EU

EU Opens Competition Probe Into Apple's Bid For Music App Shazam (reuters.com) 21

EU antitrust regulators opened an investigation on Monday into Apple's bid for British music discovery app Shazam, concerned the deal might give the iPhone maker an unfair advantage in poaching users from its rivals. From a report: Apple announced the deal in December to help it better compete with industry leader Spotify. Shazam lets users identify songs by pointing a smartphone at the audio source. The European Commission said it was concerned about Apple's access to data on Shazam's users who use competing music streaming services in Europe.
Displays

Are Widescreen Laptops Dumb? (theverge.com) 398

"After years of phones, laptops, tablets, and TV screens converging on 16:9 as the 'right' display shape -- allowing video playback without distracting black bars -- smartphones have disturbed the universality recently by moving to even more elongated formats like 18:9, 19:9, or even 19.5:9 in the iPhone X's case," writes Amelia Holowaty Krales via The Verge. "That's prompted me to consider where else the default widescreen proportions might be a poor fit, and I've realized that laptops are the worst offenders." Krales makes the case for why a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size is a poor fit: Practically every interface in Apple's macOS, Microsoft's Windows, and on the web is designed by stacking user controls in a vertical hierarchy. At the top of every MacBook, there's a menu bar. At the bottom, by default, is the Dock for launching your most-used apps. On Windows, you have the taskbar serving a similar purpose -- and though it may be moved around the screen like Apple's Dock, it's most commonly kept as a sliver traversing the bottom of the display. Every window in these operating systems has chrome -- the extra buttons and indicator bars that allow you to close, reshape, or move a window around -- and the components of that chrome are usually attached at the top and bottom. Look at your favorite website (hopefully this one) on the internet, and you'll again see a vertical structure.

As if all that wasn't enough, there's also the matter of tabs. Tabs are a couple of decades old now, and, like much of the rest of the desktop and web environment, they were initially thought up in an age where the predominant computer displays were close to square with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That's to say, most computer screens were the shape of an iPad when many of today's most common interface and design elements were being developed. As much of a chrome minimalist as I try to be, I still can't extricate myself from needing a menu bar in my OS and tab and address bars inside my browser. I'm still learning to live without a bookmarks bar. With all of these horizontal bars invading our vertical space, a 16:9 screen quickly starts to feel cramped, especially at the typical laptop size. You wind up spending more time scrolling through content than engaging with it.
What is your preferred aspect ratio for a laptop? Do you prefer Microsoft and Google's machines that have a squarer 3:2 aspect ratio, or Apple's MacBook Pro that has a 16:10 display?
Iphone

New iPhone SE Could Launch In May With Touch ID and A10 Fusion, Without 3.5mm Headphone Jack (macrumors.com) 126

Mac Rumors reports, citing Japanese website Mac Otakara, that Apple will release an updated iPhone SE next month with a similar form factor as the previous model. It is expected to retain Touch ID, but will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack. From the report: Also like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the new iPhone SE will supposedly be powered by Apple's last-generation A10 Fusion chip, up to 40 percent faster than the A9 processor in the current iPhone SE. The chip will likely enable support for the HEIF image format and HEVC video compression standard. The report speculates that the new iPhone SE may have a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, like the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, but evidence is said to be inconclusive at this time.
Desktops (Apple)

Users Don't Want iOS To Merge With MacOS, Apple Chief Tim Cook Says (smh.com.au) 155

Rebutting a widespread speculation, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the company is not working toward building an operating system that both Macs and iPhones could share. From his interview on Sydney Morning Herald: Later, when I ask about the divide between the Mac and iOS, which seems almost conservative when compared to Microsoft's convertible Windows 10 strategy, Cook gives an interesting response. "We don't believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two ... you begin to make trade offs and compromises. "So maybe the company would be more efficient at the end of the day. But that's not what it's about. You know it's about giving people things that they can then use to help them change the world or express their passion or express their creativity. So this merger thing that some folks are fixated on, I don't think that's what users want." A surprising comment, considering rumours from well-connected reporter Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, who wrote the company is working on a project called "Marzipan", which involves merging the codebase of macOS and iOS apps.
Robotics

Apple Has a New iPhone Recycling Robot Named 'Daisy' (techcrunch.com) 39

Apple has unveiled a new robot called Daisy that's designed to recycle nine different versions of the iPhone. The new robot is an update to Liam, the recycling robot the company announced back in 2016. TechCrunch reports: Daisy was developed in-house by Apple engineers, using some of Liam's parts -- a recycling of sorts. The industrial robot is able to disassemble nine different versions of the iPhone, sorting all of their reusable components in the process. In all, Daisy is capable of taking apart a full 200 iPhones in a given hour, proving a solid alternative to traditional methods that can destroy valuable components in the process. Along with Daisy, Apple's also using the occasion to announce GiveBack, an addition to its recycling program. For every device customers turn in or trade from now until April 30, the company will make a donation to Conservation International, a Virginia-based environmental nonprofit. Eligible devices will still qualify for an in-store or gift card credit.
Apple

Apple Is Planning To Launch a News Subscription Service (bloomberg.com) 37

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple plans to integrate recently acquired magazine app Texture into Apple News and debut its own premium subscription offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services. The Cupertino, California company agreed last month to buy Texture, which lets users subscribe to more than 200 magazines for $9.99 a month. Apple cut about 20 Texture staff soon after, according to one of the people. The world's largest technology company is integrating Texture technology and the remaining employees into its Apple News team, which is building the premium service. An upgraded Apple News app with the subscription offering is expected to launch within the next year, and a slice of the subscription revenue will go to magazine publishers that are part of the program, the people said.
Education

Former Senior VP of Apple Tony Fadell Says Company Needs To Tackle Smartphone Addiction (wired.co.uk) 75

In an op-ed published on Wired, former SVP at Apple Tony Fadell argues that smartphone manufacturers -- Apple in particular -- need to do a better job of educating users about how often they use their mobile phones, and the resulting dangers that overuse might bring about. An excerpt: Take healthy eating as an analogy: we have advice from scientists and nutritionists on how much protein and carbohydrate we should include in our diet; we have standardised scales to measure our weight against; and we have norms for how much we should exercise. But when it comes to digital "nourishment", we don't know what a "vegetable", a "protein" or a "fat" is. What is "overweight" or "underweight"? What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like? I think that manufacturers and app developers need to take on this responsibility, before government regulators decide to step in -- as with nutritional labelling. Interestingly, we already have digital-detox clinics in the US. I have friends who have sent their children to them. But we need basic tools to help us before it comes to that. I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices.
Encryption

Lawmakers Call FBI's 'Going Dark' Narrative 'Highly Questionable' After Motherboard Shows Cops Can Easily Hack iPhones (vice.com) 69

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: This week, Motherboard showed that law enforcement agencies across the country, including a part of the State Department, have bought GrayKey, a relatively cheap technology that can unlock fully up-to-date iPhones. That revelation, cryptographers and technologists said, undermined the FBI's renewed push for backdoors in consumer encryption products. Citing Motherboard's work, on Friday US lawmakers sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, doubting the FBI's narrative around 'going dark', where law enforcement officials say they are increasingly unable to obtain evidence related to crimes due to encryption. Politico was first to report the letter. "According to your testimony and public statements, the FBI encountered 7,800 devices last year that it could not access due to encryption," the letter, signed by 5 Democrat and 5 Republican n House lawmakers, reads. "However, in light of the availability of unlocking tools developed by third-parties and the OIG report's findings that the Bureau was uninterested in seeking available third-party options, these statistics appear highly questionable," it adds, referring to a recent report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General. That report found the FBI barely explored its technical options for accessing the San Bernardino iPhone before trying to compel Apple to unlock the device. The lawmaker's letter points to Motherboard's report that the State Department spent around $15,000 on a GrayKey.
Social Networks

'An Apology for the Internet -- from the People Who Built It' (nymag.com) 181

"Those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created," argues a new article in New York Magazine titled "The Internet Apologizes". Today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being "weaponized." Even Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains," he lamented recently...

The internet's original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model. To keep the internet free -- while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history -- the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving "engagement" -- which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country... What we're left with are increasingly divided populations of resentful users, now joined in their collective outrage by Silicon Valley visionaries no longer in control of the platforms they built.

Lanier adds that "despite all the warnings, we just walked right into it and created mass behavior-modification regimes out of our digital networks." Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, is even quoted as saying that a social-validation feedback loop is "exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."

The article includes quotes from Richard Stallman, arguing that data privacy isn't the problem. "The problem is that these companies are collecting data about you, period. We shouldn't let them do that. The data that is collected will be abused..." He later adds that "We need a law that requires every system to be designed in a way that achieves its basic goal with the least possible collection of data... No company is so important that its existence justifies setting up a police state."

The article proposes hypothetical solutions. "Could a subscription model reorient the internet's incentives, valuing user experience over ad-driven outrage? Could smart regulations provide greater data security? Or should we break up these new monopolies entirely in the hope that fostering more competition would give consumers more options?" Some argue that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 shields internet companies from all consequences for bad actors -- de-incentivizing the need to address them -- and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, thinks the solution is new legislation. "The government is going to have to be involved. You do it exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry. Technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and product designers are working to make those products more addictive. We need to rein that back."
Android

Google Appears To Be Testing iPhone X-Style Gesture Navigation In Android P (androidpolice.com) 18

A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.
Businesses

In a Leaked Memo, Apple Warns Employees to Stop Leaking Information (bloomberg.com) 100

Apple warned employees to stop leaking internal information on future plans and raised the specter of potential legal action and criminal charges, one of the most-aggressive moves by the world's largest technology company to control information about its activities. From a report: The Cupertino, California-based company said in a lengthy memo posted to its internal blog that it "caught 29 leakers," last year and noted that 12 of those were arrested. "These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere," Apple added. The company declined to comment on Friday. Apple outlined situations in which information was leaked to the media, including a meeting earlier this year where Apple's software engineering head Craig Federighi told employees that some planned iPhone software features would be delayed. Apple also cited a yet-to-be-released software package that revealed details about the unreleased iPhone X and new Apple Watch. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of current models, give rivals more time to begin on a competitive response, and lead to fewer sales when the new product launches, according to the memo.
Businesses

Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost (vice.com) 139

Jason Koebler, reporting for Motherboard: Last year, Apple's lawyers sent Henrik Huseby, the owner of a small electronics repair shop in Norway, a letter demanding that he immediately stop using aftermarket iPhone screens at his repair business and that he pay the company a settlement. Norway's customs officials had seized a shipment of 63 iPhone 6 and 6S replacement screens on their way to Henrik's shop from Asia and alerted Apple; the company said they were counterfeit. Apple threatened to take action, unless Huseby provided the companies with copies of invoices, product lists, and a plethora of other things. The letter, sent by Frank Jorgensen, an attorney at the Njord law firm on behalf of Apple, included a settlement agreement that also notified him the screens would be destroyed. [...] Huseby decided to fight the case. Apple sued him. Local news outlets reported that Apple had five lawyers in the courtroom working on the case, but Huseby won. Apple has appealed the decision to a higher court; the court has not yet decided whether to accept the appeal.
Piracy

Telegram is Riddled With Tens of Thousands of Piracy Channels; Apple and Google Have Ignored Requests From Creators To Take Action (theoutline.com) 49

joshtops writes: Instant messaging platform Telegram, which is used by more than 200 million users, has had an open secret since its inception: The platform has served as a haven for online pirates. The Outline reports that the platform is riddled with thousands of groups and channels, many with more than 100,000 members, whose sole purpose of existence is to share illegally copied movies, music albums, apps, and other content. The files are stored directly to Telegram's servers, allowing users to download movies, songs, and other content with one click. Channel admins told The Outline that they have not come across any resistance from Telegram despite the company, along with Apple and Google, maintaining a 'zero tolerance' stance on copyright infringement. This permissiveness on Telegram's part has led to the proliferation of a cottage industry of piracy marketplaces on the service.

[...] The Outline also discovered several groups and channels on Telegram in which stolen credentials -- i.e., the username and password for a website -- from Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, CBS, EA Sports, Lynda, Sling, WWE Network, Mega, India's Hotstar, and dozens of other services were being offered to tens of thousands of members each day. The Outline sourced nearly three-dozen free credentials from six Telegram channels, all of which worked as advertised.
The report says that content creators have reached out to Apple, requesting the iPhone-maker to intervene, but the company has largely ignored the issue.

In an unrelated development, a Moscow court cleared the way on Friday for the local government to ban Telegram, the messaging app, over its failure to give Russian security services the ability to read users' encrypted messages.
Firefox

Firefox 11.0 For iOS Arrives With Tracking Protection On By Default (venturebeat.com) 16

The new version of Firefox 11.0 for iOS turns on tracking protection by default, lets you reorder your tabs, and adds a handful of iPad-specific features. The latest version is currently available via Apple's App Store. VentureBeat details the new features: Tracking protection means Firefox blocks website elements (ads, analytics trackers, and social share buttons) that could track you while you're surfing the web. It's almost like a built-in ad blocker, though it's really closer to browser add-ons like Ghostery and Privacy Badger because ads that don't track you are allowed through. The feature's blocking list, which is based on the tracking protection rules laid out by the anti-tracking startup Disconnect, is published under the General Public License and available on GitHub. The feature is great for privacy, but it also improves performance. Content loads faster for many websites, which translates into less data usage and better battery life. If tracking protection doesn't work well on a given site, just turn it off there and Firefox for iOS should remember your preference.

Tracking protection aside, iOS users can now reorder their tabs. Organizing your tabs is very straightforward: Long-press the specific tab and drag it either left or right. iPad users have gained two new features, as well. You can now share URLs by just dragging and dropping links to and from Firefox with any other iOS app. If you're in side-by-side view, just drag the link or tab into the other app. Otherwise, bring up the doc or app switcher, drag the link into the other app until it pulses, release the link, and the other app will open the link. Lastly, iPad users have gained a few more keyboard shorts, including the standard navigation keys from the desktop. There's also cursor navigation through the bookmarks and history results, an escape key in the URL bar, and easier tab tray navigation (try using the keyboard shortcut Command + Option + Tab to get to and from the tabs view).

Iphone

Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show (vice.com) 98

Law enforcement agencies across the country have purchased GrayKey, a relatively cheap tool for bypassing the encryption on iPhones, while the FBI pushes again for encryption backdoors, Motherboard reported on Thursday. From the report: FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are "increasingly unable to access" evidence stored on encrypted devices. Wray is not telling the whole truth. Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials. Many of the documents were obtained by Motherboard using public records requests.

The news highlights the going dark debate, in which law enforcement officials say they cannot access evidence against criminals. But easy access to iPhone hacking tools also hamstrings the FBI's argument for introducing backdoors into consumer devices so authorities can more readily access their contents.

IOS

Recent iOS Update Kills Functionality On iPhone 8s Repaired With Aftermarket Screens (vice.com) 229

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released iOS 11.3 at the end of March, and the update is killing touch functionality in iPhone 8s repaired with some aftermarket screens that worked prior to the update. That means people who broke their phone and had the audacity to get it repaired by anyone other than Apple is having a hard time using their phone. "This has caused my company over 2,000 reshipments," Aakshay Kripalani, CEO of Injured Gadgets, a Georgia-based retailer and repair shop, told me in a Facebook message. "Customers are annoyed and it seems like Apple is doing this to prevent customers from doing 3rd party repair." According to Michael Oberdick -- owner and operator of iOutlet, an Ohio-based pre-owned iPhone store and repair shop, every iPhone screen is powered by a small microchip, and that chip is what the repair community believes to be causing the issue. For the past six months, shops have been able to replace busted iPhone 8 screens with no problem, but something in the update killed touch functionality. According to several people I spoke to, third-party screen suppliers have already worked out the issue, but fixing the busted phones means re-opening up the phone and upgrading the chip. It remains to be seen whether Apple will issue a new software update that will suddenly fix these screens, but that is part of the problem: Many phones repaired by third parties are ticking timebombs; it's impossible for anyone to know if or when Apple will do something that breaks devices fixed with aftermarket parts. And every time a software update breaks repaired phones, Apple can say that third-party repair isn't safe, and the third-party repair world has to scramble for workarounds and fixes.
Software

Number of Apps In App Store Declined For the First Time Last Year (fortune.com) 63

According to new data from the analytics company Appfigures, the total number of apps in the App Store declined for the first time last year. "Appfigures notes that just 755,000 apps were released for iOS last year, a 29% drop from 2016," reports Fortune. "In contrast, 1.5 million apps were released for Android last year, marking a 17% year-over-year increase." From the report: Over the course of the year, the number of apps in the store declined from 2.2 million to 2.1 million, marking the first time the store had fewer apps at the end of the year than it did in the beginning. The reason for that change is likely Apple's decision to remove older apps from the store that were not being updated regularly, The Verge notes. Last year, Apple removed apps that were not built on 64-bit architecture, something necessary for them to work on newer iPhone models.
Android

Slashdot Asks: Should Android OEMs Adopt the iPhone's Notch? 240

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Google was currently working on a "dramatic redesign" of its Android OS -- one that embraces the "notch" made popular by the iPhone X. A couple weeks after that report was published, Mobile World Congress was happening, and the biggest trend among Android OEMs was the introduction of a notch in their smartphones. The Verge's Vlad Savov argues that Android smartphone manufacturers are straight up copying the iPhone's design with "more speed and cynicism" than ever before.

Should Android original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) adopt the iPhone's display notch? A display notch can offer a greater screen-to-body ratio, for example, but lower overall aesthetic value. It can also create a headache for developers who need to update their apps to account for the notch that eats into the actual display area. What are your thoughts on display notches? Should Android OEMs adopt the iPhone X's display notch in their devices?

If you're not a fan of notches for aesthetic reasons, you may like the solution that OnePlus has come up with. The company will soon be launching their notch-equipped OnePlus 6 smartphone, but will allow OnePlus 6 owners to "hide" the device's notch via software. Users will have the option to black out the background of the notifications and status bar if they so desire.
Iphone

Apple Working on Touchless Control and Curved iPhone Screen (bloomberg.com) 74

Apple might be working on touchless gesture control and curved screens for future iPhones, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. From a report: The control feature would let iPhone users perform some tasks by moving their finger close to the screen without actually tapping it. The technology likely won't be ready for consumers for at least two years, if Apple chooses to go forward with it, a person familiar with the work said. Apple has long embraced new ways for humans to interact with computers. Co-Founder Steve Jobs popularized the mouse in the early 1980s. Apple's latest iPhones have a feature called 3D Touch that responds differently depending on different finger pressures. The new gesture technology would take into account the proximity of a finger to the screen, the person said. Apple is also developing iPhone displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom, one of the people familiar with the situation said. That's different than the latest Samsung smartphone screens, which curve down at the edges.
AI

AI Predicts Your Lifespan Using Activity Tracking Apps (engadget.com) 48

Russian scientists have crafted an AI-based algorithm that uses the activity tracking from smartphones and smartwatches to estimate your lifespan with far greater precision than past models. Engadget reports: The team used a convolutional neural network to find the "biologically relevant" motion patterns in a large set of U.S. health survey data and correlate that to both lifespans and overall health. It would look for not just step counts, but how often you switch between active and inactive periods -- many of the other factors in your life, such as your sleeping habits and gym visits, are reflected in those switches. After that, it was just a matter of applying the understanding to a week's worth of data from test subjects' phones. You can even try it yourself through Gero Lifespan, an iPhone app that uses data from Apple Health, Fitbit and Rescuetime (a PC productivity measurement app) to predict your longevity.

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