Apple drops need for iPhone screen repairs to use calibration hardware, reducing turnaround time

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

When Touch ID debuted with the iPhone 5s, the home button became cryptographically paired with the display and logic board. Replacing an iPhone screen and digitiser without going through Apple’s proprietary calibration process would result in an iPhone with a new screen, but non-functional fingerprint sensor. The same is true with the Face ID biometric system introduced with iPhone X.

And:

Until today, Apple has needed to distribute bulky repair equipment to its own Apple Store repair centers and authorized resellers to affirm that the 3D Touch system is working correctly.

And:

Apple has now managed to achieve all the calibration steps using software alone, dropping the need for dedicated physical hardware to be installed at repair locations.

Makes me curious how they solved this problem. The good news is, screen repairs are now going to be much easier to schedule, with a much faster turnaround.

Shot on iPhone XS — Apple’s experiments in 4K, slo-mo, and time-lapse

This is a marketing piece from Apple, showing off the iPhone X🅂. Note that the headline on Apple’s YouTube page uses iPhone XS. Capital S, not lower-case. As I said in this post, I do think Apple will settle on iPhone Xs, with a lower-case s.

That aside, the video embedded in the main Loop post is a bit of fun, with the real payoff (at least for me), in that last planetary bodies slo-mo shot. Pretty good for a phone camera.

The iPhone Xs, Dual SIM, and Apple’s preferred capitalization

You can use two cellular plans with your iPhone Xs or iPhone Xs Max, a nano-SIM, and an eSIM. An eSIM is a digital SIM that allows you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without having to use a physical nano-SIM. Here’s how to set up and use a cellular plan using an eSIM.

Follow the headline link to the Apple knowledge base article (big hat tip to Loop follower and furniture maker J. Leko) and dig in.

Side note: The new iPhone branding is all over the place. In this post, it’s “Xs”. On Apple’s front page, it’s “X🅂”, and on a variety of other pages, it’s “XS”. I think Apple is going for “X🅂” and, if typing the s-in-a-square is not practical, “Xs”. I suspect the “XS” was inadvertent and will slowly disappear.

Don’t forget to back up your iPhone or iPad before you download iOS 12

iOS 12 is coming later today. If you haven’t already, follow the advice in Dave Smith’s headline and back up your device before you dive into the new shiny.

One comment on the iCloud backup process. I believe the proper path is:

  • Launch Settings
  • Tap your name
  • Scroll down and tap your phone name (for me, the first line in the 3rd section)
  • Tap iCloud Backup
  • Tap Back Up Now

Enjoy iOS 12.

Apple Stores add gorgeous new graphic panels, 3D feature bays

Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac:

Ahead of next Friday’s iPhone and Apple Watch launches, Apple is rolling out fresh new artwork and eye-popping displays to its retail stores. Vivid graphic panels promote the upcoming iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch Series 4, while feature bays showcasing Apple services, apps, and third-party accessories are headlined by unique new molded iconography.

“Eye-popping”. Love that. Follow the link, check out the pictures in Michael’s post. They truly do look gorgeous. Worth a trip to my local Apple Store to check these out in person.

AirPower scrubbed

From this 9to5Mac article, last week:

Apple has seemingly updated its website today, removing all mentions of AirPower except in one place. Looking at the AirPods product page, Apple mentions the optional wireless charging case, noting that it is currently unavailable. The charging case is placed on what appears to be the AirPower mat, along with the iPhone X.

Previously, the iPhone X’s product page mentioned AirPower, noting that it would be available sometime in 2018. However, with the introduction of iPhone XS and iPhone XR, Apple has removed that reference since iPhone X is no longer being sold.

Now, add this quote from the wrap-up at the end of John Gruber’s Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s iPhone XS/XR and Series 4 Apple Watch Introductory Event, posted Saturday:

I wrote about AirPower’s absence earlier this week. What I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies, is that AirPower really is well and truly fucked. Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces. Last year Apple was apparently swayed by arguments that they could figure out a way to make it not get hot. They were, clearly, wrong. I think they’ve either had to go completely back to the drawing board and start over with an entirely different design, or they’ve decided to give up and they just don’t want to say so.

I can only imagine this whole AirPower experience is a lesson learned for the powers-that-be at Apple. Engineering is a complex thing, and not every engineering problem can be solved, as least not in a timely fashion. Pre-announcing product requires a certain hubris and, ultimately, can lead down a rabbit hole of unmet expectations.

Lesson learned is, ultimately, a good thing.

Side note, John Gruber’s event writeup is chock-full of interesting nuggets and well worth your time. I especially like the section on capitalization, and the confusion of “XS/XR” vs “Xs/Xr”, not to mention those little squares. Great stuff.

Lisa Jackson, the iPhone/Apple Watch event, and Apple’s fundamental strategy shift

Horace Dediu, Asymco:

I think Lisa Jackson’s presentation at the September 2018 iPhone launch event was perhaps the most interesting and most profound.

Lisa Jackson is Apple’s Vice President Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Here’s a link to her Apple Leadership page.

At the Apple Event, Lisa laid out three things Apple will have to do to “eliminate the need to mine new materials from the Earth”.

  1. Sourcing recycled or renewable materials for all products.
  2. Ensure that Apple products last as long as possible.
  3. After a long life of use, ensure that they are recycled properly.

This second point is the focus of Apple’s strategy shift, and of Horace’s excellent article.

More from the article:

One premise of investing in durable goods hardware companies is that value depends on frequency of upgrades. If products are not replaced frequently they do not generate revenues and the company selling them ends up growing very slowly if at all.

And this is the core of the matter. Apple cannot continue to grow their device sales forever. The market saturates, and the only way to succeed in a saturated market is via planned obsolescent. In other words, they’d have to purposely build phones designed to last for a very limited time.

Yet, Apple seems focused on doing the opposite. They are releasing iOS 12 today, and have worked hard to make sure this latest OS runs on older phones, as far back as 2013’s iPhone 5s.

Why would Apple do this? Here’s why:

Fundamentally, Apple is betting on having customers not selling them products.

And:

An iPhone at $1200 may be less expensive than an iPhone at $600 if the $1200 version lasts twice as long as is used twice as much each day. The $1200 phone delivers 4x the utility at twice the price, making it half the price. By making more durable products, both in terms of hardware and software, the customer base is satisfied and preserved.

And if Apple can keep its base satisfied, they can continue to grow the services part of their business. And that’s key.

Terrific, insightful piece by Horace Dediu, read the whole thing.

Forget the new iPhones: Apple’s best product is now privacy

Michael Grothaus, FastCompany:

The best product Apple offers is intangible, yet far more valuable than a flagship smartphone. The best product Apple has–and the single biggest reason that consumers should choose an Apple device over competing devices–is privacy.

And:

It has only been in the last few years that the perils of online privacy have made their way to the forefront of national conversation, thanks to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a seemingly unending string of data breaches and hacks. Such events have left consumers rightly worried just how the data tech companies are collecting about them are being used and abused. Yet Apple seems to be the only major tech company that had the foresight–and the will–to begin tackling these issues before they reached a crisis point.

And:

In iOS 12 Apple is also introducing anti-fingerprinting technology in Safari. Fingerprinting is a tracking technology advertisers and data firms use to identify your movements online. They do this by recording characteristics about the device you are using–such as hard drive size, screen resolution, fonts, installed, and more–and then recording a log of that device’s movements.

And:

Apple makes its hundreds of billions every year by selling physical products that have a high markup. Facebook and Google, on the other hand, have a business model built around advertisers who want as much data about users as possible so they can better target them. This is why, for example, Google would never build the types of anti-tracking and privacy protections into the Android OS that Apple has done with MacOS and iOS. Google–and Facebook–aren’t going to cut off their access to all that black gold.

This is a terrific article. The callouts above are just the tip of the iceberg. One key point, to me, is that Apple is able to offer privacy because it makes its money from high margins and money gained from services. Though I wish we could have Apple’s great design and ecosystem for less money, I truly appreciate Apple’s, and Tim Cook’s privacy stance.

Fascinating read.

The new price of iPhone battery replacement

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

During the highs of BatteryGate, Apple reduced official battery repairs to $29 each through 2018, down from $79. Apple has now updated the page with details of what will happen from January 1st, 2019.

The prices are going back up, but not quite to the level that they were. Battery repairs for iPhone X, iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs will cost $69. Repairs for all older iPhones will cost $49.

Read the post for all the details.

A short history of iPhone screens, or why the XR is underrated

This is a fascinating Reddit post that looks at screen sizes. Take the op-ed parts with a grain of salt, but if you are considering the iPhone XR, this is worth your time. One excellent point:

The XR will show exactly the same amount of actual content as the XS Max, just slightly smaller and less sharp. If both phones were opened to a site in Safari, they’d show exactly the same chunk of webpage. I think that’s pretty nice, PPI be damned. This is the most compact Plus phone ever made. I’m on board.

I will say, I do find it amazing that $749 represents the new price of a budget phone. Wow.

I do wish Apple would consider updating the iPhone SE for folks with smaller hands, and smaller budgets. Same with a smaller Apple Watch for people with smaller wrists. It does feel like some part of the Apple loving crowd is being left behind.

The Apple Watch Series 4, and the reality and tremendous value of AFib detection

First things first, I am blown away by the Apple Watch Series 4. As I mentioned in this post:

The leap from Series 3 to Series 4 reminds me of the earlier leaps in iPhone technology. For example, the jump from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4 was like night and day. Though the case looks very similar, the case size (thinner, larger), display, internals, and sensors are a huge leap forward.

One of the big features highlighted in Wednesday’s Apple Event was the addition of AFib detection to Apple Watch. There’s been a lot of discussion on just what the Apple Watch AFib capability really means. […]

You’re in a golf cart and a lion wants in. A lion.

[VIDEO] People are in a golf cart, making their way through a Crimean safari park (video embedded in main Loop post). And then they come across a lion.

I mean, even if the lion is best friends with everyone on the golf cart, it’s a lion. A lion.

Apple Watch films and ads, and a buried warning

Buried in Apple’s official Apple Watch Series 4 site is this page of videos, all worth a look.

One interesting bit, buried about 47 seconds into that last video, in a faint grey font. Take a look:

There’s a reference to the 5s, which might suggest that this is sourced from older video. And I don’t see the “not a medical device” warning in the other videos, even those that talk about heart rate and the ECG sensor.

That nit aside, these are fantastically produced videos, just gorgeous. Give ’em a look.

VIDEO: Hands on with the new Apple Watch Series 4

[VIDEO] Warning: Rene Ritchie’s enthusiasm for the brand new Apple Watch Series 4 is contagious. That new display is just gorgeous. See the video, embedded in the main Loop post.

The leap from Series 3 to Series 4 reminds me of the earlier leaps in iPhone technology. For example, the jump from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4 was like night and day. Though the case looks very similar, the case size (thinner, larger), display, internals, and sensors are a huge leap forward.

Nice job by Rene Ritchie laying all this out so quickly.

HomePod adds new features and Siri languages

A bit lost in all the hoopla yesterday, HomePod got some new shiny.

Here’s the list, from Apple’s press release:

  • Search by lyrics: In addition to asking Siri to play a particular song, artist or genre, now it’s easy to ask Siri to “play the song that goes like this…” or ask Siri to “play the song that goes ‘I’m a rebel just for kicks now.’”

  • Set multiple timers: HomePod now supports multiple named timers. Set a timer for the cake, another one for lasagna and another one as a reminder to dim the lights — using just your voice.

  • Make and receive phone calls: Conveniently use HomePod to make and receive phone calls for crisp and clear audio quality. To make a call, simply ask Siri to call someone from Contacts or say the number to call. Incoming calls are automatically directed from iPhone to HomePod — just ask Siri to answer the phone — and for missed calls, it’s as easy as asking, “Hey Siri, who just called?” Using the audio picker on iPhone, calls can be moved from HomePod to iPhone at any time.

  • Find My iPhone: The popular Apple Watch feature comes to HomePod, so users can ping any of their nearby devices to find them.

  • Siri Shortcuts: Shortcuts opens up a world of apps to work on HomePod. As Siri learns routines and suggests ‘shortcuts’ on iPhone and iPad, these same shortcuts are now accessible on HomePod. Personalizing shortcuts for HomePod with a series of tasks is easy with a new Shortcuts app. For example, “Hey Siri, good morning” could run a morning routine and order coffee from a coffee shop’s app, turn on the kitchen lights from the Home app and share the first few calendar appointments for the day — all with one simple, customizable command.

HomePod also added “support for Spanish in the US, Spain and Mexico, and expands support in Canada with Canadian French.”

As of this writing, the new update has not yet shipped. I suspect we’ll see the update with the official rollout of iOS 12.

As to the ability to make and receive calls, I wish I’d seen that before Jim and I recorded the new Dalrymple Report. We’ve been long arguing about this feature. Next week, for sure.

Sitemap spelunking reveals more about today’s event

Making the rounds on Twitter today was a series of data reveals from Apple’s own site. Some terrific detective work from the usual suspects.

Interesting to me how this new way of digging for information, what I would call “sitemap spelunking”, has become the norm. I think, in part, this emerged because Apple tightened the screws on their employees surreptitiously sharing info with reporters. But at the same time as security has tightened, data mining has become big business, and those techniques are hard at work here.

One particular approach I’ve seen used here, is to search a sitemap for obvious URLs, the use the URL form to guess at non-obvious, hidden URLs. So if you encountered a file called …/iphone_X, you might try loading a file with the same path, ending in …/iphone_Xs.

I suspect that next year’s Apple/journalist whack-a-mole game will change, with Apple doing a better job making URLs harder to guess, and journalists developing a new set of tools to unveil those URLs.

Follow the headline link to learn the latest from 9to5Mac, or just hold off until Apple reveals things for themselves.

The untold stories of Paul McCartney

Sir Paul is 76 years old, and still has some new material. If you are at all into Beatles history, this is a fascinating read. A bit long, with equal measures of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The Apple Watch and a possible electrocardiogram

Christina Farr, CNBC:

[Apple] is expected to take these health ambitions a step further by introducing an electrocardiogram or “ECG” sensor that measures the heart’s rhythm — and not just the heart rate.

That’s according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who issued a research note seen by CNBC on Monday.

Lots of rumors sprang from Kuo’s research note. This bit about adding an ECG is fascinating. Here’s why:

Apple releasing an ECG is a big deal for people with certain diseases. But it’s also complicated because the company would need to figure out how to communicate sensitive medical information to consumers without freaking them out. The last thing Apple would want to do with its device is send tens of thousands of anxious users into the emergency room thinking they’re having a life-threatening medical problem when they’re not.

And:

If Apple shows the ECG reading to a consumer, then yes. That would make the Apple Watch a regulated medical device.

Two very interesting issues. Solving this problem would be a big step towards being able to add a wider variety of sensors to the Apple Watch and other Apple devices and accessories. Good read.

UPDATE: From this Reddit thread (hat tip to Simon), making the case that there will not be an ECG Apple Watch:

First and foremost, ECG stands for electrocardiogram and is a measure of depolarization and repolarization of the heart during the cardiac cycle. ECG is electrical activity and can’t not be measured with LED. Pulse oximetry can be used for heart rate and even pulse wave velocity, but not the electrical activity of the heart. However, let’s entertain the though of an electrode based ECG sensor in the Apple Watch. In a clinical 12-lead ECG, 10 electrodes are placed on the left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg as well as 6 “precordial” electrodes. These 10 electrodes are paired up into 12 different “leads” which are grouped into limb leads (I,II,III), augmented limb leads (aVR, aVL, aVF) and precordial leads (V1-V6).

The reason for using so many electrodes is to look at the electrical activity from a number of directions. One could imagine one electrode placed on the back of the Apple Watch (left arm) and one electrode on the bezel, allowing one lead from the left arm to the right arm, which is normally referred to as lead I. This gives us a lateral view of the electrical activity, which could show us an ECG-trace, but would be nowhere near enough for diagnosis (Edit: It has been pointed out that the Kardia device can use a single-lead ECG to detect atrial fibrilation).

Second, and this is the kicker. Osram is actually a manufacturer of LED-ECG. But the ECG stands for Electronic Control Gear and has nothing to do with cardiology.

Interesting, informative, but not enough to throw cold water on this rumor, at least for me. We shall see.

Apple’s “Gather round” event, today at 10a PT / 1p ET

Two nuggets.

First, courtesy of Detective Guilherme Rambo, here’s a direct stream URL for the event.

And second, someone on Reddit made the connection from the name of today’s event, “Gather round”, to this Bob Dylan song, that starts with the lyrics, “Come gather round people wherever you roam”.

This really clicked for me, as Steve Jobs actually read from the lyrics of that song on that famous day back in 1984 when he made that first public unveiling of the Mac. Take a minute and read the story, as told by Andy Hertzfeld. Could we hear more from that song today?

Go ahead. Try and buy an iPhone.

Seriously. Jump to the Apple Store and try to buy an iPhone. Any model. There’s a nice little “Be right back” message with an animated rainbow Apple. Interesting pattern.

How Apple Watch saved my life

Jason Perlow, ZDNet:

You could say this has been a very interesting summer. And one I would not like to repeat.

Go ahead and read the article. Wow. Yet another, very well documented, case of an Apple Watch alerting its owner to a medical condition that turned out to be life-threatening.

Terrific post.

Apple to broaden Its iPhone screens

Tripp Mickle, Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. is preparing to supersize its iPhone lineup, aiming to drive profit in its biggest business despite stagnant unit sales while also fueling growth for apps and services that are more appealing to users with bigger screens.

And:

At a time when people are buying fewer new phones, bigger size brings two advantages. It helps Apple buoy prices and profit margins because it can sell larger phones at a greater markup than it pays suppliers for the larger screens. And it encourages people to use their phones more, helping momentum of Apple’s services business, which includes app-store sales and subscriptions to video services like Netflix and HBO.

And:

Users with smartphone screens 6 inches or larger, like Apple plans to launch this year, typically use twice as many apps as those with 5.5-inch screens, such as those on the largest versions of the iPhone 6 or 7, said Kantar Worldpanel, a market research firm. Users of the larger devices also are 62% more likely to play games, and twice as likely to watch video daily as people with smaller screens.

Interesting article. Apple is getting smarter and smarter at fine-tuning devices to align with and drive revenue growth. This is all, in part, a strategy aligned with Apple’s coming entry into the Netflix-dominated video market.

There are spoilers in the article about tomorrow’s Apple event, so jump in if you are interested, avoid if you don’t even want a whiff of what’s coming.

BBC offers up an iOS 12 review from a mobile journalist’s perspective

Marc Settle, writing for the BBC on mobile journalism, digs into iOS 12. Good read. A couple of highlights:

iOS 12 will run on every device that currently runs iOS 11. This will therefore include iPhone 5s from way back in 2013 – now something of a dinosaur.

This also means that for the second year running, the oldest iPhone is not being left behind, bereft and unable to download the latest version of the operating system.

And:

But the fact that iOS 12 can actually run on such an old phone is part of the reason why I write these reviews when I don’t produce something similar for Android despite it being the world’s most used operating system – on about three and a half billion smartphones globally, compared to 800 million or so for iOS. The reason is that Androids aren’t uniformly updated in the way iPhones are. Depending on the make and model, you might get the latest version of Android immediately, eventually, or quite possibly never – even on relatively new devices.

And:

It’s taken me a long time to understand what I can do with Shortcuts and each time I think I’ve got it, I find new aspects to get my head around. But once users have got the hang of it, the likely result will be that they will be spending less time using their phones as numerous consecutive taps on the screen will be replaced by – at best – just one and possibly even none, given that Siri can be used to get things going.

And:

You could set a Shortcut up so that it gets hold of your most recent screenshot from the camera roll, opens it with tools for annotating and then add the annotated image to an email which you can then send before, finally, the screenshot is presented to you to be deleted.

And:

Another [Shortcut] could work like this: the system looks up on a map where you are, it then asks Apple Maps for directions and estimated driving times, it then creates an iMessage to a specific contact, based on your calendar, showing both where you are now and how long it should take to get to your destination. And it sends it.

Terrific read. These nuggets were just the tip of the iceberg.

Dulles Airport surprises passengers with facial-recognition boarding

Aaron Boyd, NextGov:

The new veriScan system developed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority—with guidance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection—scans the faces of travelers approaching the gate. The system then compares the photo to a gallery that includes images of that person—either their passport photo for U.S. citizens or the photo taken of foreign nationals when they entered the country. The process eliminates the need for an airline employee to manually check every boarding pass and passport while boarding a plane.

I can only assume this is the first of many US airports to gain this technology. Slowly, the massive databases are connecting, sucking data from the ever widening network of facial sensors.

Amazon is stuffing its search results pages with ads

Rani Molla, Recode:

If it feels like Amazon’s site is increasingly stuffed with ads, that’s because it is. And it looks like that’s working — at least for brands that are willing to fork over ad dollars as part of their strategy to sell on Amazon.

Jump to the recode article and look at the sample images, especially that big search result for “cereal”. Amazon has long had sponsored ads, but this new move makes it that much harder to find genuine (not paid-for) results.

Amazon, squeezing out every penny.

Apple surveying iMac Pro buyers for key features, suggesting prep for new Mac Pro

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple has recently been sending out surveys to customers who purchased an iMac Pro, asking them about which features drew them to the pro-level machine and what they like or dislike about the iMac Pro.

And:

Apple regularly sends out surveys of this nature to customers, but this line of questioning on the iMac Pro suggests Apple is perhaps trying to suss out key features that pro-level users want to see in future pro machines, such as the Mac Pro machine that’s in the works.

And:

Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi admitted last year that with the 2013 Mac Pro, Apple designed itself into “a bit of a thermal corner” given the restrictive size of the trash can-shaped Mac Pro and its inability to handle the thermal capacity needed for larger single GPUs.

“A bit of a thermal corner”. Love that turn of phrase. This survey seems a solid sign that Apple is doing their best to learn from their mistakes, hit a home run with next year’s Mac Pro.

Type your name using famous logos

Follow the link, type your name, or anything you like, and it will be rendered using famous logos.

For example, here’s me:

This exposes something a bit funky about Safari (both on Mac and iOS). Apparently, it does not support color fonts. If you do your typing in Safari, you’re words will appear in black and white. But if you flip over to Firefox (which I did for the image above), you’ll see your logo letters in glorious color.

I’d love to see the creator of this site add more logo letters to the font. There are two capital M’s (Monster and McDonalds), but only one capital A.

Interesting.

Apple Music gains better organization of releases on artist pages

Federico Viticci, MacStories:

In an update rolled out last night following the release of global top charts, Apple redesigned artist pages on Apple Music with separation of different kinds of music releases.

While the old artist page design of Apple Music mixed albums, singles, EPs, live albums, and more under the same ‘Albums’ section, the new Apple Music features separate sections for different types of music releases. The new sections include singles and EPs, live albums, essential albums recommended by Apple Music editors, compilations, and appearances by an artist on other albums.

This is great news, and a long time coming. Apple is making some terrific moves in the Apple Music space, along with the redesigns of the iOS and Mac App Stores. Kudos.