If you received an Apple email letting you know you’ve been upgraded to iCloud+ at no additional charge, you’re not alone. So, what is iCloud+? What do you get, and why should you use it?
What is iCloud+?
Announced at WWDC 2021, iCloud+ is a suite of additional services designed to supplement the existing features of Apple’s online iCloud service. Despite its name, it doesn’t cost any more than before but is only available to those on paid plans. The free 5GB tier doesn’t get these additional features. The upgraded service adds useful security enhancements, including iCloud Private Relay (still in beta), Hide My email, and improved support for HomeKit Secure Video.
Announcing the upgrade to paid users, Apple said:
“Great news! We’ve automatically upgraded your iCloud storage plan to iCloud+ at no additional charge. iCloud+ combines everything you already love about iCloud with new features including iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and more HomeKit Secure Video support.”
Why should you use iCloud+?
These new features are designed to help keep users secure. That security extends from protecting Safari browsing sessions all the way to ensuring marketers can’t easily gather information about you. If you care about your privacy, these features should be helpful. They may also have implications for enterprises, while the iCloud Custom domain tool should come in handy for small business users.
So, what do you get? Let’s dive into each component.
What is iCloud Private Relay?
Currently available in beta, iCloud Private Relay is a VPN-like service that protects you when you use Safari to browse online. It uses a dual-hop architecture. That means the service encrypts Safari traffic as it leaves your device, protecting it from being read by others. It encrypts the URL so no one, not your ISP or Apple, can see what site you are visiting. Your IP and the destination are then accessed using an intermediate relay station run by a “third-party trusted partner,” according to Apple.
It works as follows:
Your requests are encrypted and sent through two separate internet relays;
The first Apple-operated relay provides you with an anonymous IP address that maps to your region, but not location.
The second third-party relay decrypts and takes you to the web address.
This dual-hop approach means no one can see who a user is and which sites they choose to visit. Apple only sees the IP address you request from, while third-parties only see the website you request.
Apple has not said who its trusted partners are. It has said the service protects your browsing preferences “without compromising performance” – though some reports differ.
It is interesting that Apple is not offering this feature in China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda, the Philippines, and, it seems, Russia. One can’t help but wonder what it is those nations have against anonymized web browsing.
Spencer Dailey speculates some network operators, such as college campuses, will attempt to prohibit use of this feature. It seems possible that some enterprise networks will seek to forbid it as well, particularly when handling highly confidential data, as the feature undermines some risk-based authentication systems.
To enable iCloud Private Relay go to Settings>Apple ID>iCloud>Private Relay and toggle to on.
What is Hide My Email?
This feature lets you create random emails that forward to your main email address. That lets you sign up for things online without being required to share your actual address. “Hide My Email also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them,” said Apple.
To use the feature, open Settings and tap the Apple ID section at the top of the main menu. Then tap iCloud.
In the next section, tap Hide my email and then choose Create new address.
Give the address an identifying label (newsletters, for example), tap Next and then tap Done.
A random email address will be created for you, and you will be able to access it in iCloud Settings.
Scroll down the list and you’ll find you can also change the Forward to item to any address you own, including non-Apple addresses.
What is Mail Privacy Protection?
One of the new features in iCloud Mail, Mail Privacy Protection, helps prevent senders from using invisible pixels in mails to collect information about you. These are widely used to determine whether emails have been opened or to identify IP addresses. The protection means your IP address is randomized. While intended to prevent aggressive marketing, there have been concerns that some newsletter publishers may be affected, though this may not actually be the case.
To enable the setting, which is not switched on by default, go to Settings>Mail>Privacy Protection and turn on the Protect Mail Activity option.
What is HomeKit Secure Video?
Announced last year, this feature lets you connect supported home security cameras to your Home app. Security video can be stored in iCloud at no additional cost, which means it is kept highly secure and can be accessed from anywhere using end-to-end encryption with a device logged into your Apple ID.
The system is intelligent enough that if you have an Apple TV or HomePod, that device will try to analyze video footage to detect people, animals, or vehicles that have been filmed by the camera.
The number of cameras you can add to your account is limited to none with a free account, one with a 50GB iCloud account, and five with a 200GB tier. If you want to add an unlimited number of cameras, you’ll need a 2TB iCloud+ account, which is now included within the Premier Apple One subscription.
Apple One is Apple’s all-in-one subscription service that offers access to Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and iCloud; the Premier tier adds News+ and Fitness+
What is Custom Email Domain?
This useful enhancement lets you personalize your iCloud Mail address with up to five domain names owned by you. You can create up to three email addresses per domain, but you cannot move just one email address to iCloud Mail while leaving another with your ISP. If you use Family Sharing, then up to five family members can also use this domain.
The Smith family might use smithfamily.com as a domain (if it were available), for example.
To use a domain with your iCloud account you must update the MX, TXT and CNAME records held by your domain registrar as detailed in this Apple support document.
Did Apple iCloud Mail web app get updated?
Indeed. Apple has updated the iCloud Mail web app accessed via iCloud.com. Apple has given the app an appearance more consistent with its current OS designs — and email messages you compose now open up in the same window.
Finally, the company has introduced an improved service to recover data from iCloud in the event you lose your password.
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Apple ships the latest iteration of its operating systems for iPads and iPhones today, but some (though not all) of the most enterprise-friendly features won’t be ready on day one.
What you get with iOS 15/iPadOS 15
Despite the extent of this list, you will still be gaining a slew of new features when you do upgrade your operating system(s). Focus, for example, will help you keep your head down to get things done, while the new design of Safari at present seems like great news to anyone else creating browsers for iOS. Maps gives new views, including 3D views, and you’ll get much better sound during FaceTime calls. Photos gets much better at identifying and sharing memories selected from your collection. Live Text, a slew of privacy protecting features, and excellent improvements to Contacts, Notes and Reminders — including support for tags — should give most iPhone and iPad users plenty of useful new tools.
Enterprises will also benefit from a far more powerful MDM system.
What you won’t get with 15
What follows are features that are slated to be made available in a later software update.
One additional caveat is that some features, particularly those that make use of AI, will only be supported on iPhone XS or newer. These include such tools Live Text in photos, for instance. There are also a small number of features that require you have a very recent iPhone.
Perhaps the most exciting improvement we’ll be left waiting for pending introduction of macOS Monterey, Universal Control lets you use a single mouse and keyboard to control up to three devices, so long as they are all logged in to the same Apple ID. You can move your cursor between all the screens and drag-&-drop items between devices, making it far easier to work with multiple devices.
Universal Control won’t be available until the next iteration of macOS ships. It will work with iPad Pro, iPad Air 3 or later, iPad 6 or later, and iPad mini 5 or later. You’ll also need a MacBook Pro (2016 and later), MacBook (2016 and later), MacBook Air (2018 and later), iMac (2017 and later), iMac (5K Retina 27-inch, Late 2015), iMac Pro, Mac mini (2018 and later), or Mac Pro (2019).
Originally announced as being made available as an iOS 15 update, Apple has decided to spend time improving its controversial CSAM plans. Given the company’s recent decision to suspend an app from Russia’s opposition leader from its store just before an election, many continue to feel that the CSAM tools should never see the light of day.
How can Apple prevent mission creep with these? It cannot.
[Also read: A business user’s guide to Apple’s upgrade season]
One of the improvements that didn’t get a great deal of attention when announced, Swift Playgrounds 4 will let you use your iPad to create apps for Apple’s mobile devices that can then be submitted to the App Store. The ability to upload apps to the store will debut as a subsequent software update in 15.
App Privacy Report
Coming later this year, Apple’s improved App Privacy report should give deeper insight into what apps are doing with your privacy by letting you see what sensors and data the app has accessed each week. If you find an app using the camera and has no reason to do so, you’ll be able to suspend access privileges or delete the app. Mail Privacy Protection helps prevent email senders from learning about your Mail activity.
ID cards in Wallet
In some states and some countries, it will be possible to store digital versions of government IDs inside the Wallet app. This feature is supposedly set to launch later this year.
iCloud+ features are coming soon
Existing iCloud accounts will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically when the service is fully operational later this fall. This means its landmark features, including iCloud Private Relay, custom email domains, and Hide my Email won’t be available on launch.
iCloud Private Relay encrypts Safari traffic as it leaves your device, protecting it from being read by others. It means you can feel a little more secure when using public Wi-Fi or other networks, as your requests are sent through two separate internet relays so no one — including Apple — can see who you are and what sites you visit. The protection isn’t perfect, but is far better than before. You may find some websites may have issues, such as showing content for the wrong region or requiring extra steps to sign in when you use iCloud Private Relay.
Custom email domains let you personalize your iCloud Mail address with a custom domain name. Once you configure iCloud as the email provider for your domain, you can set up as many as three personal aliases for your iCloud email address and invite your family members to use the same domain with their iCloud Mail accounts.
Hide My Email will let users create unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal inbox, so you can send and receive email without sharing your real email address. There’s no limit to how many you can create and you can disable them at will. Hide My Email support in Mail is coming in a software update later this year.
Digital Legacy program
Apple’s Digital Legacy program is an important scheme in that it begins to formalize a process through which you can pass on your personal information to family members and friends in the event you pass away. It does so by letting users define Legacy Contacts who will be given the right to download this information. The one thing you can’t leave behind – and I think it should be possible – is your books, movies and music. The Digital Legacy Program is coming in a later software update.
While ostensibly not an enterprise-focused feature, SharePlay does have some potential. Apple has introduced it as a way for you to share music, TV shows, and anything you can share from your screen with others from within a FaceTime call. It’s a consumer feature, but it’s one developers may be able to make use of in their apps, thanks to a set of APIs the company has made available.
Find your AirPods
Apple has promised that it will make it possible to find lost AirPods Pro and AirPods Max using its huge end-to-end encrypted Find My network. This will guide you to the last known place your AirPods were found, and let you make them chirp to help you find them.
We don’t yet know when all these features will be available, but we can speculate many will be introduced with the release of macOS Monterey later this fall.
One more thing: Every year we see millions of Apple customers attempt to upgrade to the latest iteration of the OS almost as soon as it is introduced. This can lead to slow downloads and a frustrating upgrade experience. It usually makes sense to wait 24 hours or so until things settle down and any unexpected problems with an upgrade reveal themselves.
Apple is expected to release iOS 15/iPadOS 15 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET today.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
At its big September event Tuesday, Apple showed us how powerful chips boosted by software and hardware integration and bespoke machine intelligence can deliver real value to every user.
What Apple introduced
The company seemingly confirmed all the pre-event rumors, introducing iPhones with all-day battery life, accompanied by an unexpected star in the form of an A15-powered iPad mini powerful enough to use for any mobile productivity task.
The company told us iOS 15 will be available on Monday, Sept. 20. The company also introduced a new Apple Watch and a much-improved entry-level iPad.
What Apple said
About the iPhone, Apple said:
“Our customers rely on iPhone every day, which is why we’ve made iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini more powerful, more capable, and more fun to use,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing.
“Both phones have beautiful designs, industry-leading performance, and advanced camera systems with impressive computational photography features, all with incredible durability, water resistance, and a big jump in battery life to ensure customers can depend on their iPhone when they need it. All of this, tightly integrated with iOS 15 and with privacy built in, make iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini an unbeatable choice.”
About the iPad mini, Apple said:
“With its ultra-portable design and wide range of uses from everyday tasks to creative and enterprise applications, there’s nothing else like iPad mini,” said Joswiak. “With a new all-screen Liquid Retina display, massive boost in performance, new advanced cameras on the front and back, Center Stage, USB-C, 5G, and support for Apple Pencil, the new iPad mini is a huge leap forward that can be held in the palm of your hand.”
It’s all about the processor
Apple’s A15 Bionic processor underpins the two main announcements most likely to interest enterprise users. The chip means Apple now sells the fastest smartphone that’s ever existed, and also means the iPad mini has more than enough oomph (and a 5G connection) to make it a shoe-in for almost any mobile enterprise. Want to check the manual when fixing a solar grid? This lightweight device has what you need.
“The new iPad mini is a major upgrade and arguably more akin to Apple’s iPad Pro category given its design, support for the A15 Bionic chip and a USB-C connector,” CCS analyst Ben Wood said directly after the event. “The iPad mini represents a significant opportunity for the iPad brand to extend deeper into the numerous industry sectors that Apple is already supporting, such as aviation, healthcare and retail.”
Recently leaked benchmarks had suggested the new chip would give iPhone 13 the power it needs to achieve 10-20% better performance than the iPhone 12 chip.
It turns out this was indeed the case, with Apple pumping up the chip with more cores.
You get nearly 15 billion transistors, a new six-core CPU with two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. That makes the chip “up to 50% faster than the competition, the fastest in any smartphone, and handles demanding tasks smoothly and efficiently, while the new 4-core GPU is up to 30 percent faster than the competition and enables more lifelike visuals and lighting effects in graphics-intensive games,” the company said.
The new 16-core Neural Engine is capable of 15.8 trillion operations per second. That means faster machine learning, fast apps, and a plethora of machine vision enhancements, which empower the device with a camera that’s almost equal to high-end video capture devices.
This bodes really, really, well for the future of the Mac and the iPad Pro as well. The road to M-series chips with multiple cores can only end in the Mac Pro. Most enterprise users might want to think about that.
But processors must do something to be useful
As Brian Roemmele observed after the event, in 1969 the entire world’s computing power was 66,700 operations per second.
The iPhone 13 (and, I guess, the iPad mini, which shares the chip), gives us 15.8 trillion operations per second in devices you can fit in your pocket. My calculator app tells me that means the Apple device you put in your pocket now provides 236 million times the planet’s total computing in 1969.
But power is nothing, if you don’t know what to do with it.
Apple likes to use of the power it creates, which is what it has done with iPhone 13; it makes use of that processing power to deliver all-day battery life and to provide video and photography abilities that compete with professional equipment.
This is the kind of processing power your enterprises’ internal and consumer-facing apps can now exploit, and it’s available on both the iPhone 13 (which, despite some focus on triskaidekaphobia prior to the event is a lucky number in some parts of the world) and the iPad mini.
It is important to consider that much of what Apple told us during its launch event suggests almost every feature on all of its devices are increasingly being augmented by machine intelligence, thanks to its home-brewed, powerful chips.
It delivers all-day battery life by intelligently controlling when power should peak and when it is unnecessary. And, of course, another useful thing Apple chips deliver is CenterStage, which makes for better video meetings — increasingly important in a hybrid office world.
OK, but what about the display?
Apple introduced the display everyone expected. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max introduce Super Retina XDR with ProMotion display, which supports an adaptive refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz. That means fast frame rates when required, better battery life when screen speed is not needed.
Offered in both 6.1-in. and 6.7-in. sizes, the new display leverages a more efficient OLED panel. Apple calls it the brightest display ever on an iPhone with up to 25% higher max outdoor brightness, at 1000 nits. In use, of course, this means better resolution, color, and contrast whatever you do with your device.
Pro Motion on the iPhone is dynamic, and adjusts from 10Hz to 120Hz depending on the content it displays. That means you get fantastic visual performance when you need it but aren’t battering your battery life when you don’t.
The Super Retina XDR OLED displays on the iPhone 13 and 13 mini provide a 28% increase in max outdoor brightness at 800 nits, with higher peak brightness for HDR content like photos and videos at 1200 nits, all while being more power efficient.
The cold truth is that while company critics will always claim Apple should have got these screens out years ago, doing so is, was, and will always be a supply chain issue.
Apple sells a lot of phones and needed a supplier (in this case, Samsung, I think) capable of manufacturing those displays in sufficient quantity and at consistent quality for the tens of millions it intends to sell.
The carriers want to get you hooked on 5G
A final take away.
Prior to the introduction, we know many existing users were trading in their existing iPhones to make a little money toward the new devices.
What makes this more interesting is that while pre-release interest among Android users had declined in contrast to the last model, 18% of them were considering an upgrade to iPhone, while 44% of existing iPhone users were also thinking about the new device. Meanwhile, recent Counterpoint data tells us Apple still holds over 50% of the world’s premium smartphone market, followed by Samsung and Huawei (with both in decline). Apple leads the category in every region.
There has been a great deal of speculation that one thing that has driven iPhone 12’s success is that Apple has been able to achieve some sweet carrier deals as networks battle to promote 5G. Apple’s decision to pimp out the iPad mini with 5G and extend support for the standard across additional nations and regions sits well with this.
Now, it seems the company hopes to ride this wave – which should have a big impact on enterprise purchasing, assuming carrier deals extend to fleet upgrades and purchasing.
The signs are good. Post-announcement, AT&T announced that it intends to give both new and existing AT&T customers the opportunity to get a new iPhone for free.
“They can take advantage of the following iPhone 13 deals with an eligible trade-in, on an unlimited plan and purchased on an instalment plan,” a media advisory shared with me states.
These deals mean you can get an iPhone 13 Pro or mini for no up-front cost, or an iPhone 13 Pro Max or iPhone 13 for $99 up front. Cricket Wireless will offer the iPhone 13 range from starting Sept. 24, the company said.
In the event carriers elsewhere in the UK and globally choose to deliver similarly tempting deals, then most business users have a real opportunity to upgrade.
“Although new camera features, better battery life and other tech specs will grab the headlines, the biggest story is arguably the impressive trade-in prices being offered by Apple and its partners. US buyers trading-in the previous iPhone can get up to $1,000 toward a new model and we expect similar deals in other markets around the world,” said CCS analyst, Ben Wood.
“It’s a major competitive advantage for Apple, and is likely to boost the residual value of iPhones, which are already the highest in the market thanks to Apple’s ruthless product consistency and multiyear software updates.”
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I imagine the A15 processor inside the iPad mini may deliver similar performance to what it can achieve inside the smaller iPhone. We don’t have the benchmark data to prove this assumption yet, but it’s possible — assuming Apple hasn’t downclocked the chip.
The iPad mini basics
Apple told us the new A15 processor in the iPad mini delivers “a 40% jump in performance, and the 5-core GPU delivers an 80% leap in graphics performance compared to the previous generation of iPad mini.”
The previous model used an A12 Bionic chip about as powerful as the entry-level iPad 8, which has also been replaced. A little creative thinking based on adding 40% to existing single-core and multi-core iPad mini benchmarks means the new iPad mini should be just about as capable as the current iPad Air, which was last year’s best Apple tablet.
When that version of the Air shipped, it was faster than the second-generation 11-in. iPad Pro and the 12.9-in. A12Z Bionic iPad Pro.
Stop with the numbers already
I’m going to interrupt this stream of statistics to make a point: The newly-introduced iPad mini is probably as powerful as 2020’s high-end iPad Pro, but weighs less than half as much. (It weighs 0.65 pounds in contrast to the pro, which weighed 1.41 pounds.)
You also get less display (8.3 inches v 12.3 inches), though higher pixel density (326ppi vs 264ppi). But the real compromise is on storage, with a miserly 64GB in the entry-level model. If you do serious work, you will want the 256GB version, which starts at $649.
So, while the wonderful new iPad mini packs as much punch as the pre-pandemic iPad Pro, it doesn’t quite have all the bells and shiny ‘starlight’ (WTF?) whistles of that device. It’s a compelling tablet in its own right that will do what you want it to do. But isn’t quite a pro.
So, what am I saying?
Here’s my take: The decision to put an iPhone chip in the iPad mini clarifies once again that what will differentiate the iPad Pro range from other iPads (including this one) is the inclusion of the more powerful M-series chip, supplemented by memory, latency, and other features that make the pro devices better for long-term professional use.
That means (surprising no one) you have two distinct families of device and, over time, as Apple’s silicon development teams forge their own distinct paths following the fork between M and A you will see wider differences emerge. So we need to look at price.
Right now, the iPad range consists of A-series tablets and M-series Pro devices straddling starting price ranges of between $499-$1,099, increasing if you need additional storage or a cellular connection.
Here’s how the entry-level pricing stacks up:
iPad Pro 12.9-inch: From $1,099.
iPad Pro 11-inch: From $799.
iPad Air 4: From $599.
iPad 9: From $329.
iPad mini 6 $499.
I think these tiers show space that could be populated by an M-series iPad Pro mini at around $849. If you want something portable, but with the power of a pro, you’ll pay for it. But if you just want an iPad, the A-series will do most everything you need.
There is a market for the iPad Pro mini
Having only now introduced the A-series iPad mini, Apple is unlikely to want to blunt its reach with a pro. Everyone seems to want one. But Apple already knows there is a highly professional market for these devices. We know it knows this because it told us so.
Introducing the device at its launch event, Apple CEO Tim Cook described its use as being “secured to the leg of a pilot’s leg in flight or pulled from a doctor’s lab coat during patient treatment.” He referred to pro uses for the tablet in interviews after the event.
The company has referred to three specific pro usage cases:
Photographers on location editing photos grabbed from their camera.
Doctors in remote areas running an ultrasound scan using Butterfly.
Technicians using Splunk AR to access complex schematics on site.
It’s easy to imagine other usages, from warehousing to distribution, manufacturing, field service, and beyond. Many such uses may be served by the iPhone 13 range, but Apple recognizes some enterprises need an ultra-portable tablet more.
“The new iPad mini is a major upgrade and arguably more akin to Apple’s iPad Pro category given its design, support for the A15 Bionic chip and a USB-C connector,” said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight.
“The iPad mini represents a significant opportunity for the iPad brand to extend deeper into the numerous industry sectors that Apple is already supporting, such as aviation, healthcare and retail.”
Now it’s just a matter of finding out the extent to which demand in those sectors scales higher. If Apple experiences lots of demand from enterprises wanting to make use of the iPad mini, it will have a chance to move mini’s story higher.
An iPad Pro mini would enable the company to push harder into even more specific and demanding enterprise-focused markets. I think that’s what should happen.
Apple has a real opportunity to pivot the big interest it’s about to experience with the A15 iPad mini (this year’s hottest tablet) into ginormous passion for iPad mini Pro.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
One of the absolute worst parts about browsing this dusty ol’ web of ours is when you innocently open up some site — maybe, say, a tech news publication — and a video you didn’t ask for suddenly starts blaring annoying audio into your unexpecting ears. It’s especially obnoxious on a phone, where you’re frequently scrolling on your screen in a semipublic area or whilst someone else slumbers nearby.
We’ve all been there. We all loathe it. And yet, we continue to experience it, with no obvious fix or easy way to avoid the annoyance. (Insert awkward eye-darting here.)
Well, my fellow Android adorer, I’ve got good news for you. Google’s Chrome Android browser actually has an incredibly effective system for sending overly aggressive websites a signal that you don’t appreciate their unprompted audio invasions. In fact, with a single tap of your greasy fingeroo, you can stop a site from making sounds on your phone ever again. And you can take control of all sorts of other site-specific permissions while you’re at it.
Get ready for an illuminating “aha!” moment, ’cause you’re about to meet a convenient Chrome feature that you probably never knew existed.
The on-demand Chrome Android control panel
All right — ready? Here ’tis: Anytime you’re viewing a site within Chrome on Android, you can tap the padlock icon at the top of the screen, to the left of the site’s address, to pop up a power-packed panel that lets you view and adjust all sorts of info about that specific site’s permissions and what it’s able to do.
Now, how much stuff shows up in that panel all depends on what the site in question has attempted to bombard you with so far. If the site hasn’t been playing any audio, for instance, you won’t see the audio permission in that area. But if it has — well, by golly, all you’ve gotta do is tap the corresponding line to uncover a toggle that’ll let you take away that ability in the blink of an eye.
You’ll sometimes see other relevant site-specific settings in that area as well, including a one-tap-away list of exactly how many cookies the site is creating in your Chrome Android engine room.
As a side note, remember: Cookies may get a bad rap these days, but they aren’t inherently always evil. Lots o’ cookies exist for genuinely useful and not at all nefarious reasons, such as keeping you signed into sites, keeping your self-set preferences in place, and providing you with a delicious dairy-free snack. (That last one might be about a different type of cookie, but you get the idea.) And even those that are related to advertising are often far less frightening than they’re made out to be, once you move past the sensational headlines and consider the actual underlying realities.
Still, knowledge matters. And understanding exactly what different sites are doing is a critical part of being a smart and informed internet dweller.
To be clear, these same sorts of controls have always been accessible within the Chrome Android app’s settings. And you can still get to ’em there, if you want. But that area of the browser is pretty out of the way, and the process of adjusting a site’s permissions deep within those musty inner-hallways is significantly less simple:
First, you’ll need to tap the three-dot menu icon in Chrome’s upper-right corner and select “Settings” in the menu that comes up.
After that, you’ll scroll down and select “Site settings,” then find and tap whatever category you want to consider — “Notifications,” “Sound,” “Cookies,” “Cinnamon Rolls,” and so on. (All right, so I made that last one up. But if a site were able to provide cinnamon rolls as part of its permissions, you’d better believe I’d be checking that box.)
Once you tap on a category, you’ll then have to tap an “Add Site Exception” line and manually type in the address of whatever site you want to disallow for that specific permission.
So it can certainly be done. But it’s a heck of a lot more complicated and clunky of a process, especially when you don’t know offhand exactly which permissions different sites might be using.
No matter, though, for now you know the simpler, easier, and more effective way to handle this. Keep that knowledge tucked away in the back of your suspiciously moist mammal-noggin, and you’ll never be annoyed by a site assaulting you with unwanted audio again — never more than once, anyway.
Get even more advanced shortcut knowledge with my new Android Shortcut Supercourse. You’ll learn tons of time-saving tricks for your phone!
This week brought updates that I consider critical for the “Big Three” — my operating system (Windows), my browser (Google Chrome) and my phone (from Apple). All three releases patch major zero-day vulnerabilities on all three platforms.
While I strongly recommend that you patch Chrome and your iPhone as soon as possible, I always recommend that you hold back on updating Windows. That remains true — at least until we see whether there are any trending side effects from the Patch Tuesday updates.
Let’s break down the patching to do right away.
First, prioritize patching Apple devices. Among this week’s patches is one for Pegasus spyware, which can open up access to the camera and microphone as well as text messages, phone calls, and emails. iPhones, in particular, have been targeted. Apple typically pushes these updates overnight if your phone is plugged in and charging (and connected to the Internet). If you want to make sure your iPhone has received the update, click on Settings, then General, then tap Software Update. Typically, after my iPhone updates, some apps may need passwords again. I personally try to save critical ones in the iCloud keychain. Look for patches for iOS 14.8 and iPad OS 14.8, and Security Update 2021-005 for macOS Catalina and Big Sur 11.6.
The Chrome browser update fixes two in-the-wild exploits patched in version 93.0.4577.82 for Windows, Mac and Linux. (For those using the Chrome OS, Bleeping computer reports that some devices have been reporting black screens after trying to log into their Chrome OS accounts.)
And finally, we come to Microsoft. For anyone hoping this month’s updates would “fix” an issue involving the use of group policy to deal with printers for your domain/business users (I wrote about this earlier), welcome to your new normal: The way you used to deploy printers isn’t fixed. What is fixed is yet another remote attack that utilized the print spooler to gain more access to your machines. So we’re going to have to redeploy print drivers using different means.
Clearly, Microsoft doesn’t see (or apparently understand) how disruptive this change has been for business users. Some of this may be that for many firms the impact has been blunted because workers aren’t in in the office and needing to print. But as employees move back into the office, we will have to use new techniques to deploy printers. Group Policy MVP Jeremy Moskowitz has written up the ultimate workaround and guidance for the issue. For users with a directly attached printer, there have apparently been few issues with the PrintNightmare patches. I saw no side effects in August, and I’ve seen none so far in September.
If you’re still running Windows 10 version 2004, be aware that Dec. 14, 2021 marks the end of support for that version of the OS. While Microsoft has been forthcoming about the release date of Windows 11 (Oct. 5), it’s said little about the arrival of Windows 10 21H2. Everyone keeps assuming it’ll be in October, but no one seems to know. (The update process from 2004 to 20H2, or even 21H1, was minor for me; I don’t foresee any problems for those that want to jump to the21H1 feature release.)
We’ve seen some of the expected changes discussed in blogs, but not when they will be released. Given that 21H2 does not appear to be a major release, I don’t anticipate vendors having major issues. In general, it looks to be more of a release for businesses on their way to Windows 11. Given the small number of changes, I expect to give an “all clear to install” within a few months after release.
Microsoft is at the point where it’ll be releasing 21H2, as well as Windows 11, to commercial vendors so they can certify their apps work on both releases. Clearly, it’s getting close to release as Microsoft is once again re-re-re-releasing KB4023057 — the update for Windows 10 Update service components that it releases on something of a quarterly basis. It’s used to ensure that computers not in a domain or business setting are ready for the next feature release, by checking to ensure that the Windows update process is healthy, that there is enough drive space available for updates, that network settings are reset if problems are detected, and that the Windows update history database is reset as needed.
Many users rely on the Wumgr tool to hide this update, as it has been reported to cause some issues with networking on some computers. If the patch has already been installed, there’s no need to uninstall it since the processes have already taken place. I personally like to review my system for health issues regularly, so I make sure that I check the C: drive for space issues. If I get error messages when attempting to install Windows updates, the best way to fixing misbehaving systems is to not use sfc /scannow or DISM commands; I would do a repair install over the top. You won’t lose any data and your computer will be healthier when you are done.
So, as we look ahead to 21H2 and Windows 11, I’m still in testing mode for this week’s Patch Tuesday arrivals — as you should be, too. As always, if you see or hear of any side effects, let us know at Askwoody.com and we’ll follow up on them.
Apple’s 77-minute iPhone 13 event wasn’t the longest such launch in recent memory – the iPhone 7 reveal took 119 minutes. But the company’s executives still had quite a lot to get through on Tuesday. Here’s what should matter most to enterprise users.
We all want the same things
To be fair, the division between enterprise and consumer expectations for technology continues to erode: Workers want to use the same tools at work as they do at home – and these days most employers feel the same way. Software and hardware are expected to put users first and provide well thought-through user interfaces that reduce, rather than increase, user friction.
The days when enterprise solutions could get away with being unwieldy or hard to use are quickly disappearing in the rear-view mirror. And that means to some extent even the consumer-focused features Apple highlighted have some bearing on enterprise IT. Some items particularly stood out.
Those carrier promotions
Take carrier promotions, for example. I noted them here, but these are emerging globally in a promising arrangement that should see telcos reap more benefit from their 5G infrastructure investments while giving the 95% of existing iPhone users who don’t yet have a 5G device a really good reason to upgrade.
Jefferies analyst Kyle McNealy notes:
“One of the most important elements of the iPhone 13 launch from our perspective is the carrier promotions (and effective subsidies) that are coming through even bigger than the strong promotions last year.” He observed “promotions as more aggressive than last year – they’re either a higher dollar value or don’t require a net-new line.”
That’s serendipitous, of course, given analyst Morgan Stanley’s belief that 5G is and remains the thing consumers most wanted from the iPhone, followed by improved cameras and better battery life. Apple met all three wishes.
What this means: Put simply, it means there will be a wider market for 5G services. It also means enterprises can continue to evolve digital transformation plans around use of the standard. Higher trade-in values might even tempt recently upgraded mobile teams.
No satellite, yet
While earlier claims the iPhones would support satellite access proved unfounded, as the n53 band used for these isn’t listed as being supported on Apple’s site, enterprises do get Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) support on both iPhone 13, as on iPhone 12 — and much improved wireless on iPad mini, which is arguably the enterprise star of Apple’s show.
You do need an 802.11ax router to take advantage of what Wi-Fi 6 offers, but if you don’t have access to one the device just uses Wi-Fi that is locally available.
What this means: The combination of 5G and faster Wi-Fi will support a range of mobile teams in numerous deployments.
Surprise: Dual eSIM support
The new iPhones are the first to support dual eSIM. The iPhone 12 had dual-SIM support and worked with both an eSIM and a physical nano-SIM. iPhone 13 still has the physical slot, but can work with two eSIMs for connection without a card.
Apple says: “Carrier-connected iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro models will arrive ready to activate with eSIM and can connect to your cellular voice and data service without a physical SIM card. You will need a Wi-Fi connection for setup.” You can also activate an eSIM on an unconnected device or add an additional line to one that is connected.
What this means: It’s now super-easy to provision remote employees with both personal and work-related numbers. It’s also a bonus for business travelers and anyone who must change networks quickly.
Cameras aren’t just a consumer item
Apple spent no time discussing augmented reality (AR) during the event. That doesn’t mean it isn’t interested – Apple CEO Tim Cook made the point of sharing how important AR is in a subsequent interview. The company is still focused on it, but had nothing to announce.
At the same time, many of the new features in its cameras – particularly Cinematic Mode – are driven by a combination of sensors, software, and machine-learning technologies running on the new A15 Bionic chip. Cook called this “like having a Hollywood rig in your pocket.”
These high-quality cameras will become tools for creative and marketing departments, and companies will use them for asset and social media design, among other things.
What’s also important is that iOS 15, due out on Monday, introduces a range of additional machine vision APIs, some of which may have a bearing on aspects of your business. IDG’s recent Insight study showed 10% of enterprises are using computer vision today, 37% intend to implement it and 44% are investigating future use. Business & Decision, for example, has developed a quality control system for Covid-19 vaccines based on computer vision.
While Apple may be focused on how Hollywood uses its meld of sensors, software, and AI, the reality across most enterprises is that computer vision is a key area for process optimization and business change.
What this means: Apple now offers a stable, powerful solution accompanied by SDKs that may form building blocks for creative use of computer vision in your enterprise. That Apple didn’t discuss AR very much almost certainly implies it has much more it wants to say, probably in spring 2022.
iPad mini, Apple’s stalking horse
The new iPad mini is small, but big. It hosts the same processor used in iPhone 13 (which augurs well for Apple’s Mac and iPad event in October), is available with 5G and support for Apple Pencil 2, and provides 8.3 inches of display in the same footprint as before. It’s a powerful tool that I think will be the choice of many who need a device they can carry everywhere with them. It’s also a tool for which most enterprises will find use cases.
It seems clear that Apple thinks so, too.
When introducing the device, Apple showed footage of the iPad mini in real work situations. And speaking after the launch Cook talked about customers using it in hospitals, classrooms and for mobile work in multiple industries. And 5G/cellular means you can use it to work in a field.
Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said:
“With its ultra-portable design and wide range of uses from everyday tasks to creative and enterprise applications, there’s nothing else like iPad mini. The new iPad mini is a huge leap forward that can be held in the palm of your hand.”
What this means: iPad mini looks like a perfect solution for a myriad of uses and pits the device squarely against devices currently used by field service, engineering, or warehousing teams.
What about the processor?
There was a lot of consternation when Apple declined to give any comparative speed specifics for its A15 chips. Yes, it said how much faster it was in comparison to “leading competitors,” but didn’t unleash a great deal of data to show improvement in comparison to its previous chips.
Naturally, this led conspiracy theorists to postulate that Apple’s processor design teams have somehow hit the limit of what they can achieve. This doesn’t ring true.
What seems more likely is that the 5-nanometer (nm) A15 processor is an evolution of the also 5-nm A14 chip. In this iteration, Apple has focused its teams on graphics performance and battery life, rather than performance, because that’s what consumers wanted to see improved. Why focus on performance when you already offer the fastest mass market mobile chip on the planet?
The next big leap in performance will come with the move to 3-nm process manufacturing, which was originally expected in 2022, but may now arrive later. The 1TB max storage may also be a game changer for some users.
What this means: Better battery life, astonishing graphics (and computer vision AI) and you still run the fastest processor on the block. Most enterprises need to spend more time focusing on developing unique advantages, rather than competing in speeds and feeds, I guess. But I do enjoy speed comparisons.
We all want a phone we can keep using. Apple’s decision to boost battery life is one that matters to everyone, and one of the biggest criticisms its devices historically face. What you get:
iPhone 13: Up to 2.5 hours more battery life than iPhone 12.
iPhone 13 mini: 1.5 hours more than the previous mini.
iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max: 2.5 hours more than their predecessors.
What this means: CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood nailed this: “It looks like Apple has made good progress on battery life, something that is hugely important to consumers spending more and more time glued to their phones. For people upgrading from much older iPhones, the improvement will be dramatic.”
Covid-19 isn’t over
One depressing reality that also emerged post-event is the reality of Covid-19 and its impact on international supply chains. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty noted that Covid-related travel restrictions slowed Apple’s ability to respond to a series of last-minute production challenges that emerged when building the new Apple Watch Series 7.
“The lack of immediate availability or a concrete Series 7 ship date seems to confirm a slower production ramp, but it is unclear how exactly this will impact shipment timing,” she said.
What this means: It remains vital to monitor and protect supply chains and your human infrastructure heading into autumn. While vaccines may help in some places, they aren’t yet universally available, which suggests most business should expect further impacts.
The sum of the parts is big
Apple has 900 million existing iPhone users who haven’t yet purchased a 5G smartphone. Carrier offers, long battery life, and advanced photography features (among other things) will change that. As Evercore’s Amit Daryanani said:
“The incremental features will make this a compelling product for the 900M+ iPhone users that didn’t purchase the iPhone 12 – ensuring the iPhone cycle sustains into CY22.”
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Apple on Monday issued emergency security updates for iOS, macOS and its other operating systems to plug a hole that Canadian researchers claimed had been planted on a Saudi political activist’s device by NSO Group, an Israeli seller of spyware and surveillance software to governments and their security agencies.
Updates to patch the under-active-exploit vulnerability were released for iOS 14; macOS 11 and 10, aka Big Sur and Catalina, respectively; iPad OS 14; and watchOS 7.
According to Apple, the vulnerability can be exploited by “processing a maliciously crafted PDF,” which “may lead to arbitrary code execution.” The phrase “arbitrary code execution” is Apple’s way of saying that the bug was of the most serious nature; Apple does not rank threat level of vulnerabilities, unlike operating system rivals such as Microsoft and Google.
Apple credited The Citizen Lab for reporting the flaw.
Also on Monday, Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization that operates from the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto, released a report outlining what it found. “While analyzing the phone of a Saudi activist infected with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, we discovered a zero-day zero-click exploit against iMessage,” Citizen Lab researchers wrote.
The exploit, which Citizen Lab dubbed “FORCEDENTRY,” had been used to infect the phone of the activist — and possibly others as far back as February 2021 — with the NGO Group’s “Pegasus” surveillance suite. It, in turn, consists largely of spyware that can document texts and emails sent to and from the device as well as switch on its camera and microphone for secret recording.
Citizen Lab was confident that FORCEDENTRY was associated with Pegasus and thus, NGO Group. According to researchers, the spyware loaded by the zero-click exploit contained coding characteristics, including ones never made public, that Citizen Lab had come across in previous analysis of NGO Group and Pegasus.
“Despite promising their customers the utmost secrecy and confidentiality, NSO Group’s business model contains the seeds of their ongoing unmasking,” Citizen Labs’ researcher wrote in their Monday report. “Selling technology to governments that will use the technology recklessly in violation of international human rights law ultimately facilitates discovery of the spyware by investigatory watchdog organizations.”
Apple device owners can download and install the security-only updates issued Monday by triggering a software update through the device’s OS.
Attention, my fellow Android-owning hominids: Your favorite virtual assistant is learning a few new skills.
Google Assistant is in the midst of getting some significant upgrades on Android — small-seeming features that could have a supersized impact on your workday efficiency. They’re exactly the types of productivity-boosting tidbits I love to uncover on Android, as they’ll make your phone instantly smarter and your life immediately easier.
So what’s the catch, you might be wondering? Well, my curious comrade, there’s just one — and it’s deliciously easy to overcome: These new Assistant abilities are arriving mostly unannounced. (A familiar-feeling tale at this point, wouldn’t ya say?) They oughta be available on any reasonably recent Android phone by now, though. It’s just up to you to find ’em and then figure out how they fit into your personal productivity picture.
So enough with the vague yammering: Let’s break down exactly what these new Android Assistant features are all about and how they could be helpful for you.
New Android Assistant feature No. 1: The delayed action
Our first Android Assistant addition is a welcome new way to automate any type of Assistant-connected action imaginable and then add a delay into that equation.
Sounds a little strange, right? Let me put it into more practical terms. With this new capability in tow, you could do things like:
Configure your phone to rattle off an out-loud update on the weather 20 minutes after the sunrise or sunset in your current location.
Tell your phone to turn on Do Not Disturb and mute all your volumes whenever you activate Assistant and say “Meeting time” — and then undo that and automatically go back to your normal volume state one hour later. (You could even create multiple versions of that, if you really want to get ambitious: “Half-hour meeting,” “One-hour meeting,” “Two-hour meeting,” “Someone please save me,” etc.)
If you have a smart thermostat in your office, home office, or anywhere else you frequent, you could instruct Assistant to adjust the temperature for you 10 minutes after you tell it “Heading to work.”
As you can see, having the option to add a delay into an Assistant automation adds an awful lot of practical potential into the system, and the possibilities are practically endless.
And once you know where to find your new superpower, it’s as easy as can be to get it going:
Activate Assistant on your Android phone — by saying “Hey Google,” by swiping upward from the lower-left or lower-right corner of the screen (on a phone with the current Android gestures system), or by using any other Assistant shortcut that tickles your fancy — and then say “Assistant routines.” If that doesn’t work on your device, smack your face in frustration, vow to buy a different brand of phone on your next purchase, then say “Assistant settings” instead. That should take you to the main Assistant settings screen, where you can then find and tap the option for “Routines” yourself.
However you get there, tap the New button at the top of the Routines screen.
Tap the Add Starter button to add in a voice command and/or time-of-day trigger — what’ll make your automated action occur, in other words.
Once that’s done, tap the Add Action button to add in any combination of actions you want to take place whenever your command gets activated. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the list to find the new “Delay start” option, which will let you add any delay you want into any part of the process.
And in case you were wondering, the sequence above is one of the sound-adjusting “Meeting” commands I mentioned a minute ago, and the music being played at its end is “Celebrate” by Kool & the Gang — for reasons that I hope are obvious.
New Android Assistant feature No. 2: The Daylong Routine
Next up in our Android Assistant addition list is an intriguing little ditty Google’s calling the Daylong Routine. And no, it’s not referring to your curious habit of eating Tic Tacs at a rate of seven mint-scented nibs a minute (though kudos on the dynamite breath).
This option’s presence in the Assistant automation area seems kind of awkwardly tacked on at the moment: When you pull up the Assistant Routines screen and then tap the button to create a new routine (using the same steps we just went over a second ago), the new Daylong Routine feature should show up as a fancy little prompt at the bottom.
Tap the “Yes” in that area, and you’ll then be able to set up a full day’s worth of automated actions on your phone within that single streamlined spot. You can program your entire day, essentially, and have Assistant do all sorts of stuff for you at specific times as the hours tick onward.
You can make as many Daylong Routines as you want, too — so you could have different paths set up for your home and your office, for instance, or different routines for different days of the week. All you’ve gotta do is figure out what recurring chores make sense for Assistant to handle on your behalf and then set ’em all up once.
New Android Assistant feature No. 3: The alarm activation automation
The third and final freshly available Android Assistant addition in our collection is one that’s specifically for the morning hours — or whatever time you find yourself waking up (you unpredictable party animal, you).
Just as of the past several days, Assistant on Android has gained the ability to start an action or a series of actions immediately after you dismiss an alarm on your phone or any other Assistant-connected screen, speaker, or device. That gives you an easy way to have the gadget in question read you weather or news info, update you on your agenda for the day, or maybe even just whisper some gentle reassurances to get your day started right. (Hey, we all need a little tenderness from time to time.)
And by connecting it to the action of dismissing an alarm, you can make sure it happens at the exact right time for when your day actually begins — even if that time might shift around a bit from one day to the next.
This one’s pretty simple to manage, too, once you know where to find it: Once more, mosey your way into the Assistant Routines screen and fire up a new routine. After tapping the Add Starter button, look for the inconspicuously added new “Dismiss an alarm” option.
Tap that bad boy — and by golly, wouldya look at that?
You’ve got all the options you need right in front of you, including the ability to limit the event only to alarm dismissals that occur within certain specified windows of time.
All that’s left is to smack that snooze button and rest easy knowing your trusty virtual Assistant’s got your back — even if she doesn’t have any vertebrae of her own.
Get six full days of advanced Android knowledge with my new Android Shortcut Supercourse. You’ll learn tons of time-saving tricks for your phone!
The first 185-page Apple-v-Epic judgment didn’t please anybody when it arrived on Friday. Apple will be required to permit people to pay for apps and in-app purchases using third party payment services that developers will be entitled to link to.
Epic is appealing the decision, but it’s interesting that while it sued Apple and Google over the 30% fee, it has not started litigation against Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony — all three of which charge the same fee at their online stores.
What does the ruling mean?
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers’ ruling means that when you pay for a Spotify subscription or some in-app power up you may be given a link that lets you pay through payment systems other than Apple.
I guess developers will get to choose which payment systems to use, but I imagine Apple will still be able to insist on its payment systems being a choice. Developers will have a choice. Some will offer their apps/services at up to 30% less than the equivalent cost via the store; others will try to keep the extra change. Some will not bother offering alternative payment systems; others can’t wait to do so.
What this means in practice
What the judgement has done is set in motion a new kind of competition at the App Store, and if it happens there, it will happen elsewhere. After all, if Apple is required to open for payments competition (even a little), so logically should every other app store provider. Basically, app store payment systems just became a new competitive space, and while that’s bad for Apple’s bottom line in the short-term, it may be able to turn that challenge around.
What can Apple do?
Apple can compete. The judge noted the 70% profit margin generated by App Store sales right now, which is incredibly high and shows why Apple’s existing 30% margin should change. At the same time, Apple’s payment systems are relatively robust and some of the benefits of using them somewhat unsung. That’s going to change.
Apple will simply double down on illustrating the inherent benefits of its own payment systems and work to make the experience of using them better.
What sorts of things might improve?
There are lots of things Apple can do to improve its system. The judgment pointed some of these out, including dispute resolution between developers and customers. Other enhancements might include prompt resolution and a promise to return cash accidentally spent when kids get hooked on in-game purchasing.
The company may consider the customer inducements other payment processors provide and then cherry pick the best of them. Apple can focus on its strengths in usability and customer experience design to help ensure that, when given a choice, consumers continue to select its brand for in app payments.
Will consumers use alternative payments?
While Apple must now permit developers to include links to alternate payment systems in their apps, will consumers use them? I’ve seen several analysts conclude that the actual impact of the judgement against Apple will be minimal. Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives estimates a 3% revenue hit, but predicts: “The vast majority of consumers will continue to use the App Store for in-app purchases.”
Why might this be?
I think the friction of the payment processing services developers choose to deploy will make a difference. I also think many smaller developers (which most are) will simply not bother offering alternative payment systems. For its fee, Apple provides fraud protection, payment processing and payment-related customer support, which means customers and developers have a point of trust.
Not all customers are equal
One big take-away from the details in the ruling is that more than half of all App Store in-app revenue is generated by less than 0.5% of customers.
“In the third quarter of 2017, high spenders, accounting for less than half a percent of all Apple accounts, spent a ‘vast majority of their spend in games via IAP’ and generated 53.7% of all App Store billings for the quarter, paying in excess of $450 each.”
The inference is clear. Developers will need to deliver buying experiences that focus on the needs of that most premium customer segment. That’s not going to be an easy market to please.
Will developers offer alternative payment systems?
As a result of the litigation, we now know thyat around 70% of App Store revenues are generated by games. Games also deliver 98% of in-app purchase revenue. That means games developers are especially likely to offer their own payment processing alternatives.
Developers who achieve the most success will be those who can deliver a more elegant and user-focused payment experience than Apple already does. Consumers will soon identify the also-rans and eventually we’ll see perhaps half a dozen big names in the App Store payments space.
In the absence of scale, proprietary payment systems are unlikely to be able to match the user experiences offered by larger payment providers. In this scenario, it seems inevitable that PayPal, Stripe, and other majors will emerge as Apple’s main competition. Smaller operators will be hard-pressed.
The impact? Developers may find they no longer need to pay 30% (or 15% for most developers) to Apple but will still be forced to pay something to their chosen payments services provider(s). The only real question is how much they need to pay and what kind of service they – and their customers – get in exchange.
Why isn’t Epic happy?
One of Epic’s main aims has been to force Apple to permit sideloading of apps. The games developer has argued users should be able to install apps from outside the App Store, just as Mac users can. The court didn’t agree.
Epic is also unhappy as it has also been required to pay Apple the App Store fees it avoided when it broke its developer agreement to offer sales outside Apple’s system.
The court felt Apple’s App Store model was justified based on security, competition and intellectual property rights. In other words, it will not permit Epic or anyone else to offer alternative stores or stores within a store. All it will permit is a slightly more open approach to payments.
Is Apple a monopoly?
It isn’t seen as one right now. Rogers rejected arguments that Apple is a monopolist, but did warn the company is:
“Near the precipice of substantial market power, or monopoly power, with its considerable market share. Apple is only saved by the fact that its share is not higher, that competitors from related submarkets are making inroads into the mobile gaming submarket, and, perhaps, because plaintiff [Epic] did not focus on this topic.”
Apple must now work hard to ensure it stays on the safe side of that precipice.
What happens now?
The App Store is not going to change immediately. Apple has been given 90 days to comply, Epic has already appealed the ruling, and Apple may file its own appeal. It’s reasonable to expect months of legal wrangling before anything changes.
The judge also said it is logical that some fees are paid at some level. “However, it is also true that, with few exceptions, not every business is entitled to have access to what is effectively shelf space if they cannot afford to pay a commission to the platform host,” she said.
In terms of damage control, we can speculate that Apple could begin supporting these external payment systems early next year when it has already said it will enable such support in Reader apps. That’s not to say it definitely will do so, just that it could.
How can Apple make it all go away?
I don’t think Apple can make Epic happy. At the same time, I believe it can end most of this litigation by proposing a 15% rate for App Store fees and accepting third-party payments as it has been told it must. While there will be a cost, such action would almost certainly end most outstanding litigation and negative publicity.
But doing so will also define the rules of engagement. By coalescing around 15%, Apple may lose revenue, but it will also be telling everyone that in order to compete, developers and payments providers will need to be able to deliver a payment experience on the App Store equal to the one Apple already provides for that same fee or less.
I suspect doing so inside a 15% margin will turn out to be challenging. It certainly challenges Epic, which (the court documents suggest) runs an 88% to 12% revenue share on its own store (which the judge said runs at a loss). That 30% take may be too high, but 12% is too low. Ultimately the only negotiation is around how much it should cost.
One more thing
Apple makes the platform developers use to create the apps they sell. It also makes the tools developers can use to build those apps. The App Store and hardware sales help finance software development today, but Apple will need to find new revenue to make up for any lost because of the mandated App Store payment change.
Apple has some options available.
In the short term, it may choose to raise the at-present nominal annual fee it charges developers for access to its developer tools. It may link that fee to a developer’s revenue, or charge a distribution fee to carry anything other than free apps.
In the longer term, however, I believe Apple will not find the impact of the current court-mandated change to go as deep as many anticipate, with most consumers and developers continuing to use its own payment systems, because they are used to them and already feel trust.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
On the road to AR, Facebook snagged some attention this week with the arrival of its first smart glasses. As Apple inches toward the introduction of its own augmented spectacles, are there lessons here about what these things do and how they should work?
What Facebook’s glasses do
First, let’s take a glance at Facebook’s smart glasses. They offer a pair of cameras to take photos and videos, boast a microphone and a speaker, and are controlled using a voice assistant.
Most observers describe these things as similar to Snapchat spectacles. Facebook has called them Stories, so now you know what the Story feature in Facebook most of us never use is for. The glasses are manufactured with Ray-Ban and look like Wayfarers. They cost $299 and Facebook says it wants them to “create a sense of social presence.”
They aren’t AR glasses. Instead, they will let you film everything that happens around you, presumably so Facebook can analyze your habits and pump you up with advertising, which appears to be the social media company’s basic business plan.
The glasses look cool, the touch controls seem cool, but all you’re getting really is music on the move, a voice assistant that also takes calls, and the chance to take photos/videos on demand. These are accessories at best and are designed to work with an app on a smartphone. These smart glasses seem a little dumb.
What can Apple learn from all this? Here’s a few suggestions.
I doubt Apple’s glasses will cost $299. They will network with an iPhone to deliver a range of high-end tools and will be supported by a set of app development tools designed to support what we already know are the key markets for AR: Location-based games such as Pokémon; enterprise and medical use; and access on-the-go to ambulatory information and entertainment. I’ve come across recent claims Apple’s first-generation glasses won’t support AR. I suspect an on-lens information system remains plausible.
Facebook’s offering is just a data-capture device with a voice assistant. Apple will offer more, and probably charge more, too.
If you wear Facebook glasses, don’t be surprised to find yourself asked to leave them at the box office when you attend a live performance, take part in a meeting, visit court, or even wander around some shopping malls. As word spreads, it will become a social faux-pas to wear them at social gatherings. People don’t trust Facebook on privacy.
What Apple learns: We know Apple supports privacy (or used to). When it chooses to introduce its own glasses, it will need to create location-based technologies through integration with Maps that enable destinations to prevent filming from taking place.
It also seems likely an activity light will demonstrate when filming/recording is taking place. Privacy advocates will demand the latter, while certain locations will require the former.
There doesn’t yet appear to be a developer environment around Facebook’s glasses. That’s going to limit what they can do. Apple knows that to create compelling experiences for a vast audience, it must enable a developer ecosystem. This is the approach it takes across all its products, bar some accessories.
Apple’s glasses focus is likely to evolve around augmented reality experiences and information access, such as guides to shopping malls, tourist guides, or even overlaid information to guide medical procedures. (Arguably, medical and some industrial deployments became the key success stories around Google Glass.)
Apple’s work in Arcade means it also has the potential to create its own interactive gaming experiences to support the products it eventually ships. Plus, why not sit back and watch Apple Music or TV+ videos on your glasses when you travel?
Ultimately, Facebook’s strategy seems flawed by lack of preparation. It is only now investing in processor technologies to support its efforts. It has Oculus technologies, but these seem to be on a different tack, focused on pure AR experiences. Integration with the smartphone seems quite limited, Facebook has failed to build a solid reputation around privacy and doesn’t (yet) appear to have built much in the way of a supporting development environment. To be fair, beyond Oculus, Facebook does have several assets it could leverage; I have no doubt it is already iterating more sophisticated glasses in its labs.
Apple, meanwhile, already seems to be working on how to develop health sensors for its future wearables. It is fair to note that most market speculation at present sees Apple introduce a less well-featured first iteration of its glasses next year, before a more sophisticated solution ships a few years down the line.
What it calls to mind
Facebook’s new offering calls to mind Samsung’s early move to rush the introduction of its own smart watch before Apple basically defined the category with Apple Watch. Samsung won a lot of support for its move at that time, but Apple blew it out the water when it followed suit.
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch still has its advocates, (not least because some models are round, which so many people prefer), but while Apple Watch holds about 28% of the market, Samsung has just 7.6%, according to Counterpoint.
It’s an open question the extent to which Facebook will be able to leverage its stained brand to grab market share in the emerging smart glasses market as Apple and others bring the products they have been developing to market in the next year or so.
Facebook’s push seems unlikely to dent the universe, but certainly shows the growing competition between both companies as the battle for the multiverse intensifies.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
We’ve hit that time of year when enterprise IT prepares to support teams as they upgrade all their Apple operating systems across smartphones, tablets, and Macs.
The need for a stress-free upgrade process is accompanied by refreshed demand for hardware upgrades, as new models of iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch, and Macs appear. Are your employees prepared for the season? Is IT?
When do the new operating systems ship?
Apple will introduce its new iPhone 13 at a special event on Tuesday at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET). The new devices will likely be available for pre-order three days later, on Sept. 17, with the hardware expected to ship and arrive in retail stores on Sept. 24.
Apple will publish its new iOS 15/iPad OS 15 operating systems for iPhones and iPads at around the same time, usually just before the products ship. History is your guide: iOS 14 and iPad OS 14 were released on Sept. 16, 2020 with new iPads. The iPhones followed (along with the iOS 14.1 release) on Oct. 13. iOS 13 shipped Sept. 19, 2019, one day before the iPhone 11 reached stores.
Up next, I imagine macOS Monterey will ship in time to support Apple’s next anticipated Mac event in October.
IT should test the betas immediately
It is reasonable to anticipate that many employees will update (or want to update) their Apple devices when the operating systems ship. Hopefully, your IT department has been working with the beta versions of these installations (they are available here) to identify any potential problems or conflicts with your existing enterprise security protocols or systems. If not, then time is short, and they should expedite such research.
Essential: If your enterprise makes use of proprietary or older apps, it is critical you confirm whether these will be supported on iOS 15. In the event they aren’t, you will either need to delay the upgrade or replace the app/service.
Speak to your MDM provider
Mobile device management (MDM) software developers tend to work closely with Apple to provide zero-day support as new operating systems ship. Jamf, for example, has always provided this. What it means is that when the OS is upgraded, your MDM vendor is in position to automate upgrades across your fleet. It makes sense to confirm whether your vendor will provide such support this year, and also to determine how the installation should take place.
How will you roll out the OS this year? It may make sense to give end users control over upgrade timing, particularly as your remote teams may have work to do. You may want upgrades to take place at night, for example.
Speak to your employees
Your teams should be warned to make time for the upgrade, as it may be necessary for them to verify logins, VPNs, and other passwords at that time. Ensure they have the time and information they need to support that process.
It is possible your company policy may be to delay installation, in which case it is sensible to inform employees of this before they get too caught up in Apple’s inevitable software release hype.
Also, ensure your teams have access to the data connections they need for these upgrades.
Things can go wrong when system software is upgraded. A failed internet connection mid-install can cause problems, for example. Given so many company employees will be working remotely, it makes sense to distribute routine troubleshooting and installation advice first.
Basic installation and troubleshooting advice:
Note important Apple ID, VPN, Wi-Fi, and enterprise services passwords before upgrading.
Spring clean installed apps, delete those you no longer use.
Backup the device to iCloud or to local hardware before installation.
Be prepared for a short-term performance hit after installation. This usually indicates that the device is reindexing itself and resolves in a few hours.
After the upgrade, you may find a device seems sluggish. Before you panic, Force Restart the device (iPhone, iPad), as doing so fixes such problems more often than not.
Be prepared to update all your apps, most of which should already be available in iOS 15 versions.
Battery life: In the event battery life takes a fall, Force Restart your device. If that doesn’t help, check to see whether an app is consuming vast amounts of battery power in Settings>Battery>Battery Usage. Update or delete and reinstall any that may be doing so.
If nothing else works, try Reset all Settings: Settings>General>Reset and choose Reset All Settings. You’ll be asked for your passcode to complete this process; you must then reconnect all your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices.
Users should familiarize themselves with Apple Support Communities, where they should be able to find answers and solutions to routine problems.
The hope is that if your people have enough information to self-resolve any routine installation challenges that crop up, your tech support teams will be able to focus their time on more serious issues that may emerge.
Known beta testing problems
While most of these problems are likely to have been addressed by the time the final version ships, some of the commonly reported issues during the iOS 15 beta testing process have included:
Files: If you choose Open in New window for a file, it may quit unexpectedly.
Widgets: You may find widget categories unstable, as when you select one an incorrect collection will open. Just quit and try again. The Home screen may quit when you drag a widget from a gallery.
Camera: Panorama may produce what Apple calls “unexpected results” when in Low Power Mode. Live Text may be unavailable.
Battery life: There have been reports of excessive battery drain when using the beta.
Additional problems have also been reported when installing the beta using Restore Images, SharePlay availability and consistency.
What else to expect
You’ve no doubt been festooned with iPhone 13 rumors across every channel, so I won’t spend much time with this short list. That said, here’s some of what’s currently anticipated.
A faster A15 processor delivering around 20% performance and graphics improvements and slightly better battery life.
Potentially, an AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate.
A smaller notch and better support for masks in Face ID.
Improved camera with a better wide angle lens, optical image stabilization and a new astrophotography mode.
iPhone will support mmWave 5G in additional markets, which may have some positive benefits to remote workers. Emergency transmission via satellite in some markets.
Stronger MagSafe magnets and support for reverse charging may also feature in the release.
New iPads and Apple Watch 7 will also appear.
More details here
Take a glance through some of our previous coverage on the new operating systems. I also have some smaller tipshere.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Remote workers using Macs on high-cost capped data plans or in the field using a smartphone to get online may need to reduce the data they use. Here are some ideas to help you achieve that.
Disable automatic macOS updates
For the purposes of this piece, I’ll assume you’ve already updated your Mac to the latest version of macOS. That’s the right thing to do, but it can devour your remaining data, which is why your should disable automatic macOS updates. Your Mac will automatically download and install macOS updates. That’s good most of the time, but as you come to the end of your monthly data allowance or when using a Mac to work from the middle of nowhere, it’s a potential no-no. This is how to disable automatic downloads on your Mac:
Open System Preferences>Software Updates
Choose Advanced and uncheck Download new updates when available.
Click on OK.
What this means is that you’ll need to manually download and install Mac software updates when they are made available using System Preferences>Software Update, which gives you the chance to do it at a time more convenient to you.
Disable automatic app updates
Apps you download via the App Store do get updated and by default will be updated automatically. You can put a stop to this.
Open the App Store on your Mac
Open App Store Preferences (Command-,) in the app menu.
Uncheck Automatic Updates.
If you think you may be exploring the App Store while dealing with constrained bandwidth, you may also want to disable Video Autoplay.
Open Activity Monitor and Force Quit apps
Tap Command-Space and search for “Activity Monitor,” or find the application tucked away inside Utilities in your Applications folder. When Activity Monitor opens, go to the Network tab and quickly scan the list of apps in the Process Name list. If you see any application names you recognize that you know you have already quit, select the app name and then tap the X button up top, to the left of the circled i. This will quit that process.
It’s quite possible you’ll see no recognized application name that you are not actively using, but at times you might find an app you have quit that continues working in a suspended state in the background. Don’t spend too much time on this; just review the software that is consuming large amounts of data.
You should also be certain to quit any applications you are not using, as many of these now send and receive small quantities of data during use.
NB: Activity Monitor is also a useful tool to monitor Network usage across all the Applications on your Mac. Just click on Sent and/or Rcvd Bytes to identify which applications are devouring data.
Check for Mail manually
At home, I like to check for Mail automatically, but not when I’m working to conserve bandwidth.
Open Mail>Preferences (Command-,) and open the General pane.
Now set the “Check for new messages” drop down menu to Manually.
While you will still use bandwidth when you do check for Mail, you will at least be in control of when you need to use that data. In extremis, it makes sense to use Web-based mail systems via your browser, leaving your Mail application switched off. Webmail still uses some bandwidth, but doesn’t helpfully download document attachments until told to do so.
Take control of iCloud
iCloud sync is one of the big selling points across the Apple ecosystem. It’s what makes sure all your data remains available across all your devices. I think it’s great, but when you want to save a little bandwidth, you can turn this off for the most data-hungry functions. (If you use iCloud Drive for work, you may want to keep this on. But you must consider the data created and up-/down-loaded for anything you create on your Mac.)
Open System Preferences and select Apple ID. Select iCloud and go through the list of apps that use iCloud. You should uncheck sync for the most data hungry apps. I tend to maintain Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders as a minimum as the functionality can exceed the small cost of data.
Reduce video quality
If using your Mac for business, the advice may be water off a duck’s back, but you will reduce bandwidth by avoiding video streaming. That means turning off auto-play in the apps you are using (how to do this varies by app). It also means reducing video quality where you can.
In Music open Preferences>Playback and set Video Playback Quality to Good (smallest files).
Notifications use data, too. Disable these in System Preferences>and set Show Previews to Never. You should also Option-click the clock in your Mac’s Menu bar to put your computer into Do Not Disturb mode. It’s not a huge data-slimmer, but may help.
Those Siri requests usually require data that’s uploaded and downloaded between your Mac and Apple’s Siri servers. If you want to reduce data use, you’ll want to disable Ask Siri, no matter which fantastic voice you’ve chosen. Open System Preferences>Siri and uncheck “Enable Ask Siri” under the Siri icon there.
Stop your Mac sending data home
Apple collects Diagnostics & Usage data from Macs. Apple, which recently delayed launch of its controversial CSAM protection measures, says this is perfectly safe. It also says the collection of this data is designed to help developers and Apple itself build better apps. However, the process uses bandwidth, so you may want to stop it.
Open System Preferences;
Tap the Privacy pane;
In the Diagnostics & Usage section uncheck Send diagnostic & usage data to Apple and also uncheck Share crash data with app developers.
Scan for malware
If you are unlucky enough to have caught one of the Mac’s ever-growing army of malware infections, you may find that the amount of data you are using seems to be spiking, despite what you do to control it. That’s why you should run a malware removal tool to detect and destroy these things. Malwarebytes, Sophos Home, and Avast Security all offer free versions of their tools which should help keep your Mac in good shape.
Avoid social media (particularly Facebook)
Social media apps love to grab data about you which they then magically transform into dollars. Facebook seems particularly keen to do this. If you must check your social media, do so. But don’t forget to quit the webpage once you’re done. Better yet, restart your browser to protect against any social media related “background processes” that may “enhance” your experience.
Advanced tip: Use Content Caching
If you have multiple devices on your bandwidth-constrained network, you may want to try using Content Caching. This reduces bandwidth use by storing software updates, apps, and other content on your Mac that can then be accessed by other Macs (and sometimes iOS devices) on the same wired or Wi-Fi network. (That Mac software update may only need to be downloaded once to share across all your families machines.) As you may expect, you’ll find this feature in System Preferences:
Check Content Caching from the list of services;
You’ll need to restart all your devices.
You’ll also be able to monitor how much cached content local networked devices have uploaded and downloaded over time in Activity Monitor.
Once your bandwidth recovers, don’t forget to switch all these features back on again to regain the full functionality of your computer.
Do you have additional tips to help prune data use on a Mac? Please let me know via one of the social media feeds below.
Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.
Hear ye, hear ye, my Chromebook-carrying comrades: Have I ever got the tasty new trick for you — er, for ye.
It’s a super-handy shortcut you can add into your Chrome OS computer to fill a curious void and make your system significantly easier to use. Intriguing, wouldn’t ye say?
Here’s the thing: For all the progress Google’s made with Chrome OS over the years — and to be sure, there’s been plenty! — some extraordinarily simple-seeming feats have remained oddly unaddressed. We’re just now getting a (still-buried) way to restore all of your apps and windows and avoid having that blasted blank browser window come up every time you restart your forkin’ Chromebook, for example, roughly a decade into the platform’s life.
And this topic of today is very much in that same category of “How Can We Possibly Not Do That Yet?!” features. The main difference is that Google still hasn’t tackled this one effectively, so it’s up to you to find or create the creative workaround.
I’m talking about the vexing lack of any simple restart command within the Chrome OS software. It’s something that came up during a conversation with one of the members of my Android Intelligence Platinum community recently, so I set out to scratch this fuzzy ol’ mammal-noggin of mine and muster up a solution.
I’d honestly never considered the fact that Chromebooks don’t have a simple on-screen restart function, but the perceptive Homo sapien asking me the question was absolutely right: If you look at the Chrome OS Quick Settings panel, you’ve got a single-click button for powering your computer down — and that’s it:
Weird, right? But as with most things in GoogleLand, there’s a pretty easy fix. In fact, there are a few of ’em.
Choose your own adventure:
The Chrome OS restart shortcut: The custom command option
First, you can take matters into your own hands and cook up your own custom Chrome OS restart shortcut. The secret resides within a little-known Chrome command for initiating a fresh start: All you’ve gotta do is type chrome:restart into the address bar of any browser window, and bam — your Chromebook will restart itself.
That’s all well and good, but we can take this a step further and turn it into a true time-saving shortcut. We’ll just rely on the custom Chrome address bar action method I shared with you some months back to perform a quick bit of command creating magic.
Type chrome:settings into the address bar of any Chrome browser window on your Chromebook.
Scroll down until you see the Search Engines sections, then click the line within it labeled “Manage search engines.”
On the screen that comes up next, find the line that says “Other search engines” and click the Add box alongside it.
Now, in the box that pops up, enter Restart as the search engine, *r* as the keyword, and chrome://restart as the URL — like so:
You can actually make the keyword anything you want — restart, SOS, someonesaveme, or maybe even oogaboogaheyhey, if you happen to be insane and/or a tech-savvy dolphin who says things like “oogaboogaheyhey.” Whatever keyword you choose will be the command you type into the browser address bar anytime you want to restart your Chromebook, so the main thing is that you want it to be short and simple enough to be effective as a shortcut — but not so short and simple that you might enter it accidentally. And, of course, you want it to be something you’ll remember.
Once you’ve got all of that done, just click the Add button to save it, and then type that magic word into the address bar and hit Enter anytime you need a fresh start.
The Chrome OS restart shortcut: The browser button option
If you’re more of a clicker than a keyword-rememberer(er), take 20 seconds to bring your fancy new restart shortcut into your browser’s address bar as a clickable button.
It’s easy to do:
Head into a Chrome window and look for the bookmark bar — that strip of links right under the browser’s address bar. If you don’t see it, hit Ctrl-Shift-B to toggle it on.
Right-click (or two-finger-click) anywhere inside the bar and select “Add page” from the menu that comes up.
Type in Restart for the name and chrome://restart for the URL and click the Save button.
Now just look for your newly created Restart button in that area (and drag and drop it if you want to move it into a more prominent place). Told ya it was easy!
The Chrome OS restart shortcut: The hardware button combo
Last but not least is a built-in shortcut with your Chromebook’s physical buttons, and it’s something I think approximately 0.02% of Chromebook owners realize exists. It works well, but depending on the specifics of your device, it may or may not always be as convenient as the on-screen options we just went over — and it may not be possible at all, even, especially if you’re using a desktop-based Chromebox or any other such setup.
With a typical Chromebook, though, make yourself a mental note: Holding down the Refresh button in the top row of the keyboard and then tapping the physical power button — either on the side of the device or on that same top row of the keyboard, depending on the device — will cause your computer to reset.
So there ya have it: three fast ‘n’ easy ways to restart your Chromebook at a moment’s notice. With any luck, Google will add in a proper command for this as part of the on-screen shutdown menu soon, but until then, you’ve got some pretty decent options.
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For all the ways travel is different these days, one thing hasn’t changed: Moving from one place to another can be a massive hassle. There’s plenty of room for inconvenience and error, and a journey rarely goes according to plan.
But while there’s not much you can do about the late departures, the surly gate attendants, or the smelly fella somehow always seated right next to you (a factor where your mask may come in extra handy, incidentally), there are some tech-centric steps you can take to make your next business trip a little less unpleasant.
Android’s travel app selection has really taken off over the past few years, and the Google Play Store now boasts an impressive array of genuinely useful titles for the traveling professional. After putting numerous standout candidates to the test, these are the apps I’d recommend stowing on your smartphone and keeping at arm’s reach whenever your work next has you hitting the road or flying the (allegedly) friendly skies.
(All apps are free unless otherwise specified.)
Planning and preparing
Organize your packing process
PackPoint is a travel organization genie. You simply tell it where you’re going, when, and what you’ll be doing — and the app generates a detailed checklist of suggested items for your suitcase.
You can add your own items to the list, as needed, and then use it as a guide to make sure you remember everything, every time.
PackPoint is free, with an optional one-time $3 upgrade that removes ads and gives you the ability to create your own custom packing templates. The paid version of the app also integrates with TripIt (more on that in a moment), which means it can import your travel plans automatically and create packing lists before you even ask.
Prepare for local navigation
Yeah, yeah, I know: You’re well aware of Google Maps. But what you might not realize — or maybe have just forgotten — is that with a teensy bit of planning, you can download all the data you need for a trip directly into Maps in advance. That way, you can navigate to your heart’s content, even in areas without strong mobile data signals, and you can avoid burning through mobile data unnecessarily on the road.
Here’s the trick: While you’re still in the comfort of your home or office, open up Maps on your phone and search for the city you’ll be visiting. Tap the city’s name within the search interface, then tap its name a second time when it appears in a box at the bottom of the screen.
At that point, you should be taken to a full-screen info page about the city — and within a row of circular icons, you should see one icon with a downward-facing arrow and the word “Download” beneath it. Tap that, then tap “Download” on the confirmation screen that appears. Once the download finishes, you’ll be able to access maps and directions within your destination without the need for an active connection.
Repeat as needed for any additional places on your agenda, then rest easy knowing your navigational guide will be there and waiting — no matter what sort of conditions you encounter.
Lonely Planet has tons of useful info about places all over the world. You’ll also find selections of “must-see” attractions for cities, along with suggested tours and activities. Once you select something you’re interested in, you’ll find all sorts of details about its location and pricing. You’ll even be given quick links to make reservations or buy tickets, if applicable.
It’s true that Google Maps does offer up some of this same sort of info, but Lonely Planet relies on its widely recognized travel experts to visit every included city and carefully review the possibilities — and that, suffice it to say, results in a much more polished and thorough sort of guide than what you’ll get from Google’s algorithm-driven recommendations and random user reviews. The app’s interface also makes it easy and fun to explore different places and find what appeals to you.
Lonely Planet is free for limited use. The app also offers a subscription that provides unlimited access, along with extras such as offline availability, on-demand Lonely Planet videos, and an actual printed guidebook for a city of your choice for five bucks a month or $40 a year.
Manage your air travel
TripIt is an all-around air travel management companion, and it’ll make your life easier in some meaningful ways — especially if you do a fair amount of flying.
At its core, TripIt allows you to forward flight itineraries and other travel-related emails to a special address — or, if you want, to grant it direct access to your inbox so it can find and process such emails on its own — and it then extracts all the relevant details and organizes them into clean and easy-to-follow master itineraries.
Beyond that, TripIt Pro makes it dead simple to find alternate flights at any point in your adventure. If a connection is canceled or delayed, all it takes is a couple of taps to see what other flights are available — even down to the specific open seats — on your current airline or on another. That’s helped me stay a step ahead of the gate agent on multiple occasions when late departures have put connecting flights in jeopardy.
TripIt Pro comes with a few other perks, too, such as a four-month free trial of the CLEAR expedited airport access program and then a $30 discount on that service’s ongoing annual fee. But the notifications and alternate flight finder are what really make the app invaluable. And while services like App in the Air offer similar sorts of features, no other app has been as consistently helpful, reliable, and easy to use as TripIt in my real-world travel testing. It’s the gold standard of travel organization and a must-have for any frequent flier or business traveler.
Find the best flights
Forget all the clunky, upsell-infested flight-finding services and instead, open up your Chrome Android browser and navigate to Google Flights. All right — so technically, it isn’t an Android app, but Google’s flight-searching system makes it super-easy to find and book flights across all airlines. You can save or share potential itineraries, monitor flights and get notified by email as soon as a specific fare goes up or down, and then buy your tickets directly with whatever airline (or airlines) you choose.
Pro tip: If you want to make the app easier to access, tap Chrome’s three-dot menu icon while viewing the website and select “Add to home screen.” That’ll give you a more traditional mobile-app-like icon that can then pull up the tool with a single tap.
One other utility that might be worth keeping handy is Hopper — but there’s a very specific purpose and also an important asterisk involved. Hopper watches flight prices over long periods of time in order to track trends and show you how fares are likely to fluctuate based on when you fly and when you make your purchase. If you’re booking your own travel and either footing the bill yourself or trying to stay within a limited company budget, that knowledge can be incredibly helpful to have.
But Hopper’s ultimate goal is to get you to book your tickets through its service, and that doesn’t necessarily seem like the most advisable thing to do. User reviews on the Play Store mention difficulty changing itineraries once they’re booked with Hopper and challenges getting through to the company’s customer service.
So what I’d suggest is treating Hopper as a resource and not a ticket-purchasing portal: Use it to research optimal travel dates and purchasing windows, if you need to, and then take the info it gives you and plug it directly into either Google Flights or the appropriate airline’s website to buy the tickets directly from the source — and without the potentially problematic middleman.
Speed up your border entry
If you’re traveling internationally — and have a valid passport from the U.S. or Canada — the Mobile Passport app can save you precious time when you enter the U.S. by allowing you to submit your passport info and customs declaration form through the app upon landing and then skip the regular line on your way through border patrol.
Despite its name, the app does not replace your passport; you still need to carry that with you. And not to worry: It’s authorized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protections agency and totally legit.
Track your mileage
If you drive your own car for business, Microsoft’s MileIQ makes it easy as can be to keep track of all your mileage for later reimbursement. Once you set up the app on your phone and activate its “Drive Detection” feature, you don’t have to do a thing: It’ll automatically detect when you’re driving and then log all your miles in the background. It even uses current IRS-mandated reimbursement rates to calculate what you’re owed.
The app has some interesting advanced options, too, such as the ability to set specific work hours and then ignore any drives that occur outside of those times.
MileIQ is free to use for up to 40 drives per month. For unlimited access, you’ll have to pony up $6 a month or $60 for a full year of service.
Pay less for gas
Why pay top dollar for top-offs when you can drive an extra minute from the highway and save yourself (or your company) some money? GasBuddy gives you the insight you need to find fuel that won’t break the bank: You just open up the app, tap the option to find gas near you, and then either look through a list of nearby gas stations and how much they’re currently charging or switch to a map view to see prices plotted out around your present location.
GasBuddy has a bunch of other features you probably won’t want to mess with, but the app’s price searching ability is worth every penny (particularly since the app is free and thus costs you precisely zero pennies to use).
At your destination
Track your travel expenses
When it comes to more general expense-tracking, Expensify is the app to have in your arsenal. Expensify lets you simply take photos of receipts with your phone — or forward invoices and receipts via email — and it then extracts the relevant details and organizes them into reports. The app is available on the web as well, and it offers direct-export integrations with QuickBooks, Xero, and other accounting services.
Expensify costs either $5 or $9 per person per month for businesses, depending on your needs. You can try the app out with a free individual plan, too, though that limits you to just 25 imports per month and lacks many of the service’s advanced expense reporting and integration options.
Find a place to stay on short notice
The next time you find yourself unexpectedly stuck somewhere — be it due to a cancelled flight or a road trip gone awry — don’t panic. Instead, snag the free and easy to use HotelTonight app. HotelTonight searches around your current location to find hotels with open and available rooms, but that’s not all: It also scores you legitimate savings on the rates, by way of an apparent deal wherein hotels let the service sell rooms at a discount in order to fill last-minute vacancies. I spot-checked a handful of the app’s recommendations, and the savings were absolutely real.
HotelTonight has handy details and ratings for all the hotels it recommends. And once you find something suitable, all it takes is a few taps within the app to book your room and be ready to roll.
Find Wi-Fi anywhere
Why waste money on mobile data when Wi-Fi is all around you and waiting for the taking? Just open WiFi Map to see an interactive map showing available Wi-Fi networks in your area (or any other area you want to search). The app lists out speed information and even provides user-submitted passwords to secured public networks in some instances.
Just note: When you first open WiFi Map, you’ll be pressed to upgrade to a $40-a-year premium subscription. That allows you to eliminate some rather aggressive ads within the app and also gives you the ability to download information in advance for offline viewing. You don’t have to make the upgrade, though (and arguably shouldn’t bother); if you want to use the app for free, just tap the “Continue without subscription” text when the upgrade prompt appears.
Also, when searching for available networks, be sure to tap the three-line menu icon at the top of the results list and change the setting from “Show All” to “Recently Connected.” That’ll weed out old (and thus likely to be inaccurate) info from the list and show you only networks that have been confirmed to work by other users within the last 90 days.
Convert and translate anything
For your next border-crossing journey, let XE Currency Converter convert currency for you without the usual headache. Once you tell the app your home country’s currency and select which foreign currencies you want to convert into, all you have to do is type in a dollar amount to get an instant glimpse at the exact equivalent based on up-to-the-minute conversion rates.
And when language translation is what you require, the aptly named Google Translate app is the tool you want. It’s jam-packed with practical features, such as the ability to translate text instantly from an image you capture with your camera and a “conversation mode” that lets you have a (somewhat awkward) back-and-forth dialog, in real time, with someone speaking a different tongue.
Stay fit wherever you go
Who says you have to stay sedentary just because you’re traveling? Skip the underwhelming hotel “exercise facility” and turn to RunGo to find and navigate popular running trails wherever you are. It’s free to use, with an optional $2-a-month or $15-a-year premium upgrade that gives you a variety of extra features you probably won’t need (unless you really want to sync the app with a Strava activity tracker).
If you’d rather get your heart pumping from the privacy of your own room, snag the Nike Training Club app. It’s filled with easy-to-follow workouts, ranging from the intense and Crossfit-reminiscent “Bodyweight Only Benchmark” to the simple and stretch-oriented “Run Ready Yoga.”
You can find workouts for practically any amount of time you want — as little as five minutes, even! — and you can browse specifically through “no-equipment workouts,” assuming you don’t carry your entire collection of kettlebells with you every time you travel. And best of all? The app is completely free to use.
The only thing you’ll be missing is an excuse.
This article was originally published in June 2018 and most recently updated in September 2021.
In a surprise Friday announcement, Apple said it will take more time to improve its controversial child safety tools before it introduces them.
More feedback sought
The company says it plans to get more feedback and improve the system, which had three key components: iCloud photos scanning for CSAM material, on-device message scanning to protect kids, and search suggestions designed to protect children.
Ever since Apple announced the tools, it has faced a barrage of criticism from concerned individuals and rights groups from across the world. The big argument the company seemed to have a problem addressing seems to have been the potential for repressive governments to force Apple to monitor for more than CSAM.
Who watches the watchmen?
Edward Snowden, accused of leaking US intelligence and now a privacy advocate, warned on Twitter, “Make no mistake: if they can scan for kiddie porn today, they can scan for anything tomorrow.”
Critics said these tools could be exploited or extended to support censorship of ideas or otherwise threaten free thought. Apple’s response — that it would not extend the system — was seen as a little naïve.
“We have faced demands to build and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade the privacy of users before and have steadfastly refused those demands. We will continue to refuse them in the future. Let us be clear, this technology is limited to detecting CSAM stored in iCloud and we will not accede to any government’s request to expand it,” the company said.
“All it would take to widen the narrow backdoor that Apple is building is an expansion of the machine learning parameters to look for additional types of content,” countered the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Apple listens to its users (in a good way)
In a statement widely released to the media (on the Friday before a US holiday, when bad news is sometimes released) about the suspension, Apple said:
“Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.”
It’s a move the company had to take. In mid-August, more than 90 NGOs contacted the company in an open letter begging that it reconsider. That letter was signed by Liberty, Big Brother Watch. ACLU, Center for Democracy & Technology, Centre for Free Expression, EFF, ISOC, Privacy International, and many more.
The devil in the details
The organizations warned of several weaknesses in the company’s proposals. One that very much cut through: that the system itself may be abused by abusive adults.
“LGBTQ+ youths on family accounts with unsympathetic parents are particularly at risk,” they wrote. “As a result of this change, iMessages will no longer provide confidentiality and privacy to those users.”
Concern that Apple’s proposed system could be extended also remain. Sharon Bradford Franklin, co-director of the CDT Security & Surveillance Project, warned that governments “will demand that Apple scan for and block images of human rights abuses, political protests, and other content that should be protected as free expression, which forms the backbone of a free and democratic society.”
Apple’s defenders said what Apple had been trying to achieve was to maintain overall privacy on user data while creating a system that could pick up only illegal content. They also pointed to the various failsafes the company built into its system.
Those arguments did not work, and Apple execs surely picked up on the same kind of social media feedback I saw, which represented deep distrust in the proposals.
What happens next?
Apple’s statement didn’t say. But given the company has spent weeks since the announcement meeting with media and concerned groups from across all its markets on this matter, it seems logical that the second iteration of its child protection tools may address some of the concerns.
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