Every time Apple releases a new public beta of iOS 11 I get inundated by people wanting to know if it’s safe for them to try it on their iPhones and iPads.
Well, there’s only one way to find out — and that’s to install it on my equipment.
Before I go any further, I feel the need to point out that installing beta code onto a device that you rely on is a dumb move. Things can go wrong — very wrong — and you can end up in a world of hurt. Ideally you should only install the iOS betas onto iPhones and iPads that you have set aside for that purpose.
But where’s the fun in that?
I’ve been running the iOS 11 public beta from the start, and let me tell you what a painful process that has been. I’ve experienced it all — apps that flat out refuse to work, apps that half work, notifications that just won’t go away, crashes, lockups, awful battery life, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi trials and tribulations, performance troubles, and plenty more stuff that I’ve plain erased from my memory.
I feel safe in saying that the iOS 11 public beta has been one of the most miserable beta experiences I’ve had in a very long time.
But now that iOS 11 public beta 5 is out, I feel that Apple is finally turning a corner.
Things are, mercifully, a lot better. Performance is noticeably improved, as is stability. Apps that weren’t working before (Bandcamp was one, but there were others that I can’t recall at present) now all seem to be working, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi both feel a lot more robust.
This is not to say that I’ve not had crashes, because I have, but they seem to be fewer and further between.
So, while the iOS 11 public beta 5 is certainly better than previous releases, I still encourage you to take care (I’ve outlined precautions you might want to take here — at minimum you should have a backup), and have a very good, long think about whether you want to install it on an iPhone or iPad that you rely on.
See also :
Last quarter, Apple generated almost $6 billion of free cash flow during what is regarded as its weakest quarter. When it comes to metrics such as revenue, operating income, free cash flow, and net cash, Apple dwarfs Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet.
How does it do this?
Neil Cybart, Apple watcher and analyst at Above Avalon, this week published a piece called “Apple has the best business model for generating cash” where he compared the Cupertino giant to other tech players such as Facebook, Alphabet, and Amazon.
In the metrics of revenue, operating income, free cash flow, and net cash, Apple was either bigger than, or close to equal, to Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet combined.
So how does Apple do this? According to Cybart, it is excellent at profit extraction.
Consider Apple’s current product line:
- The most profitable smartphone
- The most profitable tablet
- The most profitable laptop
- The most profitable desktop
- The most profitable smartwatch
- The most profitable pair of wireless headphones
- The most profitable streaming TV box
Few hardware manufacturers make money selling smartphones and tablets. The money found in the components business doesn’t come close to Apple-like profitability. The best-selling laptop and desktop manufacturers can only dream of Mac margins. Apple is the most profitable wearables company. Even minor Apple products from a sales perspective, like Apple TV, are grabbing profit in an otherwise profitless industry.
And as Cybart is keen to point out, Apple isn’t overcharging customers to do this, with products such as AirPods and the Apple Watch underpriced compared to the competition, MacBooks priced in line with similarly-specced laptops, and the iPhone priced on par with Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphones.
So how does Apple do this? Cybart goes into great depth about this in the piece, and if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty I suggest you read the piece in its entirety, but the it boils down to what Cybart sees as Apple’s core tenets:
Cybart goes on to examine the smart speaker market, and how Apple differs from Amazon, Facebook, and Google. While Amazon’s goal is to get cheap Alexa-powered devices into as many homes as possible in order to make money from retail sales and Prime subscriptions, and Google and Facebook will look to monetize the data obtained via low-cost microphones and cameras through advertising, Apple is looking to sell a high-priced speaker that will bring in downstream Apple Music revenue.
“Even though it may seem counterintuitive,” Cybart writes, “Apple stands to earn more cash through hardware sales at a smaller scale than companies giving away hardware at cost but looking to monetization in other ways.”
While there are doubts about Apple’s future — specifically related to what comes after the iPhone — right now there’s little doubt as to Apple’s efficiency at squeezing cash out of its product lines.
See also :
A leading human rights expert for the United Nations has sent a letter to Apple to ask why the company removed the majority of VPN providers from the country’s app store.
The iPhone and iPad maker said in a notice to several providers on July 30 that the company was “required to remove some VPN apps in China that do not meet the new regulations” in the country’s new cybersecurity law, which went into effect on Aug. 1.
It’s thought that the Chinese government is on the information offensive ahead of a leadership reshuffle, expected later this year. VPN providers are often used to bypass China’s strict online censorship — the so-called “Great Firewall.”
The removals sparked criticism from privacy and rights groups, and by the providers themselves, calling it “surprising and unfortunate” and one that sets a “dangerous precedent.”
Now it has the attention of the United Nations.
David Kaye, the special rapporteur on opinion and expression, sent several questions to the company’s chief executive, Tim Cook, in a communication, dated Friday, to ask among several things if Apple received a formal or informal demands by Beijing to remove the apps, and if the company made any objections.
“I am mindful of the challenges that your business and other technology and media companies face in expanding access to your products in China, products which often expand communication and access to information,” said Kaye.
“In recent years, China has expanded the scope of its censorship tools and efforts, coming at the expense of individual rights to freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of association, and other fundamental human rights. Chinese restrictions put you in the position – unenvious, and likely reluctantly – of having to mediate between your customers, Chinese citizens, and Chinese law,” he added.
News of the app removals comes months after Apple accepted the Newseum award for free expression in April, in which the company reaffirmed its commitment of “enabling people around the world to speak up” and “by speaking up ourselves” — a point Kaye stressed in his letter.
“I address these questions not as a judge of Apple’s choices in this situation but as part of my effort to understand, and thereafter report to UN bodies, the state of freedom of expression worldwide,” said Kaye.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
There are not many new devices in the summer, but on MobileTechRoundup show #403 Kevin and I talk about some of the latest tech and our recent experiences.
Running time: 65 minutes
Listen here (MP3, 75MB)
Apple, seen as a bastion of privacy and security, has boxed itself into a corner.
Last year, the company pushed back on a court order that demanded it build custom software that would crack the encryption on a terrorist’s iPhone. Apple refused, arguing the precedent could be used again on other devices, potentially putting all iPhones at risk. The company had mixed but strong political and legal support in favor of its case, and the matter went to court. The day before a critical hearing, the FBI dropped its case when it found hackers able to access the data in spite of Apple’s refusal.
Then, this week, Apple acquiesced to China’s demands to remove almost every VPN provider — used to bypass China’s strict online censorship — from the country’s app store, following a change in the law.
ExpressVPN said in a statement it found Apple’s decision “surprising and unfortunate”, while StarVPN said in a tweet that the move sets a “dangerous precedent” that could allow other countries to follow suit.
There was confusion and anger. Why will Apple fight a court order against a particular device when it pulls VPN apps for human rights activists in China? How can Apple argue that the FBI breaking into a single iPhone is more detrimental to user security than reducing the security for an entire country? And what happens when the UK, or Australia, and others, ask of the same or similar demands?
These are fair questions for the company, which outwardly prides itself on providing privacy and security.
For more than a year, China has warned VPN providers that they would need a state-sanctioned license to continue operating. Beijing is on an information crackdown ahead of the Chinese leadership reshuffle, expected later this year, because VPNs are used to skirt the country’s so-called “Great Firewall” state censorship.
China’s information ministry finally enacted the rule on July 30, making the majority of VPN services illegal in the country overnight — forcing Apple to act or face consequences.
Apple boss Tim Cook defended the move on a post-earnings call on August 1, saying the company would rather not remove the apps, “but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business.”
There’s a great sense of unease and mixed feelings on what Apple should have done — stand up to Beijing, profits be damned or not — and every argument seems to have an equally compelling counterpoint.
China makes up some 17 percent of Apple’s revenue — about $8 billion — as of its third-quarter earnings. But with that figure in double-digit decline year over year, Apple can’t afford not to play ball in the region. Where Western companies fail, Chinese companies often pick up the slack. Apple also recently opened a data center in the country to comply with China’s new cybersecurity rules, reaffirming its commitment to the region.
The other argument is that pulling out of the region would leave millions stranded with phones that can no longer access cloud-based and messaging services built into the phones. Is Apple willing to give up billions in revenue and isolate its customers for the sake of a few VPN apps? In any case, any criticism or rebuke from Apple wouldn’t change Beijing’s mind. Instead, it would likely antagonize the situation with a world power that doesn’t take well to criticism.
Given the circumstances Apple found itself in last year when it launched a legal fight against the FBI over the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, many have reacted angrily to its apparent about-face.
Cook denied that criticism, arguing that China’s new policy and the FBI case last year are “very different,” because the law in the US supported Apple’s legal fight.
Cook is right in that the US at least has due process, but the company’s legal battle was in the end largely superficial and resolved without any determination on whether the FBI’s demand was lawful. The FBI got what it wanted, and yet Apple’s values of privacy and security were upheld and appeared stronger than ever.
What seems to be a utilitarian approach for its Chinese customers falls foul of the company’s global privacy and security mantra, something the company doubled-down on in its fight against the FBI last year.
And that sets a dangerous precedent going forward, as noted by The New York Times.
First there was China banning VPNs, but what happens in Beijing rarely stays in Beijing. Russia will also ban VPNs later this year and it’s only a matter of time before other countries get similar ideas.
In fairness, other companies haven’t escaped harsh security policies. Several other messaging apps, including Weibo and WeChat, were censored in China, and LinkedIn was banned in Russia after it refused to store customer data in the country. Google hasn’t operated in China for years after its search engine was censored, and Amazon also had to ban VPNs from its Chinese cloud.
The big question is what happens when Apple (or any other company) faces this inevitable dilemma again.
“If Apple and others will sacrifice user access to crucial security services at the behest of governments like China and Russia, it raises significant new questions about if and how they will react when the UK and Australia order the insertion of back doors or other security flaws,” said Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager at digital rights group Access Now, in an email.
The UK and Australia are set to be the next major battleground to test Apple’s resolve. With a fraction of the population compared to the US or China, the financial stakes are far lower, making Apple’s response less predictable.
This week, home secretary Amber Rudd called encryption a “problem”. It’s part of a coordinated push for greater surveillance powers to access encrypted content and prohibit companies from introducing end-to-end encryption, on top of the “snoopers’ charter” that was recently passed, seen as the “most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy” by Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
The reality is that today, tomorrow, or the next day, the UK could deem Apple’s messaging and video calling services iMessage and FaceTime — which were “designed from the ground up to only work using end-to-end encryption” — too dangerous for public consumption. (“There is no ‘off switch’ for iMessage encryption,” said John Gruber, an Apple reporter, in a blog post. The government would have to block the service.)
Australia’s prime minister is also pushing for greater decryption powers, even if that means defying the laws of mathematics.
It’s hard to paint a bright and prosperous future with a dark cloud lingering.
“Wouldn’t companies push back against such demands — possibly — but it’s a much harder fight to win if it’s not just the UK making the demand, but an international coalition of governments putting pressure on them to obey the same powers,” said Danny O’Brien, international director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, referring to the Five Eyes surveillance coalition, made up of five key allies including the UK and Australia.
“This, it seems is what [Theresa] May’s government wants next,” he said.
It’s only a matter of time before the UK or Australia — or another Western power with a controversial, unabashed, and impulsive leader — makes the same request that China did, or greater.
“When these companies bow down to repressive laws and governments, they are failing their users and everyone their tools or systems impact,” said Stepanovich.
It’s not one rule for the US and another for China — the lowest common denominator will prevail.
And so when Apple and other companies comply with the small but pinching laws laws of today, they have little choice but to accept the greater, more punishing laws of tomorrow.
Video: Apple’s new iPad Pro takes baby steps towards the future
Turns out that was true.
The iPad is an interesting device. Once seen as possibly the successor to the iPhone, it’s one of those devices that burned brightly, but it burned itself out very quickly, going from launch to peak sales in under four years, and ever since then, it’s been in steady decline.
Earlier this year, Apple attempted to resuscitate flagging sales by turning to the older-than-dirt sale trick of cutting prices.
And it looks like it’s worked. But at a price.
Sales are up, for sure. Just look at the uptick for the last quarter:
Problem is, increased sales hasn’t done much for revenue or profits. While iPad sales are up 15 percent year on year, revenue only climbed by a measly 2 percent.
Average selling price (ASP) is now $435, while a year ago it stood at $490.
This leads us to a few interesting — and for Apple, worrying — observations:
Education is also playing a big part in keeping the iPad afloat. During yesterday’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook threw out this tidbit:
“iPad is the perfect tool for teaching in new and compelling ways, and our iPad results were especially strong in the US education market, where sales were up 32 percent year over year to over one million units.”
From the same call, we find that people who buy iPads actually love the iPad — so the trick is getting them to buy them. Apple CFO Luca Maestri had this to say:
“NPD indicates that iPad had 55 percent share of the US tablet market in the month of June, including 8 of the 10 best-selling tablets. That’s up from 46 percent share a year ago. And among tablets priced over $200, iPad’s share was 89 percent. In addition, the most recent survey from 451 Research measured business and consumer satisfaction rates ranging from 95 percent to 99 percent across iPad models. And among those planning to buy tablets, purchase intent for iPad was over 70 percent.”
It seems that people love everything about the iPad — except the price.
I last used a stylus regularly with an Apple product about 20 years ago (and this weekend I put in freshly charged AA batteries to test out my Newton MessagePad 2100).
It wasn’t until this year’s Apple iPad Pro 10.5 that I decided to try out an iPad Pro and purchase an Apple Pencil to see if there was any value in the stylus. With the ZAGG Rugged Messenger case holding the Apple Pencil with the iPad Pro, I find myself using the Apple Pencil more than I ever used the Surface Pen with any of my Microsoft Surface Pro devices.
It helps that the iPad Pro 10.5 is a much sleeker and lighter tablet than the Surface Pro 4, but I also find the Pencil more ergonomic to hold and I prefer the larger solid tip of the Pencil over the mushy small tip of the Surface Pen. It is also the software experience on the iPad Pro that helps make my Pencil usage more enjoyable than the Surface Pen.
Many websites and advertisements show some pretty amazing Apple Pencil creations, primarily from artists who have talent and skill. I am a professional engineer, not an artist, and I struggle to draw stick people. I was hesitant to purchase an Apple Pencil because I couldn’t see how I would use it.
Thankfully, there is much more you can do with an Apple Pencil than draw pictures, create cartoons, and develop electronic masterpieces. One of the first things for those of us with no artistic bent, is to start taking handwritten notes. I find it a bit rude and distracting when people bring laptops into meetings and start typing away on the keyboard while a speaker is talking. I personally focus more when I take handwritten notes on a medium that is resting on a table or on my lap. At the last four conferences I attended, I used my Surface Pro and OneNote to capture notes during the event and never once felt I was blocking the speaker or getting distracted by other notifications and applications.
There are a large number of note taking apps for the Apple iPad Pro, including the greatly improved Apple Notes app in iOS 11. I am running iOS 11 beta on my iPad Pro so am able to take advantage of the Instant Notes function where you tap your Apple Pencil on the lock screen to jump into Notes, search for your handwritten text, and sketch with the Apple Pencil right in the body of your note.
I’ve spent years bouncing between Evernote and OneNote, but think I may finally be settling into OneNote as my primary cross platform notes app due to the better support for editing and marking up a number of different formatted items within the note, and better Apple Pencil integration. I’ve come to enjoy using OneNote on the iPad Pro 10.5 and with my engineering firm using OneNote to capture and share more important engineering and project information it is the app that has earned a place on my dock.
Even though I don’t have any artistic ability when it comes to drawing things, I do have preferences when it comes to images and enjoy simple editing on the iPad Pro. Color Splash and Affinity Photo are two of my favorite apps for editing images. Without the Apple Pencil, you could never achieve the same results in these apps thanks to the fine selections you can make with the Pencil tip. There are a ton of tools in Affinity Photo and many are optimized for the Apple Pencil, even taking advantage of the angle you tile the Pencil and the pressure you place on the display with the Pencil. It’s rather stunning, actually, and you may find yourself spending hours editing images with Affinity Photo and the Apple Pencil.
I’ve been working as a professional naval architect for more than 20 years and my role today is to review and perform quality control on drawings and calculations. The Apple Pencil helps with these tasks when reviewing and annotating drawings in AutoCad on the iPad Pro. I haven’t yet created any original drawings on the iPad Pro, but have looked over a few and added some comments for the designer.
While the Apple Pencil is not essential for looking over Excel spreadsheets, I discovered Microsoft Excel has a Draw tab that works very well with the Apple Pencil. You can perform the same actions in Excel as you can in OneNote, which can help you annotate spreadsheets or draw in simple drawings to further enhance spreadsheets. I found it helpful to insert a photo of a piece of structure on a ship and then annotate that photo within the Excel spreadsheet so that clients get a clear understanding of what the calculation is related to on their vessel.
Over the last few years I have been signing documents electronically and with the Apple iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, it is quick and easy to sign documents. My signature with the Apple Pencil looks just about the same as my signature with a standard pen or pencil. I hate trying to sign things with my finger on a touch screen device and am very pleased to see Apple add digital signature support to the Apple iPad Pro.
In addition to signing documents, my role as an engineering manager also has me marking up Word and PDF documents during the review process. At the office I use track changes in Word to make many suggestions early in the review process, but if I am on the road or need to make suggestions later in the development process I am often making notes in PDF. Handwritten notes with indicators and direct call-outs is easier with an Apple Pencil and apps like PDFReader Pro.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Apple Pencil is a very useful instrument, for both artists and those of us that cannot draw well.
Last month I tested the Logitech Slim Combo keyboard for the iPad Pro 10.5. While the keyboard is functional and useful for productivity, it’s quite thick and the $150 price is tough to justify.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been using the ZAGG Rugged Messenger for the iPad Pro 10.5. It is priced $50 less than the Logitech one ($99.99) and I prefer it for several reasons.
Slide your iPad Pro into the top case portion of the combo for protection around the edges and back of your iPad Pro. A mixture of hard plastic and a TPU frame protect the back and edges to a MIL-STD 810G rating of 6 feet. Obviously, dropping your iPad Pro on the display will likely cause it to crack, but side and edge drops may survive.
There are openings in the cover for the camera, flash, Lightning port, 3.5mm headset jack, and mics. Raised buttons for the power and volume are present too.
One of the best features of the ZAGG Rugged Messenger combo is the Apple Pencil holder found along the top (in landscape) or right (in portrait). I hate that there is no way to conveniently carry the Apple Pencil with your iPad and this feature alone may set the ZAGG Rugged Messenger apart enough to satisfy many customers.
The bottom piece is the keyboard and back cover that serves as the kickstand for your iPad Pro. It attaches via a very strong magnet in the spine and connects to your iPad via Bluetooth. A fully charged keyboard is rated to last for up to two years between charging.
There is a row of keys above the five typical keyboard rows that serve as the following shortcuts:
There are five rows of keys below this top line with a full number row, directional arrows, FN key, two CMD, Two Alt/Option, and two Shift keys. Use the FN and down arrow to toggle through three brightness levels. Use the FN and right arrow to toggle through seven keyboard backlight colors. The backlighting is more even and bright than what is present on the Logitech Slim Combo.
The keys are well spaced and have solid travel. The wrist support is long enough to be comfortable when used in a number of ways. The magnets are very strong to hold the keyboard to your iPad and also prop up your iPad.
The back piece of the keyboard has three seams in it and folds then slides up and down the back of the ZAGG case to allow you to prop up your Apple iPad Pro 10.5 in several different positions. When you pull the keyboard down from the front of your iPad Pro, your iPad wakes up and the display turns on.
The ZAGG Rugged Messenger matches the premium design of the Apple iPad Pro and is the keyboard combo I was looking for to match up with the Apple iPad Pro. It looks great and is well designed.
The ZAGG Rugged Messenger is only $99, which is about a third less than the Apple and Logitech keyboard options. I have tested all three and prefer the ZAGG design and capability. The ZAGG Rugged Messenger weighs in at a rather hefty 1.53 pounds, but with the iPad Pro it is still lighter than most laptops.
Although the keys may be a bit better designed on the Logitech Slim Combo, the price, Apple Pencil holder, backlighting options, and better use on your lap make the ZAGG Rugged Messenger a better option.
A security flaw in iOS devices that went largely unreported after it was revealed to have been fixed had the potential to be one of the most damaging security vulnerabilities this year.
The bug exploited a flaw in how Apple’s iCloud Keychain synchronizes sensitive data across devices, like passwords and credit cards on file, which — if exploited — could’ve let a sophisticated attacker steal every secret stored on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
“The bug we found is exactly the kind of bug law enforcement or intelligence would look for in an end-to-end encryption system,” said Alex Radocea, co-founder of Longterm Security, who is set to reveal more details about the now-fixed vulnerability at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Radocea said the flaw could have let an attacker punch a hole in the end-to-end encryption that Apple uses to ensure nobody can read data as it is sent across the internet.
That data can be intercepted by an attacker to steal passwords and other secret data, like the websites you visit and their passwords, as well as Wi-Fi network names and their passwords.
It’s all because of a flaw in how iCloud Keychain verified device keys, which Radocea was able to bypass.
Radocea, who also blogged about the vulnerability, explained by phone earlier this week that iCloud Keychain uses a customized version of the open-source Off-the-Record encryption protocol, typically used in instant messaging apps, in order to exchange secrets across the internet. The protocol uses key verification to protect against impersonating by ensuring two or more devices are talking to each other properly.
He discovered a way to bypass the signature verification process, which could’ve allowed an attacker to negotiate a key without having it verified.
“It’s completely silent to users,” said Radocea. “They wouldn’t have seen a device being added.”
He verified the attack by loading a TLS certificate on a test iOS device, which allowed him to carry out a man-in-the-middle attack to inspect the traffic. He started intercepting the traffic and modifying Off-the-Record packets in transit in order to deliberately get an invalid signature.
“We knew just what bytes to flip to get an invalid signature, whilst still getting it approved,” he explained. “We were able to send a signature that’s wrong and modify the negotiation packet to accept it anyway.”
From there, he was able to get a device approved. “We could see everything [in the Keychain] in plain-text,” he said.
There are caveats to the attack, said Radocea, indicating that not anyone can carry out this kind of attack. It takes work, and effort, and the right circumstances.
“With the bug I couldn’t go ahead and steal whoever’s iCloud Keychain just by knowing their account name. I would also need access to their iCloud account somehow,” he said, such as an Apple ID email address and password. In the past few years, we’ve seen billions of accounts exposed as a result of data breaches — enough to individually target accounts that reuse passwords across sites. (Radocea noted that accounts with two-factor authentication are far better protected than those that aren’t.)
“Instead, what we found was a break in the end-to-end encryption piece,” he said. “The communication between devices and Apple was still secure. However, the encryption flaws would have made it possible for a rogue Apple employee or lawful intercept order to gain access to all of the keychain data.”
And that could be a problem. Cast your mind back a year and you’ll remember the Apple vs. FBI saga, in which the government demanded Apple rewrite software to break the encryption on an iPhone that belonged to the San Bernardino terrorist.
Apple refused, and the FBI eventually withdrew its request after it found and paid a hacker to break the encryption.
Radocea praised Apple’s effort for designing a system that can’t be accessed by anyone — including Apple, as well as law enforcement — but he warned that one design flaw is all it takes to become vulnerable again.
“Update all your things,” he said.
To help celebrate World Emoji Day, Apple is showing off some of the new emoji that will launch alongside iOS 11. The July 17 ‘holiday’ was picked because that’s the date used in most iterations of the calendar emoji character.
In celebration, Apple posted a handful of the new emoji coming to iOS 11, macOS, and watchOS when they’re available this fall.
Some of the new emoji are long overdue, such as the “Woman with Headscarf” and “Breastfeeding” emoji. Some are more playful but just as useful, like the exploding head emoji. Or is it representative of your mind being blown? Either way, it’s bound to be useful.
In total, 69 new emoji have been added to the official list of supported emoji, which means Android users will also gain access to the new emoji once Google adds them to Android.
Apple’s iOS 11, macOS 10.13, and watchOS 4 are expected to be available for download this fall. For those who can’t wait to test the latest software, you can take part of Apple’s public beta program. Although, you probably shouldn’t.