Apple Archive

Every iPad wants to be a Surface now

“Netbooks aren’t better at anything,” joked Steve Jobs when he stood on stage nearly 10 years ago to introduce the first iPad. Apple’s original vision for its tablet was for a new category of device that was focused on browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and ebooks. “If there’s going to be a third category of device it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone, otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Jobs. It wasn’t a giant iPhone, nor was it a full laptop replacement. The iPad has always been something in-between for nearly a decade, but now every iPad wants to be a Surface. The Surface concept has always been a sound concept for many people – it’s the software that’s always been an issue, and will continue to be an issue for a long time to come. Windows is too much of a desktop, and iPadOS is too much of a smartphone operating system. Our software is lagging behind the hardware.

Apple, Foxconn broke a Chinese labor law to build latest iPhones

Apple Inc. and manufacturing partner Foxconn violated a Chinese labor rule by using too many temporary staff in the world’s largest iPhone factory, the companies confirmed following a report that also alleged harsh working conditions. The claims came from China Labor Watch, which issued the report ahead of an Apple event on Tuesday to announce new iPhones. The non-profit advocacy group investigates conditions in Chinese factories, and says it has uncovered other alleged labor rights violations by Apple partners in the past. We all know how this tune goes: Apple will claim once again it’s going to fix the issue with a sternly worded letter to Foxconn, nothing will change, and a year from now we’ll have another report of even more violations. It’s as routine as the September iPhone event. Of course, Apple could, you know, use some of its 245 billion dollar stuffed in offshore tax havens to improve the lives of the people building its fancy gadgets, but that would imply a sense of morals and values that we know by now Apple simply lacks.

How Apple stacked the App Store with its own products

Top spots in App Store search results are some of the most fought over real estate in the online economy. The store generated more than $50 billion in sales last year, and the company said two-thirds of app downloads started with a search. But as Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia. Apple’s apps have ranked first recently for at least 700 search terms in the store, according to a New York Times analysis of six years of search results compiled by Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. Some searches produced as many as 14 Apple apps before showing results from rivals, the analysis showed. (Though competitors could pay Apple to place ads above the Apple results.) The data from The Times’ analysis are clear-cut and quite damning, and just goes to show how easy it is for companies like Apple to effectively shut out competitors simply by artificially pushing their own applications in their own walled-garden operating system. This is the kind of behaviour that net you antritrust complaints. Of course, you can pay Apple to be the top search result in the App Store. That sounds suspiciously like that other “shakedown” Apple bloggers were complaining about only a few days ago. I’m curious to see how – as always – Apple is somehow a special snowflake to whom different rules apply.

The stakes are too high for Apple to spin the iPhone exploits

Today, Apple responded to Google’s discovery of a major iPhone security flaw with a bristling statement that accused its rival of creating “false impressions.” But Apple did very little to clear up those false impressions, and seems to have created some of its own, as we’ll see by taking a close read. A good point-by-point breakdown of just how awful Apple’s statement really was. Everything about the statement exudes that Apple cares more about the perception of the iPhone’s security among customers than for the lives of the Uighurs in China, who are being systematically eradicated from the country in a state-organised technocratic genocide of which these iPhone hacks were a part. On top of that, Apple is attacking Google, while making no mention of the actual perpetrator of this attack – the Chinese government. Apple is so dependent on China that it can’t condemn anything this totalitarian regime does, including hacking its own primary product as part of a genocide. Only a company as so far up its own ass as Apple could write a statement like this.

Apple change causes scramble among private messaging app makers

A change Apple is making to improve privacy in an upcoming version of its iPhone operating system has alarmed an unlikely group of software makers: developers of privacy-focused encrypted messaging apps. They warn the change, which is already available in public test versions of iOS 13, could end up undermining the privacy goals that prompted it in the first place. Relying on Apple is about as smart a business strategy as trusting a scorpion to carry you across the river.

Apple’s embrace of the ellipsis menu, née hamburger menu

As I’ve been exploring iOS 13 to write the just-released Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, I’ve become concerned about what seems to be an increasingly frequent pattern in iOS software design. What finally pushed me over the edge into writing this article was documenting Apple Card’s user interface in Wallet, because I found myself typing the same character over and over and over… That’s right, I’m talking about the increasingly ever-present ellipsis ••• buttons in iOS (technically, we generally render a user-interface ellipsis in running text as three bullets to make them more easily seen). At WWDC 2014, Apple railed against the hamburger menu, and ever since it’s very vogue in Apple developer circles to make fun of the hamburger menu. I guess Apple’s major, magical innovation of replacing the three lines with three dots was enough for the company to adopt the concept completely. Of course, Apple has no taste and has no clue how to design good user interfaces these days, so they made it worse by using the button all over the place in weird locations and have it do different things in different places, but we’ll let that slide.

Apple now offers genuine parts and tools to independent repair shops, but we have questions

Apple announced today that it will offer genuine parts, diagnostic tools, and repair manuals to independent repair shops. It’s a bold move from a company that has lobbied against Right to Repair bills, and a concession to the reality of iPhone owners’ needs. But we still have questions. There’s some ‘scorpion and the frog’-ness to Apple’s major concession here, and I’d be incredibly wary of the fine print. On top of that, this seems like a classic case of Apple trying to prevent proper right to repair legislation from gaining even more steam by offering a stripped down version of what said legislation would demand of them, so they can point at this news and claim legislation isn’t needed.

Apple explains why iPhones now show an ominous warning after ‘unauthorized’ battery replacements

Responding to criticism that it’s trying to steer consumers toward more expensive battery replacements, Apple today claimed that the “important battery message” added to iOS is there in the name of customer safety. It was recently discovered that when an iPhone’s battery is swapped out by a third-party repair shop that isn’t one of Apple’s authorized partners, the device’s battery health menu will show an ominous warning about being “unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine iPhone battery.” This can happen even if a genuine Apple battery is used; the warning stems from a micro-controller that only authorized technicians can properly configure. If iOS doesn’t detect the right micro-controller, it hides the usual battery health stats and displays the warning. Apple is fighting the right to repair movement and associated proposed laws tooth and nail, and this is just another salvo in the war the company is waging on its own customers.

Apple reveals special new iPhones for security researchers

Apple’s iOS Security Research Device program will be available to researchers with a track record of high-quality security research on any platform, so not every regular developer will be able to access these devices. The handsets will come with ssh, a root shell, and advanced debug capabilities, all designed to make it easier for security researchers to spot bugs. Nice initiative, I guess, but obviously anybody should be able to turn their iPhone into a device like this.

FileMaker renames itself back to Claris

Not the most exciting or noteworthy piece of news, but still a fun little bit of nostalgia. Today at their 24th annual DevCon, FileMaker, Inc., maker of the world’s leading Workplace Innovation Platform, unveiled the start of a new chapter in the company’s history as Claris International Inc. Claris was created a spin-off from Apple in 1987, set up to own and developed MacPaint and MacWrite, which Apple had allowed to wither. The company eventually acquired FileMaker, and in 1990 Apple decided to keep Claris as a wholly-owned subsidiary. It’s been that way ever since, with the company renaming itself to FileMaker in 1998, after divesting everything else from the company. Since it has acquired a company called Stamplay, it’s no longer just shipping FileMaker, hence the rename back to Claris.

Apple to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business

Apple and Intel have signed an agreement for Apple to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. Approximately 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, along with intellectual property, equipment and leases. The transaction, valued at $1 billion, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, including works council and other relevant consultations in certain jurisdictions. This was widely expected to happen, and will aid Apple in achieving independence from Qualcomm.

Apple dominates App Store search results, thwarting competitors

Apple’s mobile apps routinely appear first in search results ahead of competitors in its App Store, a powerful advantage that skirts some of the company’s rules on such rankings, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. The company’s apps ranked first in more than 60% of basic searches, such as for “maps,” the analysis showed. Apple apps that generate revenue through subscriptions or sales, like Music or Books, showed up first in 95% of searches related to those apps. This dominance gives the company an upper hand in a marketplace that generates $50 billion in annual spending. Services revenue linked to the performance of apps is at the center of Apple’s strategy to diversify its profits as iPhone sales wane. This should surprise absolutely nobody. Apple has a lot riding on becoming a successful services company, and it’s doing a lot of sleazy things already to try and convert iPhone buyers into wallets on legs from whom Cupertino can siphon monthly amounts. It’s only natural that the company would use its Appe Store search engine to promote its own services – something that will surely turn some heads in Europe. The article also has this fascinating little tidbit: Phillip Shoemaker, who led the App Store review process until 2016, said Apple executives were aware of Podcasts’ poor ratings. Around 2015, his team proposed to senior executives that it purge all apps rated lower than two stars to ensure overall quality. “That would kill our Podcasts app,” an Apple executive said, according to Mr. Shoemaker, who has advised some independent apps on the App Store review process since leaving Apple. The proposal was eventually rejected, Mr. Shoemaker said. So Apple pondered purging all apps with two stars or lower from the App Store… Only to realise a number of its own apps would be purged, too. Oh and in what I’m sure is entirely unrelated, many Apple apps inside the App Store no longer show a rating at all – special treatment only Apple apps get. If even 50% of this story is true, antitrust lawyers and investigators are going to have a field day with this.

Apple releases round of iOS, macOS updates

Today, Apple released a round of minor updates for all of its supported devices, including iOS 12.4, macOS 10.14.6, watchOS 5.3, and tvOS 12.4 . As it turns out though, some older devices – devices that aren’t supported by the latest updates anymore – are getting some love as well. According to MacRumors, iOS 9.3.6 and iOS 10.3.4 are now available. The report states that the former is only available for cellular models of the iPad mini, iPad 2, and iPad 3, all devices that used an A5 processor or a variant of it. It’s worth noting that the third-generation Apple TV also got an update today, as that also included an A5 chipset. Always a nice surprise to see older devices getting some love.

There’s only one important question to ask about Apple’s future

All of this has led to a pretty vigorous (and fair) debate about whether Apple is still a design-led company, or whether its massive scale demands an operational focus that simply dictates design operates in a different way from the iMac and iPod eras. The view from inside Apple, for what it’s worth, is that design is still central to everything the company does, and the operations vs. design conflict is a media creation. But I think that debate misses the point in a serious way. There is but one important question for Apple to answer as it enters its next phase, one that will reveal everything about the company’s priorities and how it designs its products. Here it is: Will Apple compromise the user experience of the iPhone to sell services? …the answer is yes. Very much yes. It has already started.

Jony Ive leaves Apple

News bomb from Apple PR: Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple. There’s a lot to dig into here, but for once, I fully agree with John Gruber’s take. First: Wow. There’ve been rumors for years that Ive had one foot out the door, that his last real interest at Apple was designing Apple Park, not Apple products. But it’s something else to see it. This angle that he’s still going to work with Apple as an independent design firm seems like pure spin. You’re either at Apple or you’re not. Ive is out. It makes me queasy to see that Apple’s chief designers are now reporting to operations. This makes no more sense to me than having them report to the LLVM compiler team in the Xcode group. Again, nothing against Jeff Williams, nothing against the LLVM team, but someone needs to be in charge of design for Apple to be Apple and I can’t see how that comes from operations. I don’t think that “chief design officer” should have been a one-off title created just for Jony Ive. Not just for Apple, but especially at Apple, it should be a permanent C-level title. I don’t think Ive ever should have been put in control of software design, but at least he is a designer. I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced. Nothing to add.

Apple releasing the first iOS 13 and macOS Catalina public betas today

Announced three weeks ago at WWDC, developer betas for iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been available ever since. Today though, the general public can finally begin testing them out, as they’re available through Apple’s public beta program. People who have been using the developer betas warn against installing the public betas for now, since they are quite unstable and buggy this time around.

Mac Pro: all apologies, signed Apple pundits

John Khelt: It took Apple 6 years to correct its last mistake, the trashcan Mac Pro. Part of the reason for Apple taking so long to correct mistakes is so many apologists uncritically support them. The pundits don’t get how outrageously insulting it is to drown out and ignore what enthusiast/users say they want (e.g., Macs with upgradable slots) and instead decree what pundits think you need and should be happy with. That level of uncritical support helps Apple ignore problems. The pundits are sure they know best. Remember, they declared how the trashcan Mac was also for pros, rather than being critical about how it served neither pros nor enthusiasts. Despite being wrong then, they’re happy to reassert the same now. The pundits can’t seem to think beyond wanting to curry Apple favor. Being an Apple sycophant has its privileges after all. Maybe they’ll get to interview some Apple exec where they’ll ask banal questions and incessantly fluff Apple plastic talking points. And if they don’t play ball and choose to call Apple out on mistakes, maybe they wont get the next Apple event invite. But maybe, if more pundits could think for themselves, and more of them would speak up for enthusiasts and users, then just maybe, Apple would be motivated to do a better job. Right on the money.

SwiftUI and Catalyst: Apple executes its invisible transition strategy

And then there’s SwiftUI, which may be a harder concept for regular users to grasp, but it’s a huge step on Apple’s part. This is Apple’s ultimate long game—an entirely new way to design and build apps across all of Apple’s platforms, based on the Swift language (introduced five years ago as yet another part of Apple’s long game). In the shorter term, iOS app developers will be able to reach to the Mac via Catalyst. But in the longer term, Apple is creating a new, unified development approach to all of Apple’s devices, based in Swift and SwiftUI. Viewed from this perspective, Catalyst feels more like a transitional technology than the future of Apple’s platforms. Apple’s own SwiftUI page provides more details. This is the future of application development across all of Apple’s platforms, so if you have a vested interested in the Apple world, you’d do good to get yourself acquainted with it.