Businesses

The Human Cost of the Apple Supply Chain Machine (bloomberg.com) 134

Apple is still struggling to improve working conditions at its supply chain factories. China Labor Watch and Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Catcher, a key supplier for iPhone and MacBook casings, makes workers endure harsh safety conditions and unfair work terms in a factory in Suqian. According to observers and discussions with workers, the machines are not only loud, but spray fluid and metallic particles that frequently hit workers' faces only some of which have access to safety goggles and gloves. From the report: Hundreds throng a workshop where the main door only opens about 12 inches. Off duty, they return to debris-strewn dorms bereft of showers or hot water. Many go without washing for days at a time, workers told Bloomberg. "My hands turned bloodless white after a day of work," said one of the workers, who makes a little over 4,000 yuan a month (just over $2 an hour) in her first job outside her home province of Henan. She turned to Catcher because her husband's home-decorating business was struggling. "I only tell good things to my family and keep the sufferings like this for myself." "I asked for the earplugs many times but they didn't have any. The loud noise of 'zah-zah' made my head ache and dizzy," one of those employees told Bloomberg.
Businesses

Apple's Indirect Presence Fades from CES (techpinions.com) 119

Analyst Ben Bajarin writes: We would go to CES and remark at how Apple's dominance loomed over the show. Vendors of all shapes and sizes were rushing to be a part of the Apple ecosystem. Apple's ecosystem was front and center with everything from iOS apps, to accessories galore for iPhone and iPad, and even companies looking to copy Apple in many ways. The last year or so, things have dramatically changed, and that change is further evident at this year's CES. Gone are the days of Apple's presence, or observably "winning" of CES, even though they are not present. It was impossible to walk the show floor and not see a vast array of interesting innovations which touched the Apple ecosystem in some way. Now it is almost impossible to walk the floor and see any products that touch the Apple ecosystem in any way except for an app on the iOS App Store. The Apple ecosystem is no longer the star of CES but instead things like Amazon's Alexa voice platform, and now Google's assistant voice platform is the clear ecosystem winners of CES.
Crime

Apple Health Data Is Being Used As Evidence In a Rape and Murder Investigation (vice.com) 185

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Hussein K., an Afghan refugee in Freiburg, has been on trial since September for allegedly raping and murdering a student in Freiburg, and disposing of her body in a river. But many of the details of the trial have been hazy -- no one can agree on his real age, and most notably, there's a mysterious chunk of time missing from the geodata and surveillance video analysis of his whereabouts at the time of the crime. He refused to give authorities the passcode to his iPhone, but investigators hired a Munich company (which one is not publicly known) to gain access to his device, according to German news outlet Welt. They searched through Apple's Health app, which was added to all iPhones with the release of iOS 8 in 2014, and were able to gain more data about what he was doing that day. The app records how many steps he took and what kind of activity he was doing throughout that day. The app recorded a portion of his activity as "climbing stairs," which authorities were able to correlate with the time he would have dragged his victim down the river embankment, and then climbed back up. Freiburg police sent an investigator to the scene to replicate his movements, and sure enough, his Health app activity correlated with what was recorded on the defendant's phone.
Encryption

FBI Calls Apple 'Jerks' and 'Evil Geniuses' For Making iPhone Cracks Difficult (itwire.com) 348

troublemaker_23 shares a report from iTWire: A forensics expert from the FBI has lashed out at Apple, calling the company's security team a bunch of "jerks" and "evil geniuses" for making it more difficult to circumvent the encryption on its devices. Stephen Flatley told the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York on Wednesday that one example of the way that Apple had made it harder for him and his colleagues to break into the iPhone was by recently making the password guesses slower, with a change in hash iterations from 10,000 to 10,000,000. A report on the Motherboard website said Flatley explained that this change meant that the speed at which one could brute-force passwords went from 45 attempts a second to one every 18 seconds. "Your crack time just went from two days to two months," he was quoted as saying. "At what point is it just trying to one up things and at what point is it to thwart law enforcement? Apple is pretty good at evil genius stuff," Flatley added.
Businesses

Senator Wants Apple To Answer Questions on Slowing iPhones (reuters.com) 169

The chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues asked Apple to answer questions about its disclosure that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing a letter. From the report: The California-based company apologized over the issue on Dec. 28, cut battery replacement costs and said it will change its software to show users whether their phone battery is good. Senator John Thune, a Republican who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a Jan. 9 letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook that "the large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency."
IOS

Apple Planning New, 'Robust' Parental Controls To Help Protect Children, Teens (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: An open letter to Apple from some investors sparked the tech giant to respond by promising new software tools for parents to restrict and monitor their kids' smartphone use. In a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple states it has plans to create new software features that will make its current parental controls on iPhone and other devices "even more robust." "We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them," Apple said in its statement to The Wall Street Journal. "We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers' expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids."

Apple didn't provide details on its planned, improved parental control features, but it did point back to the controls its software has had in place since 2008. The Settings app on every iPhone has a parental control section that allows adults to restrict website access, control in-app purchases, and install or delete apps, among other things. But those existing settings haven't been enough to quell the worries of the investors who wrote an open letter to Apple last week, expressing concern about the effect smartphones can have on kids who are glued to those devices.

Crime

Apple Investigated By France For 'Planned Obsolescence' (bbc.com) 313

AmiMoJo shares a report from the BBC: French prosecutors have launched a probe over allegations of "planned obsolescence" in Apple's iPhone. Under French law it is a crime to intentionally shorten the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it. In December, Apple admitted that older iPhone models were deliberately slowed down through software updates. It follows a legal complaint filed in December by pro-consumer group Stop Planned Obsolescence (Hop). Hop said France was the third country to investigate Apple after Israel and the U.S., but the only one in which the alleged offense was a crime. Penalties could include up to 5% of annual turnover or even a jail term.
Power

Wireless Charging Nears Unification As Powermat Cedes To Qi (engadget.com) 37

Powermat, the only contender to the dominant format Qi, has joined the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) and now backs its rival. "Qi has become the dominant wireless charging standard on the market and the recently launched Apple iPhone lineup is evidence of this success," Powermat said in a statement. "[We] will share technology innovation to further unlock wireless charging potential, and will expedite the growth of the wireless charging infrastructure." Engadget reports: Powermat was barely hanging on as a standard, but as it mentioned, Apple's favoring of Qi for its upcoming chargers pretty much sealed its fate. The company was forced to upgrade its chargers to support Qi at Starbucks locations, for instance, so that Apple's Qi-supported iPhone X- and 8-owning clients could juice up. Until a few years ago, there were essentially three standards, the Alliance for Wireless Power, the Power Matters Alliance (no joking), and Qi, which was already the dominant player. The first two merged to form the Airfuel alliance in 2015, of which Powermat was the main player.
Businesses

Apple Should Address Youth Phone Addiction, Say Two Large Investors (reuters.com) 159

Two large Apple shareholders, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, are urging Apple to take steps to address what they say is a growing problem of young people getting addicted to Apple's iPhones, Jana partner Charles Penner said. From a report: Jana, a leading activist shareholder, and CalSTRS, one of the nation's largest public pension plans, delivered a letter to Apple on Saturday asking the company to consider developing software that would allow parents to limit children's phone use, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier on Sunday. Jana and CalSTRS also asked Apple to study the impact of excessive phone use on mental health, according to the publication. Jana and CalSTRS together control about $2 billion worth of Apple shares, the Journal reports.
Iphone

Some Smartphone Salesmen Aren't Sold on the iPhone X (cnet.com) 230

A CNET reporter visited four carrier stores to ask their salesmen if they'd recommend an iPhone X. But after visiting stores for Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, "I couldn't even find a salesperson to tell me it was the best iPhone I could buy." So he finally tried asking three salesmen at Apple Stores -- and still got equivocal answers. An anonymous reader quotes CNET's report: "Well, it depends on what you like," the salesman said, somewhat coyly. "The biggest problem I have with it is using Face ID for Apple Pay. You really have to put the phone at a certain angle or it doesn't work." He started with a problem. I was already suspicious. I was in something of a hurry, but I asked him: "So are you selling a lot more of these than other phones?"

He turned into a high-ranking member of a political party. "All our phones sell well," he said. Which sounded not entirely reassuring. Indeed, it sounded like a "no."

Chatting next with an Apple store "Genius" (who was testing his iPhone 6), CNET's reporter was told that "The X and the 8 are the same phone... Inside, I mean. With the X, you're just paying the extra money for the design." Unfortunately, that salesman's $999 iPhone X was wrapped in an ugly pink case, because after four weeks he'd already cracked it. And a third Apple salesman -- who touted the glories of an OLED screen -- also kept his iPhone X in a case at all times "It's glass," he explained. "You'll definitely need a case."

"But what about not being able to see the lovely phone?"

"Get a see-through case," he replied with a smile.
Iphone

Apple Will Replace Old iPhone Batteries Regardless of Diagnostic Test Results (macrumors.com) 191

After apologizing to customers for slowing older iPhones down as the batteries degrade, Apple has started offering battery swaps for $29. This has led to some confusion as Apple did not clarify how it qualified batteries as eligible for the discounted replacement, as the Apple Genius Bar uses a diagnostic test to check whether a battery can retain 80 percent of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles. According to Mac Rumors, Apple has confirmed that they will replace the battery if your iPhone 6 or later even if it passes a Genius Bar diagnostic test. From the report: Apple has since independently confirmed to MacRumors that it will agree to replace an eligible battery for a $29 fee, regardless of whether an official diagnostic test shows that it is still able to retain less than 80 percent of its original capacity. The concession appears to have been made to mollify the anger of customers stoked by headlines suggesting that Apple artificially slows down older iPhones to drive customers to upgrade to newer models. Anecdotal reports also suggest that customers who paid $79 to have their battery replaced before the new pricing came into effect on Saturday, December 30, will receive a refund from Apple upon request.
Iphone

Apple's iPhones Were the Best-Selling Tech Product of 2017 (usatoday.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Once again, the iPhone was the best-selling tech product of 2017, selling more units than the No. 2 through No. 5 products combined. According to Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, who compiled the chart for USA TODAY, Apple will sell 223 million iPhones in 2017, up from 211 million phones the previous year... Apple took a risk in introducing three new iPhones for 2017...but all in all, Apple sold more iPhones total, although fewer than the peak year of 2015, when it moved 230 million units. (That was the year of the iPhone 6...)

The global market share for smartphones is dominated by Google's Android system, which owns 85%, compared to 15% for Apple's iOS, according to researcher IDC. But the iPhone is the most popular smartphone brand, having opened a huge gap compared to No. 2 Samsung's Galaxy phones at 33 million. However Samsung, which has a broader portfolio of phones, sells more overall. Indeed, in 2016, Samsung shipped over 320 million phones, most lower-priced phones sold outside the United States, like the J3, On8 and A9 lines.

Apple's strong performance through September earned CEO Tim Cook a $9.3 million bonus on top of his $3.06 million salary -- plus vesting of $89.2 million more in Apple stock. Here's the complete list of the five best-selling tech products of 2017:
  • Apple iPhones: 223 million
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones: 33 million
  • Amazon Echo Dot connected speakers: 24 million
  • Apple Watch: 20 million
  • Nintendo Switch video game console: 15 million

Power

Slashdot Asks: How Should Apple Have Responded To the Battery Controversy? 177

Yesterday, Apple officially apologized for slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. In a letter to customers, Apple said, "We apologize," offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 -- a discount of $50 from the unusual replacement cost. They're also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018.

Apple's response has left many wondering whether or not it is enough. Even though they are discounting the cost of a battery replacement, for example, they are still profiting from each battery replacement. At the end of the day, "Apple only came clean after independent investigation, giving the whole situation an air of underhanded secrecy," writes Macworld. Should Apple have responded differently to the battery controversy? In the first place, should Apple even issue a software update to older devices to purposefully throttle the CPU and prevent the phones from randomly shutting down when experiencing rapid power draw?

Quinn Nelson via Snazzy Labs explains the controversy and how it is largely exaggerated.
Iphone

Apple Apologizes For iPhone Slowdown Drama, Will Offer $29 Battery Replacements (theverge.com) 254

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Apple just published a letter to customers apologizing for the "misunderstanding" around older iPhones being slowed down, following its recent admission that it was, in fact, slowing down older phones in order to compensate for degrading batteries. "We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down," says the company. "We apologize." Apple says in its letter that batteries are "consumable components," and is offering anyone with an iPhone 6 or later a battery replacement for $29 starting in late January through December 2018 -- a discount of $50 from the usual replacement cost. Apple's also promising to add features to iOS that provide more information about the battery health in early 2018, so that users are aware of when their batteries are no longer capable of supporting maximum phone performance.
Cellphones

HTC, Motorola Say They Don't Slow Old Phones Like Apple Does (theverge.com) 133

After Apple confirmed last week that it reduces the performance of older iPhones to improve battery life, it has left many wondering whether or not other smartphone manufacturers do the same. HTC and Motorola are the two most recent OEMs to say they don't throttle their phones' processor speeds as their batteries age. The Verge reports: In emails to The Verge, both companies said they do not employ similar practices with their smartphones. An HTC spokesperson said that designing phones to slow down their processor as their battery ages "is not something we do." A Motorola spokesperson said, "We do not throttle CPU performance based on older batteries." The Verge also reached out to Google, Samsung, LG, and Sony for comment on whether their phone processors are throttled in response to aging batteries. A Sony spokesperson said a response would be delayed by the holidays, and a Samsung spokesperson said the company was looking into it. The responses begin to clarify whether or not throttling processor speeds is typical behavior in smartphones -- as of last week, we knew that Apple was doing it, but not whether it was common practice among competitors. HTC and Motorola's responses start to suggest that it's not.
Technology

That '70s Show: the Conference That Predicted the Future of Work (wired.com) 40

theodp writes: Over at Wired, Leslie Berlin writes about Futures Day at the 1977 Xerox World Conference, an invitation-only demonstration of the Alto personal computer system developed at Xerox PARC. It's an excerpt from Troublemakers: How a Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented the Future. Both Berlin's book and Brian Dear's recent The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture are shedding light on groundbreaking systems of the '70s that were ultimately done in by the less-featured but low-cost Apple II (yes, $2,638 for a system with 48 kB of RAM was 'low cost'!) and other personal computers. Interestingly, Dear notes that the Xerox Parc and PLATO teams sent people out to see and learn and exchange ideas with each other over the years. Their interactions included 'tremendous battles' over the advantages and disadvantages of mouse interfaces [Xerox] vs. touch screens [PLATO], as well as plasma displays [PLATO] vs. other, cheaper display solutions [Xerox]. As is the case with many debates, both teams proved to be "right." Apple wouldn't introduce the masses to a mouse interface until 1984 [Macintosh] and a touch screen interface until 2007 [iPhone].
Iphone

Analysts Cut iPhone X Shipment Forecasts, Citing Lukewarm Demand (bloomberg.com) 168

According to Bloomberg, analysts have lowered iPhone X shipment projections for the first quarter of next year, citing signs of lackluster demand at the end of the holiday shopping season. From the report: Sinolink Securities Co. analyst Zhang Bin said in a report Monday that handset shipments in the period may be as low as 35 million, or 10 million less than he previously estimated. "After the first wave of demand has been fulfilled, the market now worries that the high price of the iPhone X may weaken demand in the first quarter," Zhang wrote. JL Warren Capital LLC said shipments will drop to 25 million units in the first quarter of 2018 from 30 million units in the fourth quarter, citing reduced orders at some Apple suppliers. The drop reflects "weak demand because of the iPhone X's high price point and a lack of interesting innovations," the New York-based research firm said in note to clients Friday. "Bad news here is that highly publicized and promoted X did not boost the global demand for iPhone X," according to the note. Apple is said to have trimmed its first-quarter sales forecast to 30 million units from 50 million, Taiwanese newspaper Economic Daily News reported, citing unidentified supply chain officials. It also said Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.'s main iPhone X manufacturing hub in Zhengzhou, China, stopped recruiting workers. The company also known as Foxconn is the sole iPhone X assembler, and also makes the handsets in Shenzhen and Chengdu.
Iphone

Samsung Could Make $22 Billion Off Next Year's iPhones (cnet.com) 43

According to a report by Korean outlet ETnews (via The Investor), Apple placed an order for 180 million to 200 million OLED displays from Samsung's manufacturing branch, Samsung Display, for the next round of iPhones. Each display is estimated to cost $110, which could mean the deal is worth up to $22 billion. CNET reports: The recently released iPhone X was Apple's first phone to feature an OLED display, rather than an LCD panel. Samsung, on the other hand, has been using OLED displays in its phones for quite some time. Currently Samsung holds a near monopoly on the world's manufacturing of OLED screens. As a result, Apple had little choice but to turn to its rival for this type of screen. This isn't the first deal of its kind. Earlier this year it was reported that Apple bought 60 million OLED displays from Samsung, apparently for what would later become the iPhone X. According to the report, Apple's next order is up to four times larger than this previous order. Demand is so high that Samsung considered opening a new manufacturing plant to process Apple's order, the report said, but has been able to manufacture enough of the panels to fill Apple's order.
Iphone

Apple Hit With Class Action Lawsuit After Admitting To Slowing Down Old iPhones (appleinsider.com) 244

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: A day after Apple acknowledged slowing down iPhones with degraded batteries, a Los Angeles man is pursuing a class action lawsuit in the matter. Owners didn't agree to the prospect, and it hurts the devices' value, according to a filing by plaintiff Stefan Bodganovich, cited by TMZ. The case is said to be particularly concerned with the impact on iPhone 7 users. The suit asks that Apple stop throttling older devices, and pay compensation to affected people. Over the course of December, a number of people on Reddit and elsewhere have speculated that iPhones perform faster after battery replacements, mostly citing anecdotal evidence. Apple effectively confirmed that situation on Wednesday, but with the provision that it only throttles phones to prevent sudden, potentially damaging shutdowns. UPDATE: A second lawsuit has been filed against the company. Chicago Sun-Times reports "five customers have filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago against the tech giant for what they're calling 'deceptive, immoral and unethical' practices that violate consumer protection laws."
Software

Apple Says Apps Must Now Disclose Odds For Loot Boxes (kotaku.com) 88

Apple has revised the guidelines for its App Store, including a provision that loot boxes must be transparent about their odds. "Apps offering 'loot boxes' or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase," reads the new rule, which will affect the most popular games on iOS, including Hearthstone, The Simpsons Tapped Out, and Clash Royale. Kotaku reports: Loot boxes, which have always been common in the world of iOS gaming, are virtual grab bags that can give players a host of items ranging from common to rare. Most of the time, you can buy these loot boxes not just for in-game currency but for real money, which has led some players to classify them as gambling -- a label that the Entertainment Software Rating Board doesn't acknowledge. As rage over these practices gets louder and louder, Apple's move is the first of what may be many steps that game publishers and distributors voluntarily take in an attempt to avoid regulation from outside bodies.

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