Decrypted: Apple and Facebook’s privacy feud, Twitter hires Mudge, mysterious zero-days

Trump’s election denialism saw him retaliate in a way that isn’t just putting the remainder of his presidency in jeopardy, it’s already putting the next administration in harm’s way.

In a stunning display of retaliation, Trump fired CISA director Chris Krebs last week after declaring that there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised,” a direct contradiction to the conspiracy-fueled fever dreams of the president who repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the election had been hijacked by the Democrats. CISA is left distracted by disarray, with multiple senior leaders leaving their posts — some walked, some were pushed — only for the next likely chief to stumble before he even starts because of concerns with his security clearance.

Until yesterday, Biden’s presidential transition team was stuck in cybersecurity purgatory because the incumbent administration refused to trigger the law that grants the incoming team access to government resources, including cybersecurity protections. That’s left the incoming president exposed to ongoing cyber threats, all while being shut out from classified briefings that describe those threats in detail.

As Biden builds his team, Silicon Valley is also gearing up for a change in government — and temperament. But don’t expect too much of the backlash to change. Much of the antitrust allegations, privacy violations and net neutrality remain hot button issues, and the tech titans resorting to cheap “charm offenses” are likely to face the music under the Biden administration — whether they like it or not.

Here’s more from the week.


THE BIG PICTURE

Apple and Facebook spar over privacy — again

Apple and Facebook are back in the ring, fighting over which company is a bigger existential threat to privacy. In a letter to a privacy rights group, Apple said its new anti-tracking feature will launch next year, which will give users the choice of blocking in-app tracking, a move that’s largely expected to cause havoc to the online advertising industry and data brokers.

Given an explicit option between being tracked and not, as the feature will do, most are expected to decline.

Apple’s letter specifically called out Facebook for showing a “disregard for user privacy.” Facebook, which made more than 98% of its global revenue last year from advertising, took its own potshot back at Apple, claiming the iPhone maker was “using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection, while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data.”

#apple, #chief-information-security-officer, #chris-krebs, #cisa, #computer-security, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #iphone, #malware, #privacy, #rinki-sethi, #security, #startups

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Apple pushes out iOS 14.2.1, and it’s mostly bug fixes

The iPhone 12 mini. iOS 14.2.1 fixes an issue that affected the lock screen on this phone.

Enlarge / The iPhone 12 mini. iOS 14.2.1 fixes an issue that affected the lock screen on this phone. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Yesterday, Apple released iOS 14.2.1 to fix bugs users have encountered since iOS 14.2 launched on November 5. Unlike many other iOS releases, this release was not accompanied by updates to all of the company’s other operating systems.

The update fixes a bug that caused an unresponsive lock screen specifically on the iPhone 12 mini, and it addressed an issue that prevented MMS messages from coming in. Further, 14.2.1 fixes a problem with sound quality on connected hearing devices.

Here are Apple’s release notes for iOS 14.2.1:

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#apple, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-2, #ios-14-2-1, #iphone, #iphone-12-mini, #tech

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Verizon partners with Apple to launch 5G Fleet Swap

Apple and Verizon today announced a new partnership that will make it easier for their business partners to go all-in on 5G. Fleet Swap, as the program is called, allows businesses to trade in their entire fleet of smartphones — no matter whether they are currently a Verizon customer or not — and move to the iPhone 12 with no upfront cost and either zero cost (for the iPhone 12 mini) or a low monthly cost.

(Disclaimer: Verizon is TechCrunch’s corporate parent. The company has zero input into our editorial decisions.)

In addition, Verizon also today announced its first two major indoor 5G ultra wideband services for its enterprise customers. General Motors and Honeywell are the first customers here, with General Motors enabling the technology at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, the company’s all-electric vehicle plant. To some degree, this goes to show how carriers are positioning 5G ultra wideband as more of an enterprise feature than the lower-bandwidth versions of 5G.

“I think about how 5G [ultra wide band] is really filling a need for capacity and for capability. It’s built for industrial commercial use cases. It’s built on millimeter wave spectrum and it’s really built for enterprise,” Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin told me.

It’s important to note that these two projects are not private 5G networks. Verizon is also in that business and plans to launch those more broadly in the future.

“No matter where you are on your digital transformation journey, the ability to put the power of 5G Ultra Wideband in all of your employees’ hands right now with a powerful iPhone 12 model, the best smartphone for business, is not just an investment for growth, it’s what will set a business’s future trajectory as technology continues to advance,” Erwin said in today’s announcement.

As for 5G Fleet Swap, the idea here is obviously to get more businesses on Verizon’s 5G network and, for Apple, to quickly get more iPhone 12s into the enterprise. Apple clearly believes that 5G can provide some benefits to enterprises — and maybe more so than to consumers — thanks to its low latency for AR applications, for example.

“The iPhone 12 lineup is the best for business, with an all-new design, advanced 5G experience, industry-leading security and A14 Bionic, the fastest chip ever in a smartphone,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Markets, Apps and Services. “Paired with Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband going indoors and 5G Fleet Swap, an all-new device offer for enterprise, it’s now easier than ever for businesses to build transformational mobile apps that take advantage of the powerful iPhone 12 lineup and 5G.”

In addition, the company is highlighting the iPhone’s secure enclave as a major security benefit for enterprises. And while other handset manufacturers launch devices that are specifically meant to be rugged, Apple argues that its devices are already rugged enough by design and that there’s a big third-party ecosystem to ruggedize its devices.

#5g, #5g-network, #apple, #detroit, #general-motors, #hardware, #honeywell, #internet-of-things, #iphone, #mobile, #mobile-phones, #smartphone, #smartphones, #susan-prescott, #tc, #telecommunications, #ultra-wideband, #verizon, #verizon-communications, #verizon-media, #verizon-media-group

0

Apple settles with states for $113M over iPhone battery throttling

An iPhone 6 pictured from behind, showing the Apple logo.

Enlarge / An iPhone 6. (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

The attorneys general for 33 states and the District of Columbia have reached a $113 million settlement with Apple over allegations that the iPhone maker throttled performance in several generations of the device to conceal a design defect in the battery.

The states alleged that Apple throttled performance in aging iPhones without telling consumers it was doing it or why. That concealment violated states’ consumer protection laws, the attorneys general argued.

“Apple withheld information about their batteries that slowed down iPhone performance, all while passing it off as an update,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said when announcing the settlement. “Today’s settlement ensures consumers will have access to the information they need to make a well-informed decision when purchasing and using Apple products.”

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#apple, #batteries, #battery-throttling, #batterygate, #biz-it, #iphone, #lawsuits, #policy, #settlements

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Apple embraces iOS 14 home screen customization by fixing how app shortcuts work

Apple is making a change to how app shortcuts work in the next release of the iOS 14 operating system. In iOS 14.3, beta 2, the Shortcuts app will now no longer open when you tap on an app shortcut on your iPhone’s home screen. That means users who have created custom icons for their favorite apps as part of their iOS 14 home screen makeover will no longer be annoyed with this intermediate step where the Shortcuts app opens before the actual app does.

The change was first spotted by MacStories’ founder Federico Viticci.

A tweet from Apple Terminal shows the update in action. (You’ll notice a small pop-up still displays when the app opens, but the full launch of the Shortcuts app has been bypassed.)

Though only a slight tweak, the change will be welcomed by those who have customized their home screen following the release of iOS 14.

The launch of iOS 14 in September had introduced one of the biggest updates to the iPhone user’s interface in years. Users were finally able to customize their home screen to their liking by offloading less-used apps to their App Library as well as by adding customizable widgets to their home screen. Though widgets were originally designed to allow important information — like your next calendar appointment, to do’s, or today’s weather, for example — to sit directly on the home screen, they soon began to be used for much more.

Widget makers — like Widgetsmith and Color Widgets, for example — launched tools that let users design their own widgets, by picking the font, the size, the color and more. Users could even choose a particular photo to pin to their home screen using these tools.

The next step in the customization process relied on a previously available but little used trick: creating alternative app icons using Apple’s Shortcuts app. This somewhat cumbersome process was detailed and demonstrated by users on TikTok, which helped make the home screen customization craze go viral. Simply put, the process let you assign your own icon to any app using a particular function within Shortcuts.

This allowed you to create icons that matched your home screen aesthetic, which now consisted of a wallpaper, custom widgets, and only the handful of icons that earned home screen (instead of App Library) placement.

However, one of users’ biggest complaints with their custom icons is that, when tapped, the Shortcuts app would briefly open to run the process that then opens the app in question. It was an annoyance of sorts.

Apple, it seems, is addressing the Shortcuts issue. In the beta version of iOS 14.3, the app will open directly.

Now, if only Apple would allow users to hide their widgets’ labels, we’d be all set. Unfortunately, that change doesn’t seem to be in the works.

#apple, #apps, #home-screen, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-homescreen, #iphone

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Charge, please: Apple will pay $113M to settle 34-state ‘batterygate’ lawsuit

Apple has agreed to pay $113 million to 34 states and the District of Columbia to settle allegations that it broke consumer protection laws when it systematically downplayed widespread iPhone battery problems in 2016. This is in addition to the half billion the company already paid to consumers over the issue earlier this year and numerous other fines around the world.

The issue, as we’ve reported over the years, was that a new version of iOS was causing older (but not that old) iPhones to shut down unexpectedly, and that an update “fixing” this issue surreptitiously throttled the performance of those devices.

Conspiracy-minded people, which we now know are quite numerous, suspected this was a deliberate degradation of performance in order to spur the purchase of a new phone. This was not the case, but Arizona Attorney General Mike Brnovich, who led the multi-state investigation, showed that Apple was quite aware of the scale of the issue and the shortcomings of its solution.

Brnovich and his fellow AGs alleged that Apple violated various consumer protection laws, such as Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Act, by “misrepresenting and concealing information” regarding the iPhone battery problems and the irreversible negative consequences of the update it issued to fix them.

Apple agreed to a $113M settlement that admits no wrongdoing, to be split among the states however they choose. This is not a fine, like the €25M one from French authorities; if Apple had been liable for statutory penalties those might have reached much, much higher than the amount agreed to today. Arizona’s CFA provides for up to $10,000 per willful violation, and even a fraction of that would have added up very quickly given the amount of people affected.

In addition to the cash settlement, Apple must “provide truthful information to consumers about iPhone battery health, performance, and power management” in various ways. The company already made changes to this effect years ago, but in settlements like this such requirements are included so they can’t just turn around and do it again, though some companies, like Facebook, do it anyway.

#apple, #batterygate, #gadgets, #government, #hardware, #iphone, #lawsuit, #mobile

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Apple drops its cut of App Store revenues from 30% to 15% for some developers

Screenshot of App Store icon.

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

In one of the biggest changes to the App Store model ever, Apple today announced that the majority of third-party developers releasing apps and games on the company’s App Store will see a reduction in Apple’s cut of revenues from 30 percent to 15 percent. The company calls it the App Store Small Business Program, and it aims to improve the company’s standing in public perception and antitrust battles while minimally impacting its own bottom line.

The program is opt-in, and any developer whose combined revenue across all their apps was less than $1 million in the previous year (or any developers new to the App Store) can apply and be accepted. The revenue measure at play here includes not just app purchases, but also in-app purchase (IAP) and subscriptions revenue.

If during the course of the year the developer surpasses the $1 million threshold, the 30-percent rate will kick back into effect for the remainder of that year. If the developer falls below the threshold again, they’ll receive the 15-percent rate once more the following year.

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#app-store, #apple, #developers, #ios, #ipad, #ipados, #iphone, #mac, #macos, #tech

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Yeah, Apple’s M1 MacBook Pro is powerful, but it’s the battery life that will blow you away

Survival and strategy games are often played in stages. You have the early game where you’re learning the ropes, understanding systems. Then you have mid-game where you’re executing and gathering resources. The most fun part, for me, has always been the late mid-game where you’re in full control of your powers and skills and you’ve got resources to burn — where you execute on your master plan before the endgame gets hairy.

This is where Apple is in the game of power being played by the chip industry. And it’s about to be endgame for Intel. 

Apple has introduced three machines that use its new M1 system on a chip, based on over a decade’s worth of work designing its own processing units based on the ARM instructions set. These machines are capable, assured and powerful, but their greatest advancements come in the performance per watt category.

I personally tested the 13” M1 MacBook Pro and after extensive testing, it’s clear that this machine eclipses some of the most powerful Mac portables ever made in performance while simultaneously delivering 2x-3x the battery life at a minimum. 

These results are astounding, but they’re the product of that long early game that Apple has played with the A-series processors. Beginning in earnest in 2008 with the acquisition of PA Semiconductor, Apple has been working its way towards unraveling the features and capabilities of its devices from the product roadmaps of processor manufacturers.  

The M1 MacBook Pro runs smoothly, launching apps so quickly that they’re often open before your cursor leaves your dock. 

Video editing and rendering is super performant, only falling behind older machines when it leverages the GPU heavily. And even then only with powerful dedicated cards like the 5500M or VEGA II. 

Compiling projects like WebKit produce better build times than nearly any machine (hell the M1 Mac Mini beats the Mac Pro by a few seconds). And it does it while using a fraction of the power. 

This thing works like an iPad. That’s the best way I can describe it succinctly. One illustration I have been using to describe what this will feel like to a user of current MacBooks is that of chronic pain. If you’ve ever dealt with ongoing pain from a condition or injury, and then had it be alleviated by medication, therapy or surgery, you know how the sudden relief feels. You’ve been carrying the load so long you didn’t know how heavy it was. That’s what moving to this M1 MacBook feels like after using other Macs. 

Every click is more responsive. Every interaction is immediate. It feels like an iOS device in all the best ways. 

At the chip level, it also is an iOS device. Which brings us to…

iOS on M1

The iOS experience on the M1 machines is…present. That’s the kindest thing I can say about it. Apps install from the App Store and run smoothly, without incident. Benchmarks run on iOS apps show that they perform natively with no overhead. I even ran an iOS-based graphics benchmark which showed just fine. 

That, however, is where the compliments end. The current iOS app experience on an M1 machine running Big Sur is almost comical; it’s so silly. There is no default tool-tip that explains how to replicate common iOS interactions like swipe-from-edge — instead a badly formatted cheat sheet is buried in a menu. The apps launch and run in windows only. Yes, that’s right, no full-screen iOS apps at all. It’s super cool for a second to have instant native support for iOS on the Mac, but at the end of the day this is a marketing win, not a consumer experience win. 

Apple gets to say that the Mac now supports millions of iOS apps, but the fact is that the experience of using those apps on the M1 is sub-par. It will get better, I have no doubt. But the app experience on the M1 is pretty firmly in this order right now: Native M1 app>Rosetta 2 app>Catalyst app> iOS app. Provided that the Catalyst ports can be bothered to build in Mac-centric behaviors and interactions, of course. But it’s clear that iOS, though present, is clearly not where it needs to be on M1.

Rosetta 2

There is both a lot to say and not a lot to say about Rosetta 2. I’m sure we’ll get more detailed breakdowns of how Apple achieved what it has with this new emulation layer that makes x86 applications run fine on the M1 architecture. But the real nut of it is that it has managed to make a chip so powerful that it can take the approximate 26% hit (see the following charts) in raw power to translate apps and still make them run just as fast if not faster than MacBooks with Intel processors. 

It’s pretty astounding. Apple would like us to forget the original Rosetta from the PowerPC transition as much as we would all like to forget it. And I’m happy to say that this is pretty easy to do because I was unable to track any real performance hit when comparing it to older, even ‘more powerful on paper’ Macs like the 16” MacBook Pro. 

It’s just simply not a factor in most instances. And companies like Adobe and Microsoft are already hard at work bringing native M1 apps to the Mac, so the most needed productivity or creativity apps will essentially get a free performance bump of around 30% when they go native. But even now they’re just as fast. It’s a win-win situation. 

Methodology

My methodology  for my testing was pretty straightforward. I ran a battery of tests designed to push these laptops in ways that reflected both real world performance and tasks as well as synthetic benchmarks. I ran the benchmarks with the machines plugged in and then again on battery power to estimate constant performance as well as performance per watt. All tests were run multiple times with cooldown periods in between in order to try to achieve a solid baseline. 

Here are the machines I used for testing:

  • 2020 13” M1 MacBook Pro 8-core 16GB
  • 2019 16” Macbook Pro 8-core 2.4GHz 32GB w/5500M
  • 2019 13” MacBook Pro 4-core 2.8GHz 16GB
  • 2019 Mac Pro 12-Core 3.3GHz 48GB w/AMD Radeon Pro Vega II 32GB

Many of these benchmarks also include numbers from the M1 Mac mini review from Matt Burns and the M1 MacBook Air, tested by Brian Heater which you can check out here.

Compiling WebKit

Right up top I’m going to start off with the real ‘oh shit’ chart of this piece. I checked WebKit out from GitHub and ran a build on all of the machines with no parameters. This is the one deviation from the specs I mentioned above as my 13” had issues that I couldn’t figure out so I had some Internet friends help me. Also thanks to Paul Haddad of Tapbots for guidance here. 

As you can see, the M1 performs admirably well across all models, with the MacBook and Mac Mini edging out the MacBook Air. This is a pretty straightforward way to visualize the difference in performance that can result in heavy tasks that last over 20 minutes, where the MacBook Air’s lack of active fan cooling throttles back the M1 a bit. Even with that throttling, the MacBook Air still beats everything here except for the very beefy MacBook Pro. 

But, the big deal here is really this second chart. After a single build of WebKit, the M1 MacBook Pro had a massive 91% of its battery left. I tried multiple tests here and I could have easily run a full build of WebKit 8-9 times on one charge of the M1 MacBook’s battery. In comparison, I could have gotten through about 3 on the 16” and the 13” 2020 model only had one go in it. 

This insane performance per watt of power is the M1’s secret weapon. The battery performance is simply off the chart. Even with processor-bound tasks. To give you an idea, throughout this build of WebKit the P-cluster (the power cores) hit peak pretty much every cycle while the E-cluster (the efficiency cores) maintained a steady 2GHz. These things are going at it, but they’re super power efficient.

Battery Life

In addition to charting battery performance in some real world tests, I also ran a couple of dedicated battery tests. In some cases they ran so long I thought I had left it plugged in by mistake, it’s that good. 

I ran a mixed web browsing and web video playback script that hit a series of pages, waited for 30 seconds and then moved on to simulate browsing. The results return a pretty common sight in our tests, with the M1 outperforming the other MacBooks by just over 25%.

In fullscreen 4k/60 video playback, the M1 fares even better, clocking an easy 20 hours with fixed 50% brightness. On an earlier test, I left the auto-adjust on and it crossed the 24 hour mark easily. Yeah, a full day. That’s an iOS-like milestone.

The M1 MacBook Air does very well also, but its smaller battery means a less playback time at 16 hours. Both of them absolutely decimated the earlier models.

Xcode Unzip

This was another developer-centric test that was requested. Once again, CPU bound, and the M1’s blew away any other system in my test group. Faster than the 8-core 16” MacBook Pro, wildly faster than the 13” MacBook Pro and yes, 2x as fast as the 2019 Mac Pro with its 3.3GHz Xeons. 

Image Credits: TechCrunch

For a look at the power curve (and to show that there is no throttling of the MacBook Pro over this period (I never found any throttling over longer periods by the way) here’s the usage curve.

Unified Memory and Disk Speed

Much ado has been made of Apple including only 16GB of memory on these first M1 machines. The fact of it, however, is that I have been unable to push them hard enough yet to feel any effect of this due to Apple’s move to unified memory architecture. Moving RAM to the SoC means no upgradeability — you’re stuck on 16GB forever. But it also means massively faster access 

If I was a betting man I’d say that this was an intermediate step to eliminating RAM altogether. It’s possible that a future (far future, this is the play for now) version of Apple’s M-series chips could end up supplying memory to each of the various chips from a vast pool that also serves as permanent storage. For now, though, what you’ve got is a finite, but blazing fast, pool of memory shared between the CPU cores, GPU and other SoC denizens like the Secure Enclave and Neural Engine. 

While running many applications simultaneously, the M1 performed extremely well. Because this new architecture is so close, with memory being a short hop away next door rather than out over a PCIE bus, swapping between applications was zero issue. Even while tasks were run in the background — beefy, data heavy tasks — the rest of the system stayed flowing.

Even when the memory pressure tab of Activity Monitor showed that OS X was using swap space, as it did from time to time, I noticed no slowdown in performance. 

Though I wasn’t able to trip it up I would guess that you would have to throw a single, extremely large file at this thing to get it to show any amount of struggle. 

The SSD in the M1 MacBook Pro is running on a PCIE 3.0 bus, and its write and read speeds indicate that. 

 

Thunderbolt

The M1 MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt controllers, one for each port. This means that you’re going to get full PCIE 4.0 speeds out of each and that it seems very likely that Apple could include up to 4 ports in the future without much change in architecture. 

This configuration also means that you can easily power an Apple Pro Display XDR and another monitor besides. I was unable to test two Apple Pro Display XDR monitors side-by-side.

Cooling and throttling

No matter how long the tests I ran were, I was never able to ascertain any throttling of the CPU on the M1 MacBook Pro. From our testing it was evident that in longer operations (20-40 minutes on up) it was possible to see the MacBook Air pulling back a bit over time. Not so with the Macbook Pro. 

Apple says that it has designed a new ‘cooling system’ in the M1 MacBook Pro, which holds up. There is a single fan but it is noticeably quieter than either of the other fans. In fact, I was never able to get the M1 much hotter than ‘warm’ and the fan ran at speeds that were much more similar to that of a water cooled rig than the turbo engine situation in the other MacBooks. 

Even running a long, intense Cinebench 23 session could not make the M1 MacBook get loud. Over the course of the mark running all high-performance cores regularly hit 3GHz and the efficiency cores hitting 2GHz. Despite that, it continued to run very cool and very quiet in comparison to other MacBooks. It’s the stealth bomber at the Harrier party.

In that Cinebench test you can see that it doubles the multi-core performance of last year’s 13” MacBook and even beats out the single-core performance of the 16” MacBook Pro. 

I ran a couple of Final Cut Pro tests with my test suite. First was a 5 minute 4k60 timeline shot with iPhone 12 Pro using audio, transitions, titles and color grading. The M1 Macbook performed fantastic, slightly beating out the 16” MacBook Pro. 

 

 

With an 8K timeline of the same duration, the 16” MacBook Pro with its Radeon 5500M was able to really shine with FCP’s GPU acceleration. The M1 held its own though, showing 3x faster speeds than the 13” MacBook Pro with its integrated graphics. 

 

And, most impressively, the M1 MacBook Pro used extremely little power to do so. Just 17% of the battery to output an 81GB 8k render. The 13” MacBook Pro could not even finish this render on one battery charge. 

As you can see in these GFXBench charts, while the M1 MacBook Pro isn’t a powerhouse gaming laptop we still got some very surprising and impressive results in tests of the GPU when a rack of Metal tests were run on it. The 16″ MBP still has more raw power, but rendering games at retina is still very possible here.

The M1 is the future of CPU design

All too often over the years we’ve seen Mac releases hamstrung by the capabilities of the chips and chipsets that were being offered by Intel. Even as recently as the 16” MacBook Pro, Apple was stuck a generation or more behind. The writing was basically on the wall once the iPhone became such a massive hit that Apple began producing more chips than the entire rest of the computing industry combined. 

Apple has now shipped over 2 billion chips, a scale that makes Intel’s desktop business look like a luxury manufacturer. I think it was politic of Apple to not mention them by name during last week’s announcement, but it’s also clear that Intel’s days are numbered on the Mac and that their only saving grace for the rest of the industry is that Apple is incredibly unlikely to make chips for anyone else.

Years ago I wrote an article about the iPhone’s biggest flaw being that its performance per watt limited the new experiences that it was capable of delivering. People hated that piece but I was right. Apple has spent the last decade “fixing” its battery problem by continuing to carve out massive performance gains via its A-series chips all while maintaining essentially the same (or slightly better) battery life across the iPhone lineup. No miracle battery technology has appeared, so Apple went in the opposite direction, grinding away at the chip end of the stick.

What we’re seeing today is the result of Apple flipping the switch to bring all of that power efficiency to the Mac, a device with 5x the raw battery to work with. And those results are spectacular.

#amd, #app-store, #apple, #apple-inc, #big-sur, #brian-heater, #computers, #computing, #enclave, #github, #intel, #ios-11, #ipad, #iphone, #m1, #mac-os-x, #macbook, #macbook-pro, #macintosh, #matt-burns, #microsoft, #ram, #steve-jobs, #tablet-computers, #tc

0

Apple’s IDFA gets targeted in strategic EU privacy complaints

A unique device identifier that Apple assigns to each iPhone for third parties to track users for ad targeting — aka the IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) — is itself now the target of two new complaints filed by European privacy campaign not-for-profit, noyb.

The complaints, lodged with German and Spanish data protection authorities, contend that Apple’s setting of the IDFA breaches regional privacy laws on digital tracking because iOS users are not asked for their consent for the initial storage of the identifier.

noyb is also objecting to others’ being able to access the IDFA without prior consent — with one of its complainants writing that they were never asked for consent for third party access yet found several apps had shared their IDFA with Facebook (per their off-Facebook activity page).

We’ve reached out to the data protection agencies in question for comment.

While Apple isn’t the typical target for digital privacy campaigners, given it makes most of its money selling hardware and software instead of profiling users for ad targeting, as adtech giants like Facebook and Google do, its marketing rhetoric around taking special care over user privacy can look awkward when set against the existence of an Identifier for Advertisers baked into its hardware.

In the European Union there’s a specific legal dimension to this awkwardness — as existing laws require explicit consent from users to (non-essential) tracking. noyb’s complaints cite Article 5(3) of the EU’s ePrivacy Directive which mandates that users must be asked for consent to the storage of ad tracking technologies such as cookies. (And noyb argues the IDFA is just like a tracking cookie but for iPhones.)

Europe’s top court further strengthened the requirement last year when it made it clear that consent for non-essential tracking must be obtained prior to storing or accessing the trackers. The CJEU also ruled that such consent cannot be implied or assumed — such as by the use of pre-checked ‘consent’ boxes.

In a press release about the complaints, noyb’s Stefano Rossetti, a privacy lawyer, writes: “EU law protects our devices from external tracking. Tracking is only allowed if users explicitly consent to it. This very simple rule applies regardless of the tracking technology used. While Apple introduced functions in their browser to block cookies, it places similar codes in its phones, without any consent by the user. This is a clear breach of EU privacy laws.”

Apple has long controlled how third parties serving apps on its iOS platform can use the IDFA, wielding the stick of ejection from its App Store to drive their compliance with its rules.

Recently, though, it has gone further — telling advertisers this summer they will soon have to offer users an opt-out from ad tracking in a move billed as increasing privacy controls for iOS users — although Apple delayed implementation of the policy until early next year after facing anger from advertisers over the plan. But the idea is there will be a toggle in iOS 14 that users need to flip on before a third party app gets to access the IDFA to track iPhone users’ in-app activity for ad targeting.

However noyb’s complaint focuses on Apple’s setting of the IDFA in the first place — arguing that since the pseudonymised identifier constitutes private (personal) data under EU law they need to get permission before creating and storing it on their device.

“The IDFA is like a ‘digital license plate’. Every action of the user can be linked to the ‘license plate’ and used to build a rich profile about the user. Such profile can later be used to target personalised advertisements, in-app purchases, promotions etc. When compared to traditional internet tracking IDs, the IDFA is simply a ‘tracking ID in a mobile phone’ instead of a tracking ID in a browser cookie,” noyb writes in one complaint, noting that Apple’s privacy policy does not specify the legal basis it uses to “place and process” the IDFA.

noyb also argues that Apple’s planned changes to how the IDFA gets accessed — trailed as incoming in early 2021 — don’t go far enough.

“These changes seem to restrict the use of the IDFA for third parties (but not for Apple itself),” it writes. “Just like when an app requests access to the camera or microphone, the plans foresee a new dialog that asks the user if an app should be able to access the IDFA. However, the initial storage of the IDFA and Apple’s use of it will still be done without the users’ consent and therefore in breach of EU law. It is unclear when and if these changes will be implemented by the company.”

We reached out to Apple for comment on noyb’s complaints but at the time of writing an Apple spokesman said it did not have an on-the-record statement. The spokesman did tell us that Apple itself does not use unique customer identifiers for advertising.

In a separate but related recent development, last month publishers and advertisers in France filed an antitrust complaint against the iPhone maker over its plan to require opt-in consent for accessing the IDFA — with the coalition contending the move amounts to an abuse of market power.

Apple responded to the antitrust complaint in a statement that said: “With iOS 14, we’re giving users the choice whether or not they want to allow apps to track them by linking their information with data from third parties for the purpose of advertising, or sharing their information with data brokers.”

We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and support the European Union’s leadership in protecting privacy with strong laws such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation),” Apple added then.

That antitrust complaint may explain why noyb has decided to file its own strategic complaints against Apple’s IDFA. Simply put, if no tracker ID can be created — because an iOS user refuses to give consent — there’s less surface area for advertisers to try to litigate against privacy by claiming tracking is a competitive right.

“We believe that Apple violated the law before, now and after these changes,” said Rossetti in another statement. “With our complaints we want to enforce a simple principle: trackers are illegal, unless a user freely consents. The IDFA should not only be restricted, but permanently deleted. Smartphones are the most intimate device for most people and they must be tracker-free by default.”

Another interesting component of the noyb complaints is they’re being filed under the ePrivacy Directive, rather than under Europe’s (newer) General Data Protection Regulation. This means noyb is able to target them to specific EU data protection agencies, rather than having complaints funnelled back to Ireland’s DPC — under the GDPR’s one-stop-shop mechanism for handling cross-border cases.

Its hope is this route will result in swifter regulatory action. These cases are based on the ‘old’ cookie law and do not trigger the cooperation mechanism of the GDPR. In other words, we are trying to avoid endless procedures like the ones we are facing in Ireland,” added Rossetti.

#apple, #europe, #idfa, #ios, #iphone, #lawsuit, #mobile, #noyb, #privacy, #trackers

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To own an AR future, Niantic wants to build a smarter map of the world

Niantic is continuing to bet heavily on the idea that it knows where consumer computing is headed, namely towards augmented reality.

The game development startup behind Pokémon Go has some good company with companies like Apple, Facebook and Snap making similar bets, but stakes are high for the studio which hopes it can build an early advantage in foundational AR infrastructure and bring third-party developers on board, edging out efforts from companies that are quite a bit larger.

Niantic’s experiments are still being bankrolled by their 2016 first-party hit Pokémon Go, which SensorTower estimates is having its best year ever in 2020. A report from the firm suggests that the title has pulled in more than $1 billion in revenue since the start of the year, a marked increase since 2019 that might be surprising given the social effects of a global pandemic. Those revenues have allowed Niantic to be one of the more active acquirers in the AR infrastructure space, buying up small buzzy AR startups like Escher Reality, Matrix Mill and, most recently, 6D.ai.

That latest purchase in particular has acted as a signal for what the company’s next plans are for its augmented reality platform. 6D.ai was building cloud AR mapping software with companies like Airbnb among its early customers. The tech allowed users to quickly gather 3D information of a space just by holding up their phone to the world. Since the acquisition, Niantic has been integrating the tech into their developer platform and have been aiming to juice the technology with their own advances in semantic understanding so that they can not only quickly gather what the geometry of a space looks like, but also peer into the context of what the objects are that makes up that 3D mesh.

“We ultimately have this vision that for an AR experience, everything has to come together for it to be really magical,” Joel Hesch, Niantic’s Senior Director of Engineering, told TechCrunch. “You want precise location information so that you can see content in the right location and experience things together with others who are in the same location. You want the geometric information for things like occlusion or physics interactions. And you want to know about what things mean from a semantic perspective so that your characters can interact with the world in an intelligible way.”

While they’ve been building out the tech, they’ve also been pushing users to try it out. Niantic has been urging Pokémon Go players to actively capture videos of certain landmarks and destinations, visual data from which is fed back into bulking up models and improving experiences for subsequent users. As users gain access to more advanced tech like the LiDAR sensor inside the new iPhone 12 Pro, it’s likely that Niantic will gain access to more quality data themselves.

The ultimate goal of this data collection, the startup says, is to build an ever-updating 3D map of the world. Their latest tech allows them to peer into this map and distinguish what types of objects and scenes are in these scans, distinguishing buildings from water from the sky. The real question is how useful all of this data will actually prove to be in practice, compared to more high-level geographic insights like the Google Maps API .

Though the company has been talking about their Real World Platform since 2018, they’ve been slow to officially expand it as the enthusiasm behind phone-based AR has seemed to recede since Apple’s initial unveil of ARKit in 2017 prompted a groundswell of attention in the space. “We’ve primarily been focused on first party games and applications, but we are very excited about extending the platform to be something that more people can use,” Hesch says.

For Niantic and other companies that are bullish on an AR future, their best bet seem to be quietly building and hoping that their R&D will give them a years-long advantage when the technology potentially starts landing more consumer hits.

#airbnb, #api, #apple, #augmented-reality, #escher-reality, #facebook, #fed, #games, #ingress, #iphone, #matrix, #matrix-mill, #niantic, #pokemon, #pokemon-go, #snap, #software, #tc, #video-games

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Apple Magsafe Duo Charger Review: Useful, but expensive and underwhelming 

In addition to the new iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, I was able to try out Apple’s new MagSafe Duo Charger. It’s a folding dual travel charger that will hold both an iPhone using MagSafe and an Apple Watch using its more traditional magnetic charger.

Does it work? Yep, works exactly as advertised. Your iPhone will rest comfortably on the MagSafe side of the charger, aligning using the internal magnets. The Apple Watch side pops up and out to allow easy access for closed loop bands. The whole unit folds over to make it easier to travel with and will even fold over backwards if you don’t need one side or the other. It works, for sure.

But that folding is where we start to get to the iffy stuff. For context, you have to understand that this thing is $129 but feels like it should be $70. When you realize that it is a charger that doesn’t come with a power adapter, I would not be shocked if you mentally downgraded it to $40. 

The hinge and casing are coated in soft touch rubber that is sort of press molded on. While the hinge works fine, it is wobbly and immediately creases. The rubber is thick enough that it doesn’t give the impression that it will rip immediately or anything — but it’s not exactly confidence inducing. This is an inexpensive hinge solution that you would expect to see from a price conscious third-party accessory, not from Apple. 

Because the whole thing is press molded, there is also this ridge that runs around the exterior of the unit. It has a basic seal on it but you can see the layers of lamination if you look closely. It looks ripe to nick, fray, bend and get dirty. Not great for something that’s meant to throw in a bag. 

White also a bad choice there, mine’s already getting dingy and I can’t even travel anywhere right now.  

The thing charges adequately fast and the devices lock on well. The Watch charging part of it feels the most premium with its smooth little chrome hinge. The MagSafe Pad and Watch charger are Apple’s typically nicely peened aluminum, and the whole thing has a decent amount of heft to it. For what it’s worth, I was unable to test one thing which is whether it will charge an Apple Watch and an iPhone in fast charge at the same time with the 20W power adapter. I’ll try to update this review with that info.

Of course, because the iPhone side is magnetic, you do get the MagSafe benefit of being able to pick the phone up if it’s attached, but that’s more awkward when it’s a big bundle of charger vs when it’s a slim MagSafe puck on the back of your phone. Fine for a quick alarm check in your hotel maybe.

But I’m sorry to say that I find the whole thing a bit underwhelming after the hype of AirPower and its eventual demise. Apple may very well have had this thing planned the whole time that it was trying to make AirPower happen, but the arc of that story landing on this device is sad trombone indeed.

The MagSafe Duo does work, and there are a couple of engineering bright spots. But you will not feel that it’s worth the money by the time you purchase the $129 charger and the $19 20W power brick to go with it, and there are many third party accessories on the market that do this job just fine.

#airpower, #apple, #apple-inc, #apple-watch, #charger, #inductive-charging, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #magsafe, #mobile-phones, #rubber, #tc, #telecommunications

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iPhone 12 mini Review: Tiny package, big bang

Reviewing the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max at the same time has been an exercise in extremes. I noted in my earlier reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro that it was difficult to evaluate the middle of the lineup without having the extreme ends of the scale available to contrast them. 

Now that I have had a chance to examine those extremes, I have come away incredibly impressed with the job that Apple has done on the whole lineup this year. These phones are extremely well sized, highly crisp from a design perspective and generously appointed with features. Aside from a handful of small items, there are no glaring examples here of artificial cliffs on the feature side or price side that attempt to push people upwards in the lineup. Something that has been the case in some years. 

The most impressive of all of the iPhones 12 this year should be, by all rights, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It’s big screen and beautiful casing make it very attractive and it has the best camera I’ve ever seen in a phone. 

But in my opinion, the iPhone 12 mini is the most attractive phone in the lineup. The dark horse that makes a strong case for itself outside of the ‘I just want a small phone’ crowd. 

The size

The iPhone mini is 20% smaller and 18% lighter than the iPhone 12 and about half the size of the iPhone 11. It really hits a nicely sweet note for fit, and the lack of a home button means that the screen can accommodate quite a bit more content on display at once. 

Though my larger hands do feel a bit more comfortable on the iPhone 12, I am happy to report that the typing experience on the iPhone 12 mini is far superior to the 4.0” first generation SE. It even gets a leg up on the 4.7” iPhone SE introduced earlier this year because the screen is the same width but taller — letting it pull of the Tardis trick of being smaller with a bigger screen. This allows the Emoji keyboard toggle and the voice dictation button to drop out of the bottom row of keys, relaxing spacing on the return, space and number pad buttons. This additional size, especially for the spacebar, improves the typing experience measurably. The key spacing is a bit less generous than the iPhone 12, but this is a workable situation for typing.

If you look at this and an iPhone 11, because of the way that the screen is rendered, you’re going to see pretty much the same amount of content. 

The iPhone 12 mini on top of an iPhone 12 Pro Max

On top of an iPhone 12 Pro Max

Speaking of rendering, the iPhone 12 mini is scaled, which means that it is displaying at roughly .96 of its ‘native’ screen resolution of 2340×1080. In my testing, this scaling was not apparent in any way. Given that the mini has a resolution of 476ppi in a smaller screen than the iPhone 12 which clocks in at 460ppi that’s not too surprising. iPhones have been doing integral scaling for years with their magnification features so Apple has plenty of practice at this. I didn’t notice any artifacting or scrolling, and most apps looked just fine proportionally, though some developers that do not take advantage of Apple’s native frameworks that support various screen sizes may have to do a bit of tweaking here and there. 

The iPhone mini has a nice lightweight compactness to it. In order to get a read on its vibe I compared it to the iPhone 4S, which felt far denser, the iPhone 5 which felt a bit more airy and the iPhone 5C which still feels fun but cheap. It shares pedigree with all of these devices but feels far more assured and integral. The iPhone 12 design language doesn’t feel like multiple materials sandwiched together in the way that these earlier devices do. It feels grown, rather than made. 

That integral quality does wonders when it’s such a small device because every millimeter counts. Apple didn’t cheap out on the casing or design and gave it an exterior to match its very performant interior. 

The speaker and microphone grills, I’m sad to say, are asymmetric on the iPhone 12 mini. Ding.

And don’t think you miss out on anything performance related when you go to the mini. While it appears that either heat management, scaling or power management in general has made Apple tweak the processor ever so slightly, the benchmarks are close enough to make it a wash. There is zero chance you ever see any real-world difference between the iPhone 12 mini and any other iPhone 12.

For what it’s worth, the iPhone 12 mini has 4GB of RAM, same as the iPhone 12. The iPhone Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have 6GB. The biggest real world effect of RAM that I have found on iPhone is less dumping of Safari tabs in the background so if you’re a pro browser take that into account.

The iPhone 12 mini is basically identical in the photography department to the iPhone 12. You lose nothing, it’s a great camera. Nothing much to see there though so I’m not spending any time on it. You will have a world class phone camera, just no telephoto.

If you’re a camera-oriented iPhone user, your usage of the telephoto lens is probably the most crisp deciding factor between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12. The LiDAR benefits are there, and they absolutely make a big difference. But not having a telephoto at all could be an easy make-or-break for some people. 

Cribbing from my iPhone 12 Pro review here, one easy way to judge is to make a smart album in Photos on a Mac (or sort your photos using another tool that can read metadata) specifying images shot with a telephoto lens. If that’s a sizeable portion of your pics over the last year, then you’ve got a decision to make about whether you’re comfortable losing that option. 

When I did this, just about 19% of my iPhone 11 Pro shots were taken with the telephoto lens. Around 30% of those were portrait shots. So for me, 1 in every 5 images was shot with that tighter framing. It’s just something I find attractive. I like a little bit more precise of a crop and the nice amount of compression (for closer subjects) that comes with the longer focal length.

You don’t get 4k/60fps video but you still can shoot 4K/30fps Dolby Vision video in this super tiny device, which is wild. It’s more than I think any normal iPhone 12 mini user will ever need.

Apple says that the iPhone 12 mini’s battery life is better than the 4.7” iPhone SE and that bore out in my testing. I got through a day easily, with maybe a few percentage points difference between the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12. I didn’t have enough time to run a comparison against the battery king, the iPhone 11, but I doubt it would come anywhere near unseating it just from a physics perspective. This thing is small so the battery pack is small and the processor is not being majorly throttled in any way. 

 

 

I did have a chance to try the iPhone 12 mini slip case and I thought it was well made and clever, though absolutely positively not for me. I use my iPhone too much to be sliding it into a sleeve and back out again, it would be an exercise in futility. But if you are in the market for this kind of case, I hold that the Apple version shows off the company’s earned expertise in leather. It’s well trimmed, it has nice edge finishing and a clever clasp. 

It integrates Apple’s MagSafe magnet array to display a live clock on the OLED screen with a space for the ambient light sensor. The clock display is pretty clever. It has a lightly colored background that matches the leather color of the case using the same NFC trick as the silicon cases which display a color matched ring when you put them on. The clock fades in two stages over a few seconds but will turn on when the ambient light sensor knows it’s not in your pocket and the motion coprocessor in the A14 senses movement. 

So a quick lift will flip the time on and let you check it. It also still allows tap-to-wake in the clock window, showing you the color matched time. 

There’s also a hidden card slot for maybe 1 credit card or ID card inside the mouth of the case. Like I said, it’s not for me, but I can appreciate that a lot more is going on in this little case than meets the eye, and it shows off some of the sophistication that could be coming to other MagSafe accessories in the future. 

The conclusion

In my iPhone 12/12 Pro review I noted my rubric for selecting a personal device:

  • The most compact and unobtrusive shape.
  • The best camera that I can afford.

And this is the conclusion I came to at the time:

The iPhone 12 Pro is bested (theoretically) in the camera department by the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has the biggest and best sensor Apple has yet created. (But its dimensions are similarly biggest.) The iPhone 12 has been precisely cloned in a smaller version with the iPhone 12 mini. By my simple decision-making matrix, either one of those are a better choice for me than either of the models I’ve tested. If the object becomes to find the best compromise between the two, the iPhone 12 Pro is the pick.

Now that I have had both of those devices in my hand, I can say that my opinion hasn’t changed, but my definitions of the lineup have a bit. 

Because the iPhone 12 mini has no appreciable compromises in feature set from the iPhone 12, I consider these one device with two screen sizes. Yes, this may feel like a ‘duh’ moment but I didn’t want to jump to this place without actually using the mini for an extended period. Most critically, I needed to get a feel for that typing experience. 

The iPhone mini is by far the best value per dollar in Apple’s 2020 lineup. With this you get all of the power and advances of the iPhone 12, everything but the telephoto camera (and 60fps/4k video) of the iPhone 12 Pro and everything but the new sensor in the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Those additions will cost you anywhere from $300-$400 more over the life of your device if you choose to step up. 

I’ve been thinking hard about what a clear break point would be between deciding on the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini. If you are someone who really likes or ergonomically needs a smaller screen, you’re being treated to a device with no compromises in core functionality. But if you’re not a “small boi” fan then what is the deciding factor?

For me, it comes to this decision flow.

  • Is the iPhone your only camera and do you use it constantly for images? Then choose the iPhone 12 Pro. 
  • Are you an iPhone photographer that regularly prints images or edits them heavily? Choose the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
  • Are neither of those true, but it is true that the iPhone is your only mobile computing device? Go with the iPhone 12.
  • If that’s not true and you regularly carry an iPhone alongside a laptop or iPad, then go with the mini. 

Here, I even made you a handy flowchart if that kind of thing is your bag:

This is one of the best years ever for the iPhone lineup. The choices presented allow for a really comfortable picking routine based on camera and screen size with no majorly painful compromises in raw power or capability. These are full featured devices that are really well made from end to end. 

I hope that this template in sizing sticks around for a while as the powerful camera tech creeps its way down the lineup over time, invalidating at least the photography side of my flowchart above. Until then, this is still one of the better “small” iPhones Apple has ever produced, and certainly one with the least overall compromise.

#apple-inc, #ding, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-5s, #judge, #king, #mobile-computing, #mobile-phones, #oled, #ram, #speaker, #tc

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Review: The iPhone 12 Pro Max is worth its handling fee

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is probably the easiest of all of the new iPhone 12 models to review. It’s huge and it has a really, really great camera. Probably one of the best cameras ever in a smartphone if not the best. For those of you coming from an iPhone “Max” or “Plus” model already, it’s a no brainer. Get it, it’s fantastic. It’s got everything Apple has to offer this year and it’s even a bit smaller than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

For everyone else — the potential upsizers — this review has only a single question to answer: Do the improvements in camera and screen size and potentially battery life make it worth dealing with the hit in handling ergonomics from its slim but thicc build?

The answer? Yes, but only in certain conditions. Let’s get into it.

Build

I’m not going to spend a ton of time on performance or go through a feature-by-feature breakdown of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. I’ve published a review of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro here and just today published a review of the iPhone 12 mini. You can check those out for baseline chat about the whole lineup. 

Instead, I’m going to focus specifically on the differences between the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the rest of the lineup. This makes sense because Apple has returned us to a place that we haven’t been since the iPhone 8. 

Though the rest of the lineup provides a pretty smooth arc of choices, the iPhone 12 Pro Max introduces a pretty solid cliff of unique features that could pull some people up from the iPhone 12 Pro. 

The larger size sets off all of the work Apple did to make the iPhone 12 Pro look like a jewel. Gold coated steel edges and the laminated clear and frosty back with gold accent rings around the cameras and glossy logo. All of it screams posh. 

Some of you may recall that there was a period of time where there existed a market for ultra-luxury phone makers like Vertu to use fine materials to “elevate” what were usually pretty poorly implemented Symbian or Android phones at heart. Leather, gold, crystal and even diamond were used to craft veblen goods for the über rich just so they could stay ‘above’ the proles. Now, Apple’s materials science experimentation and execution level is so high that you really can’t get anything on the level of this kind of pure luxe manifestation in a piece of consumer electronics from anyone else, even a ‘hand maker’. 

To be fair, Vertu and other makers didn’t die because Apple got good at gold, they died because good software is needed to invest life into these bejeweled golems. But Apple got better at what they did faster than they could ever get good at what Apple does. 

This is a great piece of kit and as mentioned even smaller than previous Max models with the same size screen. But in my opinion, the squared off edges of this year’s aesthetic make this phone harder to hold, not easier at this size. This is essentially the opposite effect from the smaller models. For a phone this size I’d imagine everyone is going to use a case anyway so that’s probably moot, but it’s worth noting. 

My feelings on the larger iPhones, which I haven’t used as a daily driver since the iPhone 8, remain unchanged: these are two-handed devices best used as tablet or even laptop replacements. If you run your life from these phones then it makes sense that you’d want a huge screen with plenty of real-estate for a browser and a pip video chat and a generous keyboard all at once. 

The differences 

When we’re talking about whether or not to move up to this beast I think it’s helpful to have a list of everything here that is different, or you think might be but isn’t, from the iPhone 12 Pro. 

Screen. The 6.7” iPhone 12 Pro Max screen has a resolution of 2778×1284 at 458 ppi. That’s nearly identical but slightly under the iPhone 12 Pro’s 460ppi. So though this is a difference I’d count it as a wash. The screen’s size, of course, and the software support that some Apple and third-party apps to take advantage of the increased real-estate are still a factor. 

Performance. The iPhone 12 Pro Max performs exactly as you’d expect it to in the CPU and GPU department, which is to say exactly the same as the iPhone 12 Pro. It also has the same 6GB of RAM on board. Battery performance was comparable to my iPhone 11 Pro Max testing which is to say it outlasted a typical waking day though I could probably nail it in a long travel day. 

Ultra wide angle camera. Exactly the same. Improved over the iPhone 11 Pro massively due to software correction and the addition of Night Mode, but the same across the iPhone 12 Pro lineup.

Telephoto camera. This is a tricky one because it uses the same sensor as the iPhone 12 Pro, but features a new lens assembly that results in a 2.5x (65mm equivalent) zoom factor. This means that though the capture quality is the same, you can achieve tighter framing at the same distance away from your subject. As a heavy telephoto user (I shot around 30% of my pictures over the last year in the iPhone 11 Pro’s telephoto) I love this additional control and the slightly higher compression that comes with it. 

The framing control is especially nice with portraits. 

Though it comes in handy with distant subjects as well.

There is also one relatively stealthy (I cannot find this on the website but I verified that it is true) update to the telephoto. It is the only lens other than the wide angle across all of the iPhone 12 lineup to also get the new optical stabilization upgrades that allow it to make 5,000 micro-adjustments per second to stabilize an image in low light or shade. It still uses the standard lens-style stabilization, not the new sensor-shift OIS used in the wide angle lens, but it goes up 5x in the amount of adjustments it can make from the iPhone 11 Pro or even the iPhone 12 Pro. 

The results of this can be seen in this shot, a handheld indoor snap. Aside from the tighter lens crop, the additional stabilization adjustments result in a crisper shot with finer detail even though the base sensor is identical. It’s a relatively small improvement in comparison to the wide angle, but it’s worth mentioning and worth loving if you’re a heavy telephoto user.  

Wide angle camera. The bulk of the iPhone 12 Pro Max difference is right here. This is a completely new camera that pushes the boundaries of what the iPhone has been capable of shooting to this point. It’s actually made up of 3 big changes:

  • A new f1.6 aperture camera. A larger aperture is plain and simple a bigger hole that lets more light in.
  • A larger sensor with 1.7 micron pixels (bigger pixels mean better light gathering and color rendition), a larger sensor means higher quality images.
  • An all-new sensor-shift OIS system that stabilizes the sensor, not the lens. This is advantageous for a few reasons. Sensors are lighter than lenses, which lets the adjustments happen faster because it can be moved, stopped and started again with more speed and precision. 

Sensor-shift OIS systems are not new, they were actually piloted in the Minolta Dimage A1 back in 2003. But most phone cameras have used lens shift technology because it is very common, vastly cheaper and easier to implement. 

All three things work together to deliver pretty stellar imaging results. It also makes the camera bump on the iPhone 12 Pro Max a bit taller. Tall enough that there is actually an additional lip on the case meant for it made by Apple to cover it. I’d guess that this additional thickness stems directly from the wide angle lens assembly needing to be larger to accommodate the sensor and new OIS mechanism and then Apple being unwilling to let one camera stick out further than any other. 

These are Night Mode samples, but even there you can see the improvements in brightness and sharpness. Apple claims 87% more light gathering ability with this lens and in the right conditions it’s absolutely evident. Though you won’t be shooting SLR-like images in near darkness (Night Mode has its limits and tends to get pretty impressionistic when it gets very dim) you can absolutely see the pathway that Apple has to get there if it keeps making these kinds of improvements. 

Wide angle shots from the iPhone 12 Pro Max display slightly better sharpness, lower noise and better color rendition than the iPhone 12 Pro and much more improvement from the iPhone 11 Pro. In bright conditions you will be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two iPhone 12 models but if you’re on the lookout the signs are there. Better stabilization when handheld in open shade, better noise levels in dimmer areas and slightly improved detail sharpness. 

The iPhone 12 Pro already delivers impressive results year on year, but the iPhone 12 Pro Max leapfrogs it within the same generation. It’s the most impressive gain Apple’s ever had in a model year, image wise. The iPhone 8 Plus and the introduction of Apple’s vision of a blended camera array was forward looking, but even then image quality was pretty much parity with the smaller models that year. 

A very significant jump this year. Can’t wait for this camera to trickle down the lineup.

LiDAR. I haven’t really mentioned LiDAR benefits yet, but I went over them extensively in my iPhone 12 Pro review, so I’ll cite them here.

LiDAR is an iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max only feature. It enables faster auto-focus lock-in in low light scenarios as well as making Portrait Mode possible on the Wide lens in Night Mode shots. 

First, the auto-focus is insanely fast in low light. The image above is what is happening, invisibly, to enable that. The LiDAR array constantly scans the scene with an active grid of infrared light, producing depth and scene information that the camera can use to focus. 

In practice, what you’ll see is that the camera snaps to focus quickly in dark situations where you would normally find it very difficult to get a lock at all. The LiDAR-assisted low light Portrait Mode is very impressive, but it only works with the Wide lens. This means that if you are trying to capture a portrait and it’s too dark, you’ll get an on-screen prompt that asks you to zoom out. 

These Night  Mode portraits are demonstrably better looking than the standard portrait mode of the iPhone 11 because those have to be shot with the telephoto, meaning a smaller, darker aperture. They also do not have the benefit of the brighter sensor or LiDAR helping to separate the subject from the background — something that gets insanely tough to do in low light with just RGB sensors.

As a note, the LiDAR features will work great in situations under 5 meters along with Apple’s Neural Engine, to produce these low-light portraits. Out beyond that it’s not much use because of light falloff. 

Well lit Portrait Mode shots on the iPhone 12 Pro Max will still rely primarily on the information coming in through the lenses optically, rather than LiDAR. It’s simply not needed for the most part if there’s enough light.

The should I buy it workflow

I’m straight up copying a couple of sections for you now from my iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 mini reviews because the advice applies across all of these devices. Fair warning.

In my iPhone 12/12 Pro review I noted my rubric for selecting a personal device:

  • The most compact and unobtrusive shape.
  • The best camera that I can afford.

And this is the conclusion I came to at the time:

The iPhone 12 Pro is bested in the camera department by the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which has the biggest and best sensor Apple has yet created. (But its dimensions are similarly biggest.) The iPhone 12 has been precisely cloned in a smaller version with the iPhone 12 mini. By my simple decision-making matrix, either one of those are a better choice for me than either of the models I’ve tested. If the object becomes to find the best compromise between the two, the iPhone 12 Pro is the pick.

But now that I’ve had time with the Pro Max and the mini, I’ve been able to work up a little decision flow for you:

If you haven’t gathered it by now, I recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max to two kinds of people: the ones who want the absolute best camera quality on a smartphone period and those who do the bulk of their work on a phone rather than on another kind of device. There is a distinct ‘fee’ that you pay in ergonomics to move to a Max iPhone. Two hands are just plain needed for some operations and single-handed moves are precarious at best. 

Of course, if you’re already self selected into the cult of Max then you’re probably just wondering if this new one is worth a jump from the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Shortly: maybe not. It’s great but it’s not light years better unless you’re doing photography on it. Anything older though and you’re in for a treat. It’s well made, well equipped and well priced. The storage upgrades are less expensive than ever and it’s really beautiful. 

Plus, the addition of the new wide angle to the iPhone 12 Pro Max makes this the best camera system Apple has ever made and quite possibly the best sub compact camera ever produced. I know, I know, that’s a strong statement but I think it’s supportable because the iPhone is best in class when it comes to smartphones, and no camera company on the planet is doing the kind of blending and computer vision Apple is doing. Though larger sensor compact cameras still obliterate the iPhone’s ability to shoot in low light situations, the progress over time of Apple’s ML-driven blended system.

A worthy upgrade, if you can pay the handling costs.

#android, #apple, #apple-inc, #camera-phone, #consumer-electronics, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-xr, #iphone-xs, #max, #mobile-phones, #ram, #smartphone, #smartphones, #symbian, #tc

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You can now order the tiny iPhone 12 mini or the gigantic iPhone 12 Pro Max

A woman gives a presentation in front of a giant video projector displaying two smartphones.

Enlarge / Apple introduces the iPhone 12 mini during a virtual event in October. (credit: Apple)

Starting today at 8am EST, Apple began taking preorders for the two new iPhone models it didn’t release earlier: the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. At least the first orders placed today will begin arriving at consumers’ shipping addresses on November 13—next Friday.

The iPhone 12 mini is in most respects identical to the already-launched iPhone 12, except that it has a smaller, 5.4-inch screen instead of the iPhone 12’s 6.1-inch display. Because the iPhone 12 mini has very small bezels, the device’s footprint is actually slightly smaller than that of the current iPhone SE, which shares its chassis with the previously released iPhone 8.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max has additional distinctions from the iPhone 12 Pro besides screen real estate (the Max measures in at 6.7 inches to the standard Pro’s 6.1 inches). Namely, its rear camera specs differ, promising superior photo quality.

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#apple, #apple-store, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-mini, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-12-pro-max, #pre-orders, #preorders, #smartphones, #tech

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A better look at Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone Mini

The various iterations of the new iPhone were announced 800 million years ago. Actually, wait, I just double checked — it was only about two or so weeks ago, but it turns out that time has no meaning anymore. Another cursory glance at my calendar tells me that, while the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro were released in late-October, not long after being announced, the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone Mini, meanwhile, won’t be available for sale for another week or so.

You can check out Matthew’s substantial review of those middle of the line devices here. And while we wait for the low and high end of the line to arrive, I spent a little time with the devices and snapped a couple of photos with the products, which you can check out below.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Again, we can talk more in-depth write-ups at some point in the future, likely, but for now a smattering of thoughts and images. Consider this a kind of make up for the sorts of hands-ons with products we used to do at Apple’s in-person events, back in the before times, when Apple had in-person events.

All of the four sizes were present and accounted for. As someone who’s been testing a fair number of large Android devices in recent months, the 6.7-inch Pro Max doesn’t appear exceptionally large. As you can see in that top photo, however, the difference between it and the Mini is pretty pronounced.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

It’s amazing how quickly our perceptions of screen sizes have shifted over the years, that a handset sporting a screen two inches larger than the original iPhone is now considered “mini” by a fairly considerable margin. Heck, even the 6-inch Pixel 5 I’ve been using off and on feels pretty small by today’s standards.

The standard iPhone 12 and 12 Pro’s 6.1-inch display seem like a pretty good sweet spot for many or most users. Many of the key specs are surprisingly consistent, given the $400 price difference between the high and low end. All sport 5G connectivity, the new magnetic MagSafe connector, OLED displays and an A14 chip.

Beyond size, storage and battery capacity, the big differentiator are the cameras. No huge surprise there, as that continues to be where most smartphone manufacturers are making their biggest strides. Here’s a chart we made to break down those distinctions:

The iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini hit retail November 13.

#5g, #apple, #hardware, #iphone, #iphone-12, #mobile

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iOS 14.2 is here with new emoji and wallpapers, long list of bug fixes

A blue smartphone sits face down on a table.

Enlarge / The iPhone 12, which runs iOS 14, and now (should you choose to update) iOS 14.2. (credit: Samuel Axon)

Today, Apple began rolling out iOS 14.2, iPadOS 14.2, tvOS 14.2, and watchOS 7.1 for supported devices. The last update to iOS and iPadOS was iOS 14.1 on October 22.

The new versions of iOS and iPadOS add 100 new emoji, which include “animals, food, faces, household objects, musical instruments, gender-inclusive emoji, and more,” according to the release notes. iPhones and iPads got a new Shazam button in the control center. Shazam, which Apple acquired just over two years ago, identifies songs algorithmically by listening to them with the microphones in the devices. Before the acquisition, it was also used as a sort of audio QR code for marketing activations during TV commercials and the like.

There are also some AirPods-related changes, including variable battery charging to preserve battery longevity (something Apple has already implemented in other devices) and notifications that let you know when your volume level is high enough to cause hearing damage. Apple promised this with iOS 14 when it initially launched.

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#apple, #emoji, #homepod, #ios, #ios-14, #ios-14-2, #ipad, #ipados, #ipados-14, #ipados-14-2, #iphone, #tech, #tvos, #tvos-14, #tvos-14-2, #watchos, #watchos-7, #watchos-7-1

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Hands-on with Mophie’s new modular smartphone battery case

There was some confusion when the Juice Pack Connect was announced last week. I admit I was a bit confused, too. It was, no doubt, the proximity to Apple’s iPhone 12 launch that lead many to (understandably) assume that the new take on Mophie’s case is based on the handset’s new MagSafe tech.

While it seems likely that some future version of the accessory will sport that functionality, truth is there are two primary technologies at the heart of the newer, more modular battery pack: wireless charging and good old-fashioned adhesive. That means, among other things, that the system effectively works with any handset that supports Qi wireless charging.

In fact, the system is actually pretty bare bones by design. There’s not even a case included in the box. You’ve got to supply your own. Instead, the system ships with the battery pack, a grip/stand and, helpfully, two adapters. That last bit is nice in case you need a do-over or plan sharing the battery with someone else.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

Installation is pretty simple. There’s even a little cardboard guide to insure you center it properly, à la the sort of frame you’d get to install a screen protector. You can install it directly onto the back of the phone, as well, but I prefer to stay noncommittal with my accessories if possible. That said, you’ll need to live with the little adapter nub on the rear of your device when other accessories aren’t attached.

The accessories slide onto the anchor from the side. The battery pack is easily the nicest-looking part of the whole rig — and the one that most closely retains the design language of the original Juice Packs. The ring/stand is a bit cheaper-feeling and feels like a bit of an afterthought to occupy the system when not charging. One of the big trade-offs is that the more compact battery design means a smaller capacity; 5,000mAh isn’t bad, but you can find a higher capacity case for cheaper.

Image Credits: Brian Heater

The other trade-off you probably already know, which is that wireless charging is slower than the wired kind. For that reason, the system is better adapted to keeping your device alive for long stretches, rather than fast charging. That said, if you’re really in a pinch and have the right cables handy, you can charge your phone up faster via the USB-C port (which is also used to top off the battery).

The Connect Stand is serviceable. It serves better as a stand than a grip. It would be useful if the company offered something more like a Pop Socket for a more solid grip. That’s the nice thing about modularity, though — they can always add more accessories. At $80, it’s not cheap, but, then Mophie products never really are.

#apple, #battery-case, #gadgets, #hardware, #iphone, #juice-pack, #mophie, #samsung

0

iPhones can now tell blind users where and how far away people are

Apple has packed an interesting new accessibility feature into the latest beta of iOS: a system that detects the presence of and distance to people in the view of the iPhone’s camera, so blind users can social distance effectively, among many other things.

The feature emerged from Apple’s ARKit, for which the company developed “people occlusion,” which detects people’s shapes and lets virtual items pass in front of and behind them. The accessibility team realized that this, combined with the accurate distance measurements provided by the lidar units on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, could be an extremely useful tool for anyone with a visual impairment.

Of course during the pandemic one immediately thinks of the idea of keeping six feet away from other people. But knowing where others are and how far away is a basic visual task that we use all the time to plan where we walk, which line we get in at the store, whether to cross the street, and so on.

The new feature, which will be part of the Magnifier app, uses the lidar and wide-angle camera of the Pro and Pro Max, giving feedback to the user in a variety of ways.

The lidar in the iPhone 12 Pro shows up in this infrared video. Each dot reports back the precise distance of what it reflects off of.

First, it tells the user whether there are people in view at all. If someone is there, it will then say how far away the closest person is in feet or meters, updating regularly as they approach or move further away. The sound corresponds in stereo to the direction the person is in the camera’s view.

Second, it allows the user to set tones corresponding to certain distances. For example, if they set the distance at six feet, they’ll hear one tone if a person is more than six feet away, another if they’re inside that range. After all, not everyone wants a constant feed of exact distances if all they care about is staying two paces away.

The third feature, perhaps extra useful for folks who have both visual and hearing impairments, is a haptic pulse that goes faster as a person gets closer.

Last is a visual feature for people who need a little help discerning the world around them, an arrow that points to the detected person on the screen. Blindness is a spectrum, after all, and any number of vision problems could make a person want a bit of help in that regard.

The system requires a decent image on the wide-angle camera, so it won’t work in pitch darkness. And while the restriction of the feature to the high end of the iPhone line reduces the reach somewhat, the constantly increasing utility of such a device as a sort of vision prosthetic likely makes the investment in the hardware more palatable to people who need it.

This is far from the first tool like this — many phones and dedicated devices have features for finding objects and people, but it’s not often that it comes baked in as a standard feature.

People detection should be available to iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max running the iOS 14.2 release candidate that was just made available today. Details will presumably appear soon on Apple’s dedicated iPhone accessibility site.

#accessibility, #apple, #artificial-intelligence, #blindness, #gadgets, #ios, #ios-14, #iphone, #iphone-12-pro, #iphone-12-pro-max, #mobile, #tc

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Q3 earnings find Apple and Google looking to the future for hardware rebounds

“5G is a once-in-a-decade kind of opportunity,” Tim Cook told the media during the Q&A portion of Apple’s Q3 earnings call. “And we could not be more excited to hit the market exactly when we did.”

The truth of the matter is its timing was a mixed bag. Apple was, by some accounts, late to 5G. By the time the company finally announced that it was adding the technology across its lineup of iPhone 12 variants, much of its competition had already beat the company to the punch. Of course, that’s not a huge surprise. Apple’s strategy is rarely a rush to be first.

5G networks are only really starting to come into their own now. Even today, there are still wide swaths of users who will have to default to an LTE connection the majority of the time they use their handsets. The arrival of 5G on the iPhone was really as much about future-proofing this year’s models as anything. Consumers are holding onto phones longer, and in the three or four years before it’s time for another upgrade, the 5G maps will look very different.

Clearly, the new iPhone didn’t hit the market exactly when Apple had hoped; the pandemic saw to that. Manufacturing bottlenecks in Asia delayed the iPhone 12’s launch by a month. That’s going to have an impact on the bottom line of your quarterly earnings. The company saw a 20% drop for the quarter, year-over-year. That’s hugely significant, causing the company’s stock to drop more than 4% in extended trading.

Apple’s diverse portfolio helped curb some of those revenue slides. While the pandemic has generally had a profound impact on consumer spending on “non-essentials,” changing where and how we work has helped bolster Mac and iPad sales, which were up 28 and 46% respectively, year-over-year. It wasn’t enough to completely stop the iPhone stumble, but it certainly brings the importance of a diverse hardware portfolio into sharp relief.

China was a big issue for the company this time around — and the lack of a new, 5G-enabled iPhone was a big contributor. In greater China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong), the company saw a 28% drop in sales. There are a number of reasons to be hopeful about iPhone sales in Q4, however.

As I noted this morning, smartphone shipments were down almost across the board in China for Q3, per new figures from Canalys. Much of that can be chalked up to Huawei’s ongoing issues with the U.S. government. Long the dominant manufacturer in mainland China, the company has been hamstrung by, among other things, a ban on access to Android and other U.S.-made technologies. Apple’s numbers remained relatively steady compared to the competition and Huawei’s issues could present a big hole in the market. With 5G on its side, this next quarter could prove a banner year for the company.

#5g, #alphabet, #amazon, #apple, #earnings, #google, #hardware, #iphone, #mobile, #pixel

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Corsair acquires EpocCam, a webcam app for iPhone

Corsair Gaming today announced that it has acquired EpocCam, the software developer behind the iOS software of the same name. It’s easy to see why the gaming company would be interested in such an acquisition in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has lead to a worldwide spike in remote working — and, as a result, more people are teleconferencing than ever.

The EpocCam app is designed specifically to turn iPads and iPhones into a webcam for both macOS and Windows PCs. The software works across a number of popular teleconferencing applications, including Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams — which is more than I can say for the beta webcam software I’m currently running.

The deal brings the EpocCam brand under Corsair’s Elgato umbrella. Corsair purchased the company’s gaming brand back in mid-2018. That deal, in turn, found the rest of Elgato rebranding its Eve System — a company expressly focused on smart home and home automation.

While most laptops and desktops are fairly lacking in the built-in webcam department, iPhones have taken great strides. So it makes sense for users to take advantage of that imaging power. Of course, with the company now owned by a gaming brand, it’s clear that video game live-streaming is going to be a big part of the value play here.

The app has already been relaunched under the Elgato brand, including deeper integration with its existing products. The company promises that further updates are “already in development.”

#apps, #corsair, #elgato, #epoccam, #iphone

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Apple earnings show strong iPad and Mac sales can’t make up for the iPhone

An older man in a white polo shirt flashes a peace sign while walking outdoors.

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook. (credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Apple announced its fourth-quarter earnings today after the bell, and it was something of a strange quarter because, unlike some previous years (including last year), this quarter’s numbers did not include an iPhone launch. The iPhone 12’s various models ship in October and November instead of September this year.

CEO Tim Cook proudly announced double-digit YOY growth in all product categories besides iPhone on the call, but the iPhone is important: Apple’s total revenue was up only 1 percent year-over-year, with iPhone revenue down almost 21 percent.

While the iPhone didn’t help push up the bottom line, Apple did launch other products during the period, including the redesigned iPad Air and two Apple Watches: the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE. iPad revenue was up a substantial 46 percent YOY (it totaled $6.8 billion), and Mac revenue was also strong at $9 billion, or 28 percent more than the same quarter last year.

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#apple, #apple-tv, #business, #earnings, #ipad-air, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-pro, #stocks, #tech, #ted-lasso, #tim-cook

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Apple One services subscription bundles start launching tomorrow

Apple is launching its Apple One services bundle tomorrow, though the company’s workout service Fitness+ isn’t quite ready yet.

On an earnings call today, CEO Tim Cook revealed tomorrow’s rollout and called the service the “easiest way for users to enjoy Apple services.” In a conversation with Bloomberg, Apple CFO Luca Maestri revealed the launch timing for Fitness+ as well. The company also detailed that it has 585 million total paid services subscriptions and expects to reach 600 million before the end of the 2020 calendar year.

The subscription bundle is designed around bringing more users into more Apple Services. It’s a big play to get subscribers to switch from Spotify to Apple Music as that is likely the crown jewel of the offering.

The company’s $14.99 per month individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage. Apple also sells $19.99 family plans that bump up the storage to 200GB and is planning to debut a “premiere” plan for $29.99 that includes Fitness+ and Apple News+.

Apple’s Services division is growing in importance to the company’s bottom line, with the group reaching an all-time-high in revenue and reaching past half of the quarter’s iPhone revenues. You can read more on their earnings release below.

#apple, #apple-arcade, #apple-inc, #apple-music, #apple-news, #apple-one, #apple-services, #apple-tv, #ceo, #cfo, #computing, #e-commerce, #icloud, #iphone, #luca-maestri, #spotify, #tc, #tim-cook

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Why Apple’s Q4 earnings look different this year

On Thursday, Apple delivered a Q4 earnings beat but the stock slid anyway as wary investors saw worse than expected iPhone revenues. At the time of writing, stock was down around 5% in after-hours trading.

It was a mild beat, with Apple posting $64.7 billion compared to the $63.7 billion Wall Street was expecting and $0.73 earnings per share versus an estimated $0.70. While Apple showcased all-time-highs in Services and Mac divisions, iPhone revenues were down 20 percent year-over-year.

Generally, Apple’s Q4 earnings feature a bit of a bump from the first few days of sales of the new iPhones, but with Apple running a few weeks behind this year, their launches have missed the window to be included on Q4 and will instead all be bundled into the Q1 holiday quarter.

The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro dropped on September 20 of last year, while this year’s iPhone 12 was released more than a month later on October 23, while the iPhone 12 Pro has still yet to launch but will be available November 13.

The bigger question is how this delay might affect the company’s entire product release schedule. Will the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro see a shorter life cycle than previous models or will October/November be the new launch timeline for the company’s smartphones going forward?

Digging into the other numbers beyond iPhone, Apple showcased $9.03 billion in Mac revenue for Q4, $6.80 billion in iPad, $7.87 in Wearables etc. and $14.55 billion in Services revenue. Interestingly, this is surely the closest Apple’s Services revenues have gotten to iPhone sales to date, with revenues there reaching just over one-half of overall iPhone sales for Q4. In 2019, the ratio was closer to 1:3.

Next quarter is likely to be big revenue-wise, but investors don’t seem to have been wooed with Q4.

#apple, #apple-inc, #forward, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-8, #iphone-se, #mobile-phones, #smartphone, #smartphones, #tc

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iPhone 12 and 12 Pro double review: Playing Apple’s greatest hits

The iPhone 12 is like an album of Apple’s greatest iPhone hits. It combines the well-regarded design aesthetic of the iPhone 5, the promised generational leap in wireless technology of the iPhone 3G, and the dense camera system and large OLED screen of more modern flagships.

The iPhone 12 wraps up so many attractive features, in fact, that it makes it hard to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro to any but a very small number of people. There’s just not much to differentiate them, and that’s a good thing. The cheaper iPhone 12 is more than good enough for just about anyone.

That’s where things stand today, anyway. But it will all change again in a few weeks. The iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are the middle children between the two models that will later generate the most buzz, I think—the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

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#apple, #features, #gadgetology, #ios, #iphone, #iphone-12, #iphone-12-pro, #phone, #smartphone, #tech

0

The Level Bolt and Level Touch smart locks are a cut above the competition in design and usability

Level is one of the newer players in the smart lock space, but with a design pedigree that includes a lot of former Apple employees, the company’s already attracting a lot of praise for its industrial design. I tested out both of its current offerings, the Level Bolt and the Level Touch, and found that they’re well-designed, user-friendly smart locks that are a cut above the competition when it comes to aesthetics and feature set.

The basics

Level’s debut product, the $229 Level Bolt, works with existing deadbolts and just replaces the insides with a connected locking mechanism that you can control from your smartphone via the Level app. The newer $329 Level Touch is a full deadbolt replacement, include the faceplates, but unlike most other smart locks on the market it looks like a standard deadbolt from the outside – albeit a very nicely designed one. The Level Touch is available in four different finishes, including satin nickel, satin chrome, and polished brass and matte black (the latter two are listed as ‘coming soon’)

Image Credits: Level

The Bolt is similar in concept to other smart lock products like the August lock, in that you use it with your existing deadbolt, which means no need to replace keys. It also leaves the thumb turn intact, however, meaning from all outward appearance it isn’t at all obvious that you have a smart lock at all. Installing it is relatively simple, and basically amounts to a lock mechanism transplant. Level includes different cam bar adapters that fit the vast majority of available deadlocks, so it should be something most homeowners can do in just a few minutes. The Bolt offers access sharing via the app, auto lock when you depart, Auto Unlock when you arrive, an activity log, temporary passes, and a built-in audio chime. It also works with Apple’s HomeKit for remote control, voice control via Siri, automation and push notifications.

Image Credits: Level

The Level Touch takes everything that’s great about the Bolt, and adds in some super smart additional features like a capacitive external deadbolt housing, which allows an amazing touch-to-lock/touch-to-unlock feature, and NFC that allows you to use programmable NFC cards and stickers to issue revokable passes to unlock your door. On top of all that, it’s probably the most attractive deadbolt I’ve ever owned or used, which is saying a lot in a field of smart locks where most offerings have unsightly large keypads or large battery compartments.

Design and features

The Level Bolt’s design is clever in its ability to be completely invisible when in use. The deadbolt itself is the battery housing, holding one lithium CR123A battery (included in the box, offers over a year’s worth of use). Installing the Bolt was as easy as unscrewing my existing deadbolt, removing the internal deadbolt mechanism, picking out the right adapter for the cam bar, and then inserting it into my door’s deadbolt lock and screwing back together the external face plates. It took under 10 minutes, start to finish.

Setting up the lock was also simple. You just download the app and follow the instructions, and you’ll be able to control your app in just minutes, too. Using the app, you set up a home profile for your lock or locks, and you can also invite others in your household to share access (they’ll have to install the app and get a profile to do so). You can also set up HomeKit if you have an Apple device and a HomeKit hub (this could be an Apple TV, or an iPad) and instantly unlock a lot of features including remote unlocking and locking control when you’re away from home.

Image Credits: Level

Even without HomeKit, you can set up Level to automatically lock once you leave a certain geofenced area around your home, and to automatically unlock once you return within that perimeter. It’s a fantastic convenience feature that works great and offers tons of benefits when it comes to things like coming home with armfuls of groceries, or large packages.

With the Level Touch, you get all of the above, plus a feature I’ve come to find indispensable: touch control. The metal exterior of the Level Touch’s outside cylinder has capacitive touch sensors, which means that like your iPhone’s screen, it can detect when it’s touched by a finger or skin. You can activate a touch-to-lock feature which will allow it to lock whenever people leave and hold their finger to the deadbolt cover, and you can even set it to unlock when it detects a touch combined with immediate proximity of your phone for identity verification purposes.

To me, this is even more useful than auto-lock/auto-unlock, and yet still much more convenient than fumbling with keys or even using the app to manually lock/unlock. It’s one of Level Touch’s unique advantages, and it’s a big one.

As for installation of the Level Touch, it’s also very easy – no more difficult than installing any deadbolt you might buy at the hardware store. Like the Bolt, it uses a single CR123A battery loaded right into the deadbolt itself that should give you enough power for over a year of use.

Bottom line

Smart locks have become a lot more prevalent over the course of the past few years, but they also haven’t really progressed much in terms of functionality or design. Level has upended all that, bringing the best of convenience features and miniaturized hardware technology to smart, modern design that leapfrogs the competition.

#apple, #doors, #gadgets, #hardware, #homekit, #ios, #ipad, #iphone, #lock, #review, #reviews, #security, #smart-lock, #smartphone, #tc, #unikey

0

Apple search crawler activity could signal a Google competitor, or a bid to make Siri a one-stop-shop

Encouraged by the spate of antitrust activity brewing in both the Justice Department and on Capitol Hill, Apple may be developing a search competitor to Google, according to a report in the Financial Times.

That would be a move ripe with irony as the push for an end to anti-competitive practices is seemingly creating greater competition among the largest companies which already dominate the technology industry rather than between those established companies and more nimble upstarts.

Signs of Apple’s resurgent interest search technologies can be found in both a subtle but significant change to the latest version of the iOS 14 iPhone operating system and increasing activity from Apple’s spidering tools that are used to scour the web and refine search functionality, the Financial Times reported.

Apple is now showing its own search results and linking directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen in iOS 14. For context, this is a behavior that has been known for a while as people have seen the feature pop up in beta versions of iOS. And the search volume being up on Apple’s crawler is something that Jon Henshaw of Coywolf had noted back in August.

Sources cited by the Financial Times said that the change marked a significant step-change in Apple’s in-house search development and could be the basis for a broader push into search.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company certainly has the expertise. A little less than three years ago it nabbed Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea in what was widely seen as an attempt to shore up Apple’s foundations in artificial intelligence and voice search via Siri. Because of the way that Apple is organized internally, it’s unlikely that Giannandrea will be devoting full-time effort to both a potential “search product” and Siri . But it’s within the realm of possibility that he could be lending his expertise to a team working on a separate feature.

Any development of a search tool would be a third way for Apple, which now uses Google as its default search service thanks to a lucrative contract between the two (one that’s also at the heart of a Justice Department inquiry into Google’s purported anti-competitive activities around search). The only other major search services on the market rely on Microsoft’s Bing to power their results.

While the signs do point to an actual uptick in activity, there could be an explanation for Apple’s crawler activity that’s less heavy on corporate skunkworks skulduggery and more in line with goals that Apple’s stated pretty clearly.

While the story about Apple getting into direct competition with Google on search makes for a great headline, the uptick in activity could be explained equally as rationally by Siri getting more search queries and being more of an interlocutor between Apple and search services like Google or Microsoft’s Bing. This disintermediation is something that Google began years ago and has even modified and expanded over the years to combat the same kind of behavior from Siri.

Making Siri a one-stop-shop could inoculate Apple in the scenario where they are forced to enable a search provider choice in the iOS onboarding flow by regulation. It won’t do anything to help Google though, who pays Apple billions because iOS users are worth way more than any other mobile web users to its business. Google, for its part, says that when people have a choice they still pick Google anyway. Perhaps another reason why making Siri the search equivalent of an overtalker is the strong play for Apple.

TechCrunch has reached out to Apple for comment and will update when we hear back.

 

 

#apple, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #california, #computing, #cupertino, #department-of-justice, #google, #google-search, #google-voice-search, #iphone, #itunes, #john-giannandrea, #messages, #microsoft-bing, #operating-system, #search-results, #siri, #software, #tc, #techcrunch, #the-financial-times, #voice-search