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Apple Thoughts

Apple forces changes for some Parental Control apps

On Friday, April 27th, 2019, the New York Times posted a story that claims that Apple is crippling competitors to its Screen Time feature, by either forcing changes or removing apps altogether.

The story provides some information from several developers regarding that their applications have been pulled and that their businesses have been shutdown and/or the apps they have created had to be modified because “Apple began purging apps that offered similar services.”

According to one developer,

“They are systematically killing the industry,”

In response to story, Apple has provided its reasoning for the requesting changes, and if the apps were not updated, removing the apps.

Part of Apple’s statement says:

We recently removed several parental control apps from the App Store, and we did it for a simple reason: they put users’ privacy and security at risk. It’s important to understand why and how this happened. Over the last year, we became aware that several of these parental control apps were using a highly invasive technology called Mobile Device Management, or MDM. MDM gives a third party control and access over a device and its most sensitive information including user location, app use, email accounts, camera permissions, and browsing history. We started exploring this use of MDM by non-enterprise developers back in early 2017 and updated our guidelines based on that work in mid-2017.

As some quick background, Apple unveiled its Screen Time feature on June 4th, 2018 at their World Wide Developer Conference. The feature is part of iOS 12, which was released on September 19th, 2019.

My Thoughts

I am sure that some will argue that this is Apple abusing its dominant position. However, I do not think this is the case, given that some of the parental control apps were using Mobile Device Management to provide the significant access. As Apple states, third parties have FULL CONTROL OVER YOUR DEVICES. This cannot be understated. For some of these apps, if you install an MDM certificate and agree, that third-party developer now has access to everything on your device. So when Apple says they are requiring the changes due to privacy and security, I think they are being honest about it.

There is a line from the New York Times article from a developer whose app was removed. The reason that the developer received was: “Your app uses public A.P.I.s in an unapproved manner, which does not comply with guideline 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines”.

Section 2.5.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines states, as of this writing, “Apps should use APIs and frameworks for their intended purposes and indicate that integration in their app description.”. It is the first half of that statement that many developers seem to be reason why they were asked to make changes and/or why their apps were removed from the App Store.

It is only my guess, but it seems to me that the developer was using MDM to provide additional settings, then they were in violation of the rule. The reason they were in violation is because MDM is only to be used by businesses and schools to control devices that they own and provide to users of their company or students. MDM is not designed to allow developer access to end-user devices.

Even though these developers were in violation, it does not seem as though Apple made it clear that the developer’s use of MDM was the reason why their app was being removed.

What Apple Can Do

There are a few different ways that Apple can change things to make robust apps available in the store.

Specifically regarding parental control apps, Apple could provide more granular controls both within the Screen Time section, within the Settings app, as well as allowing developers access to configure these settings. However, I can see the significant reluctance for this to occur. Allowing applications access to change when applications are available, could allow a developer to programmatically limit access to apps, possibly without the user’s consent; which would not be a good situation. If there is no interface for developers, it would honestly not surprise me if there are additional settings with the next release of iOS, possibly with more granular control.

I also do think that Apple could be a bit more explicit when communicating with developers. I understand not wanting to provide exact steps for having applications come into compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines, as there are exceptions to each rule. I also get that indicating exactly how to fix an app might come off as a way of exerting excessive control and explicitly dictating how applications should be created. Even with that, additional information provided to developers can go a long way.

In this case of the removed apps, something along the lines of “The application’s use of MDM certificates violates the App Store guidelines, because MDM is intended for business or school usage”, or something along those lines could have gone a long way to making it clear as to why the apps were being removed.

Closing Thoughts

I think that use of MDM by companies does need to come to light. One of the arguments of the story is that once Apple introduced Screen Time that competing apps were being targeted and removed. However, I do not think this is the case. I take Apple at its word that the reason that they removed the apps was because they were violating user’s privacy and/or abusing the MDM certificates.

The New York Times story does state that some of the developers were contacted in August of last year, about needing to change their apps. Apple likely began looking into these some of the apps, that utilized MDM certificates, after it came to light that Facebook and Apple were violating the use of MDM certificates by doing the same thing. And if Apple is going to revoke Facebook’s and Google’s MDM certificates, then there is no reason why they would not do the same thing for smaller developers.

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Apple

Apple’s March 25th Event Announcements


Today Apple held their March event. With the release of last week’s hardware, this event was all about Services. Today Apple announced a few new services, Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+. Let us go in order of announcements, but before that Apple had a new video., which can be seen on their YouTube channel.

The first item on the agenda is Apple News+.

Apple News+

Apple news was introduced with iOS 9 in September of 2015. While it seemed like an odd prospect at the time, Apple News has become a place where users can get personalized news articles based upon your interests. There are over 5 billion articles read every month. That is a lot of news.

Apple News Plus uses the smarts of Apple News and adds some additional features. Apple News+ is a monthly subscription service that provides access to more than 300 magazines. Some of the magazines included are National Geographic, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, O: the Opera Magazine, and many many more. But that is not all. Apple News+ also adds a couple of newspapers as well. Both the Los Angeles Times as well as the Wall Street Journal are included.

Typically when new subscription services are released they tend to be U.S. only for a while. That is not the case with Apple News+. Apple News+ will also be available in Canada. Apple News+ subscribers in Canada will have access to the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspapers.

Apple News+ will cost $9.99 per month, or $12.99 in Canada. For your subscription fee you will get access to all of the magazines as well as the newspapers, in your country. But you can also share the subscription with your family members, who are in the a Shared Family. Each member of a family will get access to Apple News+, as well as their personalized feed.

When you use Apple News+, none of the articles that you read are not tracked and advertisers cannot track you based upon what ads you see.

Apple News+ is available today by updating to iOS 12.2 or macOS 14.4. When you get started with Apple News+ you will get the first month free, and the subscription will be automatically renewed after the free trial ends. The next item announced is related to Apple Pay.

Apple Pay and Apple Card

Apple Pay is Apple’s mobile payment service that was introduced in October of 2014 with iOS 8.1. Apple Pay is extremely popular, with billions of transactions per year, with this year being on track to have more than 10 billion transactions. Apple Pay is expanding in a couple of different ways. The first is that Apple Pay is coming to major transit systems, including Portland, Chicago, and New York. All of these will be available at some point this year.

The second change is a bigger deal, an Apple-based credit card. The Apple Card takes what we all have come to expect from a credit card and enhances it. Apple Card is a credit card that lives on your iPhone and integrates with Apple Pay.

Apple Card can provide you with a breakdown of different categories of items that you have purchased. Each category will have its own color. You can also get your balance, what you have spent, and your payment due date all from the Apple Card screen.

When you are looking at your transactions, you can get a location of any of the transactions, including a map, of where your purchase was made. This uses Apple Maps to show the locations.

Credit cards often provide rewards. The Apple Card does as well. The rewards are quite simple. You get 2% Daily Cash for all purchases that you have used with Apple Card. This is deposited directly into your Apple Pay Cash account. If you purchase something from Apple, including in a physical store, as well as the App Store, or the Apple Store app, you will actually get 3% daily cash.

There is one last benefit that is will be welcome by just about anyone; No fees. There are no fees what-so-ever. This means no annual fees, no cash-advance fees, no over-the-limit fees, and no late fees.

Even though Apple Pay is accepted in a wide variety of places, including 99% of establishments in Australia, 70% in the United States. There are places where you cannot use Apple Pay, or Apple Card. So There is a physical Apple Card for those times. This card is a titanium card and even the physical card has privacy in mind. The Apple Card has no card number, no CVV, no expiration date, and no signature.

However, all of this information is available in the wallet app. For any purchases made with the physical card, you will get 1% Daily Cash, so even those purchases will provide some money back.

Apple Card will be available this summer, for those who qualify for the card. You can find more information about Apple Card at https://www.apple.com/apple-card/.

The next item that was announced relates around gaming, and it is called Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade

The iOS App Store is a very popular app, with over 500 million people visiting the app eery single week. The biggest category for the App Store is gaming. Gaming on mobile is becoming an ever-increasing activity on iOS devices.

iOS provides two different types of games, either free games or paid games. Free games are typically supported by in-app purchases or by ads. Paid games are games that are paid up front and you generally get the whole experience with your purchase. One of the problems with paid games is that it is not always possible to determine how popular a game will be and putting a significant amount of development effort into a game does not always mean that the game will be successful.

In order to make sure that the gaming experience is the best across all of Apple’s platforms, Apple is introducing a service called Apple Arcade.

Apple Arcade will allow customers to get a subscription that will provide access to bring over 100 brand new games. Apple Arcade is an all you can play subscription that does not include any ads nor any in-app purchase. You can even play while you are offline with no internet connectivity. Just like Apple News+, an Apple Arcade subscription can be used by any family member through family sharing.

Apple Arcade games is still privacy focused by now allowing the apps to learn how you play, or any of your information without your explicit consent.

Apple Arcade will be available this fall to over 150 countries and revisions. Apple Arcade will be available on iOS, macOS, and tvOS. You can find more information, as well as see preview of some of the games at https://www.apple.com/apple-arcade/.

There is still one last announcement for the event, Apple TV+.

Apple TV+

It is well known that Apple is making a huge investment into original video content. It is no surprise that Apple will have a subscription service, they have named it Apple TV+. The way that you get all of this content is through the Apple TV app. Apple TV+ will be available in more than 100 countries. All of the content will be available for downloading for off-line viewing.

Apple TV+ will be available this Fall. There is more information available at https://www.apple.com/apple-tv-plus/.

Closing Thoughts

Today’s event was absolutely focused on services. There was an over-arching theme, services that protect your privacy. All of the services announced today, protect your privacy by performing any recommendations on device as well as not providing any of your usage information to the providers, that includes Apple. Along with protecting your privacy, you will also be able to share any of the services with your family members.

While most of the services are not available today, they will be available by the end of the year. Excluding Apple News+, the services will be available in multiple countries.

Apple News+ is available today ,with a free trial for $9.99. The cost of the other services, Apple Channels will be available in May through the new Apple TV app, and Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ will be available this fall.

The entire keynote can be streamed on Apple’s page for the event.

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Apple

Apple Promotes Deirdre O’Brien

Picture of Deidre O'Brien at Apple Park in Cupertino California.

Today Apple has announced that Deidre O’Brien has been named Senior Vice President of Retail + People. O’Brien has taken over for Angela Ahrendts joined Apple in early 2014. In that time she has been in charge of Apple’s Retail Stores. Angela Ahrendts plans to depart Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits.

Deidre O’Brien’s role has been expanded. Her previous role was Vice President of People, and she will be continuing her existing role as well as taking over Retail.

Deirdre will bring her three decades of Apple experience to lead the company’s global retail reach, focused on the connection between the customer and the people and processes that serve them. She will continue to lead the People team, overseeing all People-related functions, including talent development and Apple University, recruiting, employee relations and experience, business partnership, benefits, compensation, and inclusion and diversity.

There are two things that I want to highlight. First, it is good to see Apple promoting from within. Additionally, it is definitely a plus to see that the person promoted is a woman. The latter is good to see because the ratio of men to women in senior positions within the technology sector is too often too high.

Source: Apple

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Apple

Apple Event Predictions

Apple is holding their “There’s More in the Making” event this Tuesday. As with most every other Apple event, I will make my predictions for what we will see. Here is what I think Apple will announce.

iPads

This October event will be Apple’s fourth event this year. At their March Education-based event in Chicago they announced the new 9.7-inch iPad. The 2017 iPad Pros were announced at Apple’s Wide Developer Conference, or WWDC. WWDC 2018 passed without an iPad announcement as did the September iPhone event. Logically this means that the iPad Pros will be announced at this event, if there are to be new models this year at all. It is not likely that Apple would skip another 18 months, not given that Apple has positioned the iPad Pros to be pro machines and is the future computing device for most users.

Here is what I wrote for the September event:

My guess is that the iPad Pros are the only ones that will be updated, since the 9.7-inch iPad was updated in March. The new iPad Pros will have reduced bezel, with no Touch ID but instead will have Face ID. I think the screen sizes will remain the same, at 10.5 inches and 12.9-inches. The reduced bezels means the the physical size of the iPad devices will be smaller, which will allow easier handling.

It is also possible that the new iPads will remain the same physical size, but the screens will be a bit larger. If this is the case, the current 12.9-inch iPad would end up being approximately 14.5 inches. It would be great to actually have an even larger iPad, but within the same physical form factor.

I think the new iPad Pros will not have a lightning connection, as all iOS devices have had since the release of the iPhone 5. Instead, it is likely to have a USB-C connection. This will provide couple of different functions. The first being The first is the ability to output the screen at a higher resolution than the native. Secondly, it could provide easier connectivity with being able to connect a USB-C enabled Mac to an iPad with a USB-C to USB-C cable, instead of USB-C to lightning.

I still stand by this prediction. However, instead of the 60% I gave it last month, I give it 100% chance of new iPads. I give the likelihood of them having Face ID at 100%, reduced bezels at 95%. I still give the likelihood of retaining same physical size, as well as retaining the same screen size each a 50% chance.

Updated Macs

Apple, generally, updates Macs on a somewhat regular basis. There are times when this is not possible due to delays from Intel or other suppliers.

Mac mini

There is one Mac that has not been updated in 1474 days and that would be the Mac mini. To give some perspective that’s over 4 years ago. At the time of its the Mac mini came with OS X 10.10 Yosemite. There has been some speculation that Apple will re-position the Mac mini as a more professional computer.

The Mac mini was originally positioned as the entry level Mac and that was back in 2005 the the original Mac mini was released. In that intervening 13 years, most Mac users prefer laptops over desktops and as such it would make sense.

My guess is that the new Mac mini will only have SSD options and will not have an option for traditional hard drives. This may increase the price, but

I predict that the Mac mini will be updated with 95% certainty. I give the likelihood of a Pro model of the Mac mini at 50%. If Apple does not update the Mac mini in this event then it can be presumed that the Mac mini is officially dead and will never be updated again.

iMac

Apple has two different models of iMac, the iMac and the iMac Pro. The regular iMac has two screen sizes, 21.5-inch and 27-inch screen. The last time the regular iMac was updated was in June of 2017.

I predict the regular iMac will get an update, but it might be a slight update, including processor upgrades. If Apple has redesigned the internals of the iMac, then there will likely be no spinning hard drive option.

Similarly for the iMac Pro. It already does not have a traditional hard drive option, so that is not an issue. I do not think we will see an iMac Pro, only because the processors used within the iMac Pro are not updated as often as other processors. Therefore, I think we will see a new iMac Pro next year, probably around the time as the new Mac Pro is unveiled.

MacBook and MacBook Air

Apple’s line of laptops is in need of updating. In particular, the MacBook and the 13-inch non-TouchBar MacBook Pro. The Touch Bar models of the MacBook Pros were updated in July and will not see updates, but the other models are in need of a refresh. I think we will see an updated 12-inch MacBook, with a lower price point, at $999. I think this because the MacBook Air is still at the $999 price point, and it is non-retina. Either the MacBook Air needs to be updated to be retina or the MacBook needs to have the price dropped to $999.

It is possible that the MacBook may retain the current price point and the 13-inch MacBook Pro will get the reduced price down to $999, but in all reality it is likely the MacBook that will see the price reduction. I give the likelihood of the Macbook being updated with a reduced price at 75%, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro seeing a price reduction to $999 at 25%.

Accessories

One of the areas where Apple makes some additional revenue is through the sale of accessories. One of the accessories that is specifically for the iPad Pro is the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil was introduced in 2015indicated that the with the release of the 1st generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

There have been some complaints about the fact that the Apple Pencil does not stay in once place without rolling away. Additionally, artists who have indicated that extended use of the Apple Pencil is not best for long term usage.

It would be nice to have a revamped Apple Pencil, possibly one that is a bit shorter, but also a thicker that fits better in the hand. If the Logitech Crayon that was released in March is any indication, it could be that a revised Apple Pencil will be the same general form factor, just a bit more elegant.

I give the probability of a new Apple Pencil at 50%. Particularly if the new iPad Pros do do not have a lightning port and only have USB-C.

Recap

I think the event will be focused on new iPad Pros as well as new Macs, including the Mac mini and iMac. Overall at least one of my predictions will be wrong. This is because you cannot have reduced bezels, keep the same physical size, and keep the same screen size.

Prediction Likelihood
New iPad Pros 100%
New iPad Pros having Face ID 100%
New Mac Mini 95%
New iPad Pros reduced bezels 95%
12-inch MacBook Price reduction 75%
New Apple Pencil 50%
New Mac Mini Pro 50%
New iPad Pros retaining screen size 50%
iPad Pros having same physical size 50%
13-inch MacBook Pro price reduction 25%
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Apple

Apple “Gather Round” Prediction Results

Apple held their “Gather Round” event just last week and I made my predictions for the event. Let us look at how well I did.

Correct Predictions

  • New 5.8-inch iPhone model – iPhone XS
  • New larger OLED iPhone model – iPhone XS Max
  • New Apple Watch Model – Series 4
  • OS 12 release date being announced – Available Today
  • HomePod software update – Available Today
  • New 6.1-inch LCD iPhone model – iPhone XR
  • New Apple Watch being thinner – It is thinner
  • New Apple Watch bezels being smaller – The bezels are smaller
  • Apple Watch battery being the same – It is the same, 18 hours

Incorrect Predictions

  • New iPad Pros having Face ID, if iPads announced – No New iPads
  • New AirPods Case, if AirPower mat released – No AirPower Mat
  • New iPad Pros, having reduced bezels – No New iPads
  • AirPower Mat Released – No AirPower Mat
  • New iPad Pros Announced – No New iPads
  • New iPad Pros, being same physical size – No New iPads
  • New iPad Pros, having same screen size – No New iPads
  • New AirPods – Did not happen
  • New Macs – No New Macs

Overall my predictions were 50% correct. That is better than my WWDC predictions which were only 34.8% correct. Maybe I will do better next time, but this is an improvement. For the things that were not announced, the iPads, AirPods, and Macs, maybe there will be another event next month.