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Tim Cook Calls for US Privacy Regulations in Time Op-Ed

User privacy is one of the social drums Tim Cook has been consistently beating for years now, and today that's continuing in an even stronger way with a new op-ed by Apple’s CEO published by Time. Cook writes:

I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.

In addition to outlining these four principles, Cook gets more specific in calling for a particular organization to be formed that counteracts a “shadow economy that’s largely unchecked” whereby people’s data is sold by retailers and other companies without express knowledge or consent. He writes:

Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.

Apple has established a consistent practice of standing for user privacy, partly owing to its highly publicized standoff with the FBI in 2016, but it seems that in 2019 the company wants that value to be even more pronounced. First there was the unavoidable banner at CES touting the iPhone's privacy advantage, and now today's op-ed. It will be interesting to see if any of the ideas Cook pushes bring about productive discussion on this issue, leading to practical change in US policy.

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Connected, Episode 226: The Instagram Secret Society

The boys discuss a bunch of Apple products that may be receiving refreshes after years of neglect, including the iPad mini and iPod touch, then are taught how to edit photos like pros by Tyler Stalman.

If you want to get better at taking pictures on your iPhone, you don't want to miss the second half of this week's Connected. I learned a lot from Tyler and now have a handful of new apps to play with. You can listen here.

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GoodNotes 5: The MacStories Review

I spend a lot of time at a keyboard. The obvious advantage of a keyboard is speed. When I'm in a groove, nothing beats typing into a text editor at my Mac or iPad Pro for quickly recording thoughts and ideas, so they aren't forgotten.

Moving fast is not nearly as important when it comes time to refine those ideas into something coherent. Slowing down, switching tools and contexts, and working in different environments all help to bring order to disparate thoughts. The same holds for planning something new, whether it's the next big article or organizing my thoughts on some other project.

It's in situations like these when I grab my iPad Pro and open GoodNotes. The switch from the indirect process of typing into a text editor to working directly on the iPad's screen with the Apple Pencil enables a different perspective that helps me refine ideas in a way that typing doesn't.

With version 5, the GoodNotes team has taken my favorite iOS note-taking app and refined every aspect of the experience. The update retains the simplicity of the app's design but does a better job surfacing existing functionality and extending other features. The result is a more flexible, powerful app that plays to its existing strengths – which current users will appreciate – but should also appeal to a broader audience than ever.

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Apple Launches Smart Battery Cases for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

Apple today updated its online store with the addition of three new products: Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. Every version of the case costs $129, regardless of iPhone size. Each new case is available in both Black and White, and the designs resemble that of the previous Apple Smart Battery Cases, with a silicone exterior and a large bulge on the back to accommodate the battery.

The Smart Battery Case is compatible with Qi chargers, so you can still take advantage of wireless charging while using the case. These are the quoted charge estimates for each case:

  • XS: 33 hours talk time, 21 hours Internet use, and 25 hours video playback
  • XS Max: 37 hours talk time, 20 hours Internet use, and 25 hours video playback
  • XR: 39 hours talk time, 22 hours Internet use, and 27 hours video playback

In the past, Apple hasn't made Smart Battery Cases available for Plus-sized phones, so it's great to see that now, regardless of your iPhone size, you can get a case that raises battery life to meet the needs of heavy use.


DuckDuckGo Switches to Apple Maps for Location Searches

Today, DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused web search engine, began using Apple Maps for location-based searches. The company, which previously used OpenStreetMap, switched to Apple's MapKit JS framework, which Apple introduced at WWDC in June 2018.

General search results and DuckDuckGo's Maps tab both embed Apple Maps' familiar UI with options to display street, satellite, and hybrid views of locations combined with Yelp data for businesses and other destinations. According to DuckDuckGo, users can search by address, geographical place, business name and type, and nearby. Clicking or tapping on the map preview in search results expands the map while selecting a location highlights it on the map.

With respect to location tracking, DuckDuckGo says:

At DuckDuckGo, we believe getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds. Naturally, our strict privacy policy of not collecting or sharing any personal information extends to this integration. We do not send any personally identifiable information such as IP address to Apple or other third parties.

DuckDuckGo explains elsewhere on its site that it uses GEO::IP lookup to determine users' location by default. For better results, users can grant DuckDuckGo permission to use their browser location data, in which case DuckDuckGo says searches are still anonymous because the company does not store location data on its servers.

I tried DuckDuckGo's new Apple Maps integration with several different searches. The search engine had no problem finding the coffee shop I was at this morning, and the familiar Apple Maps UI is a definite plus. However, the results weren't as good when I ran a few 'near me' searches. Searches for coffee, pizza, and barbers 'near me' all returned better results before I granted DuckDuckGo access to my location. Of course, these are just a few non-scientific searches from one location, so your results may be different.


Steredenn: Binary Stars Debuts on iOS

French indie game studio Pixelnest debuted Steredenn: Binary Stars on iOS today. The update is a major expansion of the original version of Steredenn that I reviewed over a year and a half ago. Everything I loved about the original game that made it special and an instant classic is present in Binary Stars plus a whole lot more.

Pixelnest has added more ships. Each has unique strengths and weaknesses and a special ability that’s triggered by tapping the top right corner of the screen. That’s a new addition to the game’s control scheme, but it fits naturally with the game’s existing controls making the new abilities easy to pick up even if you are used to the old control scheme.

The new ships aren’t all immediately available though. Instead, they, along with bosses, weapons, and other unique elements are unlocked as you progress through the game adding a sense of progress and incentive to come back and play more.

There are loads of other additions too including new weapons, ship upgrades, and bosses. Like the original, the game's stages are mostly procedurally generated. As in the past that keeps the game feeling fresh throughout no matter how often you're defeated. However, the addition of so many new game elements makes Binary Stars a much deeper game than the original and one that’s sure to grab players’ attention for extended periods.

Binary Stars also features a new unlockable mode called Boss Rush. It’s a weekly challenge similar to the Daily Run that pits players against a variety of bosses and tracks their success on a special leaderboard.

Pixelnest has announced that the studio is being disbanded but that the team will continue to support Steredenn. It’s shame to see Pixelnest wind down, but they leave behind an incredible legacy in Steredenn, which launched to wide critical acclaim on consoles, desktops, and iOS and has gained a loyal following.

If you haven’t tried Steredenn before, now is a great time to jump in because Binary Stars has taken everything that is great about the original game and polished it into an incredibly fun, intense gaming experience that’s ideally suited for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. There's so much new content to explore that players of the original version that haven't picked up the game in a while should dig in again too.

Steredenn: Binary Stars is available on the App Store a free update to existing players of Steredenn and $3.99 for newcomers.


AppStories, Episode 94 – Interview: iOS Game Design with Edwin Smith of Feral Interactive

On this week's episode of AppStories, we interview Edwin Smith of Feral Interactive, the developer and publisher of Mac and iOS games about the design challenges of bringing complex desktop games to the iPad and iPhone.

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iPhone Backup Extractor: Helping Users Recover and Access Their iOS Data [Sponsor]

iPhone Backup Extractor is a powerful macOS app for working with iOS data. The app was launched a decade ago by Reincubate founder Aidan Fitzpatrick from his apartment out of frustration at having lost contacts he'd painstakingly entered into his iPhone. Now, not only can iPhone Backup Extractor recover contacts, it can retrieve deleted conversations from apps like Messages and WhatsApp, edit and browse iTunes backups, and export iPhone or iPad data into formats such as PDF, VCard, and iCal. The app also helps users find lost photos and extract data from individual apps.

iPhone Backup Extractor got a lot of love in 2018 with major updates throughout the year including support Mojave and iOS 12. The app's UI was also overhauled, the restrictions passcode recovery feature was updated to support forgotten Screen Time passcodes, drag and drop support was added, and an all-new "Info" mode that provides a deep-dive into the various codes, serials, and IDs associated with an iOS device was launched.

iPhone Backup Extractor is available here. The free version of the app allows users to view their data and export four files at a time, which is a great way to give the app a test run. For a limited time, you can upgrade to the basic edition of iPhone Backup Extractor for just under $32 with this MacStories-exclusive 20%-off link. Help is always available too, whether you need assistance with your backups, recovering lost passcodes, or anything else.

Reincubate is always looking for ways to improve iPhone Backup Extractor too and would love to hear from MacStories readers about how it can do more to help people get deeper access to their own data. Feel free to get in touch with the Reincubate team at support@reincubate.com or on Twitter at @reincubate or @afit.

Our thanks to iPhone Backup Extractor for sponsoring MacStories this week.