Apple has discontinued its original HomePod, TechCrunch has reported. Apple will continue to produce and focus on the HomePod mini (which was introduced last year).
Apple gave TechCrunch a statement about the discontinuation of HomePod:
HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.
If you are hoping to buy a HomePod, you better move fast. The Verge reported on Friday, March 12, 2021, that the Space Grey model of the full-size HomePod had already sold out on Apple’s online store.
According to The Verge, the full-size HomePod launched with a $349 price tag at launch. In April of 2019, Apple dropped the price to $299. In 2020, Apple released the HomePod mini at $99. Clearly, the best choice is to buy right now is the HomePod mini – instead of trying to track down a full-size HomePod.
What if you already have the full-sized HomePod? TechCrunch reported that Apple will continue to provide support for existing HomePods. In other words, your HomePod is not going to suddenly stop working.
Apple released two iOS security updates: iOS 14.4.1 and iPadOS 14.3.1 on March 8, 2021. According to MacRumors, these new updates came two weeks after the release of macOS 11.2.2 (which was a bug fix update).
9to5Mac reported that Apple said: “This update provides important security updates recommended for all users.” Apple instructed users to visit the Apple security webpage for more details.
Here is how Apple described the iOS updates:
Available for: iPhone 6s and later, iPad Air 2 and later, iPad mini 4 and later, and iPod touch (7th generation)
Impact: Processing maliciously crafted web content may lead to arbitrary code execution
Description: A memory corruption issue was addressed with improved validation
CVE-2021-1844: Clément Lecigne of Google’s Threat Analysis Group, Alison Huffman of Microsoft Browser Vulnerability Research
To start the updates, iOS users need to go to the Setting app and choose “Software Update”. If you don’t see the update immediately, don’t worry. Keep checking as it may take a few minutes to hit your device.
It is always a good idea to make sure your iPhone, and iPad have the most recent security update on them. Apple doesn’t send these types of updates unless it is very important. Procrastinating on security updates could potentially leave your devices vulnerable to whatever Apple is trying to protect them from.
Apple has temporarily closed nearly one-fifth of its stores due to new COVID-19 restrictions, 9To5Mac reported. This is not the first time that Apple closed stores that were located in areas where there were spikes of COVID-19 cases. 95 Apple Stores across the globe have re-closed since Monday, December 14, 2020.
Apple announced closures of all its stores in California and Tennessee this weekend, adding to just over a dozen closures of Los Angeles stores announced on December 18. On Friday, California broke its record for most new COVID-19 cases in a single day since the pandemic began.
Bloomberg reported that Apple closed all 53 of its locations in California, one day after saying it would close stores in the Los Angeles area. The closures now cover major locations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
MacRumors reported that all retail locations in California have a notice letting customers know that the stores are temporarily closed, though some are allowing for order pickups and genius bar appointments through December 22. There’s no word on when the stores will reopen, but they will remain closed through the holidays.
Stores in Tennessee were closed this weekend, MacRumors reported. Stores that are located in the UK’s Tier 4 restrictions shut down today. Apple closed 18 stores in Germany and the Netherlands last week, and stores in Mexico and Brazil are closing this weekend.
I think Apple is doing the right thing by temporarily closing these stores. It is a good way to help prevent their workers from being exposed to COVID-19. Doing so also prevents last-minute shoppers, who are in areas where COVID-19 is surging, from gathering in stores and potentially spreading the virus.
Apple has responded to Facebook’s criticisms about Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update. Specifically, Facebook appears to be angry that the update will require people to opt-in to targeted advertising and tracking.
Apple provided a statement to MacRumors about the update:
We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites – and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires that they give users a choice.
Personally, I think that Apple’s decision to allow users to know when their data is being collected – and to have the choice to allow it or not – is a good one. I live in California, which enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA). It requires that business that collect a consumer’s personal information must inform consumers about the categories of personal information to be collected and the purposes for which is it used. This must be done before the point of collection. It also allows people to tell a business not to sell their personal information to third parties.
Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update sounds like it is in compliance with the CCPA. It might also comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which also regulates data protection.
One of the best things about Apple’s iOS 14 update is that the default setting is to alert all users about how a specific app will use their data. Users don’t have to figure out how to prevent data collection and tracking – Apple already does that for them. That said, if you really want Facebook (and other apps) to collect your data, and sell it to third-parties, you will have the ability to opt-in to that.
Apple announced the App Store Small Business Program. It will launch on January 1, 2021. The new program reduces App Store commission to 15 percent for small businesses earning up to $1 million per year.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our global economy and the beating heart of innovation and opportunity in communities around the world. We’re launching this program to help small business owners write the next chapter of creativity and prosperity on the App Store, and to build the kind of quality apps our customers love,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The App Store has been an engine of economic growth like none other, creating millions of new jobs and a pathway to entrepreneurship accessible to anyone with a great idea. Our new program carries that progress forward — helping developers fund their small businesses, take risks on new ideas, expand their teams, and continue to make apps that enrich people’s lives.”
Apple says the comprehensive details about the program will be released in early December. It has revealed the essentials of the program’s participation criteria.
- Existing developers who made up to $1 million in 2020 for all of their apps, as well as developers new to the App Store, can qualify for the program and the reduced commission.
- If a participating developer surpasses the $1 million threshold, the standard commission rate will apply for the remainder of the year.
- If a developer’s business falls below the $1 million threshold in a future calendar year, they can requalify for the 15 percent commission the year after.
According to MacRumors, “The fee cut won’t benefit some of the developers that have been the most vocal about Apple’s commission rates, such as Epic Games, but it will relieve some of the pressure on the small business owners that need the most help.”
It is clear that Apple’s macOS Big Sur installation had problems. The Verge reported that many Mac users had trouble opening apps after installing the update. You may have read an extremely detailed blog post by Jeffrey Paul titled “Your Computer Isn’t Yours”, in which he discussed a security problem involving the macOS.
It appears that iPhone in Canada was the first to report that Apple updated its support document titled: “Safely open apps on your Mac”. The update is under the Privacy protections header, which is the last header on the document.
Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.
Apple continued by stating: “These security checks have never included the user’s Apple ID or the identity of their device. To further protect privacy, we have stopped logging IP addresses associated with Developer ID certificate checks, and we will ensure that any collected IP addresses are removed from logs.”
In addition, Apple is making changes to their security checks over the next year. Specifically:
- A new encrypted protocol for Developer ID certificate revocation checks
- Strong protections against server failure
- A new preference for users to opt out of these security protections
It is not entirely clear if Apple’s update is in response to Jeffrey Paul’s blog post, but I suspect it may have influenced Apple to provide more clarification. I think the issue became a controversy because Apple’s developers understood how the security in the macOS functioned – but failed to realize that consumers might need more context in order to understand what was happening.
Apple has launched Apple Music TV, an all access experience on all your devices. Apple is launching it with a free trial, and states that you can cancel at anytime. Variety reported the following:
Apple has launched Apple Music TV, a free 24-hour curated livestream of popular music videos that will also include “exclusive new music videos and premiers, special curated music video blocks, and live shows as well as chart countdowns and guests”, according to the announcement.
- Listen Now is the easiest way to play what you love and discover something new.
- An all-new Search serves up the best music for the genres and activities you love.
- Autoplay creates a continuous stream of music based on what you listened to last.
- Sing along, tap ahead, or just listen with lyrics view – now always on unless you turn it off.
- Tune into three live radio stations hosted by artists playing today’s hits, classics, and country.
- Dial in local broadcast radio stations by call sign, name, or frequency – or just ask Siri
- Watch top music videos and check out curated music video playlists.
- Now you can search for music by lyrics right in the app – or just ask Siri.
- Tap into Apple editors’ picks with curated playlists featuring rap to country, new hits to classics.
- Keep track of what’s hot all over the world with global charts.
- Just ask Siri to play songs by any artist, mood, or genre.
- Play your favorite artist’s latest collaborations, releases, and playlists all from one page.
- Add your favorite songs to your library and listen on any device – online or off.
- Stream Apple Music to AirPlay-enabled speakers or Apple TV effortlessly.
To me, this sounds like it could be Apple’s way of competing with Spotify, which has become the go-to for listening to music. Spotify has a free service, as well as a subscription service. Apple Music TV offers Apple Music, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country for free without a subscription.
There are three subscriptions for Apple Music TV. Student is $4.99/month. (It is for college students only, and verification is required). Individual plans are $9.99/month. Family plans are $14.99/month. Variety reported that Apple Music TV will be available to U.S. residents only on the Apple Music app and the Apple TV app.