iPhone

Apple’s push to distinguish twins with Face ID

Patently Apple:

Apple notes in a patent application published today by the U.S. Patent Office that when it comes to authentication using facial recognition, there are potential cases where a user attempting to be authenticated (authorized) by a device cannot be distinguished from another user with closely related facial features.

Twins fool Face ID. Been a thing since the beginning.

Apple’s invention states that “Subepidermal imaging of a face of a user attempting to unlock a device may be used to enhance a facial recognition authentication process”

Subepidermal means below the skin. Interesting.

Subepidermal images of the user may be used to assess subepidermal features such as blood vessels (e.g., veins) when the device is attempting to authenticate the user. The subepidermal features may be compared to templates of subepidermal features for an authorized (e.g., enrolled) user of the device.

Sounds like Apple is offering an extra layer of facial verification for folks with twins or other doppelgängers.

And this last bit, which I found most fascinating:

For example, illuminator 105A and/or illuminator 105B may include an array of light sources such as, but not limited to, VCSELs (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers). A first set of light sources in the array may provide illumination at a wavelength for unlock attempt images while a second set of light sources may provide illumination at a wavelength for subepidermal images. The different sets of light sources may be turned on/off separately to allow a specific illumination (e.g., a specific wavelength of illumination) to be provided.

You had me at [Holds up fingers, makes air-quotes] lasers. Cool beans.

How I made my own iPhone

[VIDEO] This video is about two years old, but fascinating nonetheless. It’s embedded in the main Loop post.

Scotty Allen has a wonderful YouTube channel called Strange Parts that explores the back alley parts markets in places like Shenzhen, China, scrounging together the pieces to create, in this case, a working iPhone 6s.

This is not about creating a phone of your own. Rather, it’s a look at a remarkable parts market. Jump to about 4:03 and check out all those iPhone backs.

I’d wager that the parts market is even more varied and vibrant today. Kind of makes me want to hackintosh my own iPhone. Or, at least, replace the back with something unique and custom.

The worst time to trade in your iPhone and other depreciation info

Two things I drew from this post (which came via this Cult of Mac post):

  • The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a pretty horrible investment, dropping about 60% in nine months, as compared to the iPhone X, which dropped about 30% in the same span.

  • The worst time to trade in your iPhone is in the 3 months following the September iPhone event. This from the headline linked article:

A massive 68.86% of the iPhone X and 8’s total yearly depreciation was seen in Q4 following the Sept 2018 Apple Keynote (31.14% of their value between Q1-Q3). The months after the keynote is a trade-in black hole consumers should avoid.

iPhone values trend upwards every January. Lots more info in the article. Interesting.

Dynamic iPhone phone call interface

Think about handling a phone call on your iPhone. Imagine the process of changing audio sources (switch from your car or AirPods to the speaker or handset, for example). Imagine switching to some other app to look something up while you are on the call, with that call status bar taking up the top of the screen.

Now take a look at this tweet, watch the embedded video:

https://twitter.com/limneos/status/1102672002748502017

I love this concept. I believe it is a jailbreak app, not something a third party could ship on mainstream iOS. But there’s a tremendous amount of flexibility being shown here.

The future of foldables is glass, not plastic

Follow the headline link and scroll down about halfway to that animated GIF showing a piece of glass, folded over and being repeatedly squished and released. To me, that is the future of foldables.

That is super-thin glass, 75µm thin. That’s ballpark the thickness of a human hair. And that curve gets down to a 5mm radius.

Fold it over and over again, and there’s no crease. Plastics crease when folded, glass like this doesn’t.

My instinct is that Apple will hold out for glass like this if and when they ever release any sort of foldable iPhone. Details are all in the article.

Apple says iPhones with third-party batteries now eligible for repairs

MacRumors:

iPhones with aftermarket batteries installed by third-party repair shops are now eligible for service at Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers, according to an internal Apple document obtained by MacRumors from three reliable sources.

And:

The updated guidelines went into effect Thursday and should apply worldwide. Apple will still decline service for iPhones with third-party logic boards, enclosures, microphones, Lightning connectors, headphone jacks, volume and sleep/wake buttons, TrueDepth sensor arrays, and certain other components.

Good news and a small step towards right to repair.

Upgrading From an iPhone SE to an XR

Michael Tsai writes up his experience moving from small form factor to the larger iPhone XR. Moving from Touch ID to Face ID.

Lots of detail, terrific read. One thing that did not come up is the move from a headphone jack to none. I suspect Michael already made the move to AirPods (or the like) and it just wasn’t an issue.

UPDATE: From Michael, via Twitter, on my question about the headphone jack:

The headphone jack is not an issue for me. I use AirPods and recently found a much better Bluetooth car adapter (will hopefully write about it soon).

Apple files new folding iPhone patent to address the “hinge wrinkle” problem

Apple is clearly working on solving one of the knottiest of problems with foldable phones, that of hinge wrinkle. When you have a screen that crosses the fold of the phone, the screen can show wear, like you might see on the spine of a well worn paperback book, or if you folded and unfolded a piece of paper.

From Patently Apple:

A new patent application from Apple published by the U.S. Patent Office shows that Apple is working on a method to keep the fold area warm as a cold display could cause problems when folding.

Specifically, Apple notes that a folding device may have a hinge that allows the device to be flexed about a bend axis. A display may span the bend axis. To facilitate bending about the bend axis without damage when the display is cold, a portion of the display that overlaps the bend axis may be selectively heated.

Interesting solution. I do think the hinge wrinkle problem is a must solve for Apple. If I unfold my phone, a wrinkle, however slight, in the middle of the display, will kill the illusion of a single unbroken screen.

Apple and the NHL partner to turn candid player iPhone pics into giant ads

Ad Week:

The Shot on iPhone campaign has long been known for highlighting the surprisingly artistic shots that can be captured by just about any caliber of photographer. Now the outdoor-focused effort is heading onto the ice and behind the scenes of the NHL to give fans a closer look at the game and its star players.

In new ads launching today on arenas across the U.S. and Canada, Apple features photos taken on the iPhone XS by some of today’s top hockey pros and featuring candid moments with their teammates.

These are some great photos. No way a fan photo can match a photo taken on the ice or in the locker room by a player.

This is a brilliant partnership. I hope it spreads to other sports.

Cellebrite iPhone hacking tool is selling on eBay for $100 — And it’s leaking data

Forbes:

The U.S. federal government, from the FBI to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been handing millions to Cellebrite to break into Apple and Google smartphones. Mr. Balaj (Forbes agreed not to publish his first name at his request) and others on eBay are now acquiring and trading Cellebrite systems for between $100 and $1,000 a unit. Comparable, brand-new Cellebrite tools start at $6,000.

More importantly:

Rather than return the UFEDs to Cellebrite so they can be properly decommissioned, it appears police or other individuals who’ve acquired the machines are flogging them and failing to properly wipe them. Cybersecurity researchers are now warning that valuable case data and powerful police hacking tools could have leaked as a result.

This was one of the scenarios that emerged, back in late 2015, during the Congressional hearings that followed the San Bernardino shooting, asking Apple to build a golden key to allow law enforcement to unlock any iPhone on-demand. The concern then was that the golden key might get into the wrong hands, risking the data and privacy of the larger iPhone community.

Why Goldman Sachs sees Samsung folding phone as challenge to Apple

Lisa Eadicicco, Business Insider:

In a note published on February 20, the firm called Samsung’s newly introduced $1,980 Galaxy Fold “the main potential challenge” for Apple in the ultra-high-end smartphone market. “In terms of competition for Apple we see the Fold as the main potential challenge in the ultra high-end with a compelling form factor that only Samsung’s foldable OLED technology can deliver in our opinion,” the note said.

And:

“We see this as challenging for Apple who could find themselves with no access to the critical flexible OLED technology for which we believe Samsung has at least a two year lead over other display competitors.”

But:

Although Samsung demonstrated the device on stage, it did not allow media attendees to try the Fold after the event, which Goldman also flagged as a cause for concern.

The issue here: Samsung controls the supply of foldable OLED displays. A two year lead is formidable.

Nick Heer, from this post:

During the unveiling, Samsung emphasized the Fold’s versatility in being able to transform from an ordinary smartphone into a tablet just by opening it up. But this device — and others like it — are bad phones, and worse tablets. Every shot of the closed phone looks like it’s begging to be unfolded; its display looks narrow, uncomfortable, and cramped. It seems far better in its tablet-like configuration, but it is at best a diet version of a tablet.

Though Samsung does have a significant and protected lead, the product niche is nowhere near established. If Apple sees foldables in their future, they’re no doubt working on building the technology with another vendor, and/or working on the mechanics of building a foldable OLED display themselves.

How hackers and scammers break into iCloud-locked iPhones

Motherboard:

In 2013, Apple introduced a security feature designed to make iPhones less valuable targets to would-be thieves. An iPhone can only be associated to one iCloud account, meaning that, in order to sell it to someone else (or in order for a stolen phone to be used by someone new) that account needs to be removed from the phone altogether. A stolen iPhone which is still attached to the original owner’s iCloud account is worthless for personal use or reselling purposes (unless you strip it for parts).

And:

The iCloud security feature has likely cut down on the number of iPhones that have been stolen, but enterprising criminals have found ways to remove iCloud in order to resell devices. To do this, they phish the phone’s original owners, or scam employees at Apple Stores, which have the ability to override iCloud locks. Thieves, coders, and hackers participate in an underground industry designed to remove a user’s iCloud account from a phone so that they can then be resold.

This is a fascinating deep dive into the sophisticated black market that evolved for the sole purpose of defeating iCloud security locks.

The rise of the iPhone auteur

The article is about Steven Soderbergh and his continued quest to create mainstream movies shot completely on an iPhone.

Great read, though I think a bit of backstory is missing. Soderbergh was the director of the movie Moneyball and was fired. From the Moneyball Wikipedia page:

On June 19, 2009, days before filming was set to begin, Sony put the picture on hold. Soderbergh’s plan for the film called for elements considered non-traditional for a sports movie, such as interviews with real-life players. Soderbergh was dismissed and ultimately replaced by Bennett Miller. Aaron Sorkin wrote a third version of the screenplay.

That firing started a rift between Soderbergh and the studios, traditional moviemaking. The iPhone brought him back to moviemaking, with the “shot on iPhone” independent release Unsane, shot entirely on an iPhone 7.

Soderbergh’s latest effort, High Flying Bird, was shot entirely on an iPhone 8, and was done for Netflix. I find Soderbergh’s reemergence, in part thanks to the capabilities of the iPhone, fascinating.

Shot on iPhone XR, tweeted by Tim Cook

[VIDEO] Came across this tweet from Tim Cook:

https://twitter.com/tim_cook/status/1093210790369341440

I spent a nice stretch in New York last week, and this video (part of a series) really clicked for me, captured the essence of the city. It also gives you a sense of what you can do with video using the iPhone XR.

The full video is embedded in the main Loop post. Nice work.

Bloomberg: Apple Is planning 3-D cameras for new iPhones in AR push

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. plans to launch iPhones with a more-powerful 3-D camera as soon as next year, stepping up the company’s push into augmented reality, according to people familiar with the plans.

The rear-facing, longer-range 3-D camera is designed to scan the environment to create three-dimensional reconstructions of the real world. It will work up to about 15 feet from the device, the people said. That’s in contrast with the current iPhone 3-D camera system, which points toward users and operates at distances of 25 to 50 centimeters to power Apple’s Face ID facial-recognition feature.

I tend to avoid rumors but, right or wrong, this article is full of fascinating detail. If and when AR gains enough traction to be part of our day to day lives, I think Apple will be perfectly placed to sell an entirely new generation of iPhones.

NOTE: Do not confuse AR with VR. AR (augmented reality) layers simulated information on top of what you see through your iPhone’s camera. VR (virtual reality) is a virtual world, fed to you through special interface devices, like gloves and helmets.

I see AR as eminently useful, letting you measure rooms and place virtual furniture, or helping map your trip through the grocery store, finding items and comparing prices. The use cases are here, the hardware and software is still in the works.

Apple shifts gears, will pay license fee to top 10 winners of their shot on iPhone contest

No doubt due to the public outcry, and to avoid the appearance of using people’s work for “exposure”, Apple added this paragraph to the very end of their recent press release:

Apple believes strongly that artists should be compensated for their work. Photographers who shoot the final 10 winning photos will receive a licensing fee for use of such photos on billboards and other Apple marketing channels.

Good solution.

The secret history of iPhone

[VIDEO] Rene Ritchie:

On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs put sneaker to stage for what was the most incredible keynote presentation of his life.

Great turn of phrase, Rene. This video is a terrific look back at the birth of iPhone, with some excellent weaving of elements to tell the story. Video embedded in main Loop post.

An iPhone dropped in a pool, and the battle for warranty coverage

The linked Reddit post was called, provocatively, “I fought Apple and won!”

From the post:

I purchased an iPhone XS in September of last year. The first week of December I accidentally dropped it in my sisters swimming pool at the shallow end – a depth of approximately 1.10m. Immediately, I jumped in an pulled the phone out, switched it off and let it dry for a few hours (as indicated in the steps of what to do when your phone gets wet on the Apple website). A few hours later I turned the phone back on and all was good. Fantastic!

As you might guess, all was not good. Over time, the poster’s phone died a slow death, and they eventually took it into the Apple Store for a look see.

As you also might guess, the Apple Store opened up the phone, and:

Two hours later I come back and they say the Liquid Contact Indicators have been activated, which means there is internal liquid damage and they won’t cover liquid damage under warranty.

And this is where the story gets really interesting. The poster pointed Apple to the original rollout video for the iPhone XS, where Phil Schiller, talking about water protection, says these words:

So if you happen to be hanging by the pool, drop your phone in the water, don’t worry. Let it dry, you’ll be fine.

To see this for yourself, follow this link and jump to about 40:40.

Follow the headline link for all the legal details but, bottom line, the poster did eventually get their phone replaced.

Should the words in a marketing pitch establish repair policy? Interesting.

Jeremy Burge: Google’s Night Sight is the new benchmark

Last week, we highlighted a tweet from Jeremy Burge showing pairs of low light images, taken with an iPhone and a Google Pixel using Night Sight.

Jeremy pulled together his findings in a blog post that makes the case for Google’s Night Sight as the new benchmark for low light image capture on a smartphone.

From the post:

Despite being a long-time iPhone user, I often find myself with other phones for testing purposes. Sometimes they have nice features my iPhone doesn’t have, but rarely does any single feature make me even consider changing devices.

The release of Google’s Night Sight feature for the Pixel line in 2018 is a game changing feature.

Having used it for the past month, I now carry both my iPhone and Pixel of an evening. That’s how good it is.

And:

Since posting about this on Twitter, time and time again people said “just edit the iPhone pictures!”. This misses two points:

  1. Most people don’t have the time or ability to fix their dark and/or blurry iPhone photos taken at night
  2. Some of this cannot be done by editing. That 2-5 second time used to capture more light in the Google camera app isn’t an option provided on iOS.

I couldn’t agree with Jeremy more. Like it or not, this is the new benchmark for low-light photos.

I would gladly tap a button in the camera app to turn on/off low light mode before I take a picture. And if Apple can just do this automatically, even better. I frequently find myself unsatisfied with my iPhone camera in low light situations. I would love an iPhone version of Night Sight.

And to be fair, the iPhone XS clearly has made great low-light strides. But Night Sight runs on older hardware. It’s a software fix. Feels like this sort of technique should be possible on previous generations of iPhone.

7 tips most iPhone owners won’t know

[VIDEO] When I see a post like this, I am automatically skeptical. This one passes muster. Take a look. The video is embedded in the main Loop post.

My favorite was using Siri to jump to a specific app’s Settings page. I spent some time playing with this one and it does work well, but does not work with all apps. I suspect there’s some API the developer needs to support for this to work, and not all apps do that.

To try this for yourself, pick one of your apps, then fire up Siri and say:

Settings

Many apps jump right to their settings page. But some (looking at you Twitter app) throw Siri for a loop.

iPhone, Pixel night mode, and low light pictures

Jeremy Burge did some side-by-side low light shots, showing the iPhone camera vs Android’s Night Sight. Scroll through the tweets below:

https://twitter.com/jeremyburge/status/1083676824343887879

To me, this is my iPhone camera’s biggest weakness, the one feature that tempts me to carry a Pixel 3, just for the ability to capture better low light images.

Google has a fantastic writeup on Night Sight in this blog post. Jump to the section titled “Capturing the Data” for the details.

As you make your way through the Twitter thread, don’t miss the interaction between Jeremy and Rene Ritchie. It’s not clear that my iPhone is not capable of producing similar, or even superior low light images. It may be simply that Apple chose not to ship a low-light mode that did not deliver pictures that met their standards. But as is, I’d rather have the oversaturated Night Sight images than ones that were simply dark.

How charging is handled by the new iPhone Smart Battery Cases

Christine Chan, iMore:

When you charge your iPhone in the Smart Battery Case, the iPhone will usually have priority when normal or fast charging. Once the iPhone reaches about 80 percent charged, the charging is split and allocated to the Smart Battery Case instead. However, if you use a power adapter that can provide more power, such as a MacBook Pro USB-C power adapter, then it can fast charge both the iPhone and Smart Battery Case at the same time. What has priority depends on how much power is being taken in.

Good to know.

Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom

Kevin Roose, New York Times:

She’s a relatively tech-savvy retiree and a longtime Apple fan who has used many of the company’s products over the years. I learned to type on an Apple IIGS at her office, and she was an early adopter of the original turquoise iMac. These days, she uses her iPhone to check Facebook and Instagram, talk with her friends and relatives, and play solitaire and Words With Friends.

Her phone isn’t the latest model — it’s a three-year-old iPhone 6S — and it’s missing some of the latest features. She can’t take portrait mode photos using a dual-lens camera, a feature introduced in the iPhone 7 Plus, and she can’t unlock her phone using Face ID, which was introduced in the iPhone X in 2017. Her phone’s battery life could be better, and the device sometimes runs out of storage space.

But she’s happy with it, and doesn’t feel the need to upgrade.

The case I’m getting here is that this “hold the phone a long time” is something new, something unplanned, something that is happening to Apple.

I see it as strategic planning, long term thinking on Apple’s part. Part of Apple’s iOS evolution was to create an operating system that would support a deeper run of older devices, even improve the experience from previous iOS versions.

To me, what this article shows is that Apple has been successful in this goal. And that means, as the smartphone market has matured and grown more saturated, Apple could ease from a dependence on iPhone sales to pay the bills, to a future where other devices, as well as a growing services ecosystem, could shoulder more and more of that load.

How to create blank icons on your iPhone

Sébastien Page, iDownloadBlog:

Whether you want to show off your beautiful wallpaper, or simply want your set up to look different from the millions of other iPhones out there, one of the best way to do that is to add blank icons to your Home screen.

These invisible icons will allow you to create empty spaces on your Home screen to either let the wallpaper shine, or to arrange your app icons in a very specific way.

This tutorial will show you how to create create blank iPhone icons, no jailbreak or hack required.

This is my new favorite way to add blank icons to customize your home screen. Note that you have to re-jump through the hoops if you want to change the blank icons.

In a nutshell, you use iPhone Safari to browse to iempty.tooliphone.net. That site lets you customize your page, as you like.