Category Archives: Apple

Apple Previews Lockdown Mode To Protect Users From Spyware



Apple announced it is previewing a groundbreaking security capability that offers specialized additional protection to users who may be at risk of highly targeted cyberattacks from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Apple is also providing details of its $10 million grant to bolster research exposing such threats.

From Apple’s announcement:

“Apple today detailed two initiatives to help protect users who may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Lockdown Mode – the first major capability of its kind, coming this fall with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura – is an extreme, optional protection for the very small number of users who face grave, targeted threats to their digital security. Apple also shared details about the $10 million cybersecurity grant it announced last November to support civil society organizations that conduct mercenary spyware threat research and advocacy.”

Lockdown Mode offers an extreme, optional level of security for the very few users who, because of who they are or what they do, may be personally targeted by some of the most sophisticated digital threats, such as those from NSO Group and other private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware. Turning on Lockdown Mode in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and MacOS Ventura further hardens defenses and strictly limits certain functionalities sharply reducing the attack surface that potentially could be exploited by highly targeted mercenary spyware.

At launch, Lockdown Mode includes the following protections:

Messages: Most message attachment types other than images are blocked. Some features, like link previews, are disabled.

Web Browsing: Certain complex web technologies, like just-in-time (JIT) JavaScript compilation, are disabled unless the user excludes a trusted site from Lockdown Mode.

Apple Services: Incoming invitations and service requests, including FaceTime calls, are blocked if the user has not previously sent the initiator a call or request.

Wired connections with a computer or accessory are blocked when iPhone is locked.

Configuration profiles cannot be installed, and the device cannot enroll into mobile device management (MDM), while Lockdown Mode is turned on.

Apple says it will continue to strengthen Lockdown Mode and add new protections to it over time. To invite feedback and collaboration from the security research community. Apple has also established a new category within the Apple Security Bounty program to reward researchers who find Lockdown Mode bypasses and help improve its protections. Bounties are doubled for qualifying findings in Lockdown Mode, up to a maximum of $2,000,000 – the highest maximum bounty payout in the industry.

Engadget reported that Lockdown Mode is to protect high-powered people who, because of their job, might be personally targeted by malware developed by the likes of NSO Group, which is behind Pegasus, or other state-backed groups. According to Engadget, Apple sued NSO Group last year to “hold it accountable” for states that target and spy on its users.

In short, most Apple users will not need to engage Lockdown Mode. It was made for people who are more likely to be targeted by nefarious groups who want to cause problems.


Apple Workers At Maryland Store Vote To Unionize



Apple employees at a Baltimore-area store have voted to unionize, making it the first of the company’s 270-plus stores in the United States to join a trend in labor organizing sweeping through retailers, restaurants, and tech companies, The New York Times reported.

The result, announced on Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board, provides a foothold for a budding movement among Apple retail employees who want a greater voice over wages and Covid-19 policies. Employees of more than two dozen Apple stores have expressed interest in unionizing in recent months, union leaders say.

According to The New York Times, in the election, 65 employees at Apple’s store in Towson, Md., voted in favor of being represented by the union, known as the Apple Coalition of Organized Retail Employees, while 33 voted against. It will be part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, an industrial trade union that represents over 300,000 employees.

CNBC reported that the vote is a defeat for Apple, which has opposed unionization efforts, and could energize workers at the company’s other retail locations to move forward with organizing.

According to CNBC, The National Labor Relations Board still needs to certify the votes. That could take around a week. Apple is required to bargain with the union over working conditions after the vote is certified, according to the NLRB.

CNBC also noted that Apple is one of the most profitable companies in the world. It reported over $365 billion in global sales in 2021, and says its retail employees in the U.S. make at least $22 per hour.

TechCrunch reported that this historic victory comes after concentrated efforts from Apple to discourage its retail workers from unionizing. Last month, the trillion-dollar company’s vice president of people and retail Deirdre O’Brian sent a video to 58,000 retail staff, warning them about the perceived drawbacks of unionizing.

According to TechCrunch, O’Brian reiterated anti-union talking points, stating that it would be more difficult to enact change in stores with a union standing between Apple and employees – but workers don’t think that meaningful change is possible without having a formally recognized bargaining unit.

TechCrunch also noted that the Apple store in Maryland will become unionized through the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and are calling themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE). When they first announced their intent to unionize, they wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The New York Times reported that at Starbucks, one of the companies where organizers have gained the most momentum, employees credited a vote to organize at a store in Buffalo with helping to spur other stores to file for union elections. Since that vote in December, more than 150 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-owned stores in the U.S. have voted to unionize, according to the N.L.R.B.

Personally, I’m in favor of unionizing. I think that workers, who aren’t being treated well at their place of employment, should push to form a union. In some cases, the union is the only thing that can make things better for the workers – especially in companies that are strongly anti-union.


Apple Grudgingly Complies With Dutch Regulators Over Dating Apps



Apple announced “Further updates on StoreKit External Entitlement for dating apps in the Netherlands storefront”. This comes after pushback by Dutch regulators.

From Apple’s News and Updates site:

Following productive conversations with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), today we’re introducing additional adjustments to Apple’s plan to comply with the regulator’s order pertaining to dating apps on the App Store in the Netherlands:

Developers of dating apps in the Netherlands can use the StoreKit External Purchase Entitlement, the StoreKit External Purchase Link Entitlement, or both entitlements.

In accordance with the ACM’s wishes, we’ve made adjustments to the user interface requirements announced this past March for developers who choose to use either or both of the entitlements.

We’ve adjusted the payment processing criteria for developers who wish to use either of the entitlements.

The 3 percent commission discount also applies to in-app purchases the qualify for a lower commission rate (for example, App Store Small Business Program enrollees or subscription services after one year of paid services – both of which already qualify for a 15% commission).

It should be noted that in February of 2022, Apple stated it would charge app developers in the Netherlands, who are using an alternative payment system, a “reduced” commission that is set at 27% net of tax. Apple typically charges 30% commission on purchases made using its In-App Purchase system.

The Verge reported that these rules are not wide-reaching (they only apply to Dutch dating apps) they do show what Apple is willing to do to comply with government regulation – which it could be facing a lot more of as the EU and US gear up to fight tech monopolies, and potentially even force the company to ditch the iPhone’s Lightning port.

The Verge also pointed out part of Apple’s news post that says: “As a reminder, developers of dating apps who want to continue using Apple’s in-app purchase system – which we believe is the safest and most secure way for users to purchase digital goods and services – may do so and no further action is needed.”

Apple continued, “We don’t believe some of these changes are in the best interest of our users’ privacy or data security. Because Apple is committed to constructive engagement with regulators, we’re making the additional changes at the ACM’s request. As we’ve previously said, we disagree with the ACM’s original order and are appealing it.”

Overall, the message Apple appears to be sending is that they are complying with what Dutch regulators want. In the same post, Apple makes it clear it doesn’t really want to make these changes, and will attempt to appeal it.


Apple Improved its Health App for iOS 16



Apple announced that iOS 16 brings a new way to manage, understand, and track your medications, enhancements to Health Sharing, and big updates to Sleep. The Health app was created to help organize your important health information and make it easy to access in a central and secure place.

The Health app puts important information at your fingertips, including health records, medications, labs, activity, and sleep. And it makes it simple to securely share that information. Health collects health and fitness data from your iPhone, the built-in sensors on your Apple Watch, compatible third-party devices, and apps that use HealthKit.

The Health app is built to keep your data secure and protect your privacy. Apple says your data is encrypted and that you are always in control of your health information.

One of the things I found very interesting about the iOS 16 Health updates involves medications. Apple describes it this way:

Health can give you information on medications you’re taking, like what they’re used for, how they work, potential side effects, and drugs interactions. You can receive an alert if there is a critical interaction with medications you’re taking, which can make a medication less effective or cause unexpected and potentially dangerous side effects. You can also learn if there could be side effects from consuming alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana with your medications.

In addition, Apple has added a way for you to be reminded to log your medications, vitamins, and supplements on your iPhone or on your wrist with Apple Watch. It also allows you to securely share your medication information with loved ones. Apple describes it this way:

With the Medications app on Apple Watch, you can get convenient and discreet reminders so you can quickly log medications. You can view charts and highlights in the Health app on iPhone and see more detailed information about when and how consistently you take your medications.

Personally, I can see where this feature can be extremely useful. For example, I have a lot of allergies. On days when I am feeling especially sick from pollen (and/or other allergens) there is a good chance I would forget to take my medication on time. Having my iPhone not only remind me to take it, but also to let me mark the medication as “skipped” or “taken” could make it a lot easier for me to track my medications and supplements.

Both the Interactions feature, and the Medications feature, are currently listed on Apple’s website as “Coming Soon”. We’re going to have to wait a bit before being able to access them.

Apple also updated Mobility, a feature that tracks your mobility metrics. Those metrics can be viewed on Apple Watch and iPhone. You can get alerts if your walking steadiness is low or very low and you’re at an increased risk of falling. I can see where this feature would be important for people who have disabilities that interfere with their ability to walk. Apple describes Mobility this way:

You can view mobility like cardio fitness, walking speed, how fast you climb and descend stairs, and an estimate of your six-minute walk test. You can also get a general assessment of your walking steadiness, classified as OK, low, or very low, just by walking with your iPhone. This would traditionally require a visit to a specialty clinic where you would fill out a questionnaire and have your balance, stability, and risk of falling assessed.

To me, it sounds like Apple put in the effort to make the iPhone and Apple Watch have more functionality for people who have disabilities (myself included). Apple’s iOS 16 brings a new way to manage, understand, and track your medications, enhancements to Health Sharing, and big updates to Sleep. The Health app was created to help organize your important health information and make it easy to access in a central and secure place.

The Health app puts important information at your fingertips, including health records, medications, labs, activity, and sleep. And it makes it simple to securely share that information. Health collects health and fitness data from your iPhone, the built-in sensors on your Apple Watch, compatible third-party devices, and apps that use HealthKit.

The Health app is built to keep your data secure and protect your privacy. Apple says your data is encrypted and that you are always in control of your health information.

One of the things I found very interesting about the iOS 16 Health updates involves medications. Apple describes it this way:

Health can give you information on medications you’re taking, like what they’re used for, how they work, potential side effects, and drugs interactions. You can receive an alert if there is a critical interaction with medications you’re taking, which can make a medication less effective or cause unexpected and potentially dangerous side effects. You can also learn if there could be side effects from consuming alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana with your medications.

In addition, Apple has added a way for you to be reminded to log your medications, vitamins, and supplements on your iPhone or on your wrist with Apple Watch. It also allows you to securely share your medication information with loved ones. Apple describes it this way:

With the Medications app on Apple Watch, you can get convenient and discreet reminders so you can quickly log medications. You can view charts and highlights in the Health app on iPhone and see more detailed information about when and how consistently you take your medications.

Personally, I can see where this feature can be extremely useful. For example, I have a lot of allergies. On days when I am feeling especially sick from pollen (and/or other allergens) there is a good chance I would forget to take my medication on time. Having my iPhone not only remind me to take it, but also to let me mark the medication as “skipped” or “taken” could make it a lot easier for me to track my medications and supplements.

Both the Interactions feature, and the Medications feature, are currently listed on Apple’s website as “Coming Soon”. We’re going to have to wait a bit before being able to access them.

Apple also updated Mobility, a feature that tracks your mobility metrics. Those metrics can be viewed on Apple Watch and iPhone. You can get alerts if your walking steadiness is low or very low and you’re at an increased risk of falling. I can see where this feature would be important for people who have disabilities that interfere with their ability to walk. Apple describes Mobility this way:

You can view mobility like cardio fitness, walking speed, how fast you climb and descend stairs, and an estimate of your six-minute walk test. You can also get a general assessment of your walking steadiness, classified as OK, low, or very low, just by walking with your iPhone. This would traditionally require a visit to a specialty clinic where you would fill out a questionnaire and have your balance, stability, and risk of falling assessed.

To me, it sounds like Apple put in the effort to make the iPhone and Apple Watch have more functionality for people who have disabilities (myself included). In a world where accessibility is often an afterthought, it is great to see Apple improving the Health app in ways that are inclusive.


Apple Introduced the New MacBook Air



Apple introduced the new MacBook Air during its WWDC22 event. Features of the new MacBook Air include all-new strikingly thin design and next-generation M2 chip; a beautiful Liquid Retina display; 1080 FaceTime HD camera; four-speaker sound system; and up to 18 hours of battery life.

The new MacBook Air starts at $1199 and will be available next month.

Redesigned around the next-generation M2 chip, MacBook Air is strikingly thin and brings exceptional speed and power efficiency within its durable all-aluminum enclosure. It’s the ultrafast, ultracapable laptop that lets you work, player create just about anything – anywhere. It weighs 2.7 points and is 0.44” thin.

The MacBook Air comes infer gorgeous finishes – each with its own matching MagSafe charging cable. Finishes include Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey, and Silver.

Apple points out that thanks to the efficiency of the M2 chip, MacBook Air can deliver amazing performance without a fan – so it stays completely silent no matter how intense the task. Apple claims that the MacBook Air is as responsible as it is durable, featuring 100 percent recycled aluminum in its compact enclosure. A footnote explains: “Recycled material claim applies to the enclosure and is based on auditing done by UL LLC.”

The M2 chip starts the next generation of Apple silicon, with even more of the speed and power efficiency of M1. So you can get more done faster, without a more powerful 8-core CPU. Create captivating images and animations with up to a 10-core GPU. Work with more streams of 4K and 8K ProRes video with the high-performance media engine. And keep working – or playing – all day and into the night with up to 18 hours of battery life.

All your go-to apps run lightning fast in macOS – including Microsoft 365 and many of your favorite iOS apps. And with over 10,000 apps and plug-ins optimized for Apple silicon, your creative future is wide open.

The new MacBook Air lets you make and receive iPhone calls on your Mac. Use your iPad as a second display. Unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. It’s like they were all made for each other, because they were, Apple says.

Apple silicon and MacOS bring advanced built-in security to help defend against malware and viruses. And Mac is designed to give you the freedom to choose what you share and how you share it.

The breathtaking 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display is the biggest – and brightest – ever on MacBook Air, with support for 1 billion colors. Text is supercrisp, and photos and movies more brilliant and vivid, with rich contrast and sharp detail.

It also has a 1080p FaceTime HD camera that doubles the resolution and low-light performance of the previous generation. Calls come through sound and clear wherever you are thanks to the three-mic array with advanced beam forming algorithms to capture clean audio.

Immerse yourself in movies and music with improved stereo separation and vocal clarity from two tweeters and two ultra thin woofers. Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos places sound all around you.

Overall, it seems to me that the new MacBook Air is intended for people who require its features for the work they do. I think digital artists, musicians, and people who frequently stream video games are going to get the most use out of the new MacBook Air.


Apple Delays And Modifies Its Return To Office Plans



Apple, in a blow to its efforts to restore normalcy to its operations, has suspended its requirement that employees return to the office this month for at least three days a week because of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported.

According to The New York Times, the reversal was welcome news for thousands of employees who pushed back against the company’s demand that they begin coming to the office three days a week in early May. Earlier this month, the group which calls itself “Apple Together” published a letter calling on the executive team to allow for a hybrid and flexible work schedule, saying they could collaborate remotely using online tools such as Slack and spare themselves hours of commuting.

Personally, I’m not surprised by this change. Apple has a history of changing its COVID policy based on its assessment of what is the right thing to do. For example, in June of 2021, Apple chose to loosen its face mask requirement in Apple Stores as part of its COVID-19 policies in the United States.

Previously, in December of 2020, Apple closed all 53 of its locations in California. In May of 2020, it started gradually reopening stores in South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska. Later, it began reopening stores with COVID-19 safety measures. In June of 2020, Apple closed 11 stores in Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona out of an abundance of caution. The decisions are made by Apple depended upon the number of COVID cases in a particular area.

9to5Mac noted that, as first reported by Bloomberg, Apple is still requiring employees to work in-person two days per week, but it will not ramp that up to three days per week on May 23 as originally planned.The company is delaying that requirement.

The Verge reported that Bloomberg retail employees in about 100 Apple stores were told that they will again be required to wear a mask.

9to5Mac reported the changes to Apple’s plans come as COVID-19 cases have once again started to increase in the United States and other countries. Hospitalizations are also increasing but at a much slower pace, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

Personally, I think the changes made by Apple are a step in the right direction. Requiring employees to wear masks in Apple stores, and also requiring employees at Apple to wear masks in common spaces (such as meeting rooms and elevators) can help stop the spread of COVID.

The problem I see with Apple’s plan is that it doesn’t really do much to protect workers who are immunocompromised. As someone who is part of that group, I understand how scary it can be to walk into a building that lacks the proper amount of air filtration to keep people like me safe.


Apple Ends Production Of The iPod Touch



Apple announced in a newsroom post titled: “The music lives on”, that the iPod touch will be available while supplies last. This is the end of the run for iPod touch.

“Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line – from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac – along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.”

There is a lot of hype in Apple’s newsroom post about all the wonderful things Apple has made – that can be used to listen to music – since the release of the original iPod touch on October 23, 2001. If you’re feeling especially nostalgic about this announcement, there’s a chance you can still buy an iPod touch through apple.com, Apple Store locations, and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last.

To me, this news is just the next in the long line of once prominent music playing devices that were very popular for a time – only to be replaced by the next, newest, version.

The original Sony Walkman was a portable cassette player. When it stopped production, Sony had built about 200 million cassette-based Wallkmans. The device was popular in the 1980s. The Walkman was replaced by the Discman which was launched in 1984. This device was able to play CDs and was about as portable as the Walkman. I doubt anyone, other than people who are fascinated will the 1980s, will miss these devices.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the first iPod, which was released in 2001, helped Apple co-founder Steve Jobs remake the company, extending its reach from computers to other personal devices and vastly expanding Apple’s reach in the music industry.

According to The Wall Street Journal, for some consumers, the iPod – which came in various color iterations and models, – was their first introduction to Apple. The iPod helped users usher in a new era for music in which songs could be downloaded for 99 cents – separated from albums by artists – and loaded onto a device about the size of a deck of cards.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that now, as smartphones have grown more sophisticated and music is largely streamed rather than accessed through paid downloads, iPod sales have diminished. Apple hasn’t separated iPod sales for years, but unit sales fell about 24% in fiscal 2014 compared with the previous fiscal year.

As such, the iPod, which replaced the Discman, is in the process of being replaced itself. Those who want to bring their music along with them can easily stream music through their iPhone, or iPad, from whatever streaming services they have access to.