Category Archives: Apple

Apple Buys Dark Sky and Drops Android



In very unwelcome news, Dark Sky has sold out to Apple, with the Android and Wear OS apps closing down on 1st July. As far as I’m concerned Dark Sky is the best hyper-local weather app: if I get a notification it’s going to rain in 5 minutes, it’s going to rain in 5 minutes. It is (was) perfect for checking whether to take an umbrella on a stroll.

I’m delighted for the team at Dark Sky – I’m sure they’ve made a few bob – but I’m disappointed by the sheer pettiness of Apple in dropping the Android version so quickly. Undoubtedly other products have been bought by major tech firms only to be later closed down (Microsoft has strong credentials here – Sunrise Calendar and Newton Mail come to mind) – but it’s Apple who loves the platform lock-in.

Apple might make luxury hardware and have a great range of apps, but the lock-in is shocking. My jaw dropped when I recently realised you can’t set a default browser or email app. Seriously? This is the kind of stuff that got Microsoft in trouble back in 2007. Google might discourage the downloading of apps from sources other than the Play Store, but you can do it. Can you do that on an iPhone and or iPad? Nope, not at all – only Apple-approved apps are allowed on your iDevice.

Apple’s created a gilded prison and I’m not doing time. Goodbye Dark Sky – the subscriptions been cancelled already.


French Antitrust Authorities Fined Apple Largest Penalty Ever



France’s L’Autorité de la concurrence, which is the country’s competition agency, has fined Apple 1.1 billion euros ($1.24 billion) for anticompetitive behavior. The French authority said that this penalty was the largest ever handed down in one case.

“Apple and its wholesalers agreed not to compete and prevent distributors from competing with each other, thereby sterilizing the wholesale marker for Apple products,” Isabelle de Silva, President of the French Competition Authority, said in a statement [to CNBC].

A spokesperson for Apple told CNBC: “The French Competition Authorities decision is disheartening. It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards thirty years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies across all industries. We strongly disagree with them and plan to appeal.”

Venture Beat explained that, under French law, a company is not allowed to work with distribution partners to determine pricing, and must treat partners the same way it would treat internal sales channels.

According to Venture Beat, a company called eBizcuss was part of the Apple Premium Reseller program (APR). These stores only sell Apple products. The lawsuit comes from eBizcuss, who accused Apple of abusing its position by “recommending” prices, restricting promotional materials that a distributor could use, and limiting supply if a distributor ran a promotion Apple didn’t like. In 2012, eBizcuss had to shut down.

To me, it sounds like this case is seen by the French Competition Authorities as a situation where price fixing occurred. Apple clearly disagrees, and plans to appeal the decision. It is unclear to me if the final outcome of the case would benefit eBizcuss in any way at all.


Apple Announced its Response to COVID-19



Silvery Apple LogoTim Cook announced Apple’s COVID-19 response to “the worldwide Apple family.” The purpose of the announcement was to provide an update about the ways Apple is doing its part “to protect the vulnerable, to study this virus, and to care for the sick.”

Apple’s committed donations to the global COVID-19 response – both to help treat those who are sick and to help lessen the economic and community impacts of the pandemic – today reached $15 million worldwide.

We’re also announcing that we are matching our employee donations two-to-one to support COVID-19 response efforts locally, nationally and internationally.

Apple has reopened all of its stores in Greater China. Tim Cook stated, “What we’ve learned together has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response.” One of those lessons is the most effective way to minimize risk of COVID-19’s transmission – which is to reduce density and maximize social distance.

Apple will be closing all of its retail stores outside Greater China until March 27.

In all of their offices, Apple is moving to flexible work arrangements worldwide outside of Greater China. Previously, Apple offered employees at several global offices to “please feel free to work remotely if your job allows”. Now, Apple is asking those whose work requires them to be on site to follow guidance to maximize interpersonal space.

Extensive, deep cleaning will continue at all sites, in all offices. Apple is rolling out new health screenings and temperature checks. Hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations.

And finally, Apple made the decision to make WWDC20, which will take place in June, into “a completely new online experience to millions of talented and creative developers around the world.” I’ve noticed that many big conferences are either canceling their events, postponing them until later in the year, or turning their in-person events into online ones.


Apple’s Tim Cook Offers Work from Home this Week



Silvery Apple LogoApple’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, has offered employees at many of the company’s global offices the ability to work from home. According to Bloomberg News, he called the coronavirus outbreak an “unprecedented event” and a “challenging moment.”

Cook told employees at several global offices to “please feel free to work remotely if your job allows” for the week of March 9 to 13, according to a memo Cook sent that was obtained by Bloomberg News. That extends the company’s move last Friday to encourage employees in California and Seattle to work remotely.

In addition, Cook said Apple is “making a major effort to reduce human density and ensure those teams that are on-site can do their work safely and with peace of mind.” Efforts towards that include “efforts to maximize interpersonal space and continuing, enhanced deep cleanings”. This affects employees at Apple classes and Genius Bar appointments at stores.

Cook also said that hourly workers at affected offices globally will “continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations.” According to Bloomberg News, Amazon.com, Inc., Alphabet Inc., and Facebook Inc., have already implemented that policy.

I think that is a good thing. It will help hourly workers who are sick to stay home and recover. Doing so would help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Nobody wants to have to choose between going into work while sick or losing the money they need to pay their bills.

These types of policies are going to help normalize working from home. Working remotely can make jobs less stressful. People won’t have to waste time commuting, could get more sleep, and may be able to spend more time with their family. If working from home becomes the new normal, it would make employment human-focused. We could all benefit from it.


Glass Backs Are Too Fragile



Smashed back of a yellow smartphoneSilvery Apple LogoA friend of my daughter called round the other day to proudly show off her brand new iPhone XR in yellow. As she pulled it from her bag, her face went from joy to shock, and when she turned the back of the phone towards me, I could see that it was smashed. She was totally gutted.

With hindsight, it was unwise not to have a case on the smartphone (she’d ordered one) but I really have to wonder about the practicality of a glass back on such an expensive phone. What is the point of having a material that breaks so readily that it’s essential to put a case on? An aluminium rear would look just as good and be a hundred times more practical. Certainly, Apple aren’t the only manufacturer sporting glass backs on the smartphones, but where Apple leads, many follow.

The iPhone XR starts at GB£629. Apple, being Apple, charges a premium for the repairs, especially without AppleCare+. To get the back replaced, it’s “up to” £396.44. Even if you have taken out AppleCare+ at GB£149, there’s still £79 excess so that’s £228 in total. Either way it’s pricey. An independent repair isn’t really an option as the phone is still in warranty.

Of course, the phone’s owner could have done things differently – put on a case, not swing her bag around – she’s not blameless. However, it is a factor that needs to be considered when purchasing a new phone: the fragility, the extra cost of insurance, the annoyance. Breaking the front screen is bad enough, but having to worry about the back is unnecessary.


Apple Explains Why Newer iPhones Share Location Data



There’s something strange going on with the iPhone 11 Pro. Security reporter Brian Krebs noticed that the iPhone 11 Pro intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data.

On Nov. 13, KrebsOnSecurity contacted Apple to report this as a possible privacy bug in the new iPhone Pro and/or in iOS 13.x, sharing a video showing how the device still seeks the user’s location when each app and system service is set to “never” request location information (but with the main Location Data service still turned on).

You can watch that video on the KrebsOnSecurity website. The first response from Apple came from an Apple engineer that described what was happening as “expected behavior”. The engineer stated: “It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings.”

Personally, I think that’s really creepy. Brian Krebs rightfully pointed out that what is happening seems to contradict Apple’s recent commercials, which emphasize that Apple respects users privacy. I find it troubling that some of the newest Apple phones have been collecting location data without the user’s permission or knowledge. I also wonder why Apple failed to turn off something that they clearly were aware of. It feels sneaky.

Later, Apple provided more information to KrebsOnSecurity. The short version is that the behavior (which I think of as location tracking) is connected to a “new short-range technology that lets iPhone 11 users share files locally with other nearby phones that support this feature.” Apple said a future version of its mobile operating system will allow users to disable it. You can read more about this on KrebsOnSecurity.


Apple Commits $2.5 Billion to Combat California Housing Crisis



Apple announced a comprehensive $2.5 billion plan to help address the housing availability and affordability crisis in California. The funding commitment to California is expected to take approximately two years to be fully utilized depending on the availability of projects.

California Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted: “The cost of housing in California is the defining concern for millions of families. It can only be fixed by building more housing. This partnership with the state of California will do just that – thank you Apple for stepping up.”

The $2.5 Billion Apple Commitment includes
:

$1 billion affordable housing investment fund: The $1 billion commitment to the state of California is a first-of-its-kind affordable housing fund that will provide the state and others with an open line of credit to develop and build additional new, very low-to moderate-income housing faster and at a lower cost.

$1 billion first time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund: Working with the state, this first-time homebuyer fund will provide aspiring homebuyers with financing and down payment assistance. Apple and the state will explore strategies to increase access to first-time homeownership opportunities for essential service personnel, school employees, and veterans.

$300 million Apple-owned land will be available for affordable housing: Apple intends to make available land it owns in San Jose worth approximately $300 million for the development of new affordable housing.

$150 million Bay Area housing fund: In a public-private partnership, Apple is launching a new $150 affordable housing fund with partners including Housing Trust Silicon Valley to support new affordable housing projects. The fund will consist of long-term forgivable loans and grants.

$50 million to support vulnerable populations: Apple will donate $50 million to support Destination: Home’s efforts to address homelessness in Silicon Valley. Apple will focus its contribution on driving systemic change across the many factors affecting homelessness. Apple will also be identifying similar efforts in Northern and Southern California focusing on strategies that both end and prevent homelessness.

When my husband and I moved to California years ago, we learned how difficult it was to find affordable housing. It is clear that California has a huge problem with this issue, and I suspect the cost of housing is one factor that leads to homelessness. My hope is that Apple’s commitment will improve the lives of people who are struggling.