“Effective power” bug is back on iPhones and Macs! Apple is moving sluggishly towards bug-free devices, struggling since 2015 to fix some otherwise harmless bugs like Crashsafari.com and the macOS High Sierra critical flaw. Security and user privacy have been a top priority in every Apple product but regrettably, it has stumbled upon it endeavor sometimes. Recently, a bug has been discovered in iOS that crashes the Messages app and can freeze or restart your phone. A flaw in iMessage has been targeted allowing a single message to lock up and potentially crash your device, without you even opening the message to read it. This bug was given a catchy, slightly alarmist name “chaiOS”.
This newly discovered security vulnerability can be used to prank friends and family with iPhones and Macs. A simple text message embedded with a malicious code can crash the recipient’s Message app and freeze the device requiring a full power reboot. When iMessage receives a message with a URL, it will go online and generate a small thumbnail preview of the link. When the metadata is much larger than normally accepted, the iMessage app will lock up the device. iPhone’s Message App pre-loads links to webpages so it can show users a preview of the webpage and trying to retrieve such links or just receiving them on your phone is found to cause lag in Messages app and iOS in general. Your device could endup in “Respring” or “boot loop” at times. “Respring” refers to re-starting the device’s Spring Board, which takes nearly 10 seconds and, by default, returns you to the Lock Screen. While during the “Boot Loop”, the Apple logo flashes on the screen and instead of booting it, the device restarts again. This keeps on repeating time after time to form the iPhone boot loop.
One can simply input random characters into a webpage’s metadata and use it to troll you, as all that is required, is your phone number and this bug requires absolutely no action from the recipient to do the damage. iMessage app crashes when trying to load all this unexpected information, sometimes taking the entire operating system down with it. ChaiOS affects iOS versions 10.0 through 11.2.5 beta 5.
Scary? No Worries, you’ve got our aid. Well, if you do receive a bad link running the chaiOS bug, you can try a handful of fixes to continue using iMessage on your Phone.
First, block the domain in safari restrictions, iPhone wont overload even if you get the link. This can be done by following the given steps. Go to Safari settings, then General > Restrictions > Enable Restrictions > Websites > Limit Adult Content > Never Allow > webpage URL.
Second, delete the message thread received. Sometimes, if you try to open the Messages app, it will continue to crash before you’re able to delete the thread. If Messages is in a recurring loop, you can reset your iPhone to factory settings.This is an extreme measure as it’ll delete all your files, photos and other saved data and settings on your device. Just ensure you’ve backed up all your data proactively.
ChaiOS isn’t a new breed of bug for the iPhone. Such dodgy web links have caused shut downs in iOS before and Apple has been alert and responsive towards similar software mites. Although, it has been a little indifferent to the “chaiOS” till date but users are looking forward towards some fixes in the short run. Taking off, Chip-monks advises you to always keep your iPhone and iPad updated to the latest version of iOS, which includes security patches for bugs like this.
There were rumors that Apple will be launching a video subscription application in 2018 to counter Netflix, however now Citi analysts, Jim Suva and Asiya Merchant have speculated that the company might probably purchase the entertainment company by taking advantage of United States President Donald Trump’s corporate tax cut.
Apple’s potential acquisition of Netflix comes after Disney and Fox have struck a deal for the Mouse House to acquire a majority for Fox. That deal is still about a year out from being finalized, though it looks to be just one of many possible acquisitions to take place in the year 2018. Talks around Apple buying Netflix have been there for the past year or so, however, a deal between the two appeared highly unlikely at the time. With the corporate tax cut, the circumstances have become favorable in Apple Inc’s corner. Currently, it does not seem that the two have even initiated any official talks, though Apple appears to be inching nearer to doing so.
According to Citi analysts, there is a 400% chance that Apple will acquire Netflix, as under the new tax rules, the tech giant will be able to repatriate about $220 billion in cash to the US. Suva and Merchant were quoted saying, “The firm has too much cash, nearly $250 billion, growing at $50 billion a year. This is a good problem to have.” Analysts further added, “Historically, Apple has avoided repatriating cash to the US to avoid high taxation. As such, corporate tax reform may allow Apple to put this cash to use. With over 90% of its cash sitting overseas, a one-time 10% repatriation tax would give Apple $220 billion for buybacks or mergers and acquisitions (M&A).”
Even with Apple’s iTunes, which has been a huge success for the corporation, viewers have migrated increasingly to services like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon to engage in their favorite shows leaving Apple struggling to offer a compelling TV or movie offering. Netflix shares could probably get a boost from this merger news, but they are already overpriced and overvalued. Netflix currently has a negative free cash flow and P/E ratio over 191 as it burns through cash developing new content. Competition in the streaming market is increasing considerably after Disney announced plans to pull their content from Netflix and start their own streaming service in 2018.
As per reports from September 2017, Apple might lease the Culver Studios in California, as it plans to invest $1 billion into movie and TV productions. The battle for television projects and best movie scripts has intensified among tech giants in the Silicon Valley. Amazon has won Oscars for “Manchester by the Sea” show and Google-owned YouTube is already producing original television series.
The iPhone maker has already employed top Hollywood talent from Sony, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to lead its Hollywood push and are reportedly developing a brand new TV show, which will star Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. It’s speculative presumption that Apple would buy Netflix, however the analysts are hedging for it. Netflix shares will be happy with the inevitable bump.
Judging by their slow and innocous start it was difficult to guess how important these wearables will prove to be in future. From waking us up to start our day to experiencing our snores at night, they stay with us, measuring our steps / heart rates and prompting us to be more active throughout the day. Not only have they redefined fitness, but are simultaneously revolutionizing the sphere of healthcare.
Healthcare has managed to gain a lot from these new inventions, changing the doctor patient relationship and increasing our awareness on how certain medical concepts were perceived. These wearables are aiming to track manifestations that often go unnoticed but will prove to be significant triggers or trends to mapping our health.
Who does not hate going to the doctor to get their glucose level monitored? Ask a diabetic patient what a tediously monotonous task it is. Apparently Steve Jobs also felt so and wanted to make it better for us. Apple has been curious to explore this technology and make it work. The seriousness of their intent is visible in the company nurturing a team of biomedical engineers to build sensors which will non-invasively monitor glucose levels. The company has finished with a few clinical trials in the bay area however it will be a few years before we see this technology up and about.
Following the footsteps is Fitbit also working on a similar project to build a wearable that can track the glucose level in a non invasive manner. The company has invested $6 billion in Sano, a glucose monitoring start-up known for creating coin-size patch to track glucose levels helping diabetics manage their condition. Fitbit aims to combine the technology from Sano to their wearables making them an integral part of our fitness.
Ignored and often taken for granted – Sweat, has also garnered the interest of researchers. Other than having a cooling effect, sweat can be analyzed for early signs of health anomalies. It’s the store house of biomarkers like glucose, sodium, lactate, potassium and protein. The analysis of sweat could give you a heads up regarding some disease that you might have or are at a risk of developing, enabling you to take corrective actions.
Folks at Stanford have come up with the wearable that has overcome one major obstacles in the path of analyzing sweat. It does not need the patients to sit down for a long duration of time while they see their sweat getting accumulated in collectors, something which does not sound exactly interesting. A key element that these researchers are looking at is the chloride ions which can be a key to know your cystic fibrosis. A higher cystic fibrosis count targets your lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys intestine and can prove to be the cause of many lung infections.
The scientist have developed a two part sensor and microprocessor that gets glued to your skin, prompts your sweat glands and then gauges the numerous biomarkers based on the electric signals. If there are more chloride ions in the sweat then more electrical voltage will be generated at the sensors surface. If the blood shows higher count of chloride ions then it indicates more cystic fibrosis. This measure is then compared to the glucose level in blood depending on which you will get your report on diabetes.
Guys at the University of Pennsylvania have also been keeping busy and are also exploring the various facets of sweat by including graphene in their research. Graphene is considered “the best sensor material in existence”, allowing the sweat sensor to be four times more accurate than current sensors and is used to create the SweatSmart by GraphWear.
Now that’s some tough research in motion, but, you know what’s tougher – getting an FDA certificate. Apple has recently had a moment to remember when it received an FDA certification for the first time for Kardia band, an apple watch accessory. The Apple watch would now use AliveCor’s Kardia app to monitor your heart. The device comes in black thermoplastic polyurethane with a stainless steel sensor module lurking beneath the surface of the device. An added bonus is SmartRhythm a feature within the Kardia app that would make use of AI Apple Watch’s heart rate and activity sensors to correctly estimate your heart rate. The effort is to make EKG’s accessible all the time without the use of complex equipments and the need to go to the hospital very often under dire situations.
In this routine bound life where every moment appears to be always already decided and is characterized with various shades of hectic activity, stress is the obvious conclusion. This silent killer creeps on us during the day but also keeps us awake at nights so much so that people have to take pills in order to get sleep.
2Breathe has developed a solution that insomniacs might be looking for. The device used in tandem with the app targets your pre-sleep tension, identified as the primary cause of the sleep troubles. All they want is for you to strap on you wearable device, turn on the proprietary mobile app and start breathing casually. While you breathe, the sensors in the device keep a check on your breathing pattern and then sends the data to your smartphone. Now comes the interesting part. Once the device registers your breathing patterns, it will provide you with guiding tones chosen just for you. Follow the tones to calm down and lower the rate of breathing. Within a matter of minutes the neural activity will reduce giving you that oh-so-needed tranquility.
Occupying a comfortable corner in all the sectors of our life, wearables seem like a friend we always wanna keep for ourselves, and with viable research going on, they manage to keep us curious not to mention fit and healthy.
Apple did not start 2018 with the positivity they would have wanted, even after the success of iPhone X. The reason – their deliberate throttling-down the performance of older iPhone models has not gone down well with users and critics alike. iPhone owners are upset and several have filed lawsuits alleging that Apple, by failing to disclose that it would throttle down their phones, has swindled them in a sneaky attempt to buy newer iPhones and some have even claimed monetary loss.
There existed speculations around the performance of the iPhone being throttled down with time, however most of us disregarded them as errant rumors and even sidelined the people who had incessantly insisted that they do, as we were not showed proof and were merely audience to the pelted allegations. One inquisitive user – one small measurement – one statement from Apple and the whole speculation turned on its head to become a dreaded reality. After the grins (I told you so), the sneers (I knew Apple was up-to something), the disbelief (I never thought Apple could do this) and a whole range of emotions having manifested, shared and consumed, let us bring semblance of what actually happened and why.
The entire conflict began with a Reddit user’s innocuous experiment around why his iPhone 6S had slowed down and why it perked up again after a battery replacement. Using the Geekbench app, he realized that the most recent iOS 11.2 update had slackened the performance of his iPhone, which disappeared upon replacing the battery. This led a team at Geekbench to further test this hypothesis and prove with data that the claim – Apple throttles down older iPhones is true. After a few days Apple confirmed the same and issued an apology for erroneously withholding this information from their users along with an explanation of why this was done. By then the damage had been done and the trust that Apple had erstwhile enjoyed had taken a beating, exposing Apple to the wrath of their loyal users amidst the rant of iOS naysayers.
Let us explore the battery to understand its delicate relationship to the device hardware and performance.
Lithium-ion battery is a chosen means for powering your smartphone by OEMs as it is lighter, denser, lasts longer, and charges faster in comparison to the other market viable technologies available for batteries. However, these batteries do come with a “chemical age” driven by your usage (number of charge cycles, frequency of charge cycles) and maintenance, directly affecting the battery performance and lifespan. As these lithium-ion batteries age w.r.t. their chemical constitution, the amount of charge they hold diminishes, resulting in the users having to charge their device more frequently than before. Chemical ageing decreases the ability of an optimally functioning phone to spontaneously draw power from the battery. Another factor affecting the power delivery mechanism is the impedance of a battery, which increases as it ages chemically. Higher impedance equals more resistance and thus lower power delivery. There is a minimum voltage that the electronic components, like the battery, power circuits or internal storage of the device needs to operate and a battery with high impedance is unable to provide power quickly enough to the system that needs it. While sub-optimal temperature, harsh environment and a low charge state can increase the battery impedance for a short amount of time, a battery with a higher chemical age in the same conditions would substantially dither in its voltage delivery.
Modern devices have a power management system responsible for managing delivery and utilization of power to maintain optimal operation. When this power management system feels the conditions are not conducive for operation, it shuts down the device to safeguard the electronic circuitry and components against damage. This shutdown is seen as erroneous and spontaneous by the user when in fact, it is completely intentional and systematic. As the battery gets older, it becomes inefficient with it’s power retention and power delivery allowing for device shutdowns, thereby making the device unreliable. In order to keep up with the ageing battery, the device performance needs to be throttled down to keep pace with the diminishing power management so that the device does not have unexpected shutdowns.
The power management feature takes into account battery impedance, its charge state and the device temperature before managing the performance limit for the device CPU and GPU, thereby allowing for an even distribution of the device workload instead of spontaneous quick bursts of power sapping workload, thus avoiding damage or sudden shutdowns. In terms of how this affects the device in practical usage – it may lead to lower speaker volume out (by up to -3dB), backlight dimming (lowering screen power utilization), lower frame rates while scrolling, longer app launch times, etc. If there are any apps that are refreshing in the background, they will need to be reloaded when you launch them and in extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled. However, this feature will not effect device sensors, captured audio and video quality, call quality and networking throughput and the GPS performance for location precision along with Apple Pay. These changes are temporary if the battery is in a low charge state or if the device is in operation in sub-optimal temperatures, however these changes could be permanent if the battery has aged chemically and a replacement battery would then be a viable solution to get the device back to its original performance.
In their statement, Apple said that for their older devices, the iOS 10.2.1 update came with a feature to prevent these shutdowns. iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE had received this feature to dynamically manage the sudden performance peaks and stop the device from promptly shutting down. iOS 11.2 extended this feature to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models as well. On their page for “iPhone Battery and Performance”, the team at Apple have shared that changing to a new battery could improve the phone performance – “For a low battery state of charge and colder temperatures, power management changes are temporary. If a device battery has chemically aged far enough, power management changes may be more lasting. This is because all rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan, eventually needing to be serviced or recycled. If you are impacted by this and would like to improve your device performance, replacing your device battery can help”.
Apart from offering an explanation around the workings and eroding of lithium-ion batteries powering their devices, Apple has also apologized and followed it up with a remedial action: “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize… we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.” As damage containment, Apple has reduced the battery replacement cost of an out-of-warranty iPhone from $79 to $29 for iPhone 6 or later models. In India, this cost has gone down from INR 6,000 to INR 2,000 plus taxes and should be available through 2018. In addition, the company will be releasing an iOS software update in early 2018 with a feature that will give users better feedback on their iPhone’s battery health.
Geekbench is a paid app that does comprehensive testing of your device’s performance. It has become a standard today for testing smartphone performance in areas such as CPU, GPU, speech recognition, camera, rendering capabilities, etc. For the many of you who might not want to pay for an app, there are free apps like Performance Benchmark and Battery Life to gauge your battery health. These apps won’t test your device like Geekbench 4, but still give battery’s raw data, runtimes, and health status for you to gauge your battery health.
The damage was done due to a lack of proactive communication by Apple. The company had been receiving customer feedback for slow performance of iPhones for months before the whole thing was put out in the open. Consumers consciously pay a higher price to purchase iPhones for the user experience it offers, and to find out that they have been throttling down your device performance while keeping you in the dark constitutes an offensive breach of the trust that the buyers place in Apple. If Apple had addressed their user concerns on diminishing device performance, they could have avoided this scandalous bump in their legacy with their user loyalty and brand image not having to loose lost traction in the market.
Now on their proposed remedial solution – Apple should not be charging for replacement batteries at all considering the cost of the iPhone itself, especially in developing nations. Consumers are willing to pay for the user experience and the durability that Apple products bring. Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research, rightly contends that “A two-year-old iPhone such as the iPhone 6s still costs around INR 37,000 and paying INR 2,000 to get its battery replaced within a year of purchase is asking for a lot, especially in developing markets like India. Ideally, Apple should not have charged for replacement batteries for the affected phones. A large chunk of iPhone buyers in India go for iPhones that are a generation or two older. In such cases, it becomes critical for Apple to be upfront about issues pertaining to older iPhones.” Consumers should know about maintenance costs like that before making the purchase.
Could this mess have been avoided if Apple had simply been upfront with its customers from the beginning?
Users feel that the iOS update around their battery performance status could have been rolled out earlier giving the user choice to continue running the device for performance and risk unexpected shutdowns or consciously throttle it down to keep it functioning modestly. By taking matters into its own hands, the users feel that Apple has kept them in the dark and customers are not taking this lack of choice and breach of transparency lightly.
While the accusation against Apple cannot be denied, there does seem to be some truth in Apple’s explanation. Apple, on its website, mentions that “All rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan—eventually their capacity and performance decline so that they need to be serviced or recycled. As this happens, it can contribute to changes in iPhone performance.”
Too little too late!
Unsolicited phone calls asking mobile phone users to either purchase a credit card or a life insurance policy have always been a problem. The users keep receiving spam phone calls and messages at odd timings and the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been trying to do away with these spam calls and messages, via users registering for “Do Not Disturb” as a popular initiative, however, has not met with success.
As a result of this TRAI has been trying to get in touch with Apple for quite sometime in order to develop a Do-Not-Disturb app for iOS, so that spam calls and messages can be reported. Unlike the Apple devices, the Android devices already have this provision in their Play Store which allows the telephone regulators to report spam calls and messages with the help of the Do-Not-Disturb app.
The TRAI chairman has accused Apple of not co-operating with them and limiting them to just discussing the matter as the TRAI has been trying to get Apple on board for the past two years. The chairman is of the view that Apple has done nothing in this matter and has compared Apple’s inactive attitude with Google’s active attitude, saying that Google’s Android supports the regulators DND app, whereas Apple rejects it stating privacy concerns.
Well Google does have all your data – from your web searches. If you do not believe, try searching something on an e-commerce website and then you will see similar products in ads across your screen, even when you visit unrelated websites.
The situation between the two finally got better when Apple got in touch with TRAI during the month of August and said that the new iOS 11, which is the latest iOS version will allow TRAI to develop their DND apps to regulate the spam messages and calls. However, it is still unclear whether this app would would require the users calls logs for reporting purposes as Android does.
TRAI officials have also come out and shared that Apple executives have agreed to help TRAI find a solution for this however the problem between the two was not about consumer protection and the consumer’s right to their own data.
In order to get their DND app a green signal, TRAI had started a formal consultation in August on the issue of safeguarding a customer’s data and whether any third-party (such as app stores) could gain control over the user’s personal data despite the customer agreeing to sharing their information. TRAI initiated this consultation as a counter act towards Apple’s privacy policies.
Companies like Apple make headlines every year for their innovations. However, of late, they have been in the news for trying to silently register their patents or from accusations of rampant patent infringements against them by smaller firms. Most times the cases are proven baseless, with the ‘patent trolls’ seeking to make big money off the established innovators who settle out of court to negate bad press and long drawn frivolous court battles. However, some of the recent cases filed against the giant show that the “patent trolls“ are adapting a new strategy thereby using a minor flaw in the law to a major advantage.
Prowire LLC, a Texas based company filed a case against Apple in Delaware court claiming that Apple has used its technology in iPad 4. Delaware has got an uncanny reputation of favoring the ‘little guys’ fighting the giants. Apple wanted the case to be transferred to California but before that could happen Prowire turned the table by handing over the patent to MEC Resource, a company in North Dakota owned by North American tribe.
But why are they transferring the patents to native American tribes?
Sovereign immunity is a concept that descends from the idea that you cannot summon a king or other monarch into court. In US law, and is in the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution, preventing states from being sued in federal court without the state’s consent.
It is a trial procedure to check the patentability of one or more claims in a patent to check how valid the patents are and it is a great way out of the long drawn legal battles for the big companies who have to confront numerous patent trolls each year. This law, however, has one shortcoming that came to the forefront when Allergan CEO Brent Saunders struck a $13.75 million deal with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to transfer patents of the eye drug Restasis. The loophole of the “sovereign immunity”. People who fall under this category can’t be challenged with Inter Partes Reviews (IPR’s) and as one can guess North American also enjoy “sovereign immunity”. So by transferring the patents to the tribe, Allergan is trying to save the drug from generic competition before its patents run out in 2024.
Of late, not only Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have also been sued by a native American tribe and a small computer company claiming that the giants are violating the patents relating to supercomputer technology. The suits were filed in federal district court in Virginia by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and SRC Labs. SRC has transferred the patents under focus to the tribe in August.
This loophole is becoming a headache for the big companies. The patent trolls are using the yardstick of “sovereign immunity” to save their spurious patents from IPR’s. The shell company holds the patent of the “patent troll” in lieu of monetary benefits, in addition to the licensing fees as long as the patent is valid. Unfortunately this trend is being exported for the wrong reasons, making it difficult for innovation to exist, let alone prolifer as the ‘patent trolls’ taking advantage of the unsuspecting tribes who are now being labeled as “patent aggressors”.
Some counter measures have already been pondered on. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced a bill to overcome this loophole waiting for the Patent Trial and Appeals Board to approve it. McCaskill’s bill states that “an Indian tribe may not assert sovereign immunity as a defense” in an inter partes review of patents. Hopefully with this the abuse of the patent system may be curbed and the firms can go back to focusing on innovation and not bleed energy in protecting that is rightfully theirs.
Earlier this year we’d written about how Apple seems to keep veering back to “arch-nemesis” Samsung every time it found itself in trouble on the Supply Chain front.
It’s a funny relationship – highly publicised animosity, lawsuits that leapfrog one to the other, and products that are clear competitors to each other’s wares, yet ape each other unabashedly – and yet, Apple and Samsung seem to find the same bed in times of dire need.
First, Apple purportedly turned to Samsung for the OLED screens that are expected to glam up the upcoming iPhone 8, and now it seems Samsung’s going to be providing another key component of the same iPhone 8 – the solid state memory chips!
Well, the three new iPhones – the iPhone 7S, iPhone 7S Plus and iPhone 8 (which is what the blogosphere is calling them) – expected this fall, are rumoured to come with 3D NAND chips for storage.
Apple has been using that tech since last year’s iPhone and it is one of the many reasons that the iPhones 7 are so fleet-footed. Word now is that Apple’s suppliers have failed to meet the demand needed for this year’s production numbers. The technology is still fairly new, and the reasons for the delay are not entirely articulated by Apple or anyone else in the know.
Word also is that Apple is being forced to turn to Samsung, its fiercest market rival, for satisfying Apple’s 3D NAND chip thirst.
So you know and understand the implications, I must chalk up a quick Electronics 101 lesson.
NAND memory is a type of non-volatile storage technology that does not require power to retain data and is used in almost all forms of solid-state storage. NAND memory is the secret sauce that resides in devices onto which large files are frequently uploaded and replaced – like your MP3 players, USB drives and smart devices.
As with every other piece of technology, NAND technology too, is being improved year after year, to accommodate more storage capacity, faster transmissions and to reduce the voltage demands of the memory – which leads us to… 3D NAND technology.
3D NAND uses a method for packing a much higher density of transistors in a similar volume of space as the NAND, by stacking memory cells vertically in multiple layers. Obviously, the charm is that this tech allows more memory in the same footprint; with devices becoming more and more svelte, manufacturers (especially those form factor-focused ones like Apple) it’s obvious that such growth in technology be harnessed as quickly as it can be mass-produced.
If all this tech talk sounds like mumbo-jumbo to you, all you need to take away is that 3D NAND tech costs less per GB of storage, reduces power consumption, boosts reliability and provides higher data write performance, and all which are the functionalities you’d want in your next big flagship, especially if you’re Apple and even more so, if you’re trying to do something special on an upcoming Anniversary Edition.
Back to the story at hand, word is that Apple’s primary suppliers of 3D NAND chips, SK Hynix and Toshiba, have fallen short by about 30%, due to poor yield. With the expected launch of September getting closer and closer, a bottleneck on the supply front is certainly not desirable for the iPhone maker.
Turning to Samsung was the obvious choice.
No details about how many chips Samsung would be providing Apple with have been released yet. As per reports, Apple currently buys up around 18% of the world’s supply of NAND chips. And if the iPhone 8 turns out to be a success, this percentage could increase.
Good thing Apple has the money to secure supply, even when production is not going as smooth as everyone would like for it to!
However, Apple’s not the only on in a jam. The problem of acquiring 3D NAND chips will be an affliction even for other players in the market – such as LG and Huawei whose products are standing in line for their quota of synapses. The word is that vendors are struggling with a lack of 3D NAND flash chips globally, and the shortage is not expected to improve until 2018.
While all this sounds gloomy and forbidding, it’s actually a manna from heaven for Samsung.
Beleaguered by the hole in revenues caused by the Note7 implosion last year, billions of dollars lost in PR and brand image, poor customer confidence that spilled over to other products in it’s arsenal and most embarrassingly, corporate troubles, Samsung had been drowning under an unprecedented wave of dip in it’s fortunes. This was the shot in the arm that Samsung needed.
And they seem to have grasped this opportunity with both hands.
The humungous success of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, along with this surge in the 3D NAND chip demands for which Samsung is seemingly becoming the knight on a white steed, has helped Samsung refill it’s coffers and win back some bragging rights in the industry.
So if you’ve read about Samsung’s own estimation of a record quarterly operating profit for April-June, you know where a lion’s share of it came from. What’s even better is that analysts say that this revenue stream will continue to pad Samsung’s margins for the rest of the year.
At Chip-Monks, we applaud Samsung’s tenacity and especially love that Apple’s still got it’s humility about it, even if it’s all in the interest of profitability! Who cares? Partnerships that heal are inspirational.
The ongoing legal turmoil between Apple and Qualcomm is escalating every passing month, and both the parties are trying to hit the other where it could hurt the most.
Initially, angling for a ban on the import of iPhones and iPads, Qualcomm has changed tacks to now induce an outright ban on the sale of iPhones that have already been brought into the U.S.
Qualcomm filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) citing their view that these devices infringe on one or more Qualcomm patents that cover key technologies that drive some features and functionalities on Apple’s devices.
Since iPhones and iPads are all manufactured in China, Apple has to import its devices into the U.S. to sell them in its home country, and that’s exactly where Qualcomm wants to hit Apple. Its not entirely clear exactly which devices Qualcomm is seeking to get banned, but it’s likely that Qualcomm has the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and some recent iPads in it’s sights.
What is also most interesting is that Qualcomm has only requested devices running on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks banned, even though these devices use chips from Intel. So you know, Apple devices on carriers such as Verizon use Qualcomm’s processors, so this move seems like a strike not just against Apple, but also against Qualcomm’s competition, Intel.
Qualcomm has been saying that Apple is in violation of six patents that pertain to extending a device’s battery life while allowing the device to retain certain functionalities.
Interestingly, none of the patents are essential to a standard, which translates as Apple is not required to license these, as it is required to do for other patents the two companies are in dispute about.
The current complaint is being filed in both, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (the same place where the previous complaints were logged).
Qualcomm’s General Counsel, Don Rosenberg said “Qualcomm’s inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards”.
He added, “Apple continues to use Qualcomm’s technology while refusing to pay for it”.
It is expected that the complaint will start to be investigated in August, with a trial happening towards the end of the year, or early next year. If a ban is imposed (something that is being considered highly unlikely), it will not happen for the next 18 months.
We must also keep in mind that Qualcomm might not necessarily expect the ban to actually be put in place. It could very well just be another feint so as to attack Apple on multiple grounds, and thus gain leverage.
Truth be told, such escalation was expected in the fight between the two partners-turned-adversaries, that commenced at the beginning of the year.
While it started with the Federal Trade Commission suing Qualcomm for anti-competitive trade practices, it soon took on more ominous form when when Apple filed its own suit for the same.
Since then, the fight has only become clumsier, with Apple now withholding all payments due to Qualcomm, and the latter trying to get the iPhones banned from sale as a response.
Apple claims that the chipmaker is charging “disproportionately high” fees for the use of its patents, and abusing its position as the market leader in smartphone modems.
Qualcomm is not just a chipmaker, it is also one of the primary suppliers of LTE modems, along with a lot of what goes into your phones. They hold a considerable chunk of standard essential patents, which means that if a company wants to make and sell phones, it has to pretty much cut a deal with Qualcomm, at least for the use of the standard essential patents.
As I said before, the ongoing dispute between the two giants is likely to result in a new trend for the industry – which could culminate with the licensees having additional stake over the patented tech, while the patent holders will have lesser “pull” over how much they charge and thus how the industry functions.
Sounds good to me, now that I’ve learnt how much Qualcomm charges, unilaterally at that, and simple correlation yields that you and I ultimately end up paying for those self-servingly over-valued patents!
Meet Cortica: An Israeli AI Company That’s Teaching Machines To Observe And Reason, Like Humans Do
The human brain processes all information via electrical impulses. You knew that, right? Well, that is exactly what inspired Igal Raichelgauz, CEO of Cortica, an Israel-based Artificial Intelligence startup. He saw the human brain as an electrical circuit and set out to replicate that circuitry to create an AI-based capability that would endow machines with a similar skill set.
Cortica wanted their AI to have a sight sense on par with that of humans.
And we do indeed have an astonishingly complex sight system – everything you see with your eyes, open receptors in your eyes convert to electrical signals. All that information is transferred by those signals, to a part of your brain which sorts and analyzes the color, depth, shape, and size of all those objects. This data is then received by the cortex – the part that most interests Cortica.
Remember poststructuralism? For those of you who need help with that preface, you only know a table as a table because you see it in relation to a chair. If the chair didn’t exist, how would you know what a table is, what it’s used for?
Something similar happens in your visual cortex. It classifies all the objects you see into different categories by assessing them in relation to all the objects you’ve ever come across.
That’s how you know what you just saw was a bird, or a bottle, or your friend, or anything else.
Sure, you know how little time it takes for our brain to perform the entire process since you experience it every waking moment of your life, but have you ever stopped to wonder, to revel or to acknowledge the sheer speed and processing power behind it?
You know what you saw the moment you saw it. Cortica believes it has reverse engineered this process, replicated the biological visual cortex of humans.
Guess how they achieved that?
They worked on a piece of rat brain, a piece that is still living. Yup, you read that right!
The brain gave them access to the electrical interface of all the neurons contained in that tissue. They were able to understand the input-output process of the neurons. They discovered that with some modifications, a neural network could create a “conceptual signature” – without any prior training. It would be able to recognize similar objects, and differentiate them from others.
Such an AI would be able to learn by itself, much like babies do – by observation and reasoning. While we observe and learn from the world around us, it would do the same from the data available on the web.
This is Cortica’s own, unique approach to what is called ‘unsupervised learning’ within the field of artificial intelligence.
Just so you’re on the same page, there are 3 kinds of machine learning – supervised, unsupervised and semi-supervised.
Supervised learning is when you teach the AI from a pre-determined data set, so you already know the output. This is the most commonly used one.
Unsupervised learning is when you give the AI no prior training, and you tell it to solve the problem with only the necessary input. The output from such an algorithm is unknown. For instance, you want your AI to categorize certain geometrical shapes into matching groups.
If you’re using supervised learning, you would have taught the AI about circles, squares, hexagons etc. before giving it the problem. In unsupervised learning, however, you would teach your AI nothing before asking it to solve the problem. It would see the various shapes, categorize them based on similarity, and give its own label to them. This is a process much more difficult to teach an AI.
Semi-supervised learning falls between these two. The AI would have an incomplete set of reference data, and it would hazard the best possible guess based on the limited data it has, and it’s own abilities to extrapolate the data.
Now do you see the ramifications of what Cortica has achieved? Two words – it’s huge!
But Cortica isn’t completely done yet. There’s still time before the technology enters the consumer industry, but Cortica claims to have created an AI that can see and process information like humans.
So many possibilities!
Self-driving cars have already entered the marketplace. But imagine if they could actually recognize and understand what an object or obstacle ahead of them is. The car would stop by itself if it sees a pedestrian crossing the road, thus preventing many road accidents.
The might be able to recognise accidents on the road and could call for help independently.
Your smart home gadgets would revert to the settings that are specific to you when they see you approaching. An air conditioner could increase the temperature if it sees a child in the room, so they don’t get cold. The refrigerator could detect what groceries are finished up and remind you to get more.
Amazon’s grocery store in Seattle is already automated, but what if it could actually see you? That would even remove the need to even scan the app at the entrance. You could just walk right in and it would recognize you from its database, and be able to process you, and your purchases independently and accurately!
The possibilities are truly endless.
Other AI startups such as DeepMind, RealFace, and Genee have been acquired by Google, Apple, and Microsoft respectively. Would Cortica too become a target to be acquired, or would it be able to hold its own against them? Its technology certainly looks powerful enough.
The world is changing, friends. Get ready to see it differently, soon.
This might come as bad news to some WhatsApp users, but the world’s foremost messenger application, with over one billion users worldwide has decided to withdraw support for some operating systems and devices on 31st December, 2016.
What this means is that the users of these devices will no longer receive any future software updates on the App thereafter, though WhatsApp will not be blocking services to the devices. So, WhatsApp will continue to run, but won’t get any more jazzy upgrades.
Well, since you are obviously going to be curious as to which these operating systems are, here’s the list that WhatsApp has published:
This does not come as a fresh announcement as it is actually a reminder from their earlier announcement made on their blog back in February of 2016 (around the seventh anniversary of the application). The post had stated: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp”.
The reasons stated for the withdrawal of support for these devices by the Facebook-owned company are simplified into – they believe that the messenger application and its features have grown far beyond the scope of these operating systems, which can no longer incorporate within them the latest features, in general, or those of security.
The technology over the years has obviously improved drastically, and these older operating systems, even logically speaking, would lack the capacity to withstand the changes.
The WhatsApp announcement post goes further, almost nostalgically explaining: “About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time”.
Updates to this Article:
In developing news, however, WhatsApp just launched a video calling feature on its application for all its users. Along with this new feature, it also decided to extend the support for Blackberry and Windows operating systems until July 2017, as of now.
This seems like a move planned as per the market, competing with a number of rivals such as Facebook’s own Messenger, Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s recently launched Duo, and independent similar applications like Viber, Line, and others.
WhatsApp has a dominant hand in the market, so, it would be wrong to state that WhatsApp is playing catch up with other applications, but what is certain is that WhatsApp is gearing up to retain its position in the market. These latest moves only serve to highlight that intent.
While WhatsApp, back in February, politely requested the users of these older operating systems (and of course, devices) to buy devices running on more recent OS before the end of the year, now, with their latest move they are extending the support for a few of these by six months.
But we don’t think they’re going to be providing any further extensions. So if you’re an avid chatter, on one of the devices on the endangered species list, we recommend you begin saving up and move out soon.
Update (on 8th June, 2017):
The six month extension that Facebook-owned Whatsapp had so zealously provided for the operating systems in concern has now come to an end. As of June 30th, the above mentioned operating systems will no longer receive support for the messenger application. The apps won’t die, they just won’t receive any more updates.
Whatsapp has been making a lot of changes to its ecosystem lately, with talk of bringing in unique features that will allow you to ‘recall’, or ‘edit’ a sent text. and with bringing in features like audio and video calls, stories, and working around the idea of a ‘status’. It is quite clear that Whatsapp is moving towards bringing in more and more features for its users in a crowded market. To keep doing that, it is important for them to invest their energy judiciously. The withdrawal of support for these operating systems is precisely that, a move towards judicious investment of energy.
Update (on June 23rd, 2017)
It seems like the end of life date for BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms has been pushed back again. WhatsApp, on their website, has reportedly confirmed the extension of its services for BlackBerry and Nokia S40 platforms till December 2017 and December 2018, respectively.
As per a report by Netherlands-based fan website WhatsAppen, WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS7+ recently received an update that extends support for the platforms until December 31, 2017.
As far as support for Nokia S40 platform is concerned, the end-of-life date has been moved from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
This, however, gives a mixed message, given the extension is not being granted to Nokia Symbian S60 platform. There are very limited number of customers who use the Nokia S40 platform, but the news will be a relief to them nonetheless.
Google Drive is gearing up to be the answer to all your data and backup needs.
Soon, Google Drive will be able to automatically backup all the files residing in any folder on your computer that you point it to. The backup would include your computer’s desktop, files residing in your documents and all other possible locations on your computer.
This is a big change as it will mean that will no longer have to place files only in a specific ‘Drive’ folder on your computer, as you need to today.
All of this comes via an app called Backup and Sync. The app is the latest version of Google Drive for Macs and PCs, and is integrated with the Google Photos desktop loader.
From what it sounds like, this new app will replace the currently existing Google Drive app and the Google Photos backup app for computers.
The change, however, is only available to consumer users for now (those who use Google Drive for personal everyday things), and not to business users. Google is recommending that business users who have been using G Suite, for now, stick with the Google Drive for Mac/PC until the new enterprise-focused solution, Drive File Stream, is made available to them.
Drive File Stream will come with another approach altogether, which will allow users to access huge corporate data sets without taking up the equivalent space on their hard drives. The feature will definitely be something that business users will look forward to.
Once the personal version of the app goes live, users will be able to sign into the uploader via their Google Account, and then select which specific folders on their PC or Mac that they want continuously backed up to their Google Drive. It is not yet clear how much more users will be able to do with this expanded storage. The assumption is that users will be able to open and edit some common file types within Drive. It is, however, not clear that users will be able to sync those files back to the computer using the drive as an intermediary.
Another question that arises is that of the storage limit. The expanded backup will quite certainly count towards your Google storage limit too. Given that, the new app will be a quick and easy way to hit the 15 GB data storage limit that free accounts currently enjoy from Google. Users can then rent additional space from Google, which will cost them USD 2 a month for 100 GB, USD 10 for 1 TB, and USD 100 a month for 10 TB.
The new feature is definitely a smart move on Google’s part. It is a handy feature that users have been demanding from Dropbox for a while now.
Dropbox (like the Google Drive) currently required users to save files in a particular folder on their computer for them to back up. Microsoft’s OneDrive is another cloud storage service which lets users automatically back up files from their computers, but even for that users have to save the file in a particular folder, or prompt them to be saved on OneDrive while saving them in the first place.
Google’s new feature is likely to be popular with consumers looking to keep copies of their photo, video and music libraries. Given the ransomware attacks that have not faded from the memory of millions of users around the world, Google’s service might come as a relief to many.
The service was to be available from the 28th of June, but Google has postponed its release, “based on your valuable feedback, we’ve decided to delay the launch of Backup and Sync while we make improvements to the product“.
The service can be expected to be available in a few weeks’ time.
Surprise, Surprise! Apple Is Opening Up It’s Secret Repair Machine To Third Party Stores
“Hey Siri, I broke the screen on my iPhone. Where can I get it fixed and how long will it take?”
You may well be able to ask Siri that pertinent question and get a surprisingly pleasing response, soon!
Apple’s customers will soon have more choices, and amenable ones, at that, when getting their broken devices repaired.
Apple, in a surprising move, is loosening its grip on “tricky” iPhone repair and allowing owners to get their devices fixed at a place other than the Apple Store.
Apple is reportedly going to do so by bringing its fabled ‘Horizon‘ machines to about 400 third-party repair centers across 25 countries by the end of 2017.
This will come as a big relief for users in certain areas where the density of Apple Stores is not too high, and thus users have to wait a long time for screen replacements and other iPhone-related issues to be fixed.
Apple has always been secretive about its tech, to a point that until now it had never even formally acknowledged the existence of the ‘Horizon’ machine.
What is the Horizon Machine?
Horizon is a machine that is integral to the repair of a damaged iPhone (or iPad). Even though it does not do any actual repairs itself, it is needed to calibrate iPhone display repairs on complex technologies like 3D Touch and home button malfunctions.
What makes this machine more important is that it is only this machine that is authorised to install and implement a replacement fingerprint sensor, as other repair procedures won’t be able to tell the iPhone’s processor to accept the new hardware. If you remember the infamous “Error 53” that had struck iPhones in January 2016, bricking them with no forewarning.
The machine has the ability to access every part of the iPhone. The machine works to calibrate the phone, meaning that it can also connect to iOS itself and potentially give access to proprietary software. Apple has always stated this, claiming that giving such machines to third-party vendors opened up its phones to hacker attacks. Apple now seems to be softening on that position.
Without this machine, smaller stores had been limited in the extent of repair that they could conduct. Such stores were then just collection points, and had to send the device to centralised centres for more extensive (and intensive) repairs.
Bringing the machine to more stores, third party stores specifically, is a surprising move on Apple’s part, as the tech giant has always kept this tech under strict lock and key.
The Cupertino-based giant has been running this decentralisation with a small number of outlets across the world, as a pilot program for about a year now.
One of the chain of stores that was a part of the pilot program is Best Buy, which has had a Horizon machine secretly installed in one of its Miami stores.
Some stores in London, Shanghai, and Singapore were also amongst the early recipients of the machine, in the pilot program.
Another retail chain, ComputerCare, is expected to get the machine in their stores soon.
“We’ve been on a quest to expand our reach“, said Brian Naumann, Senior Director of Service Operations at Apple. He also went on to add that one of the reasons that Apple is taking this step is because repair wait times have grown manifolds at some of the company’s busiest retail stores – and has become a major sore-point for the customers, who, of course, want their devices fixed as soon as possible.
Critics have believed that Apple has been so secretive of their repair technology to maintain the revenue stream from the repair of their devices.
While Apple has never disclosed the amount it earns through repairs, but industry analysts place the amount between USD 1-2 billion a year. Considering that the entire smartphone repair business worldwide is estimated to be in the ballpark of USD 5 billion, that is a significant portion of the pie that Apple has been raking in.
In the defense of Apple, however, they got into the repair business just three years ago with the introduction of the iPhone 5. Before that, they would charge a customer with a severely damaged device a “repair fee” and simply replace their device with a refurbished, or new one.
Apple is starting the roll out with machines in around 200 of Apple’s 4,800 authorized service centers over the next few months, including places like Colombia, Norway and South Korea where it doesn’t have a retail presence. The number is expected to double by next year.
We have our fingers crossed for some stores in India to get it too.
Qualcomm Sues Apple For Hobbling It’s iPhone Chips To Make Intel Look Better
Back in January, we’d covered a lawsuit that had been filed against Qualcomm, by the Federal Trade Commission for unfair trade practices, as well as by Apple and other manufacturers for the inordinate pricing of it’s components.
Well, it looks like Qualcomm is finally geared up to fight back.
Qualcomm recently filed an Answers and Counterclaims suit against Apple. While the suit is a 139-page document, the company has five key complaints.
The main premise of Qualcomm’s suit is that Apple deliberately did not use the full potential of Qualcomm chipsets in it’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus smartphones. Qualcomm states that Apple did so, so that the Qualcomm-powered iPhones wouldn’t perform better than the ones powered by Intel’s chips.
Qualcomm says that Apple “chose not to utilize certain high-performance features of the Qualcomm chipsets for the iPhone 7“. They also added that Apple tried to cover how much better the iPhones powered by Qualcomm perform than the ones powered by Intel. They added, “Apple falsely claimed that there was ‘no discernible difference’ between the two variants“.
The company also added that Apple prevented it (Qualcomm) from revealing to customers, the difference in the performance of the two processors. They say that Apple “threatened” them into keeping quiet about the matter, thus preventing Qualcomm from “making any public comparisons about the superior performance of the Qualcomm-powered iPhones“.
Amongst other noteworthy complaints in the countersuit are claims that Apple breached and mischaracterized agreements and negotiations with Qualcomm, that Apple also encouraged attacks on the company in markets outside of the U.S., by misrepresenting facts and making false statements, and that Apple interfered with Qualcomm’s existing agreements with other companies.
Qualcomm’s suit quite obviously comes as a response to Apple’s suit against them from back in January. “Apple could not have built the incredible iPhone franchise that has made it the most profitable company in the world, capturing over 90 percent of smartphone profits, without relying upon Qualcomm’s fundamental cellular technologies“, Qualcomm said. “Now, after a decade of historic growth, Apple refuses to acknowledge the well established and continuing value of those technologies“.
In the last few months, Qualcomm’s journey has been rocky; first, the FTC hit it with a lawsuit, in regards to Qualcomm’s use of its patents: specifically, how it wouldn’t sell modems to companies who didn’t also agree to pay royalties on phones that didn’t use Qualcomm modems. Then came three Apple lawsuits.
The first Apple lawsuit against was filed in USA and claimed USD 1 billion, stating that the chipmaker had been drastically overcharging for the use of patents. Two other Apple suits against the chipmaker were in China and in the U.K., focusing on the patents and the design.
All of this comes at a time that Qualcomm is working on rebranding itself. In the last couple years, Qualcomm has been hailed as the king of the mobile processor industry; most flagships carry Qualcomm chipsets now, and almost every manufacturer has their most prestigious devices running on Qualcomm.
However, they believe that the other hardware they supply for the devices – such as Qualcomm’s RF front-ends, Quick Charge, its digital-to-analog audio converters, Wi-Fi products, touchscreen controllers, and fingerprint readers, as well as the software and drivers used to make all of this stuff work – has been overlooked. To change precisely this Qualcomm recently started a rebranding campaign, ensuring that no one calls their processors “processors” anymore, but “platforms”, being inclusive of all the other products that Qualcomm is supplying for the devices.
This legal battle with Apple, which is certainly going to be a long-drawn one, might cause it to take a hit, at least where the goodwill element of business is concerned. What is noteworthy however is that Qualcomm has tried to keep things running smoothly still supplying Apple with the chipsets, as the two go for it in the courts.
As far as the lawsuits are concerned, it’s on the courts to see how substantial they are. All we can do is speculate if there is any actual reason for the lawsuits to happen, or if it is just two companies going toe-to-toe to pay less and charge more for their intellectual property.
Qualcomm’s CEO, Steve Mollenkopf, believes that “Apple’s complaint contains a lot of assertions, but in the end, this is a commercial dispute over the price of intellectual property. They want to pay less for the fair value that Qualcomm has established in the marketplace for our technology, even though Apple has generated billions in profits from using that technology”.
Qualcomm believes that their patents have “tangibly and meaningfully increased over time” but the company has never raised its royalty rates. “At the end of the day [then], they essentially want to pay less for the technology they’re using. It’s pretty simple“, Qualcomm President, Derek Aberle, added.
“We intend to vigorously defend our business model, and pursue our right to protect and receive fair value for our technological contributions to the industry“, added the chipmaker’s General Counsel, Don Rosenberg.
As far as Apple’s response to the chipmaker’s counterclaims is concerned, Apple recounted its stand from January, stating that “Qualcomm built its business on older, legacy standards but reinforces its dominance through exclusionary tactics and excessive royalties“.
To take a step back and look at this: the facts have not yet been established, and we are not yet sure if this indeed is what Apple is doing. But if it is, then to be honest, for a company that charges quite handsomely for its own products, and defends its intellectual property fiercely, this expectation that other brands not be allowed to do the same, does not set a good example.
As far as Qualcomm’s claim that Apple is sort of propping up Intel’s image, even though Qualcomm platforms perform better, all we can say is that that debate is not much different from Apple vs. Samsung; there are always going to be two teams, and each team is going to believe they are better.
How many of us are scared to send our children out to play because of the fear of accidents? A lot, right?
Well, it stands to good reason. The increase in death statistics owes its majority to car accidents.
Distracted drivers have quick become the bane of the roads. Texting or being on a call while driving have become the two primary reasons for loss of lives – untimely and tragic ends.
Yet, no amount of persuasion, seems to convince some people to let go of this fatal habit.
Now what happens when people don’t willingly let go of bad habits? Some external force usually has to intervene, and in this case, Apple is this becoming the first form of external force that could potentially stop people from using their gadgets while driving.
Apple, per recent news, was granted a patent for “Detecting Controllers in Vehicles Using Wearable Devices”.
Restating in plain English, this patent implies that Apple will use the in-built motion detection features in a device, say an Apple Watch, to determine whether the person is driving the vehicle or not, and if so, the wearable will then automatically regulate the amount of notifications that the driver receives.
The motion sensors gather and feed the information into an associated system, who in turn, figures out the angular velocity of the device. That done, the system establishes if the velocity of the wearer is below the programatically-mandated minimum threshold or not.
If the velocity is below the threshold then the incoming flow of notifications is not affected, but if the velocity level is above the threshold, then the system does a double take – it approximates the direction of gravity of the reporting wearable, as well as the gravity from another device present in the vehicle (which could well be an iPhone, or perhaps another phone). All said, the system then automatically interdicts notifications sent to the wearable as well as the phone.
This new patent can have a positive effect on the drivers who get distracted while driving because of the constant need to keep checking their phones to see if any new notifications have arrived or not.
This is a revolutionary step towards making driving safe along with that it is also a big step towards protecting and safeguarding the other commuters on the road.
This shows that perhaps we are a step closer towards making our travels safe.
There are two itsy-bitsy downers though – one, we don’t know when this would come to be – since we only know of it as a patent at this stage and can’t estimate the progress that Apple’s actually made in turning this into a real-world product/feature. Also, we aren’t sure if this feature would come to existing Apple products or forthcoming ones.
Second, this feature seems restricted to only Apple devices, we’d don’t yet know how much of cross-platform integration Apple would allow for something it’s patented.
That said, several people have come out in favour of this patent and a lot of us are now eager to see how well they’d put up with the newfound-old solace of driving in silence and (largely) at peace.
For close to ten years, Apple’s iPhone has been one of the torchbearers of the smartphone industry – keeping its consumers at the leading edge of technology, and compelling it’s competition to constantly innovate in order to stay relevant.
Announcements of new iPhone models churn the market with immeasurable excitement – however, over the last four years, the design ethos of the iPhone has seen marginal changes. Thus, while there’s a lot of excitement before the unveil, a lot of it deflates rapidly after Apple’s keynote event.
The only positive of the disappointment is (and I am being extremely brave calling it that), that the world begins holding it’s breath for the next September, and demand becomes pent up all over again.
It’s no different this year. There’s a lot of anticipation, and while the last three years’ disappointment is causing people to be very circumspect with their hopes and desires, however this year, there’s a new ingredient in the mix that is fanning some additional hope.
2017 will mark the tenth anniversary of the iPhone and people are hoping that the American tech giant has been building something truly remarkable and different, in their high-tech cave at Cupertino – in that milestone’s, and Jobs’ honour.
Trade pundits, while cautious, are predicting that Apple will most likely appease the market with substantial design changes on their upcoming iPhone 8 model (we’re assuming that is what it would be called on release, although a simple ‘iPhone’ moniker could well be used instead) as an attempt to woo old consumers and attract new ones.
Well, if there’s a bunch of people even more excitable than customers, it is Trade Pundits. As is always the case at this time of the year, they’ve been watching Apple, it’s supply chain, patent approvals and market acquisitions with an eagle’s eye.
Thanks to their optimism and focus on these telltale signs, a lot of rumours that have been doing the rounds, majority of which have come from credible sources.
More than ten prototypes are said to be under testing, to arrive at a decision for the final design. However, the implication of so many prototypes being considered is that it leaves us outsiders with a whole milieu of possibilities – most of which are wishful thinking on our part.
That said, basis whatever information is available as conjecture, we are listing the most prolific speculations being derived from the river of rumours. Bear in mind though, that none of these have been officially confirmed in any way yet.
Given the fact, that the last three iPhone models have looked nearly identical, consumer sentiment yields a “bored” expression. Thus, the pundits’ assumption that the iPhone’s tenth anniversary would be the perfect environment and time for a major design revamp, holds some water.
In what the Trade Pundits are claiming as another departure from standard practice, they’re saying Apple is going to be releasing three versions of the iPhone this year. The OLED-enabled iPhone 8 could be positioning of the as their top-line ‘premium’ model, towering over two regular-style LCD-equipped models.
Me? I’m holding my verdict at this stage, because I’m reading elsewhere that Apple’s facing some supply-chain issues with some parts, that may actually delay the release of their relaunch vehicle by a few months.
While I’m reading those stories in several channels, I am also reminded of two truths – Apple makes things happen – so if supply chain is holding up release dates, Apple will ensure that roadblocks would be cleared in time for the September launch as it leads up beautifully into the Christmas rush (which is usually Apple’s goldmine i.e. harvesting period). I believe they make more money during Christmas than they do any other time of the year – China and India notwithstanding.
The second truth is that Tim Cook was the person who set up Apple’s supply chain – digging up gold where no one believed any existed, identifying and contracting partners that no one even knew existed. So effective was Cook as a negotiator and so strong are Apple’s contracts, that if there’s any human way to meet timelines, Apple will get there.
So, I still have reason to believe that September will be a fair-weather month. Hang in there folks!
Apple never fails to amaze us. But I think it also takes equal pleasure in confusing us!
Famous for its innovative tech, Apple also continues to earn patents for next-gen tech that industry watchers like us keep reading about, and salivating over- hoping that the next device from Apple carries the latest tidbit we happen to spot.
Keeping that mischievous tradition alive, the next up in the list of “we want” tech is for a recently-granted patent of a woven display!
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office has recently awarded Apple with that patent (filed back in May 2014) which is the result of efforts made by inventors Douglas J. Weber and Teodor Dabov.
So, what is a woven display?
Apple’s patent describes the use of a proprietary method of weaving light transmissive fibres into conventional textiles to get a visual display.
The interesting part is that these fibers would not conduct electricity and thus will not have light of their own, however they’ll be used to carry the luminance being transferred from the source (external LEDs or an external electric base), which will allow them to have varying optical properties.
These light tubes or light pipes as they are currently referred to, are optical waveguides used for transporting or distributing light for the purpose of illumination. Imagine them to be like threads running from one point to another carrying (not creating) signals.
Modern weaving, braiding, and knitting technology will be used along with three-dimensional knitting tools capable of producing flexible fiber band materials, to create fabric materials that would be difficult or impossible to implement using other fabrication technologies.
A schematic diagram of a weaving system that may be used to weave fibers is shown below:
The idea of a woven display leads to a flexible display.
While plenty of other tech firms are working on bendable, flexible and foldable screens, Apple’s approach is novel and it has immense advantages over other innovators’ approaches.
Images made possible through the fibers could prove to be a boon in the sphere of Wearable devices, where the currently-unused surfaces on clothes (like sleeves or cuffs) could be converted to visually capable real-estate! Or it could convert your every-day sports accessories like a wrist band, for example, to act as extended add-ons to your devices.
Isn’t that an amazing prospect!
Apple could perhaps want to kick-start the use of this proprietary technology on their Apple Watch’s bands – allowing them to have capability to display notifications or to show you your heart rate etc.
We grab this hint from the company’s own belief that the strap has so far, not been used to its fullest potential: ”While useful for such purposes, these tethers are generally decorative and serve no useful information providing, or other utilitarian, function other than for aesthetic purposes”.
The woven display for now seems more along the line of basic display of notifications. The notifications could be basic and mimic a digital watch like display, allowing for a passive display of missed calls or messages, exercise data like steps, calories burnt, steps climbed, etc.
This could help save the precious battery power while allowing the wearer access simple data.
This is not new, Alcatel Hero 2 had a snap on front cover which allowed for basic notifications like time, sms and email, just that it was not flexible.
Now, with this technology, if this capability can be woven into a flexible cloth like material, the adaptations can be numerous, allowing the wearables to become truly communicative.
Google actually has Project Jacquard, a division within the company’s Advanced Technology and Projects that makes it possible to weave touch- and gesture-interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms.
Jacquard yarn structures combine thin, metallic alloys instead of light transmissive fibers with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester, or silk, making the yarn strong enough to be woven on any industrial loom. Their conductive yarns with touch and gesture capability can be woven anywhere. This March, they did showcase their collaboration with Levi’s in the form of a jacket, which could be washed.
This has the potential to allows us to transform everyday objects such as clothes and furniture into interactive surfaces. Similar to the tech patented by Apple, Google’s conductive yarn needs to be connected to a base which is the brains, while the conductive patch is an extension allowing the user ease in accessing and interacting with the interface.
Such progressive research that will create flexible screens and adventurous new surfaces will allow us to ingrain technology into our daily lives, making our interaction with technology more tactile and will allow us to consume it seamlessly.
Do read our Radar and Tech ShowCase sections for technology that is going to creep into your lives in the near future!
Apple is like one of those reticent movie stars who prefer to ignore gossip about them, rather than to comment upon the conjecture, to prove it one way or another.
And this mysterious demeanour works for them.
After years of conjecture on the issue, we (the outsiders) might have just caught a lucky break.
Some government documentation has let a little kitten out for the bag about Apple’s self-driving car, that provides the clearest indication yet, that Apple has plans for self-driving cars.
Even though there was no prior news of Apple having filed for a permit, yet the website of the California’s bureau of Driving Motor Vehicles (DMV) reflects that Apple has now received a permit for three Lexus RH 420h luxury hybrid sports utility vehicles to ply on public roads and undergo testing. With this permit, Apple is joining 29 other companies that currently have permits to run test vehicles in California.
The permit also authorizes six drivers to take charge of the vehicles, if necessary, during the course of this testing. In an interesting coincidence, Google too, in its early days, had used Lexus SUVs outfitted with cameras and laser sensors.
The laws for testing self-driving vehicles in California are quite strict, to a point that Uber, back in the day, had actually chosen take it’s vehicles to Arizona for testing instead of waiting for California to acquiesce. Uber did file for the permit and receive it eventually, and now also runs testing vehicles in California.
When we were discussing this internally at Chip-Monks, we realised that this sanction raised two big questions that we needed to find answers to:
One, what it means for Apple’s autonomous car plans, something that Apple has been infuriatingly secretive about, so far, and,
Second, what does it mean for autonomous car market?
The answer to the first of those questions is fairly simple: It means that Apple might finally be ready to reveal what’s it’s been doing in this flavour-of-the-decade industry.
In the past, Apple has been hiring automotive experts, particularly the ones who have experience in the field of self-driving cars. There has also been word that Apple has a project called Project Titan for their autonomous cars, but they have never acknowledged the existence of such a project. This grant of the permit could imply that Apple has made progress with this project and might be now ready to lift the blinds. ‘Might‘ being the key word there, though.
As for the answer to the second of those questions is concerned, that might be a little complicated.
The autonomous car market, at the moment, is working with two primary approaches. While players like Google consider autonomous cars to be a potential new market, where individuals would want to get their own cars, and it becomes another saleable product-revolutionary, yes, but saleable, as well.
They are joined in by brands like Tesla, which has already been making, and selling,self-driving cars, in different stages of automation, for a while now. Companies like Ford and General Motors, already existing automotive brands, view this as an extension of their already existing business.
On the other hand are the likes of Uber, which have an entirely different approach. Their focus is on eliminating the human driver, so that a car can function as a service, which can be availed, anywhere, anytime. So, basically, it will just be another cab, but it won’t need a driver.
Now, the entry of Apple might usher in a third approach – one of not wanting to build its own autonomous automobile, instead focusing on creating the software to enable these “pods”. Such software can be deployed in partnership with existing carmakers. And that is an approach that actually makes quite a lot of sense, for obvious reasons.
Car makers themselves do not have the necessary expertise for the software side of things; and, software makers in turn, do not have any expertise of designing and building cars.
Its an obvious paradigm; you can only be expected to know what you trade in.
Now, instead of expecting the former to walk the talk of the latter, or do the same with the latter, a better idea is to get them to work together.
In simpler words: car makers make cars. Software makers make software. Put the expertise of the two together in harmony, and they will deliver better results.
That said, we are not yet completely sure of what Apple is actually planning to do in this line. Whether Apple actually acts on this and puts some cars on the road is yet to be seen. They’ve been the ones to have bigger plans, and quite secretive ones at that, so the best thing to do is to wait for the coin to land before calling it a head or a tail.
Let’s just wait for the Wheel of Time to turn and see how Apple plays this.
Qualcomm is super, super, super-huge in it’s domain and even bigger in it’s influence over the smartphone industry. However the one thing it is not, is well-reputed.
The brand seems to be egotistic, almost neurotic when it comes to the control it wants to exert over the industry. I think this perhaps stems from being poor self worth.
Given it’s tech prowess, proprietary advancements and innumerable patents in the world of processors, Qualcomm has become the supplier choice for almost every premium brand out there. But… it’s proclivity to demand and enforce self-serving clauses in the agreements has been noticed by Trade Commission and Courts earlier. Now, it’s in a soup again, for the same self-serving and monopolistic restrictions placed within it’s agreements with Samsung.
Qualcomm has been accused by the Korean Fair Trade Commission of illegally blocking Samsung from selling its Exynos SoCs to third party phone manufacturers. However, no direct action is expected from Samsung against its ‘partner’.
Qualcomm and Samsung have had a symbiotic relationship for a couple of years now. This relationship while beneficial to both, has not really been a friendly one for either of the companies. Yet, given the fact that both these legal entities have leverage over each other, the ‘partnership’ shall remain existent until something of major consequence happens.
To understand why such an accusation has been made by the KFTC, acquainting oneself with a brief history about the relationship between both the companies becomes imperative.
Here is the whole timeline of events leading up to the current relationship –
Qualcomm is currently appealing the fine, and it seems unlikely that Samsung will take any direct action against it for the Exynos sales to third party OEMs.
This might however change, if the regulators bring down the 1993 deal, leaving Samsung with the opportunity to sell Exynos processors to other smartphones without the risk of compensating Qualcomm with a high licensing fee.
Samsung might even turn into a strong competitor, on par with MediaTek, given the fact that it could add other components like memory chips and displays to the SoCs, which Qualcomm would not be able to match.
Why wouldn’t Samsung want to take direct action against Qualcomm?
As mentioned before, Qualcomm had agreed to let Samsung use both the Snapdragon (a Qualcomm product) and Exynos (a Samsung product) SoCs in its devices. In case Samsung decides to stop using Snapdragon processors while using only the Exynos processors, Samsung would be costing its foundry its Snapdragon orders. Both, stock and flow of Snapdragon orders, would instigate unnecessary revenue cuts.
Given the fact that Samsung’s growth in mobile devices has been stagnant, this would be a business blunder.
The relationship remains symbiotic between these two companies, but any aggressive move is unlikely to be made by Samsung unless the 1993 patent deal is struck down. On the contrary Qualcomm’s reputation has been declining significantly given the fact that Apple, a longtime customer is suing it too, for lop-sided licensing agreements, along with many other smaller manufacturers.
There’s no other way to say this – Qualcomm needs to get real. The world today doesn’t suffer autocracy too well – and while Qualcomm may be whistling it’s way to the bank for now, however given that Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and Intel are all investing hugely in devising newer (and often better) chips of their own, Qualcomm may just have to use these agreements as packaging paper in a few years. With the Internet of Things well on it’s way, and Automobile Automation being the big ticket for the next decade, this mayn’t be the best time for Qualcomm to play the my-way-or-the-highway card.
It might just find itself on a rather desolate, lonely and barren stretch of road, with no place to go.
The market for body mappers and health readers has been increasing steadily – especially in the hospitality and fitness industries around the world.
Well, where there are customers – and customer data – Alphabet (née Google) can’t be far away.
Verily, the life sciences business division of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), has developed a smartwatch that can passively capture health data for medical uses.
According to the Verily’s official blog post, the device can track signals related to cardiovascular, movement and other medical data points.
The study watch measures ECG and electrodermal activity to gather loads of big data for analysis, which provide further insights into a person’s health conditions.
The Study Watch, as it is called, uses a two-point ECG – one source is the watch on the wrist while the other source is created when the user touches the metal bezel of the watch with his other hand.
Clearly, this is no run-of-the-mill smartwatch with some basic additional functionalities. It is clearly a medical tool.
As mentioned on Verily’s blog post, the architecture of the Study Watch was made specifically for high quality usage and seamless signal usage.
The company mentioned that the watch would be used in a Baseline Study – a Verily project that is aimed at establishing what a healthy human looks like, and also be used in the Personalised Parkinson’s Project, a multi-year study to identify patterns in the progression of Parkinson’s disease, giving way to a more personalised treatment.
The watch, unlike it’s distant cousins in the market, isn’t bulky and the processor that being used can easily manage and encrypt the data generated by the user.
That said, one of the major concerns with all smartwatches has been their battery life. With the Study Watch though, the company promises a week-long battery life for the device and also enough storage for the device to keep weeks’ worth of raw data, eliminating the need for continuous cloud sync.
The watch also has the capability of getting Over the Air updates, which indicates that the interface might change over time. The only catch is that this state-of-the-art device is not for sale. It’ll be given out to participants who will be participating in Verily’s medical studies.
Tech companies are usually not trusted to manage health data and their efforts at consumer health products or apps have garnered little or no interest at all. That’s primarily because the “health” capabilities of most wearables and trackers has been awash with basic gimmicky stuff only shoehorned into them, to justify their very existence (and to provide some form of superiority over smartphones).
There are a few commercial predecessors to the Study Watch, and the most important one being the FitBit Charge HR. This device is capable of monitoring the heart rate, the amount of calories burnt, the number of steps taken and much more, but without the uncomfortable chest strap.
The Garmin Vivo Smart HR+ also does the same stuff, but is a pricier variant of the FitBit.
Apple’s Watch is the only one that has somewhat caught the fancy of the masses. It does things well, including measuring heart rate – in fact, some instances were reported where the watch tipped off users about health emergencies after obtaining unusual readings.
But no company till date was ready to say that the watch could diagnose any diseases, and Alphabet may be a little ahead in the game with their Study Watch.
The Indian Market
India has been the target for all international companies, as Indian users amount to a considerable size of the global smart device sales. The Indian community is a growing digital market and could prove to be a valuable ground for some smart device companies – firstly because of the tech savvy Indian youth, and secondly due to the governments “go digital” idea.
Will the Study Watch catch on? Well, considering it’s not a retail product, it’s reach will be limited to the market of serious users. That said, Epi Pens, Diabetes tests (Glucometers), even pregnancy tests and other such home-use medical tools are a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone! Imagine the potential that the Study Watch has, if provided economically and promoted empathetically to India’s 1.3 billion population…
Alphabet’s going to have to play this smart – and knowing them, as well as we do, they will.
Apple has recently hired a bunch of biomedical engineers as a part of what seems to be a secret mission to fight diabetes. As initially envisioned by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, this would be an R&D program to develop sensors to fight diabetes, by monitoring glucose levels.
While the company has for now declined to make a statement in this regard, many people supposedly familiar with the matter have come forward to share their “knowledge”.
The team is said to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, California, in close proximity to the Silicon Valley headquarters. While we do not know the details of the project yet, we do believe this is an adventure to create ‘breakthrough’ wearable devices that detect the disease and monitor blood-sugar levels.
The reason that this could prove to be instrumental in the field of medicine is because up until now it is impossible to monitor sugar levels without breaking through the skin. Electronic diabetes detection devices have proven to be lifesavers for the hundreds of millions of people who are affected by the ailment, but all of them require plucking through the skin to get blood, to discern the sugar level.
“There is a cemetery full of efforts to measure glucose in a non-invasive way“, said DexCom chief executive Terrance Gregg, whose firm is known for minimally invasive blood-sugar techniques. “To succeed would require several hundred million dollars or even a billion dollars“.
What Apple has is much more than that, so it may well be investing some of it to solve this biggie.
Reports state that about 30 people are working on this project now, and the project has been in folds for about five years now. Reports also state that the team has been carrying out clinical trials in San Francisco, the results of which have not been revealed yet.
In addition, they have also reportedly hired consultants to look into the rules and regulations around bringing such a product to market.
For those of you who might be a little surprised, Apple, yes, the makers of the iPhone and the iPad, also have a secret workshop that they have had running for a while now. In this R&D workshop, they have been known to work on many non-phone related products, most of which are experimental for now.
This speaks to the larger Silicon Valley trend that Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the likes have also been feeding into, through their R&D divisions. From Artificial Intelligence, to automated cars, to technology that works with medicine – they’ve got a lot going on in their backyards.
The news of the project comes at a time when the line between pharmaceuticals and technology seems to be blurring, and quite fast. While on the one hand, you have scientists detecting rare genetic disorders wth facial recognition technology, on the other you have Elon Musk’s Neuralink that plans to work on the much risky uncharted territory of the brain.
The approach most companies are taking is of combining biology, software, and hardware, to tackle chronic diseases using high-tech devices. This has led to the jump-start of a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics, and it’s gratifying to see that Apple is not the only player in the game on this one.
It was last year that another biggie came into the scene when GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Google’s parent Alphabet Inc. joined hands and unveiled a company aimed at making bioelectronic devices to fight illness by attaching to individual nerves. U.S. biotech firms Setpoint Medical and EnteroMedics have already shown that strides can be made with bioelectronics in treating rheumatoid arthritis and suppressing appetite in the obese. Medtronic Plc., Proteus Digital Technology, Sanofi SA, and Biogen Inc., are others that are playing in the field, trying to make a mark in this extremely interesting field.
Specifically, in the field of diabetes, Virta is a fairly new startup, which is working on tackling type 2 diabetes, to completely cure patients by remotely monitoring behavior. Livongo Health is another startup, which has recently raised about USD 52 million to launch its blood sugar monitoring product. Alphabet too is involved, via it’s subsidiary Verily who’s tried to tackle this big one with a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose levels through the eye, but that has not proven to be quite successful yet.
While we don’t know exactly what the shape of Apple’s project is, for now, yet it does seem to fit into the bigger vision of the company that Steve Jobs famously dreamed. Jobs believed Apple would one day be at the intersection of technology and biology, and making this happen would be a perfect manifestation of the same.
They are already halfway there with the Apple Watch which counts calories, and steps, takes heart rate, and other biological measures. Add this, and voila!
Siri, All Set To Tap Into iMessage And iCloud For The New 2017 iPhone Model
If you’ve been keeping up with the rumours and talks about Apple’s upcoming 2017 iPhone, you’d have read our articles about the new iPhone model’s larger OLED screen or the introduction of Augmented Reality as a prime feature on their next salvo.
But behind all the fuss around both hardware innovations, is a forgotten hero.
The software that’s going to power it all. An upgraded iOS has been released alongside every major iPhone revamp, till date. No one understands the criticality of an improved and energised software platform, better than Apple.
So, expect iOS 11, people. Not only is iOS the primary bond that has retained Apple consumers, and refrained them from shifting to a competing operating system, it has also been the very bedrock of Apple’s own growth and prosperity.
You may not have caught it so far, but patents have recently been awarded to Apple, that primarily focus on a revitalised Virtual Assistant feature – clearly hinting at a significant revamp of the iOS and how it’s next avatar will function.
Well, the patent which is for a “Virtual Assistant In A Communication Session”, lays out the basic fundamentals of the new journey. Siri, will most likely be integrated into iMessage and iCloud – which is a monumental change, much like that of the rumoured AR introduction.
The virtual assistant would be able to respond to queries made inside an iMessage chat. But does that mean that Apple will be listening in on your personal conversations?
iMessage already is end-to-end encrypted and it is highly unlikely that Apple would compromise on user privacy for the sake of bringing Siri to iMessage.
To protect the privacy of its consumers, typically, Apple has made it quite transparent in their patent that members of an iMessage chat would be notified that at least one of them is using the Siri assistant within the chat session. And that the users would be privy to, and would be the authorizing party that would censor what personal data Siri can access.
On top of that, Apple is also planning on allowing Siri to make payments on behalf of the user, by choosing the suitable payment app when the user asks Siri to do so during the iMessage session. Users can currently make PayPal payments using Siri, but not while accessing iMessage. The transaction would have to be authorized using the Touch ID. This peer-to-peer payment system riding on an already end-to-end encrypted messaging session would be an impressive addition to the features already being rumoured for the next iPhone(s).
The extent of Siri’s reach might not just be limited up to the iMessage, but might even gain enough powers over the iCloud to access data from any other Apple device the user owns. Using the Apple ID, the information from the user’s devices would be derived and the necessary action and responses would be offered to devices across the operating system including the Mac, iPhone and even an iPad.
But here is the value judgement that you or any other Apple user/enthusiast should make.
Google has already beaten Apple to the stadium as its Google Allo app already provides similar services. The only difference is the fact that Allo isn’t encrypted simply because features like Google Assistant tap into a user’s data to provide its services and Allo needs to communicate with Google’s servers to cater to all the requirements of the consumers.
The decision will always remain subjective, dependent on the dilemma of choosing between privacy and being the first mover.
Irrespective of that choice, the upcoming iPhone seems to be destined to become an immensely powerful ace – backed by significant changes in hardware, software and the very ecosystem supporting it.
The only thing that might hurt it’s trajectory is if we’ve been hoping too hard, and reading too much into the rumours/conjectures and dreaming up a device that Apple isn’t going to launch come September!
There’s nothing worse than wishes that crash against the rock of reality, is there? And yet, Apple won’t be to blame, because they never said they were going to wow us. We just fervently, hopelessly and oh-so-desperately want them to!
Phone Brands Shifting Focus To Brick And Mortar Stores In India – Here’s Why
The differences in the prices of smartphones between online and offline stores are expected to diminish soon, with the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) – which is due to roll out on July 1.
In preparation of this transition, smartphone companies such as Asus, InFocus, Xiaomi, Motorola, ZTE and Huawei have had to come up with a new and more efficient strategy to retain the demand for their smartphones, in the offline market.
Currently, when you buy a device online, you find it at least a couple thousand bucks cheaper than you would in a neighborhood store. For brands like Xiaomi, and Motorola, that have majorly stuck to online stores so far, this plays into their court; they already have comparatively lower prices, and they can sell their devices at a lower tax rate online.
Presently, online sellers based in areas like Bengaluru and Hyderabad sell smartphones at a lower VAT (Value Added Tax) i.e. 5%, than those who are based in locations where the VAT% on smartphone devices are much higher (usually in the 10-15% range).
The national average is about 12%.
It is this imbalance in the VAT levied, that will soon become uniform across the nation via the GST since it is a national tax, and not a state-drive one.
So, even though these brands have off and on, been working on their offline sales strategies, to sell to the larger group of Indians that are not online, their focus has been the urban educated buyer who is already online. A change in this focus seems around the corner now, but the reason might not necessarily be a want for further expansion into the market; the reason this time is the need to get a better grip on the offline market before the playing field is leveled.
These brands have chalked out some novel plans of action to enhance the sale of their devices in India’s challenging market. Direct distribution, a partnership with large-format retail, building separate models for the offline market, putting together their own stores, expanding marketing expenditure – are some of the ways in which the smartphone makers are planning their extension.
“There is a scramble amongst online smartphone brands to expand into offline retail. While a couple of brands like Xiaomi and Huawei are intensifying efforts, most others are making fresh attempts. With GST, the value added tax (VAT) advantage, which the online sellers enjoy, will disappear completely, making online and offline a much more level playing field”, announced cellphone retail chain Hotspot’s director, Subhasish Mohanty.
With the new approach that the brands are gearing up to adopt, they would directly sell the smartphone to the retail stores – not just any retail stores though – only stores that they have collaborated with.
Xiaomi, for the same, has recently collaborated with four of the major South Indian retail stores, namely, Sangeetha, Poorvika, BigC and LOT. The Chinese budget brand also plans to set up self-owned Mi Home stores in India, just like the ones they have in China.
Asus is another Chinese brand that has mostly had an online presence in the country so far, and is now planning on expanding into the offline market.
InFocus, a Foxconn-owned brand, which plans to invest big money in offline trade and marketing replicating the strategy of Chinese rivals, Oppo and Vivo, too, is re-launching its offline business and building a portfolio of models.
ZTE is also going into offline expansion, including expansion into smaller towns, and so is Huawei.
These changes are going to be interesting not just for the smartphones they bring, but also for the Indian e-commerce market, given that the business of smartphones is quite a chunk of it. It is because of that, that companies such as Amazon and Flipkart are drawing up plans to foray into the offline distribution of smartphones for brands like Coolpad, OnePlus and Lenovo.
This, altogether, could be an interesting change in the smartphone world. Bigger brands such as Samsung, LG, HTC etc., already sell through their offline stores heavily in India. Even Apple has third party reseller stores in the country and is soon opening up its own stores.
Thus, these “economical” brands might find it difficult to sink their teeth in to a market that is already quite populated, and to an extent, these brands may be outclassed by the larger ones.
On the other hand, they might also be welcomed open armed, given how well they’ve done through their online channels so far.
A year back when the Galaxy Note7 was released, it was touted as a revolution in the smartphone market. However, with issues pertaining to batteries that would heat up very quickly coupled with some phones burning or even exploding, it turned out to be a tough year for the Korean electronics giant.
With the scheduled release of the new Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ backed by the assurances of a healthy battery along with each unit of the products put for sale in the market, Samsung has managed to regain its ground, at least when it came to creating a hype in the market.
But perhaps what is really getting the market riled up is an alleged leaked image of the new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 which is poised to release around September this year. The image gives us an idea of how it might look – and going by the alleged “leaks” the Note 8 does not seem to have too many visible differences from the Galaxy S8 or S8+.
The sole reason for coining it as a possible Note 8 is the fact that an S Pen can be seen lying beside the phone in the leaked image.
What the leaked image has managed to do is, set the fuse for speculation and guesswork (oops! pun not intended!!). Given the fact that the Note 8 has to both be physically and virtually different from the S8 duo, here are a few features that might define the Note 8’s exclusivity:
Overall, the Galaxy Note 8 would need to be solid package if it has to tear people away from the Galaxy S8+ and the iPhone 8, not to mention the Xiaomi Mi 6 and the such like.
On paper, basis the leaks and our conjecture above, the Note 8 does look like, a reliable, sporty and sleek phone that would certainly be worth buying. The only issue that can be foreseen is that the iPhone 8 might overshadow the Note 8 given the proximity of its release dates.
The features of the iPhone 8 ‘seem’ far ‘better’, however, do keep in mind, that neither of the phones have any official creds from their respective manufacturers yet. Also, that the Note 8 has generally been slightly cheaper than the iPhone, it might eke a little bit of headroom there.
We’re all going to have to wait on this one, to see how much Samsung is able to bring to the party, before we can really establish if the Note 8 has enough going for it to swing the deal.
It is a moment that will be recounted in the history of Apple, to mark the landmark when it struck a deal with its arch-rival Samsung, and placed an order for 70 million OLED panels for it’s own prestigious iPhones.
Displays are one of those areas in which the South Korean giant absolutely excels. Although Samsung has been using curved displays in its own smartphones, this will be the first time that Apple would use this technology in its leading device, that too from a supplier that most of the world had assumed Apple was distancing itself from.
No doubt that iPhone lovers would already be drooling over the latest teaser video of the purported iPhone 8. This much-awaited device is expected to be launched in the wake of Apple’s tenth anniversary of the iPhone – an occasion that in itself, calls for something new and momentous.
As we’d reported as far back as February, this is the first time Apple is going to use Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays. These types of displays don’t need a backlight like the LED panels in all other iPhones have had – implying that this version of the iPhone is going to be ultra thin!
LG has already shown the flexibility and versatility offered by this technology and now Apple seems to getting on the train.
As per Nikkei Asian Review, Samsung’s stock made a giant leap when the news of Apple’s 70 million display panels’ order surfaced.
What’s especially intriguing is that the order is said to be for bendable OLED which has the tech world abuzz with the prospect of users actually being able to bend the new phone’s screen. We’re not too sure of that though – it perhaps refers to the curved edges of the screen, and not the actual ability to bend. Let’s park that for the moment – we’ll check around and circle back to this point in a. subsequent article, once we have some better verified sources validate it.
It is expected that Apple would launch three new iPhones this year of which the Anniversary Special iPhone 8 will have the curved 5.2 inch OLED screen while the other two variants will have the usual LCD display. I don’t think this has only to do with snob value – we believe that all of Apple’s suppliers put together may not be able to pull off sufficient units of this special glass in time for the launch, given that the curved version of OLED screens are hard to get right each time, and defect rates are much higher than those of flat screens.
Given the colossal order it will not be wrong to assume that Apple is expecting crazier than crazy demands with this launch – anniversary and the fact that the current form factor is now three years boring… umm I meant, three years old.
Although Neil Shah, Research director of Device and Ecosystem at Counterpoint Research has his share of doubts saying, ”seventy million units of the OLED phones is too high for me at this point”.
All I’d say is – history is replete with evidence that no one knows the demand for iPhones – not even Apple else they’d not run short of production capability after every launch, causing 6 week-long backorders.
And if there’s anything that consultants have underestimated (as well as other manufacturers), it’s Apple’s mystifyingly effective marketing machinery – that whips up all manners of storms and desires within even the most elusive of customers.
Plus the fact that the OLED screen is not the only USP of the upcoming iPhone 8 – far from it! The new handsets are expected to offer amazing features like a front facing camera with 3D sensors, wireless charging and much more – because, Apple desperately needs to keep up with the competition – most of whom already have most of these features.
If you are already coveting this new device and thinking of the ways to arrange money to buy it then, sorry to break your bubble, selling your kidney might just not suffice this time. The special edition iPhone with OLED display is undoubtedly going to be the most expensive iPhone ever.
Brace for it!
With Fall around the corner, anticipation is running wild, for Apple to make “revolutionary” changes to their iPhone.
But one of the things that Apple may spring on the world, is the expulsion of all 32-bit apps from it’s App Store. This really could change the face of their hardware and software entirely!
To be honest, much like every other tech upgrade in the pipeline, this has been coming for a while. All apps and updates submitted for the App Store’s approval since mid-2015 are required to incorporate a 64-bit support system, instead of only a 32-bit one, and that’s indication enough.
We can soon expect that Apple will remove the support for the 32-bit system from their device entirely, virtually killing it. The 32-bit at the moment is an aging cow, and in the tech world, aging cows are put down pretty quick.
This is a unique and interesting technical achievement, of course, but it is also kind of a cleaning of the house. From the early days of the smartphone and App Store, a lot has gotten accumulated, and a considerable chunk of that is neither maintained, nor used by people anymore; of course, people move on from one app to another, and the older ones just keep lingering in the background.
This switchover would mean that the App Store would automatically flush out the apps that do not have 64-bit support, as a consequence of being either too old, or having not been maintained.
For those who don’t quite understand what is going on, let us plot a timeline:
Back in September 2013, Apple introduced the iPhone 5S. The device came with the then-new and advanced A7 chip, and an upgrade to 64-bit system. This was the first device that came with a 64-bit version of the iOS.
The iPad Air that followed in the month after, followed on the same path. The iOS upgrade was mostly functioning well, except for certain memory associated glitches which were subsequently taken care off in March via the iOS 7.1 upgrade.
It was clear that Apple wasn’t going back.
The iPhone 5C was practically the last phone to house the 32-bit chip. From the cousin family of the iPads, the original iPad Mini was the last one with the 32-bit system.
This year, Apple released the iOS 10.3, which was basically like a sounding alarm for the death of the 32-bit version, because it came with a list of all the installed 32-bit apps that would not be supported in the future iOS versions.
So, let me add a few predictions to what is coming next.
Well, for starters, we can expect a first look at the iOS 11 in the coming few months. This would quite include the dropping of support for the 32-bit system, and devices like iPhone 5, 5C and iPad Mini will become obsolete.
The update can be expected to roll out sometime in September, and these devices will no longer have support since Apple will move over everything to the 64-bit system.
Same would go for apps that run on 32-bit system only.
This would present a unique opportunity for Apple to use its control over its software to streamline its hardware proffers. The 64-bit ARM instruction set, also known as the AArch64 is rather unique and different from its predecessor- 32-bit system, known as AArch32.
While using it on the PC, the x86-64 instruction set is an extension of the 32-bit and 16-bit instruction sets, which gave it an upper hand over Intel’s 64-bit-only Itanium architecture. However, even today, every x86 PC supports a 32- and 16-bit code. Apple could possibly be the first company to build an ARM CPU architecture that solely supports the 64-bit code.
This would also mean that a significant amount of space could be freed for the hypothetical A11 SoC for more CPU cores, larger CPU cores, or even a better GPU…
However, to maintain maximum compatibility and flexibility, it is very unlikely that ARM will ship anything which does not support a 32-bit system in the near future. So, the predictions will take a while to actually materialize into policy in the devices.
Another indication of this would be that Windows, macOS, Linux and other Operating Systems still have a functioning 32-bit system within a 64-bit support system. So, the elimination of the 32-bit system will be a first for a mass-market consumer operating system: not only has iOS transitioned from 32-bit to 64-bit, but it will soon completely end 32-bit backward compatibility altogether. So the elimination of the 32-bit system would be considered a milestone step by the company.
For now, Apple has not confirmed any of the above; not confirming suppositions has been one of Apple’s policies throughout the time. So, all the above are only predictions, based on how we can see this might play out.
The fact that remains is that only Apple has enough control over its hardware and software to realize benefits of the kind and that, in itself is significant.
BlackBerry Is Getting A Huge Refund From Qualcomm After A Royalty Dispute
Qualcomm, the chipset maker, is set to return nearly USD 815 million to the Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry. This hard bargain from Qualcomm comes as a return on the royalties overpaid by BlackBerry between 2010 and 2015.
The dispute between the two has been over royalties BlackBerry paid in advance to Qualcomm. These royalties were seemingly for use of Qualcomm parts or patents used in BlackBerry smartphones. While BlackBerry’s argument is that that there was supposed to be a cap on those royalty payments, which was not applied at the time, Qualcomm is saying that BlackBerry’s payments were supposed to be non-refundable. In addition to the base amount, Qualcomm will also be paying BlackBerry an interest and the attorney fee.
The facts of the primary royalty deal between the two are not clear. But what is quite clear is that Qualcomm seems to just be tired of all that is going on with it lately. Qualcomm’s global business has been taking a lot of hits, with lawsuits and allegations, and it finds itself in a position where it is now working on self-preservation.
The decision, for a change, was not made in court but reached upon by the two parties in mutual agreement. While Qualcomm has made it clear that it does not agree with the agreement, it seems to be going ahead anyway, perhaps only to make the matter go away.
There have been a lot of similar matters that Qualcomm has been dealing with recently.
Their much-heated multi-country and multi-lawsuit battle with Apple, of course, deserves a mention. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also in binds with Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices involving its licensing agreements. There’s even a matter of a commission finding Qualcomm’s “prenup” agreements to be unfair especially with agreements signed almost 20 years ago with Samsung.
Issues of this kind have lately been turning into a bigger and bigger problem for Qualcomm. While most of us know them for their chipsets in our devices, a major chunk of Qualcomm’s business is licensing patents. If issues of this kind keep creeping up, the latter might keep taking hit, or worse, might be in danger of something bigger.
We are not yet clear on how much of the Apple scene, or the FTC scene, actually feeds into Qualcomm’s battle with BlackBerry, but we can certainly say that this new deal is a hit to their global patents business.
As we’d said back in September 2016 and even earlier in April 2016, Apple has embarked on a very serious mission – that of cleaning up it’s App Store, and by extension, improving the quality of the apps in it.
Clearly, user experience – with the Store and with iDevices, is at the core of this mission. It may not be apparent to you, but as Facebook’s app had proved, apps do far more on the device than they let on, and it is to mitigate such negative impact that Apple is taking a significant step to force developers to improve the quality of their wares, and by extension, your experience with your device.
iOS app developers have been intimated that Apple is about to completely pull support for 32-bit apps in a few months. Believed to be the bedrock of the upcoming iOS 11, Apple is moving to only allowing 64-bit apps on the Store.
This is obviously not a newfangled plan. Apple has been gradually working to this end over the last few years. This year it will take a complete and clean break from all 32-bit iOS apps which will affect approximately 200,000 apps – uprooting them from the Store, unless they are updated.
A Quick Rundown On Apple’s Move to 64-bit iPhones
Launched in September 2013, iPhone 5s was the first iDevice with a 64-bit processor. After the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple discontinued iPhone 4S, so the iPhone 5C was technically their last 32-bit iPhone.
In February 2015, Apple made it mandatory for all new apps to have 64-bit support. You can see where they were going with this – slowly integrating all their hardware and software with 64-bit support. With the announcement of the iPhone 6s and 6s plus in September 2015, Apple withdrew all their 32-bit devices.
To get their Developer ranks moving to adopt the 64-bit way of line, since 2016, Apple even began inserting warning notes on each App’s detail page (on their App Store) – “This app will not work with future versions of iOS. The developer of this app needs to update it to improve its compatibility”.
Many developers read the writing on the wall and began upgrading their wares. But not all.
So Apple’s now upped the ante – with iOS 11 coming out sometime around September, the mandate is that Apple will only support the 64-bit apps.
If you’re wondering how this will be benefit Apple, even though they might lose many apps – well, there’s a fairly simple answer.
64-bit CPUs can process data quicker than their 32-bit counterparts, in addition to using RAM more productively. If a code is written specifically for a 64-bit CPU, a 32-bit CPU won’t be able to run it. On the other hand, while 64-bit CPUs are compatible with 32-bit software, the performance efficiency that is a part of the 64-bit processor is lost due to emulation. So by removing all 32-bit software, Apple is essentially improving the performance quality on its products.
Apple’s complete control of their hardware as well as their software and App Store puts them in a unique position to be able to run such heave-ho’s. And there’s good reason.
Besides filtering out their app store of all the abandoned apps, it will also free up some storage space on your devices, and you’d be able to get better experiences, more suited to the hardware that you’ve invested in. What’s the point in driving your super car in second gear?
You the hardship to Developers aside, there are plenty of reasons why this move is good for you and me.
It does not take much effort to make a legal case interesting and popular. Just add the name ‘Apple’ to it.
You’d recall, in a recent case against Apple, the FBI had demanded Apple provide a backdoor to all encryption. FBI’s Director, James Comey who is clearly in favour to backdoor encryption, now says (and believes) that it can be done “without disregarding safety”.
The administration as well as the Congress decided to go against the move and thus Apple was able to ward off the pressure of being forced to unlock and decrypt the iPhone.
But, Apple is yet to explain why decrypting iPhones is “unduly burdensome”.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wants to bring forth the issue of privacy against law enforcement in the domain of debate.
But the judiciary is divided.
“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate” said Brian Owsley, a former Magistrate Judge in Texas who had issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.
The presiding Judge in the case, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who’s dealt with a case resembling the current situation (in 2005), is challenging Comey’s desire to use the 1789 All Writs Act so as to emerge victorious in 2015 encryption issue.
Despite such support, Apple is still having a hard time dealing with law enforcement agencies as they are unconvinced with Apple’s plea regarding the inviolability of the iPhone’s security.
The company has gone on record, saying that it literally has no way of getting a hold of the encryption key which is required to access a user’s data.
“If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key”.
Despite this and other logical arguments, including the right to privacy, FBI’s James Comey continues to maintain his opposition
“The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law”.
Accusations, arguments are being thrown back and forth. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr, suggested that the iPhone would soon be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice”, underlining the danger of the infallible security features like iPhone encryption.
Apple, on the other hand, tries to elucidate the danger of sacrificing such features. Building in a backdoor would mean making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The NY Times said it best,
“The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices, concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit”.
All that said and done, if one takes an impartial view of the matter, both sides are correct in their own right – there’s need of privacy, and there’s the threat of mal intent. And America of all countries of the world, faces the maximum acts borne of that malice, year after year.
So while I can’t pretend I don’t see the chance of misuse of backdoors, I (like the rest of the world, including Apple and the FBI) also can’t see a viable middle path – one that I can think of being used conscionably. Oh, NSA, what have you done?!
Apple AirPod Cases To Become Portable Chargers In Another Pioneering Move
Apple has proven itself to be a true master of innovation time and again. So many new concepts were first introduced to us by Apple, such as the iPhone, the Mac, iPads, and more – even the icons we see on our PCs seem inspired from Apple’s design principles. The smartphones and tablets we use on a day to day basis now would never have made their way to us if not for Apple’s iDevices entering the market. And not to forget, removing the headphone jack from their phones is another pioneering move by Apple.
They’re not about to ever let us forget just how creative, resourceful and original they are; but they’re so well tuned into consumer needs, that they cannily include capabilities and then surprise us, leading to an “Oh yeah! Of course!” moment.
So hold your breath, because they’ve apparently come up with another one of those epiphany-inducing ideas. The case that holds the AirPods, could soon become a secondary charging port for several other devices in the near future.
A smart move too, taking into account the rumours about iPhone 8 having inductive wireless charging.
Patently Apple found a patent accorded to Apple in March-end, in a rather large pile of 250 patents, which conceptualizes the designs for this next-gen AirPod case.
Their conception is of a wireless power transmitting component embedded into the AirPod case. When placed flat somewhere, the case will then become a charging port for an external device, in addition to the AirPods that are charged internally. And voila! You would be able to charge two of your Apple devices at once, with just an unassuming little case.
The same patent also gives a broad list of the kind of devices that would be compatible with the case:
“Such devices can include, for example, portable music players (e.g., MP3 devices and Apple’s iPod devices), portable video players (e.g., portable DVD players), cellular telephones (e.g., smart telephones such as Apple’s iPhone devices), video cameras, digital still cameras, projection systems (e.g., holographic projection systems), gaming systems, PDAs, as well as tablet (e.g., Apple’s iPad devices), laptop (e.g. MacBooks) or other mobile computers. Some of these devices can be configured to provide audio, video or other data or sensory output.”
Not only this, the upcoming products will also be equipped with a number of sensors that could help the case in recognizing the presence of other devices. These would be a mass sensor, mechanical interlock, hall-effect sensor, and an optical sensor.
The only real question left to ask is how much power these cases will be packed with.
But hold on, I’m not done surprising you yet!
There is also a strong likelihood of the future cases being waterproof. This is the cherry on top. I mean, not only will the case be a portable charger for most of your Apple devices, but you will also be able to take it with you in wet places. It makes sense to believe that the AirPods themselves might be waterproofed very soon. And although we might have to wait for a while to get our first glimpse of them, never ending fun is what these cases promise us.
Augmented Reality Seems To Be At The Forefront Of The 2017 iPhone’s Skills
Given the fact that Apple very recently acquired key patents related to Augmented Reality, specifically on advanced facial recognition, it isn’t surprising to come across rumours of AR being an essential part of the 2017 iPhone – widely coined as the iPhone 8.
Apple’s stocks traded high, the day the news of the patents was disclosed. Adding to the conjecture pool, are indications from several key Apple suppliers and even industry analysts who have indirectly indicated AR might become the prime focus of the upcoming iPhone 8.
What is even more exciting is the fact that very credible sources have come out with lengthy editorials discussing different ways augmented reality could be used in the smartphone Industry.
Picking some leaves from those conjectures, we decided to look at some of the different combination of features than Apple could incorporate in the new iPhone.
While the above features, if added, would serve different services, but they are all intertwined. The performance would have to be spot on… which Apple is very capable of ensuring (Maps fiasco aside). To enable AR though, a larger display screen is a prerequisite. So we may finally be seeing an iPhone with a screen larger than 5.5 inches!
Apple has reportedly invested a thousand personnel into driving their Augmented Reality program which is based out of Israel! Clearly, they have a plan in mind.
Separate rumours have suggested that Apple is working on an AR headset which could ship in 2017 or 2018. The concept is suggested to be like that of the Google Glass but would surely see a significant spin.
Apple has repeatedly been seen more interested (and invested) in the Augmented Reality program than a VR program. The principle reason driving that focus, has been the reduction of hardware and inclusion of more software.
Similarly, the assumption that Apple would want the iPhone 8 to stay a “premium” product that could be utilized for daily usage, and “keep people in the real world, while enhancing their experience” is another reason. These premium upgrades and introductions are set to test the customers with an price tag in excess of USD 1000. I seriously doubt that, though.
I’d eat humble pie any day of any week, but my staunch belief is that Apple knows the limits of customer-spend better than any one else, and the iPad Pro (12.9) notwithstanding, each of their products have been priced exquisitely – garnering the maximum sales they possibly can in almost every economy they’ve entered. Going above USD 1,000 would raise more eyebrows and cause more finger-waggling than Apple prefers to stoke.
“iPad is the world’s most popular tablet” boasted Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at the launch of 9.7 inch iPad less than two months ago.
Popular it may be, but is Apple’s iPad the most satisfactory tablet anymore?
As per the new J.D. Power study, Apple’s tablet has been relegated to second position in the sphere of customer satisfaction.
So who bagged the gold medal? Microsoft Surface.
2,238 people who have owned a tablet for less than a year were asked for their views, so as to measure their satisfaction with their tablets.
The study evaluates customer satisfaction across five major factors – Performance, Ease of Operation, Features, Styling & Design, and Cost.
Microsoft’s Surface tablets managed to grab top honours with people finding its styling and design factor to be superior to that of Apple’s iPads. Yes, you read that right!
Jony Ive must surely have seen red at that one (got the pun?)
He’s sure to be disheartened as design is one of Apple’s chief strengths. Its like Microsoft has beaten Apple on its home turf with a smashing six (pun intended).
The study also indicates that a number of Surface users are young people who are early adopters of technology – hence once they like a product, they tend to be loyal.
It’s not an easy task to push Apple from the top of any pile, least of all from that of tablets (a line that for the longest time has held iPads as synonymous to Tablets), and for Microsoft to have managed to do that, is quite a strong indicator of the character of the machine that Microsoft has created.
Microsoft must be gloating over its win and it’s new “customers-our-priority” ethos might have a lot to do with the strong performance put out by the Surface lineup. A Microsoft spokesperson put it succinctly, ”Building products that deliver the power, versatility and dependability that allows our customer to create their best work in any setting is fundamental to everything the team does”.
Apple has every right to sulk but it cannot really complain about the results. A lot of people believe Apple has not provided adequate attention to the iPad lineup, and innovation is grinding to a halt. Microsoft on the other hand, won its customers delight when it did away with the ARM-based version of Surface, and moved to Intel hearts. The move worked and Surface has been appreciated by its customers for the improved performance.
It will be interesting to see Apple does anything to change course and revitalises it next few iPads. Meanwhile, kudos to Microsoft.
People say Apple is ruthless when it comes to ditching companies – we think it’s actually more attuned to its own needs, and when the time comes that it’s current crop of vendors can’t keep up with Apple’s exacting requirements to empower it’s products, the tech behemoth doesn’t dither in setting up a new team to design and create the hardware it needs.
The latest announcement that Apple’s decided to build its own graphics chips within the next 15-24 months. is a prime example.
While the implicit aim is being cited as Apple’s desire to halt its dependence on Imagination Technologies – the company that currently manufactures the graphics processor used in Apple devices like the iPhone, iPad and even the iPod Touch – we at Chip-Monks believe there’s a more fundamental reason, than even cost.
But why did Apple make this move?
Apple had earlier made a similar move with regard to the central processor used in its devices. The company had dumped the PowerPC CPUs when Intel’s X86 silicon was picking up pace.
We believe that apart from ending its reliance on Imagination Technologies, the independently-made graphics processor would also allow Apple to build chips that perform better around the iOS and will be far more efficient on the battery.
For a company that has long been reputed as building their hardware around their software, unlike every other tech company in the world, surely, this plateauing of processor performance would not be acceptable. And truth be told, almost everyone of us realises that if you want to build something really well, usually the best thing to do, is to build it yourself.
Well, Apple certainly has the resources, and the desire to achieve that!
What is Imagination’s reaction to it?
Imagination is currently playing the violation-of-Intellectual-Property-Rights card.
The company claims that the technology required by Apple to make the chips would violate, “Imagination’s patent, intellectual property and confidential information.” Imagination further adds that Apple won’t be able to perform the intended task without causing breach in Intellectual Property Rights.
No doubt that Imagination is crestfallen, literally – working with Apple is an unparalleled feather in any hardware manufacturer’s cap. But even more famous, is a loss of such accolade.
Apple is also determined to hold it’s customers’ value more than its own profitability – that’s clear from the fact that Apple owns 8% of all shares in Imagination Technologies Following the announcement the share value of Imagination has declined by about 70%. And Apple doesn’t seem to be minding that loss, because it’s focussed on something more important to it’s core value – Customer Interests.
Apple Patent Application Alludes To The Touch Bar And Touch ID On A New Magic Keyboard
It really excites people (including me!) whenever Apple is awarded a new patent. Patents inherently give us a sneak peek into the minds of those secretive folks at Apple. And this is Exciting!
Even though not all its patents transform into reality – but one can hope.
Apple had introduced the Touch Bar last year, in its upgraded MacBook Pro laptop. However, other users (desktop and even other netbook users) immediately felt envious – as they couldn’t take advantage of the new capability even though their machines were quite capable of leveraging it.
It appears that Apple is finally attempting to address the grievances of its users.
“One of the comments people have been making about the Touch Bar on the new MacBook is that it will be irrelevant to those professionals who mostly use their Mac at their desk with an external monitor and keyboard. Unless Apple can offer an external keyboard with a Touch Bar, the feature may not see much use”.
The language of the patent is as deliberately difficult as ever:
“In some embodiments, the device may also include a processing unit positioned within the housing, and a primary display positioned at least partially within the housing and configured to display a graphical-user interface executed by the processing unit. In some embodiments, the display is an organic light-emitting diode display”.
In English, reading into the above text, we believe Apple has indicated at the possibility of a keyboard with a Touch Bar built in it. The electronic device may even be just an external keyboard like it’s Magic Keyboard; in fact images from Patently Apple point at the possibility fairly strongly.
And there’s more! Not only Touch Bar, we believe the upgrade may also add another really cool feature – the Touch ID fingerprint sensor (as those which are used on the iPhone and iPad).
What does that mean? Well, it means that soon iMac, Mac Pro and MacBook users would be able to use the Touch Bar functionality and unlock their machines via their fingerprints!
While such a device is yet to be announced, we feel confident that you might soon see such a device at an Apple Store near you. So, if you’ve been waiting to buy an external keyboard for your MacBook etc.,, then I suggest you hold off for a bit, my friend!
After almost a year long wait, Apple finally opened the door to its App Accelerator in Bangalore this week.
The App Accelerator, as the name suggests, will function as a place to speed up the development of mobile applications for Apple’s iOS ecosystem – by providing weekly training, app reviews, and one-on-one guidance to to developers.
Clearly, the App Accelerator comes with the idea of harnessing the already-bustling app development market in India. It’s a little late though – announced in May 2016, it’s indeed curious that it took the Tech Monolith this long to get set up in one of the world’s foremost software development markets.
“I think what we hope from this accelerator is that we can help the local market create apps for customers in India that better meet the needs of our growing customer base here“, said Apple’s marketing head Phil Schiller. “We also think we can help developers here at the accelerator to make apps that reach further around the world, because there’s an entire world that wants their software too, and having that opportunity is something that’s of benefit to them and now people here can help them learn more about that and take better advantage of it“.
This is not the first place that Apple has opened an App Accelerator – Brazil and Naples have already witnessed similar platforms to boost app development in and around their locales.
What could set India apart, is that while Brazil and Naples’ ecosystems focus on students as new developers, the App Accelerator in India will also focus on India’s existing app development community.
The market in India is strongly dominated by Apple’s competitor, Google’s Android ecosystem. This App Accelerator probably won’t do much in that regard, but what it might do is provide a way for Apple to court developers who are looking to branch out of Google’s ecosystem.
Apple has been showing a lot of interest in the Indian market for a few years now. The reason for their interest is obvious: India, outside of China, is the biggest market a brand can cater to or even hope for.
However, the market also comes with its complexities, and while Apple has diligently been navigating a lot of those in the last year, they might still be a long way to go.
Expect A Reboot On Apple TV and iTunes Movies – Apple’s Just Landed A Big Fish!
Apple never goes out of the news. But it is making too many headlines lately, isn’t it?
With the aim of improving its user experience in the ever-improving video content space, Apple has hired Shiva Rajaraman, a stalwart of the field.
As per The Information, it’s received reports that Apple has hired the former YouTube and Spotify executive to better its own video and music efforts.
The man of the hour, Rajaraman has an awe-inspiring profile. He’s worked at senior positions in Google, YouTube, Twitter and then Spotify (where he was last tasked as the Vice President of Product).
Rajaraman would be given the responsibility to improve Apple’s video offerings and other media products like Apple Music with the clear intent to compete with Spotify.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook is a shrewd one – he (and previously Jobs) realized the importance of entertainment and related areas – which they both considered to be the major tools for future revenue growth (especially as hardware sales slow over the years). Hiring Rajaraman appears to be a definitive step in this direction.
As per the Information we’ve pieced together (since Apple’s not the most open with such information), Apple’s Eddy Cue, Senior VP of internet and Software Services, will supervise Rajaraman on the various projects that will be assigned to him.
Apple has not been able to come up with an effective, clear strategy regarding its video arsenal. The lack of consensus over one particular strategy regarding videos has lead to frequent debates. Even Apple Music hasn’t really hit the right chords, pun intended.
Interestingly, Apple recently announced two new shows – “Planet of the Apps” and “Carpool Karaoke”. The latter will be launched next month in the new Apple Music section called “TV & Movies.”
This desire to usher into the field of original content is aimed more at getting the upper hand over Spotify, than to yet provide competition to Netflix and Amazon – both of whom spend a billion bucks on the content.
Rajaraman thus, has an important role to play which is in keeping with his previous spot in the lineup. He’s aided YouTube in writing up content partnerships with the likes of Disney. He did something similar at Spotify by helping the company get licensed video content from Disney, Time Warner and NBC.
In the past few years, Apple has failed to reach an agreement with cable TV networks, stalling the much-rumoured streaming TV package (a la Netflix).
However, with this move, and it’s strides in the realm of original content, Apple seems to be rearing up to give Spotify (and subsequently the Big Two) a tough time.
We’re loving it! Who doesn’t love good content?!
Christopher Stringer, the lead designer of the original iPhone, and one of the top two or three dreamers on Apple’s Design team, has decided to leave the Silicon Valley megabrand. Though an official statement of departure is yet to be made by Stringer as well as the company, the news has been confirmed by multiple sources.
Stringer, even before joining Apple, was quite a star in the tech world. He’s is the same creator who helped develop Dell’s design language and won an ID Design Review award for an innovative light switch.
Stringer has been a designer with Apple since 1995, and over the course of his career at Apple, he worked on projects of different sizes and magnitude – including the early PowerBooks and tower computers, the iPhone, or even something as overlooked, but ever-admired as the designs on product packaging. It was not the size of the project that seemed to draw him, but the magnitude of the vision.
Stringer was also the first designer to give testimony at the Apple-Samsung trial where, according to Reuters news service, “Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie”.
Speaking of his work at Apple, Stringer described the role of an industrial designer at Apple as “to imagine objects that don’t exist and to guide the process that brings them to life. And so that includes defining the experience that a customer has when they touch and feel our products. It’s managing the overall form and the materials, the textures, the colors. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to building the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.”
A couple years ago, when Jony Ive (now, Chief Design Officer at Apple), was promoted, Stringer was one of the two people who were contenders to take on the design studio. Even though he did not get to be the top boss back then, he has been the right-hand man for Ive, and the backbone to the Apple design team.
It is unclear at this point if he is joining another company, or if he is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, but 52-year-old Stringer will definitely be missed at Apple after he is gone.
The departure of a person such as Stringer would ordinarily raise the question of how would it affect the team and the work around it, what would the future Apple designs be like, and would a difference, or ‘something missing’ be felt?
Well, the answer to the last one would mostly be no.
This is so because the designing of a product at Apple is not done by one person alone. The design team at Apple, or any organization of the kind, is a tightly knit team, and each product has designated a design lead, the designer who does most of the actual work, and one or two deputies, who all work on the idea together. The vision, thus, is a shared one.
Even though Stringer’s contributions will be missed, his departure from Apple is not expected to jeopardise the creativity that the world’s come to respect Apple for.
It really was fun to watch Australia’s four big banks sweating and trying to win a legal battle against Apple for its proprietary payment technology Apple Pay.
They tried every which way to Sunday, to convince the esteemed bench that they ought to have access to Apple Pay, but in turn all they received was a facepalm.
It had to be a tough battle when big names like Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Bendigo & Adelaide are involved. The four banks collectively control two-thirds of Australia’s credit card market!
Now, since the question would be burning in your head – the banks wanted Apple to grant them access to its contactless payment technology so as to avoid paying commission to Apple for charges made through Apple Pay.
However, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made it clear that banks cannot force the demand of their own digital wallets (integrated within their individual apps) on Apple.
The Near Field Communication (NFC) based technology allows iPhone users to settle their payments from their phones, and the money gets deducted from the bank card which is registered with Apple Pay.
So each time an iPhone user makes a transaction, Apple gets fees for it.
No doubt, the stakes were high for Apple as being on the losing end would have meant severe blow to it’s profit margins. In a way, the banks wanted Apple to function more like Google in terms of its method of payment – Google allows contactless payment from individual apps.
So far the banks have prevented their customers from using Apple Pay until the company agreed to give them access to iPhone payment technology. The threat to Apple was seen as a tool to “reduce or distort competition”, Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC explained that “it is a tricky issue for competition regulator to force one competitor to adopt a strategy of other competitor”.
So where do banks stand now?
Let’s be real, the four banks (and thus other Australian banks too) have lost the pressure they had built on Apple. Now they can only individually negotiate with the company.
Plus, if they still refuse their customers to make payments through Apple Pay, then they face the risk of decrease in number of account holders.
It’s not surprising that the banks are “disappointed”.
From automobiles to smartphones, Microsoft has it’s fingers in all sorts of pies.
And it’s been picking up some new tradecraft too. As it expanded it’s footprint with its “Surface As A Service”, folks at Microsoft actually realised there was a play they could make in the retailing sector, that might benefit both, Microsoft and some of the world’s largest brands, no matter if they be competitors.
Clearly, this is a Nadella-pivot – I guess he knows better than anyone else the Windows Phone isn’t going to really be able to take off (not to stratospheric levels at least). So a couple of years ago, he’d (much like John Chen of BlackBerry) decided that if he couldn’t get the platform into people’s hands because of the floundering apps store on the Windows 10 platform, Microsoft may as well peddle it’s (fairly excellent) apps on Android and iOS, and make a dent in those universe.
Keeping with the SEI (a.k.a. Surface As A Service) model, the technology giant has reached an agreement with Samsung, to retail the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in Microsoft stores. Not only that, these devices will carry some prestigious Microsoft apps out for the box, and will actually be branded as Microsoft Edition models of the Samsung duo.
With that win in it’s hip pocket, and playing the poker face, Microsoft announced a deal with yet another company. You might have heard of this company in some corners – it’s called Apple Inc.
Yup, you heard it right! Microsoft and the Cupertino based monolith have struck a deal. While all the details of the deal aren’t yet public knowledge, the word on the street is that you’s now be able to get iPhones in the same Microsoft Stores as Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8+!
So, what does the deal imply? Obviously greater profit for Microsoft. And the unique honour of having it’s apps bundled on iPhones.
It is an honour – the last third party app that iOS had bundled on its iOS (other than Facebook and Twitter) was Shazam. So it’s no small feat for Microsoft to have eked out that privilege.
There’s something else that trade pundits are saying may perhaps be on the offing – a certain amount of Microsoft-oriented customisation. Per the pundits, if you want to swap Siri with Cortana or replace iCloud with OneDrive then you might actually be able to do that on this special-edition phones. But I’m holding my verdict on that conjecture, for the moment. I’m not sure why Apple would allow for something as basic as the Assistant to be replaced (especially since we’re also hearing of Siri playing a much larger role in the upcoming iOS 11).
On the swap-ability of the iCloud supposition – I can pretty much laugh that one out of the building – Apple would never let anyone tinker with something that’s become a critical backbone of the entire iOS ecosystem and even more critical to the user experience since it holds up central bridges like device backups, Continuity, Handoff, iMessage, iPhotos et al!
Back to the “why” of it. While some may think Microsoft’s biggest win for these will be profit from retail sales, however I believe it actually is the overnight windfall of millions of customers on the newest and most cherished flagships in the world that Microsoft is vying for. That, for me is the brilliance of this pivot from Nadella.
A Microsoft representative stated, “Our deal with Apple helps us provide customers with easy access to our services even if they choose a different mobile platform. We respect everyone’s decision to use Android or iOS, and this is why we’re trying to help them make no compromise. Bringing Microsoft apps on as many devices as possible is a priority“.
Some folks claiming insider-information have stated that the iPhones too will be labeled as Microsoft Edition, and might even sport a Microsoft logo on the back of the iPhone.
Personally, I find that hard to believe. For a brand as proud of their logo and as gritty about keeping their devices free of any other branding per se, I very seriously doubt that Apple would allow any form of additional graphics (dare I call it graffiti on their premium devices).
The Microsoft branded iPhones will hit the stores on April 1. We’ll know more then.
The traditional SIM card has been dying a slow death over the last few years.
The normal SIM cards (now called “Macro SIMs”) that seem from prehistoric times now, set the ball rolling for mobile telephony. Then we got to micro SIM cards as smartphones arrived. As devices became bigger, the real estate within them became even more at a premium, hence smartphone manufacturers hit upon nano SIM cards.
Now, it’s time for better the technology in an even smaller card – called the e-SIM.
In light of this changing environment, the GSMA (who represents carriers and mobile companies around the world), has announced the specifications for e-SIMs, that are expected to be used in smart watches, fitness trackers, and even tablets. These SIMs will allow users the freedom to activate the SIM embedded in those devices on any carrier of their choice, as well as bring in the convenience of switching carriers and devices without swapping SIMs.
If everything works out as planned, the team behind the development of e-SIM suggests the new technology will be rolled out by 2018.
For now, the leaders of the smartphone industry are in talks with American and British mobile carriers with the intent of making e-SIMs a reality in those regions.
Apparently, conversations are already on with AT&T, T-Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa and Teleónica – which are some of the biggest around the world.
The GSMA plans to roll out a similar standard for smartphones themselves in June, at which point the days of the SIM card could be numbered.
Since this specification is also backed by manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, LG and Huawei! The freedom and convenience that this welcome ability of switching operators will bring is best understood by device manufacturers – it drives better customer satisfaction and it frees up the manufacturer from having to kowtow to operator-demands. It even helps them move inventory around more seamlessly, instead of suffering the logistical nightmare they currently face – the device is operator agnostic, but since it was packed with a specific-operator’s SIM (at the factory), the manufacturer can’t lift and shift the inventory to other regions/stores/operators at will.
Once implemented, this universal tech will allow users to add mobile devices to a single subscription, in turn allowing them to connect directly to any mobile network. No separate SIM cards, no phone-as-a-middle-man, just an embedded SIM in each device, programmed to connect to a network all by itself!
Not that the GSMA sees it that way. It says “the initiative does not aim to replace all SIM cards in the field, but is instead designed to help users connect multiple devices through the same subscription and will help mobile device manufacturers to develop a new range of smaller, lighter mobile-connected devices that are better suited for wearable technology applications”.
Some Reactions From The Smartphones Industry
“The technology allows an individual to have both, a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number. People can switch between business and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards,” BlackBerry India Managing Director, Sunil Lalvani said at as per Tech First Post.
Well, Apple has already explored with its own SIM cards that can swap networks on flights and lets users choose from three different carriers.
For what it’s worth, the first example of a programmable SIM card, is already out there are – notably in Apple’s iPads. But it wasn’t officially recognised by the GSMA.
The GSMA notes there recently announced specifications as “the only common, interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry“.
So, the integration of the e-SIM into upcoming iPhones seems like the next logical step for the Cupertino tech giant.
The world’s other smartphone giant also has intentions of using this “programmable” SIM in it’s smartwatch line.
So this isn’t technology that’s a way off-you might be using it yourself by the middle of the year!
The unresolvable tussle between Android and iOS has always been a source of great contention amongst Tech Geeks. Often times, this conversation turns to roughhousing, thanks to the irreconcilable nature of the topic.
I like to call it the “What came first; an Egg or a Chicken” question of the Mobile Phone Universe.
There’s never been an articulate outcome adjudging one of the two software as the better one. Eventually, the only way the dispute gets shelved without fists being thrown, is to agree that while Android runs on majority of the smartphones, iOS is what defines smartphones [that too causes another long, vehement round of words, but the volume at which interjections are thrown reduces, somewhat].
That said, most sane folks can’t disagree that Apple is the Utopian version of class, luxury, style and comfort, and practically any gadget manufactured by Apple is the epitome of perfection.
People are also in general agreement that Apple’s products are prettier, largely because of the immeasurable amount of time the team of Designers, Developers and Engineers at Apple spend on inane questions like “How many holes should the speaker grille have this time?“.
The point is, Apple’s attention to detail and it’s ability to focus on form and function is nigh near unparalleled.
That said, in the last three years, Apple hasn’t made any significant visual or design change to their mobile phones, and it’s getting boring. Sales figures may belie this claim, however we at Chip-Monks talk to enough people to have a fairly good idea of customer sentiment.
Last year, Apple released many only two phones – the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, unfortunately they both garnered more snickers than positive attention to changes, because of the removal of the 3.5 mm headphone jack, which resulted in yet another after-market product that needed to be bought – the newly invented Apple AirPods (Apple’s wireless earphones).
Apple has undoubtedly become boring – even to hard-nosed supporters. iPads’ are forgiven to a certain extent because they aren’t Apple’s prime product anymore (and because everyone who needs an iPad, almost always has procured one, and doesn’t really need to change it often). But iPhones, MacBooks (Air and Pro, both), iMacs – are all as Mr. Jobs left them. And that product fatigue is visible, without any doubt to anyone whatsoever.
So, Apple needs to do a 2007 again – reinvent smartphones, including the iPhone.
The world (at least that part of it that doesn’t hate Apple for any passionate reasons, including pedantic and existential ones) is still faithful to Apple’s abilities. Most of them are hoping that Apple picks up it’s magic wand this year, instead of a carbon paper – and does something that justifies it’s exalted, almost revered status as a manufacturer.
One of the changes that a lot of people seem to want (although not knowing why) – is for Apple to move to OLED screens. It bears repetition – they don’t know why they want OLED, but they just do (perhaps because it’ll get their Android buddies off their backs about the last-resort “the iPhone still uses LCD!” insult).
Till a year or two ago, Apple nay-sayers used to rub Apple-friendly folks in the face with “Android allows so much customisation”, but that jibe’s been losing it’s credibility as iOS 10 allows almost all that Android does, without the vulnerabilities associated with such “freedom”.
Coming back to the topic at hand…
With Apple’s 10th anniversary around the corner, it is believed by many soothsayers that the company is going to bring in a significant (hopefully) change to the iPhone’s design. The brand is said to be “all set” to embrace OLED technology and incorporate it in their prospective model – “iPhone 8” (or whatever it will eventually be called).
Reports and gossip surrounding the device also suggest that the iPhone 8 will feature a nearly-edgeless display with incredibly narrow bezels, with specialized sensors on the sides.
To date, Apple has relied on Gorilla Glass for all their phones, with no fancy footwork on the display (save for the pressure-driven 3D Touch).
While Apple already uses curved glass for its watches and current iPhones (so it kind of defeats any “edge” related advantages Samsung may claim), but it’s undeniable – scientifically OLED is an advanced choice of hardware.
The rumour mill says the so-called iPhone 8’s front is going to be an all-glass-with-OLED panel that wraps around the edges. Should OLED actually make to the iPhone, it will be a major change in the elemental design and would hopefully help Apple eradicate the last major source of mirth in the extremely competitive mobile phone market where even one aberration stands out like the proverbial nail begging to be hammered away at.
Some consider OLED screens being manifold better than their LCD competitors (at Chip-Monks though, we’re not sure… not because we don’t understand the differences, but because all iPhone screens have so far been excellent display units, despite being LCD panels).
That said, an incredibly thin and stylish OLED screen will provide insanely vivid colors, brighter and clean contrasts and may end up being more power efficient than the LCD screens used so far.
However, everything comes with a price. Use of the new advanced OLED Screens is not going to serve Apple too well – primarily for two reasons.
The first being the cost of OLED display, which tend to be much higher compared than those of LCD Screens. While Apple may spring for it, and absorb it in their own costing, however any damage to your iPhone 8’s screen is would result in you shelling out significantly higher sums of money to fix it.
The second reason being the insane volume of OLED screens that need to be manufactured to meet the demand for iPhones.
Apple being one of largest manufacturers and sellers of smartphones, have to maintain their reach and for that to happen, it requires ridiculous volumes of OLED Display. And with Samsung being the only viable supplier available for 2017 (at least), puts all of Apple’s OLED eggs in one basket, which may not be a wise choice for them (especially given that all of the last 4-5 product launches from Apple have faced more-demand-than-supply issues).
We wrote about both these conundrums in two articles: the first when we covered conjecture around Samsung being Apple’s vendor of necessity for OLED screens and the other that covered Apple’s next roadblock of insufficient supply.
Apple’s wave of “upgrading the display” in a way proves futile because it’s conceivable that all of its competitors are going to provide the same display quality. Google’s Pixel 2 and Galaxy S8 which are to be released this year may sport the same OLED display. In fact, the Galaxy S8 might even launch months before the iPhone 8.
So, it looks like Apple is in a pickle after all.
That being said, rumours around iPhone 8 only strengthens our beliefs that Apple is going to have to do a lot this year, just to get out of the rut it’s fallen into over the last three years.
Samsung Lands Bang In The Middle Of A Legal Wrangle Between Nokia And Apple
Legal battle and Apple – call it a houseful show.
This particular story started a year back, when the good old Cupertino technology giant Apple sued Nokia on the grounds of patent infringement.
Apple accused Nokia of intentionally removing certain patents from an agreement between the two companies. As per Apple, five of the removed patents were transferred to certain third party companies so that Nokia could ‘extort’ an excruciating amount of USD 100 million from Apple.
But then Nokia hit back at Apple with a list of accusations against the company. It alleged various instances of breach of patent by Apple. Nokia claimed that Apple has violated as many as 32 of Nokia’s patents in every iPhone following the iPhone 3GS.
That’s not all, a new twist in the case has made it all the more interesting.
Nokia has requested to be granted access to documents and deposition testimonies from the Samsung-Apple case which pertain to Samsung’s legal allegations against Apple on the issue of patents. Nokia believes these documents will be helpful to it’s patent related legal battle against Apple, and prove Apple’s culpability and repeated violations of patents.
As per Patently Apple, Nokia has requested a motion to be granted access to certain documents that can prove to be highly favorable to its position in the on-going legal conflict against Apple –
“The Letter seeks documents and deposition testimony from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., based in the Republic of Korea. The evidence sought by Nokia is highly relevant to the Investigation and unobtainable by other means”.
There’s not been a decree on this request yet, though, a favourable decision in this regard may actually prove to be an interesting wildcard in the Nokia-Apple fight.
Apple To Introduce A New Ultra Accessory Connector, In Lieu Of The USB Type-C
When a big tree sways whichever way, the earth shakes.
Such is also the way of the world in the devices universe. Industry Pundits are forced to keep their keen ears to the ground, waiting to hear what a certain Cupertino giant is planning to do next, as it would inevitably impact the rest of the world, and not just it’s own industry.
One of the favourite points of contention that the Android hoi polloi have had with Apple of recent years relates to it’s (Apple’s) ‘whimsical’ choices. Be it the 30-pin port that transformed to the Apple-unique Lightning port, or the absence of the 3.5 mm audio jack – all other device and peripheral makers are constantly having to react to Apple’s decisions about it’s own devices.
Even now, when the rest of the world is going the USB Type-C way, Apple’s obstinacy to stick with proprietary port surely might appear to be an arrogant move to some.
Furthering the consternation is Apple’s vacillation – it actually is already a strong proponent of USB Type-C, having campaigned for it with their new MacBook notebooks released in 2015, but for some reason, the company is determined to retain the Lightning for its iPhones and iPads – which creates a lot of confusion for people desiring universal accessories that connect to every object in their devices portfolio.
Before we proceed with the story, I’d like to turn your attention to an article we’d written in June 2016, “Could Apple Be Removing The Headphone Jack To Deliver Better Sound To You?“, and I quote (for those of you who won’t be reading that article:
At Chip-Monks, we believe that Apple might migrate us to the Lightning port for another reason too – to deliver improved sound quality. No one knows or understands the potential of the proprietary Lightning port better than Apple. And they’re going to juice the port and it’s capabilities any which ways it possibly can.
So, while a lot of people would’ve been wishing and hoping that Apple would for once acquiesce to user-prayers, a recent conjecture that Apple is launching a new Ultra Accessory Connector (UAC), it looks like peoples’ dream of a USB Type-C iPhone will forever remain just that.
The Ultra Accessory Connector is actually intended to ameliorate some of the pain that Apple loyalists who possess devices that use USB Type-C and Lightning ports feel, but it’s a definitive answer too.
When the UAC was spoken about initially, many, many people reacted adversely, presuming that Apple was yet again changing the port on the next iPhone/iPad.
The UAC connector is a connector, an adapter that Apple is offering as an olive branch of sorts. It is to be used as an intermediary between the headphone and the device’s port – splitting them in half so that the top part can be universal, and the bottom can be either a Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, or a regular old 3.5 mm analog plug.
The intent is to restore some of the universality of wired headphones – which, until not too long ago, all terminated in a 3.5 mm connector (or 6.35 mm on non-portable hi-fi models designed for at-home listening). With UAC, a headphone manufacturer can issue multiple cable terminations very cheaply, making both the headphones and any integrated electronics, like a digital-to-analog converter or built-in microphone, compatible across devices with different ports.
The reason that this matter raised such a furore is simple – if Apple ever had any intentions to make a switch in its mobile devices to a USB Type-C, it wouldn’t have ever cared to create an exclusive Made For iPhone (MFi) standard for the UAC.
It would have just switched the port!
As I’ve said earlier, it is not that the Lightning port is whimsical a nuisance. In fact it remains a licensed Apple technology and thus the company is legally allowed to capitalize on the sale.
The Lightning conductor is also a bit smaller, and thus fits the aesthetics of the phone where the emphasis is on strict minimalism.
Also, given the ubiquitous nature of USB-C technology, it becomes really hard to regulate the invisible incompatibility in some cases, and that can be downright destructive for your device.
There has also been a question that why headphone makers can’t start making USB Type-C cables with Lightning adapters. Well, as much we rave about the USB Type-C becoming the democratic tech of the future, it is still a long way off from that. That’s especially true compared to Apple’s more than 900 million Lightning-enabled devices already out on the market.
As an accessory maker, you want to sell to the market that already exists first, not the one that is to come.
For Apple, moving to a USB Type-C iPhone would mean a great deal of upheaval, for little payoff. The Cupertino giant has its eyes set on total wireless freedom, and everything -Lightning, USB Type-C, UAC – that it’s working with today are just temporary compromises en route to that goal.
So no, a USB Type-C iPhone was probably never going to happen. But now that we have the UAC to ease the switching between Lightning and USB Type-C music sources, even daydreaming about it seems silly.
Much as I know that this isn’t what users were looking for, yet I know that Apple has it’s reasons for doing things, usually solid ones – no matter what the populace may claim, nor how loudly the Twitterati may chant slogans and epithets.
All good things are made up of small bits that add up to a wholesome package, and an operating system is no exception. With the release of Apple’s iOS 10.3 on March 27, one notices the value of small cog wheels, that don’t seem much in seclusion but make our life a wee bit easier.
One of the biggest changes in the iOS scenery is that Apple has moved to a new type of file system. Prior to iOS 10.3, the de facto file system on iOS was the popular HFS+ one. Now, with the latest release, Apple has adopted its own Apple File System (AFS).
Advantages? Yes, there are many. And so are one or two disadvantages.
The move from HFS+ to AFS provides better optimisation for NAND flash storage and SSD storage, more accurate time stamping and support for stronger encryption.
Come to think of it, HFS+ with its stacks of 30 years of legacy, was a historical artefact that was waiting to be changed.
Well, change comes with it baggage too. Once you decide to update your phone to iOS 10.3 the entire file system changes. And you can’t go back to yesteryear-status.
Let us understand the gravity of this move – as most of you would know, data is made up of packets and those packets make an imprint. The imprint has its own pattern which helps in retrieving data from memory, and even in the super-important data recovery, should the memory or device malfunction. Now, if you move to iOS 10.3, it will change the file system – so, the data packaging and the patterns of the old system will be deleted and the new one will be overlaid instead.
So there can be no recovery. The lack of recovery options means that you now have to backup your data prior to updating the OS. You can do that through iCloud or manually to iTunes on your PC/Mac (we prefer the iTunes route – it’s faster and you can make a copy of the backup and put it on an external drive for safekeeping – such that it doesn’t get overwritten by subsequent backups).
Well, here’s a list of what else is new with iOS 10.3:
Find My AirPods:
Only for those who own the precious nifty new AirPods, this feature enables a tracker – well, sort of – for you to find their location.
Fact is, the AirPods themselves cannot connect to GPS or any network (Apple either forget about this need, or ran out of space in the diminutive earphones to shoehorn in the requisite hardware).
So this new Find My AirPods option (which sits within the Find My iPhone app) allows you to locate and find AirPods lost within your vicinity (say in your couch or left behind in last night’s jeans). If you’re within Bluetooth range of the AirPods, it’ll play an audible beep through the AirPods and even guide you to their reclusive hiding place via an on-screen map.
If they’re out of Bluetooth range (in your car parked in the basement, or at last night’s pub), the app digs into it’s internal logs and points out where it last logged the AirPods’ location (via a map). Best of luck though – these buggers tend to become reclusive often – hence my longstanding advice: carry them in their case at all times that you aren’t using them!
App Transition Animations:
What is a good change? One, which you don’t even notice!
Apple has made some tiny adjustments to the flourishes and animations that iOS makes during its app-transitions. Now, when the app opens and shuts, the edging in the animation is chiseled to have a soft-round outlook. But the most important part is that the animations have been shortened and made faster, which makes ziplining between apps feel like a breeze!
Revised Apple ID Profile:
This setting profile is made like a Master Log of a ship – with all the information about your Apple ID (and iCloud) included in one place.
So your contact profile, security settings, payment method, iCloud usage details, App Store settings and even the Family Sharing settings are now on a singIe page. It also keeps a note of every device that’s currently signed in on using your Apple ID.
With the 10.3 Apple has fixed some gaps in the Safari browser, as well as some ‘backdoors’ that had the potential of being exploited by hackers.
There are quite a few other things that have been implemented through iOS 10.3 but we aren’t going through those bit-piece here. We’ll probably write you a more comprehensive article at a later date.
As we emphasised twice earlier, these changes are small and they probably will go unnoticed by most users. That said, it’s a good idea to update your phone – for battery improvement and faster interactions due to leaner code and bug fixes, if nothing else!
With more and more worry surrounding the hackers’ claims that they might have direct access to 600+ million iCloud accounts and Apple IDs (more news on that here) we need you to do some really simple things, to protect your data and save yourself lots of heartache later on.
We at Chip-Monks still believe in Apple and it’s ability to protect us, however it is a very good thing for you to do all of the below, periodically too.
There are five basic you need to do right away.
Having done all of the above, we believe your account should be quite secure, and you shouldn’t have much to worry about.
We would also like to reiterate that the evidence that the hackers actually have access to that many account details is pretty thin. Also, it is doubtful that the breach is on the part of Apple.
What could be a possible reason for the hackers having any information at all is a third party leak, and the fact that we use the same passwords everywhere, is the real vulnerability that the hackers may be intending to exploit.
As more on this unfolds, we would like for you to treat this very seriously as a warning and to urge you take the minuscule effort to making your accounts more secure, and less as an instance to panic. If you are doing the latter though, you can check here on how to survive an Apple iCloud wipeout.
We will keep you posted on more.
After so very long, Apple has done a “… One more thing”!!
Unexpectedly, out of the blue, well… red, there now is a new iPhone in town – and it’s Red!
It’s not a tinge of red, not metallic pink, it is all red. The back, the buttons, the fiddly little nano-SIM tray – all red!
There’s so much red on it, that you almost don’t notice that the front is white. The thing I love most about it? The silver Apple logo around the back. It just shimmers and pops against the gorgeous red!
Why am I gushing? Well, time to be honest – there’s never been any other exciting colour on iPhones, since… well, forever.
They created Rose Gold (and every other brand suddenly followed suit) – I know, I know. But for some reason, the pinkish phone never really struck my fancy. It was too, well pale and subtle. There’s never been a stand out, “look at me” colour, on an iPhone. Nor a cheerful one.
Part of the (RED) campaign to help fight HIV/AIDS, this phone puts the focus right back on the noble cause, and how much some of the largest people and brands are committing to it.
A portion of the proceeds from every sale go toward the Global Fund, a group committed to fighting AIDS around the world.
I don’t know if you know this or not, Apple has been working with PRODUCT(RED) for about ten years now.
“For 10 years, our partnership with (RED) has supported HIV/AIDS programmes that provide counselling, testing and medicine that prevents the transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child. So far, we’ve raised over US$130 million through the sale of our (RED) products. Now we’re introducing iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition. Every purchase brings us a step closer to an AIDS‑free generation“, (RED)’s website states.
So, all the iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED bang is for a good cause in a way.
If you’re still in the dark about the changes on this newest iPhone – well there aren’t any others. Except for the exterior colour, nothing else has changed on the devices. All the interior hardware and functionality remain the same – which is alright, because we’re sure they already have the iPhone 8 (or whatever it’ll finally be called) in the pipeline, and most Apple users would be expecting the real changes there. I don’t think the world would’ve settled for just this novelty on the iPhone 8.
Who all got this treatment? Well, only the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. All the other iPhones bear only the existing livery – clearly Apple’s giving you yet another reason to ditch that old iPhone!
Speaking of which – will folks ditch their current phone? Well, to be honest, I and my boss, almost did. Instantly.
Realistically though, we do not have a clear answer to how many people would trade in their current devices for a ‘novelty’. We do have some speculation though – much like the iPhone SE last year filled in the gap in the 12 month product cycle, this novelty iPhone too, is kind of filling in the blank pause, till September 2017.
A lot of smartphone brands launch multiple models through the course of the year, but Apple doesn’t like to satiate demand that’s building up during summer. They let it simmer till Fall. But with mid-term product launches two years running, maybe, just maybe, they’re tentatively agreeing to the notion that 12 months becomes to long a period of silence.
Further, while the new Red iPhone may be more a product of vanity than a product of genius, it sure does fill in another void nicely – that left behind by the Note7 crash-and-burn. In fact putting out a ‘new’ variant just before the Samsung Galaxy S8 has even been formally announced, may be another show of genius on Mr. Cook’s part.
He is known to be a shrewd operator, no matter what, who says!
Moving on, also released alongside the iPhone 7 PRODUCT(RED) was a 9.7 inch iPad that comes with an upgraded processor, and a dramatic price cut. The new iPad starts at USD 330 (for 32 GB), down from USD 400 previously.
Apple also increased the minimum storage on the iPhone SE to 32 GB (up from the previous lowest of 16 GB), without increasing the price.
There’s more. The new iPad Mini will only come in a 128 GB model, and that certainly is a lot of memory capacity for a tiny tablet!
You can get the iPhone RED starting March 24th, at USD 750 for the 128 GB iPhone model and at USD 870 for the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus model. If memory’s failing you, these are the exact same prices of the non-RED models. Sweet!
Last, and I particularly love this part – for the first time ever, the new model launches in India, on the very same day as it does in the U.S. Now, that makes me proud! Apple finally proves that India’s just as important as the Dollar economy!!
Back in February 2017, Apple was granted a patent for their schematic technology that might enable the tech giant to build a fingerprint sensor and scanner directly into the glass display on its devices and other products.
Clearly, this would revolutionise the biometric use as the world knows it. Not only could Apple include this in the display of the upcoming iPhone, but also in any other device in it’s immense product portfolio – iPads, Apple Watch, MacBooks (with or without the Touch Bar) forthcoming wearables, even Apple TV remotes – well almost anything it wants to. So passwords could well be a relic of the past.
Acquired in the U.S. and published recently by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, the patent details an interactive display with IR diodes, which would enable the device (let’s call it the iPhone) to have a fingerprint sensor embedded in the glass of the front display, thus enabling Apple to replace the one that is embedded in their physical home button.
The patent was originally filed for by the micro-LED display company LuxVue in 2014, but Apple acquired the patent when they acquired the company.
The patent’s description reads: “When the fingerprint is placed upon the transparent substrate, the sensing IR diodes within the display panel sense patterned IR light reflected off grooves of the fingerprint surface. This patterned IR light is relayed to the output processor as a bitmap where it is processed to determine the fingerprint surface’s unique pattern. Because the display panel can sense IR light, the display panel is able to perform surface profile determination when the display panel is not emitting visible light”.
The patent would enable Apple to radically redesign their iPhone. For starters, the home button on the front could go, because it really does not have much of a reason anymore to stay; Apple phones anyway have a virtual home button – they’d just move that leverage that “soft” button and marry it to their existing 3D Touch (pressure-sensitive capacitive touch) technology.
The patent would save space on the phone, granting greater design flexibility and the broad bezel (the forehead and the chin) on the front might not be a necessary design choice anymore.
Most importantly, this could suddenly provide Apple the means to build in an edge-to-edge display, which would once again be a landmark design element that will set iPhones apart in the crowded marketplace.
Apart from that, let us be honest here, it would just make the iPhone a lot cooler!
This is not the first time that technology of this kind has been talked out. In fact, the truth be told, having a fingerprint sensor in the display is one of the most obvious and expected innovations in the tech world today; something that everyone knows is coming, but none have been able to achieve. There are numerous technical challenges that have prevented almost all of the lesser players from getting there first.
But not all.
If Apple does make use of the patent in their next phone, they won’t be the first ones to do so.
Back in 2016, Xiaomi released two flagships – the Mi 5s and Mi 5s Plus that had an under-glass ultrasonic fingerprint reader on the front. The phones have only been available in the Chinese market hence you mayn’t have heard of them.
The ironical part is, even if the Mi 5s or the Mi 5s Plus were available in the international market, the West would’ve mostly been deprived of them because Xiaomi does not (and currently, can not) sell phones in the Western markets due to patent infringement risks.
Apple’s patent was reportedly first filed for in June 2014 and credits Kapil V. Sakariya and Tore Nauta as its inventors.
Apple has always had this sweet vision to pace their hardware development ahead of the market (most times), with a view of delivering superlative user experiences – often things users didn’t even know they needed.
From the moment Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone back in 2007, Apple has constantly kept users hooked and competitors at bay through such innovations and breakthroughs.
That said, we must mention that Apple’s patent is only a patent so far. Even though they are celebrating the 10th anniversary this year, which means that the world is expecting something radical and big from them, we might not necessarily see the usage of the tech in their next phone.
I understand if your heart sinks as I say this. But there’s still going to be a lot of good stuff on the 2017 iPhone – amongst other things, we are expecting wireless charging, a lovely, reworked steel and glass body and a curvy edge display(s).
Yet, I keep hoping, they’re able to whip up the secret sauce of the in-screen fingerprint scanner – I really, really want to see an “infinity” display on an iPhone!
In light of the recent threats that some hackers have been making to Apple (more about which you can read here), we believe it is a good time to have this particular conversation.
Even though we stand by the popular belief that the threat being made by the hackers, of wiping out millions of iCloud accounts, is bogus, at best, we are going to spend a little time being the Devil’s Advocate, and helping you ensure that you’re safe.
Let me say that we at Chip-Monks, have immense faith in Apple taking utmost care of our data, our devices and the security of everything we’ve been trusting them with. I’m sure Apple has checks and redundancies already in place.
But, we’re only trying to prepare you for what is the worst that could go wrong, if you’re one of the people who likes to be cautious and self-dependent.
That statement notwithstanding and irrespective of whether you’re backed up to the iCloud or not, I super-duper-highly recommend you drop all that you’re doing and manually back up your iPhone, iPad and Mac (if you’re on one), to a local storage device (like an external hard disk or your PC’s hard disk). Immediately!
Let us begin by making things easier, and dividing an average person’s data on her phone/device into two categories – one that is primarily on the device’s local storage (let’s call that On-Device for this article), and one that is primarily on the cloud that your device is connected to (let’s call that Uploaded for this article).
And yes, we are going to go by the assumption that you, like most people today have already enabled cloud connection on your device(s).
If you haven’t, then we strongly recommend that you do!
So, of the two major kinds of storage, the On-Device Data is the kind that resides primarily on your device’s physical storage. This mainly includes things like contacts, calendar, photos, and any other kinds of notes etc. you have been making.
The second major kind of storage is the one that is usually primarily on the cloud. Often times Uploaded Data, even if it exists on your device’s local storage, chances are that you’ve actually downloaded it from the cloud, for offline access. This majorly includes the information on your cloud-linked mail account, your music, apps and videos, and such.
So, we are going to start with your to-do list to secure yourself.
If you are fully within the iOS & OSX ecosystem, meaning your computer as well as phone and your tablet (if any), are Apple products.
The first thing you should do is backup all your data, to your computer. Manually.
You can back up your calendar, your contacts, your photographs, etc., simply by transferring them to your computer. Now, this sounds easy, but it gets tricky as you move on to your second kind of data, your Music, Apps, and Videos.
What we have so far been used to, is that if something does wrong with our device, we can easily retrieve the information off of the iCloud, which is basically the backbone of the structure. However, what we must realise with this recent threat is that the backbone may under certain circumstances not be infallible – it can also be threatened, so we must not take it for granted.
Thus, if the iCloud account is wiped out, what you lose is all your data on the cloud in the secondary category – your Uploaded Data.
You can currently download the Music part of your Uploaded Data and back it up to a computer, or even to the local storage of your phone itself (if you have the space on the phone/tablet). But that’s about all you can shore up/secure locally.
Apps, movies you’ve bought, and even your financial transactions with Apple could be irretrievably lost if your iCloud ID were to be wiped out erroneously or maliciously.
The most you can do for your Apps is take screenshots of your apps and related purchases (preferably from your Desktop-based iTunes software) and hope that the Doom’s Day prediction does not knock on your door!
Now lets talk about what to do if you’re using a non-Apple computer.
Well, you mustn’t worry. Even though the systems are disparate, basically meaning that you have an iPhone for a phone, and a Windows OS computer, you can still back up the On-Device Data data to your computer. Of the Uploaded Data, you can at best, download the music you’ve bought and save it on your device’s local storage, or computer’s local storage, via iTunes on the Windows PC. But that’s all you can pretty much do if the iCloud backbone is threatened.
There is another storage hub you can look to – which is neither local, nor iCloud related, and that is the giant Google.
You can push all of the On-Device Data as well as the Music you’d have downloaded from iCloud on to Google’s storage options instead. Link up your calendar, sync the iPhone’s contacts to your Google mail account, store the photos on the Google Drive or Google Photos, link up your notes to your Gmail account, etc.
But none of those options really stand for any of the data in the Uploaded category.
Now that the major questions seem a little settled, let us discuss a few nitpicks that are peculiar to Apple’s devices and their storage features. A lot of these are important as you mayn’t have realised a few of these things to-date. Take a break now, if you need to, else ensure you’re awake as you proceed. 1-2-3, pinch yourself. Awake? Good!
One of the features on the iPhone (and iPad) is that of ‘Optimise Storage‘, which was born of a good idea, but in the case of the very iCloud backbone being threatened, it can turn disastrous.
It basically means that in an attempt to save space on your device’s local storage, the photos on the device are automatically deleted once they are successfully backed up to the iCloud. What you’ll then see on your iPhone/iPad is actually only a thumbnail of the picture. It’s only when you click on the picture, you’ll notice the delay of a few seconds before that picture completely loads for you. This is because the device did not have the picture anymore; it accessed your iCloud account and retrieve the original, full-resolution picture real-time.
In the current predicament, if you lose the iCloud, then everything that has been backed up, and been auto-deleted from your device is lost as well.
If you’re preparing to survive Doom’s Day, you must then disable ‘iCloud Library’ on your iOS device, which will then prompt you to download all your iCloud photos onto your device. Say yes to the prompt on your iPhone. Let all the photos download (remember to only do this when you’re on Wi-Fi) before you go on to back up your iPhone to your computer.
You can always toggle ‘iCloud Library’ back on after the backup completes successfully.
Another thing peculiar to Apple devices is the auto-backup to iCloud feature. The last time your device was actually backed up to iCloud may actually be a very, very long time ago.
Most people set their devices to back up only when they are on Wi-Fi, the device is charging, and is left idle. So, we should be safe in saying that most people set their devices to back up at night, as they sleep. The backup should occur automatically every night. But the backups on Apple devices are usually too heavy – sure they’re iterative, but new data builds up on the device every single day. So, chances are, that when you wake up the next morning and leave home, the backup is still most likely incomplete. Away from Wi-Fi, it gets interrupted, and thus stalled. The (inconclusive) cycle repeats the next night. Which means that there are times your data is not backed up for days, or weeks, without you even realising it!
Would you believe me, that I, of Chip-Monks lineage, just realised that my iPhone 6s Plus was last backed up to iCloud one and half months ago?!
So you should regularly go check for when your device actually backed up the last time, and not just assume that the backup settings you enabled are working just fine!
Now that we have told you most of what could go wrong, we admit that we have been participants in the Doom’s Day prediction.
We have immense faith in Apple and are fairly confident in Apple’s repeated assertions that no hack of the kind has happened on their servers, and the fact that they’re “actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts”.
And we more or less agree, that a hack of this kind is a preposterous idea. Yet, we’d urge you be safe than sorry and go back up your device.
We also urge that you enable two-step verification on all your accounts and that you do not use the same passwords for all sites. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help or advice on securing yourself.
Meanwhile, we’ll stay tuned in for more status updates as the authorities and Apple release them.
In a move that looks straight from a chewed out heist film, authorities at Apple yesterday awoke to an unknown entity’s claims that they’d broken into almost 300 million iCloud and Apple email accounts.
The hackers are demanding ransom from Apple, threatening to wipe out all the accounts’ data if not paid. Most of the accounts supposedly compromised are of Apple’s @icloud and @me domains.
The hackers, quaintly naming themselves as the “Turkish Crime Family” first asked for 75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum (which is another form of online cryptic currency like Bitcoin).
Alternatively, they have asked for USD 100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange of leaving the data intact. The deadline for providing the demanded ransom is April 7.
The threat came to light, when Motherboard published the incident and it’s contact with one of the hackers. The hacker supposedly told Motherboard “I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing”.
To prove the veracity of their claims, hackers provided Motherboard with screenshots of the alleged email exchange between them and Apple’s security team. Later, they also provided Motherboard access to one of the accounts that was used to contact the security team.
According to the chats contained in the email account provided to Motherboard, a week ago, Apple’s security team asked the hackers to share a sample of the data set. The contact seems authentic, as the return path of the email address bore routes via an @apple.com domain server.
They also uploaded a YouTube video, where one can see a hacker controlling a senior citizen’s iCloud account, including her backed-up images, along with access to the remote-wipe ability.
Despite the alleged gravity of the events, security agencies are considering the evidence as “inconclusive”, at best.
One wonders that this might be just an elaborate bluff to extort money from the company. The name of the group sounds amateurish at best, the ransom amount seems disproportionate and the evidence of break-in is quite flimsy.
But most tellingly, the claim of hacking these many accounts on their own, seems braggadocios, at best. One of the major inconsistencies in their stories is that one of them claims 559 million compromised accounts, another, a mere 300 million.
Last, they’ve not provided any further evidences to back up to their rather lofty claims, except for the aforementioned YouTube video.
To quote Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com, “Whether the group has the means to do as it claims is debatable – supposed correspondence with Apple and a YouTube video showing the takeover of an account may well have been faked – but what is not up for debate is Apple’s resolve to not pay a ransom to make the group back down. While Apple’s stance that it will ‘not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law‘ is the right one to take, I cannot help but wonder if the option to pay $100,000 in iTunes gift cards, rather than $75,000 in untraceable crypto-currency, could have been explored in association with law enforcement”.
Even more interesting is Apple’s response to the ransom request – Apple itself threatened to send the archived communication data to the authorities and retorted, “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law”.
These type of break-ins are not new, nor are their ways novel.
Reading the email-exchange on the account provided to Motherboard, it is plain to see, that the hackers approached multiple media outlets shopping around for any one of them to listen to, and take the hackers’ threat seriously. Finally, one of them agreed to publish the story.
Clearly, This is one of those attempts to put pressure on Apple using someone’s journalistic integrity.
Apple has told Fortune magazine that there was no evidence of a break-in into their systems, including iCloud and Apple ID’s.
“The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services”, the company said.
One of the security analysts who had access to the sample data shared by the hackers found that most of the accounts being claimed as hacked actually contained data that matched information obtained during the LinkedIn breach.
For those of you who don’t know about this, last year it became know that LinkedIn was gradually hacked into since 2012 and almost 100 million accounts’ data was stolen. This was a huge blow not only to LinkedIn but to other platforms too.
Here’s why. Most of us use the same password(s) across most of our online accounts. Now, in any case of any of your accounts being breached, your common password can easily be used to access your other personas and accounts online, and your data can be stealthily stolen, long after the breach comes to light.
Assuring the customers of their safety, Apple’s spokesperson has assured that the usual methods and standard procedures of safety have been taken.
“The company is actively monitoring to prevent unauthorised access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”
Till now, there has been no further news of any progress, one way or another. We’ll keep our ear to the ground and let you know what we hear. Meanwhile, we highly, highly recommend you immediately trigger two-factor authentication on all your iCloud, Me and Google/Gmail accounts!
Takes only a minute, but you’ll sleep better.
What if you could use your iPhone or iPad as a laptop? Sound like a good idea to you? Well, Apple seems to agree.
While others have done this already, it’s come to light that Apple had apparently filed a patent for a hardware accessory that can transform your humble smart device, into a futuristic full-function computer.
Recently, the U.S. Patent Application Publication published an approved design proposed by Apple that was actually filed last year in September.
This patent that proposes an “electronic accessory device” that is like a thin portable dock, much like a laptop in form factor. This accessory carries all the required components to transform your iPhone or iPad into a full-blown computing device.
The intent behind this creation seems to be to lend a modular approach to computing, whereby your iPhone or iPad would breathe life into an otherwise lifeless setup.
“The present application describes various embodiments of systems and methods for providing internal components for portable computing devices having a thin profile. More particularly, the present application describes an electronic accessory device available to extend and expand usefulness of a portable computing device,” the patent’s description reads.
Apple’s patent also specifically mentions aluminum as an “ideal enclosure material”, hinting that the accessory could well be something that keeps with the MacBook’s very lithe appearance and form.
First off, let’s just call it a ‘dock’, for ease of reference.
Well, the dock is not a dumb piece of aluminium. There’s actually a full-form touchscreen display, a full-size keyboard and internal components like the all-important graphics processor, onboard solid-state storage and a large battery all built into the passive dock.
All these will come together when paired with an iPhone or iPad which actually functions as the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle – the central processing unit a.k.a. Processor!
If you’re wondering what this setup reminds you of – let me help you.
Well, it resembles HP’s LapDock’s, Asus’ PadFone and most recently, Microsoft’s Surface Book.
So, it seems like Apple’s taken Asus’ idea of using a phone to become a laptop, and seated the graphics processor in the “base” or the dock (as I’m referring to it in this article) – much in the same manner that the Surface Book mates it’s removable screen with the base that contains the GPU, the keyboard and a big battery.
“It is anticipated that the accessory device is not a stand-alone computing device but only acts in concert with a host device”, the patent says. “The host device can be a portable computing device, such as a smart phone, media player, tablet computer, or other portable computing device”.
The iOS-powered accessory would be able to establish communication with the host device via physical connectivity through either a Lightning port or (more believably) smart connector.
Wireless communication points like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or LTE don’t emerge as front runners for regular connectivity for the back-and-forth of information and the unnecessary pressure to transmit graphics etc. over the air. That said, all three may exist, and be used for their respective original uses.
To simplify the technicalities and jargon of the patent for you, it seems that there are two kinds of configurations.
In the first configuration, its iPhone that assumes the place of the trackpad and can be placed in the slot where the trackpad is found usually in laptops. Once the iPhone sits in the trackpad slot it performs two functions – that of powering the “laptop” as well as the mouse trackpad, facilitated by the full-size physical keyboard which part of the dock. Of course, you’ll need a large monitor to make your PowerPoint presentations on.
The second configuration as figured out from the patent relates to the coupling of an iPad to a base-only dock.
The iPad plays the double role of powering the dock and also assuming the role of the display screen. The iPad in this setup works as a pointing tool too, leveraging the dock’s physical keyboard, for the true “computing” feel.
What I’m most excited about is that the accessory comes with an added bonus of being able to supply a long missing feature of a pointing tool on an iPad or iPhone!
While it is all natural to be excited for this new development, it would be unrealistic and naïve to assume that this patent would definitely build into a commercially available mainstream product by the Cupertino tech giant.
Why? Well, because this how the world of Research and Development works. There is a possibility that this doesn’t make it to the market but remains useful only on the experiment end. To me, that would be a waste – considering the success that the Surface Book is already enjoying, and with a lot of consumers yearning for a hybrid machine to lessen their baggage-weight – such a machine would definitely be a welcome option – especially if it does enables the user without compromising on her computing needs
WikiLeaks Reveals The CIA Hacked Into iPhones, Android Phones And Samsung TVs
Last week Wikileaks dropped a dossier of documents pertaining to some surveillance programs running within the CIA. The documents provided some shocking insights – the most shocking of them pertained to surveillance through Samsung Smart TVs. Other devices also mentioned were Apple’s iPhones and Google’s Android phones.
While in the world after Snowden, revelation of such information is not the most unexpected thing to happen, yet this incident does raise a lot of concerns at the same time.
The documents, dating from 2013 all the way to 2016, describe the agency’s abilities to use software flaws to hack into and control devices like the iPhone, Android, and Samsung TVs, along with Skype, Wi-Fi networks, and antivirus programs.
The document dump also shows that the CIA possesses the ability to hack into devices and remotely activate cameras, microphones and even the GPS, to keep tabs on a person’s location and… their surroundings.
Per these documents, the technology that the CIA is said to possess allows them unprecedented access to the compromised devices, almost as if they had a clone of the device with them.
It gets worse.
This access even compromises private messaging conducted via apps like Signal, WhatsApp, Telegram, Weibo and Confide by hacking the smartphones underlying the apps, to collect messaging and audio data before encryption is applied.
It is then, not any particular messaging service or application on the phone that these programs seem to be attacking, instead they’re attacking the underlying operating system on which the phone runs.
“These are not hacks against those apps, but hacks against the underlying operating systems”, said security technologist Bruce Schneier.
The sentiment was echoed on Twitter by Edward Snowden, infamous for his NSA leaks of a similar kind back in 2013. Now known as the Snowden Leak, the leaks reported on mass surveillance programs run by the NSA.
While the information revealed in both the cases is alarming, it is important to note that these two leaks differ significantly. The primary distinction between the two is that Snowden’s leaks revealed mass surveillance techniques that could be used to keep tabs on anyone and everyone at the same time. On the other hand, the recent leak reveals the existence of tools for individual surveillance, that have to be applied to specific people.
One of the programs revealed is called Weeping Angel. This program in particular, has raised many questions and concerns, due to two reasons.
First, it came into existence as a result of a collaborative effort between United States’ CIA, and the United Kingdom’s intelligence service MI6.
Second, it revealed what had not yet been considered a verified legitimate concern – while the use of smartphones and laptops for surveillance is something that has been suspected for years and has been proven many times over, but this leak revealed that programs exists that can leverage devices as innocuous as Smart TVs and use them for surveillance.
The hack employed by the CIA allows them to put a Smart TV on what they call a ‘fake off’ mode. Doing that makes it appear as though the TV is off, while at the same time, the microphone on the television could be used to record audio babble and conversations happening around the TV even in this dormant state.
What is unsettling is that this is precisely what conspiracy theorists have been warning us about for years now – the idea of a Smart TV being turned into something one can listen through comes directly from George Orwell’s 1984. A lot of 1984’s readers’ skin crawled at the prospect, but what allowed them to subsequently sleep at night was the belief that this “power” would stay exactly there – in a fictional pondering.
There were some people though who did stay with this conspiracy theory, but most of us never took those guys seriously.
But with this leak, one can no longer be sure how much of Orwell’s forecast was fictional latitude and how much was a prophecy. Now, the conspiracy theorists’ words are searing through peoples mind, scaring them with the new reality.
Add to this, the fact that Samsung, in their Terms and Conditions, states: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition”.
Soon after this revelation was discovered in the Samsung policy, they changed it, making a public statement saying that their Smart TVs do not record any conversation. But this obviously leads one to ask: What exactly are you up to Samsung?
There’s somewhat of a saving grace that I should point out right now, to restore some calm in your mind – even though the possibility of a Smart TV being used for surveillance is now very real and very dangerous, this particular program has not yet achieved the expertise needed.
The mole that feeds this program needs to be installed on the specific TV via a USB drive, and it can be disabled simply by unplugging the TV set. That makes it unsuitable for mass surveillance, which is the scenario that we have all been concerned about. For surveillance of particular people though, the “hackers” have hit quite a jackpot.
So, unless you suspect you’d be on the CIA’s list of people to monitor, you’re kind of safe, for the moment, at least.
The companies involved, when contacted, emphasized consumer security and privacy, but confirmed little else.
Apple said that it had already fixed a few of the issues mentioned in the documents via the latest OS updates, and Samsung and Microsoft, both said that they were looking into the reports.
There has yet been no evidence that these tools were actually used. What the documents assert is that the CIA has the technology to execute the kind of surveillance the documents detailed.
Predictably, the Central Intelligence Agency has refused to confirm the authenticity of the documents.
A question however still persists: how dangerous are these existing vulnerabilities in our gadgets, and should agencies like CIA be allowed to use them?
Privacy advocates and those concerned with security would certainly have a lot to say.
As Chip-Monks, I’d say just two things: don’t let others handle your devices (no matter how innocent the need) and do not fall for “free” apps especially from unknown/small-time developers, to the degree possible. There will need to be more stringent measures you need to take, but that’s meat for another article.
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service conducted a rigorous seven month long investigation into Apple’s trade and pricing practices, for it’s products being sold in the region.
The investigation found Apple’s Russian unit guilty of fixing prices for a variety of its iPhone models across retailing enterprises within the country.
The agency implied that Apple’s indigenous unit in the country had reportedly told retailers to ‘hold the prices’ of their iPhones; in the event that Apple’s demanded prices were not met or if the prices were ‘inappropriate’, the company had the discretionary power to terminate key contracts with the aforementioned retailers for not conforming to its pricing guidelines.
As ascertained from the report, the prices were fixed for a period of three months, which worked significantly in Apple’s favour. The models that were affected include notable iPhone versions including that of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. However, the agency is reported to not have found any signs of price manipulation and coordination for the current iPhone 7 model.
Apple has been granted three months to appeal the ruling, if at all. And on the occasion that the company does contest the ruling but loses the appeal, it could be fined around 15% on the sales that were attributed to the Russian market.
The value of the fine might not be something that would worry Apple’s executives and hence, the production and supply cycles are not likely to experience any notable changes. That said, the report and it’s conclusions will definitely be a slur on the brand’s normally-whistle-clean image.
There’s some good news on this matter though.
The Federal Antimonopoly Service has already appreciated the level of cooperation it received from the multinational technology company, and has also stated that Apple has confirmed it’s cessation of these practices with immediate effect.
Apple has also instrumented a set of training protocols and regulatory antitrust compliance norms to prevent the company from indulging in similar activities in the future.
Now, let me attempt to explain why Apple enlisted such practices in the first place.
Perhaps the reason why Apple exercised such practices is because it has consistently positioned itself as a luxury brand producing premium products, and could hence charge a premium price for them.
This market strategy has found itself to be successful almost everywhere, but revenue-hungry retailers deliberately selling their products at prices lower than the MSRP tend to undercut those efforts and hence damage the company’s goals to promote itself as a luxury brand.
On the other side of the spectrum, this isn’t the first time the Russian authorities, especially the, FAS has held a top smartphone company accountable.
Google had been fined just a year back, for stopping phone manufacturers from installing rival search engines on their phone’s home page. The fine amounted to about 438 million roubles which amounts to around USD 7.4 million. This penalty ended up allowing other competitors to enter the market and stopped the multinational firm from exercising a monopoly over it.
Back to Apple. In August, when the company was initially being investigated, it had maintained that it was innocent and that the retailers were free to set their own prices. However, the stance had changed recently. An Apple spokesperson speaking to the Times said that Apple has “worked closely with FAS during their investigation” and is “glad to put this matter behind us.”
Apple will surely move forward while giving fairly less weightage to this as a problem.
Apple Hires Respected iPhone Security Researcher To Enhance iOS Security
Privacy has become an issue-paramount, in today’s digital world.
Not only are privacy advocates driving attendance to potential concerns, now privacy issues also rest at the center of concern for everyday users of all things digital.
Be it smartphones, laptops, email, social media or even app-security – the risks are manifold.
So it’s no surprise that tech brands are starting to pay increasing attention to privacy and security in all that they do. This reflects best in Apple’s latest hiring of Jonathan Zdziarski.
Zdziarski is an iOS security researcher who has spent several years independently researching security and privacy hacks in Apple’s operating systems.
Known as NerveGas in the hacker community, Zdziarski is the person who pointed out security backdoors to Apple’s iOS, back in 2014.
He also provided technical expertise during Apple’s clash with the FBI last year, following the San Bernardino shooting – by taking apart aspects of FBI’s case.
He”s so good at what he does, that he’s even published his findings in full-scale books; like one book on forensic analysis and recovering data on the smartphones and another book that explains how to write software for smart devices.
The news of his employment with Apple came through via his personal blog, where he announced:
“I’m pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a position with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team, and am very excited to be working with a group of like-minded individuals so passionate about protecting the security and privacy of others.
This decision marks the conclusion of what I feel has been a matter of conscience for me over time. Privacy is sacred; our digital lives can reveal so much about us – our interests, our deepest thoughts, and even who we love. I am thrilled to be working with such an exceptional group of people who share a passion to protect that“.
We aren’t yet sure what capacity he will be joining the tech megabrand at, but one can safely assume that he’ll be working on making the already quite secure iOS ecosystem, even more so.
Apple’s stance on user privacy and security became quite clear last year when their tiff with FBI was dragged to court in a prolonged proceeding. They refused to help FBI crack into the phone, and they took the stand until the last bit, until FBI managed to get an external source to crack the phone for them.
Zdziarski’s hiring could very well be to ensure that if another such situation were ever to arise, no external source whatsoever would be able to crack into the phone again.
Apple has long been boasting of their phones being so secure that even they (Apple themselves) can’t crack into them, or so is their claim on the latest devices and with iOS 10’s security capabilities. So, if some external source has been able to crack into an iPhone, that’s quite an egg on Apple’s face and could impact their device sales and most definitely, iOS’ image in the marketplace.
Zdziarski would be just the right person to make things better and even more inviolable.
Apple has, for now, declined to comment on the hire. But it certainly makes sense for them to bring in-house one of the world’s foremost experts on their technology who has proven his grain time and again, especially by pointing out things that Apple got wrong in the first place.
The iPhone has come to represent a lot of things – technological progress, corporate endeavor and even the mushrooming human reliance on gadgetry. But from a sales perspective, it also stands as a marker for customer anticipation.
For a decade now, customers have learned to patiently wait in endless lines at the Apple Stores, eyes shining with hope.
Only this year , they might have to wait a little longer.
This is the tenth year of the iPhone, and the company is said to be prepping to launch something really divergent from their current bankroller.
Rumours abound – one of them being that the next iPhone will be called the iPhone Edition. Nomenclature conventions aside, there is already confusion regarding the release date.
We know this is disappointing, but the phone has already gathered such a mythical status that every rumor becomes a news.
There are some sources in the industry who’ve heard from some internal sources at Apple, that it’s decided to delay the release of iPhone Edition because Apple has just arrived at the unhappy conclusion that it needs more time to test the device to perfection.
The typical process of an iPhone validation is that the company makes a few prototypes of a single version. Then these prototypes are subjected to an Engineering Validation Test (EVT).
Once approved by the EVT, the company then subjects the design to it’s Design Validation Test (DVT) who puts the final stamp on the creation.
In the end, the specific design that passes the DVT is the one released to the customers.
According to the “reports”, the iPhone Edition prototypes that we’re subjected to the EVT could not pass it; thus they couldn’t even move forward to the DVT.
The reports allege that the engineering is still considered inconclusive at the moment, and not fit for public release.
We’ll keep an ear on the ground for you, and let you know as we hear more.
Meanwhile, here’s a round-up of some of the rumours that the internet is running with over the last fortnight or so:
The company is said to be considering different materials for the new iPhone and is on the brink of taking various decisions regarding the design. Rumours also abound claiming Apple’s consideration on Ceramic as one of the potential materials. There is also confusion if the phones will have an OLED design or not.
If the OLED design is adopted, then the phones are conjectured to retail at higher than USD 1,000.
That itself, kind of blows the credibility of the rumour in Chip-Monks’ estimation. Apple is a canny operator. It knows it’s market, it’s customers’ budget appetites – so much so, that Apple’s estimation of customer-acceptability has so far been anything but optimistic. More often than not, they actually err on the side of caution when considering the pricing of their products. Further, considering the huge competition they are facing in China, and also their imminent full-blown entry into price-sensitive India (which is their current muse – and said to be Apple’s focus for 2017 and 2018), one seriously doubts that Apple will be too adventurous with their pricing!
Then there’s the age-old wish (we can’t call it “anticipation”), that the iPhone will dump Apple’s proprietary Lightning Port for a USB Type-C port – which we (Chip-Monks) have already shelved from our minds. The downer though would be if Wireless Charging is deferred to future models.
That’s because any postponements would not be minor – if the next iPhone is launched in November or thereabouts, then the actual sales would probably gather momentum in the next year; which means that the customers might have to wait an entire year more for the subsequent iPhone to be Wireless Charging-enabled.
Apart from some much-talked design improvisations, there are some changes that would be added for the first time in the phone. Take, for example, a 3D camera system that industry-watchers are claiming is coming with the next iPhone.
The camera is supposed to be able to detect the depth of objects which are placed in front of it. So it might be used in a facial recognition feature that Apple could be including a la the Samsung Galaxy S8.
ST Microelectronics is supposed to be making the sensors for the front 3D camera system, and it’s CEO has said (without mentioning any names) that “a contract recently taken [will lead to] substantial revenues expected in the second half of 2017”.
So if the stock of equipment is going to be built in the last months of the calendar year, then it is highly unlikely that the 2017 iPhone will be launched with this feature.
I know I’m about to toss this article on it’s head, but if you ask me, I’m finding it hard to put much faith in any of the above rumours. They all seem to be the creation of fertile minds, hoping to drive hits to their respective websites through these “sensationalist” claims.
Apple has never missed a September launch, considering its a segue into worldwide Christmas rush, and many other such events of promise (like India’s gargantuan Diwali, where no spend is too big). And Apple’s not about to miss the bus.
So, hold your breath, don’t let your shoulders droop. We’ll let you know the moment we hear more credible stuff.
On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is “Don’t give a darn” and 10 is “I could even ensure that if I have to”, how insignificant is the Terms and Conditions column for you (for any product you buy, or service you subscribe to)?
Your answer be 2 or 9 or anything else, by the time you finish reading this article, we’re going to attempt to turn you into a highly-alert commando who has a general mistrust of a T&C document and who won’t sleep too well, having passing over the terms and conditions section or anything hereafter!
The Internet might already seem like a crazy universe to you – full of fascinating stuff, inane stuff, and some downright absurd things too.. but you may have already heard that it also has its dark side.
The bad news is, our very very dear smartphones, too have a dark side!
Now a vital part of our life – right from waking you up in the morning to paying for your coffee, from sending confidential emails to making transactions worth thousands – almost everything is done via our phone.
And such a powerful device thrives thanks to the superpowers bestowed to it by apps that are built by the millions for any and every task. Thanks to the insane number of apps being used today, developers are the new messiahs.
But we need to address the elephant in the room – how safe and secure are these apps?
Amidst the ever-growing demand for freshly brewed apps and exponentially-inflating competition in the app-developer market, most developers are pressed for time and need to hit the Store shelves before competition beats them to the punch.
Thus, they often take the security feature of their application very lightly – intending to return to it later, but in this process, they jeopardise the device’s user.
Security is often not the primary concerns of the app developers, for a lion’s share of the apps available on Play Store, AppStore, and others, are click-bait content that often lures in their audience with fancy misleading information thrown in advertisements.
Often an average user, does not read the disclaimer that pops up before signing up for the product, thus missing out on the major chunk of the security and privacy breach warnings given out in a very subtle and placating format.
The bitter reality of the situation is though, that the user cannot contribute or enhance security of the app, even if they wish to. Thus, being cautious is their only option.
In layman’s terms, Apps are nothing short of helpers. By that very nature, they can get acquainted with your routine and empower themselves to derive information even without your knowledge. There have been cases of users’ personal data being breached – like their gender, age, phone number, location and other potential information – which is later collated and sold.
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that in-app ads in smartphones are one of the key players in this harvesting of data.
There are many shady apps available on app stores, that are designed to retrieve the unique ID number of each phone. Eventually, personal information given out during registrations for apps is matched with the Unique ID thus compiling a full-fledged profile of the user is compiled, which is then sold to companies, for marketing purposes.
What makes this even more convoluted is that App developers voluntarily accept in-app ads, for monetary gains. Frequent usage of a particular app provides information about a user’s likes and dislikes, thus creating a bait for in-app-ad companies to advertise products in the likes of the user.
None of this is fair. And the fact that it is unknown to most users only makes the matters worse. Security should be the major agenda of any and all app developers.
Banking apps are often the favorites of any hacker. This is obviously, thanks to the financial gain at play. But those aren’t the only targets. There are many more.
Targeting of applications for data can be done in various ways.
One would be the example of WhatsApp, the messenger service run by Facebook that recently switched to a 256-bit encryption which promises 100% security to its user and the conversation made. The exchanges that happen over this supposedly secure system are backed up to a server online and reside there for a period much longer than they would in your device. This results in automatic storage of a user’s data on a server, which has it’s own security problems going on.
This kind of storage can also be on a cloud. One exhibit of this is the automatic storage of User’s data on iCloud (for iOS users) and Google platform (for Android users). Every scrap of information and data generated using the smartphone is automatically backed-up into these storage platforms.
However, these supposedly-safe platforms for the storage of data have been proven unsafe.. Take for instance the leak of private images of Actress Jennifer Lawrence from her iCloud account. Following the leak, a wave of such cases was reported and Apple had to take measures to make the storage platform more secure and strong.
A recent experiment by a team of experts at Jots, “tested 110 popular, free Android and iOS apps to look for apps that shared personal, behavioral, and location data with third parties”.
The results were quite alarming and bizarre.
73% of Android apps shared personal information such as email address with third parties, and 47% of iOS apps shared geo-coordinates and other location data with third parties. That is almost three-fourth of the android apps and about half of the iOS apps that have been caught adding to this menace.
Reports said that an alarming 93% of the tested apps were connected to a hideous domain, safemovedm.com. Chances are, these stats are the mere tip of the iceberg.
Apple maybe the epitome of quality and safety, but even with such advanced technology as Google may possess, there seem to be gaps. Compared to iOS, Google’s Play Store does not have an impressive track record – and that stems from the fact that unlike Apple’s grit and determine there have been no sustained steps or procedures on Google’s part to check the relevance and safety of Apps before making them available in the Google Play Store.
This could probably be because unlike Apple, Google does not have many filters or strict controlling system that app developers need to clear before officially having their app in the store. Android apps are available even on uncertified platforms. Since Apple’s App Store is a centralized point of distribution, it provides users with confidence that the apps they download have been tested, certified and validated by Apple. Therefore, Apple’s App Store is near-100% malware-free and invulnerable to viruses.
Perhaps you’d now ask how is all this not illegal, and how do they keep doing it? Well, it is not illegal as long as they (app developers) put their data sharing or data mining intent somewhere in the fine print of the Terms and Conditions of the application.
Yes, the same one we barely pay any attention to! So, even though we might love the idea of sitting back with the how could they do this attitude, the onus of it also lies partially on us, our choice to be ignorant, and letting ourselves be abused.
So I’m advising that you stop believing the poster-boy persona that these companies keep putting out, look past the gloss! Wouldn’t you rather be safe, and have your privacy, than be blissfully unaware?!
So, the next time, prior to downloading an app, remember to:
Siri’s had several brain transplants!
It wasn’t done in a day or a week or over a few months. Almost since the day Apple introduced its voice assistant back in October 2011, Siri has undergone an almost continual series of brain transplants that shifted its silicon-powered mind from pure Artificial Intelligence to AI powered, in part, by machine learning.
Apple recently shared its perspectives on artificial intelligence and where it fits in the Apple ecosystem, which is, apparently, everywhere.
Another question the team at Apple ponders on is how AI can be grown while respecting users’ privacy. In particular though, they focused on how the introduction of machine learning could transform its now five-year-old digital assistant.
Machine learning is considered a toolset within AI – it’s a way of building Siri’s ability to respond to conversational queries. Siri learns concepts by being fed endless numbers of examples. In other words, Siri will understand how you might ask a question about direction, not so much by having every possible permutation of mapping questions, but by recognizing what a map question sounds like, based on all the other examples it’s been fed.
In Siri’s case, the core technology behind the assistant is 100% different than what consumers encountered on the iPhone 4S five years ago. It has gone from a rules-based system to machine learning and voice recognition.
Most users were oblivious to the changes, which might be considered a kind of victory, while others, Apple said, noted a distinct improvement in Siri’s ability to understand natural language.
Apple’s interest in artificial intelligence didn’t spring forth out of the ether in 2011. Almost 25 years ago, a relatively simple form of AI appeared on Apple’s Newton, the first PDA. That groundbreaking product ultimately failed, but it had its moment.
I remember when a former publication, PC Magazine, lauded the mobile device for its trainable handwriting recognition. Apple continued to work on AI-infused technologies for years, but the introduction of Siri in 2011 served as a sort of inflection point, quickly becoming the most visible part of Apple’s AI work. Even so, Siri is far from alone in Apple’s current AI strategy.
Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the Nikkei Asian Review that AI is “horizontal in nature, running across all products“. More importantly, it’s already being used by Apple “in ways that most people don’t even think about“.
Behind the scenes, Apple’s AI works to manage product battery life based on usage patterns and what Apple has learned broadly about battery usage to manage power consumption at a component level. The facial recognition in Photos is also powered by AI. It’s even at work on the iPad Pro to ignore errant swipes of hand or Apple Pencil.
Sounds simple, but to do something like that, the system must understand the user’s intention, which can vary.
New Brain, Better Thoughts
When Apple started using machine learning, they saw a dramatic improvement in Siri’s speech recognition, especially accents and also vastly improved was Siri’s ability to understand speech in the presence of background noise.
Even so, Siri suffers from the same issue as other voice assistants: It can’t hold a conversation.
Yes, Apple spends lot of time building personality (ask Siri if it’s AI and it’ll respond, “Sorry, I’ve been advised not to discuss my existential existence”) and cultural intelligence into the AI, and Siri can fake it — to a point.
Ask Siri if you need an umbrella today and it’ll give you the weather forecast and if you immediately ask her “What about tomorrow?“, it’ll know you’re still talking about the weather and possibility of rain and give the right response.
Context-wise, it’s impressive, but Siri still falls far short of the give-and-take necessary for an actual conversation.
However, it’s worth remembering that Apple introduced the term “voice assistant” to the digital lexicon (much like it did Personal Digital Assistant decades ago), and it takes that term seriously.
I can almost hear the mirth running around in your head, but I’m serious. There’s a lot that that Apple’s doing for Siri and it’s ability to help you.
Future versions of Siri may do far more than just engage in time-burning chit-chat. A true assistant can be proactive. The current version will tell you, based on traffic conditions, when you need to leave to make an appointment. Eventually, Siri might start to connect the dots on, say, the state of the phone and how far you must travel and tell you to charge up before you leave. Of course, Siri’s ability to grow may be somewhat limited based on one of Apple’s core principles: user privacy.
Google’s impressive intelligence and increasingly proactive nature is largely based upon its Knowledge Graph and what it knows about you (and billions of other people) and the relatively persistent user profile that travels with you from Chrome login to Chrome login. Apple on the other hand, does nothing of the sort. In fact, Apple insists that its brand of AI doesn’t need to build a profile of you to work and they don’t have an economic incentive to do so.
Apple can get away with ignoring your personal data because it’s not trying to deliver contextual advertising to you. Of course, Apple sells hardware while Google sells (recent hardware releases not withstanding) primarily contextual advertising driven by user data.
Apple sells millions of iPhones, iPads and Macs each quarter and has an exploding services business, which means Apple can get away with ignoring your personal data because it’s not trying to deliver contextual advertising to you.
While Google’s intelligence and AI-powered responses come from Google’s servers, Apple generates most of Siri’s intelligence locally. The company trains the AI in the cloud, where, Apple said, it’s getting 2 billion queries a week, and then delivers that intelligence to each Siri-hosting Apple device (these are the occasional brain transplants). Those devices then apply that intelligence to your locally stored data.
More interesting, though, is that Apple also does some machine learning on your iPhone. Apple believes it has the advantage here over competitors because it designs its own chips and contends that it’s significantly ahead of others in the mobile technology space,
Unlike Google and Amazon (parent of the voice assistant Alexa), Apple designs both the software and hardware – a strategy it believes gives it an advantage, including the ability to do neural processing at the silicon level on devices as small as the Apple Watch.
Apple’s approach to AI ‘is a laudable’
“I think that there’s real-world proof about being able to go do distributed machine learning without every node in the cluster having access to all the data”, McClellan added, noting that it is quite possible to do consensus-based artificial intelligence with more anonymous data.
Even as McClellan gives Apple high marks for its approach to data, he wonders about Apple’s lack of participation in the newly formed Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, which counts IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon among its members: “It feels like Apple should be more open, in general”.
How far Apple will go without being more open and joining other companies in their efforts to keep AI technologies from getting away from their masters, and how smart an AI can truly become without building customer profiles, are fair and open questions.
For now, at least, this is the path Apple chosen for its brand of AI, and one thing is clear: The Siri you’re using now will undergo further brain transplants and be far different that the Siri you use five years from now.
Apple’s iPhone hasn’t seen any major design changes since the iPhone 6 (released three device cycles ago) and anticipation for Apple’s next avant garde design has almost reached a crescendo.
iPhone fans might soon have something exciting to look forward to, as it is believed that Apple’s 2017 iPhone (which for the moment is being dubbed as the iPhone 8), will give the users a major reason to upgrade.
Rumours floating for quite some time now imply that Apple’s next iPhone might sport curved OLED displays instead of the flat-plane LCD panels of previous iPhones.
Of course, Samsung has had OLED panels on the now-defunct Note7, current superstar Galaxy S7 edge and is expected to continue that with their next, ‘Galaxy S8’) that has helped it significantly differentiate its devices in the market for quite some time now.
While Apple’s done wonders with their LCD panels and has proven to the tech world that LCD still has the juice to stay relevant, however if Apple does want to up it’s game, OLED is one of the paramount changes that they ought to bring in. And they seem to be in concurrence with that assessment.
These rumours of the iPhone 8 having OLED displays, started to look more substantial when The KoreaHerald reported that Apple allegedly bought 60 million OLED display panels in a multibillion dollar deal from Samsung Display.
This clearly indicates that Samsung might end up being the primary supplier for iPhone 8 displays, and the primary beneficiary of a major lump of change!
Apple’s adaption of OLED displays is certainly an exciting move because not only are OLED displays extremely thin and light but also offer amazingly rich, vivid colours making any visual treat for the eyes. Additionally, OLED displays are much more energy efficient in comparison to the LCD ones.
However, OLED display panels come with their own setbacks for any manufacturer, as they are expensive to manufacture and fairly iffy to produce.
The bills of these 160 million OLED displays purchased by Apple reflect this – the first deal of 100 million OLED displays apparently cost USD 6.96 billion, while the second batch of 60 million units apparently cost USD 4.35 billion.
*cough* That’s a lot of revenue that Samsung’s generating courtesy Apple.
I know this looks like too much math, but chill we are there for all the brainstorming.
In case you’re wondering, each curved OLED screen, going by the calculation above, would cost Apple over USD 70 apiece (~INR 5,000). These numbers fall in place with another rumour that states that the iPhone 8 would cost over USD 1,000 (~ INR 67,000).
But it should be kept in mind that no official sources have confirmed this news (before your hopes are dashed!).
Cowen & Company analyst, Timothy Arcuri analysed that Apple’s decision to choose OLED panels on the iPhone 8 would have a significant impact on the company’s precious profit margins. In fact, Arcuri conjectured that Apple, during the March quarter will have to incur around USD 50 million more in expense, as a result of its OLED-based iPhone design.
All the math and expenses aside, the observation that arises is now that Apple is also almost surely, a curved-screen client. Samsung phone’s would thus lose that ‘edge’ in the market (ooh, that pun just happened, believe me).
But if you look at it from business point of view, then Samsung’s important rival will now be their customer, once more. And truth be told, these guys have been frenemies so long, they sure have made peace with each other’s existence and threat.
And we, the customers have benefited from those battles, haven’t we!
There’s no question about it. Wearables are poised to become the next big thing in the consumer-tech industry. But it’s not because they’re a new must-have breed of gadgets that people are yearning for whimsically. There’s more to it than idle hankering.
In fact, there are plenty of good reasons, most of which aren’t yet expressly known even to the yearners.
Human life is changing. Caught in a constant flux, people are always on the go. And no, it doesn’t have to do with vocational pressure or the desire for material gain. Its got to do with being the target (or recipient) of a constant, unending stream of updates, notifications, alerts, calls and email dings. Consequently, we’ve all got a new perpetual appendage. Our smartphone(s), and every single person in the modern world is suffering fatigue from it.
Fatigue of a nature that’s never been seen, felt or even estimated earlier.
People are already suffering notification-fatigue, with countless apps, social networks and emails constantly bubbling through the day – even day seems like a constant stream née barrage.
Phones don’t leave hands, and if they do, its only because they’re sucking in more juice because the battery’s running out, not because we decided to put it away voluntarily.
Many suffer mental fatigue. There’s always so much going on, that there’s a dullness in the mind. Constantly. Even at 10 am.
The thing is (and most people don’t realise this intuitively) – a notification is not as innocuous as it sounds. It’s actually the sound of the opening of a vortex.
Picture this: You have a vacant half hour in an otherwise busy day. You plan to grab a bite before the next meeting. You hear a ding, you drop the sandwich, grab the phone, check the notification, then the next one, and then remember you had to text someone. You do that and then there’s the mailbox you want to peek at in case you got something new. Nothing new? Well, looking at the unending list in the mailbox, you remember a mail you wanted to action – suddenly you’re pecking away a response. Then you realise that the reason you hadn’t responded earlier was because you needed to check a factoid with a coworker before penning the response – so a quick call to the coworker, back to the email. As you do that, someone WhatsApp’s you, you shoot off a quick emoticon.
Look at the watch, 42 minutes gone. You’re now late for the next appointment.
The sandwich lost its place in your day. And you’re going to have a rumbling tummy that speaks out exactly as you enter the meeting room and commence your apology speech.
Here’s another challenge – recall, immediately, didn’t you just check your phone to see how much battery you had left on it? Be honest – a minute ago, ten? Bet I’m right. We’re so paranoid now, that we’d be cut off if the phone dies, we’re on tenterhooks all the time… subconsciously waiting for the phone to buzz (just so that we know its alive and well) that even silence unsettles us!
Its a crazy world to live in. And its not going to get any easier.
Yet, there’s something we can do about it. Something that’s a little weird at first mention. But bear with me…
Much as I painted a forlorn picture about devices, the solution I’m about to recommend is actually going to be a more of the same!
Come a day that you have the money, get a wearable – for the 2-3 top activities you do on the phone. Let me explain.
If you want to get on the exercise bandwagon (to watch your weight, to pump your arteries, or simply because you like being limber), get a fitness band and leave your phone at home as you exercise.
If you want music when you walk, get an iPod.
If you want to know about your Facebook feed, or know when an email comes in, or just to stay aware of whats going on, on your phone, get a smart watch (something nominal will do too).
Why? Because without really knowing it, you’re getting a little tired of carrying your phone(s) around everywhere, or holding it constantly, in order to monitor it. You need a break, and a well-equipped wearable is going to help.
It’ll monitor what it needs to, apprise you as needed, and do only a few things, but do all of them discretely. And, it’ll only notify. Which means it’ll grant you an option – to register the cause of the alert and either just tap it away or run a quick acknowledgement to the sender/app and continue enjoy what you were doing. It’ll simplify your day, and handle some of the mundane things that you needn’t worry about just yet. And maybe, just maybe the vortex will close down for a bit, till you’re ready to be sucked in again.
Important Disclaimer: While there are a million manufacturers making all sorts of wearables these days, most wearables are still at version 1.0 of their evolution. So if you’re smart you should buy something basis functionality, not price, nor brand and definitely not basis colourful ads. Go easy on the pocket right now, and get the crackerjack version a year or two later. By that time kinks would’ve been ironed out, and you won’t need to buy disparate hardware for different tasks/purposes. Wearables, like all other equipment before them, will reach their zenith in future evolutions, and will amalgamate such that only the fittest will survive. Wait out for Mr. Darwin’s theory to strike the usual death knell. You’ll be the richer for the savings.
Chip-Monks has been researching wearables for a while now, and we’ve collated a great list here. Head over, check it out and get something that meets your needs.
But as we sign off, here’s some more sage advise from the ‘Monks – Get off your phone! Look up! There’s a whole world out there – with birds, and flowers and the setting sun, people and smiles, an elder who needs help crossing the street, a huggably cute puppy, perhaps a new dress in a shop window and (as in my case) a child whose chattering away to you, believing you’re listening to every word.
Listen. Enjoy. Live a little.
Get off your phone, get a wearable, ‘cos you aren’t getting today back.
In a move that will define the progress of smartphone industry of India, Apple Inc. will be assembling its high-end flagship iPhones in India starting April 2017.
This would definitely bolster Apple’s foothold in the Indian smartphone market – a place currently dominated by Chinese and Indian players.
Earlier in January, the company officials had met the Ministry of information and technology representatives in Delhi, to decide the process of transfer to the country. The company is rumoured to have been negotiating issues such as tax concessions and import duties.
Analysts in the industry have been pursuing the case for equal treatment of players to ensure a level playing field. Therefore, any tax concessions or removal of import duties is liable to cause an outcry of protests from the other companies.
India has a smartphone base that is growing by leaps and bounds, and companies are rushing to tap the profits from it. Already, the country looks set to become the greatest market for the smartphones after the U.S. by next year.
Yet, Apple doesn’t enjoy any major share in the overall smartphone sales in India – coming at a meager 10th rank in the fourth quarter last year. It’s pricey products are attributed by many, as one of the major reasons. The market is dominated by Samsung and other such players who are selling the phones at costs that land at about one-fifth of the Apple.
There’s another problem that Apple faces in India (like they do in China) – three-quarters of Indian smartphones are made locally. So, if the company wants to build a stronghold here, it must build an Indian Apple ecosystem. And Bengaluru seems like a perfect place for building an environment!
The company currently sells phones through local distributors; per the latest development, Apple will assemble iPhones in Bengaluru. It has applied for opening retail stores in India last year, and that might come to pass sometime soon too (this our wishful-thinking comment, and not really supported by any official comment).
Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp is supposed to help Apple built its ecosystem here.
Speaking about the move, Indian Minister Priyank Kharge said that instead of giving Apple special treatment the government wants to give them certain incentives such as timelines and subsidies.
Detailing the government’s vision, he added, ”The government should give companies a timeline, say in 10 years they should be able to manufacture 100 per cent of phones and its components by procuring them from the local market. Such a timeline should be given because we don’t have that environment now.”
The groundwork for the company’s shift can be accorded to being an after-effect of Indian government’s “Make In India“ campaign, which insists on companies manufacturing their products locally instead of procuring them through import.
To encourage foreign investment, Government has also partially exempted the companies from the 30% rule. According to the rule, any overseas firm who was willing to profit from Indian market must procure 30% of raw materials locally in order to set up a commercial establishment.
The company is also looking to substitute its main sales region China in the Asian market. With Indian prices lowering due to a future manufacturing plant here, the company might be able to supplant its slowing growth in the Chinese market.
iPhone manufacturing in India seems almost like a done deal in light of the statements given by both the parties involved, after a team from Apple met the officials from various departments of the Government of India today. As we’d written last week, this is part of an endeavour to bring more of Apple to India, something that both the parties have been wanting for a while now.
Various meetings between Apple, led by Priya Balasubramaniam, on Apple’s side, and various senior government officials on the opposite, have happened in New Delhi over the last week. The subject of these meetings have been the requests that Apple has made over the last few weeks, to bring their manufacturing to India.
From what it looks like right now, things might be going in the right direction.
“We’ve been working hard to develop our operations in India“, Apple said in a brief statement, post the meeting. “We appreciate the constructive and open dialogue we’ve had with the government about further expanding our local operations“.
As we have discussed before, Apple has sought a range of requests from the government for bringing production of their signature iPhones to India. These include relaxed labelling laws, tax concessions, and more. This is after their request for concession with the 30% rule that requires a foreign store to sell 30% product made in India, and their request to sell what they call refurbished devices, has been denied in the year 2016.
As for their present requests, the most practical one is the one in regards to the labelling laws. Currently, the law of the country requires that certain product details be printed on the device itself, but Apple has asked that it be allowed to print the information on the iPhone’s packaging or somewhere in iOS.
But the most important of their requests is the 15 year relief from import tariff that they have demanded, mostly because giving this away could score quite a big win for the ‘Make in India’ campaign, but on the other hand it might also set a precedent for other companies, and a relaxation like this is not something that the Department of Revenue can go around granting too many companies.
For now, it seems that the government officials might be coming up with a creative approach to giving Apple these incentives without it backfiring at them. Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said that a government panel headed by the cabinet secretary would now clear investment proposals in the electronic sector above USD 1 billion, instead of them going through multiple government departments.
What this basically does is that it gives an opportunity for Apple’s incentives to be cleared and that of companies of equal magnitude being cleared, while at the same time not enabling all companies to be able to demand incentives based on Apple’s precedent.
A move like this would also benefit the ‘Make in India’ campaign quite significantly. In the last year, announcements from smartphone makers like global internet technology conglomerate LeEco, Micromax, Vivo India, Huawei, and LG, among others, have been quite an encouraging push for the government to make way for bigger brands like Apple. But it also raises the question of why Apple should be given special treatment in the first place, when none of these other similar brands have been given any and is its brand value big enough for that?! The answer has been left on to the government to decide, for now.
“It is very rudimentary as of now. There are several stages to cover. They will meet the officials, make a presentation, tell what they want. The government has to decide what has to be given and what not. These are simple meetings going on“, a source told IANS. “It is not DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) alone but several ministries in it. It all depends on how things move. There needs to be a consensus from everyone“, the source added.
Other related news that is making the ranks right now is that if the deal does work out, Foxconn might not be Apple’s primary iPhone assembler in India; it might be Wistron.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, has been the biggest manufacturer and assembler for iPhone until now, and Apple has always seemed partial to it. On the other hand, Wistron, also a Taiwanese company, which used to once upon a time be Acer Inc.’s manufacturing arm, would be a fairly new choice for Apple. We will keep an eye out for more on this one.
As we have mentioned time and again, India is a huge potential market for Apple, with its large population and growing middle class. For now, it is the U.S. which tops the company’s sales, but the love for Apple in China makes it seem like China might take the prime spot in the next few years, with India following in its tow.
With such a timing then, India’s move to welcome Apple with open arms seems like quite a good idea for both parties.
Even if all goes well, it will still be a little while before Apple Stores are seen in India, and iPhone manufactured within the country can be bought – bringing a company to a country is a long process after all, and Apple is still in very early stages of it. So hang in there!
Apple Refocuses On Artificial Intelligence, Having Dropped Its Foray Into Automobiles
Apple, the world’s tech giant has been trying to shift its focus to Artificial Intelligence (AI) for a while now – from hiring new talent to shelving their long-rumoured foray in automobiles, the company seems to be going all-in for AI.
One of the first major things that Apple did was to practically kill its much-talked-about Project Titan, scaling back on the long-rumored and totally not-top-secret plan of bringing self-driving car for the masses.
While the company did instead start working on a self-driving system – rather than the whole car, a system that can be sold to carmakers for use in their own vehicles – a significant number of people were taken off of the project and reassigned to other parts of the company’s business.
In addition to that, the remaining Titan team was asked to produce something feasible by the end of 2017 (to justify their own existence, I guess), dropping quite a bundle of pressure on them – to deliver, or be busted out.
Rumours of the ‘Apple Car’ have been in the wind for a couple years now, but the truth of the matter is that there didn’t seem to be a tangible outcome that would be out anytime soon.
Behind-the-scenes rumours of the project claim there was mostly chaos and not much direction (which might be stemming from the lack of progress/achievement in the necessary research and prototype), and various reports quoted unnamed sources stating that the project was an “incredible failure of leadership”.
It was only when industry stalwart Bob Mansfield came over to lead the team that the project began to take better shape. It was he who reportedly proposed and internally sold the idea of not building a Tesla-competitor, instead concentrate on a creating technology platform that could be sold to third parties.
One the other hand, Apple’s accomplishments in the AI world have been far more successful.
A fairly-everyday manifestation of their AI work is personified by their personal assistant Siri, that comes installed on all Apple devices, and has become almost a part of many users’ everyday lives.
When it came to the world, back in 2011, Siri was groundbreaking and ahead of its time, but over the years it has not been able to stay upto speed in certain areas. One of the debatable reasons could have been of Apple not putting in enough research, manpower or even being able to bring on the best of the talent on board.
But then the time came and Apple heard criticism of Siri harking that it (Siri) has fallen way behind other automated assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Assistant.
Apple geared up to change that fast. Not a brand that is known to shrivel away from spending on the best of the talent, Apple recently hired Russ Salakhutdinov, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, to head up a team working on artificial intelligence. He is a hugely respected expert on Deep Learning and is exploring smart ways for computers to learn about the world.
His research work over the years has been funded by Google, Microsoft, and Samsung.
One of Apple’s other significant steps towards shoring up it’s AI initiative was highlighted when it acquired Seattle-based machine-learning company Turi for USD 200 million.
Turi specializes in machine-learning and is likely to boost its product’s AI capabilities. It is unclear for now what Apple is doing with Turi, but the Turi’s resources and expertise could help boost Siri and it’s intelligence significantly.
In addition to these, Apple just also joined Partnership on AI, an artificial intelligence research group that includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.
Formed in September, last year, the group was intended to be a means of supporting research, establishing ethical guidelines and promoting both transparency and privacy when it comes to AI studies.
With these milestones, Apple, a company that is known for its closed doors culture and secretive plans, seems to be showing signs of opening up in the name of improving research efforts around machine learning.
What is quite clear at the moment is that when Apple looks at the automobiles market, it has two questions to answer: what role does it exactly see itself playing? And how much auto industry know-how does it need to succeed?
The field is quite new for Apple. What then, can be useful to look at is how Apple has entered new fields before.
With the iPod (music) and the iPhone (cellular), it hired a bunch of people with extensive subject knowledge, yes, but it also relied heavily and quite smartly (one must say), on partnerships.
Should Apple consider having a car-making partner then? Or like Mansfield seems to be thinking, will establishing a technology platform that can be sold to third parties, be the path to follow?
I, for one, can’t say. I know there’s focus on AI from every part of the tech world, and I’m sure that technology will make that climb to that stratosphere soon. But the one thing I do know, is that whenever Apple enters a market place, it brings it’s absolute best game (or it doesn’t enter it at all), and that forces every other organism in that space to up it’s own game too, or be drowned out.
And Apple does things ethically, with you and me in the center of their thought process. With IoT and connected devices in the mix, and AI and Deep Learning thrown in too, our personal information and our lives’ stories should not be put on the auctioning table. Apple’s own approach (and inputs to the Partnership on AI) will help ensure that, to the maximum degree possible.
So, it’s a good thing then. Apple, AI on!
Apple’s plans to set up manufacturing in India has been quite a yes-no game over the last couple of years. While talks have ensued and fallen apart numerous times in this period, Apple has been repeatedly showing its interest in the growing market of the country.
It seems things now are finally getting serious.
A team from the U.S. based tech giant is set to meet senior officials from various Indian ministries in January 2015, to discuss their prospects for setting up a manufacturing plant within the country.
Officials from Departments of Commerce, Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Revenue, Environment and Forest, Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY) will be involved in the process.
Apple has been seeking a few requests for setting up their house in the country. These include relaxed labeling laws, tax concessions, and more. Currently, the law of the country requires that certain product details be printed on the device itself, but Apple has asked that it be allowed to print the information on the iPhone’s packaging or somewhere in iOS.
“Apple wants the government to relax labeling rules so that it doesn’t have to print product-related information directly onto devices to avoid cluttering up their minimalist design. That’s one of the concessions Apple has sought after expressing its intention to start manufacturing in India”, an official reportedly said.
While this request is still making the rounds of the concerned ministries – those being the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Department of Revenue and Department of Electronics and Information Technology – the company has also sought tax incentives for manufacturing in the country. This request is being considered by the Department of Finance.
This is not the first time that Apple and the Government of India have been in a logjam over matters of the kind.
Earlier last year, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook visited the country and met with the Prime Minister, with regard to setting up Apple Stores in the country.
While Apple products are available for now through third parties like such as Redington and Ingram Micro, the company has been looking to open wholly-owned stores for retail within the country.
The problem that Apple has been facing with this has been an Indian law that mandates that all retail outlets carry at least 30% products manufactured within the country. Since Apple does not yet have a manufacturing unit in the country, that has been a cause for trouble.
They did make a plea with the Department of Finance, seeking relaxation on the grounds of bringing “state-of-the-art” and “cutting-edge technology“, but that didn’t fly too well.
If one were to believe chatter, the vibe for Apple within these departments and ministries of concern is mixed. While a lot do want Apple to come to India – “We will very much like Apple to come and have a base in India“, said Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad; there are others who are not too keen on Apple’s demands and want for it to be treated equally with others.
The latter opinion probably stems from the fact that as many as 42 companies are making mobile phones in India, including Chinese firm Huawei and Xiaomi, and no firm has approached the government for any additional incentives.
“We have not done this for anyone“, said a senior government official whose department is one of several involved in evaluating Apple’s proposals, to Reuters. “If we do this, we must see a lot of value addition“.
Truth be told, there are things in this deal that are of importance to both the parties. While for Apple this would be an entry window into the largest and the fastest growing cellular market in the world, for the Government of India it would be a chance to show that they are serious about having big international brands in their homeland.
A successful outcome could go a long way in showing the global market that India is serious about opening up the country to foreign investments.
In addition to this, letting Apple come to India for manufacturing would be a boost to the Make In India campaign of development and initiative that has been undertaken by the Prime Minister (which underlines Modi’s ambition to make India a global manufacturing hub), in order to drive the economy and create jobs for millions of people entering the workforce each year.
However, that and other such decisions will not be easy.
The meeting is scheduled for the 25th of January for now, and we shall keep watch for any word that gets out. From the looks of it, it could go either way.
In the world of technology, the line between fair- and unfair-practices is extremely thin, and crossing over from the right to the wrong side of this line results not only in huge criticism, but a lot of public bashing, legal proceedings and usually, huge unwanted fines.
One such case these days seems to be that of the chipmaker Qualcomm.
The San Diego-based company seems to be taking a lot of heat this week from the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as well as from one of its biggest clients, Apple.
While the former is suing Qualcomm for unfair market practices, the latter is suing Qualcomm for having overcharged them consistently for the chips. The suits, together, amount to more than a couple billion dollars.
The former case is based on FTC’s complaint that Qualcomm used its dominant position as a modem supplier to drive out the competition in the market. What it essentially means is that Qualcomm gave smartphone manufacturers two choices: pay extra for use of it’s patents, or, don’t make a widely available phone.
The lawsuit also says that the fee Qualcomm charges for allowing for its patents to be used are “disproportionately high” in relation to how much value they contribute overall to the device. The FTC says that these added costs are then passed down to the customers.
An example given in the lawsuit is that of Apple. The lawsuit states that it is to obtain relief from Qualcomm’s excessive patent licensing fees. Apple had made an agreement to not use modems from any other company for a period of five years, in exchange, Qualcomm paid back some of its fees. It wasn’t until earlier this year when the deal is said to have ended, that Apple began using Intel modems in addition to Qualcomm modems.
Intel has been trying to enter the relevant market for a while now, but competitors like Qualcomm have made the market unnecessarily hostile.
Qualcomm denies the allegations, saying they’re “based on a flawed legal theory, a lack of economic support, and significant misconceptions about the mobile technology industry”.
In the second case, Apple, one of Qualcomm’s most important clients is suing them for USD 1 billion.
Their suit is based on the argument that the mobile chipmaker has been dramatically overcharging it for the use of basic patents.
“The more Apple innovates with unique features such as TouchID, advanced displays, and cameras, to name just a few, the more money Qualcomm collects for no reason and the more expensive it becomes for Apple to fund these innovations“, Apple said in a statement. “Qualcomm built its business on older, legacy, standards but reinforces its dominance through exclusionary tactics and excessive royalties. Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined“.
The patents in concern being essential to industry-wide standards, ideally ought to be licensed out on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms.
The accusations state that instead of doing this, Qualcomm is doing the opposite, using its market position as the dominant smartphone modem supplier to force manufacturers into paying excessive fees.
In a statement, Qualcomm general counsel Don Rosenberg said that Apple “has intentionally mischaracterized” the companies’ agreements and has been “actively encouraging regulatory attacks on Qualcomm’s business” around the world. “We welcome the opportunity to have these meritless claims heard in court where we will be entitled to full discovery of Apple’s practices and a robust examination of the merits”, Rosenberg said.
This is not the first time that Qualcomm is getting sued in a similar fashion either.
It was recently fined USD 853 million by the South Korean government, and in 2015, Chinese regulators fined Qualcomm USD 975 million over anti-competitive licensing terms.
This won’t be the first time a company of this magnitude faces a lawsuit of this kind either. The most famous example that comes to mind is that of Microsoft, which was sued by the U.S. government back in the late 1990s.
The software giant was accused of unfair market practices, for having abused monopoly power on Intel-based personal computers in its handling of their operating system (OS) and web browser. The packaging of its Windows operating system with Internet Explorer was central to the issues back then.
The lawsuits can prove to be quite an issue for Qualcomm. For starters, the price tags on these lawsuits are quite big. Secondly, while the company is better known for its smartphone processing chips, they make a major chunk of their money from licensing their patents. In case the court decisions go against them, this can come under effect, and that might not exactly be favourable for Qualcomm.
This would, of course, be in addition to the criticism and sternness the company will have to face within the industry going forward.
The New Year began brightly for Apple – in the truest sense of the term as it’s App Store bagged a whopping USD 240 million in purchases.
While the holiday period itself worked its magic for Apple, the first day of 2017 was the star of the show – it was the busiest single day on New Year’s Day ever.
Why? Well, may be because the first day of 2017 was a Sunday and all those who were tired after their wild parties from the previous night decided to while away the day by purchasing games from the App Store.
Also, since subscriptions were relaxed and available across all 25 app categories including the likes of Games and Kids, users could subscribe to their favourite services from over 20,000 apps – with Netflix, HBO Now, Line, Tinder and MLB.com at bat.
To provide you with the numbers and put things into perspective, since 2008, when the App Store was launched, the developers have managed to earn over USD 60 billion as they created awesome app experiences for the users across iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV and Mac.
In 2016 itself, developers bagged over USD 20 billion which is up by over 40% in comparison to 2015. Perhaps these efforts that have now dovetailed into USD 240 million purchases on the first day of 2017.
These figures clearly denote the rise that the company has developed over years. The holiday season seems to be a perfect happy hunting ground for Apple’s App Store as a lot of people download apps and played games on the devices many of which might have been received as gifts.
“2016 was a record-shattering year for the App Store, generating $20 billion for developers, and 2017 is off to a great start with January 1 as the single biggest day ever on the App Store,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing.
“We want to thank our entire developer community for the many innovative apps they have created – which together with our products – help to truly enrich people’s lives.”
In December 2016, the purchases from the App Store touched the highest as it touched USD 3 billion. At the same time, Nintendo’s Super Mario Run made a monumental mark of 40 million downloads in just four days after its release and became the most downloaded app globally on Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Pokemon Go, undoubtedly emerged at the top of 10 most downloaded apps worldwide. Pokemon Go became a rage in mid-2016 itself.
Prisma, Reigns, Procreate, Lumino City, Sweat With Kayla and djay Pro, from some of Apple’s independent developers, were among the most successful apps for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Apple Watch and Mac, respectively.
Apple’s App Store has its reach across 155 countries and the top-grossing markets include the US, China, Japan and the UK. The kind of global attention that Apple’s App store enjoys can be illustrated with the two campaigns in the past year – Apps for Earth and Games for (RED).
The campaigns sure have made substantial contribution in the form of helping protect life on Earth and encouraging people to join the fight against AIDS, in association with the World Wildlife Fund.
App experiences on the App Store too have improved. With the introduction of iMessage apps and SiriKit in iOS 10, developers have been able to create new and exciting type of app experiences. So much so, users on iPhone and iPad have access to over 21,000 iMessage apps to send stickers and easily team up with friends and Siri.
So, much as everyone looks and rattles off sales numbers for Apple’s iPhones and the (dwindling) numbers for it’s iPads, one must remember to keep an eye out to the cashier window that is the App Store, because that’s where a bulk of Apple’s moolah is coming in.
Three terms that all of India, and nigh almost every Indian got a crash course on in recently – demonetisation, cashless economy, and digital payment solutions; have become an intrinsic part of our new lives in the cashless economy.
December 2016, demonetization in India saw both, a lot of support and tons of criticism from the masses.
But the one industry that witnessed a hitherto unbelievable trajectory (post demonetization) is that of Digital Payment Solutions – where cash is transferred virtually, especially via mobile devices.
As digital payment becomes popular amidst users in India , there is word that Google may soon back this burgeoning technology.
In his latest statement, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai stated that the company was thinking of making such a move and that Google would work hard on offering some of its services on top of the Unified Payments Interface.
For the uninitiated, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is India’s intrepid project to make person-to-person and e-commerce transactions easier and more efficient.
The UPI is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), amalgamating several banking features, uninterrupted fund routing and merchant payments under one umbrella.
UPI is built over IMPS (Immediate Payment Service), which makes the transfer of funds even easier than the new and revolutionary IMPS.
Like the IMPS, UPI’s new payment interface will still need payee details like bank name, branch, IFSC code and full name to be entered; the only relevant thing here becomes the Virtual Payment Address (VPA) which enables the user to send and receive payments.
Currently, UPI is only enabled on Android-based apps, without any information about its debut on iOS. Given the fact that Android is the most extensively used platform in India, Google’s move towards introducing a UPI-based payments solution definitely constitutes a sagacious move and is expected to relieve hassled consumers.
Already, some of the major UPI apps in usage include ICICI Pockets, Canara Banks’ ‘epower’ etc.
In fact, the Indian government has also taken steps in this direction and launched a common UPI app, called BHIM.
Talking about UPI, Pichai said in an interview, “I think it’s a bold and courageous move and it is a platform shift for the underlying economy to try and digitize how cash moves around and we are excited by it“, also adding that such moves work out “gradually”.
Currently, in India, the dissemination of bank accounts, and by extension, debit cards and credit cards remain fairly low. With UPI, the Indian government is trying to bring banking and financial services accessible for its entire population.
Another program called Aadhaar by the government seems to be an initiative to make it easier for the users to have one set of information work across abundant services.
“Maybe we will bring services from Google that will work on top of UPI which will make things work better for users in India“, Pichai said in the interview, adding, “We are working on it hard. Anything we can do to make payments easier for users in India. So we are trying to understand UPI stack, to bring some services, which will make things better for Indian users in terms of digital payments”.
This clearly implies that Indians will soon be able to enjoy Google-powered payments solution just like Apple Pay or Samsung Pay which could be either voice or biometric authentication-based.
Pichai’s comment gains perspective, when the fact that the Indian government has held talks with Google, Apple, and Microsoft to bring Aadhaar-enabled authentication system to their respective mobile operating systems is brought into the purview. Though at that time, the companies didn’t accede to the proposal.
Mr. Pichai showed his confidence in India being a global player in digital economy. “I think I am absolutely, with full certainty, convinced that India will be a global player in digital economy and it will be competitive with any country in the world in the digital economy. We have all the foundation“.
Google is also working on numerous projects like ‘Internet Saathi‘ to educate people on Internet and to get more people online, particularly in rural areas. Google was working on making its services available in as many local Indian languages as possible.
Pichai is of the view that, “English is spoken only by a small segment of the overall population. So just getting Google to work in other languages is a big focus. We have made progress today in Android, with search, we support many languages but we want to do all that better so that it works even in rural situations with the right dialects and so on”.
Google seems to have picked the right and most lucrative vein in India and is ready to make the most of this cashless era.
Apple has reportedly removed the New York Times news app from its App store in China.
This was done on the explicit request from Chinese authorities. This request is largely being seen as a part of the stronghold that the Chinese authorities apply on the Media within their bounds – regulating the news that is circulated within the country; an element of the Chinese governance system that has been the object of stark criticism around world for many years now.
This happened on the 23rd of December, 2016, and the first news of it came from the New York Times itself, which reported the action through its website.
The removal applies to both, the English, and the Chinese, language versions of the app.
“The request by the Chinese authorities to remove our apps is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage by The New York Times of that country”, the New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Reuters. Murphy further said that NYT has requested Apple to reconsider this removal, and by the virtue of it, make their stand in the matter.
This episode occurred as an NYT reporter, David Barboza was almost in the final stages of a story about billions of dollars in hidden perks and subsidies that are provided to Foxconn, the biggest iPhone manufacturer in the world, by the Chinese government.
The story within the Chinese territory could have functioned to highlight the policies of the government that are not exactly commonplace knowledge for the people.
The story was published internationally on December 29th, 2016, and is available on the NYT website.
The New York Times report further goes to talk about the history of its conflict with the Chinese government. It states that the government first started to block the NYT website from the country back in 2012, when they did a series of articles about the wealth of the family of the then Prime Minister, Wen Jaibao. NYT has also been critical of the private wealth of the Chinese political elite, over the years, and have published many related stories over the years.
What’s unsettling about this is that this is not a singular instance. The Western media has been facing significant problems of the kind in China, with many international publications temporarily or permanently blocked over the years. A number of other Western websites like Google, YouTube and Facebook are also blocked in China.
All of these are merely examples of how the control is tightening everyday in what is debatably the greatest censorship in the world, known as the Great Firewall of China.
Even BBC is not spared. The Chinese version of their app, as well as the website, are banned, while the English version, even though available, is quite strictly regulated. Human rights and political stories on their website as well as the app are blocked quite often by the Chinese authorities.
Other international publications that have faced similar things by the Chinese government are Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, amongst the many others.
On the other hand, Apple hasn’t stated much on the matter, having shrugged their shoulders metaphorically, by having stated that they had been told that “the app was in violation of the local regulations”.
What emphasizes the governmental stand is the fact that even though they did reportedly tell Apple that the app was in violation of the local regulations, no regulations were stated in particular that were supposedly being violated by the app. A blanket referral of regulations issued in June 2016 was given, that supposedly prevented mobile apps from engaging in activities that endanger national security or disrupt social order.
Apps from other international publications, including The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, still remain available on the App store for now.
While global criticism rains down and mounts for this one particular action, it is quite significantly only one of the thousands of others that the Chinese government has implemented to ensure complete censorship within their bounds. An action of this sort, though seemingly small, speaks volumes of the government and its policies. The sad fact however is that not much is going to change anytime soon in this regard.
Apple has stated that the NYT app will be back on the App Store when the situation changes. That however won’t be happening anytime soon, as far as it can be told, for now.
What comes to your mind when you hear the term “Beast Mode”?
In most cases, it evokes images of the complete utilization of whatever that it is, with brute force thrown in for good measure.
You must be wondering in what context is all this relevant?
Well, Samsung recently got the term “Beast Mode” trademarked in the European Union.
Discovery of this trademark set the rumour mill abuzz, with lot of them mentioning that the South Korean tech giant is probably planning to introduce this feature on the next Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S8 that is expected to release sometime in the first quarter of 2017.
Although Samsung has made no official announcements about the specifications on the Galaxy S8, there are rumours that the phone might feature Qualcomm’s most powerful processor the Snapdragon 835, which, Qualcomm is believed to be working on in collaboration with Samsung.
There is also a possibility that some regional variants of the Galaxy S8 might house Samsung’s own next-generation Exynos processor as well.
Interestingly enough, both the processors are built by utilizing the 10nm process.
If you’re trying to recall where you’ve heard of the 10nm process, you probably heard of if being incorporated in the upcoming iPhone 8 set to release in 2017.
Coming back, in the context of the current article, it is in the processor arena that the alleged Beast Mode fits in.
Trademarked in December 2016, the term “Beast Mode” is explained in the trademark application to imply that it is supposed to cover all of Samsung’s devices including “…Smartphones; Mobile phones; Application software for smart phones; Computer software; Notebook computers; Computers; Tablet PCs; Portable computers; Netbook computers”.
There is no official word explaining the implications of this Beast Mode but as rumors suggest, it is possible that by turning on the Beast Mode on the Galaxy S8, the processor will be able to work at its maximum power.
This is to say that the processor would be able to realise its complete potential.
This further looks like an extension of Android Nougat’s Performance Mode whereby the users are given the options of four presets of high performance to choose from. Android users are now getting used to different modes on different smartphones like “Gaming Mode”.
It seems valid that by switching on the Beast Mode, the users won’t be able to use the Power-Saving mode, meaning that users will have to barter longer battery life for maximum results of the processor.
If Samsung Galaxy S8’s Beast Mode is for real, then it seems the upcoming iPhone 8 is in for a great competitor. History has it, the Galaxy Series by Samsung has never been able to outshine iPhones by Apple, perhaps Beast Mode by Samsung is the key to achieving this.
On another side of possibilities, the Beast Mode could also help gear the Galaxy S8 towards VR.
Other rumored specifications on the Samsung Galaxy S8 are wireless earphones, the absence of a physical home button and the embedding of the fingerprint sensor under the screen itself (a la the rumoured iPhone 8), with a 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM.
Perhaps, Samsung is trying to mitigate the Samsung Galaxy Note7 disaster by overcompensating.
However, it will be idealistic to assume that this “Beast Mode” is going to do all things good for a company like Samsung that is still dealing with the Note7 debacle. Odds are that the same Beast Mode could also overwork the processor in turn leading to more heat and higher battery temperatures.
And of course, no one would want their precious smartphones to explode. (Just saying!)
Apple has pulled the latest watchOS 3.1.1 update after some users reported that it bricked their Apple Watch.
Unfortunate users who had installed the update – which launched on Monday and promised various bug fixes – were left with watches displaying a red exclamation mark on the screen and a link to https://support.apple.com/en-in/HT204776.
While it’s not yet clear what has caused the issue, Apple’s support page suggests it could be resolved by force-restarting the watch (by pressing and holding the side button and the Digital Crown at the same time).
A series of users posting on Reddit and other sites are reporting that the recent watchOS 3.1.1 update has hopelessly locked their Apple Watches, leaving the device displaying a red exclamation point and directing them to visit the Apple Watch help page, while other users are seeing the update run on their watches without a hitch. Those with bricked devices have been told by Apple support that they have to send their watch off for a fix. Apple Stores are unable to service the watches, and have been facilitating replacements. Series 2 watches seem particularly susceptible to the problem, though the cause is currently unknown.
Users who have not yet updated their OS but have already downloaded it are advised to hold off until Apple issues a fix.
Apple said in a statement that, “A very small number of Apple Watch customers experienced an issue while installing watchOS 3.1.1, so as a precaution we’ve pulled back the software update. Any customers impacted should contact AppleCare, but no action is required if the update installed successfully. We are working on a fix for an upcoming software update“.
Apple Watch update woes follow reports that sales of the wearable have slumped since last year. According to IDC, Apple sold 1.1 million units in the third quarter of 2016, down 71% from a year ago. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that “sales growth is off the charts“. Apple Watch sales haven’t tanked, says Tim Cook. “In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history”, Cook continued. “And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch“.
2017 looks like a year that will have bezel-less smartphones pouring in!
What’s more, even the next iPhone from Apple is expected to abandon the physical home button for a fingerprint scanner embedded within the screen itself.
Back in October 2014, Synaptics acquired fingerprint ID provider Validity for $255 million, giving it an entry into the fingerprint identification market that had, for years, suffered in relative facelessness.
Not complete anonymity though. It was with the launch of iPhone 5 in September 2012, that biometric sensing to unlock the phone via fingerprints suddenly became the hot new thing. Once Apple did it, everybody else did it too. And devices changed forever.
Keeping in line with these rumours is the actual news of a new model of an optical fingerprint scanner called the ‘Natural ID FS9100’ by Synaptics.
Synaptics claims it to be the industry’s first optical-based fingerprint scanner for smartphones and tablets where the fingerprint scanner can be placed under a covering glass including a 2.5D glass that rides atop the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge etc.
This is quite a big breakthrough.
A fingerprint scanner that can work without a physical button, under glass, is a big deal as it can completely eliminate the space-hogging bezels above and below the screen, and make the face of the phone one complete sheet of glass. What a beauty the device would be!!
Additionally, eliminating cutouts and shaving of glass around the cutouts would result in cleaner industrial design and significantly reduce the amount of glass wasted due to cracking during production.
Synaptics elaborates on the functionality of its new fingerprint scanner on its website: “Under cover glass biometrics eliminates button cut-outs and glass thinning processes required by capacitive under-glass sensors, leading to glass yield improvements. The highly reliable FS9100 optical solution excels with wet finger performance, and being protected by glass, is durable, scratchproof, waterproof, and eliminates ESD concerns”.
Now you know what the FS9100 is capable of!
This is not all for the new-age sensor, though.
The company also highlights the fact that the sensor is equipped with PurePrint anti-spoof technology, which does the job of examining the fingerprint images through artificial intelligence, thereby enabling the sensor to distinguish between fake and actual fingerprints.
Just so you know, Synaptics is not the pioneer in the field of optical sensor technology. Earlier, Qualcomm had introduced Sense ID, which works primarily through glass, sapphire, aluminum, stainless steel, and plastics. The recently launched Xiaomi Mi 5s can be considered amongst the first wave of smartphones to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sense ID fingerprint sensor under glass.
Back to Optical Sensing Technology.
Les Santiago, Research Director for IDC elaborates upon the benefits of Optical sensing technology: “Optical sensing technology, which is very high performance and widely proven in other markets, has many advantages such as durability, scratch resistance, and resistance to ESD, but optical has not been widely adopted in smartphones and tablets due to form factor and power consumption limitations. Synaptics is enabling the elimination of the home button which is a critical next step to full top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge smartphone and tablet displays”.
“By bringing optical sensing technology with the right form-factor and power consumption envelope to smartphones and tablets, Synaptics is enabling the elimination of the home button, which is a critical next step to full top-to-bottom, edge-to-edge smartphone and tablet displays“, said IDC Research Director Les Santiago in a press release.
The fingerprint sensors will go into the mass-production phase in the second quarter of 2017, which almost overlaps with the current rumors of Samsung going bezel-less in its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, which is expected to hit the shelves late-March 2017 after being officially disclosed at the MWC 2017, in February.
If Samsung indeed chooses to opt for Synaptics’ optic-based fingerprint sensors, then it could kickstart a new trend in the smartphone industry and bezel-less phones imply a farewell to physical buttons on smartphones.
The rumours around the ‘iPhone 8’ also picking up steam are implying that Apple too, is opting for the fingerprint sensor to be directly embedded within the screen.
Synaptics first launched what we now call touchpads in 1995, and its capacitive touchpad technology is now used by most notebook PC manufacturers. However, with the announcement of FS9100 now, it seems that the company is inching closer towards its dream of being the independent supplier of fingerprint recognition technology to the remainder of the industry, as professed in 2014.
While some people are still immersed in the hangover of iPhone 7 and are unable to get over the concept of wireless earphones by Apple, rumours regarding iPhone 8 are already gaining momentum. There is a so much that is being written about it that there are conflicting rumours, no real details at present, that the voices are getting confusing and contradictory.
First things first. 2017 will be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone’s release, and thus a lot of people are betting on the belief that Apple has big plans for this milestone. Industry pundits, aficionados and tech sites, are all prophesying that Apple has been holding back some of the biggest hardware features in the last year or so, to bundle it into a ‘revolutionary’ device that will mark a landmark change in Apple’s design ethos and also take iPhones down a new path of prosperity.
Let’s break down all the rumours one at a time.
The first new big thing on the purported iPhone 8 is the belief that Apple will introduce wireless charging into its next phone, as per trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (KGI Securities).
Previously, Foxconn Technology Group, one of Apple’s main manufacturing partners was reported to be making wireless charging modules for the 2017 iPhone, but that never came to pass. Now, new reports have surfaced suggesting that a California startup called Energous is thought to be working on a mid-range wireless charging transmitter which could work over distances up to 15 feet (4.5 metres).
Energous is the company behind the ‘WattUp‘ platform, which utilises small antennas to transfer energy over fairly long distances. The charging process in turn, is controlled by software, which means that end users will be able to decide the order in which devices receive power and create a sort of schedule for their charging.
This technology by Energous is expected to release toward the latter half of 2017, which would coincide with the expected release of three anticipated new models of iPhone (more on that a bit later).
Wireless charging is already available on Apple Watches and would be a total new factor on the iPhone. However, the concept of wireless charging in general has been there for quite a few years and manufacturers like Samsung have already adopted this technology for their smartphones.
According to Kuo, Apple users in 2017 with the new iPhone model will be able to use wireless charging but Apple will probably not ship the wireless charger and might charge separately for it.
With this new platform called ‘WattUp’ on the new iPhone model, it seems that the dream of a cable-free future might soon turn into reality for iPhones.
Plastic Curved OLED Display
Fact is, the iPhone form factor while practical, widely copied, and immensely beautiful, is old and boring. Rumour has it that the new ‘iPhone 8’ (or whatever it will be called – since Apple is quite unpredictably known to play around with nomenclatures) will undergo a radical transformation in terms of design.
The physical home button at the front bottom of the phone might be removed entirely and instead be directly embedded into the display, to provide an edge-to-edge display that eliminates both top and bottom bezels that currently play host to the front-facing camera and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor respectively.
Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, has for long, wanted to introduce an iPhone that looks like a single sheet of glass. Additionally, glass also emerges as an essential component if Apple wants to introduce wireless charging on the device.
The only doubt that creeps in with the possibility of an edge-to-edge display is regarding the screen size of the phone. This is to say whether the display will grow to fit the iPhone or the iPhone will be shrunk to fit the display.
In fact, the display itself seems to be a matter of discussion here since there are reports that Apple this time will make use of flexible plastic OLED rather than an LCD, which would in turn enable the company to introduce a thinner device that devours much less power and offers a better display with higher contrast ratio and more true-to-life colors, in turn being a treat to the eyes.
Plastic OLED display will also enable Apple to incorporate sturdier material without the corresponding baggage of a heavier device.
What’s more, KoreaHerald reported that Apple has commissioned Samsung to supply an estimated 70 to 100 million plastic OLED units to use in (presumably) the iPhone 8.
Three New Models
The most interesting piece of news for Apple fans is the possibility that the brand may be planning to release three variants (instead of the current two) in 2017.
As per reports from KGI Securities analysts, one model will sport a 5.5-inch OLED screen and a dual camera. One will have a 5.5-inch LCD screen, also with a dual camera. The third will be a 4.7-inch iPhone with an LCD screen and a single camera system, much like the current iPhone 7 model.
As far as the body of the device is concerned, Apple seems to be finally bidding farewell to the aluminium utilised in the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE and instead be going back to the glass body like the one used in the iPhone 4.
The Processor on the new iPhone is to touted be the A11 chip built on a 10-nanometer process, completing the first stages of the design that is likely slated for 2017.
I’ll say this – at this time we don’t really know how much of the above is built on fact (or at least factual information), and how much is wishful thinking.
That said, I (like millions others) am bored of the iPhone and the iOS. Upgrading devices no longer has that a-ha moment for me, and like others, I am forced to look at the colour of my device these days, to remind myself that I did indeed get a ‘new’ iPhone this year.
If these rumours are true, and Apple does better its track record via a pathbreaking iPhone 8, it will be definitely spell an exciting upgrade to everyone – not only iPhone owners, but also to Android fans, as the industry will once more bend to follow Apple’s achievements.
The battle lines between Samsung and Apple have been drawn ever since the smartphone market began to take form, but the heat got turned up when the squabble over smartphone patents went to court in the U.S.
There were several rounds of suits and counter suits, dragging the matter all the way into 2016. Apple seemed to be winning for the most part, but recently there was a twist in the tale; and an interesting one at that, which sets an important precedent for in an effervescent space.
In the first week of December 2016, the United States Supreme Court favoured Samsung’s plea, when it ruled that Samsung did not have to pay the USD 399 million penalty ascribed by an earlier Appeals Court ruling, awarded to Samsung’s American rival, for supposedly copying their iPhone designs.
Some background. The battle had begun in 2011, when Apple sued Samsung, stating that the rival South Korean brand had stolen Apple’s technology, and iPhone’s trademark appearance.
Consequently, in 2012, Apple Inc. was awarded a sum of USD 930 million in damages, following a verdict that Samsung had infringed Apple’s iPhone patents and mimicked its distinctive appearance in their own Galaxy- and other similar devices.
After that, in May 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld the verdict however, additionally stated that iPhone’s appearance could not be protected by trademark law. This led to the damages to be paid to Apple to be reduced by USD 382 million. Hence, Samsung, back in last December, paid up USD 548 million to Apple in damages.
Since then Samsung has been fighting the case, looking to get a chunk of their money back. They took Apple back to the court, stating that they should not have had to make the USD 399 million of that payout for copying the patented designs.
The patent designs in question are iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and a colorful grid of icons that represent programs and applications.
Apple argument this far has been based around their design, stating that their unique design and features enable them to have the position in the market that they do, and further argues that other companies have been indiscriminately adopting these designs into their products, endangering Apple’s customer base, and thus their position in the market.
On the other hand, Samsung did not base its argument on completely denying adopting any of Apple’s designs, instead stated that if they did copy Apple’s designs, they applied those elements with a combination of others and that they contributed only marginally to a complex product with thousands of patented features.
That seems to have held water with the apex court. Thus the latest ruling.
Another important point that the latest decision holds up is that a patent violator does not always have to fork over its entire profits from the sales of products using ‘stolen’ designs if the designs covered only certain components and not the whole thing.
This brings the law regarding damages for infringement of design patents into a new area of uncertainty and might have bigger implications for designers, especially in the light of the fact that design copyrights and patents are very expensive and cumbersome to get in the first place.
Given this new ‘loophole’ or in other words ‘dilution’ of rights that the creators may have over patent design/innovations, this has not have gone down well with some experts.
“That rule was designed to make sure copyists didn’t just treat the possibility of a lawsuit or payment of damages as an incidental business expense”, stated Susan Scafidi, the academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University School of Law, believing that this was definitely a victory for those who steal ad copy designs.
“Now, with damage awards limited to the percentage of profits attributable to the copying, design patents are much less valuable to creators. Not only are the potential awards or settlements lower, but the costs of calculating and litigating the amount of damages are higher”.
With this latest ruling, pretty much backing Samsung, what the apex court did was that it gave Samsung the chance to get a chunk of the punitive payout back.
We can close with an interesting fact that the Supreme Court in the U.S. hardly ever hears on patent battles and that it hasn’t done so in over the last 120 years. The very fact that, that’s where this battles has reached speaks volumes for how big these seemingly small ideas of patent infringement and supposed stealing of designs can get, especially when the parties involved are the likes of Apple and Samsung.
The case, however, is not over yet.
The judges, in an 8-0 vote count, sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings, having repealed one particular ruling. What this means is that the battle still continues on whether the “article of manufacture” involved is the entire smartphone or just certain components, and then to determine what Samsung owes.
Apple, for now, has stated that its case “has always been about Samsung’s blatant copying of our ideas, and that was never in dispute”. It went on to add, “We remain optimistic that the lower courts will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn’t right”.
Many of us hold Apple and it’s devices up as trophies proving that brands care about customers, and make devices and platforms that our inviolable. The world over, people consider Apple-ware as the epitome of device and data security.
Well, not always.
And it stands to reason – the impregnable are the most vulnerable, especially in this world rife with hackers who live and breathe to make their name by achieving the hitherto “impossible”.
If you’re one of those that presumes that no one can bypass your iPhone’s security, well, you’re in the wrong, my friend.
Hackers can bypass the security on your iPhone even without knowing your passcode. Wondering how is that possible? Well, ironically, Apple’s own Siri is the culprit!
Graham Cluley, security expert further elaborated upon the issue claiming that the voice activated software of iPhone does puts it at risk. Per him, the bypassing of the security infrastructure works on those iPhones that have Siri enabled on the lock screen and the only requirement to crack the security is a mere physical access to the device.
Popular tech YouTuber iDeviceHelp unveiled this piece of important information as he explained how using the exploit, nefarious hackers can access one’s contacts, message logs and photos.
Anyone in possession of your iPhone can take advantage of Siri to obtain your own phone number. If Siri is enabled on the device’s lock-screen, a simple question – “Who am I?” – will prompt the phone to reply with the owner’s name and number. They will then call the phone from another device and as a consequence can get access to your iMessages without even unlocking your iPhone.
Next, the perpetrator will double-tap the contact info bar and hold the second tap on the bar as he clicks on the keyboard at the same time. The key element is timing, if the steps are timed properly, then the hacker can easily exploit sensitive information on your phone after a few tries. The hacker can then access your contacts and photos – even when your device remains locked.
The models most vulnerable to this attack are supposedly the iPhone SE, iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus; but some reports claim that any iPhone that uses iOS 8.0 and higher is also susceptible to the exploit.
The glitch has already been brought to the attention of Apple, but till they patch this, you need to protect yourself. To do that, go to Touch ID and Passcode settings option in Settings and disabling Siri In Locked Mode.
So the long and short of it disable siri from your lock screen right now.
It is not that this is the first time such a glitch appeared on the iPhone. Previously in April, a bug, again related to Siri, plagued the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus running iOS version 9.3.1. The YouTuber “EverythingApplePro” explained the trick which at the time involved invoking Siri on a locked iPhone 6s or 6s Plus asking it to perform a Twitter search, finding a tweet that contains an email address, and then using the phone’s 3D Touch capabilities to enter either into the phone’s contacts or photos.
However this was brought to Apple’s attention and the company resolved the issue very soon by issuing a software update to patch the vulnerability.
As I close, it is at times like this, that I wonder, how people have all th