HomeKit Secure Video, HomeKit enabled routers, and new Siri privacy settings, as well as bug fixes and improvements. Emoji - Over 70 new or updated emoji, including animals, food, activities, new accessibility emoji, gender neutral emoji, and skin tones selection for couple emoji AirPods - Introduces support for AirPods Pro Home app - HomeKit Secure Video enables you to privately capture, store, and view encrypted video from your security cameras and features people, animal, and vehicle detection - HomeKit enabled routers let you control how your HomeKit accessories communicate over the internet or in your home - Adds support for AirPlay 2-enabled speakers in scenes and automations Siri - Privacy settings to control whether or not to help improve Siri and Dictation by allowing Apple to store audio of your Siri and Dictation interactions - Option to delete your Siri and Dictation history from Siri Settings This update also includes the following bug fixes and improvements: - Restores the ability to view file names in the All Photos view in Photos - Restores the ability to filter by favorites, photos, videos, edited, and keywords in Days view in Photos - Fixes an issue where Messages would only send a single notification when the option to repeat alerts was enabled - Resolves an issue that caused Contacts to launch to the previously opened contact instead of the contact list - Adds a two-finger swipe gesture for back navigation in Apple News - Resolves issues that may occur in the Music app when displaying playlists inside folders and newly added songs in the Songs list - Improves reliability of migrating iTunes library databases into the Music, Podcasts, and TV apps - Fixes an issue where downloaded titles were not visible in the Downloads folder in the TV app macOS Catalina is a major update that eliminates iTunes in favor of new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, nixes support for 32-bit apps, adds a new Find My app, brings a new Photos interface, and includes multiple privacy enhancements and other app refinements. For full details on what's new in macOS Catalina, make sure to check out our macOS Catalina roundup. Source
  15. A minor update for most Apple Watch owners Apple is releasing its latest watchOS 6.1 update today, and it will introduce watchOS 6 support for the Series 1 and 2 Apple Watch models. watchOS 6 originally debuted last month, but Series 1 and 2 owners have had to wait on this 6.1 update to upgrade. This latest update also includes support for Apple’s new AirPods Pro headphones, just a day before they start shipping to customers. Aside from these changes, it’s a fairly minor update for Apple Watch owners that were already running watchOS 6, but it includes the usual performance improvements and bug fixes that you’d expect from a point release. Apple hasn’t revealed whether this update improves battery life on the latest Series 5 Apple Watch. Some owners have reported issues with the battery life not lasting a full day, and beta copies of watchOS 6.1 appeared to improve things for some. Either way, watchOS 6.1 is available right now from the General > Software Update section of the Watch app on iOS. Source: watchOS 6.1 now available with Series 1, Series 2, and AirPods Pro support (via The Verge)
  16. If you want developers to love your platform, then you need to take this seriously. If it isn’t documented, it isn’t done. Assumed Audience: practitioners or interested lookers-on for software development — and Apple itself. Edit: some folks rightly pointed out that my use of “garbage” suggests that the problem is the quality of the existing documentation; I’ve retitled the post to capture that the problem is the massive absence of documentation. You can see the original title by way of the slug. Over the past few months, I have been trying to get up to speed on the Apple developer ecosystem, as part of working on my rewrite project. This means I have been learning Swift (again), SwiftUI, and (barely) the iOS and macOS APIs. It has been terrible. The number of parts of this ecosystem which are entirely undocumented is frankly shocking to me. Some context: I have spent the last five years working very actively in the JavaScript front-end application development world, working in first AngularJS and then Ember.js. Ember’s docs once had a reputation of being pretty bad, but in the ~4 years I’ve been working with it, they’ve gone from decent to really good. On the other hand, when I was working in AngularJS 5 years ago, I often threw up my hands in quiet despair at the utter lack of explanation (or, occasionally, the inane explanations) of core concepts. I thought that would have to be the absolute worst a massive tech company (in that case, Google) providing public APIs could possibly do. I was wrong. The current state of Apple’s software documentation is the worst I’ve ever seen for any framework anywhere. Swift itself is relatively well covered (courtesy of the well-written and well-maintained book). But that’s where the good news ends.1 Most of SwiftUI is entirely undocumented — not even a single line explanation of what a given type or modifier does. Swift Package Manager has okay docs, but finding out the limits of what it can or can’t do from the official docs is difficult to impossible; I got my ground truth from Stack Overflow questions. I’ve repeatedly been reduced to searching through WWDC video transcripts to figure out where someone says something relevant to whatever I’m working on. 2 This is, frankly, unacceptable. In the Ember ecosystem, we have a simple rule that code doesn’t get to ship unless it’s documented. The same goes in Rust (I should know: I wrote the RFC that made that official policy). Now, I understand that Apple’s API developers (often) work in a different context than these open source projects — especially in that they face crunches around releases which are tied to hardware products shipping. But. At the end of the day, when you’re vending an API, it isn’t done until it’s documented. Full stop. Given what I know of Apple’s approach to this, the problem is not individual engineers (who are not responsible for writing docs) or even the members of dedicated documentation teams (who are responsible for writing docs). But that does not make it any less a failure of Apple’s engineering organization. The job of an API engineering organization is to support those who will consume that API. I don’t doubt that many of Apples API engineers would love for all of these things to be documented. I likewise do not doubt that the documentation team is understaffed for the work they have to do. (If I’m wrong, if I should doubt that, because Apple’s engineering culture doesn’t value this, then that’s even worse an indictment of the engineering culture.) This kind of thing has to change at the level of the entire engineering organization. Apple claims to be interested in building a platform that is accessible to everyone — from a brand new developer to the most experienced gray-haired folks who’ve been around since the NeXT days. Right now, they’re not even close. I have a decade of software development under my belt, a fair bit of it in languages with rich type systems and functional programming idioms, and some of this stuff is hard for me to figure out. I can’t imagine how mind-bogglingly terrible the experience would be for someone just starting in software, or coming over with experience only in languages like Ruby or Python or JavaScript. It would be completely impossible to learn. Apple, if you want developers to love your platform — and you should, because good developers are your lifeblood — and if you don’t want them to flee for other platforms — and you should be worried about that, because the web is everywhere and Microsoft is coming for you — then you need to take this seriously. Adopt the mentality that has served other frameworks and languages so well: If it isn’t documented, it isn’t done. I am not the only one who has noticed this. No Overview Available summarizes the extent of documentation in Apple’s APIs and… it’s not a good look. Hat tip to Lobste.rs user wink and my friend Jeremy Sherman, who both noted this.↩︎ Credit where credit is due: it is genuinely excellent from an accessibility and general usability standpoint that Apple has these transcripts. However, they’re not a substitute for documentation!↩︎ Source
  17. HomePod owners beware. Apple's release of iOS 13.2 on Monday delivers long-awaited features to the company's smart speaker, but the software is rendering some units useless. With iOS 13.2, HomePod owners gain access to major features announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, including handoff from iPhone and multi-user support. Customers who downloaded the update are reporting issues, however, prompting concerns over software stability. AppleInsider forum members impacted by the problem report a complete bricking of HomePod. At least three people have run into an issue that sends the speaker into what appears to be an error loop that leaves the unit unresponsive with a spinning white light on its display. Attempts to perform a factory reset, which involves unplugging the speaker and touching the top capacitive control panel, have been unsuccessful. Unpairing the device from Apple's Home app is also ineffective. "After I updated, I couldn't get Siri to work at all (even after a power cycle) so I tried removing my HomePod using the Home app and then adding it again," said forum member Auxio. "Unfortunately, none of my iOS devices can even detect it anymore. Tried a tap and hold to reset it, but that doesn't seem to work either." HomePod owners are reporting similar issues on Reddit and social media platforms like Twitter. According to Redditor "VALIDNULL," Apple support representatives are instructing some users to replace the device as a software solution is not currently available. Considering the implications of a thoroughly bricked device, and Apple's apparent inability to resolve the issue, it is recommended that HomePod users take a wait and see approach to iOS 13.2. To disable HomePod's default automatic software downloads, tap on the house icon in the top-left corner of the Home app, navigate to Software Update and turn off "Install Updates Automatically." Update: Apple has since retracted the iOS 13.2 update for HomePod. Sources: Apple's iOS 13.2 release bricks HomePod for some users (via Apple Insider)
  18. Apple’s rumored Tile-like tracking device may be called ‘AirTag’ Found in the just-released iOS 13.2 (Image credit: TechRadar) Apple’s much-rumored accessory to rival Tile’s trackers might just have its official name: ‘AirTag'. That’s the name found on a folder by 9to5Mac inside the latest version of iOS 13.2, which was released today at the time of writing. Apple hasn’t made any announcements (yet), but given the name and folder location came included with the latest operating system update, we can only guess that the company will formally introduce its product soon. Supposedly, the AirTag will be able to be paired with an iPhone just like AirPods and enable owners to track their 'AirTagged' item via the Find My app. The folder contained placeholder asset images of other Apple products (AirPods, HomePod, etc), so there’s no sneak peek of the AirTag yet. There are, however, videos inside the folder named “Battery Swap,” suggesting a feature or capability to swap out the AirTag’s battery, according to 9to5Mac. Months of tracker rumors coming to a head The first hint of an Apple tracker device was found in an early iOS 13 beta back in June, when iOS developer Steve Moser discovered a code string named ‘Tag.’ Later builds of iOS 13 included mention of an accessory that would help you “Tag your everyday items” and “never lose them again.” That code laid out how Find My would work with the Apple tracker: once the app detects you’ve been separated from an AirTag, the accessory will start beeping, unless you’ve set up “safe locations” like home or work where you’re expecting to leave your AirTag-connected devices astray. That’s also where hints of the “lost mode” surfaced, which would let you ask other iPhones to ping the missing AirTag and help track it down. Lastly, there was an augmented reality aspect to Find My that guided you toward lost items using an overlay on top of a live feed from your cameras. To its credit, Tile heard about Apple's upcoming rival products – and its message is "bring it on," Tile Chief Experience Officer told TechRadar. We’ll have to wait and see which of these predicted features and capabilities pulled from the code made it to the final product if, and when, Apple formally announces the AirTag trackers. Source: Apple’s rumored Tile-like tracking device may be called ‘AirTag’ (TechRadar)
  19. Apple has released iOS 13.2 and iPadOS 13.2 for the iPhone and iPad. This update features the usual bug fixes and security improvements. But Apple is also adding a handful of new features to its operating system. First, iOS 13.2 brings a ton of new emojis. The company now officially supports Unicode 12.0. You can now create all possible combinations of handholding couple emojis regardless of gender or skin tone. There are new accessibility-focused emojis, such as a service dog, people using wheelchairs, prosthetic arms and legs, a person with a white cane and more. There are also new animals, a yawning face and new food options. If you have an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, iOS 13.2 enables Deep Fusion, an image processing feature that should make your photos look better thanks to machine learning-enabled processing. It’s also worth mentioning that you can now change the resolution and framerate of your videos in the Camera app directly. With iOS 13.2, you can opt out of sharing Siri recordings with Apple employees and delete your Siri and dictation history. Go to Settings > Privacy > Analytics and Improvements to opt out at any time. Finally, iOS 13.2 enables HomeKit‌ Secure Video for HomeKit-enabled camera and adds support for the newly announced AirPods Pro. Before updating to iOS 13.2, back up your device. Make sure your iCloud backup is up to date by opening the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad and tapping on your account information at the top and then on your device name. Additionally, you can also plug your iOS device into your computer to do a manual backup in iTunes. Don’t forget to encrypt your backup in iTunes. It is much safer if somebody hacks your computer. And encrypted backups include saved passwords and health data. This way, you don’t have to reconnect to all your online accounts. Once this is done, you should go to the Settings app as soon as possible to get in the queue. Navigate to ‘Settings,’ then ‘General’ and then ‘Software Update.’ Then you should see ‘Update Requested…’ It will then automatically start downloading once the download is available. Source
  20. Apple has confirmed that 17 malware iPhone apps were removed from the App Store after successfully hiding from the company’s app review process. The apps were all from a single developer but covered a wide range of areas, including a restaurant finder, internet radio, BMI calculator, video compressor, and GPS speedometer … The apps were discovered by mobile security company Wandera, which said that the apps did what they claimed while secretly committing fraud in the background. Although no direct harm was done to app users, the activity would be using up mobile data, as well as potentially slowing the phone and accelerating battery drain. Wandera said the malware iPhone apps evaded Apple’s review process because the malicious code was not found within the app itself, but the apps were instead getting instructions on what to do from a remote server. Apple says it is improving its app review process to detect this approach. The same server was also controlling Android apps. In at least one of those cases, weaker security in Android meant that the app was able to do more direct harm. The apps were all from AppAspect Technologies. iOS aims to guard against this by sandboxing. Each app gets its own private environment, so cannot access system data or data from other apps unless using processes specifically permitted and monitored by iOS. However, Wandera cautions that there have been examples of the sandbox failing, giving three examples of this. Wandera is the same company that warned how a Siri feature could be used for phishing non-technically knowledgeable iPhone users. Apple confirmed the removal of the 17 apps to ZDNet. Source: 1. 17 malware iPhone apps removed from App Store after evading Apple’s review (via 9to5Mac) - Main article 2. Trojan malware infecting 17 apps on the App Store (via Wandera) - Main reference to the article p/s: The list of 17 apps that are mentioned on the article are as follows:
  21. A new Apple official warning calls for immediate action on older devices. Mainly the iPhone 5 and earlier as well as the iPad 4 and earlier models. Users on these devices need to go in their settings and update the software to the latest available version prior to November 3. For some of these devices that will be iOS 9.3.6, for others iOS 10.3.4, depending on their age. Any device that is not updated prior to the November 3 deadline can expect GPS location issues as well as potential problems with keeping accurate date and time. The latter, in tern, could prevent the Apple gadgets from fetching further updates over the air and sync with certain online services like iCloud and email servers. Post November 3, a tethered update via iTunes will be required to bring them back to normal operation. Now, before you hit up the comment section with rants about poor software work on Apple's part, it is worth explaining what is actually going on here. The issue is much bigger than Apple's own domain and could actually affect pretty much any GPS-enabled device that has not bee properly patched or prepared at some point to handle what is essentially a GPS Y2K event. Again, we realise this might be a scary analogy to make, but it is a pretty accurate one. The short of it is that GPS systems in general count weeks using a ten bit variable or register. Hence, values can only go from 0 to 1023 on said counter. When a device hits week 1024, if not programmed correctly, it could restart or "rollover" said counter in a way that corrupts it and makes it no longer usable for working with GPS and its precise timing data. Absolutely precise time keeping is crucial for GPS operation. So, why is this happening now? Well, the first GPS week counter was kicked off on January 6 1980. Then, on August 21 1999 the week counter got full for the first time and needed to be restarted. That was the end of the first "GPS epoch". Counting forward, that puts the end of the second epoch on April 6 2019. And again, before you hit up the comment section pointing out that April 6 passed quite a while ago, we have an explanation for that as well. Without going into too much detail, some manufacturers and software developers might have restarted their GPS week counters at a later time. For instance, as the GPS firmware was compiled and shipped to devices. Apparently this was the case for Apple and that's where their precise calculation and the November 3 deadline come from. As a side note for anyone reading this without owning and older iPhone or iPad, it is still a good idea to check the current status on any slightly older GPS-enabled tech you might have and see if you can update those as well. That also includes specialised devices, like dedicated navigation units an in-car ones. Source: 1. Apple officially warns older iPhone and iPad users to update their software or risk a nasty GPS bug (via GSMArena) 2. Update your iPhone or iPad software to avoid issues with location, date, and time (via Apple)
  22. As it turns out, the Apple TV 4K includes a hidden Lightning port. This discovery was first made on Twitter by Kevin Bradley, better known as nitoTV on Twitter. This could lead to access to the Apple TV 4K’s firmware. While earlier Apple TV models had Micro USB and USB-C, the Apple TV 4K dropped all outwardly-facing ports other than Ethernet and HDMI. Under the hood, however, there’s a hidden Lightning port, as Bradley discovered. The Lightning port is hidden in the ethernet connector on the Apple TV 4K. Bradley teased on Twitter: None of us looked THAT closely to the hardware of the AppleTV 4K and the magic locked in the ethernet port until fairly recently. As for getting the Lightning port itself to work, Steven Barker said in a tweet that this is proving to be “difficult.” The Lightning port is stuck at the very back of the ethernet port. Ultimately, it’s not really clear what the Lightning port discovery could mean. One thing it could lead towards is the expansion of jailbreak capabilities for the Apple TV 4K, though Bradley cautions: Just because we know it’s lightning doesn’t mean anything past that. Just because we find a way in doesn’t mean anything will DEFINITELY be released due to what we discover. The barrier for entry might be way too high. One of the more logical explanations for the port is that it’s simply there for Apple to use for debugging, as Steve Troughton-Smith pointed out. Apple has a history of hiding ports on its products designed purely for service, diagnostics, and support. You can read more about the Lightning port discovery on the Twitter accounts of Steve Barker and Kevin Bradley. The original first-generation Apple TV featured a USB port, while the second and third-generation models featured a Micro USB port. The fourth-generation Apple TV – now known as Apple TV HD – features a USB-C port for “service and support.” Source
  23. A bipartisan group of US Congress members calls Apple's removal of the HKmap.live app "deeply concerning." In a Friday letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, a bipartisan group of US Congress members criticized the tech giant's decision to remove HKmap.live, an app used by protesters in Hong Kong, from the App Store. "Apple's decision last week to accommodate the Chinese government by taking down HKMaps is deeply concerning," reads the letter. "We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course, to demonstrate that Apple puts values above market access, and to stand with the brave men and women fighting for basic rights and dignity in Hong Kong." The letter is signed by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, along with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. They're joined by Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Democratic Reps. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. The letter follows the app's removal and Cook's meeting with China's market regulator in Beijing on Thursday, according to a report from Reuters. Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Apple removed HKmap.live, a mapping app that crowdsources the location of police and protesters in Hong Kong, from the App Store, saying it violated the store's guidelines and local laws. HKmap tweeted last Thursday that it disagreed with Apple's claim that the app endangered law enforcement and Hong Kong residents. [email protected], @tedcruz, @marcorubio, @RonWyden & others just sent this letter to @tim_cook, criticizing Apple's removal of a Hong Kong protest app. Apple may want to change China, but "cooperation can become complicity," they said. "We urge you in the strongest terms to reverse course" pic.twitter.com/htnrBLiSab — Jack Nicas (@jacknicas) October 18, 2019 The protests, which have been going on since March 2019, were initially focused on legislation that would've allowed people arrested in Hong Kong to be transferred to and tried in mainland China. The extradition bill has since been withdrawn, but demonstrations have expanded to include other grievances and demands for greater democracy. Source
  24. Last week the laptop I use for macOS development said that there is an XCode update available. I tried to install it but it said that there is not enough free space available to run the installer. So I deleted a bunch of files and tried again. Still the same complaint. Then I deleted some unused VM images. Those would free a few dozen gigabytes, so it should make things work. I even emptied the trash can to make sure nothing lingered around. But even this did not help, I still got the same complaint. At this point it was time to get serious and launch the terminal. And, true enough, according to df the disk had only 8 gigabytes of free space even though I had just deleted over 40 gigabytes of files from it (using rm, not the GUI, so things really should have been gone). A lot of googling and poking later I discovered that all the deleted files had gone to "reserved space" on the file system. There was no way to access those files or delete them. According to documentation the operating system would delete those files "on demand as more space is needed". This was not very comforting because the system most definitely was not doing that and you'd think that Apple's own software would get this right. After a ton more googling I managed to find a chat buried somewhere deep in Reddit which listed the magical indentation that purges reserved space. It consisted of running tmutil from the command line and giving it a bunch of command line arguments that did not seem to make sense or have any correlation to the thing that I wanted to do. But it did work and eventually I got XCode updated. After my blood pressure dropped to healthier levels I got the strangest feeling of déjà vu. This felt exactly like using Linux in the early 2000s. Things break at random for reasons you can't understand and the only way to fix it is to find terminal commands from discussion forums, type them in and hope for the best. Then it hit me. This was not an isolated incidence. The parallels are everywhere. Observe: External monitors Linux 2000: plugging an external monitor will most likely not work. Fanboys are very vocal that this is the fault of monitor manufacturers for not providing modeline info. Apple 2019: plugging an external projector will most likely not work. Fanboys are very vocal that this is the fault of projector manufacturers for not ensuring that their HW works with every Apple model. Software installation Linux 2000: There is only One True Way of installing software: using distro packages. If you do anything else you are bad and you should feel bad. Apple 2019: There is only True Way of installing software: using the Apple store. If you do anything else you are bad and you should feel bad. Hardware compatibility Linux 2000: only a limited number of hardware works out of the box, even for popular devices like 3D graphics cards. Things either don't work at all, have reduced functionality, or kinda work but fail spuriously every now and then for no discernible reason. Apple 2019: only a limited number of hardware works out of the box, even for popular devices like Android phones. Things either don't work at all, have reduced functionality, or kinda work but fail spuriously every now and then for no discernible reason. Technical support Linux 2000: if your problem is not google-trivial, there's nothing you can do. Asking friends for assistance does not help, because they will just type your problem description into Google and read the first hit. Apple 2019: if your problem is not google-trivial, there's nothing you can do. Calling Apple's tech support line does not help, because they will just type your problem description into Google and read the first hit. Laptop features Linux 2000: it is very difficult to find a laptop with more than two USB ports. Apple 2019: it is very difficult to find a laptop with more than two USB ports. Advocate behaviour Linux 2000: fanboys will let you know in no uncertain terms that their system is the best and will take over all desktop computer usage. Said fanboys are condescending elitist computer nerds. Apple 2019: fanboys will let you know in no uncertain terms that their system is the best and will take over all desktop computer usage. Said fanboys are condescending elitist hipster latte web site designers. Source
  25. Apple-owned Beats today introduced the Beats Solo Pro, its first on-ear headphones with active noise cancellation. Like the over-ear Beats Studio3 headphones, the Solo Pro feature proprietary Beats noise cancelling technology known as Pure ANC, but with updated tuning to accommodate the on-ear form factor. Apple says Pure ANC uses advanced algorithms to continuously monitor and adjust to the listening environment. When enabled, a new feature called Transparency turns on the external microphones on the Solo Pro so the wearer can hear announcements, talk with friends, stay aware of their surroundings, and so forth without pausing music playback. There is a button on the left ear cup to switch between the modes. Battery life is listed as up to 22 hours with Pure ANC and Transparency, and up to 40 hours with those features disabled. Like other recent Beats headphones, a Fast Fuel feature provides three hours of playback with a 10-minute charge. Beats Solo Pro feature redesigned on-ear cushions with a remodeled enclosure for improved comfort and acoustics. Beats says exposed metal sliders enable a more durable and personalized fit, while the headband has no visible separation at the hinges when unfolded for a sleek appearance. Beats Solo Pro also have an evolved acoustic platform, including a refined driver. Two beam-forming microphones, an updated speech-detecting accelerometer, and the Apple-designed H1 chip combine for improved audio quality and enhanced voice recognition for hands-free "Hey Siri" functionality. Additional features include the ability to unfold the headphones to power them on, and Audio Sharing with iOS 13 devices. Audio Sharing lets you wirelessly share audio between the Solo Pro and other Beats and AirPods with H1 or W1 chips. Simply bring the second set of headphones near an iPhone or iPad running iOS 13 or later and connect with a tap, and then both headphones can listen to the same audio with separate volume control. Beats Solo Pro headphones will be available October 30 in Black, Ivory, Gray, Dark Blue, Light Blue, and Red, with pre-orders beginning today on Apple.com in the United States. Pricing is set at $299.95. Included in the box is a Lightning to USB-A charging cable and a carrying case. Source
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