Apple ad exec wants to more than double ad revenue with new ads across iOS

Apple's HQ, as seen in Apple Maps.

Enlarge / Apple’s HQ, as seen in Apple Maps. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple is looking into significantly ramping up its ads business, according to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, and has already internally explored adding ads to the iPhone’s Maps app, with other potential expansions also on the horizon.

The shift may be driven in part by a recent change within the company’s reporting structure: Gurman wrote in his email newsletter this week that Apple advertising VP Todd Teresi began reporting directly to Apple services head Eddie Cue a few months back. He also wrote that Teresi plans to increase Apple’s advertising revenue from $4 billion annually to billions in the double digits.

As Gurman notes, advertising is already a part of Apple’s strategy, but it’s limited in scope and to certain places. The most traditional advertisements you’ll see in an Apple-made app are the ones in the Stocks and News apps. There, you’ll see display ads just like those you see on news websites—both outside of stories and inside of them.

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#advertising, #apple, #apple-app-store, #bloomberg, #iads, #ios, #ipad, #ipados, #iphone, #mark-gurman, #tech

Facing quality and pacing issues, Apple reportedly delays iPadOS 16

Widgets on iPadOS 15's home screen.

Enlarge / Widgets on iPadOS 15’s home screen. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple will delay the release of the iPadOS 16 software update for iPads well into October, about a month after the September release of the iPhone’s iOS 16. The news comes from a report in Bloomberg citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Typically, Apple releases iPadOS—which is closely related to iOS—very close to or shortly after the iOS launch, which comes in September alongside new flagship iPhone models. It’s arrived slightly later in the past, but this would be an unusually large gap in releases.

According to the report’s sources, the delay can be blamed at least partly on the upcoming overhaul of the iPad’s multitasking features, including the new Stage Manager feature that is also coming to Macs in macOS. Those features were announced at Apple’s developer conference in June.

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#apple, #ios, #ios-16, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-16, #multitasking, #stage-manager, #tablet, #tech

YouTube begins rolling out picture-in-picture on iPhones and iPads

A blue iPhone 12 lying flat on a table

Enlarge / The iPhone 12. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Two years after the feature was made available to third-party developers on iPhones and seven years after it came to iPad, Google announced it will now roll out picture-in-picture viewing for the YouTube iOS and iPadOS app.

Google says picture-in-picture capability will roll out gradually, though it didn’t name a time frame. However, it clarified that the feature’s availability would vary based on Premium subscriber status and location. Globally, picture-in-picture capability will work for anyone with a YouTube Premium subscription and any video. Users in the US who don’t have YouTube Premium will also be able to take advantage of picture-in-picture, but only for what Google deems non-music content.

That limitation is likely to keep users from simply listening to music in the background on their devices via a free YouTube account instead of subscribing to the company’s music offerings. While picture-in-picture is new, background audio (including for music) for currently playing videos has long been a cornerstone of the YouTube Premium service.

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#apple, #google, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #tech, #youtube

Apple takes cues from Watch UI for iOS 16

Apple takes cues from Watch UI for iOS 16

CUPERTINO, Calif.—iOS 16 will reach iPhones later this year, and as expected, it’s loaded with major changes.

Apple executives and product managers took the stage at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote to outline the upcoming features and changes, which include a focus on the lock screen.

iOS 16 brings more personalization options to the lock screen, like a “depth effect” where you can make a selected photo appear in front of the time. You can also press and hold to customize the lock screen and swipe to try out different styles, like black-and-white and other color filters, and font and color options for the text and time.

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#apple, #ios, #ios-16, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-16, #iphone, #tech, #wwdc-2022

What to expect at WWDC 2022: iOS 16, M2, and more

The image Apple shared alongside the WWDC 2022 announcement.

Enlarge / The image Apple shared alongside the WWDC 2022 announcement. (credit: Apple)

June 6 marks the beginning of Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC. The week-long event will kick off with a keynote at 10 am PST on Monday loaded with announcements about new software features across Apple’s various platforms.

For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic started, there will be a significant in-person audience for WWDC, too. And there will be countless sessions during the week on programming APIs, Swift features, and so on. But for most people around the world, new operating systems and hardware announcements are the main draw—and we’ll see a few of those during the keynote on Monday.

It’s important to note that WWDC isn’t typically focused on product announcements for consumers. It’s a place where Apple introduces new technologies and tools to developers.

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#apple, #apple-m2, #ar, #ios, #ios-16, #ipados, #ipados-16, #m2, #mac-mini, #mac-pro, #macbook-air, #macbook-pro, #macos-13, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15, #vr, #watchos, #watchos-9, #wwdc, #wwdc-2022, #xr

Apple details new iPhone features like door detection, live captions

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is Thursday, so Apple took to its newsroom blog this week to announce several major new accessibility features headed to the iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac.

One of the most widely used will likely be Live Captions, which is coming to iPhone, Mac, and iPad. The feature shows AI-driven, live-updating subtitles for speech coming from any audio source on the phone, whether the user is “on a phone or FaceTime call, using a video conferencing or social media app, streaming media content, or having a conversation with someone next to them.”

The text (which users can resize at will) appears at the top of the screen and ticks along as the subject speaks. Additionally, Mac users will be able to type responses and have them read aloud to others on the call. Live Captions will enter public beta on supported devices (“iPhone 11 and later, iPad models with A12 Bionic and later, and Macs with Apple silicon”) later this year.

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#accessibility, #apple, #apple-watch, #global-accessibility-awareness-day, #ios, #ipad, #ipados, #iphone, #tech, #watchos

iOS 15.5 and macOS 12.4 bring updates to Podcasts, digital payments, and more

Apple's Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance.

Enlarge / Apple’s Studio Display received a firmware update today to improve its webcam performance. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple released new software updates for all of its platforms on Tuesday. That includes the following:

  • iOS 15.5 for iPhones and the iPod touch
  • iPadOS 15.5 for iPads
  • macOS 12.4 for Macs
  • watchOS 8.6 for the Apple Watch
  • tvOS 15.5 for the Apple TV
  • HomePod Software 15.5 for HomePods
  • Studio Display Firmware 15.5 for the Studio Display
  • Switch Playgrounds 4.1 for iPad and Mac

These are almost certainly the last updates before the company’s annual developer conference, which is scheduled to kick off on June 6. Among other things, Apple will announce iOS and iPadOS 16, macOS 13, and watchOS 9 at the conference, but those updates won’t arrive until later this year.

iOS 15.5

Today’s iOS update offers just enough new user-facing features to earn that 15.x label instead of 15.x.x, which is usually reserved for bug fixes and the like.

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#apple, #apple-studio-display, #apple-tv, #apple-watch, #homepod, #ios, #ios-15-5, #ipad, #iphone, #ipod-touch, #mac, #macos, #macos-12-4, #swift-playgrounds, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15-5, #watchos, #watchos-8-6

Researchers devise iPhone malware that runs even when device is turned off

Researchers devise iPhone malware that runs even when device is turned off

Enlarge (credit: Classen et al.)

When you turn off an iPhone, it doesn’t fully power down. Chips inside the device continue to run in a low-power mode that makes it possible to locate lost or stolen devices using the Find My feature or use credit cards and car keys after the battery dies. Now researchers have devised a way to abuse this always-on mechanism to run malware that remains active even when an iPhone appears to be powered down.

It turns out that the iPhone’s Bluetooth chip—which is key to making features like Find My work—has no mechanism for digitally signing or even encrypting the firmware it runs. Academics at Germany’s Technical University of Darmstadt figured out how to exploit this lack of hardening to run malicious firmware that allows the attacker to track the phone’s location or run new features when the device is turned off.

This video provides a high overview of some of the ways an attack can work.

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#biz-it, #firmware, #ios, #iphone, #security

Despite the Epic v. Apple battle, Fortnite is officially back on the iPhone

Fortnite on Xbox Cloud Gaming.

In an about-face, Epic Games has made Fortnite available on Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming streaming service. Among other things, that means the massively popular game is officially available to play on the iPhone again for the first time since it was pulled in the midst of the recent legal battle between Epic and Apple.

A post on Microsoft’s Xbox blog specifies that all you need to play Fortnite on just about any device with a screen is a Microsoft account, Internet access, and the device.

Fortnite is a free-to-play game, and for the first time, Xbox Cloud Gaming is also free-to-play, so long as the game you want to play is Fortnite. The company’s cloud-gaming service is normally restricted to paying Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers, but Fortnite is receiving an exception and works in any web browser with nothing more than a free Xbox login. Microsoft writes that it plans to introduce more free-to-play cloud games that don’t require paid Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions in the future.

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#apple, #epic-games, #epic-v-apple, #epic-vs-apple, #fortnite, #ios, #iphone, #tech

Mozilla releases Firefox version 100 this week

A special 100th-version splash page appears on the first launch of a new Firefox installation.

Enlarge / A special 100th-version splash page appears on the first launch of a new Firefox installation. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Firefox released its 100th update, and some fanfare accompanied the release on Mozilla’s blog about the web browser. Firefox 100 is available this week for both desktop and mobile versions.

To celebrate, Mozilla says it will be regularly sharing fan art inspired by Firefox throughout May. But while that 100 number carries some symbolic weight, the update itself isn’t particularly monumental.

On the desktop, subtitles and captions are now supported in Firefox’s picture-in-picture mode for videos. Three key websites officially support subtitles and captions in PIP: YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video. Plus, the feature works on websites that support the WebVTT standard, like Twitter.

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#android, #browser, #firefox, #firefox-100, #https, #ios, #mozilla, #tech, #web-browser, #webvtt

Apple will delist App Store apps that haven’t been updated recently

Screenshot of App Store icon.

Enlarge / Apple’s App Store. (credit: Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Apple plans to imminently remove games and apps on the App Store that have not been recently updated if developers don’t submit an update for approval within 30 days. This news comes from screenshots and claims shared by various app developers and reporting by The Verge.

Here’s the text of the email that went out to developers:

This app has not been updated in a significant amount of time and is scheduled to be removed from sale in 30 days. No action is required for the app to remain available to users who have already downloaded the app.

You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review within 30 days.

If no update is submitted within 30 days, the app will be removed from sale.

It’s not clear whether this rule means users must keep the app installed on their devices to continue to access it or if it will be available from the previously downloaded apps list even if the app is no longer listed on the store.

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#app-store, #apple, #apple-app-store, #developers, #indie-games, #ios, #ipad-apps, #iphone-apps, #tech

Your iOS app may still be covertly tracking you, despite what Apple says

Your iOS app may still be covertly tracking you, despite what Apple says

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Last year, Apple enacted App Tracking Transparency, a mandatory policy that forbids app makers from tracking user activity across other apps without first receiving those users’ explicit permission. Privacy advocates praised the initiative, and Facebook warned it would spell certain doom for companies that rely on targeted advertising. However, research published last week suggests that ATT, as it’s usually abbreviated, doesn’t always curb the surreptitious collection of personal data or the fingerprinting of users.

At the heart of ATT is the requirement that users must click an “allow” button that appears when an app is installed. It asks: “Allow [app] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” Without that consent, the app can’t access the so-called IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), a unique identifier iOS or iPadOS assigns so they can track users across other installed apps. At the same time, Apple also started requiring app makers to provide “privacy nutrition labels” that declared the types of user and device data they collect and how that data is used.

Loopholes, bypasses, and outright violations

Last week’s research paper said that while ATT in many ways works as intended, loopholes in the framework also provided the opportunity for companies, particularly large ones like Google and Facebook, to work around the protections and stockpile even more data. The paper also warned that despite Apple’s promise for more transparency, ATT might give many users a false sense of security.

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#apple, #apps, #biz-it, #ios, #privacy, #tracking

Apple rushes out patches for two zero-days threatening iOS and macOS users

Apple rushes out patches for two zero-days threatening iOS and macOS users

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Apple on Thursday released fixes for two critical zero-day vulnerabilities in iPhones, iPads, and Macs that give hackers dangerous access to the internals of the OSes the devices run on.

Apple credited an anonymous researcher with discovering both vulnerabilities. The first vulnerability, CVE-2022-22675, resides in macOS for Monterey and in iOS or iPadOS for most iPhone and iPad models. The flaw, which stems from an out-of-bounds write issue, gives hackers the ability to execute malicious code that runs with privileges of the kernel, the most security-sensitive region of the OS. CVE-2022-22674, meanwhile, also results from an out-of-bounds read issue that can lead to the disclosure of kernel memory.

Apple disclosed bare-bones details for the flaws here and here. “Apple is aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited,” the company wrote of both vulnerabilities.

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#apple, #biz-it, #ios, #ipados, #macos, #zerodays

Data-harvesting code in mobile apps sends user data to “Russia’s Google”

Photo taken on October 12, 2021 in Moscow shows Russia's internet search engine Yandex's logo on a laptop screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Photo taken on October 12, 2021 in Moscow shows Russia’s internet search engine Yandex’s logo on a laptop screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images) (credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev | Getty Images)

Russia’s biggest Internet company has embedded code into apps found on mobile devices that allows information about millions of users to be sent to servers located in its home country.

The revelation relates to software created by Yandex that permits developers to create apps for devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, systems that run the vast majority of the world’s smartphones.

Yandex collects user data harvested from mobiles, before sending the information to servers in Russia. Researchers have raised concerns the same “metadata” may then be accessed by the Kremlin and used to track people through their mobiles.

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#android, #apple, #biz-it, #data-harvesting, #google, #ios, #security, #yandex

2022 iPhone SE review: Revving up a classic hot rod

The 2022 iPhone SE.

Enlarge / The 2022 iPhone SE. (credit: Samuel Axon)

The iPhone SE is the classic iPhone, the OG iPhone, the Mazda Miata of smartphones. It performs well, and its design is iconic and familiar—even comforting—despite being dated and devoid of modern frills and comforts. But the SE is still one of Apple’s best products.

While the flagship iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro go all in on screen real estate and quality, battery life, and monster cameras, the iPhone SE focuses on simplicity, comfort in your hand, and yes, keeping costs down.

Most people don’t need the iPhone 13’s excellent OLED screen, though you could argue that more would at least want its improved cameras. But for some users, the smartphone is an as-needed workhorse and nothing more. They want something affordable and reliable—something that will last them several years, so they don’t have to think about the smartphone rat race at all.

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#apple, #ars-shopping, #gadgetology, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-se, #tech

Scammers have 2 clever new ways to install malicious apps on iOS devices

Stylized image of a man looking at a tablet computer.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Scammers pushing iOS malware are stepping up their game by abusing two legitimate Apple features to bypass App Store vetting requirements and trick people into installing malicious apps.

Apple has long required that apps pass a security review and be admitted to the App Store before they can be installed on iPhones and iPads. The vetting prevents malicious apps from making their way onto the devices, where they can then steal cryptocurrency and passwords or carry out other nefarious activities.

A post published Wednesday by security firm Sophos sheds light on two newer method being used in an organized crime campaign dubbed CryptoRom, which pushes fake cryptocurrency apps to unsuspecting iOS and Android users. While Android permits “sideloading” apps from third-party markets, Apple requires iOS apps to come from the App Store, after they’ve undergone a thorough security review.

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#app-store, #apple, #biz-it, #ios, #malware, #testflight, #webclips

iOS 15.4 and macOS 12.3 are here with Universal Control and more

The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light.

Enlarge / The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple pushed out the public releases of all its operating systems, including iOS/iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. These releases include new features across all platforms, not just bug fixes or security updates.

As usual, the iOS and iPad update (iOS and iPadOS 15.4) is the most major in terms of number and breadth of changes. The two biggest new features are arguably Universal Control support for the iPad and the ability to use Face ID while wearing a protective face mask.

To use Face ID with a mask, users must opt in to the capability in Settings. And Universal Control, which allows users to control both a Mac and an iPad seamlessly with the same input devices, requires both an iPad and a Mac on the latest software releases.

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#apple, #apple-tv, #apple-watch, #homepod, #ios, #ios-15, #ios-15-4, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-15, #ipados-15-4, #iphone, #mac, #macos, #macos-monterey, #macos-monterey-12-3, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15, #tvos-15-4, #watchos-8, #watchos-8-5

iOS 15.4 arrives next week

The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro in their new color are confirmed to ship with iOS 15.4.

Enlarge / The iPhone 13 and 13 Pro in their new color are confirmed to ship with iOS 15.4. (credit: Apple)

The latest operating system for iPhones will be available next week, Ars Technica has learned. iOS 15.4 will bring the ability to unlock your iPhone via facial recognition while wearing a mask, among other additions. We expect this to be the last major update to the OS before iOS 16.

iOS 15.4 entered beta in January, giving us a peek of new features. Apple didn’t provide a specific release date for the OS but did say yesterday that the new green iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro will come with iOS 15.4 and will be available on March 18.

iOS 15.4 will allow you to unlock a phone with Face ID while wearing a face mask. The feature works by focusing on your eyes, and you can use it while wearing glasses (but not sunglasses). It also works to log in to apps and use Apple Pay. Having your phone’s camera require a full view of your face for logins is still the safest way to ensure that Face ID isn’t tricked, but being able to use your phone while keeping your mask on can add convenience.

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#apple, #ios, #ios-15-4, #iphones, #tech

Reddit’s iOS and Android app gets its biggest update in years

The Reddit app icon on a smartphone screen.

Enlarge / The Reddit iOS app icon. (credit: Getty Images | Yuriko Nakao )

The Reddit mobile app doesn’t often get big updates, but this week was an exception, with the company adding a new “Discover Tab” and menus for managing subscriptions.

In a blog post announcing the feature, Reddit says that one in five users joined at least one new community after using the Discover Tab. Jason Costa, Reddit’s director of product for content and communities, offered the following statement in the blog post:

We’re ushering in a new era of discovery on Reddit, with images and video top of mind. We’re making discovering relevant content and communities more intuitive with the Discover Tab. It’s a great new way for people to explore and engage with hundreds of thousands of communities around the world.

The Discover tab is now in the top-level app navigation, replacing the communities and subscriptions tab. Tapping it brings you to a scrollable grid list of Reddit content from a variety of subreddits you may not already be following.

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#algorithmic-recommendations, #android, #ios, #reddit, #social-media, #subreddit, #tech

Apple will add fifth US English Siri voice in iOS 15.4

A black smartphone with two cameras.

Enlarge / The back of the iPhone 13 mini. (credit: Samuel Axon)

There are already four American-accented English voices for Siri, but Apple will add a fifth in iOS 15.4. The new voice aims to provide a gender-neutral option for the first time, as reported by Axios.

The voice is labeled “Voice 5” in the Settings panel in the current beta release, though developer Steve Moser noted on Twitter that the voice is named “Quinn” under the hood. Apple confirmed to Axios that the voice is built from recordings by a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Moser also tweeted an example of what the new voice sounds like:

For most of the time since Siri first became a core iPhone feature back in 2011, a female voice was the default. That changed last year when Apple changed the iPhone setup to prompt the user to pick a male or female voice when first starting the iPhone, with no default choice selected.

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#ai, #apple, #digital-assistant, #ios, #ios-15, #ios-15-4, #siri, #tech, #voice-synthesis

Apple fixes Mac battery drain, WebKit vulnerability in software updates

A 14-inch laptop on a table

Enlarge / The 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple has released updates for iOS/iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS that primarily address bugs and security vulnerabilities.

iOS 15.3.1 is a minor update, feature-wise, for most users. It fixes a problem with Braille displays and addresses an arbitrary code execution vulnerability.

Apple’s iOS update notes are as follows

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Apple’s “realityOS” surfaces in GitHub commits, App Store logs

An enormous ring-shaped building on a green campus.

Enlarge / Apple’s global headquarters in Cupertino, California. (credit: Sam Hall/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Software developers have discovered apparent references to a new Apple operating system called “realityOS” in App Store upload logs and in GitHub repositories used by the company.

The references were shared widely by developers Rens Verhoeven and Steve Troughton-Smith on Twitter. Verhoeven tweeted:

The tweet was accompanied by a screenshot from the logs that included “com.apple.platform.realityos” alongside a similar reference for an existing platform, “com.apple.platform.watchos.”

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#apple, #ar, #augmented-reality, #github, #ios, #mark-gurman, #ming-chi-kuo, #mixed-reality, #realityos, #rens-verhoeven, #ros, #steve-troughton-smith, #tech, #virtual-reality, #vr, #xr

Apple fixes major bugs in iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS software updates

An iPad with the screen on

Enlarge / The 2021 12.9-inch iPad Pro. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple released several new operating system updates to the public: iOS 15.3, iPadOS 15.3, macOS Monterey 12.2, watchOS 8.4, tvOS 15.3, and HomePod Software 15.3.

The update notes for these releases are some of the leanest I’ve seen. iOS, iPadOS, and macOS simply state that the update “includes bug fixes and security updates” and is “recommended for all users.”

iOS and iPadOS 15.3 do not add any new user-facing features. Rather, they fix several key security issues. The most notable is a previously reported Safari vulnerability that allowed websites that use the common IndexedDB API to access the names of databases from other websites. Note that this also affected other browsers on iOS and not just Safari (that’s because all iOS web browsers must use WebKit). macOS 12.2 fixes the same bug in the desktop version of Safari. (Unlike iOS, there are macOS web browsers that were not affected.)

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#apple, #homepod-software, #indexeddb, #ios, #ios-15, #ios-15-3, #ipados, #ipados-15, #ipados-15-3, #macos, #macos-12, #macos-12-2, #safari, #tech, #tvos, #watchos, #watchos-8, #watchos-8-3, #webkit

Apple says it never intended iOS 14 security updates to last forever

Apple has stopped providing security updates to iOS 14.

Enlarge / Apple has stopped providing security updates to iOS 14. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

When iOS 15 was first unveiled, Apple announced that the upgrade wouldn’t be mandatory for people who wanted to stick with iOS 14. The new operating system would still be offered to every device that could run it, but iOS 14 would keep getting security updates so that people wouldn’t be left vulnerable just because they were happy with the performance and stability of the OS they were already running.

But last week, 9to5Mac and others noticed that the iOS 14.8.1 update had stopped being offered to phones running iOS 14. The only upgrade option was for the latest version of iOS 15, currently 15.2.1. We’ve confirmed with Apple that this isn’t an error; iOS 14 is no longer being updated, and anyone who wants the latest security updates will also need to accept the other changes in iOS 15.

Apple told Ars that it always intended the iOS 14 security update option to be temporary. Essentially, people could have a short grace period while Apple worked out the worst of the new operating system’s early bugs, but you would always eventually have to upgrade to stay patched.

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#ios, #tech

Safari and iOS users: Your browsing activity is being leaked in real time

Safari and iOS users: Your browsing activity is being leaked in real time

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

For the past four months, Apple’s iOS and iPadOS devices and Safari browser have violated one of the Internet’s most sacrosanct security policies. The violation results from a bug that leaks user identities and browsing activity in real time.

The same-origin policy is a foundational security mechanism that forbids documents, scripts, or other content loaded from one origin—meaning the protocol, domain name, and port of a given webpage or app—from interacting with resources from other origins. Without this policy, malicious sites—say, badguy.example.com—could access login credentials for Google or another trusted site when it’s open in a different browser window or tab.

Obvious privacy violation

Since September’s release of Safari 15 and iOS and iPadOS 15, this policy has been broken wide open, research published late last week found. As a demo site graphically reveals, it’s trivial for one site to learn the domains of sites open in other tabs or windows, as well as user IDs and other identifying information associated with the other sites.

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#apple, #biz-it, #ios, #ipados, #privacy, #safari

5 months on, Apple has yet to fix iOS bug that sends devices into a crash spiral

5 months on, Apple has yet to fix iOS bug that sends devices into a crash spiral

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Apple has been taking its time fixing an iOS bug that makes it easy for miscreants to completely disable an iOS device unless the victim performs a factory restore and follows other cumbersome steps, a researcher said.

HomeKit is an Apple-designed communication protocol that allows people to use their iPhones or iPads to control lights, TVs, alarms, and other home or office appliances. Users can configure their devices to automatically discover appliances on the same network, and they can also share those settings with other people so they can use their own iPhones or iPads to control the appliances. The sharing feature makes it easy to allow new people—say, a housesitter or babysitter—to control a user’s appliances.

Trevor Spiniolas, a self-described programmer and “beginning security researcher,” said recently that a bug in the feature allows someone to send an iOS device into an unending crash spiral. It can be triggered by using an extremely long name—up to 500,000 characters in length—to identify one of the smart devices and then getting a user to accept an invitation to that network.

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#biz-it, #denial-of-service, #dos, #ios

Apple’s iOS 15.2 and macOS 12.1 updates hit supported devices today

The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light.

Enlarge / The iPhone 13 Pro Max, photographed by the iPhone 13 Pro in low light. (credit: Samuel Axon)

As has now become a custom, Apple has released new OS updates for virtually all of its devices in one giant volley today. The releases include iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2, macOS Monterey 12.1, watchOS 8.3, and tvOS 15.2

All of these are now publicly available on supported devices. All but tvOS are x.x feature updates, meaning that they actually add new features instead of just fixing issues.

Depending on the OS, those features may include SharePlay, Apple Music Voice Plan, the App Privacy Report panel, and more.

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#apple, #ios, #ios-15-2, #ipados, #macos, #macos-12-1, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15-2, #watchos, #watchos-8-3

Microsoft pushed Apple for compromise to get Game Pass on the App Store

Microsoft pushed Apple for compromise to get Game Pass on the App Store

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Last year, Apple rolled out a set of onerous guidelines that required streaming game subscription services like Xbox Game Pass to package each available title as a separate app in the iOS App Store. At the time, Microsoft said this solution “remains a bad experience for customers. Gamers want to jump directly into a game from their curated catalog within one app, just like they do with movies or songs, and not be forced to download over 100 apps to play individual games from the cloud.”

However, new emails revealed as part of the Epic v. Apple trial (and unearthed by The Verge) show how seriously Microsoft was considering working within these guidelines. The emails show that Microsoft engaged Apple in detailed negotiations about how individual xCloud streaming apps could work as a technical matter and even dangled the possibility of streaming “exclusive AAA titles” from outside of Game Pass to help broker a compromise position.

Splitting the baby

In the emails, sent between February and April of 2020, Microsoft Xbox head of business development Lori Wright laid out some concerns about the idea of packaging each Xbox streaming game as an individual iOS app. For users, such a system would lead to cluttered home screens and the potential for “orphaned” app icons when games were removed from Game Pass, Wright wrote. For Microsoft and Apple, the system would also lead to lots of extra overhead in terms of app store metadata management and app review time, she wrote.

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#app-store, #apple, #game-pass, #gaming-culture, #ios, #microsoft, #xcloud

Apple reaches quiet truce over iPhone privacy changes

A privacy notice appears on an iPhone 12 under the new iOS 14.5.1 operating system. Developers of an application have to ask for the user's permission to allow cross-app tracking.

Enlarge / A privacy notice appears on an iPhone 12 under the new iOS 14.5.1 operating system. Developers of an application have to ask for the user’s permission to allow cross-app tracking. (credit: Picture Alliance | Getty Images)

Apple has allowed app developers to collect data from its 1 billion iPhone users for targeted advertising, in an unacknowledged shift that lets companies follow a much looser interpretation of its controversial privacy policy.

In May Apple communicated its privacy changes to the wider public, launching an advert that featured a harassed man whose daily activities were closely monitored by an ever-growing group of strangers. When his iPhone prompted him to “Ask App Not to Track,” he clicked it and they vanished. Apple’s message to potential customers was clear—if you choose an iPhone, you are choosing privacy.

But seven months later, companies including Snap and Facebook have been allowed to keep sharing user-level signals from iPhones, as long as that data is anonymised and aggregated rather than tied to specific user profiles.

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#facebook, #ios, #iphone, #meta, #policy, #privacy, #targeted-advertising, #tech, #tracking

Apple sues Israeli spyware group NSO

A man walks by the building entrance of Israeli cyber company NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert on November 11, 2021, in Sapir, Israel.

Enlarge / A man walks by the building entrance of Israeli cyber company NSO Group at one of its branches in the Arava Desert on November 11, 2021, in Sapir, Israel. (credit: Amir Levy | Getty Images)

Apple is suing NSO Group Technologies, the Israeli military-grade spyware manufacturer that created surveillance software used to target the mobile phones of journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists, to block it from using Apple products.

The iPhone maker’s lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in federal court in California, alleged that NSO, the largest known Israeli cyber warfare company, had spied on and targeted Apple users. It is seeking damages as well as an order stopping NSO from using any Apple software, device, or services.

NSO develops and sells its spyware, known as Pegasus, which exploits vulnerabilities in iPhones and Android smartphones and allows those who deploy it to infiltrate a target’s device unnoticed.

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#0days, #apple, #ios, #iphone, #nso-group, #policy, #spyware, #tech

Apple addresses two iPhone and Apple Watch bugs with iOS 15.1.1 and watchOS 8.1.1

The Apple Watch Series 7 is virtually indistinguishable from the Series 6 (less so with a light-colored watch face), and it doesn't add much, but it's still the best smartwatch you can buy.

Enlarge / The Apple Watch Series 7 is virtually indistinguishable from the Series 6 (less so with a light-colored watch face), and it doesn’t add much, but it’s still the best smartwatch you can buy. (credit: Corey Gaskin)

Apple has pushed out two small software updates for its platforms—one for iPhones, and the other for the Apple Watch.

According to its release notes, iOS 15.1.1 does exactly one thing: it addresses dropped calls on iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Here are Apple’s own words, which aren’t any more revealing:

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#apple, #apple-watch, #apple-watch-series-7, #ios, #ios-15, #ios-15-1-1, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-mini, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-12-pro-max, #iphone-13, #iphone-13-mini, #iphone-13-pro, #iphone-13-pro-max, #tech, #watchos, #watchos-8, #watchos-8-1-1

Judge rejects Apple’s arguments for delaying ordered iOS App Store changes

iPhone home screen with the App Store icon displayed.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

In September, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple must allow iOS developers to direct users to external content-purchasing mechanisms outside of the App Store’s built-in In-App Purchases. Tuesday night, Rogers refused Apple’s request to stay that ruling, setting the stage for it to go into effect Dec. 9 pending further appeal.

In a blunt four-page ruling, Judge Rogers said Apple’s motion for a stay, filed last month, is “fundamentally flawed” and “based on a selective reading of this Court’s findings and ignores all of the findings which supported the injunction, namely incipient antitrust conduct including supercompetitive commission rates resulting in extraordinarily high operating margins and which have not been correlated to the value of its intellectual property.”

Apple’s anti-steering provisions, which prevent app makers from telling users about alternate payment methods inside of the apps themselves, “are one of the key provisions upon which Apple has been able to successfully charge supracompetitive commissions untethered to its intellectual property,” Judge Rogers writes. Those provisions depress royalty rates for Epic’s Unreal Engine specifically and “in the industry generally” she continues.

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#app-store, #apple, #epic, #gaming-culture, #ios, #legal, #policy

Apple’s Federighi delivers dramatic speech on dangers of sideloading

Apple's Software Engineering SVP Craig Federighi speaks at Web Summit 2021.

Enlarge / Apple’s Software Engineering SVP Craig Federighi speaks at Web Summit 2021. (credit: Web Summit)

Apple executive Craig Federighi, who is responsible for the company’s iOS software for iPhones, delivered a lengthy speech intended to alarm listeners about what might happen if Apple is forced to allow users to sideload apps. The speech was given at Web Summit 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal, and it expands on earlier, similar statements from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The European Commission is actively discussing the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is intended to regulate big tech platforms to ensure a fair playing ground. Companies like Apple could face fines of up to 10 percent of their global revenue.

In its current proposed form, the DMA would force Apple to begin allowing sideloading on the iPhone or face such fines. Federighi called the DMA out specifically in his speech, briefly voicing support for it overall but singling out the sideloading provision in almost apocalyptic terms.

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#apple, #big-tech, #craig-federighi, #eu, #european-commission, #european-union, #ios, #iphone, #regulation, #sideloading, #tech, #web-summit, #web-summit-2021

Firefox 94 for iOS and Android adds new features for bookmarks and tabs

Mozilla's current logo for Firefox.

Enlarge / Mozilla’s current logo for Firefox. (credit: Mozilla)

Today, Mozilla updated the mobile versions of its Firefox web browser on iOS and Android with an overhauled home page and a new tab management feature.

Mozilla wrote in a blog post today announcing the update that the mobile version of the browser is specifically designed for “on-the-go, short bursts of online interactions that are constantly interrupted by life.”

To that end, the new update seeks to make it easier to jump into previously abandoned or uninterrupted content. There’s a new “jump back in” feature that lets you go directly to your last opened tab.

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#android, #firefox, #firefox-94, #ios, #mobile, #mozilla, #pocket, #tech, #web-browser

iOS 15.1 brings delayed SharePlay feature to iPhones and iPads

A blue smartphone with two cameras.

Enlarge / The back of the iPhone 13. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Timed with the launch of macOS Monterey, Apple today pushed out new versions of iOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

iOS 15.1 and iPadOS 15.1 most notably add SharePlay, a flagship feature intended for iOS 15 that didn’t make the annual release’s launch last month.

SharePlay is Apple’s word for a suite of features that allows consumption of content with other callers inside a FaceTime call, like watching synchronized streams of Apple TV+ shows and Apple Fitness+ workouts. There’s also an API to allow third-party applications to offer the same features.

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#1-ipados, #apple, #ios, #ios-15, #ipados-15, #ipados-15-1, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-15, #tvos-15-1, #watchos, #watchos-8, #watchos-8-1

iPadOS 15 mini-review: It’s all about the home screen

Widgets on iPadOS 15's home screen.

Enlarge / Widgets on iPadOS 15’s home screen. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Last year, Apple released a meaty iOS update for iPhones, but some of the biggest changes didn’t make it over to the iPad. This year, the iPhone update is modest—so does that mean that the iPad update is the big one this time around?

Well, that depends on your point of view. iPadOS 15 brings almost everything iOS 15 brought to iPhones, but it also brings those major iOS 14 omissions from last year to the tablet. As a result, iPadOS 15 feels like a significant update if you haven’t been using an iPhone lately, but if you’ve already used iOS 14’s new home screen and app library features, it instead ends up feeling like it’s late to the party.

We published a lengthy, iPhone-focused review of iOS 15 earlier this week. Consider this a short addendum to that review that puts the spotlight on the iPad. Refer to the earlier review for details on new features like Focus that aren’t iPad specific or for a list of iPads that are supported by iPadOS 15.

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#apple, #gadgetology, #ios, #ios-15, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-15, #tech

iOS 15 review: Forget quantity, Focus on quality

Screenshot of smartphone interface.

Enlarge / A few apps that received significant updates in iOS 15. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Every year, Apple releases a major update to its operating systems for the iPhone and iPad that sets the stage for a year of changes to come.  This year, iOS 15 brings new FaceTime and Messages features, tweaks to existing apps and notifications, and most notably, a new way of managing apps and notifications called Focus.

Frankly, this is a relatively modest update compared to what we saw last year. That’s amplified by the fact that some key features that Apple initially announced in June haven’t made it into the initial release of iOS 15. But today we’ll be exploring whether a modest update means a bad one. Should you bother to upgrade to the new version of iOS when it’s mostly a tune-up and a fresh coat of paint?

As always, let’s start with a look at which devices are still supported.

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#apple, #features, #gadgetology, #ios, #ios-15, #ipad, #iphone, #operating-system, #tech

Is Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Effective? No, Says Study

Apple called its App Tracking Transparency framework one of the most impactful moves towards creating a more private ecosystem, but recent independent research shows that it is not really effective against third-party trackers and doesn’t block the transfer of personal or device data either. The core premise of the ATT framework was to offer users more transparency about their data, such as which apps collect information, what data they extract, and how it is shared. More importantly, each app was mandated to ask users explicitly about tracking via a pop-up notification.

Of course, the likes of Facebook, whose coffers are generously filled by its massive advertising business, wasn’t too happy about the change and resorted to an industry-wide lobbying campaign. However, Apple remained adamant that it wants to give users a choice whether they want an app to show them personalized ads by tracking their activity across the web and apps. Following a fierce backlash and claims of Apple not implementing the rules on its own apps, the company temporarily delayed the ATT implementation for months and eventually enabled it with the iOS 14.5 release. However, the whole system might not be as effective as Apple claims.

In a study conducted by Lockdown Privacy — whose members are said to be ex-Apple engineers — App Tracking Transparency didn’t create any difference when it comes to disabling third-party trackers associated with an app and is minimally effective at blocking connection requests. As part of the research, the team selected ten top ranked apps on the App Store and monitored third-party tracking for each one under two scenarios — ATT enabled and ATT disabled. Apps like Grubhub, DoorDash and Peacock TV were found to have roughly the same number of active third-party trackers even when users enabled ATT. Another study earlier this year in June also arrived at a similar conclusion about the inefficacy of the ATT system.

The Yelp app was found to have allowed at least six active trackers even with ATT enabled using the “Ask App Not To Track” prompt. Interestingly, the same six trackers were observed when ATT was disabled. Likewise, 39 tracking attempts were recorded, which is only marginally lower than the 42 attempts when ATT was disabled. Lockdown Privacy concluded that enabling or disabling ATT didn’t make any difference for the 50 trackers they observed while running the selected pool of apps. When it came to tracking attempts, enabling ATT only reduced the number by a mere 13-percent.

In terms of the kind of data that the apps were able to share with third parties, everything from time zone, carrier name, iOS version, and iPhone model to more sensitive details such as the user’s first and last name, location with exact latitude and longitude, free storage on device, battery and volume levels, as well as accessibility setting details were included. Lockdown Privacy mentions that in all test scenarios, the IP address of users was exposed as well. Contrary to what Apple claims, there was no automatic blocking of tracking requests either. Even if users denied an app’s request for tracking their activity, a majority of the test apps did not seem to honor that choice at all.

The study is a sign that Apple may need to implement a more stringent vetting process to ensure that apps do not avoid the ATT norms and violate user privacy despite an explicit denial for tracking. If it continues the same way, Apple might not be too far from another lawsuit over privacy concerns, misleading advertising, and/or more regulatory scrutiny.

#ios

Apple turns post-lawsuit tables on Epic, will block Fortnite on iOS

Extreme close-up photograph of a hand holding a smartphone.

Enlarge / A Fortnite loading screen displayed on an iPhone in 2018, when Apple and Epic weren’t at each other’s legal throats. (credit: Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images)

Weeks after Epic’s apparent “win” against Apple in the Epic Games v. Apple case, Apple issued a letter denying Epic’s request to have its developer license agreement reinstated until all legal options are exhausted. This effectively bans Fortnite and any other software from the game maker from returning to Apple’s App Store for years.

Epic was handed an initial victory when the US District Court for Northern California issued an injunction on September 10 ordering Apple to open up in-game payment options for all developers. At the time, the injunction was something of a moral victory for Epic—allowing the developer to keep its in-game payment systems in its free-to-play Fortnite intact while avoiding paying Apple a 30 percent fee that had previously covered all in-app transactions.

But now Epic has faced a significant reversal of fortune.

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#app-store, #apple, #epic, #gaming-culture, #ios

The iPhone 13 Pro goes to Disneyland

This year’s iPhone review goes back to Disneyland for the first time in a couple of years for, uh, obvious reasons. I’m happy to report that the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 performed extremely well and the limited testing I was able to do on the iPhone mini and iPhone 13 Pro Max showed that for the first time you’re able to make a pretty easy choice based on size once you’ve decided you’re ok without telephoto.

One of the major reasons I keep bringing these iPhones back to Disneyland is that it’s pretty much the perfect place to test the improvements Apple claims it is making in an intense real-world setting. It’s typically hot, the network environment is atrocious, you have to use your phone for almost everything these days from pictures to ticket scanning to food ordering and you’re usually there as long as you can to get the most out of your buck. It’s the ideal stress test that doesn’t involve artificial battery rundowns or controlled photo environments. 

In my testing, most of Apple’s improvements actually had a visible impact on the quality of life of my trip, though in some cases not massive. Screen brightness, the longer telephoto and battery life were all bright spots.

Performance and battery

The battery of the iPhone 13 Pro hit just over the 13 hour mark in the parks for me running it right to the dregs. Since there was so much video testing this year, the camera app did stay on screen longer than usual at just over 1hr of active ‘on screen’ usage which does put a bit of a strain on the system. I’d say that in real-world standard use you’ll probably get a bit more than that out of it so I’m comfortable saying that Apple’s estimate of an hour or more longer video playback time from the iPhone 12 Pro is probably pretty accurate. 

Though it was hard to get the same level of stress on the iPhone 13 Pro Max during my tests, I’d say you can expect even more battery life out of it, given the surplus it still had when my iPhone 13 Pro needed charging. Bigger battery, more battery life, not a big shock.

If you’re using it in the parks and doing the rope drop I’d say I would plan on taking it off the charger at 6am or so and plan to have a charger handy by about 4pm so you don’t go dead. That’s not a bad run overall for an iPhone in challenging conditions and with heavy camera use. 

Apple’s new ProMotion display was a nice upgrade as well, and I did notice the increased screen brightness. Typically the bump in brightness was only truly noticeable side-by-side with an iPhone 12 Pro with high-key content displayed on the screen. Popping open the Disneyland app for the barcode meant a bit better consistency in scanning (though that’s pretty hard to say for sure) and a visual increase in overall brightness in direct sun. Out of the Sun I’d say you’d be hard pressed to tell.

The variable refresh rate of the ProMotion screen cranking all the way up to 120hz while scrolling Safari is a really nice quality of life improvement. I’m unfortunately a bit jaded in this department because I’ve done a ton of my computing on the iPad Pro for the past couple of years, but it’s going to be an amazing bump for iPhone users that haven’t experienced it. Because Apple’s system is not locked at 120hz, it allows them to conserve battery life by slowing down the screen’s refresh rate when viewing static content like photos or text when not scrolling. I’m happy to say that I did not see any significant ramping while scrolling, so it’s really responsive and seamless in its handling of this variability.

The new A15 chip is, yes, more powerful than last year. Here’s some numbers if that’s your sort of thing:

Impressive as hell, especially for more battery life not less. The power-per-watt performance of Apple’s devices continues to be the (relatively) un-sung victory of its chips department. It’s not just that this year’s iPhones or the M1 laptops are crazy fast, it’s that they’re also actually usable for enormous amounts of time not connected to a charger. For those curious, the iPhone 12 Pro appears to have 6GB of RAM. 

Design

The design of the iPhone continues to be driven by the camera and radio. Whatever is necessary to support the sensors and lenses of the camera package and whatever is necessary to ensure that the antennas can accommodate 5G are in control of the wheel at this point in the iPhone’s life, and that’s pretty natural. 

The camera array on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro is bigger and taller in order to accommodate the three new cameras Apple has installed here. And I do mean bigger, like 40% bigger overall with taller arrays. Apple’s new cases now have a very noticeable raised ridge that exists to protect the lenses when you’re setting the case down on a surface. 

Everything else is sort of built around the camera and the need for wireless charging and radio performance. But Apple’s frosted glass and steel rim look retains its jewel-like quality this year and they’re still really good looking phones. I doubt the vast majority of people will see them long without a case but while you do they’re nice looking phones.

The front notch has been pared down slightly due to improvements in camera packaging, which leaves a tiny bit more screen real-estate for things like videos, but we’ll have to wait to see if developers find clever ways to use the extra pixels. 

Now, on to the cameras.

Cameras

It seems impossible that Apple continues to make year-over-year improvements that genuinely improve your optionality and quality of images that are enough to matter. And yet. The camera quality and features are a very real jump from the iPhone 11 Pro across the board and still a noticeable improvement from the iPhone 12 Pro for you early adopters. Anything older and you’re going to get a blast of quality right to the face that you’re going to love. 

The camera packaging and feature set is also more uniform across the lineup than ever before with Apple’s IBIS in camera sensor shift stabilization system appearing in every model — even the iPhone 13 mini which is a crazy achievement given the overall package size of this sensor array.

In my experience in the parks this year, Apple’s improvements to cameras made for a material difference no matter which lens I chose. From low light to long zoom, there’s something to love here for every avid photographer. Oh, and that Cinematic Mode, we’ll talk about that too. 

Telephoto

Of all of the lenses I expected improvement from, the telephoto was actually not that high on my list. But I was pleasantly surprised by the increased range and utility of this lens. I am an admitted telephoto addict, with some 60% of my photos on iPhone 12 Pro taken with the tele lens over the wide. I just prefer the ability to pick and choose my framing more closely without having to crop after the fact. 

Having Night Mode on the telephoto now means that it doesn’t fall back to the wide lens with crop in dark conditions as it used to. Now you get that native telephoto optics plus the Night Mode magic. This means much better black points and great overall exposure even hand held at zoom — something that felt just completely out of reach a couple of years ago.

With the higher zoom level, portraits are cropped tighter, with better organic non-portrait-mode bokeh which is lovely. With this new lens you’re going to be able to shoot better looking images of people, period.

If you’re a camera person, the 3x reminds me a lot of my favorite 105mm fixed portrait lens. It’s got the crop, it’s got the nice background separation and the optical quality is very, very good on this lens package. Apple knocked it out of the park on the tele this time around. 

The longer optical range was also very handy in a Disneyland world where performers are often kept separate from guests — sometimes for effect but mostly because of pandemic precautions. Being able to reach out and get that shot of Kylo Ren hyping up the crowd was a fun thing to be enabled to do.

Wide

Apple’s wide lens gets the biggest overall jump in sensor technology. A larger ƒ/1.5 aperture and new 1.9µm pixels roughly doubles the light gathering — and it shows. Images at night and inside ride buildings had a marked improvement in overall quality due to deeper blacks and better dynamic range. 

With Night Mode enabled, the deeper light gathering range and improved Smart HDR 4 makes for deeper blacks and a less washed out appearance. If I had to characterize it, it would be ‘more natural’ overall — a theme I’ve seen play out across the iPhone cameras this time around. 

Without Night Mode enabled, the raw improvement in image quality due to more light being captured is immediately evident. Though I think there are few situations where you need to turn off Night Mode any more, subjects in motion in low light are one of those and you’ll get a few inches extra of wiggle room with this new sensor and lens combo in those instances. 

Having sensor shift OIS come to the wide on the iPhone 13 across the range is a huge godsend to both still shots and video. Though I’m spoiled having been able to play with the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s stabilization, if you haven’t shot with it before you’re going to be incredibly happy with the additional levels of sharpness it brings.

Ultra Wide

Apple’s ultra wide camera has been in need of some love for a while. Though it offered a nice additional perspective, it has suffered from a lack of auto-focus and sub-par light gathering ability since its release. This time around it gets both a larger ƒ/1.8 aperture and autofocus. Apple claims 92% more light gathering and my testing in pretty rough lighting conditions shows a massive improvement across the board. 

Typically at Disneyland I like to shoot the wide in one of two ways: up close to create a fisheye-type perspective for portraits or to snag a vista when the lighting or scene setting is especially good. Having auto focus available improves the first a ton and the wider aperture gives the second a big boost too. 

Check out these shots of a moonlit Trader Sam’s, a snap that you might grab because the lighting and scenery are just right. The iPhone 12 Pro isn’t bad at all here but there is an actually quite clear difference between the two in exposure. Both of these were taken with Night Mode disabled in order to compare the raw improvement in aperture.

The delta is clear, and I’m pretty impressed in general with how much Apple keeps improving this ultra wide camera, though it seems clear at this point that we’re hitting the upper limits of what a 12MP sensor at this size can bring to a lens with such a wide POV. 

The new ISP also improves Night Mode shooting here too — and with a bit more raw range to work with given the wider aperture, your night mode shots lose even more of that bright candy-like look and get a deeper and more organic feeling. 

Macro photos and video

Another new shooting possibility presented by the iPhone 13 Pro is a pretty impressive macro mode that can shoot as close as 2cm. It’s really, really well done given that it’s being implemented in a super wide lens on a smartphone. 

I was able to shoot incredibly detailed snaps very, very close-up. We’re talking ‘the surface texture of objects’ close; ‘pollen hanging off a bee’s thorax’ close; dew…well you get the idea. It’s close, and it’s a nice tool to have without having to carry a macro attachment with you. 

I found the sharpness and clarity of the macro images I captured to be excellent within the rough 40% area that comprised the center of the capture area. Due to the fact that the macro mode is on the ultra wide, there is a significant amount of comatic aberration around the edges of the image. Basically, the lens is so curved you get a bit of separation between wavelengths of light coming in at oblique angles, leading to a rainbow effect. This is only truly visible at very close distances at the minimum of the focal range. If you’re a few cm away you’ll notice and you’ll probably crop it out or live with it. If you’re further away getting a ‘medium macro’ at 10cm or whatever you’ll likely not notice it much.

This is a separate factor from the extremely slim field-of-focus that is absolutely standard with all macro lenses. You’re going to have to be precise at maximum macro, basically, but that’s nothing new.

Given how large scale Disneyland is I actually had to actively seek out ways to use the macro, though I’d imagine it would be useful in more ways in other venues. But I still got cool shots of textures in the bottles in Radiator Springs and some faux fungi at Galaxy’s Edge. 

Macro video is similarly fun but requires extremely stable hands or a tripod to really take advantage of given that the slightest movement of your hands is going to move the camera a massive amount of distance proportional to the focal area. Basically, tiny hand moves, big camera moves in this mode. But it’s a super fun tool to add to your arsenal and I had fun chasing bugs around some flower petals in the garden of the Grand Californian hotel with it.

As a way to go from world scale down to fine detail it’s a great way to mix up your shots.

One interesting quirk of the ultra wide camera being the home of macro on iPhone 13 Pro is that there is a noticeable transition between the wide and ultra-wide cameras as you move into macro range. This presents as a quick-shift image transition where you can see one camera clicking off and the other one turning on — something that was pretty much never obvious in other scenarios even though the cameras switch all the time depending on lighting conditions and imaging judgement calls made by the iPhone’s camera stack. 

Users typically never notice this at all, but given that there is now an official macro camera available when you swoop in close to an object while you’re on 1x then it’s going to flip over to the .5x mode in order to let you shoot super close. This is all totally fine, by the way, but can result in a bit of flutter if you’re moving in and out of range with the cameras continuously switching as you enter and exit ‘macro distance’ (around 10-15cm). 

When I queried about this camera switching behavior, Apple said that “a new setting will be added in a software update this fall to turn off automatic camera switching when shooting at close distances for macro photography and video.”

This should solve this relatively small quirk for people who want to work specifically at the macro range. 

Photographic Styles and Smart HDR 4

One of the constant tensions with Apple’s approach to computational photography has been its general leaning towards the conservative when it comes to highly processed images. Simply put, Apple likes its images to look ‘natural’, where other similar systems from competitors like Google or Samsung have made different choices in order to differentiate and create ‘punchier’ and sometimes just generally brighter images. 

I did some comparisons of these approaches back when Apple introduced Night Mode two years ago.  

The general idea hasn’t changed much even with Apple’s new launches this year, they’re still hewing to nature as a guiding principle. But now they’ve introduced Photographic Styles in order to give you the option of cranking two controls they’re calling Tone and Warmth. These are basically vibrance and color temperature (but only generally). You can choose from 5 presets including no adjustments or you can adjust the two settings on any of the presets on a scale of -100 to +100. 

I would assume that long term people will play with these and recommendations will get passed around on how to get a certain look. My general favorite of these is vibrant because I like the open shadows and mid-tone pop. Though I would assume a lot of folks will gravitate towards Rich Contrast because more contrast is generally more pleasing to the human eye. 

In this shot of some kid-sized speeders, you can see the effects on the shadows and midtones as well as the overall color temperature. Rather than being a situational filter, I view this as a deep ‘camera setting’ feature, much like choosing the type of film that you wanted to roll with in a film camera. For more contrast you might choose a Kodak Ektachrome, for cooler-to-neutral colors perhaps a Fuji, for warm skin tones perhaps a Kodak Portra and for boosted color maybe an Ultramax. 

This setting gives you the option to set up your camera the way you want the color to sit in a similar way. The setting is then retained when you close camera.app. This way when you open it, it’s set to shoot the way you want it to. This goes for the vast majority of camera settings now under iOS 15, which is a nice quality of life improvement over the old days when the iPhone camera reset itself every time you opened it. 

It’s worth noting that these color settings are ‘imbedded’ in the image, which means they are not adjustable afterwards like Portrait Mode’s lighting scenarios. They are also not enabled during RAW — which makes sense.

Smart HDR4 also deserves a mention here because it’s now doing an additional bit of smart segmentation based on subjects in the frame. In a situation with a backlit group of people, for instance, the new ISP is going to segment out each of those subjects individually and apply color profiles, exposure, white balance and other adjustments to them — all in real time. This makes for a marked improvement in dark-to-light scenarios like shooting out of windows and shooting into the sun. 

I would not expect much improvement out of the selfie camera this year, it’s just much the same as normal. Though you can use Cinematic Mode on it which is fun if not that useful in selfie modes.

Cinematic Mode

This is an experimental mode that has been shipped live to the public. That’s the best way to set the scene for those folks looking to dive into it. Contrary to Apple’s general marketing, this won’t yet replace any real camera rack focus setup on a film set, but it does open up a huge toolset for budding filmmakers and casual users that was previously locked behind a lot of doors made up of cameras, lenses and equipment. 

Cinematic Mode uses the camera’s depth information, the accelerometer and other signals to craft a video that injects synthetic bokeh (blur) and tracks subjects in the frame to intelligently ‘rack’ focus between them depending on what it thinks you want. There is also some impressive focus tracking features built in that allow you to lock onto a subject and follow them in a ‘tracking shot’ which can keep them in focus through obstacles like crowds, railings and water. I found all of these depth-leveraging features that did tracking to be incredibly impressive in my early testing, but they were often let down a bit by the segmentation masking that struggled to define crisp, clear borders around subjects to separate them from the background. It turns out that doing what portrait mode does with a still image is just insanely hard to do 30 times a second with complex, confusing backgrounds. 

The feature is locked to 1080p/30fps which says a lot about its intended use. This is for family shots presented on the device, AirPlayed to your TV or posted on the web. I’d imagine that this will actually get huge uptake with the TikTok filmmaker crowd who will do cool stuff with the new storytelling tools of selective focus.

I did some test shooting with my kids walking through crowds and riding on carousels that was genuinely, shockingly good. It really does provide a filmic, dreamy quality to the video that I was previously only able to get with quick and continuous focus adjustments on an SLR shooting video with a manually focused lens. 

That, I think, is the major key to understanding Cinematic Mode. Despite the marketing, this mode is intended to unlock new creative possibilities for the vast majority of iPhone users who have no idea how to set focal distances, bend their knees to stabilize and crouch-walk-rack-focus their way to these kinds of tracking shots. It really does open up a big bucket that was just inaccessible before. And in many cases I think that those willing to experiment and deal with its near-term foibles will be rewarded with some great looking shots to add to their iPhone memories widget.

I’ll be writing more about this feature later this week so stay tuned. For now, what you need to know is that an average person can whip this out in bright light and get some pretty fun and impressive results, but it is not a serious professional tool, yet. And even if you miss focus on a particular subject you are able to adjust that in post with a quick tap of the edit button and a tap on a subject — as long as it’s within the focal range of the lens.

As a filmmaking tool for the run and gun generation it’s a pretty compelling concept. The fact is that it allows people to spend less time and less technical energy on the mechanics of filmmaking and more time on the storytelling part. Moviemaking has always been an art that is intertwined with technology — and one of the true exemplars of the ideal that artists are always the first to adopt new technology and push it to its early limits.

Just as Apple’s portrait mode has improved massively over the past 6 years, I expect Cinematic Mode to keep growing and improving. The relatively sketchy performance in low light and the locked zoom are high on my list to see bumps next year, as is improved segmentation. It’s an impressive technical feat that Apple is able to deliver this kind of slicing and adjustment not only in real-time preview but also in post-shooting editing modes, and I’m looking forward to seeing it evolve. 

Assessment

This is a great update that improves user experience in every way, even during an intense day-long Disneyland outing. The improved brightness and screen refresh means easier navigation of park systems and better visibility in daylight for directions and wait times and more. The better cameras mean you’re getting improved shots in dark-to-light situations like waiting in lines or shooting from under overhangs. The nice new telephoto lets you shoot close-up shots of cast members who are now often separated from the crowds by large distances, which is cool — and as a bonus acts as a really lovely portrait lens even while not in Portrait mode.

Overall this was one of the best experiences I’ve had testing a phone at the parks, with a continuous series of ‘wow’ moments with the cameras that sort of made me question my confirmation bias. I ended up with a lot of shots like the night mode wide angle and telephoto ones I shared above that impressed me so much I ended up doing a lot of gut checking asking other people in blind tests what they thought of the two images. Each time I did so the clear winner was the iPhone 13 — it really is just a clear cut improvement in image making across the board.

The rest of the package is pretty well turned out here too, with massive performance gains in the A15 Bionic with not only no discernable impact on battery life but a good extra hour to boot. The performance chart above may give the wow factor but that performance charted on the power usage of the chip across a day is what continues to be the most impressive feat of Apple’s chip teams. 

The iPhones 13 are an impressive field this year, providing a solid moat of image quality, battery life and now, thankfully, screen improvements that should serve Apple well over the next 12 months.

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iOS 15 adds all the little features that were missing

The release of iOS 15 should be a major event for mobile operating systems. And yet, this year, there’s no breakthrough feature or overarching theme that makes this release stand out. Apple has focused on quality-of-life updates as well as new features for its own apps.

The result is a solid update that is not going to be controversial. Some people are going to take advantage of the new Focus feature. They’ll spend a lot of time customizing their phone to make it as personal as possible. Other people are just going to miss or dismiss the new features.

This year’s update is also a bit different because you don’t have to update to iOS 15. If you’re fine with iOS 14, Apple won’t force you to make the jump to iOS 15. You’ll still receive security patches. Some people will simply dismiss iOS 15 altogether.

It seems like a small change but it actually says a lot about the current state of iOS. Apple considers iOS as a mature platform. Just like you don’t have to update your Mac to the latest version of macOS if you don’t want to, you can now update at your own pace.

iOS should also be considered as a mature platform for app developers. iOS 15 adoption will be slower than usual as people won’t necessarily update to iOS 15 right away. Apps should potentially work on older iOS versions for longer.

Of course, users will ‘update’ to a new version of iOS when they buy a new iPhone and replace their old iPhone. But Apple has And people who pre-ordered the iPhone 13 will get iOS 15.

Image Credits: Apple

Focusing on you instead of your phone

One of the biggest change in iOS 15 is the ability to change your Focus from Control Center. It’s a surprisingly powerful feature with a lot of options and tweaks. I would say it doesn’t feel like an Apple feature.

But it’s definitely one of the most interesting features of iOS 15. Chances are you spend a lot of time with your phone and your device requires a lot of attention from you. With this new feature, it reverses the balance and puts you back in charge.

‘Do Not Disturb’ users are already quite familiar with the idea that you can silence notifications when you don’t want them. If you want to keep using ‘moon mode’ with iOS 15, you don’t have to change anything.

But you can now create additional Focuses. By default, Apple suggests a few Focuses — Work, Sleep, Driving, Fitness, Gaming, Mindfulness, Personal and Reading. Each Focus is customizable to your needs and you can create new Focuses from scratch.

When you turn on a specific Focus, it basically blocks notifications by default. You can then add people and apps so that notifications from those people and apps still go through. App developers can also mark a notification as time sensitive so that it always goes through. I hope they won’t abuse that feature.

There are three more settings that you can activate. First, you can optionally share that your notifications are currently silenced in Messages and compatible third-party apps. Second, you can hide home screen pages altogether. Third, you can hide notifications from the lock screen and hide badges from the home screen.

Focus gets particularly interesting when you realize that you can couple specific Focuses with automation features. For instance, you can automatically turn on ‘Sleep’ at night or you can automatically turn on ‘Work’ when you arrive at work.

Power users will also have a lot of fun setting up a Focus and pairing it with a Shortcut. For instance, you could use Shortcuts to open the Clock app when you turn on Sleep mode. You get it, this new feature has a lot of depth and beta users have just started scratching the surface.

Image Credits: Apple

Update all apps

With iOS 15, Apple has improved nearly all the default apps. Some additions are definitely nice improvements. Others have been a bit more controversial.

Let’s start with the controversial one, Safari’s design has been updated. But what you saw at WWDC in June doesn’t look at all like what’s shipping today. Essentially, Apple has listened to feedback and changed the user interface of its web browser during the summer.

By default, the address bar is now at the bottom of the screen, right above the row of buttons that let you open bookmarks, share the current page or go to the previous page. I think it works better. But if you really don’t want the address bar at the bottom, you can move it back to the top of the screen.

Other than that, Safari changes are all good improvements. For instance, the browser now supports traditional web extensions. It’s going to be interesting to see if popular Google Chrome extensions eventually come to Safari. Another nice new feature is the ability to create tab groups and find your tab groups from your other devices.

FaceTime has become a versatile video-conferencing service. You can now create links, share them with friends and add them to calendar invites. For the first time, people who don’t own an Apple device will be able to join FaceTime calls from a web browser. There’s also a new Zoom view… I mean, grid view.

Unfortunately, the big new FaceTime feature is not ready for prime time just yet. SharePlay, the feature that lets you sync audio and video playback with your friends, is going to be released later this Fall.

The Weather app has also been redesigned. It is now packed with a lot more information, such as precipitation maps, next-hour precipitation notifications and a new UV index. It has become a solid alternative to third-party weather apps. I still use Snowflake but differences are smaller and smaller.

Messages is now better integrated with other Apple apps. Whenever someone sends you an article, a photo album, a podcast or a song, you’ll see those recommendations in Apple’s other apps — Apple News, Photos, Apple Podcasts, Apple Music, etc. Once again, this is a nice addition in my testings but it’s not going to change the way you use your phone.

Apple Maps is getting better and better, especially if you live in San Francisco. If you haven’t used it in a few years, I encourage you to try it again. It’s now a solid alternative to Google Maps.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and London, are receiving new detailed maps with 3D buildings, bus lanes, sidewalks and more. It feels like navigating a video game given how detailed it is. The app has also been redesigned with new place cards, a new driving user interface and settings in the app.

Photos is also receiving a bunch of improvements. Every year, the company is refining Memories. I’m not sure a ton of people are using this feature, but it’s better than before. There are now more information if you swipe on a photo as well, such as the shutter speed and lens that were used.

But the biggest change to your photo library is that you can now search for text in your photo. iOS is scanning your photos to find text and save it for Spotlight searches.

Similarly, you can now point your camera at text and select text from there. It is incredibly convenient if you’re looking for the restaurant address on the menu and want to share it with a friend or if you’re traveling and you want to translate some text.

Image Credits: Apple

Tips and tricks

There are a ton of small changes that make iOS 15 better than iOS 14. Let me list some of them:

  • If you have a compatible home key, hotel key, office key or ID card, you can now add all of those to the Wallet app.
  • You can share some health data with someone else. It can be useful if you’re living far away from your loved ones or if you want to update your healthcare team.
  • If you pay for iCloud, you’re now an iCloud+ users. In addition to storage, you get additional features. iCloud Private Relay, which is available as a beta feature, lets you browse the web with increased privacy. Hide My Email lets you create randomly generated email addresses to create new accounts around the web.
  • Similarly, if your family is using iCloud for their email addresses, you can now set up a personal domain name and set it up in iCloud.
  • iOS uses on-device speech recognition, which means that you can dictate text much faster.
  • But that’s not all, iOS processes some Siri requests on your device directly, which means that you can start a timer, set an alarm or change the music instantly. It has changed the way I use Siri.
  • You can add an account recovery contact in case you get locked out of your iCloud account. This is important to convince more people to use two-factor authentication.
  • Talking about two-factor authentication, Apple’s built-in password manager called ‘Passwords’ can now save 2FA details and auto-fill 2FA fields. It works pretty much like 2FA in 1Password.
  • You can set up a legacy person for your Apple ID. I encourage you to look at that feature carefully. I’ve talked with several persons who couldn’t get their loved one’s photos after they passed away because Apple couldn’t just hand out the photos.
  • Apple has added tags to Reminders and Notes. You can also @-mention people in Notes.

As you can see, the list of changes in iOS 15 is quite long. But it’s up to you to decide whether you want to update to iOS 15. When Apple added cut, copy and paste with iPhone OS 3, it was an obvious decision. I personally like the new features and it was worth updating. And I hope this review can help you decide whether to update or not.

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Apple releases iOS 15 with Focus mode and more

iOS 15's Focus feature.

Enlarge / iOS 15’s Focus feature. (credit: Apple)

As announced previously, Apple today released iOS 15 for the iPhone, iPadOS 15 for the iPad, watchOS 8 for the Apple Watch, and tvOS 15 for the Apple TV.

Apple has also announced a major annual update to the Mac operating system called macOS Monterey, but that is not one of today’s releases.

iOS 15’s major new feature addition is Focus, whereby a user can set profiles like “work,” “sleep,” or “home” that display different apps and notifications depending on what the user is doing. It also redesigns notifications and adds numerous new features to Messages and FaceTime, among other things.

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iOS 15 is now available to download

Apple has just released the final version of iOS 15, the next major version of the operating system for the iPhone. It is a free download and it works with the iPhone 6s or later, both generations of iPhone SE and the most recent iPod touch model. iPad users will also be able to update to iPadOS 15 and watchOS 8 today.

The biggest change of iOS 15 is a new Focus mode. In addition to “Do not disturb,” you can configure various modes — you can choose apps and people you want notifications from and change your focus depending on what you’re doing. For instance, you can create a Work mode, a Sleep mode, a Workout mode, etc.

There are many new features across the board, such as a new Weather app, updated maps in Apple Maps, an improved version of FaceTime, and more. Safari also has a brand-new look.

The new version of iOS also scans your photos for text. Called Live Text, this feature lets you highlight, copy and paste text in photos. It could be a nice accessibility feature as well; iOS is going to leverage that info for Spotlight. You can search for text in your photos directly in Spotlight and it’ll pull out relevant photos. These features are handled on-device directly.

Paid iCloud users have been upgraded to iCloud+. In addition to more storage, iCloud+ subscribers get a handful of new features. iCloud Private Relay, which is available as a beta feature, lets you browse the web with increased privacy. Hide My Email lets you create randomly generated email addresses to create new accounts around the web. iCloud email users can also switch to a personal domain name.

The update is currently rolling out and is available both over-the-air in the Settings app, and by plugging your device to your computer for a wired update. But first, 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 to your computer to do a manual backup in Finder or iTunes for Windows (or do both, really).

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, then ‘General’ and then ‘Software Update.’ You should see ‘Update Requested…’ It will then automatically start downloading once the download is available.

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