Apple Archive

The paywalled garden: iOS is adware

Steve Streza, developer and all-around good guy, writing about Apple turning iOS into adware: Over the years, Apple has built up a portfolio of services and add-ons that you pay for. Starting with AppleCare extended warranties and iCloud data subscriptions, they expanded to Apple Music a few years ago, only to dramatically ramp up their offerings last year with TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card. Their services business, taken as a whole, is quickly becoming massive; Apple reported $12.7 billion in Q1 2020 alone, nearly a sixth of its already gigantic quarterly revenue. All that money comes from the wallets of 480 million subscribers, and their goal is to grow that number to 600 million this year. But to do that, Apple has resorted to insidious tactics to get those people: ads. Lots and lots of ads, on devices that you pay for. iOS 13 has an abundance of ads from Apple marketing Apple services, from the moment you set it up and all throughout the experience. These ads cannot be hidden through the iOS content blocker extension system. Some can be dismissed or hidden, but most cannot, and are purposefully designed into core apps like Music and the App Store. There’s a term to describe software that has lots of unremovable ads: adware, which what iOS has sadly become. Apple, decidedly not an ad company, puts tons of ads into iOS, while Google, decidedly very much an ad company, puts basically zero ads in Android. Yet, this is something we rarely talk about because for some reason, we seem to just accept platform owners treating users like garbage and negatively impacting the user experience to try and get them to subscribe to “services”. Apple is undertaking a massive push to get iOS users to subscribe to more and more services, and the company has clearly shown it has no qualms about degrading the user experience to get there. And of course, while you can block every other company’s ads on iOS – you can’t block Apple’s ads, since the rules Apple sets for third parties don’t apply to Apple itself, and you can’t change your default applications either. Now that you’re locked into their ecosystem, Apple is going to try every sleazy tactic under the sun to try and get you to subscribe to their services. Have fun.

Apple store workers should be paid for time waiting to be searched, court rules

Apple has $209 billion in cash on hand. California law requires Apple Inc. to pay its workers for being searched before they leave retail stores, the California Supreme Court decided unanimously Thursday. A group of Apple workers filed a class-action lawsuit against the tech giant, charging they were required to submit to searches before leaving the stores but were not compensated for the time those searches required. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is now pending, asked the California Supreme Court to clarify whether state law requires compensation. In a decision written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the court said an industrial wage order defines hours worked as “the time during which an employee is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the employee is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so.” I repeat, Apple has $209 billion in cash on hand. Since it’s really hard to imagine how much even just one billion dollars really is, this demonstration should give you a very good idea. One billion dollars is way, way, way more than you think it is. Apple has 209 times that in cash on hand.

Apple’s independent repair program is invasive to shops and their customers, contract shows

Recently, Motherboard obtained a copy of the contract businesses are required to sign before being admitted to Apple’s IRP Program. The contract, which has not previously been made public, sheds new light on a program Apple initially touted as increasing access to repair but has been remarkably silent on ever since. It contains terms that lawyers and repair advocates described as “onerous” and “crazy”; terms that could give Apple significant control over businesses that choose to participate. Concerningly, the contract is also invasive from a consumer privacy standpoint. In order to join the program, the contract states independent repair shops must agree to unannounced audits and inspections by Apple, which are intended, at least in part, to search for and identify the use of “prohibited” repair parts, which Apple can impose fines for. If they leave the program, Apple reserves the right to continue inspecting repair shops for up to five years after a repair shop leaves the program. Apple also requires repair shops in the program to share information about their customers at Apple’s request, including names, phone numbers, and home addresses. Nobody should be surprised by this. The only reason Apple announced this half-hearted program in the first place is to try and take the wind out of the sails of right to repair legislation, which is being proposed all over the US (and beyond), and the terms of this contract only further confirm that. As for the privacy aspect and Apple wanting all that very private user information – if you still think Apple cares about privacy, you really haven’t been paying attention.

The failure of the iPad

The iPad is now ten years old, and people still have to write articles about how, no, really, you can do real work on an iPad! In 1994, ten years after the Mac was originally introduced, I got my first computer, a Performa 450. Nobody wrote any articles about how, actually, real work on a Mac is possible. Everybody who had a Mac used it for real work. There was no need to write articles about how you could use Macs for real work, because for Macs, it was – and still is – actually true. There are countless people who work on iPads, but the central thread in almost all of the articles and stories about these people is that they involve countless, extensive compromises to make it work – whether that’s resorting to a PC for a lot of tasks, or using complex, hacky Shortcuts to accomplish things any other computer can do without you even thinking about it. I see no reason an iPad can’t be a full, proper computer that can replace many a laptop and desktop, but Apple will need to put some serious weight behind iOS as a platform. The hardware is more than capable – it’s the software that holds it back. The fact we’re ten years into this thing and there’s still no Xcode for iPad tells you all you need to know about how Apple sees the iPad.

Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained

Apple Inc dropped plans to let iPhone users fully encrypt backups of their devices in the company’s iCloud service after the FBI complained that the move would harm investigations, six sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. The tech giant’s reversal, about two years ago, has not previously been reported. It shows how much Apple has been willing to help U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, despite taking a harder line in high-profile legal disputes with the government and casting itself as a defender of its customers’ information. This once again just goes to show Apple’s privacy chest-thumping is nothing but marketing and grandstanding. This is effectively a backdoor for government agencies to use, and if the “good guys” can use it, so can the bad guys. On top of that, this neatly ties into Apple handing over iCloud data to the Chinese government – data that is most certainly being used by the Chinese regime in, among other things, its genocide of the Uyghurs. I prefer a company that’s open and honest about what data it collects and uses and why – Google – over a company that purposefully tries to muddy the waters through marketing and grandstanding – Apple. The devil you know and all that.

The Mac “Pro”

Yesterday saw the release of the new Mac Pro, finally replacing the trash can and moving back to a tower-based design. It has had a somewhat mixed response, with many people taking issue with the high prices, ranging from $6000 to over $52000. There have been those seeking to defend the prices and write off the complaints, but I don’t believe these arguments take into account the larger picture. All in all, the Mac Pro is a powerful machine. For certain workflows it is even worth the cost. But the problem is that Apple has priced out a huge swathe of the professional market by making its lower end Mac Pros prohibitively expensive for what is frankly underwhelming hardware. The base model Mac Pro is, indeed, a terrible purchase, and some of the upgrade options are downright laughable – to get anything even remotely resembling a decent GPU, you’re asked to spend $2400, which is insane. Anybody who isn’t spending their boss’ money shouldn’t buy this machine. That being said – the interior design and layout of the new Mac Pro is beautiful. I can’t believe that we’re still dealing with kilometers of fiddly cabling and ugly, gamery ATX motherboards that have become ever more cumbersome to deal with, while Apple can design and build such a neat, clean, and tidy system.

Apple’s Activation Lock will make it very difficult to refurbish Macs

Every month, thousands of perfectly good iPhones are shredded instead of being put into the hands of people who could really use them. Why? Two words: Activation Lock. And Macs are its next victim. “We receive four to six thousand locked iPhones per month,” laments Peter Schindler, founder and owner of The Wireless Alliance, a Colorado-based electronics recycler and refurbisher. Those iPhones, which could easily be refurbished and put back into circulation, “have to get parted out or scrapped,” all because of this anti-theft feature. With the release of macOS Catalina earlier this fall, any Mac that’s equipped with Apple’s new T2 security chip now comes with Activation Lock—meaning we’re about to see a lot of otherwise usable Macs heading to shredders, too. While I understand the need for security features such as these – who doesn’t – it should definitely be possible to save these devices from the shredder. It’s such a waste of perfectly good hardware that could make a lot of less-privileged people around the world a whole lot happier.

A look at PureDarwin: an OS based on the open source core of macOS

Overall I am impressed with the PureDarwin project and have enjoyed conducting my research around it. They have achieved a lot, considering that the project is funded by community donations and run by volunteers. It definitely isn’t a production-ready system, but for developers it has the potential to come in very useful. The PureDarwin team have been able to successfully install MacPorts in PureDarwin, allowing many software packages such as Apache HTTPd, Git and even XFCE to be installed. Unfortunately this is non-trivial to achieve without strong networking support, but it shows the potential use cases of PureDarwin. The problem with Darwin is that you’re always confined to Apple’s whim; the company has a history of delaying Darwin code dumps after new macOS releases for a long time, not including any ARM/iOS code for almost a decade, and the releases themselves don’t really have a commit history and comments – they’re just big code dumps. I guess Darwin is interesting from an enthusiasts’ perspective, but as far as Apple goes, they don’t really seem to care all that much about it, other than scoring the occasional good press.

Inside Apple’s iPhone software shakeup after buggy iOS 13 debut

Apple Inc. is overhauling how it tests software after a swarm of bugs marred the latest iPhone and iPad operating systems, according to people familiar with the shift. Software chief Craig Federighi and lieutenants including Stacey Lysik announced the changes at a recent internal “kickoff” meeting with the company’s software developers. The new approach calls for Apple’s development teams to ensure that test versions, known as “daily builds,” of future software updates disable unfinished or buggy features by default. Testers will then have the option to selectively enable those features, via a new internal process and settings menu dubbed Flags, allowing them to isolate the impact of each individual addition on the system. If the many issues with and complaints about iOS 13 are to be believed, this seems like a much needed intervention.

Tim Cook effectively endorses Donald Trump’s reelection

Yesterday, Trump visited a six year old factory where Mac Pros are being assembled, and Tim Cook appeared in a Trump campaign ad. After Mr. Trump departed the factory, he tweeted, “Today I opened a major Apple Manufacturing plant in Texas that will bring high paying jobs back to America.” About the only thing that’s true in this tweet is that the factory is located in Texas. First, Trump didn’t open the factory – it’s been in use for six years now. Second, it’s not major at all – it only assembles the Mac Pro with about 500 employees. Third, it won’t bring any jobs back because it’s been open for six years already. Lastly, it isn’t an Apple factory – it’s owned by another, independent company. Cook stood next to him, and didn’t correct Trump at all. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Cook a “very special person” because of his ability to create jobs. He turned to Mr. Cook and said, “What would you say about our economy compared to everybody else?” Mr. Cook replied, “I think we have the strongest economy in the world.” “Strongest in the world,” Mr. Trump said. The president then took questions on the impeachment inquiry and launched into a tirade against “the fake press.” Mr. Cook stood silently nearby. John Gruber, longtime Apple blogger and one of the most outspoken defenders of Apple’s policies: I’ve been on board with Cook’s stance on engaging Trump. Participating in Trump’s technology council does not imply support for Trump. Engaging Trump personally, in private phone calls and dinners, does not imply support. But appearing alongside Trump at an Apple facility in a staged photo-op is implicit support for Trump and his re-election. A low moment in Apple’s proud history, and a sadly iconic moment for Tim Cook. I hope avoiding those tariffs is worth it. History rarely bestows consequences on companies cooperating with the far right and nazi extremists. IG Farben’s directors were all released by the US within only a few years, and IG Farben still exists today in the form of several highly profitable companies, namely Agfa, BASF, Bayer and Sanofi. Volkswagen was founded by a Nazi labour union, produced what would become the Beetle for Nazi Germany, built military vehicles during the war using 15.000 slaves from concentration camps, and still exists today as one of the biggest automobile conglomerates in the world. IBM aided the Nazi regime in the organisation of the Holocaust, while in the US, it orchestrated the concentration camps where Japanese Americans were held. Meanwhile, Henry Ford’s antisemitism and nazi sympathies are well-documented, and Ford, too, is one of the largest automobile makers in the world. Point is, there’s zero risk for Cook to openly associate himself with someone like Trump. Extremists will praise him, centrists will excuse it away, and the rest will condemn Cook, but keep buying iPhones and Macs anyway – and Tim Cook knows it. In a corporatocracy, companies and their leaders are untouchable.

Apple debuts new MacBook Pro with working keyboard

The updated 16-inch MacBook Pro features a larger display with slimmer bezels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which it has replaced in Apple’s notebook lineup. The display has a resolution of 3072×1920 pixels with up to 500 nits of brightness. The notebook features an updated “Magic Keyboard” that does away with the unpopular butterfly mechanism, returning instead to a more reliable scissor mechanism with 1mm key travel, along with Intel’s latest 9th-generation processors with up to 8 cores. It also has up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of SSD storage. Above the keyboard, the Touch Bar lives on, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro marks the return of a physical Esc key. In line with the latest MacBook Air, the Touch ID sensor has also been separated from the Touch Bar. It took them 4 years, but Apple finally remembered how to make a keyboard. Aside from the new MacBook Pro, Apple also announced the new Mac Pro will be available in December.

Apple to donate 5% of its 50 billion dollar tax cut to California’s housing crisis

Apple today announced a comprehensive $2.5 billion plan to help address the housing availability and affordability crisis in California. As costs skyrocket for renters and potential homebuyers — and as the availability of affordable housing fails to keep pace with the region’s growth — community members like teachers, firefighters, first responders and service workers are increasingly having to make the difficult choice to leave behind the community they have long called home. Nearly 30,000 people left San Francisco between April and June of this year and homeownership in the Bay Area is at a seven-year low. 2.5 billion dollar sure does sound like a big number. But wait a second – rewind to the middle of last year: For years, Apple has held billions of dollars of cash overseas and insisted it won’t bring it home until the US gives it a better deal on the taxes it would have to pay to repatriate the funds. As of 2017, that cash pile had grown to an astonishing $252 billion. Now that lawmakers have passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy, Apple sees its chance to go forward with bringing that cash home before anyone changes their mind. According to Apple’s announcement, it’ll pay a one time tax of $38 billion. If Apple had paid the previous tax rate of 35 percent, its bill would have come out to around $88 billion. Now, that money can go into making the company even larger and providing more cash to hold overseas until Uncle Sam cries uncle again. Apple got a massive tax cut of 50 billion dollars just last year, so this 2.5 billion dollar represents 5 percent of said tax cut. Such generosity.

As Apple’s services grow, it’s ‘gifts’ for users and ARPU for analysts

You’ve got to hand it to Apple when it comes to saying the loud part loud and the quiet part quiet. The company has spent the last few years cranking up an enormous services business that’s growing by double digits quarter after quarter and generated nearly 50 billion dollars in the past 12 months—yet it tries very hard to emphasize that making customers happy comes first. This week, Apple launched its subscription video streaming service, Apple TV+, and also released its quarterly financial results. In the regular phone call with Wall Street analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook tried very hard to get investors excited about Apple’s opportunities to make lots of money while not making it seem like Apple’s lost its soul in the process. The goal of services companies is to trick you into signing up for as many different confusing services as possible, so that you forget about them or find it too burdensome to cancel them. Apple has already gone well down this path, and instead of tiptoeing around it all the time out of fear of pissing off Tim Cook, I wish the media would just flat-out say it: it’s sleazy. It’s not illegal or wrong or anything like that – but that doesn’t make it any less sleazy.

Apple, your developer documentation is… Missing

Over the past few months, I have been trying to get up to speed on the Apple developer ecosystem, as part of working on my rewrite project. This means I have been learning Swift (again), SwiftUI, and (barely) the iOS and macOS APIs. It has been terrible. The number of parts of this ecosystem which are entirely undocumented is frankly shocking to me. There’s an entire website dedicated to keeping track of just how undocumented Apple’s APIs are.

Six reasons why iOS 13 and Catalina are so buggy

iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been unusually buggy releases for Apple. The betas started out buggy at WWDC in June, which is not unexpected, but even after Apple removed some features from the final releases in September, more problems have forced the company to publish quick updates. Why? Based on my 18 years of experience working as an Apple software engineer, I have a few ideas. Interesting look at the inner workings of Apple and how they may contribute to Apple’s recent struggles.

Apple Safari browser sends some user IP addresses to Chinese conglomerate Tencent by default

During the last week, the reality that US companies often bend the knee to China has been thrown into the spotlight. Apple, one of the biggest US tech companies, has appeased China by hiding the Taiwan flag emoji and ignoring US lawmakers when choosing to ban a Hong Kong protest safety app. Now it’s been discovered that Apple, which often positions itself as a champion of privacy and human rights, is sending some IP addresses from users of its Safari browser on iOS to Chinese conglomerate Tencent – a company with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Apple admits that it sends some user IP addresses to Tencent in the “About Safari & Privacy” section of its Safari settings which can be accessed on an iOS device by opening the Settings app and then selecting “Safari > About Privacy & Security.” I’m sure the genocidal totalitarian surveillance state that is China won’t be abuse this information at all. They pinky-promised to Tim Cook, who was busy telling his company not to make any TV shows critical of China – in line with the rest of Hollywood.

Tim Cook makes false claims to rationalise Apple’s China appeasement

Apple CEO Tim Cook has sent an email to employees with a lengthier explanation for why the company chose to remove HKmap.live from the App Store yesterday. Similar to Apple’s statement last night, Cook claims that the app — a crowdsourced mapping tool that’s become useful amid the ongoing protests in Hong Kong — was being misused in ways that could threaten public safety. Tim Cook’s email is riddled with nonsense, so I’ll let people more knowledgeable than me debunk this weak excuse of an explanation as to why Apple is bending over backwards to please a brutal communist genocidal dictatorship. The claims made by Cook simply don’t hold up, he again refuses to cite which Hong Kong laws are being broken, and countless of Apple’s own services are being used for the same purposes as HKmap.live. Will iMessage be removed next? AirDrop? Tim Cook is a coward.

Apple removes app used in Hong Kong protests after pressure from China

Apple has removed HKmap.live, a crowdsourced mapping app widely used by Hong Kong residents, from the App Store. The app and accompanying web service has been used to mark the locations of police and inform about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests that have engulfed Hong Kong this year. Apple initially rejected HKmap.live from the App Store earlier this month, then reversed its decision a few days later. Now it has reversed its reversal. Tim Cook is a coward.

Apple removes Quartz news app from the Chinese App Store over Hong Kong coverage

News organization Quartz tells The Verge that Apple has removed its mobile app from the Chinese version of its App Store after complaints from the Chinese government. According to Quartz, this is due to the publication’s ongoing coverage of the Hong Kong protests, and the company says its entire website has also been blocked from being accessed in mainland China. The publication says it received a notice from Apple that the app “includes content that is illegal in China.” I’ve been highlighting Apple’s and Tim Cook’s hypocrisy for years now, but I’ve always felt like a man screaming into the void. It’s interesting to see the media finally waking up to just how much their innate love for Apple and Tim Cook has allowed the wool to be pulled over their eyes.

Apple under fire from China over HKmap.live app that tracks police activity amid Hong Kong protests

Chinese state media on Tuesday accused Apple Inc of protecting “rioters” in Hong Kong and enabling illegal behaviour, after the US-based technology giant listed on its app store an application that tracks police activity in the city. Apple had previously rejected the app, called HKmap.live, but reversed its decision on Friday and made the programme available for download from the iOS App Store on Saturday, according to the program’s developer. It will be interesting to see if Apple bows to Chinese pressure and removes the application. Apple already bows to Chinese censorship, so I wouldn’t be surprised.