The GoPro-ification of the iPhone

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review!

Last week, we talked about some sunglasses from a company that many people do not like very much. This week, we’re talking about Apple and the company 1,600 times smaller than it that’s facing similar product problems.

Thanks for joining in — follow my tweets @lucasmtny for more.


(Photo by Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc.)

the big thing

When you get deep enough into the tech industry, it’s harder to look at things with a consumer’s set of eyes. I’ve felt that way more and more after six years watching Apple events as a TechCrunch reporter, but sometimes memes from random Twitter accounts help me find the consumer truth I’m looking for.

As that dumb little tweet indicates, Apple is charging toward a future where it’s becoming a little harder to distinguish new from old. The off-year “S” period of old is no more for the iPhone, which has seen tweaks and new size variations since 2017’s radical iPhone X redesign. Apple is stretching the periods between major upgrades for its entire product line and it’s also taking longer to roll out those changes.

Apple debuted the current bezel-lite iPad Pro design back in late 2018 and it’s taken three years for the design to work its way down to the iPad mini while the entry-level iPad is still lying in wait. The shift from M1 Macs will likely take years as the company has already detailed. Most of Apple’s substantial updates rely on upgrades to the chipsets that they build, something that increasingly makes them look and feel like a consumer chipset company.

This isn’t a new trend, or even a new take, it’s been written lots of times, but it’s particularly interesting as the company bulks up the number of employees dedicated to future efforts like augmented reality, which will one day soon likely replace the iPhone.

It’s an evolution that’s pushing them into a similar design territory as action camera darling GoPro, which has struggled again and again with getting their core loyalists to upgrade their hardware frequently. These are on laughably different scales, with Apple now worth some $2.41 trillion and GoPro still fighting for a $1.5 billion market cap. The situations are obviously different, and yet they are both facing similar end-of-life innovation questions for categories that they both have mastered.

This week GoPro debuted its HERO10 Black camera, which brings higher frame rates and a better performing processor as it looks to push more of its user audience to subscription services. Sound familiar? This week, Apple debuted its new flagship, the iPhone 13 Pro, with a faster processor and better frame rates (for the display not the camera here, though). They also spent a healthy amount of time pushing users to embrace new services ecosystems.

Apple’s devices are getting so good that they’re starting to reach a critical feature plateau. The company has still managed to churn out device after device and expand their audience to billions while greatly expanding their average revenue per user. Things are clearly going pretty well for the most valuable company on earth, but while the stock has nearly quadrupled since the iPhone X launch, the consumer iPhone experience feels pretty consistent. That’s clearly not a bad thing, but it is — for lack of a better term — boring.

The clear difference, among 2.4 trillion others, is that GoPro doesn’t seem to have a clear escape route from its action camera vertical.

But Apple has been pushing thousands of employees toward an escape route in augmented reality, even if the technology is clearly not ready for consumers and they’re forced to lead with what has been rumored to be a several-thousand-dollar AR/VR headset with plenty of limitations. One of the questions I’m most interested in is what the iPhone device category looks likes once its unwieldy successor has reared its head. Most likely is that the AR-centric devices will be shipped as wildly expensive iPhone accessories and a way to piggy back off the accessibility of the mobile category while providing access to new — and more exciting — experiences. In short, AR is the future of the iPhone until AR doesn’t need the iPhone anymore. 


Image Credits: Tesla

other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

Everything Apple announced this week
Was it the most exciting event Apple has ever had? Nah. Are you still going to click that link to read about their new stuff? Yah.

GoPro launches the HERO10 Black
I have a very soft spot in my heart for GoPro, which has taken a niche corner of hardware and made a device and ecosystem that’s really quite good. As I mentioned above, the company has some issues making significant updates every year, but they made a fairly sizable upgrade this year with the second-generation of their customer processor and some performance bumps across the board.

Tesla will open FSD beta to drivers with good driving record
Elon Musk is pressing ahead with expanding its “Full Self-Driving” software to more Tesla drivers, saying that users who paid for the FSD system can apply to use the beta and will be analyzed by the company’s insurance calculator bot. After 7 days of good driving behavior, Musk says users will be approved.

OpenSea exec resigns after ‘insider trading’ scandal
NFTs are a curious business; there’s an intense amount of money pulsating through these markets — and little oversight. This week OpenSea, the so-called “eBay of NFTs,” detailed that its own VP of Product had been trading on insider information. He was later pushed to resign.

Apple and Google bow to the Kremlin
Apple and Google are trying to keep happy the governments of most every market in which they operate. That leads to some uncomfortable situations in markets like Russia, where both tech giants were forced by the Kremlin to remove a political app from the country’s major opposition party.


Gitlab logo

Image Credits: Gitlab

extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

What could stop the startup boom?
“…We’ve seen record results from citiescountries and regions. There’s so much money sloshing around the venture capital and startup worlds that it’s hard to recall what they were like in leaner times. We’ve been in a bull market for tech upstarts for so long that it feels like the only possible state of affairs. It’s not…”

The value of software revenue may have finally stopped rising
“…I’ve held back from covering the value of software (SaaS, largely) revenues for a few months after spending a bit too much time on it in preceding quarters — when VCs begin to point out that you could just swap out numbers quarter to quarter and write the same post, it’s time for a break. But the value of software revenues posted a simply incredible run, and I can’t say “no” to a chart…

Inside GitLab’s IPO filing
“…The company’s IPO has therefore been long expected. In its last primary transaction, GitLab raised $286 million at a post-money valuation of $2.75 billion, per PitchbBook data. The same information source also notes that GitLab executed a secondary transaction earlier this year worth $195 million, which gave the company a $6 billion valuation…”


Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

#apple, #apple-inc, #apple-silicon, #ebay, #extra-crunch, #google, #gopro, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-5s, #major, #mobile-phones, #musk, #reporter, #russia, #tablet-computers, #tc, #technology, #venture-capital, #week-in-review

Apple sunsets the 256GB iPhone SE

Apple has quietly discontinued the largest storage configuration of the iPhone SE. Previously, the SE was available in 64GB, 128GB, and 246GB variants. But the 256GB model is no longer available in Apple’s online store.

But don’t take this to mean that the iPhone SE is going anywhere. In fact, analysts and journalists have published multiple similar reports claiming that the iPhone SE will get an upgrade early next year.

The reports say that the 2022 iPhone SE will feature the Apple’s A15 chip—the same one that’s inside the newly announced iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPad mini. The phone would also feature 5G and have Qualcomm’s X60 modem, according to Nikkei.

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#5g, #a15, #apple, #apple-store, #iphone, #iphone-13, #iphone-13-mini, #iphone-se, #tech

Tile secures $40 million to take on Apple AirTag with new products

Tile, the maker of Bluetooth-powered lost item finder beacons and, more recently, a staunch Apple critic, announced today it has raised $40 million in non-dilutive debt financing from Capital IP. The funding will be put towards investment in Tile’s finding technologies, ahead of the company’s plan to unveil a new slate of products and features that the company believes will help it to better compete with Apple’s AirTags and further expand its market.

The company has been a longtime leader in the lost item finder space, offering consumers small devices they can attach to items — like handbags, luggage, bikes, wallets, keys, and more — which can then be tracked using the Tile smartphone app for iOS or Android. When items go missing, the Tile app leverages Bluetooth to find the items and can make them play a sound. If the items are further afield, Tile taps into its broader finding network consisting of everyone who has the app installed on their phone and other access points. Through this network, Tile is able to automatically and anonymously communicate the lost item’s location back to its owner through their own Tile app.

Image Credits: Tile

Tile has also formed partnerships focused on integrating its finding network into over 40 different third-party devices, including those across audio, travel, wearables, and PC categories. Notable brand partners include HP, Dell, Fitbit, Skullcandy, Away, Xfinity, Plantronics, Sennheiser, Bose, Intel, and others. Tile says it’s seen 200% year-over-year growth on activations of these devices with its service embedded.

To date, Tile has sold over 40 million devices and has over 425,000 paying customers — a metric it’s revealing for the first time. It doesn’t disclose its total number of users, both free and paid combined, however. During the first half of 2021, Tile says revenues increased by over 50%, but didn’t provide hard numbers.

While Tile admits that the Covid-19 pandemic had some impacts on international expansions, as some markets have been slower to rebound, it has still seen strong performance outside the U.S., and considers that a continued focus.

The pandemic, however, hasn’t been Tile’s only speed bump.

When Apple announced its plans to compete with the launch of AirTags, Tile went on record to call it unfair competition. Unlike Tile devices, Apple’s products could tap into the iPhone’s U1 chip to allow for more accurate finding through the use of ultra-wideband technologies available on newer iPhone models. Tile, meanwhile, has plans for its own ultra-wideband powered device, but hadn’t been provided the same access. In other words, Apple gave its own lost item finder early, exclusive access to a feature that would allow it to differentiate itself from the competition. (Apple has since announced it’s making ultra-wideband APIs available to third-party developers, but this access wasn’t available from day one of AirTag’s arrival.)

Image Credits: Tile internal concept art

Tile has been vocal on the matter of Apple’s anti-competitive behavior, having testified in multiple Congressional hearings alongside other Apple critics, like Spotify and Match. As a result of increased regulatory pressure, Apple later opened up its Find My network to third-party devices, in an effort to placate Tile and the other rivals its AirTags would disadvantage.

But Tile doesn’t want to route its customers to Apple’s first-party app — it intends to use its own app in order to compete based on its proprietary features and services. Among other things, this includes Tile’s subscriptions. A base plan is $29.99 per year, offering features like free battery replacement, smart alerts, and location history. A $99.99 per year plan also adds insurance of sorts — it pays up to $1,000 per year for items it can’t find. (AirTag doesn’t do that.)

Despite its many differentiators, Tile faces steep competition from the ultra-wideband capable AirTags, which have the advantage of tapping into Apple’s own finding network of potentially hundreds of millions of iPhone owners.

However, Tile CEO CJ Prober — who joined the company in 2018 — claims AirTag hasn’t impacted the company’s revenue or device sales.

“But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re making things harder for us,” he says of Apple. “We’re a growing business. We’re winning the hearts and minds of consumers… and they’re competing unfairly.”

“When you own the platform, you shouldn’t be able to identify a category that you want to enter, disadvantage the incumbents in that category, and then advantage yourself — like they did in our case,” he adds.

Tile is preparing to announce an upcoming product refresh that may allow it to better take on the AirTag. Presumably, this will include the pre-announced ultra-wideband version of Tile, but the company says full details will be shared next week. Tile may also expand its lineup in other ways that will allow it to better compete based on look and feel, size and shape, and functionality.

Tile’s last round of funding was $45 million in growth equity in 2019. Now it’s shifted to debt. In addition to new debt financing, Tile is also refinancing some of its existing debt with this fundraise, it says.

“My philosophy is it’s always good to have a mix of debt and equity. So some amount of debt on the balance sheet is good. And it doesn’t incur dilution to our shareholders,” Prober says. “We felt this was the right mix of capital choice for us.”

The company chose to work with Capital IP, a group it’s had a relationship with over the last three years, and who Tile had considered bringing on as an investor. The group has remained interested in Tile and excited about its trajectory, Prober notes.

“We are excited to partner with the Tile team as they continue to define and lead the finding category through hardware and software-based innovations,” said Capital IP’s Managing Partner Riyad Shahjahan, in a statement. “The impressive revenue growth and fast-climbing subscriber trends underline the value proposition that Tile delivers in a platform-agnostic manner, and were a critical driver in our decision to invest. The Tile team has an ambitious roadmap ahead and we look forward to supporting their entry into new markets and applications to further cement their market leadership,” he added.

#airtag, #airtags, #android, #apple, #apple-inc, #apps, #bluetooth, #ceo, #computing, #dell, #find-my, #fitbit, #funding, #gadgets, #hardware, #intel, #iphone, #mobile, #plantronics, #recent-funding, #sennheiser, #skullcandy, #smartphone, #startups, #tc, #technology, #tile, #u1-chip, #ultra-wideband, #united-states

The Battle for Digital Privacy Is Reshaping the Internet

As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the fallout, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #chrome-browser, #computers-and-the-internet, #cook-timothy-d, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #facebook-inc, #google-inc, #innovation, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #pichai-sundar, #privacy, #small-business, #software, #web-browsers, #zuckerberg-mark-e

What the Privacy Battle Upending the Internet Means for You

Get ready for more random ads online, higher prices and subscriptions galore. But your privacy concerns may still not fade.

#advertising-and-marketing, #apple-inc, #computers-and-the-internet, #data-mining-and-database-marketing, #google-inc, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #online-advertising, #privacy, #software, #web-browsers

The iPhone 13 is thicker and heavier than the iPhone 12

The IPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini.

Enlarge / The IPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini. (credit: Apple)

Yesterday, Apple announced its new flagship iPhones: the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max. But while Apple’s livestream was full of details, some things were left out.

Fortunately, we’ve learned a bit more from Apple’s updated website, including dimensions and weight, some info about specs, and the lineup of older iPhone models that will survive the culling that follows the introduction of a new flagship.

Thicker and heavier

The new iPhones are heavier than their immediate predecessors, and they’re a little thicker, too. For example, the iPhone 12 weighed 5.78 ounces, but the iPhone 13 weighs 6.14 ounces. The iPhone 12 Pro was 6.66 ounces, but the iPhone 13 Pro is 7.19 ounces. This holds up across the line. And the iPhone 13 is 0.25 mm thicker than the 12; similar thickness differences are also universal.

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#apple, #apple-store, #ipad-mini, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-13, #iphone-13-pro, #tech

Apple sheds value during iPhone event

The TechCrunch crew is hard at work writing up the latest from Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch event. They have good notes on the megacorp’s hardware updates. But what are the markets saying about the same array of products?

For those of us more concerned with effective S&P dividend yields than screen nit levels, events like Apple’s confab are more interesting for what they might mean for the value of the hosting company than how many GPUs a particular smartphone model has. And, for once, Apple’s stock may have done something a little interesting during the event!

Observe the following chart:

This is a one-day chart, mind, so we’re looking at intraday changes. We’re zoomed in. And Apple kinda took a bit of a dive during its event that kicked off at 1 p.m. in the above chart.

Normally nothing of import happens to Apple’s shares during its presentations. Which feels weird, frankly, as Apple events detail the product mix that will generate hundreds of billions in revenue. You’d think that they would have more impact than their usual zero.

But today, we had real share price movement when the event wrapped around 2 p.m. ET. Perhaps investors were hoping for more pricey devices? Or were hoping Apple had more up its sleeve? How you rate that holiday Apple product lineup is a matter of personal preference, but investors appear to have weighed in slightly to the negative.

Worth around $2.5 trillion, each 1% that Apple’s stock moves is worth $10 billion. Apple’s loss of 1.5% today — more or less; trading continues as I write this — is worth more than Mailchimp. It’s a lot of money.

You can read the rest of our coverage from the Apple event here. Enjoy!

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

#apple, #gadgets, #ipad, #iphone, #mobile, #stock-market, #tablet-computers

Here’s everything Apple announced at its event this morning

It’s that time again!

It’s September, which generally means two things: we’re blasting Earth, Wind, and Fire on repeat, and Apple will announce a new iPhone (or four.)

Right on schedule, Apple held a remote event this morning, streaming kinda-sorta-live from its Cupertino campus. Whether you didn’t have time to watch the entire hour long stream or just want the highlights, we’ve got you — as usual, we’ve boiled the whole thing down to the bullet points.

New iPads

Both the standard iPad and the iPad mini have gotten the update treatment — here’s whats new for each:

Image Credits: Apple

New iPad:

  • Runs the A13 Bionic chip, which Apple first introduced in 2019 with the iPhone 11. Apple says it’s 20% faster across the board compared to the last gen.
  • The front facing camera has been bumped from 8 megapixels up to a 12 megapixel ultra-wide
  • It’s getting Center Stage, the feature that debuted on the iPad Pro and automatically reframes front-facing video to keep your face centered as you move around a room.
  • Starts at $329 (or $299 for schools). Orders start today, shipping next week.

    Image Credits: Apple

New iPad mini:

  • Redesigned with slimmer borders and rounder edges
  • The display has been bumped up to 8.3″ (from 7.9″) while keeping the overall device size the same
  • The CPU is 40% faster, while the GPU is 80% faster
  • USB-C!
  • There will be a 5G model
  • The back camera has a much-improved 12 MP camera with True Tone flash, and, as with the standard iPad, the front camera is getting 12 MP ultra wide and Center Stage support.
  • It’ll support the second-gen Apple Pencil
  • Starts at $499. Orders start today, shipping next week.

Apple Watch

Image Credits: Apple

Apple kicked off the Watch segment with a few new features coming to iOS 8 (like fall detection for cyclists, and better algorithms for detecting calories burned when you’re on an eBike) before announcing a new Watch — Series 7, they’re calling it.

Apple Watch Series 7:

  • By reducing the screen’s borders, they were able to squeeze in a display that is 20% bigger.
  • To take advantage of that bigger screen, buttons are bigger across the UI
  • It’s got a swipe-style prediction keyboard, for easier text input on the go.
  • Apple says it’s got the strongest (most crack resistant) display to date, and is the first Apple Watch to be IP6X certified against dust.
  • An “updated charging architecture” and a new USB-C charger allow it to charge 33% faster
  • Series 7 will start at $399, and start shipping “later this fall”

New iPhones

Image Credits: Apple

Not one, not two, but four new iPhones — iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro max. Faster chips, better cameras, better battery life.

iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini:

  • Both run Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip. It’s got a 6 core CPU (two high performance cores, four high efficiency), a four-core GPU, and big improvements to the neural engine that Apple taps for on-device machine learning.
  • A “ceramic shield front”, which Apple says is tougher than any other smartphone’s glass.
  • IP68 water resistance
  • 28% brighter display
  • iPhone 13 comes in at 6.1″, while iPhone 13 mini will be 5.4″.
  • A wild new “Cinematic” mode that uses machine learning for tricks like auto-shifting the camera’s focus when one on-screen speaker looks at someone behind them
  • The 64GB model has finally been retired, with the base models coming with 128GB of storage.
  • Apple says the iPhone 13 mini’s battery life has been improved by an hour and a half, while most iPhone 13 users will get two and half more hours per charge.
  • iPhone 13 will start at $799, while iPhone 13 mini starts at $699.

 

iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max:

Image Credits: Apple

  • It’s getting that new “ceramic shield front”, along with an upgrade to A15, here with a five-core GPU.
  • As rumored, it’ll get a display that can adjust its refresh rate up to 120hz for super smooth movement/scrolling.
  • It’s got three cameras on the back: a telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, an ultrawide, and a wide angle. Night Mode will now play friendly with all three cameras (including the telephoto lens, which previously didn’t support it.)
  • It’ll come in two sizes: 6.1″ (Pro), and 6.7″ (Pro Max).
  • For those who just can’t seem to get enough storage space, they’re introducing 1TB models!
  • Pro starts at $999, Pro Max starts at $1099. Pre-orders start September 17th, shipping September 24th.

Other stuff

  • iOS 15 will ship Monday, September 20th
  • Apple’s Fitness Plus service is rolling out in 15 new countries, including Austria, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Mexico, and Russia. Workouts will be in English, and subtitled in six languages. They’re also launching group workouts, which can be launched from iMessage or FaceTime and will let you multitask your hangouts and your workouts.
  • Apple’s MagSafe wallet will now be able to track the last known location if the wallet gets separated from the phone

 

#apple, #apple-watch, #ipad, #iphone, #tc

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max features 120Hz display, better cameras

Apple has announced its new lineup of phones at its virtual conference. In addition to the regular iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, the company has two Pro models with some premium features that you won’t find in the regular iPhone 13.

Of course, the Pro models are also more expensive. For reference, the iPhone 13 Mini starts at $699 and the iPhone 13 starts at $799. As for the Pro models, the iPhone 13 Pro starts at $999 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max starts at $1,099. The iPhone 13 Pro has a 6.1-inch display while the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 6.7-inch display.

“Our Pro lineup pushes the limits with our most advanced technologies for users who want the very best iPhone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

Here’s what you’ll get if you decide to buy the iPhone 13 Pro instead of the iPhone 13. The design is slightly different as the Pro models get shiny stainless steel bands around the case of the phone. There are also three stainless steel rings around the three camera sensors. The back of the device is made of matte glass.

There are three different camera sensors at the back of the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max instead of two. In addition to the ultra wide and wide camera, you get a 3x camera. It seems like the wide and ultra wide cameras aren’t identical in the Pro models vs. the regular models either.

Last year, only the iPhone 12 Pro Max featured sensor shift optical image stabilization. This time, the entire iPhone 13 lineup gets sensor shift optical image stabilization. Basically, the regular iPhone 13 is getting many of the advanced camera features that was restricted to Pro models.

In particular, there’s a new cinematic mode with rack focus. You can track a subject and lock focus on that subject in real time. Cinematic mode shoots in Dolby Vision HDR. Later this year, you’ll be able to shoot ProRes videos with the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max.

So here’s what you get in the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro Max:

  • A 77mm telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom.
  • An ultra wide camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture and “up to 92% improvement in low-light performance,” according to Apple.
  • A wide camera with ƒ/1.5 aperture and “up to 2.2x improvement in low-light performance,” according to Apple.

For the first time, you can use Night mode with all three cameras. This way, you don’t have to remember which camera will give you the best result.

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max comes with a Pro Motion display with P3 color range. Like on high-end iPad models, these iPhone models have an adaptative framerate. If you need it, your iPhone display can run at 120Hz. If you’re watching a movie, the iPhone can use a lower framerate to save battery life.

As the iPhone 13 Max is the largest smartphone in the lineup, you get more battery life. Apple promises a battery that lasts 2.5 hours longer for the iPhone 13 Pro Max compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Like the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini, the Pro models come with Apple’s A15 Bionic chip. It’s a 5-mm design with 15 billion transistors. There are two high-performance cores and four energy-efficient cores. You should get nearly the same performances across the lineup, but there’s a new 5-core GPU in the Pro lineup.

Pre-orders start on Friday and they will be available on September 24. There are four different models with 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB of storage.

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

#apple, #gadgets, #iphone, #iphone-13

Apple’s new MagSafe wallet can be located with the ‘Find My’ app if it goes missing

Alongside the introduction of the new iPhone 13, Apple introduced a few new accessories to complement its upgraded flagship devices. One of the more interesting additions in the accessories in the lineup is a new MagSafe wallet that works with Apple “Find My” service. That means if you accidentally lose your wallet when it becomes unattached from your iPhone, you can launch the Find My app to locate it as you can with other Apple devices or items attached to your Apple AirTags.

In this case, the MagSafe leather wallet will notify users the last known location where the wallet was separated from the phone.

This is a small, but clever addition for those who use Apple’s MagSafe products. The technology was first introduced last fall to allow iPhone users to attach all sorts of products to the back of their iPhone, like cases, wallets, tripods and car mounts, as well as Apple’s own accessories for charging, like the MagSafe battery pack — which is coming to iPhone 13. MagSafe works by layering on a magnetometer, a copper-graphite shield, two shields, multiple layers of magnets, an NFC antenna, and more on the back of the iPhone, to make the accessories attach.

But it had not yet combined the power of MagSafe with the capabilities of “Find My” until now.

Image Credits: Apple

Along with the launch of the “Find My”-connected wallet, aka the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe, the company is also introducing a range of new cases and colors for iPhone, designed to work with MagSafe. This includes MagSafe cases in leather and silicone, as well as a clear case with MagSafe. All are available to order today.

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

#airtag, #apple, #apple-fall-event-2021, #apple-inc, #apps, #find-my, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-pro, #magsafe, #mobile-phones, #technology

Apple’s iPhone 13 sports better battery and improved cameras, starting at $799

The rumors were right. The centerpiece of today’s big Apple event is the latest iPhone. The latest device lands less than a year after its predecessor, now that things have settled down somewhat on the supply chain side for Apple. Last year’s iPhone 12 was a massive seller, bucking the trend of stagnating smartphones sales, in part due to a bottleneck in sales from the unplanned delay, but also because it finally brought 5G connectivity to Apple’s mobile line.

Lucky number iPhone 13 (no skipping for superstition’s sake, mind) features a familiar design. The front notch has finally been shrunken down — now 20% smaller than its predecessor, while the rear-facing camera system has also gotten a redesign. The screen is now 28% brighter on both the iPhone 13 and 13 mini at 1200 nits.

The phone is powered by Apple’s new A15 Bionic chip, built with a 5nm processor. The CPU is 6-core that the company is calling “the fastest CPU on any smartphone.” The new 4-core GPU, meanwhile, brings advanced graphics to the handset.

The rear dual-camera system features a 12MP wide angle camera that’s capable of pulling in up to 47% more light. The new Cinematic Mode, meanwhile, brings rack focus-style shooting capable of adjusting the focus on subjects, using machine learning (you can also tap to adjust manual or switch between subjects).

Following last year’s introduction of 5G, the company has added more advanced antennae. Through the combination of a larger battery and energy saving software, the company says it’s been able to eke out an additional 2.5 hours of life on the 13 and 1.5 hours on the mini.

iPhone 13 mini starts at $699 and, while the 13 starts at $799.

 

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

#apple, #apple-fall-event-2021, #hardware, #iphone, #iphone-13, #mobile

Apple makes the iPhone 13 official

Today, Apple executives took the stage in a virtual streaming event to announce the new flagship iPhone lineup. The iPhone 13 is official.

The body has a similar look to last year, but the cameras in the base model are arranged diagonally now.

Developing… The event is still ongoing, so check back for more details.

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#apple, #iphone, #iphone-13, #iphone-13-mini, #iphone-13-pro, #iphone-13-pro-max, #tech

Apple Watch will now detect biking workouts, falls from bike when riding

Apple Watch users who ride bikes will get a handful of new features designed just for them. Announced during today’s Apple iPhone press event, the company says that Apple Watch will now begin to detect when users begin a bike ride to remind you to start a workout. And similar to other workouts, Apple Watch will also automatically pause and resume as you take breaks during your ride. And, perhaps most importantly, it will gain a new fall detection feature, as well.

While Apple Watch can already detect a fall on Series 4  or later devices, allowing users to contact emergency services if needed, Apple says that it will now add fall detection to cycling. In this case, it’s able to sense the unique motion and impact that occurs when someone falls when riding a bike — which is a different type of movement than someone who falls when standing.

Image Credits: Apple

For indoor cyclists such as Peleton enthusiasts, Apple Watch will also now better support e-bikes with an improved workout algorithm that more accurately calculates calories burned.

These features will join others Apple has added, like the reimagined Breathe app, new watch faces, and updates to Messages and Photos that roll out with watchOS 8. Apple additionally announced a new Watch product, as well, with the Apple Watch Series 7, offering a larger Retina display, interface redesigns, new watch faces and colors, better charging, and more.

Related to workouts, Apple also announced an update to its subscription service, Fitness+, which will be available in 15 new countries in addition to the original six, and which is adding Pilates workouts, guided meditations, and workouts designed for skiers and snowboarders.

Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

#apple, #apple-fall-event-2021, #apple-inc, #apple-watch, #apple-watch-series-3, #apple-iphone, #computing, #e-bikes, #fitness, #ios, #iphone, #messages, #tc, #technology, #watchos, #wearable-devices

Apple patches “FORCEDENTRY” zero-day exploited by Pegasus spyware

Apple patches “FORCEDENTRY” zero-day exploited by Pegasus spyware

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Apple has released several security updates this week to patch a “FORCEDENTRY” vulnerability on iOS devices. The “zero-click, zero-day” vulnerability has been actively exploited by Pegasus, a spyware app developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, which has been known to target activists, journalists, and prominent people around the world.

Tracked as CVE-2021-30860, the vulnerability needs little to no interaction by an iPhone user to be exploited—hence the name “FORCEDENTRY.”

Discovered on a Saudi activist’s iPhone

In March, researchers at The Citizen Lab decided to analyze the iPhone of an unnamed Saudi activist who was targeted by NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. They obtained an iTunes backup of the device, and a review of the dump revealed 27 copies of a mysterious GIF file in various places—except the files were not images.

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#apple, #biz-it, #imessage, #ios, #iphone, #nso-group, #pegasus, #security, #spyware, #tech, #vulnerability, #zero-day

Apple Security Update Closes Spyware Flaw in iPhones, Macs and iWatches

Researchers at Citizen Lab found that NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, had infected Apple products without so much as a click.

#ahmed-azam, #amnesty-international, #apple-inc, #citizen-lab, #computer-security, #computers-and-the-internet, #cyberattacks-and-hackers, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #defective-products, #hubbard-ben, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #iphone, #israel, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #nso-group, #privacy, #signal-open-whisper-systems, #software, #text-messaging, #university-of-toronto

Apple patches a NSO zero-day flaw affecting all devices

Apple has released security updates for a newly discovered zero-day vulnerability that affects every iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. Citizen Lab, which discovered the vulnerability and was credited with the find, urges users to immediately update their devices.

The technology giant said iOS 14.8 for iPhones and iPads, as well as new updates for Apple Watch and macOS, will fix at least one vulnerability that it said “may have been actively exploited.”

Citizen Lab said it has now discovered new artifacts of the ForcedEntry vulnerability, details it first revealed in August as part of an investigation into the use of a zero-day vulnerability that was used to silently hack into iPhones belonging to at least one Bahraini activist.

Last month, Citizen Lab said the zero day flaw — named as such since it gives companies zero days to roll out a fix — took advantage of a flaw in Apple’s iMessage, which was exploited to push the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, to the activist’s phone. The breach was significant because the flaws exploited the latest iPhone software at the time, both iOS 14.4 and later iOS 14.6, which Apple released in May. But also the vulnerabilities broke through new iPhone defenses that Apple had baked into iOS 14, dubbed BlastDoor, which were supposed to prevent silent attacks by filtering potentially malicious code. Citizen Lab calls this particular exploit ForcedEntry for its ability to skirt Apple’s BlastDoor protections.

In its latest findings, Citizen Lab said it found evidence of the ForcedEntry exploit on the iPhone of a Saudi activist, running at the time the latest version of iOS. Citizen Lab now says that the same ForcedEntry exploit works on all Apple devices running, until today, the latest software.

Citizen Lab said it reported its findings to Apple on September 7. Apple pushed out the updates for the vulnerability, known officially as CVE-2021-30860. Citizen Lab said it attributes the ForcedEntry exploit to NSO Group with high confidence, citing evidence it has seen that it has not previously published.

When reached, Apple declined to comment. NSO Group did not immediately comment.

Developing… More soon…

#apple, #imessage, #ios, #ipad, #ipads, #iphone, #mobile-phones, #nso-group, #operating-systems, #pegasus, #security, #smartphones, #spyware, #technology

Liveblog: All the news from Apple’s “California Streaming” event

The splash image and header copy on the event invitation Apple emailed to the press.

Enlarge / The splash image and header copy on the event invitation Apple emailed to the press. (credit: Apple)

Liveblog starts in:

View Liveblog

At 1 pm EDT on September 14, 2021, Apple will begin streaming its first product launch event since WWDC this June. Apple executives and product managers are expected to take the virtual stage to reveal new products and talk about what consumers should expect from the company in the coming weeks.

As usual, we’ll be liveblogging the event and all the announcements as they unfold.

As we noted in our roundup shortly after the date was announced, the focus will almost certainly be on a new lineup of iPhones to follow up last year’s iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. We’re expecting phones with overall similar designs and with the same screen sizes: 5.4- and 6.1-inch versions of the standard flagship iPhone, and 6.1- and 6.7-inch version of the Pro.

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#airpods, #apple, #apple-watch, #ipad, #iphone, #tech

How Apple’s Changes to Its Store Could Benefit App Developers

After a judge opened up a way to avoid Apple’s commission on their sales, companies big and small are seeing dollar signs.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #apple-inc, #computer-and-video-games, #computers-and-the-internet, #epic-games, #gonzalez-rogers-yvonne-1965, #google-inc, #iphone, #match-group-inc, #mobile-applications, #sweeney-tim-1970

What we expect from next week’s Apple event

We’ve been scouring the latest rumors and leaks and playing all of The Mamas and The Papas songs forward and backward to get the best possible picture of what we’re in store for with next Tuesday’s “California Streaming’” event.

The invites, which went out a week in advance, don’t appear to give the game away here. There was some extremely cool AR trickery, accessible through Safari on mobile, which could point to some fancy camera upgrades, though augmented reality has become a bit of a staple on these invites.

The California Streaming title, meanwhile, seems likely to be more of a nod to the all-virtual nature of the event, rather than anything to do with, say, Apple TV (of course, we’ve been one-more-thinged in the past). And as for that lovely shot of the Sierras — that could well be a nod to macOS, though the company has moved onto Monterey. It seems just as likely to be a reference to the aforementioned title.

The biggest, simplest and most important answer to the question of what to expect is a new iPhone. Last year’s models saw a notable delay due to COVID-19-related supply chain bottlenecking. Supply chain problems have persisted, of course, but by all accounts, the company appears to be back on track with its pre-pandemic release cycle.

The iPhone 12’s biggest upgrade was, of course, the long-awaited addition of 5G. That, coupled with the delay, led Apple to some pretty massive sales quarters amid a broader stalling of the overall mobile market. While other manufacturers have skipped the number out of superstitious concerns, Apple seems firmly on board with iPhone 13 (even as renders of its successor, the iPhone 14 have reportedly already leaked).

Image Credits: Getty Images / Qi Heng/VCG

Recent reports suggest that the iPhone 13 will arrive in four different configurations — much like its predecessor. So: the iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. The screen sizes should remain the same: 5.4, 6.1 (x2) and 6.7 inches. A separate report, meanwhile, suggests that we’ll see additional colors, with the full lineup being black, white, blue, purple, pink (rather than green) and Product (Red). But, keep in mind that offering different color availabilities in different markets isn’t entirely out of the question.

Unsurprisingly, camera upgrades appear to be the biggest news here. Word from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is that last year’s Pro Max model specs will graduate to the rest of the line (including, potentially, lidar). A ProRes video mode is said to be following the addition of ProRAW to further advance the handset’s bonafides as a semi-pro video shooting rig. Cinematic Video, meanwhile, is said to bring a Portrait-mode-style effect to video. Kuo has also suggested that the devices will be getting a feature based on the Qualcomm X60 that allows for emergency satellite calls — reportedly only available in select markets.

Of course, the phone will also be getting Apple’s latest chip, the A15, said to be coupled with 120 Hz ProMotion display. Apple could also be bringing an always-on feature to the screen, hopefully with minimal impact on battery life. Looks-wise we anticipate it will be more or less the same as its predecessor, albeit with a somewhat smaller camera notch up front — though not to the point of the fake Ted Lasso iPhone. The camera bump around back, meanwhile, is said to be getting larger, perhaps offering an improved telephoto lens.

Oh, and apparently they’ll be more expensive than the iPhone 12 — clearly not one of the new features Apple is going to be actively promoting.

Image Credits: Apple

The Apple Watch 7 seems destined to be the other big news of the event. Apple’s massively popular wearable is reportedly set to get more massive, with a larger display, resulting in a slightly larger case size, from 40 mm and 44 mm to 41 mm and 45 mm. The overall size won’t be too large a change, however, as the company is said to be reducing its bezels this go-round.

Perhaps the most exciting rumor around the Watch is the addition of significant battery life. That’s long felt like a blind spot for the product, compared to competing smartwatches — particularly after Apple significantly improved sleep tracking. Most aren’t anticipating major new health features for the Watch this outing, which is a bit of a surprise here, given that health and fitness have been a major cornerstone for Apple.

Image Credits: TechCrunch

AirPods 3 seem like a reasonably good bet. The latest version of the company’s entry-level earbuds (and their case) are said to be getting a more Pro-style redesign, along with a new chip that’s designed to improve battery life. Active noise cancelation and replaceable tips are apparently not going to make an appearance to maintain the distinction between the two models.

With the company’s rangewide upgrade to its own silicon chugging along, don’t be surprised if we see a number of new Macs. Rumors suggest a new MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and a larger, 27-inch version of its ARM-powered iMac.

The event kicks off Tuesday, September 14 at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT. We’ll be here, bringing you the news as it arrives.
Read more about Apple's Fall 2021 Event on TechCrunch

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What China’s new data privacy law means for US tech firms

China enacted a sweeping new data privacy law on August 20 that will dramatically impact how tech companies can operate in the country. Officially called the Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (PIPL), the law is the first national data privacy statute passed in China.

Modeled after the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the PIPL imposes protections and restrictions on data collection and transfer that companies both inside and outside of China will need to address. It is particularly focused on apps using personal information to target consumers or offer them different prices on products and services, and preventing the transfer of personal information to other countries with fewer protections for security.

The PIPL, slated to take effect on November 1, 2021, does not give companies a lot of time to prepare. Those that already follow GDPR practices, particularly if they’ve implemented it globally, will have an easier time complying with China’s new requirements. But firms that have not implemented GDPR practices will need to consider adopting a similar approach. In addition, U.S. companies will need to consider the new restrictions on the transfer of personal information from China to the U.S.

Implementation and compliance with the PIPL is a much more significant task for companies that have not implemented GDPR principles.

Here’s a deep dive into the PIPL and what it means for tech firms:

New data handling requirements

The PIPL introduces perhaps the most stringent set of requirements and protections for data privacy in the world (this includes special requirements relating to processing personal information by governmental agencies that will not be addressed here). The law broadly relates to all kinds of information, recorded by electronic or other means, related to identified or identifiable natural persons, but excludes anonymized information.

The following are some of the key new requirements for handling people’s personal information in China that will affect tech businesses:

Extra-territorial application of the China law

Historically, China regulations have only been applied to activities inside the country. The PIPL is similar in applying the law to personal information handling activities within Chinese borders. However, similar to GDPR, it also expands its application to the handling of personal information outside China if the following conditions are met:

  • Where the purpose is to provide products or services to people inside China.
  • Where analyzing or assessing activities of people inside China.
  • Other circumstances provided in laws or administrative regulations.

For example, if you are a U.S.-based company selling products to consumers in China, you may be subject to the China data privacy law even if you do not have a facility or operations there.

Data handling principles

The PIPL introduces principles of transparency, purpose and data minimization: Companies can only collect personal information for a clear, reasonable and disclosed purpose, and to the smallest scope for realizing the purpose, and retain the data only for the period necessary to fulfill that purpose. Any information handler is also required to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data it handles to avoid any negative impact on personal rights and interests.

#asia, #china, #column, #computer-security, #data-protection, #data-security, #ec-china, #ec-column, #ec-east-asia, #encryption, #european-union, #general-data-protection-regulation, #government, #internet, #iphone, #privacy, #tc

What to expect from Apple’s September 14 “California Streaming” event

Futuristic glass-walled building permits views of surrounding forest.

Enlarge / The waiting area of the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s Cupertino campus. (credit: Samuel Axon)

On September 14 at 10 am PDT (1 pm EDT), Apple will host its first product-launch event in several months. Once again, it will be an online-only event. But as with other recent online events from Apple, we expect it to be as jam-packed with announcements as ever.

It’s likely to focus on the iPhone, but revelations about the Apple Watch, AirPods, and maybe the iPad are likely, too. We’ll be liveblogging the event as it happens on Tuesday, of course, but until then, consider what you’re about to read our best attempt at setting expectations and making predictions about what’s coming.

In so many ways, Apple has gotten easier to read and predict in recent years—certainly compared to the years during Steve Jobs’ second tenure as CEO. Apple has settled into something of a cadence with its main product lines, making it a bit easier to see what may be coming. The company’s products are still disruptive, but now they do it in a subtle, iterative ways and often in areas that aren’t as flashy as what we saw in the 2000s—like health care, for example.

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#airpods, #apple, #apple-watch, #ipad, #ipad-mini, #iphone, #iphone-13, #tech

Tape It launches an A.I.-powered music recording app for iPhone

Earlier this year, Apple officially discontinued Music Memos, an iPhone app that allowed musicians to quickly record audio and develop new song ideas. Now, a new startup called Tape It is stepping in to fill the void with an app that improves audio recordings by offering a variety of features, including higher-quality sound, automatic instrument detection, support for markers, notes, and images, and more.

The idea for Tape It comes from two friends and musicians, Thomas Walther and Jan Nash.

Walther had previously spent three and a half years at Spotify, following its 2017 acquisition of the audio detection startup Sonalytic, which he had co-founded. Nash, meanwhile, is a classically trained opera singer, who also plays bass and is an engineer.

They’re joined by designer and musician Christian Crusius, previously of the design consultancy Fjord, which was acquired by Accenture.

The founders, who had played in a band together for many years, were inspired to build Tape It because it was something they wanted for themselves, Walther says. After ending his stint at Spotify working in their new Soundtrap division (an online music startup Spotify also bought in 2017), he knew he wanted to work on a project that was more focused on the music-making side of things. But while Soundtrap worked for some, it wasn’t what either Walther or his friends had needed. Instead, they wanted a simple tool that would allow them to record their music with their phone — something that musicians often do today using Apple’s Voice Memos app and, briefly, Music Memos — until its demise.

Image Credits: Tape It

“Regardless of whether you’re an amateur or even like a touring professional…you will record your ideas with your phone, just because that’s what you have with you,” Walther explains. “It’s the exact same thing with cameras — the best camera is the one you have with you. And the best audio recording tool is the one you have with you.”

That is, when you want to record, the easiest thing to do is not to get out your laptop and connect a bunch of cables to it, then load up your studio software — it’s to hit the record button on your iPhone.

The Tape It app allows you to do just that, but adds other features that make it more competitive with its built-in competition, Voice Memos.

When you record using Tape It, the app leverages A.I. to automatically detect the instrument, then annotate the recording with a visual indication to make those recordings easier to find by looking for the colorful icon. Musicians can also add their own markers to the files right when they record them, then add notes and photos to remind themselves of other details. This can be useful when reviewing the recordings later on, Walther says.

Image Credits: Tape It

“If I have a nice guitar sound, I can just take a picture of the settings on my amplifier, and I have them. This is something musicians do all the time,” he notes. “It’s the easiest way to re-create that sound.”

Another novel, but simple, change in Tape It is that breaks longer recordings into multiple lines, similar to a paragraph of text. The team calls this the “Time Paragraph,” and believes it will make listening to longer sessions easier than the default — which is typically a single, horizontally scrollable recording.

Image Credits: Tape It

The app has also been designed so it’s easier to go back to the right part of recordings, thanks to its smart waveforms, in addition to the optional markers and photos. And you can mark recordings as favorites so you can quickly pull up a list of your best ideas and sounds. The app offers full media center integration as well, so you can play back your music whenever you have time.

However, the standout feature is Tape It’s support for “Stereo HD” quality. Here, the app takes advantage of the two microphones on devices like the iPhone XS, XR, and other newer models, then improves the sound using A.I. technology and other noise reduction techniques which it’s developed in-house. This feature is part of its $20 per year premium subscription.

Over time, Tape It intends to broaden its use of A.I. and other IP to improve the sound quality further. It also plans to introduce collaborative features and support for importing and exporting recordings into professional studio software. This could eventually place Tape It into the same market that SoundCloud had initially chased before it shifted its focus to becoming more of a consumer-facing service.

But first, Tape It wants to nail the single-user workflow before adding on more sharing features.

“We decided that it’s so important to make sure it’s useful, even just for you. The stuff that you can collaborate on — if you don’t like using it yourself, you’re not going to use it,” Walther says.

Tape It’s team of three is dually based in both Stockholm and Berlin and is currently bootstrapping.

The app itself is a free download on iOS and will later support desktop users on Mac and Windows. An Android version is not planned.

#a-i, #accenture, #android, #apple, #apps, #artificial-intelligence, #audio-engineering, #berlin, #engineer, #iphone, #media, #microsoft-windows, #mobile, #operating-systems, #software, #sonalytic, #soundcloud, #soundtrap, #spotify, #startups, #stockholm, #tc

California streaming: Apple’s next big event is September 14

The splash image and header copy on the event invitation Apple emailed to press.

Enlarge / The splash image and header copy on the event invitation Apple emailed to press. (credit: Apple)

Apple will stream a new product-unveiling event this coming Tuesday, September 14, at 10 am PDT, the company announced today. Invitations went out to press this morning, and marketing SVP Greg Joswiak tweeted a short video teasing the event as well.

You can see the image and copy that accompanied the invitation above. As usual, it doesn’t reveal much about what to expect. The invitation does note that it will be an online video stream, though, not an in-person event.

That said, we do know more or less what to expect. Apple has held an event like this during the same week every year for a while now, and it has always focused primarily on two products: the iPhone and the Apple Watch. This year, rumors abound of an updated version of Apple’s AirPods wireless earbuds, too.

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Apple’s dangerous path

Hello friends, and welcome back to Week in Review.

Last week, we dove into the truly bizarre machinations of the NFT market. This week, we’re talking about something that’s a little bit more impactful on the current state of the web — Apple’s NeuralHash kerfuffle.

If you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny


the big thing

In the past month, Apple did something it generally has done an exceptional job avoiding — the company made what seemed to be an entirely unforced error.

In early August — seemingly out of nowhere** — the company announced that by the end of the year they would be rolling out a technology called NeuralHash that actively scanned the libraries of all iCloud Photos users, seeking out image hashes that matched known images of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). For obvious reasons, the on-device scanning could not be opted out of.

This announcement was not coordinated with other major consumer tech giants, Apple pushed forward on the announcement alone.

Researchers and advocacy groups had almost unilaterally negative feedback for the effort, raising concerns that this could create new abuse channels for actors like governments to detect on-device information that they regarded as objectionable. As my colleague Zach noted in a recent story, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation said this week it had amassed more than 25,000 signatures from consumers. On top of that, close to 100 policy and rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also called on Apple to abandon plans to roll out the technology.”

(The announcement also reportedly generated some controversy inside of Apple.)

The issue — of course — wasn’t that Apple was looking at find ways that prevented the proliferation of CSAM while making as few device security concessions as possible. The issue was that Apple was unilaterally making a massive choice that would affect billions of customers (while likely pushing competitors towards similar solutions), and was doing so without external public input about possible ramifications or necessary safeguards.

A long story short, over the past month researchers discovered Apple’s NeuralHash wasn’t as air tight as hoped and the company announced Friday that it was delaying the rollout “to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”

Having spent several years in the tech media, I will say that the only reason to release news on a Friday morning ahead of a long weekend is to ensure that the announcement is read and seen by as few people as possible, and it’s clear why they’d want that. It’s a major embarrassment for Apple, and as with any delayed rollout like this, it’s a sign that their internal teams weren’t adequately prepared and lacked the ideological diversity to gauge the scope of the issue that they were tackling. This isn’t really a dig at Apple’s team building this so much as it’s a dig on Apple trying to solve a problem like this inside the Apple Park vacuum while adhering to its annual iOS release schedule.

illustration of key over cloud icon

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch /

Apple is increasingly looking to make privacy a key selling point for the iOS ecosystem, and as a result of this productization, has pushed development of privacy-centric features towards the same secrecy its surface-level design changes command. In June, Apple announced iCloud+ and raised some eyebrows when they shared that certain new privacy-centric features would only be available to iPhone users who paid for additional subscription services.

You obviously can’t tap public opinion for every product update, but perhaps wide-ranging and trail-blazing security and privacy features should be treated a bit differently than the average product update. Apple’s lack of engagement with research and advocacy groups on NeuralHash was pretty egregious and certainly raises some questions about whether the company fully respects how the choices they make for iOS affect the broader internet.

Delaying the feature’s rollout is a good thing, but let’s all hope they take that time to reflect more broadly as well.

** Though the announcement was a surprise to many, Apple’s development of this feature wasn’t coming completely out of nowhere. Those at the top of Apple likely felt that the winds of global tech regulation might be shifting towards outright bans of some methods of encryption in some of its biggest markets.

Back in October of 2020, then United States AG Bill Barr joined representatives from the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, India and Japan in signing a letter raising major concerns about how implementations of encryption tech posed “significant challenges to public safety, including to highly vulnerable members of our societies like sexually exploited children.” The letter effectively called on tech industry companies to get creative in how they tackled this problem.


other things

Here are the TechCrunch news stories that especially caught my eye this week:

LinkedIn kills Stories
You may be shocked to hear that LinkedIn even had a Stories-like product on their platform, but if you did already know that they were testing Stories, you likely won’t be so surprised to hear that the test didn’t pan out too well. The company announced this week that they’ll be suspending the feature at the end of the month. RIP.

FAA grounds Virgin Galactic over questions about Branson flight
While all appeared to go swimmingly for Richard Branson’s trip to space last month, the FAA has some questions regarding why the flight seemed to unexpectedly veer so far off the cleared route. The FAA is preventing the company from further launches until they find out what the deal is.

Apple buys a classical music streaming service
While Spotify makes news every month or two for spending a massive amount acquiring a popular podcast, Apple seems to have eyes on a different market for Apple Music, announcing this week that they’re bringing the classical music streaming service Primephonic onto the Apple Music team.

TikTok parent company buys a VR startup
It isn’t a huge secret that ByteDance and Facebook have been trying to copy each other’s success at times, but many probably weren’t expecting TikTok’s parent company to wander into the virtual reality game. The Chinese company bought the startup Pico which makes consumer VR headsets for China and enterprise VR products for North American customers.

Twitter tests an anti-abuse ‘Safety Mode’
The same features that make Twitter an incredibly cool product for some users can also make the experience awful for others, a realization that Twitter has seemingly been very slow to make. Their latest solution is more individual user controls, which Twitter is testing out with a new “safety mode” which pairs algorithmic intelligence with new user inputs.


extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

Our favorite startups from YC’s Demo Day, Part 1 
“Y Combinator kicked off its fourth-ever virtual Demo Day today, revealing the first half of its nearly 400-company batch. The presentation, YC’s biggest yet, offers a snapshot into where innovation is heading, from not-so-simple seaweed to a Clearco for creators….”

…Part 2
“…Yesterday, the TechCrunch team covered the first half of this batch, as well as the startups with one-minute pitches that stood out to us. We even podcasted about it! Today, we’re doing it all over again. Here’s our full list of all startups that presented on the record today, and below, you’ll find our votes for the best Y Combinator pitches of Day Two. The ones that, as people who sift through a few hundred pitches a day, made us go ‘oh wait, what’s this?’

All the reasons why you should launch a credit card
“… if your company somehow hasn’t yet found its way to launch a debit or credit card, we have good news: It’s easier than ever to do so and there’s actual money to be made. Just know that if you do, you’ve got plenty of competition and that actual customer usage will probably depend on how sticky your service is and how valuable the rewards are that you offer to your most active users….”


Thanks for reading, and again, if you’re reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny

Lucas Matney

#american-civil-liberties-union, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #artificial-intelligence, #australia, #bryce-durbin, #bytedance, #canada, #china, #computing, #electronic-frontier-foundation, #encryption, #extra-crunch, #facebook, #federal-aviation-administration, #icloud, #india, #ios, #iphone, #japan, #linkedin, #new-zealand, #pico, #richard-branson, #siri, #spotify, #tech-media, #technology, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #virgin-galactic, #virtual-reality, #y-combinator

In 8 US states, Apple will begin storing driver’s licenses on the iPhone

Apple is rolling out the ability to add driver’s licenses and state IDs to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch in select US states, the company announced this week.

The first states to introduce this functionality will be Arizona and Georgia, but Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah will follow. However, neither the states nor Apple have said exactly when the rollouts will begin other than giving a general fall 2021 target.

Wallet is an app that comes pre-installed on iPhones and Apple Watch wearables. The app stores credit cards, boarding passes, student IDs, and other items you might normally put in a physical wallet.

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#apple, #apple-watch, #face-id, #iphone, #tech, #touch-id, #tsa, #wallet

Playbyte’s new app aims to become the ‘TikTok for games’

A startup called Playbyte wants to become the TikTok for games. The company’s newly launched iOS app offers tools that allow users to make and share simple games on their phone, as well as a vertically scrollable, fullscreen feed where you can play the games created by others. Also like TikTok, the feed becomes more personalized over time to serve up more of the kinds of games you like to play.

While typically, game creation involves some aspect of coding, Playbyte’s games are created using simple building blocks, emoji and even images from your Camera Roll on your iPhone. The idea is to make building games just another form of self-expression, rather than some introductory, educational experience that’s trying to teach users the basics of coding.

At its core, Playbyte’s game creation is powered by its lightweight 2D game engine built on web frameworks, which lets users create games that can be quickly loaded and played even on slow connections and older devices. After you play a game, you can like and comment using buttons on the right-side of the screen, which also greatly resembles the TikTok look-and-feel. Over time, Playbyte’s feed shows you more of the games you enjoyed as the app leverages its understanding of in-game imagery, tags and descriptions, and other engagement analytics to serve up more games it believes you’ll find compelling.

At launch, users have already made a variety of games using Playbyte’s tools — including simulators, tower defense games, combat challenges, obbys, murder mystery games, and more.

According to Playbyte founder and CEO Kyle Russell — previously of Skydio, Andreessen Horowitz, and (disclosure!) TechCrunch — Playbyte is meant to be a social media app, not just a games app.

“We have this model in our minds for what is required to build a new social media platform,” he says.

What Twitter did for text, Instagram did for photos and TikTok did for video was to combine a constraint with a personalized feed, Russell explains. “Typically. [they started] with a focus on making these experiences really brief…So a short, constrained format and dedicated tools that set you up for success to work within that constrained format,” he adds.

Similarly, Playbyte games have their own set of limitations. In addition to their simplistic nature, the games are limited to five scenes. Thanks to this constraint, a format has emerged where people are making games that have an intro screen where you hit “play,” a story intro, a challenging gameplay section, and then a story outro.

In addition to its easy-to-use game building tools, Playbyte also allows game assets to be reused by other game creators. That means if someone who has more expertise makes a game asset using custom logic or which pieced together multiple components, the rest of the user base can benefit from that work.

“Basically, we want to make it really easy for people who aren’t as ambitious to still feel like productive, creative game makers,” says Russell. “The key to that is going to be if you have an idea — like an image of a game in your mind — you should be able to very quickly search for new assets or piece together other ones you’ve previously saved. And then just drop them in and mix-and-match — almost like Legos — and construct something that’s 90% of what you imagined, without any further configuration on your part,” he says.

In time, Playbyte plans to monetize its feed with brand advertising, perhaps by allowing creators to drop sponsored assets into their games, for instance. It also wants to establish some sort of patronage model at a later point. This could involve either subscriptions or even NFTs of the games, but this would be further down the road.

The startup had originally began as a web app in 2019, but at the end of last year, the team scrapped that plan and rewrote everything as a native iOS app with its own game engine. That app launched on the App Store this week, after previously maxing out TestFlight’s cap of 10,000 users.

Currently, it’s finding traction with younger teenagers who are active on TikTok and other collaborative games, like Roblox, Minecraft, or Fortnite.

“These are young people who feel inspired to build their own games but have been intimidated by the need to learn to code or use other advanced tools, or who simply don’t have a computer at home that would let them access those tools,” notes Russell.

Playbyte is backed by $4 million in pre-seed and seed funding from investors including FirstMark (Rick Heitzmann), Ludlow Ventures (Jonathon Triest and Blake Robbins), Dream Machine (former Editor-in-Chief at TechCrunch, Alexia Bonatsos), and angels such as Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of Coinbase; Nate Mitchell, co-founder of Oculus; Ashita Achuthan, previously of Twitter; and others.

The app is a free download on the App Store.

#alexia-bonatsos, #andreessen-horowitz, #app-store, #apps, #blake-robbins, #byte, #ceo, #co-founder, #coinbase, #editor-in-chief, #firstmark, #fred-ehrsam, #gaming, #instagram, #internet-culture, #iphone, #jonathon-triest, #kyle-russell, #legos, #ludlow-ventures, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #mobile-software, #nate-mitchell, #oculus, #rick-heitzmann, #roblox, #skydio, #social-media-app, #software, #startups, #tiktok, #twitter, #web-app

Apple Gives Ground in a Strategic Retreat From Strict App Store Rules

The company, under pressure from app developers and regulators, is making concessions while protecting lucrative parts of its App Store.

#antitrust-laws-and-competition-issues, #apple-inc, #computer-and-video-games, #computers-and-the-internet, #cook-timothy-d, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #software

Apple’s AR headset will leave a lot of the hard work to the iPhone

A tree-lined campus surrounds a multistory glass and steel building.

Enlarge / Apple offices in northern California. (credit: Apple)

Apple’s long-rumored mixed reality headset will require an iPhone within wireless range to function for at least some apps and experiences, according to a new report in The Information.

The Information’s sources say that Apple completed work on the system-on-a-chip (SoC) for the headset “last year” and that the physical designs for that and two other chips intended for the device have been completed. Apple has also finishing designing the device’s display driver and image sensor.

The SoC will be based on TSMC’s five-nanometer manufacturing process, which is current now but may not be when the headset releases in 2022 or later.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#apple, #iphone, #mixed-reality, #tech

Apple secures first states to support digital driver’s licenses, but privacy questions linger

Apple’s plan to digitize your wallet is slowly taking shape. What started with boarding passes and venue tickets later became credit cards, subway tickets, and student IDs. Next on Apple’s list to digitize are driver’s licenses and state IDs, which it plans to support in its iOS 15 update expected out later this year.

But to get there it needs help from state governments, since it’s the states that issue driver’s licenses and other forms of state identification, and every state issues IDs differently. Apple said today it has so far secured two states, Arizona and Georgia, to bring digital driver’s license and state IDs.

Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah are expected to follow, but a timeline for rolling out wasn’t given.

Apple said in June that it would begin supporting digital licenses and IDs, and that the TSA would be the first agency to begin accepting a digital license from an iPhone at several airports, since only a state ID is required for traveling by air domestically within the United States. The TSA will allow you to present your digital wallet by tapping it on an identity reader. Apple says the feature is secure and doesn’t require handing over or unlocking your phone.

The digital license and ID data is stored on your iPhone but a driver’s license must be verified by the participating state. That has to happen at scale and speed to support millions of drivers and travelers while preventing fake IDs from making it through.

The goal of digitizing licenses and IDs is convenience, rather than fixing a problem. But the move hasn’t exactly drawn confidence from privacy experts, who bemoan Apple’s lack of transparency about how it built this technology and what it ultimately gets out of it.

Apple still has not said much about how the digital ID technology works, or what data the state obtains as part of the process to enroll a digital license. Apple is working on a new security verification feature that takes selfies to validate the user. It’s not to say these systems aren’t inherently problematic, but there are privacy questions that Apple will have to address down the line.

But the fragmented picture of digital licenses and IDs across the U.S. isn’t likely to get less murky overnight, even after Apple enters the picture. A recent public records request by MuckRock showed Apple was in contact with some states as early as 2019 about bringing digital licenses and IDs to iPhones, including California and Illinois, yet neither state has been announced by Apple today.

Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Rhode Island are likely further behind, after finding out about Apple’s digital license plan the very day it was announced at WWDC.

#apple-wallet, #california, #digital-wallet, #driver, #iphone, #mobile-phones, #privacy, #security, #wisconsin

Apple’s rumored iPhone satellite support may be for emergency calls and messages

The rumored satellite features for future iPhones are reserved for emergency uses only, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. A few days ago, a report by well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the next iPhones will come with support for Low Earth Orbit satellite calls and messages. Gurman’s sources said, however, that Apple isn’t turning its devices into actual satellite phones, at least for now. Instead, the tech giant is reportedly developing at least two emergency-related features relying on satellite networks.

The first feature is called Emergency Message via Satellite and will be added as a third protocol, alongside iMessage and SMS, to the Messages app. It’s apparently codenamed Stewie inside the company and will allow users to text emergency services even when there’s no signal, which sounds especially useful during emergencies in remote locations, such as mountains and forests.

The tool will also give users a way to text their emergency contacts simply by typing Emergency SOS in the recipient line. Messages will be restricted to a shorter length, but the senders’ contacts will get a notification for them even if their phone is set to Do Not Disturb. Satellite messages will appear as gray bubbles instead of blue or green so they can be easily identified. Eventually, the feature could handle phone calls, as well.

Apple is also reportedly working on a second satellite feature that will allow users to report crisis situations like plane crashes and fires. This system will give users a way to report the incident at length and will ask them specifics, such as if anybody needs search-and-rescue services or if anybody in the vicinity is armed. It can also automatically send authorities the reporter’s location and their details from the Health app, such as their medical history, age, medications and information like height and weight. The feature can also a notify the reporter’s emergency contacts for them.

While both features sound useful, their availability is restricted by satellite location and reach. They might not work for some regions, and in some cases, users may have to walk outdoors in a certain direction where their iPhone can connect to a satellite. Also, Gurman’s sources said it’s unlikely that the features will be ready before the year ends, which means the next iPhones expected be announced sometime in September won’t be able to send messages via satellite yet.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Engadget.

#apple, #column, #iphone, #satellite, #tc, #tceng

Why Apple Won Its Legal Settlement With Developers

Apple said it had made major concessions, but a closer examination suggests that the tech giant and the app makers’ lawyers were big winners.

#apple-inc, #blumenthal-richard, #computers-and-the-internet, #hansson-david-heinemeier, #iphone, #mobile-applications, #suits-and-litigation-civil

Popcorn’s new app brings short-form video to the workplace

A new startup called Popcorn wants to make work communication more fun and personal by offering a way for users to record short video messages, or “pops,” that can be used for any number of purposes in place of longer emails, texts, Slack messages, or Zoom calls. While there are plenty of other places to record short-form video these days, most of these exist in the social media space which isn’t appropriate for a work environment. Nor does it make sense to send a video you’ve recorded on your phone as an email attachment, when you really just want to check in with a colleague or say hello.

Popcorn, on the other hand, lets you create the short video and then send a URL to that video anywhere you would want add a personal touch to your message.

For example, you could use Popcorn in business networking scenario, where you’re trying to connect with someone in your industry for the first time — aka “cold outreach.” Instead of just blasting them a message on LinkedIn, you could also paste in the Popcorn URL to introduce yourself in a more natural, friendly fashion. You could also use Popcorn with your team at work for things like daily check-ins, sharing progress on an ongoing project, or to greet new hires, among other things.

Videos themselves can be up to 60 seconds in length — a time limit designed to keep Popcorn users from rambling. Users can also opt to record audio only if they don’t want to appear on video. And you can increase the playback speed if you’re in a hurry. Users who want to receive “pops” could also advertise their “popcode” (e.g. try mine at U8696).

The idea to bring short-form video to the workplace comes from Popcorn co-founder and CEO Justin Spraggins, whose background is in building consumer apps. One of his first apps to gain traction back in 2014 was a Tinder-meets-Instagram experience called Looksee that allowed users to connect around shared photos. A couple years later, he co-founded a social calling app called Unmute, a Clubhouse precursor of sorts. He then went on to co-found 9 Count, a consumer app development shop which launched more social apps like BFF (previously Wink) and Juju.

9 Count’s lead engineer, Ben Hochberg, is now also a co-founder on Popcorn (or rather, Snack Break, Inc. as the legal entity is called). They began their work on Popcorn in 2020, just after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the rapid shift to remote work that’s come in the days that followed could now help Popcorn gain traction among distributed teams. Today’s remote workers may never again return to in-person meetings at the office, but they’re also are growing tired of long days stuck in Zoom meetings.

With Popcorn, the goal is to make work communication fun, personal and bite-sized, Spraggins says. “[We want to] bring all the stuff we’re really passionate about in consumer social into work, which I think is really important for us now,” he explains.

“You work with these people, but how do you — without scheduling a Zoom — how do you bring the ‘human’ to it?,” Spraggins says. “I’m really excited about making work products feel more social, more like Snapchat than utility tools.”

There is a lot Popcorn would still need to figure out to truly make a business-oriented social app work, including adding enhanced security, limiting spam, offering some sort of reporting flow for bad actors, and more. It will also eventually need to land on a successful revenue model.

Currently, Popcorn is a free download on iPhone, iPad and Mac, and offers a Slack integration so you can send video messages to co-workers directly in the communication software you already use to catch up and stay in touch. The app today is fairly simple but the company plans to enhance its short videos over time using AR frames that let users showcase their personalities.

The startup raised a $400,000 pre-seed round from General Catalyst (Nico Bonatsos) and Dream Machine (Alexia Bonatsos, previously editor-in-chief at TechCrunch.) Spraggins says the company will be looking to raise a seed round in the fall to help with hires, including in the AR space.

#alexia-bonatsos, #app-store, #apps, #business, #chat, #computing, #funding, #general-catalyst, #instagram, #iphone, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #popcorn, #recent-funding, #short-form, #slack, #social, #software, #startups, #video, #video-apps, #work

Apple lowers commissions on in-app purchases for news publishers who participate in Apple News

Apple today is launching a new program that will allow subscription news organizations that participate in the Apple News app and meet certain requirements to lower their commission rate to 15% on qualifying in-app purchases taking place inside their apps on the App Store. Typically, Apple’s model for subscription-based apps involves a standard 30% commission during their first year on the App Store which then drops to 15% in year two. But the new Apple News Partner Program, announced today, will now make 15% the commission rate for participants starting on day one.

There are a few caveats to this condition, and they benefit Apple. To qualify, the news publisher must maintain a presence on Apple News and they have to provide their content in the Apple News Format (ANF). The latter is the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format that’s used to create articles for Apple News which are optimized for Mac, iPhone and other Apple mobile devices. Typically, this involves a bit of setup to translate news articles from a publisher’s website or from their CMS (content management system) to the supported JSON format. For WordPress and other popular CMS’s, there are also plugins available to make this process easier.

Meanwhile, for publishers headquartered outside one of the four existing Apple News markets — the U.S., U.K., Australia, or Canada — they can instead satisfy the program’s obligations by providing Apple with an RSS feed.

On the App Store, the partner app qualifying for the 15% commission must be used to deliver “original, professionally authored” news content, and they must offer their auto-renewable subscriptions using Apple’s in-app purchase system.

While there is some initial work involved in establishing the publisher’s connection to Apple News, it’s worth noting that most major publishers already participate on Apple’s platform. That means they won’t have to do any additional work beyond what they’re already doing in order to transition over to the reduced commission for their apps. However, the program also serves as a way to push news organizations to continue to participate in the Apple News ecosystem, as it will make more financial sense to do so across their broader business.

That will likely be an area of contention for publishers, who would probably prefer that the reduced App Store commission didn’t come with strings attached.

Some publishers already worry that they’re giving up too much control over their business by tying themselves to the Apple News ecosystem. Last year, for example, The New York Times announced it would exit its partnership with Apple News, saying that Apple didn’t allow it to have as direct a relationship with readers as it wanted, and it would rather drive readers to its own app and website.

Apple, however, would argue that it doesn’t stand in the way of publishers’ businesses — it lets them paywall their content and keep 100% of the ad revenue from the ads they sell. (If they can’t sell it all or would prefer Apple to do so on their behalf, they then split the commission with Apple, keeping 70% of revenues instead.) In addition, for the company’s Apple News+ subscription service — where the subscription revenue split is much higher — it could be argued that it’s “found money.” That is, Apple markets the service to customers the publisher hadn’t been able to attract on its own anyway.

The launch of the new Apple News Partner program comes amid regulatory scrutiny over how Apple manages its App Store business and more recently, proposed legislation aiming to address alleged anticompetitive issues both in the U.S. and in major App Store markets, like South Korea.

Sensing this shift in the market, Apple had already been working to provide itself cover from antitrust complaints and lawsuits — like the one underway now with Epic Games — by adjusting its App Store commissions. Last year, it launched the App Store Small Business Program, which also lowered commissions on in-app purchases from 30% to 15% — but only for developers earning up to $1 million in revenues.

This program may have helped smaller publishers, but it was clear some major publishers still weren’t satisfied. After the reduced commissions for small businesses were announced in November, the publisher trade organization Digital Content Next (DCN) — a representative for the AP, The New York Times, NPR, ESPN, Vox, The Washington Post, Meredith, Bloomberg, NBCU, The Financial Times, and others — joined the advocacy group and lobbying organization the Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) the very next month.

These publishers, who had previously written to Apple CEO Tim Cook to demand lower commissions — had other complaints about the revenue share beyond just the size of the split. They also didn’t want to be required to use Apple’s services for in-app purchases for their subscriptions, saying this “Apple tax” forces them to raise their prices for consumers.

It remains to be seen how these publishers will now react to the launch of the Apple News Partner program.

While it gives them a way to lower their App Store fees, it doesn’t address their broader complaints against Apple’s platform and its rules. If anything, it ties the lower fees to a program that locks them in further to the Apple ecosystem.

Apple, in a gesture of goodwill, also said today it would recommit support to three leading media non-profits, Common Sense Media, the News Literacy Project, and Osservatorio Permanente Giovani-Editori. These non-profits offer nonpartisan, independent media literacy programs, which Apple views as key to its larger mission to empower people to become smart and active news readers. Apple also said it would later announce further media literacy projects from other organizations. The company would not disclose the size of its commitment from a financial standpoint however, or discuss how much it has sent such organizations in the past.

“Providing Apple News customers with access to trusted information from our publishing partners has been our priority from day one,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services, in a statement. “For more than a decade, Apple has offered our customers many ways to access and enjoy news content across our products and services. We have hundreds of news apps from dozens of countries around the world available in the App Store, and created Apple News Format to offer publishers a tool to showcase their content and provide a great experience for millions of Apple News users,” he added.

More details about the program and the application form will be available at the News Partner Program website.

#advocacy, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-news, #apps, #australia, #canada, #ceo, #coalition-for-app-fairness, #common-sense, #common-sense-media, #computing, #content-management-system, #eddy-cue, #epic-games, #ios, #iphone, #itunes, #javascript, #json, #major, #media, #mobile-devices, #software, #south-korea, #the-financial-times, #the-new-york-times, #the-washington-post, #tim-cook, #united-kingdom, #united-states