Category Archives: Apple

Apple Created Technology to Preserve Privacy and Help Ad Clicks



One of the reasons people use ad-blockers is because ads are annoying. Ads clutter up websites, autoplay, and track where you go online. They stick unwanted cookies on your computer. These are some of the many reasons why people avoid ads.

Apple has created a new technology to allow attribution of ad clicks on the web while preserving user privacy.

We propose a modern way of doing ad click attribution that doesn’t allow for cross-site tracking of users but does provide a means of measuring the effectiveness of online ads. It is built into the browser itself and runs on-device which means that the browser vendor does not get to see what ads are clicked on or when purchases are made.

Apple points out that today’s practice of ad click attribution “has no practical limit on the bits of data, which allows for full cross-site tracking of users using cookies.” Apple notes that this is privacy invasive, “and thus we are obliged to prevent such ad click attribution from happening in Safari and Webkit.”

Apple used the following principles when designing the Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution technology:

  • Users should not be uniquely identified across websites for the purposes of ad click attribution.
  • Only websites that users visit should be involved in measuring ad clicks and conversions.
  • The browser should act on behalf of the user and do its best to preserve privacy while reporting on ad click attribution.
  • The browser vendor should not learn about the user’s ad clicks or conversions.

I like that Apple is doing something to protect user’s privacy. Those who use Safari can rely on their browser to reduce the amount of data that websites suck up via ads or ad clicks. This technology will stop cross-site tracking from happening.

The Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution has three steps:

  • Store ad clicks. This is done by the page hosting the ad at the time of an ad click.
  • Match conversions against stored ad clicks. This is done on the website the ad navigated to as a result of the click. Conversions do not have to happen right after a click and do not have to happen on the specific landing page, just the same website.
  • Send out ad click attribution data. This is done by the browser after a conversion matches an ad click.

People who use Safari can try out the Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution as an experimental feature in Safari Technology Preview 82+.


Apple Cracks Down on Apps that Limit Screen Time



The New York Times reported that Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps, and also clamped down on a number of lesser-known apps that had the same functions. The analysis was done by The New York Times and an app-data firm called Sensor Tower.

In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children’s devices or that blocked children’s access to certain apps and adult content. In other cases, it simply pulled the apps from its App Store.

According to the New York Times, Apple started removing or restricting apps that allow people to limit their own, or their children’s screen-time shortly after Apple made its own screen-time app. In addition, in order to use Apple’s screen-time app to limit children’s screen time, the entire family must have iPhones. Obviously, this would be very beneficial to Apple.

The New York times reported a statement from Apple:

“We treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services,” said Tammy Levine, an Apple spokeswoman. “Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible.” She said Apple removed or required changes to the apps because they could gain too much information from users’ devices. She added that the timing of Apple’s moves was not related to its debut of similar tools.

There are two groups of people who are directly affected by this. One is the screen-time app makers, who are losing business due to their app being removed from the App Store. The other are some parents who were using one of those apps to control their children’s phones – and who cannot do that anymore with the app they were originally using. Apple’s screen-time app reportedly provides the option “Ignore Limit” when a user hits the app’s time limit.

One thing is clear. Apple has a whole lot of control over what apps are allowed in the App Store, and can and does remove apps that it feels should not be there. On the one hand, it makes sense for Apple to remove apps that have malware or otherwise are acting maliciously.

On the other hand, this situation shows that removal of apps has a negative impact on the companies who create them and the people who use them. I think this situation is going to make some people want Apple to be investigated for the purpose of determining whether or not some regulation is needed.


Stanford Medicine Announced Results of Apple Watch Study



Stanford Medicine announced the results of the Apple Heart Study. The study was funded by Apple. There were over 400,000 participants in the study.

The study was launched in November of 2017, and was a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib). The condition often remains hidden because many people don’t experience symptoms.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Overall, only 0.5 percent of participants received irregular pulse notifications, an important finding given concerns about potential over-notification.
  • Comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiography patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm (indicating a positive tachogram reading) has a 71 percent positive predictive value. Eighty-four percent of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of the notification.
  • One-third (34 percent) of the participants who received irregular pulse notifications and followed up by using an ECG patch over a week later were found to have atrial fibrillation. Since atrial fibrillation is an intermittent condition, it’s not surprising for it to go undetected in subsequent ECG patch monitoring.
  • Fifty-seven percent of those who received irregular pulse notifications sought medical attention.

As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm was identified, participants received a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a telehealth consultation with a doctor, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring.

In short, it appears that the Apple Watch is able to detect AFib. This is good news, because it means people can take that information to their doctor and start a discussion about what to do next. It does not mean people should rely entirely on the results the Apple Watch gives them and avoid seeing a doctor.


Apple Addressed Spotify’s Claims



Recently, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. Yesterday, Apple posted a statement titled “Addressing Spotify’s claims”. I suspect this will not be the end of the argument between Spotify and Apple.

Apple started by giving a brief history of the iTunes Store and the App Store. After that, Apple begins making a case against Spotify. To be clear, I am personally not on the side of either one of these companies.

What Spotify is demanding is something different. After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem – including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers – without making any contributions to that marketplace. At the same time, they distribute the music you love while making ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians, and songwriters who create it – even going so far as to take these creators to court.

Here are a few key points from Apple’s post:

  • We’ve approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.
  • When we reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 support on several occasions, they’ve told us they’re working on it, and we stand ready to help them where we can.
  • Spotify is deeply integrated into platforms like CarPlay, and they have access to the same app development tools and resources that any other developer has.
  • We found Spotify’s claims about Apple Watch especially surprising. When Spotify submitted their Apple Watch app in September 2018, we reviewed and approved it with the same process and speed with which we would any other app. In fact, Spotify Watch app is currently the No. 1 app in the Watch Music category.
  • Apple claims that Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.
  • The only contribution that Apple requires is for digital goods and services that are purchased inside the app using our secure in-app purchase system. As Spotify points out, that revenue share is 30 percent for the first year of an annual subscription – but they left out that it drops to 15 percent in the years after.
  • “The majority of customers use their ad-supported product, which makes no contributions to the Apple Store.”
  • “A significant portion of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carries. This generates no App store contribution but requires Spotify to pay a similar distribution fee to retails and carriers.”
  • “Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.”

Personally, it seems to me that Apple and Spotify are having a disagreement that does not appear to be something that will end soon. I would not be surprised if the result of this spat causes Spotify and Apple to part ways.


Spotify Filed Complaint Against Apple with European Commission



Founder and CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, posted “Consumers and Innovators Win on a Level Playing Field” on the Spotify Newsroom. In it, he announces that Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC).

Daniel Ek starts by pointing out that his goal for Spotify is to reimagine the audio experience by giving consumers the best creativity and innovation they have to offer. For that to be a reality, his belief is that companies like Spotify must operate in an ecosystem in which fair competition is not only encouraged, but guaranteed.

It’s why, after careful consideration, Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory. In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience – essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition.

Here are some key points from Daniel Ek’s post:

Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple’s payment system, including upgrading from our Free to Premium service. If we pay this tax, it would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music.

If we choose not to use Apple’s payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify. For example, they limit our communication with our customers – including our outreach beyond the app. In some cases we aren’t even allowed to send email to our customers who use Apple. Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades.

Here is what Spotify is asking for:

  • Apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions – including Apple Music.
  • Consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
  • App stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit customers.

It will be interesting to see what the European Commission decides. If Spotify wins, it could open up the opportunity for other app makers, who are not pleased with Apple, to file their own complaints.


Apple Pay Coming to Target, Taco Bell, and More



Apple announced that the number of merchants that support Apple Pay is expanding. Apple says that seventy-four of the top 100 US merchants now accept Apple Pay.

Target, Taco Bell, Hy-Vee supermarkets in the Midwest, Speedway convenience stores and Jack in the Box are the latest merchants to support Apple Pay, the most popular mobile contactless payment system in the world that lets customers easily and securely pay in stores using their iPhone and Apple Watch. With the addition of these national retailers, 74 of the top 100 merchants and 65 percent of all retail locations in the country will support Apple Pay.

Apple Pay is rolling out to:

  • All 1,850 Target locations across the US in the coming weeks.
  • More than 245 Hy-Vee stores in the Midwest
  • Inside the store at all 3,000 Speedway locations in the Midwest, East Coast, and Southeast
  • More than 7,000 Taco Bell locations
  • More than 2,200 Jack in the Box locations

This is in addition to the places that already support Apple Pay:

  • Costco completed the rollout of Apple Pay to over 500 U.S. warehouses
  • CVS Pharmacy introduced Apple Pay at all 8,400 stand-alone locations
  • 7-Eleven launched Apple Pay at 95 percent of its US stores last year.

The expansion of where Apple Pay is accepted is good news for people who are currently using an Apple Watch or an iPhone. It makes things a bit more convenient for them.

Obviously, this expansion doesn’t do anything at all for Android users – who are unlikely to switch over just to be able to use their phones to pay for their lunch at Taco Bell or Jack in the Box. It also does nothing for people who cannot afford an iPhone.


An Apple By Any Other Name Would Sound As Sweet



The new Apple iPhones announced last week have been analysed to the nth degree. They’re all very understandable and credible additions to the evolutionary tree of species iPhone. However what I can’t understand is how anyone thought that the new names were worthy of these otherwise excellent devices.

Much as Apple would like everyone to pronounce the Roman numeral X as a number, iPhone 10, plenty of people call their own phone the iPhone Ex. No doubt the Applerati will condescendingly sneer at this social faux pas, but that’s the reality. You’d think that Apple would have known from OS X but apparently not.

And now we have the iPhone XS – “excess” – and the iPhone Excess Max which slaps on the irony with a $1000+ price tag. It’s like a riff on Harry Enfield‘s “Loadsamoney” character from the 1980’s- “Hey, look at me, I’ve got an iPhone Excess Max and I’ve got loadsa money!”

To be fair, it is very hard to come up with product branding that combines track record with improvement and excitement: you only have to look at Windows 3, NT, 98, ME, XP, 95, 7, 8, 10 to see how difficult it is. But this is Apple. They embody excellence and we all expect better.

The automotive industry has been at this a long time and they’ve learnt a thing or two. Mostly they stick with the brand, product and model, and then simply iterate the year. Ford Mustang GT 2018.

Apple iPhone Plus 2018. That’s what I expect – taste, style and refinement.

With apologies to William Shakespeare.