Tag Archives: Apple

Apple and Google Partner on COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology

Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contract tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.

To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.

In May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.

In the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.

Apple and Google stated: “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance and effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”

I understand that Apple and Google are trying to do something that could, potentially, reduce the spread of COVID-19. I can see where having public health authorities involves with the project is important, as that would be a good way to ensure that credible information is presented.

It is wonderful that the project will be opt-in for users. Nobody likes it when companies go ahead and opt-in someone without asking for their permission. My biggest concern about this contact tracing project is that a government could try and us the data to cause harm to people.

Google and Apple really need to get this right when it comes to user privacy.

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.

Court Rules Apple Must Pay Workers for Time Spent Waiting for Exit Searches

The California Supreme Court has ruled that Apple Inc. violated California law when it failed to pay employees in Apple Stores for the time they spend waiting for mandatory bag and iPhone searches at the end of their shifts.

The case is called Frlekin v. Apple Inc. It was filed as a class-action lawsuit against Apple by a group of Apple workers. The workers claimed that they were required to submit to searches before leaving the stores but were not compensated for the time those searches required.

The decision made by the California Supreme Court was written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. A key part of the decision says:

…Applying these factors here, it is clear that plaintiffs are subject to Apple’s control while awaiting, and during, Apple’s exit searches. Apple’s exit searches are required as a practical matter, occur at the workplace, involve a significant degree of control, are imposed primarily for Apple’s benefit, and are enforced through threat of discipline. Thus, according to the “hours worked” control clause, plaintiffs “must be paid”…

…We reiterate that Apple may tailor its bag-search policy as narrowly or broadly as it desires and may minimize the time required for exit searches by hiring sufficient security personnel or employing adequate security technology. But it must compensate those employees to whom the policy applies for the time spent waiting for and undergoing these searches.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Apple has 52 retail stores in California, and that workers are required to submit to exit searches. Employees estimate that waiting for and undergoing searches can take five to 20 minutes, or, on busiest days, up to 45 minutes.