Tag Archives: Apple

Apple Warns Sideloading Apps Would Undermine Privacy Protections



Apple has released a report titled: “Building a Trusted Ecosystem for Millions of Apps”. In short, it provides information about how the App Store protections are important for the safety and security of iOS and iPadOS. Sideloading would undermine this system because it would enable nefarious apps to cause harm to those who download them.

The report is an interesting read for those who use iOS and/or iPadOS. It provides details about what happens “behind the scenes” that enables Apple to provide security and privacy protections to users. It also talks about its App Review process, in which developers and users are screened and checked for malicious components like unwanted purchases or providing access to personal data.

In 2020, 100,000 apps and updates were reviewed each week on average by a team of over 500 dedicated experts, who review apps in different languages.

Nearly one million problematic new apps and a similar number of updates were rejected or removed. That includes more than 150,000 for being spam or copycats, or misleading users; more than 215,000 for violating privacy guidelines; more than 48,000 for containing hidden or undocumented features; and about 95,000 for fraudulent violations (predominantly for including “bait and switch” functionalities to commit criminal or other forbidden actions.)

Features like Apple’s privacy labels on the App Store, and its App Tracking Transparency, provide protections to users. Apple points out that allowing sideloading – allowing developers to distribute their apps outside of the App Store through websites or third-party app stores – “would degrade the security of the iOS platform and expose users to serious security risks not only on third-party app stores, but also on the App Store.”

One of the things that caught my attention in Apple’s report was that sideloading could cause harm to people who only download apps from the App Store. Those that choose to sideload apps will put other iOS or iPadOS users at risk. A malicious developer could attempt to fake something that looks like the App Store, which could trick users into thinking it was the real deal. That app could then grab people’s data, including health and financial information.


UK’s CMA Scrutinizes Mobile Ecosystems of Apple and Google



The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that they have launched a market study into Apple’s and Google’s mobile ecosystems over concerns they have market power which is harming users and other businesses.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is taking a closer look at whether the firms’ effective duopoly over the supply of operating systems (iOS and Android), app stores (App Store and Play Store), and web browsers (Safari and Chrome), could be resulting in consumers losing out across a wide range of areas.

The CMA is describing “mobile ecosystems” as a variety of products, content, and services such as music, TV and video streaming, fitness tracking, shopping and banking. They also include devices such as smart speakers, smart watches, home security, and lighting (which mobiles can connect to and control).

The purpose of the market study appears to be to determine whether the ecosystems of Google and Apple are stifling competition. CMA will also examine the effects of Google’s and Apple’s market power over other businesses, such as app developers, who rely on either Apple or Google to market their products to customers via their phones.

9to5Mac reported that the CMA views Apple and Google’s ecosystems as a “duopoly”. 9to5Mac also pointed out that the CMA’s investigation comes after a preliminary ruling from the European Commission that Apple’s mandated 30% cut of In-App Purchases unfairly diminished competition in music streaming.

Personally, I think it is probably a good idea for the CMA to investigate the Apple and Google “duopoly”. They may find that the situation is not really a problem after all. Or, they could discover reasons to induce changes in how both companies do things. Those changes might turn out to be really good for consumers.


Apple Stores will Stop Requiring Face Masks Soon



Apple is going to loosen its face mask requirements in Apple Stores as part of its COVID-19 policies in the United States, Apple Insider reported. The mask requirement will be dropped on June 15, 2021.

This decision goes along with Apple’s previous decisions regarding COVID-19. 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, South Carolina, and Arizona, out of an abundance of caution. The decisions made by Apple on when to close or reopen a store depended upon the number of COVID-19 cases in a particular state.

According to Apple Insider, Apple will make a change that will go into affect on June 15, 2021, in which it could relax its mask policy to allow some customers to be able to enter an Apple Store without wearing a face mask. That information comes from Bloomberg, who spoke with “people with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified discussing policy changes that haven’t been announced.”

It appears that the removal of the mask requirement is intended for customers. Apple store employees will still have to wear masks.

Of course, it’s hard to be certain about exactly what will happen on June 15, 2021. While it is entirely possible that Bloomberg really did get some inside information about Apple’s upcoming face mask rules – it is possible that things may change. After all, Apple has a history of checking the number of COVID cases in a location and using that to determine whether or not to close or reopen a store.


Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini Will Support Lossless Audio



Apple posted information about lossless audio in Apple Music. This comes after Apple discontinued the original HomePod in March of 2021, in favor of focusing on the HomePod mini.

Apple posted information titled: “About lossless audio in Apple Music”. The first line under the title clearly states: “Lossless is not yet available but is coming soon.” From the information:

What you need to know about lossless in Apple Music:

  • Streaming lossless audio over a cellular or Wi-Fi network consume significantly more data. And downloading lossless audio uses significantly more space on your device. Higher resolutions use more data than lower ones.
  • AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Beats wireless headphones use Apple AAC Bluetooth Codec to ensure excellent audio quality. However, Bluetooth connections aren’t lossless.

The Verge reported that Apple is basically saying those who want to delete and redownload their music from Apple have to do it through Apple’s subscription service. However, according to The Verge, Apple will offer over 20 million songs in lossless quality at launch in June. The total number of lossless quality songs will reach over 75 million by the end of 2021.

Can you listen to lossless audio on your HomePod or HomePod mini? Apple answered that question. HomePod and HomePod mini currently use ACC to ensure excellent quality. Support for lossless is coming in a future software update.

9to5Mac reported that broadcast radio, live radio, on-demand content from Apple Music 1, and Music videos won’t support lossless audio. iTunes purchases also cannot be downloaded again in lossless, as its only available from the Apple Music catalog.


96% of iOS Users in the U.S. Opted-Out of App Tracking



Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 included the ability for users to opt-out of allowing apps to track them. Ars Technica reported that 96% of iOS users in the United States chose to opt-out of tracking. This news should surprise no one, because it is well known that people use ad blockers and VPNs to avoid being tracked.

The information about the percentage of users in the United States who chose to opt-out of app tracking comes from a company called Flurry Analytics. It is owned by Verizon Media. Flurry is updating that data daily.

Until now, apps have been able to rely on Apple’s Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA) to track users for targeting and advertising purposes. With the launch of iOS 14.5 this week, mobile apps now have to ask users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5 for permission to gather tracking data. With opt-in rates expected to be low, this change is expected to create challenges for personalized advertising and attribution, impacting the $189 billion mobile advertising industry worldwide.

Ars Technica reported that Flurry Analytics says U.S. users agree to be tracked only four percent of the time. The global number of users deciding to opt-in to tracking is at twelve percent. That number is below some advertising companies’ estimates.

Predictably, the news appears to be alarming to companies like Facebook who heavily rely on tracking and data collection from users for the purpose of showing ads to users. Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature does allow Facebook (and other companies that track people) to provide a brief explanation about why they absolutely need to keep grabbing your data. Clearly, those explanations are falling flat as most users opt out of tracking.


German Advertising Companies Accuse Apple of Antitrust Abuse



A group of Germany’s largest media, tech, and advertising companies have accused Apple of antitrust abuse as it introduces changes to the privacy settings of iPhones that they say will harm the ads market, Financial Times reported.

According to Financial Times, nine industry associations, representing companies including Facebook and Axel Springer, the owner of Bild, Die Welt and Insider, filed a complaint on Monday with Germany’s competition regulator.

The New York Times has a detailed article about some of the changes coming when Apple releases iOS 14.5. The thing that is causing advertising companies (and the platforms and games that rely on them for data) to be so angry with Apple is a feature that is absolutely fantastic for users who value their privacy.

The new App Tracking Transparency feature will show a pop-up notification that iPhone users will see when an app wants to track them. It says: Allow [name of app] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites? There is a space on the notification for the company that wants to track the user to attempt to explain itself.

The best part is that the App Tracking Transparency feature gives the user control over whether or not they want a specific app to track them (and potentially create financial gain off the user’s data). To prevent that from happening, all the user has to do is tap the text that says: Ask App not to Track.

There is a common refrain from advertising companies, and the platforms who rely on them, who desperately need to track users in order for the ad company and platform to make money. In December of 2020, Facebook purchased a series of full-page newspaper ads to complain about Apple. At the time, Facebook claimed that not allowing Facebook to track users data would be “devastating to small businesses.”

The German advertising complaint against Apple is also ridiculous. They are predicting that the change will result in “a 60 percent fall in advertising revenues for app developers, as the changes make it harder for third parties to gather the data they need,”

Personally, I am on Apple’s side in this argument. Companies that never bothered to ask people for permission to not only track them across websites and apps, but also to scoop up their data and give it to third parties, are predators. The sneaky way they did this clearly shows that they knew people would not say “yes” to those requests.

Next, they stupidly based the majority of their income on the erroneous concept that people would either never know what was happening, or that they would never be given the opportunity to opt-out. Since then certain countries, and some U.S. states, have created privacy restrictions that prevent greedy companies from grabbing user’s data. Apple’s iOS 14.5 is one more tool towards making the internet safer for people to use.


The Battle Between Epic Games and Apple Continues



Today, 9To5Mac reported a significant update to the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games – “Project Liberty”.

According to Apple, Epic Games hired PR firms in 2019 to work on a media strategy called “Project Liberty” aimed at portraying Apple “as the bad guy.” In October 2020, Judge Yvonne Rogers had concerns that Epic knew exactly what they were doing with the controversial Fortnite update, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.

Here is a quote from Apple:

Epic’s monopoly maintenance claim is premised on the notion that the antitrust laws preclude Apple from imposing conditions on the licensed use of its intellectual property, and impose on Apple a duty to deal with Epic on the terms preferred by Epic – to the detriment of other developers and consumers alike. But Apple has no obligation to license its intellectual property, aside from a limited exception not applicable here, businesses are free to choose the parties with whom they will deal, as well as the prices, terms and conditions of that dealing.

CNBC provided a summary of what Apple, and Epic, will argue in court. The case could be heard on May 3, 2021, (but the date could change due to the pandemic).

Apple will argue:

  • Its 30% commission is essentially the same as other online software stores like Google Play or stores for video game consoles and Apple’s fee has decreased over time.
  • It faces competition both for iPhones as well as other platforms to play games.
  • Its App Store policies have led to a boom in the software industry and result in greater safety and security for users.
  • The App Store is a core, integrated feature of the iPhone, and that using Apple payments for digital purchases is a key feature.

Epic will argue:

  • Apple forces consumers to bear high switching costs to stop using Apple products, locking them in.
  • As Apple has accumulated more customers and locked them in, the importance of selling software to Apple customers has grown.
  • Apple controls the only way to install software on an iPhone through the App Store.
  • Apple uses its App Review process, which manually screens individual apps, for anti-competitive purposes, removing apps for business reasons under the pretext of security.
  • Because some developers have chosen to raise iPhone software prices because of Apple’s 30% fee, it causes consumers to pay more, and Fortnite is an example.