Taking a look back at another week of news and headlines from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes video of the iPhone 12, release and launch dates for the new iPhone, a massive Siri security issue, removing your EarBuds, contact tracking in iOS 13.5, the MacBook’s biggest mistake, new keyboard patents, and exam issues with the iPhone camera.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).
Your Best Look At The iPhone 12 Yet
As the leaks and information around the iPhone 12 build up, the team at Let’s Go Digital and Concept Creator have put together our best representation of Apple’s upcoming flagship yet. This video highlights the smaller design of the entry-level iPhone 12, as I reported earlier this week:
“The return to the square design first seen in the iPhone 4 is clearly on show. This will be the biggest visual departure from the current design. Thanks to the more efficient use of interval volume, the ‘square’ design should allow for a slightly thinner design due to economies of space. It will also act as a fashion statement – if there’s a new and obviously different iPhone on sale, the influencers of the world will need to be seen with it.”
iPhone 12 Release Dates
In previous years, Tim Cook would take to the stage on a Tuesday early in September to reveal the new iPhones, with sales starting later that month (usually within 10 days). 2020 is not a normal year, with the coronavirus pandemic impacting much of the industry. What will that do to Apple’s launch and release plans? Forbes’ Gordon Kelly reports:
“[FrontPage’s Jon Prosser] brings the twist: “Regardless of what you’ve heard elsewhere, we will not be getting it in September, iPhone 12 is delayed. We’re going to be getting it in October… [but] instead of having announcements in September and then it comes out in October, it looks like they’ll shoot for all of it happening in October.”
Apple’s Quiet Cost Cutting
How can Apple bring down the bill of materials on the new iPhone? One approach may be to reduce the cost of the peripherals in the retail packaging. It has tweaked the offerings many times through the year to reduce costs. Reports this week suggest that another round of cuts is on the way, with the removal of the EarBuds from the box. Tim Hardwick reports:
“Apple has included earbuds with the iPhone ever since the first model of the smartphone launched in 2007, in large part because the iPhone was pitched as a natural extension of the iPod – a music player that also made phone calls.
“However, in a TF International Securities research note issued to investors today and seen by MacRumors, Kuo said he expects Apple to leave out the traditional wired earphones that come with iPhones, which will usher in strong demand for AirPods shipments this year.”
If you want some headphones, you’ll have to buy them, and Apple would quite like you to buy from its store. More at MacRumors.
Massive Problems With Siri Security
Apple is facing claims that Siri is recording and passing audio through to its contractors (who listen and grade the responses to Siri) from situations where users have not activated Siri. The claims come from one of the contractors in a letter to various data protection regulators across Europe. The story is developing. Alex Hern reports:
“A former Apple contractor who helped blow the whistle on the company’s programme to listen to users’ Siri recordings has decided to go public, in protest at the lack of action taken as a result of the disclosures.
“…“I listened to hundreds of recordings every day, from various Apple devices (eg. iPhones, Apple Watches, or iPads). These recordings were often taken outside of any activation of Siri, eg in the context of an actual intention from the user to activate it for a request. These processing’s were made without users being aware of it, and were gathered into datasets to correct the transcription of the recording made by the device,” he said.”
iOS 13.5 Features Powerful Pandemic Hooks
With the release of iOS 13.5, Apple has packaged up the usual mix of bug fixes and tweaks, but it has also included something that every user should consider upgrading their phone. This version o iOS is the first to include the API and hardware hooks for the numerous Contact Tracing apps being developed to counter the coronavirus threat. Gordon Kelly reports:
“Contact tracing is a big deal (it’s built into iPadOS 13.5 as well). The process is completely anonymous and it enables you to be alerted if you come into contact with someone who has COVID-19. It also allows you to anonymously notify others you have come into contact with, should you be diagnosed with the virus. Tracing is disabled by default but I would highly recommend you enable it to help yourself and others: Settings > Privacy > Health > COVID-19 Exposure Logging.”
More here on Forbes. It’s worth noting that this is not a full blown app, the hooks are for health agencies around the world to develop their own apps using this privacy-focused network. Was that the right approach from Apple and Google (who worked together to ensure interoperability)? Or should the two companies have develop the app for the world themselves? Ben Lovejoy:
“They took what, at the time, seemed an extremely sensible compromise approach: created an API, made it available to any government that wanted it, and even produced sample code that would allow any nation to create its own app with the minimum of effort. They basically did 99% of the job, and waited for governments to do the other 1%.
“…With the benefit of hindsight, this should have been obvious. Government IT projects typically take years, when what we needed was something available within weeks. What Apple and Google really should have done was create their own apps, and just make localised versions available in each country.”
Apple’s Big Keyboard Mistake
Why are the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops gathering so much praise in reviews? With base specifications that match but do not exceed the Windows 10 based competition, and the MacOS software staying consistent with other older machines, what has brought about the praise? Apple fixed its biggest laptop mistake:
“Although Apple has slapped a ridiculous marketing name on it, the Magic Keyboard is a return to the reliable scissor-switch mechanism. With no design flaws reported since the launch of the 16-inch laptop its probably safe to say the keyboard worries are over…
“The excitement, the digital column inches, the praise all being heaped upon the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro machines, all center on one area. It took five years to fix the keyboard.”
What’s Next For The MacBook?
This week also saw a number of Apple patents published, based around new keyboard technology for the MacBook. Given the length of time it took to address the aunty butterfly keyboards, I’m not sure I’d confident in any new keyboard from Apple in next year’s MacBooks. Darren Allen looks at the new features.
“The first patent is for a ‘dynamic input surface’ to replace the traditional trackpad. As it is, the MacBook trackpad sits beneath the keyboard in the middle of the chassis, but the new idea would be to make the entire area beneath the keyboard deck an illuminated trackpad…
“The second Apple patent which has been granted describes a keyboard that has a transparent finger sensing system overlaid on top of the keys. This would allow the user to draw directly on top of the keyboard with their finger, allowing for lines or boxes to be drawn in a document for example, or to facilitate pinch-and-zoom style gestures.”
Countless students are taking exams at home, with systems put together to allow their submissions to be audited. This is not without issue, and it turns out that ‘taking a picture of your written answer and submitting it’ is causing problems with a number of AP tests in America. Why? Because the software does not support Apple’s default HEIC image format on the iPhone, and it’s timing out the submission website. Monica Chin reports:
“The testing portal doesn’t support the default format on iOS devices and some newer Android phones, HEIC files. HEIC files are smaller than JPEGs and other formats, thus allowing you to store a lot more photos on an iPhone. Basically, only Apple (and, more recently, Samsung) use the HEIC format — most other websites and platforms don’t support it. Even popular Silicon Valley-based services, such as Slack, don’t treat HEICs the same way as standard JPEGs. “
Processes are being put in place, so do check instructions from your exam boards carefully. More at The Verge.
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.