Apple Apple Watch Review Technology

Apple Watch Series 6: A Review

From time to time, new product lines are announced by a company. In September of 2014 Apple announced a whole new product line, the Apple Watch. It took a bit more than six months until the first Apple Watch was released, but it did arrive in April of 2015.

When it was introduced the Apple Watch was positioned as a replacement for the iPhone, however that is not the focus of the Apple Watch today. Recently, Apple announced new watch, The Apple Watch Series 6.

Each year I have purchased a new Apple Watch and I have always purchased the Space Gray aluminum model. For the first Apple Watch through the Apple Watch Series 4, I ordered it with the Black Sport Band. With the Apple Watch Series 5, I ordered the Anchor Gray Sport Loop.

The reason I ordered the Gray Sport Loop was because I purchased and reviewed the Black Sport Loop and I liked the Sport Loop. Apple no longer sold the Black Sport Loop, so I went with something as close as I could. Therefore, I ordered the Apple Watch with the Anchor Gray Sport Loop. If they would have had the Black Sport Loop, I would have ordered that.

When the Apple Watch Series 6 was announced it was available for ordering that day and would begin arriving on September 18th. I ordered an Apple Watch Series 6. As mentioned above, I have always ordered the Aluminum Space Gray, but this year I have done something a bit different. Instead of getting the standard Aluminum Space Gray, I went with the Aluminum Space Gray Nike Apple Watch.

Specifically, I ordered the Space Gray Nike Watch with the Anthracite/Black Nike Sport Band. Along with this, I also ordered a Nike Black Sport Loop, as well as one of the new Black Sport Loop. All of this provides me a couple of new areas to review. The areas that I will review are:

  • Series 6 Watch
  • Sport Bands
  • Sport Loops
  • Solo Loop

Each of these will be looked at in turn starting with the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple Watch Series 6

If you were to upgrade your Apple Watch year over year, as I have done, you will only see incremental updates over the previous year. However, if you upgrade from an older model, you might notice significant changes. Each new Apple Watch has some change that goes along with it. Typically, these updates are hardware. The Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. The biggest feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is a new sensor for testing your blood oxygen levels.

Blood Oxygen

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a new sensor that allows you to determine the amount of oxygen within your blood. This is done by shining a bright infrared light through your skin. The amount of reflected light that is reflected back is put through an algorithm that will determine how much oxygen is in your blood.

The way that you test your blood oxygen is by opening up the “Blood Oxygen” app. When you open up the Blood Oxygen app you will be presented with an animation. Additionally, you will see the last time that your blood oxygen was taken and the recorded ratio. You can start measuring your blood oxygen by tapping on the “Start” button.

The test will take 15 seconds. In order to get the best results, you will want to rest your wrist on a table or flat surface. This is because movement can cause the test to be inconclusive and not be able to be taken. Furthermore, it is best to not tap your fingers, because this can also cause the test to not be able to be done properly.

The result that you will get is a percentage.Obviously, the higher the percentage, the more oxygen that is present in your blood. A majority of individuals have a level between 95% and 100%. There are those who may have a lower blood oxygen level.

Blood Oxygen levels are not only recorded when you take the test. They are also performed in the background, particularly while you are sleeping. All of your tests are stored in the Health app. You can get to this data by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the Health App.
  2. Tap on the “Summary” tab.
  3. At the bottom of “Favorites” tap on “Show All Health Data”.
  4. Scroll down to “Blood Oxygen”.
  5. Tap on “Blood Oxygen” to open up the Blood Oxygen data.

Here you will see a standard Health data chart with the Daily, Weekly, Monthly, and Yearly options. You can also select any of the options at the bottom, which will highlight the necessary information or a line to the graph so you can see the variations throughout the day.

The Blood Oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch Series 6 is a nice addition for users to be able to add one additional data point to their health records. Apple is very cautious when it comes to health-related items, and it makes sense to be cautious. The data from the blood oxygen sensor will help users, and their physicians, have a record of blood oxygen levels and can help should any issues arise in the future. Let us now turn to a couple of other hardware changes.

Other Hardware Changes

The Apple Watch Series 6 has a coupe lot other hardware-specific items. With each new version of the Apple Watch, there is a new chip that powers the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 has an S6 chip. The S6 Chip has some new features which are not present on the S4 and S5. The S6 has an always-on Altimeter.

The always on Altimeter will allow you to see your current altitude above sea level. You can add a complication to your Apple Watch face so you can see your current altitude. This is great addition particularly if you are on a hike that will bring you up or down a hill with significant change in elevation.

Another new feature of the S6, which does not have much usage right now, is the inclusion of the U1, which is Apple’s ultra Wideband chip. The U1 is present in the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The U1 is used for spatial awareness, which currently only used with Air Drop. It might be used for other features in the future though.

The U1 chip is capable of allowing you to communicate between devices that are local. There are other ways of communicating. One feature that the Apple Watch has had since the first version is the ability to connect to the Apple Watch to Wifi. Every Apple Watch has had the ability to connect via Wifi, except this is only able to use the 2.4GHz spectrum. For most uses this is acceptable, however the 2.4GHz Wifi can be quite crowded and a crowded

The last hardware change is the screen. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a brighter screen. According to Apple it is 2.5x brighter while in sunlight. With previous models it may have been difficult to see the items on your watch face while using your watch in direct sunlight. This should be reduced with the Series 6. An additional change with the Series 6 Apple Watch, which has not necessarily been mentioned by other reviews. While your wrist is down you are now able to access complications

Nike Watch Specific Features

This year I ended up getting a Nike Apple Watch Series 6. The reason for this was two fold. First, I have actually wanted to get the Nike version of the Apple Watch just to see what the differences were. It is not likely that I will use the Nike specific features, like the Nike Run Club, but I still want to see the differences.

The second reason is that it was available for release day delivery. I had not gotten any of the Nike models in the past is because they were not usually available until two weeks after the other models. I generally like to have the devices the day they are released, so I just always got the standard model. This year though, the Nike version was available for release day delivery, so I opted for that model.

The Nike Apple Watch Series 6 does not have any hardware difference from the standard Apple Watch. Instead, the changes are only software related. There are a couple of specific differences.

The first software change is that when you look at the settings within the Watch app on your iPhone, you will see a new option, the “Nike Run Club” app. This is a direct shortcut to install the app. If you do not have it installed, you are able to install it with a single tap.

The biggest change software change is the inclusion of Nike-specific Apple Watch faces. There are a variety of unique watch faces that are not present on the standard Apple Watch. The additional watch faces available are:

  • Nike Compact
  • Nike Hybrid
  • Nike Analog
  • Nike Digital

Nike Compact

The Nike Compact Watch Face allows you to have three complications and a clock. The three different complication spots are Top, Middle, and Bottom. These are small, small, and large complications respectively.

The clock is in the upper right corner and can be either an analog clock or a digital one. For the analog clock, there are two different options. One of the analog faces has large numerals for 12, 3, 6, and 9. The hour, minute, and second hands will sweep around the clock face. The second analog watch face only has the watch hands, and is two tones. The upper portion is one color and the bottom portion is another color.

With the Nike Compact face you have an option for selecting the color of the face, just as you would with other watch faces. There are 27 different color options. You have 13 different sets, that all match the various Nike Watch bands. As an example, one of the sets is Pure Platinum/Black. With this color option the clock face color will be Platinum, as will the tint for all of your complications also being Platinum. The color of the digits of the analog and digits of the clock will be black. If you choose Black/Pure Platinum, the background of the clock face switches and the color of the digits will flip. This is the same for all of the other 24 colors. There is one last color option, Multicolor. This color will show your complications in color and the clock faces will be the same as Platinum/Black.

Nike Hybrid

The Nike Hybrid watch face has the same three options for the clock. However, each clock face has two options for the dial itself, Rectangle or Circle. The Rectangle option does not have any room for complications. However, the Circle option allows for five complication options. Four of these options are the ones around the outside corners. The fifth option is along the top of the dial.

As is the case with the Nike Compact watch face, you have a variety of choices for color options. There are 40 different options. It does not make sense to list all of the possible combinations. However, many of the colors have three options. As an example there is Obsidian Mist/Black, Black/Obsidian Mist, and just Obsidian Mist. The last item listed is a single color but with two different shades of the color. There are some color options that do not have this last choice. Anthricite/Black and Lime Blast/Black are only available in the two choices. Let us turn to the next Nike Watch Face, Nike Analog.

Nike Analog

The Nike Analog provides places for three complications. These are in the top left, top right, and bottom. The top left and top right that are small complications while the bottom is just a line of text.

You can choose amongst four different styles of analog watch face. Style 1 does not have any numbers, just indicators. Style 2 had small numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9. Style 3 has small numbers for hours 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 19. Style 4, the last style, has the standard large numbers for hours 12, 3, 6, and 9.

There are 35 different color choices, 32 of these are solid colors. While three of these, White/Volt, White/Red, and Rainbow provide multiple color options for the watch face.

Nike Digital

The Nike Digital Watch Face has the time in large font along the left and three complications. The complication locations are Middle Left, Bottom Left, and Bottom. The Middle Left and Middle Right options allow you to select a small complication. Just like the Nike Analog, the “bottom” option will allow a complication that is a line of text.

There are three style choices, Solid, Two-Tone, and Outline. The Solid style will display the time with a solid fill color. The Two-Tone option will show the hour with a solid fill and the minutes will have an outline. The Outline style will display both the hour and minute in an outline.

There are a number of different options for the Nike Digital face, 32 to be exact. 30 of these are solid colors, and there are two dual-color choices. The two dual-color choices are Volt/White and Red/White. If you select one of these dual-tone colors, the displayed time will appear white and the complications will be either Volt or Red, depending on your choice.

All of the Nike Watch Faces offer a unique style and option for your Apple Watch which can help differentiate your watch from other Apple Watches. Now that we have covered all of the Nike-specific watch faces, let us look at various bands for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Bands

Not everything is a “one size fits all” type of situation. People like the ability to customize things and the Apple Watch is designed to be a fashion item. While there are plenty of ways to customize the watch face, not everyone may notice this. However, others may notice if you are wearing a specific Watch Band. Watch Bands are an easy way to customize the look and feel of your Apple Watch. There are a number of Apple Watch Bands, as well as many third-party bands available. One thing that has remained the same throughout all of the generations of the Apple Watch is that bands that were purchased early in the lifespan of the Apple Watch may work with the newest watches, provided you are using the same size watch.

For instance, if you bought the 38mm Apple Watch Series 2 and bought a 40mm Apple Watch Series 5, the watch bands should, for the most part, work with both watches. However, if you bought a 38MM Apple Watch Series 2, but then got the 44MM Apple Watch Series 5, the bands would not work between the two models, due to the size differences. Let us look at some of the available bands from Apple and the differences between the standard models and the Nike models. Then we will look at a brand new band from Apple.

Sport Bands

The sport sand has been around since the first Apple Watch was released. Until the Series 4, the default band was the sport band. The sport band is made of Fluoroelastomer. Fluoroelastomer is a rubber product. The sport band is designed to be comfortable and used all day. The fact that the sport band is rubber, it is odor resistant.

The sport band can be worn while swimming, exercising, or any other activity. Due to its ability to be done doing just about any activity, it means that its designed to stand up to use. Even though, by its very name, it is usable in sports, it means that it is designed to be cleaned. The sport band can be cleaned with mild soap and water.

The Nike Sport Band is similar to the standard sport band. The biggest difference between the two, outside of the available colors, is that the Nike Sport Band has additional holes along the left and right side of the central holes. The additional holes are designed to help wick away sweat and provides a bit more air around your wrist.

The Nike Sport Band that came with my Apple Watch Series 6, it is my first time using the Nike version of the sport band. The Nike Sport Band is a pretty good band and just like the standard sport band.

With the additional holes, you technically can use any of the other holes, but then you would have to bend the sport band a bit to get the clasp to fit into the clasp where the excess Since the sport band is two pieces, you can mix and match them. So you can mix and match the parts of the bands, which can allow you to create your own design.

You might expect that all sport bands are the same. However, they are not. The Nike Sport Band feels just a tad bit lighter weight than the regular sport band. This makes sense given that there is less material than the standard sport band. If you are using the Nike Sport Band for exercise, being able to have a lighter band can help make exercising a bit nicer.

The sport band, no matter which specific model, is the standard band and a great overall band to use with the Apple Watch. The various holes allow each person to adjust it to their wrist, but the preset holes can result in some people not getting the exact fit they need. Let us turn to a slightly different take on the Sport Band to a band that has been around for a while, the Sport Loop.

Sport Loops

The Sport Loops are made of two layers of woven nylon. The sport loop uses a hook and loop fastener that will keep the band classed. The hook and loop mechanism allows for the Apple Watch to easily be removed and put on. Additionally, the sport loop band allows you to fit the band even better than other bands, because you can adjust it to the size you need.

There is only one subtle difference between the standard Sport Loop and the Nike Sport Loop, and that difference is that the Nike Sport Loop includes reflective nylon that is woven throughout the band. This is designed to be reflective when light is shown on the band. This is particularly useful for those who exercise when the light may not be the best. While you will likely have other items to indicate your presence, like neon clothing, a head lamp, or flashing light, it is one more item that will allow vehicles and others to see your while exercising.

After a year of usage, and even with regular cleaning, the Sport loop can accumulate odors. Apple indicates that you can clean the sport loops with water and a lint-free cloth, but this does not work in practice. Instead, you may want to let the band soak with a touch of soap for a while. Once the band is soaked, a light scrubbing may help with the cleaning to remove the odors. Another possible option, which may sound strange, is to shower with your watch band. The soap that you use should help a bit as well. Plus, the Apple Watch can certainly handle getting wet in the shower.

Overall, the sport loop is a lightweight band that is much easier to take off and put on than the sport loop. Over time, the clasping mechanism does seem to reduce the strength of the clasping mechanism. So this is something to keep in mind.

The Sport Loop is probably one of the more comfortable bands and the infinite adjustability allows the band to be versatile as band that can be used throughout the day and that you can adjust throughout the day, if needed. Next, let us look at one of the newest additions to the selection of Apple Watch Bands, the Solo Loop.

Solo Loop

The Solo Loop is a new type of Apple Watch Band. The Solo Loop is compatible with the Series 4 and newer. The Solo Loop is a single piece band that is made with silicone rubber. This is similar to the fluoroelastomer of the Sport Band.

The Sport Loop does not have any clasps, buckles, or any sort of mechanism that allows for adjustment. So it is important to choose the proper size. Apple has a printable tool to be able to help size the Solo Loop. If you visit an Apple Store, you may be able to obtain one.

The Sport Loop comes in one of twelve sizes, 1 to 12. Sizes 1 to 8 are available for the 40mm Apple Watch, and sizes 4 to 12 are available for the 44mm. The difference between each size of the Sport Loop band is very little, hence why there are a bunch of different sizes.

There are actually two methods for the tool. The first is to print out an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, cut out the measurement tool, and then wrap it around your wrist to determine the proper band size. The second method is to use a piece of paper and a measuring tape. You measure from the end of the paper to the point where the paper matches the end. Once you have this, you can then enter in the length into Apple’s conversion tool, which on the page, and it will provide you with the proper band size.

I tried both methods. First, I used the tape measure approach and it said it could either be a size 8 or a size 9. I then tried with the print-out and it said 8. With the physical measuring tool from the Apple Store, it would be between 7 and 8.

It is important to make sure that you have the correct size. Having a Sport Loop that is too loose will not allow the watch to sit properly on your wrist. You may be able to get a Sport Loop that is one size larger than what the tool indicates. When I did the measurement with Apple’s tool, it indicated that I was a size 8. I was able to order one for pickup at my local Apple Store.

When I opened the package, and put the Sport Loop on my Apple Watch, it seemed like it might be too small, but once I put on my Apple Watch, it did fit, although it was a bit loose. I would probably be better with a size 7, but the size 8 that I have does fit. Even though the Sport Loop is a bit loose, it is not too loose that it stops the Apple Watch from functioning. Furthermore, if the Sport Loop was too loose, the Apple Watch would lock because it lost contact with the skin. So far, I haven to experienced that.

While having a Sport Loop that is too loose could be a problem, you also do not want a super tight band either. This is for a few of reasons. The first is that a band that is too tight can cut off circulation and would be quite uncomfortable. The size of ones wrist can change over time depending on my factors, including but not limited to, heat, hydration levels, and just natural body cycles. The second reason is that if the band is too tight, the blood oxygen sensor will not work properly.

There is one last item to note about the Solo Loop. According to its support document for Apple Watch bands, quote:

If you have a Solo Loop or Braided Solo Loop, the band size should be comfortable, but snug against your wrist. Simply pull from the bottom of the band to stretch it over your wrist when you put it on and take it off. Solo Loop may increase in length over time.

I would guess that this may take some time to occur, but it is something to be cognizant of when purchasing a Solo Loop.

Overall, the Sport Loop is a pretty good band and a great addition to the various bands available for the Apple Watch. The lack of a clasp is nice, however its biggest downside is that you need to get the size correct. The only problem will be finding the right fit. If you have an Apple Store nearby, you can see if they have a measuring tool and you can get the proper size. The Sport Loop comes in a variety of colors. The available options are:

  • Deep Navy
  • Ginger
  • Cyprus Green
  • Pink Citrus
  • White
  • Black

Closing Thoughts

Overall the Apple Watch Series 6 is a solid upgrade, provided that you are upgrading from certain Apple Watches. If you have an Original Apple Watch, a Series 1, 2, or 3, and you are looking to upgrade, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a worthwhile upgrade. However, if you have an Apple Watch Series 4, the new Blood Oxygen sensor and speed increase may be enough to persuade you to upgrade. For Apple Watch Series 5 owners, the only changes are the inclusion of the Blood Oxygen sensor. For some, and particular during these times, it may be a worthwhile upgrade.

With the Series 6 being my first Nike edition of the Apple Watch, it is different to see the distinct Nike Watch Faces in person. I am not sure if I will end up using them on a daily basis, because I do like my Apple Watch to be a mini computer on my wrist, where I can quickly glance at information and the Nike Watch Faces do not allow the breadth of complications on the watch faces. The best part though, is that the Nike Apple Watch does not restrict you to using just the Nike Watch Faces, but you can use any of the Watch Faces that are included in watchOS.

Customizing your Apps Watch face is huge, but a lot of people may not see your watch face unless you show them specifically. What many others can see though, is the Watch Band that is attached to your Apple Watch. There are a variety of bands available. The newest one, the Solo Loop is a great choice if you do not want to use a clasp of any sort. The biggest downside to the Solo Loop is that you need to get the size exactly correct, otherwise it may end up being too tight or too loose. There is one last thing to note, if you purchase an Apple Watch Series 6, or an Apple Watch SE, with the Solo Loop and the Solo Loop is the wrong size, you may have to wait for a replacement, because they are popular.

The differences between the standard Sport Band, and the Nike Sport Band, as well as the standard Sport Loop, and the Nike Sport Loop are very minimal. The Nike Sport Band feels a bit lighter than the standard Sport Band. The lighter weight of the Nike Sport Band is due to the band not having as much material. The only difference with Nike Sport Loop, as compared to the original, is that the Nike version has reflective threads woven in so that in the dark vehicles are able to identify that there is someone there.

I am not sure if I will end up settling on a single band. I do like the Sport Loops due to their overall comfort and adjustability, but the Solo Loop is also quite comfortable and can allow me to easily rest my wrist anywhere without worrying about a clasp. I guess only time will tell which one, or ones, I end up using the most.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is quite popular and some models have longer lead times than others. If you are planning on getting one for the holidays, ordering now is prudent. The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399 for the 40mm GPS model, and $429 for the 42mm model. You can add cellular for $100 more on either size.

You can read a lot more about watchOS 7 in my book, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 for Users and Developers. It is available on Apple, Amazon, for $3.99 each, as a black & white paperback for $14.99 or a color paperback for $39.99.


Microsoft’s Xbox Series X/S Pre-Order Fiasco

Pre-orders for Microsoft latest Xbox consoles, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. The problem with today’s pre-orders was not the failure of a single vendor. Instead, it was ALL of them that people attempted to pre-order from, at least in the U.S.

Microsoft had set a pre-order time of 8 a.m. Pacific Time. This is a good idea in itself, because everybody knows when they will begin. Furthermore, it is not in the middle of the night. I have ordered countless iPhones at 2 a.m. due to the pre-order time starting at midnight pacific time. But that is not the case for the Xbox Series X.

Within the post Microsoft indicated the retailers that would be having pre-orders. The retailers listed in the post include:

  • Microsoft Store
  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • GameStop
  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Sam’s Club
  • Newegg
  • Other participating retailers

Out of this list, I had prepared to order from five different retailers. These were Microsoft, GameStop, Target, Amazon, and Best Buy. In order to prepare I had all of the sites up, I was logged into each of the sites to save myself some time during the checkout process. Amazon and Best Buy did not put up their pre-orders right away, so those were out of contention, or so I thought when pre-orders started.

When 10 a.m. rolled around, I started to refresh Target and Gamestop, as well as trying Microsoft’s site. Not a single one was without some sort of trouble.

Target’s site allowed me to add the Xbox Series X to the cart, and attempt to checkout, but their back-end completely crapped the bed and kept saying “oops an error occurred”. I kept trying to checkout, to no avail. I even got to the final checkout page to enter in my credit card CVV code, and it kept failing. When it failed, it would send me back to my cart, which often said that I had nothing in it, but that was no the case. Once I was able to get back into the cart, I would checkout, but it would fail. I even tried Apple Pay on the iPhone, but that kept failing as well. I had even gotten to the Apple Pay sheet on the phone and that failed, so I ended up having to go back to my cart.

Just before 10 a.m., Microsoft put up the “Preorder” links on their Xbox Series X order page. When you tried to click on it, you would get a “page cannot be found” error. Shortly after 10:10 Microsoft’s site allowed me to add an Xbox Series X to my cart. The problem then became the actual check out process. The page kept going back to “not found”. I then looked at my cart, and and attempted to checkout, which would fail intermittently. After 53 minutes of trying, and 15 minutes of trying to get through the Microsoft checkout process I finally got to the end. It indicated that it could not set my payment method, although one was already on my account.

At 10:56 I happen to refresh the Amazon page, which had previously been the famous Amazon “not found” page, which shows various dogs. It actually had a “pre-order” button on the page. I immediately clicked on “Pre-Orer”, went through my cart and ordered an Xbox Series X. It was the fastest checkout, as you might expect. Pre-order -> Review -> Confirm. The entire process took 15 seconds. I honestly think I may have been one of the last ones to get a pre-order in on Amazon, because as soon as I went back to the page it stated “Currently Unavailable”.

GameStop had one of the more interesting takes, they added you to a queue and if you entered the queue you would have to wait to get onto the site. So, you could sit and wait fore your turn. Of course, I opted to do this. Approximately 35 minutes after waiting, I was able to view the items on the site. As you might expect, they were completely sold out.

I was browsing Twitter and noticed someone else said the Best Buy had their pre-orders up again. I kept trying to add an Xbox Series X to my cart, but kept getting a “Due to High Demand this item was not added to your cart. Wait a few minutes and try again.” message. I kept trying to hit “add to cart” and kept getting the same message.

I was able to procure two Xbox One Series X orders. One for myself and one for my brother. Today’s experience is very reminiscent of the early iPhone ordering days when Apple’s site would take a massive dump when trying to order a phone.

If it were only Microsoft who were taking pre-orders, it might be somewhat understandable. It is not feasible to scale your operations for a single occurrence of insanely heavy traffic. However, Microsoft owns the infrastructure to be able to handle this, so their site being so slow is surprising. I do not think the issue was the Xbox site itself, but their back-end services that accounted for the slowness.

Of course Amazon’s experience, if the page was actually available, was the best experience and the fastest checkout. This is not surprising given that Amazon handles millions of orders each year, including some of the most popular times. Amazon can deal with scale.

I completely understand having people buy from various retailers, because you do not want to overwhelm your own system. But I think all of the retailers, except Amazon, underestimated the demand that they would need to handle. Today’s e-commerce is not like the olden days where you would need to have physical servers. Today everything is virtual and machines can be spun up and down as needed.

I do think that the retailers remembered to scale their front ends, because I never had an issue loading a page, the issues were all with the backend systems. I hope for the next big pre-order event that the companies think about more than just the front end and shore up the back-end systems as well.

For Target, the cart mechanism as well as the actual checkout. I think the two might have been related, since it could not access the cart, it could not finalize the checkout.

Best Buy was similar in that it could not actually add items to the cart, so you could not checkout. Once an item was in the cart, it seemed okay.

For Microsoft it was similar situation where the backend systems for pulling account information seemed to be the bottleneck.

Today’s Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S pre-orders were not the only pre-orders to experience a fiasco. The Playstation 5 and Nvidia RTX 3080 have also had the same type of experience for those who tried to pre-order those items. This type of experience does not engender positives vibes for both the retailer and the manufacturer. Other retailers can learn from the today’s, and the other recent pre-orders, so the same experiences do not happen in the future.

Apple Technology

Apple Revokes Enterprise Developer Certificates

On Tuesday Techcrunch reported that Facebook had been paying people, in particular teens, $20 a month to install their “Facebook Research” app. The “Research” app includes a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client. The “Research” app is a rebranded app that was removed from the public iOS App Store in August of 2018 because it violated App Store terms of service. The old name of the app was Onavo.

The method used by Facebook for this installation is by using an Enterprise Developer Certificate, which is designed for distribution of applications to a company’s employees. In addition to distributing apps to their own employees Facebook used this method for external testers. This is in direct violation of the terms of service for the Enterprise Developer account which were agreed to upon signing up for the account.

Once Apple found out about this, they revoked the Enterprise Developer Certificate. Revoking this certificate had a major impact on Facebook. Besides having their “Facebook Research” app no longer function, all of Facebook’s internal applications used by employees were broken, meaning that they can no longer function.

From an Apple spokesperson:

“We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

It turns out that Facebook is not the only big tech company that has been misusing their Enterprise Developer account.

Yesterday, January 30th, Google stated that they were doing something similar with their Enterprise Certificate with an application named “Screenwise Meter”. When users used the app, they were able to earn gift cards by installing the application. Just as with Facebook Apple has revoked Google’s Enterprise Certificate. This revocation has same effect as Facebook, where Google’s internal iOS applications ceased functioning. This includes employee-only beta versions of apps, as well as other applications used by employees. Here is a quote from the TechCrunch article:

“We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon,” said a Google spokesperson. A spokesperson for Apple said: “We are working together with Google to help them reinstate their enterprise certificates very quickly.”

As of today, Thursday January 31st, Facebook has had their Enterprise certificate re-instated, but Google has not had their Enterprise Certificate re-instated, yet.

Some Thoughts

I am somewhat surprised that Apple revoked the Enterprise Developer certificates, given that the companies involved.. However, Apple is fully within their right. Both companies violated not only the terms of service, but also used the applications to acquire consumer information. This is a clear violation Apple’s principles and definitely should not be tolerated.

Besides the violation of the policies, there are consumer implications. Both companies are relying on ignorance of users to collect information. In both cases the apps collected browsing history of all activity on the users iPhone, through the VPN that was installed when the app was installed. Additionally, Facebook gathered Amazon purchase history by having users send screenshots of their Amazon orders.

I suspect that Google will get their Enterprise Certificate re-instated in the next couple of days. In the wake of these incidents, I would not be surprised if Apple starts cracking down on this type of behavior for all Enterprise Certificate holders.

If it any smaller company had done something similar, it would be my guess that Apple would revoke the certificate and that would be the end of the discussion. A smaller company would likely not be able to get their Enterprise Certificates re-instated at all.

These two instances should be a wake up call for all Apple Enterprise Certificate developers. If you are providing applications to end-users through your Enterprise Certificate, Apple may end up revoking your certificate and there may be no recourse.

It will be interesting to see what other ramifications this will have on other developers. I also wonder if Facebook and Google will try doing something similar again in the future. Only time will tell whether or not this will happen.

Source: TechCrunch (Facebook) and TechCrunch (Google)

Apple Technology

Apple’s Group FaceTime Bug

Over the last weekend a report of a serious privacy bug was found in Apple’s Group FaceTime service. The bug would allow someone to enable the microphone and camera on someone’s device.

The Issue

You can read the 9to5mac article for the steps on how this bug was activated. The short version is that if the person you are calling declined the call with the sleep/wake button, and you added your own phone onto the call again, you would be able to hear the original caller’s microphone and see their camera.

Apple is currently working on a fix. In the interim Apple has disabled Group FaceTime on the server-side, until a fix is released, which should be this week.

Security Implications

Imagine this scenario. A group of 3 people decides to have a FaceTime call. Person 1 calls Person 2. While the phone is ringing, Person 1 attempts to call Person 3, but accidentally clicks on their own contact information while scrolling.. Person 2 declines the FaceTime call accidentally, and the audio from Person 2’s is audible by Person 1.

I cannot emphasize enough how bad this bug is. Not just because of the fact that it should not have gotten through Quality Assurance (QA) and testing, but also because of Apple’s focus on privacy. In regards to getting through QA, using the sleep/wake button to dismiss a call is an extremely common action and adding another person to a Group FaceTime call is the entire point of Group FaceTime. To add on to this, despite announcing Group FaceTime was announced at the 2018 World Wide Developers Conference (World Wide Developer Conference, Apple delayed Group FaceTime due to bugs and issues. This one was obviously not noticed during testing.

You might think that this is a minor bug because you “have nothing to hide”. While that is all well and good for you, there are others that need privacy or are in sensitive situations where this can be abused. One example of this could be a domestic violence situation where an abuser can use this bug to be able to spy on someone. This would not be a good situation at all.

Another example could be a lawyer, who needs confidentiality of their clients. One last example is world leaders. If any of the world leaders, or their assistants, use and iPhone, they may have been able to use this bug to listen in. In other words, this is a really bad bug.

The fact that this bug got through is bad, but it is compounded because one of Apple’s core tenets is security and privacy. Any privacy bug is a problem for Apple because they make it a differentiator to other products on the market.

It is good to see that Apple has taken this seriously and has temporarily disabled Group FaceTime services. Even though this is bad, it is possible that Apple will make some internal changes to improve testing of their features for privacy bugs. 


Apps Technology

Twitter and Third-Party Clients

When Twitter launched about 12 years ago, it started off as an SMS-based service. Soon after its launch it became a website and it took off at becoming used by many members at South by Southwest (SXSW). The early users of Twitter helped define some of the many conventions that have become a mainstay of many social networks. A couple of examples of the items that have become standard are the @ symbol to indicate that you want to reply as well as the # for use as a hashtag to help identify a post for easier tracking.

Another area where these long-term users have helped Twitter is through the creation of third-party Twitter clients. Initially Twitter was just a website and provided an API for developers to connect to. These third party Twitter clients have allowed for different experiences and this is where many of the features that are used everyday are developed. One particular third-party client, Tweetie, was purchased by Twitter and became the official Twitter app.

Starting today, August 16th, 2018, many third-party clients will no longer be able to work as they had before. This is due to Twitter retiring a set of APIs that developers used to provide these features. A couple of the features that will no longer be available to third-party apps include real-time streaming, statistics, and instant direct messages.

For most users, this may not be noticeable, but for there are times that these features, like real-time streaming, come in handy. For many users, the biggest reason for continuing to use a third-party Twitter application is the reverse chronological timeline, which the official Twitter app and website no longer offer. Along with this, third-parties offer apps for the Mac, which Twitter also no longer offers.

What this will result in is that your timeline will only refresh every minute or two. Direct messages will also be delayed. For real-time events, which are often what Twitter is known for. All of these changes are designed to have people use the official Twitter client, which is makes sense given that there are ads in the official Twitter client, but not in third parties. However, these changes, along with others issues surrounding Twitter, has left many individuals questioning whether to continue to use the service or not.

Personally, for me, I am not sure what the end result will be. It is hard to abandon the service all together. This is not only because it is the social media service that I use the most, but also because it is where my biggest following is, ergo it is where I have the biggest reach for things like these posts as well as advertising my apps and books. At the same time, it is not hard to think that some of these moves will ultimately going to end up pushing away the group of users who helped Twitter get to where they are today. I get that the “super users” make up less than one percent of Twitter’s overall base, but without them, Twitter would likely not be where it is today.