Apple Security Expert Jon Callas Moves to ACLU →

December 5, 2018 · 03:28

Joseph Menn for Reuters:

A senior Apple Inc security expert left for a much lower-paying job at the American Civil Liberties Union this week, the latest sign of increasing activity on policy issues by Silicon Valley privacy specialists and other engineers.

Jon Callas, who led a team of hackers breaking into pre-release Apple products to test their security, started Monday in a two-year role as technology fellow at the ACLU. Prior to his latest stint at Apple, Callas designed an encryption system to protect data on Macs and co-founded communications companies Silent Circle, Blackphone and PGP Corp. […]

Callas said he felt particular kinship with Google employees pressing to have more of a say in the company’s prospective deal to return to mainland China with a censored search engine.

“A bunch of people have in fact woken up and said ‘Where are we, where are we going?’” Callas said. “These employees are wanting more discussion and access to what’s going on.”

Callas said phone makers had improved security and he wanted to see progress continue and widen without companies succumbing to pressure to install back doors.

There could be a simple explanation for his choice but the elephant in the room is Apple in China.


Apple iMac and MacBook Screen Defect Class Action Lawsuit →

December 3, 2018 · 10:49

Steve W. Berman and Jerrod C. Patterson:

iMac and MacBook owners have reported dark smudges and spots on the interior of the screens of their desktop computers as well as excessive slowness and break downs of their computers related to the lack of filter on Apple computers. The computer intakes air to cool its components, but with no filter, dust gets trapped inside. This affects the screen and logic board of the computer, leading to dust stuck behind the screen and gummed up motherboards, causing the computer to run slow and/or overheat.

According to many consumer reports online and across Apple’s support forum, the smudging substantially interferes with the functionality and use of the premium displays, especially for creative purposes such as photo editing, digital illustration and other activities requiring precise visual capabilities. The smudging often appears soon after purchase (but after Apple’s standard warranty period has expired).

When iMac owners raise the issue with Apple, Apple refuses to remedy the defect, forcing owners of affected iMacs to pay more than $500 to fix this screen defect, and even more if they wish to replace parts integral to the computer’s speed and performance.

I wholeheartedly support this, as my iMac had exactly the same problem. I sold it after having the screen replaced six times over a period od 3 years. Apple paid for the repair without question four times and I had to strong-arm them for the remaining two. I was delicately led to believe there would not be a seventh.

After an unofficial investigation in Poland, I found that every single iMac model since 2004 has exhibited this issue. Not every single iMac of course, but a decent percentage of every model. This has not been acknowledged or fixed by Apple since, nor are there are any repair programs.


Apple Resumes iPhone X Production in Face of Weak XS Sales →

November 22, 2018 · 23:06

Jon Porter, for The Verge:

Apple has resumed production of the iPhone X due to weaker than expected demand for its latest XS and XS Max models, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The move is allegedly due to an agreement made with Samsung to purchase a certain quantity of OLED screens. With this year’s OLED-equipped models failing to sell in the quantities needed to fulfill the terms of the deal, the report suggests that Apple is turning to last year’s model for a solution. Apple ceased selling the iPhone X in stores when the XS was first released.

If this turns out to be true, I’d be very surprised. Perhaps less so, if these phones only ended up in carriers’ hands, but this would be without precedent.


Google Photos for iOS Adds Portrait Mode Depth Editing to iPhones X, 8, and 7; Apple Photos Still Not Offering This Feature →

November 20, 2018 · 08:28

Michael Potuck, for 9to5Mac:

While Portrait mode depth editing arrived with the iPhone XS, XR and the 2018 iPad Pro, the feature isn’t available on iPhone X, 8 Plus, and 7 Plus. Today, Google is rolling out support for the feature with Google Photos for iOS.

It’s been argued that the iPhone X isn’t fast enough to support the editing of bokeh. I called it out after the keynote. Now Google is joining in, assisting users of “old” iPhones and bringing them functionality that Apple should have provided on day one.


Why It’s Hard to Read the Time on the Infograph Apple Watch Face →

October 10, 2018 · 15:42

Marco Arment:

The Apple Watch is an amazing feat of technology. It’s a computer. It can display anything. With no mechanical or physical limitations to hold us back, any watch-face design from anyone could plausibly be built, enabling a range of creativity, style, and usefulness that no single company could ever design on its own.

But they won’t let us. In a time when personal expression and innovation in watch fashion should be booming, they’re instead being eroded, as everyone in the room is increasingly wearing the same watch with the same two faces.

Open this door, Apple.

Apple could hand pick a few designers and developers for all I care. The current selection of Watch faces is stale and long in the tooth too. They need to address this sooner rather than later.


Microsoft Now Has the Best Device Lineup in the Industry →

October 4, 2018 · 22:21

Owen Wilson, on Charged:

The company took just an hour to unveil sweeping updates to its existing hardware, and what’s clear after the dust has settled is that Microsoft’s hardware division is a force to be reckoned with. Apple’s dominance on the high-end laptop space looks shakier than ever, because Microsoft’s story is incredibly compelling.

Rather than building out a confusing, incompatible array of devices, Microsoft has taken the time to build a consistent, clear portfolio that has something to fit everyone across the board […]

I really loved one thing about the Surface Book (review unit) I had a while back — when I was done typing, I could just detach the screen and use it as a tablet… or run desktop Lightroom, which I can’t do on my iPad Pro.

Microsoft, it seems, has removed all of the barriers to remaining in your ‘flow.’ Surface is designed to adapt to the mode you want to be in, and just let you do it well. Getting shit done doesn’t require switching device or changing mode, you can just pull off the keyboard, or grab your pen and the very same machine adapts to you.

It took years to get here, but Microsoft has nailed it. By comparison, the competition is flailing around arguing about whether or not touchscreens have a place on laptops. The answer? Just let people choose.

This coherency is what I had come to expect from Apple, but iPad and MacBook look messier than ever. Sure, you can get an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but you can’t use either of them in a meaningful way in tandem with your desktop workflow. It requires switching modes entirely, to a completely different operating system and interaction model, then back again.

I won’t even bother writing about the sorry state of Apple’s hardware updates but there is one thing that frustrates me daily. I usually start work on my iPad, and when I get to the tougher stuff, I pull out my MacBook Pro. It’s not even because I can’t do that work on the iPad, but because I can get it done 50% faster on MacOS. I would love to just attach/detach the screen or keyboard, instead of switching computers.


Thee Shalt Not Mention iPhones XS & XR in Thy App’s Releaseth Notes →

September 24, 2018 · 15:34

Greg Knauss, on App Store Review rejecting release notes, mentioning the iPhones XS and XR by name:

You’ll note that I didn’t mention the names “iPhone XR” or “iPhone XS Max.” However, Apple again responded with a rejection […]

Apple apparently considers referencing the devices that an application is designed to run on not relevant to its functionality.

So on September 20, 2018, I squared my shoulders, modified the release notes again, and resubmitted the app:

A change was made. We can’t tell you what the change was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the Program License Agreement. But we can’t not tell you what it was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the App Store Review Guidelines. This leaves the app in a state of quantum indeterminacy, and the waveform can only collapse when someone doing App Store reviews stops observing it.

Apple — sensing that I might not be taking the process seriously — responded […]

We had the same situation and I was as baffled as Greg. Hats off to him for standing his ground and fighting absurdity.


An Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop →

September 17, 2018 · 14:52

Steven Levy published a whole trove of anecdotes from Apple’s execs, including Steve Jobs, on Wired:

Espinosa: When Steve returned, I drove down to the local Flag and Banner store, bought a pirate flag, stuck an Apple sticker on it and cable-tied it to the bridge across the atrium. It was there for about four hours before security took it down.

I’m halfway through. They’re a must-read.


Apple Financial Results — FY Q3 2018 →

August 1, 2018 · 09:01

Apple PR:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2018 third quarter ended June 30, 2018. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $53.3 billion, an increase of 17 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.34, up 40 percent. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple sold:

  • 41.300 million iPhones (41.026 million in FY Q3 2017)
  • 11.553 million iPads (11.424 million in FY Q3 2017)
  • 3.720 million Macs (4.292 million in FY Q3 2017)

More graphs →


Former Apple Employee Charged With Theft of Trade Secrets Related to Autonomous Car Project →

July 11, 2018 · 11:17

Juli Clover, for Macrumors:

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation this week charged former Apple employee Xiaolang Zhang with theft of trade secrets, according to documents filed with the Northern District Court of California.

Zhang was hired at Apple in December of 2015 to work on Project Titan, developing software and hardware for use in autonomous vehicles. Zhang specifically worked on Apple’s Compute Team, designing and testing circuit boards to analyze sensor data […]

Zhang was interviewed by the FBI in late June, where he admitted to stealing the information, and he was later arrested attempting to leave to China on July 7.

Add a martini — shaken, not stirred — a few guns, and perhaps a new Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, and you’ve got yourself a Bond movie.


Apple to Deploy 1Password to 100,000 Employees →

July 11, 2018 · 10:26

Jonathan S. Geller, on BGR:

According to our source, after many months of planning, Apple plans to deploy 1Password internally to all 123,000 employees. This includes not just employees in Cupertino, but extends all the way to retail, too. Furthermore, the company is said to have carved out a deal that includes family plans, giving up to 5 family members of each employee a free license for 1Password. With more and more emphasis on security in general, and especially at Apple, there are a number of reasons this deal makes sense. We’re told that 100 Apple employees will start using 1Password through this initiative starting this week, with the full 123,000+ users expected to be activated within the next one to two months.

I have been using 1Password for many years now and I hope the additional stress, under which AgileBits will now be, will not compromise the product. Since I use the standalone version of 1Password and sync via iCloud, there shouldn’t be any performance issues, but I am slightly worried about the future of the product. Luckily, it appears that there are no plans for an acquisition:

Rumours of my acquisition are completely false. My humans and I are happily independent and plan to remain so.

I do have a few questions though:

  • Why doesn’t Apple just use iCloud Keychain?
  • If iCloud Keychain is lacking in features, why don’t they add them?
  • Is this a security issue? Should I trust 1Password more than iCloud Keychain?
  • Since Apple wants to use 1Password instead of iCloud Keychain for its employees, I assume there’s a feature of 1Password that they desire to incorporate? But which one? Secure notes? Weak password warnings? 2FA support? Watchtower? The ability to store software licences?

This is all very strange.


The Surface Book 2 Is Everything the MacBook Pro Should Be →

July 3, 2018 · 10:29

Owen Williams, on his blog Charged:

I’m back to say I was wrong, and I’ve found a machine that not only matches Apple’s standard of hardware quality, but goes far beyond it to demonstrate how a laptop of the future should work.

That machine is the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and somehow Microsoft has made the 2-in-1 that Apple should’ve been building all along, to the same level of quality I’d expect from anyone other than Microsoft.

I’ve used the Surface Book 2 as my daily computer for three months now and it’s consistently blown me away with how well considered it is across the board, how great the software works and has completely converted me into the touchscreen laptop camp.

Unless Apple gets their act together, start innovating, post regular CPU/GPU updates, my next notebook will most probably be a Surface Book. It’s not perfect by any means, and I’d miss macOS a lot, but I’d manage. What’s tempting me most is the removable screen which can be used with the full Adobe Lightroom experience. I wouldn’t mind a Surface Studio too, on the condition that it had a replaceable M.2 SSD instead of a hybrid drive and an upgradeable GPU.


Apple to Unveil High-End AirPods and Over-Ear Headphones for 2019 →

June 27, 2018 · 11:32

Mark Gurman, for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is about to pump up the volume on its audio-device strategy, planning higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones for as early as next year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The current AirPods do a nice job of cutting you off from the outside world but they’re not even close to a decent pair of ANC over-ear headphones. Would adding ANC to the current AirPods make much of a difference? Would it be worth the hit in battery life? I can’t wait to find out. Oh, and please Apple… no hissing sounds.

There are over-ear headphones coming from Apple, too. Those will compete with pricey models from Bose Corp. and Sennheiser. They will use Apple branding and be a higher-end alternative to the company’s Beats line.

While I would love a decent pair of over-ears from Apple, I do wonder what the compromises will be. Bose QC35s are plasticky looking but nearly indestructible. B&O H9s look fantastic but their touch controls are terrible and should not have made it to consumers. Additionally, I would have expected Apple to push these through Beats since they own them already. The only reason that they wouldn’t want to, that I can see, is if they wanted to address the product to those customers who specifically avoid Beats and their sound profile.


Tim Cook Says Apple Requested “Zero” Personal Data From Facebook →

June 5, 2018 · 08:58

Laura Sydell, for NPR:

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

“The things mentioned in the Times article about relationship statuses and all these kinds of stuff, this is so foreign to us, and not data that we have ever received at all or requested — zero,” Cook told NPR’s Steve Inskeep and Laura Sydell during the company’s annual conference for developers in San Jose, Calif.

Glad Tim cleared that up.


Facebook Had Data Deal With Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Others →

June 5, 2018 · 08:53

Gabriel Dance, Nicholas Confessore, and Michael Laforgia, for The New York Times:

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, “like” buttons and address books […]

An Apple spokesman said the company relied on private access to Facebook data for features that enabled users to post photos to the social network without opening the Facebook app, among other things. Apple said its phones no longer had such access to Facebook as of last September.

The article makes it sound as if Apple pulled or had access to private user data from Facebook.


Apple Took 8 Days to Give Jefferson the Data It Had Collected on Him →

May 5, 2018 · 11:53

Jefferson Graham:

The zip file I eventually received from Apple was tiny, only 9 megabytes, compared to 243 MB from Google and 881 MB from Facebook. And there’s not much there, because Apple says the information is primarily kept on your device, not its servers. The one sentence highlight: a list of my downloads, purchases and repairs, but not my search histories through the Siri personal assistant or the Safari browser.

This approach by Apple makes me trust them more with my data than any other company.


I Wouldn’t Expect a Cheaper iPhone X After What Tim Cook Said Last Night

May 2, 2018 · 12:47

Tim Cook on Apple’s earning’s call:

We were surprised, somewhat, that through all of this period of time that the iPhone X winds up at the most popular for every week of the time since the launch and so that’s, I think, a powerful point. And it’s number one in China, which is another powerful point. And so obviously at some point if those technologies move to lower price points and that [inaudible] probably more unit demand. But the way we think about is trying to price a reasonable price for the value that we deliver and I feel that we did that.

There were plenty of recent rumours suggesting the iPhone X’s price would go down by $100 to $899, perhaps also to make way for an iPhone X Plus at the $999 price point. After hearing Tim’s remarks on the X last night, I wouldn’t expect the price to go down anytime soon — the iPhone X is selling extremely well, and people are voting with their wallets by buying them. You just don’t walk away from that as Apple.

I hope I’m wrong.

(You can find a full transcript of the call on iMore.)


Apple Financial Results — FY Q2 2018 →

May 2, 2018 · 12:39

Apple PR:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2018 second quarter ended March 31, 2018. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $61.1 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.73, up 30 percent. International sales accounted for 65 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple sold:

  • 52.217 million iPhones (50.763 million in FY Q2 2017)
  • 9.113 million iPads (8.922 million in FY Q2 2017)
  • 4.078 million Macs (4.199 million in FY Q2 2017)

2016 MacBook Pro Butterfly Keyboards Failing Twice as Frequently as Older Models →

April 30, 2018 · 23:20

Mike Wuerthele, writing for AppleInsider:

Following anecdotal reports of a keyboard more prone to failure than in previous years, AppleInsider has collected service data for the first year of release of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 MacBook Pros, with an additional slightly shorter data set for the 2017 model year given that it hasn’t been available for a year yet.

Not including any Touch Bar failures, the 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard is failing twice as often in the first year of use as the 2014 or 2015 MacBook Pro models, and the 2017 is better, but not by a lot.

I have had an issue with my 2016 13” MacBook Pro, which is described by Apple as a “popping sound”. I contacted Apple Support and sent them a video, and they immediately set up an appointment with my closest AASP to fix the issue. They fixed it in 24 hours by replacing the whole top case, which includes the keyboard, battery, and speakers. The “popping sound” happens when the keyboard gets too warm and some keys start making a different sound. They also feel marginally stickier when pressed.

The new keyboard feels and sounds different — it’s quieter and a bit stiffer. I’m not sure if this is the same one as in the 2017 model, but I hope it stays fixed. Since this is a problem with the design and the fix is very expensive, I expect Apple to support their users indefinitely (or at least 5-6 years) — we already paid a lot for the MacBook Pro and we should not pay more for design mistakes.

Despite this being a frustrating issue, Apple Support and my AASP were stellar in helping me out.


Mapping Apple’s Space Gray Shades →

April 17, 2018 · 00:50

Michael Steeber, writing for 9to5Mac:

Silver aluminum, once the defining look of Apple products, has been met with increasing variety over the last several years by a range of colors and finishes that customers can choose from. One of the earliest and most popular options – space gray – has permeated across almost every product line Apple offers.

Yet, ubiquity has not brought consistency. Each new generation of a product seems to bring with it a slightly different take on space gray. Those with large device collections have noted the discrepancies between shades, and discussions brew online over the term’s exact definition.

While subtle variations in material, texture, lighting, and even the shape of a product can play tricks on the eyes, every device Apple currently offers or has produced in space gray can be grouped into one of several loosely defined categories. Below, we’ve cataloged and categorized the vast universe of Apple’s recent dark material finishes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of space gray.

Car manufacturers use a different name for every single shade of grey they offer. I can’t help but think that Apple was very uncreative in their Space Grey endeavor — they had all the words in the world to use and decided “Space” was good enough, despite the shades being completely different between generations and devices.

I would love to understand their reasoning behind this (bad) decision.


The Graphing Calculator Story →

April 11, 2018 · 15:03

Ron Avitzur:

I used to be a contractor for Apple, working on a secret project. Unfortunately, the computer we were building never saw the light of day. The project was so plagued by politics and ego that when the engineers requested technical oversight, our manager hired a psychologist instead. In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple’s doors, so I just kept showing up.

I cannot imagine this would be possible today, which is sad in some ways. Ron’s dedication is truly admirable and I can’t help but wonder how many other stories like this one are out there, waiting to be told.


All of Apple’s OSes Should Get Comprehensive Instruction Manuals

April 9, 2018 · 11:24

This is but one example of the hundreds, if not thousands, of hidden features inside iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and Siri. There are so many of these right now, that I don’t know a single person who would be aware of all of them. I read one of my own tips, which I published a few years ago, and was amazed that something like that was possible, and that I did not remember it1.

P.S. If you’re on macOS and don’t know the following keyboard shortcuts, make sure to memorise them — they’re really useful:

  1. I have since forgotten it again.

Apple Plans to Move Macs From Intel to ARM Chips →

April 4, 2018 · 12:12

Ian King, writing for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to use its own chips in Mac computers beginning as early as 2020, replacing processors from Intel Corp., according to people familiar with the plans.

The initiative, code named Kalamata, is still in the early developmental stages, but comes as part of a larger strategy to make all of Apple’s devices — including Macs, iPhones, and iPads — work more similarly and seamlessly together, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The project, which executives have approved, will likely result in a multi-step transition.

Tech pundits have been discussing this idea for years now, but the more I think about it, the more questions I find in need of answers. Will iOS move to notebook and desktop-type devices, and will it start adapting well-known macOS features at a faster pace? Will macOS remain largely unchanged? Does this signal some sort of merging of the two platforms? What would the scope of that be? How does Marzipan play into all of this and is it just a stop-gap before we get a new ‘AppleOS’?

This is one of the few times where I would love to learn exactly what Apple is planning beforehand, because there are so many different routes they can take.


Apple Hires Google’s A.I. Chief →

April 4, 2018 · 09:37

Jack Nicas and Cade Metz, for The New York Times:

Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals.

Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.

Perhaps iPhone-Siri will be able to talk to HomePod-Siri and Apple-TV-Siri next year and be able to control them. Or know how to set more than one timer at the least.