Graham Spencer

879 posts on MacStories since January 2011

Graham is a regular contributor to MacStories, a law and economics student at university, and a fan of great TV shows. With a particular passion for telling stories with the aid of data and visualizations, there is a high likelihood that he wrote a story if you see a graph on MacStories.

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Apple Updates MacBook: Faster, Longer Battery Life, Rose Gold Option

Apple has today updated its MacBook line with faster processors, an extra hour of battery life and the option to pick a Rose Gold finish. The MacBook now comes with the sixth-generation dual-core Intel Core M processors that go up to 1.3GHz, with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1GHz. It also now comes with faster PCIe-based flash storage and faster 1866MHz memory.

“MacBook is the thinnest and lightest Mac we have ever made and it’s our vision for the future of the notebook,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are going to love this update to MacBook, with the latest processors, faster graphics, faster flash storage, longer battery life and a beautiful rose gold finish.”

Graphics performance has also been improved by up to 25 percent on the refreshed MacBooks as a result of the inclusion of an Intel HD Graphics 515 card. With the improved battery life, the refreshed MacBook should last up to 10 hours for web browsing and up to 11 hours of movie playback.

US Prices for the MacBook are unchanged and start at $1,299 for a MacBook with a 1.1 GHz Intel Core m3 processor, 8GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage.

The MacBook Air has also received a minor refresh, with 8GB of memory now standard across all configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

You can read Apple's full press release here.


Apple Pay Expands to Singapore Through American Express Partnership

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors, reports that Apple Pay has today launched in Singapore:

Apple today updated its website and its Apple Pay support document to note the expansion of the Apple Pay payment service to Singapore. With the addition of Singapore, Apple Pay is now available in six countries, including Canada, China, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Apple Pay is available in Singapore through a partnership with American Express, first announced by Apple in October of 2015. By partnering with American Express, Apple has brought Apple Pay to Singapore, Canada, and Australia and will expand it to Hong Kong and Spain later this year.

Unfortunately, Apple's partnership with American Express is once again limited to those who have a credit card issued by American Express for now. Those with an American Express card issued by their local bank will not be able to use Apple Pay – it is the same situation to Apple Pay in Australia and Canada. However, things may soon change, as Apple has listed on the Singaporean Apple Pay website that Visa support is "coming soon", as well as support for DBS, UOB and Standard Chartered.

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Apple Launches Developer Insights Webpage

Alongside yesterday's WWDC 2016 announcement, Apple also added a new webpage providing tips and insights from other developers.

The App Store makes it simple for users around the world to discover, download and enjoy your apps. Grow your business with resources designed to help you create great apps and reach more users.

The featured developers and topics are Seriously (focusing on building a brand), Grailr (bringing CARROT Weather to Apple Watch), Evernote (localising its app for Japan), and Smule (growing a thriving community of loyal users).

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Apple Pulls Third-Party Reddit Clients for NSFW Content

Update (4am PDT 12 April 2016): Some of the third-party Reddit clients have now returned to the App Store. Both Narwhal and Antenna are now available in the App Store, but both have been updated to remove the NSFW toggle that used to be in their apps. It is our understanding that Apple's objection is with the implementation of those NSFW toggles. Apple wants them removed from all Reddit apps so that if a user does want to view NSFW content, that toggle must be manually changed from the Reddit website.

Today, numerous third-party Reddit clients were removed from the App Store by Apple for breaching clause 18.2 of the App Review Guidelines. This clause states that apps will be rejected if they contain "user generated content that is frequently pornographic".

The official Reddit app, which launched last week and was featured by Apple on the App Store, currently remains in the App Store, but other Reddit clients including Narwhal, Antenna, Eggplant and BaconReader have all been removed for sale. These third-party Reddit clients were removed from Apple without any advance notice to developers, despite some of the apps being available on the App Store for well over a year. It should also be noted that many of these third-party apps, such as Narwhal, did have a filter to enable or disable NSFW content.

It is our understanding that Reddit did not ask Apple to remove the third-party Reddit apps. This aligns with Reddit's statement from last week (after the launch of the official Reddit app) in which Reddit's VP of Consumer Product stated "if you already have an app you like, you're free to continue enjoying it".

Rick Harrison, co-author of the Narwhal Reddit client provided this quote to MacStories:

It also seems that a few other popular third-party Reddit apps were removed from the store, but not the official Reddit app. I reached out to Reddit asking them if they knew anything, and they informed me that they did not request Apple to pull these apps, and they were also receiving issues from Apple about 18.2. I think that Apple did not pull their app because they are a big company and were recently featured. As shown time and time again, Apple does not really care whatsoever about indie developers. From taking 30% of barely any revenue to rejecting apps based on features that have been available for 18+ months.

It is too soon to say, but Apple's actions today may well be the latest example of policy and procedural failure on App Review. We covered this topic in detail in a story last month which chronicled the depth of developer frustration at App Review.

We will continue to monitor this story and provide further updates and details as we come across them.


Apple Pay Now Supported by Barclays in the UK

Barclays, the last of the United Kingdom's big four banks, has today finally added support for Apple Pay. With the addition of Barclays, there are now 15 banks in the United Kingdom that support Apple Pay today, nearly 9 months after Apple Pay launched in the UK.

As a quick status update, Apple Pay is today available in 5 countries; the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and China. Apple Pay is supported by virtually all banks in the United States (1,110 to be exact, as of today), and it is supported by 15 banks in China since it launched there earlier this year as a result of Apple's partnership with China UnionPay. By contrast, Apple Pay is not supported by any Australian or Canadian banks - in those two countries, Apple Pay is limited to those with an American Express-issued card.

[via MacRumors]


Apple Announces Q2 2016 Earnings Call for April 25

As noted by MacRumors, Apple's Investor Relations website was yesterday updated to note that Apple's earnings call for the second quarter of fiscal year 2016 (January, February and March 2016) will be held on Monday, April 25, 2016.

Apple's guidance for the second fiscal quarter of 2016 is revenue between $50 and $53 billion, gross margin between 39 and 39.5 percent, and a tax rate of 25.5 percent. But as is illustrated above, Apple's guidance in the past has often underestimated the actual results, sometimes significantly so.

As we have for previous earnings calls, MacStories will cover the conference call on our site’s homepage on April 25 starting at 2 PM PT, posting charts of the results, collecting key quotes from Apple executives and highlighting interesting Tweets from others.

[via MacRumors]


FBI Accessed San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone Without Apple, Drops Litigation

Sheera Frenkel and Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:

The Justice Department (DOJ) announced Monday that it had successfully accessed data on the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters and that it was dropping its case against Apple to help unlock the phone.

Investigators are no longer seeking Apple’s help to penetrate the device, according to a court filing by the DOJ Monday.

A week ago the Department of Justice successfully postponed a court hearing after revealing that the FBI had been approached by a third party who had a possible method to unlock the iPhone (subsequently rumored to be Israeli firm Cellebrite). That method appears to have paid off, with the Department of Justice asking the court to vacate the order compelling Apple to assist the FBI and writing in its Status Report to the court that:

The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook's iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court's Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.

In response to the Department of Justice's Status Report, Apple issued a response to The Verge and other media outlets:

From the beginning, we objected to the FBI's demand that Apple build a backdoor into the iPhone because we believed it was wrong and would set a dangerous precedent. As a result of the government's dismissal, neither of these occurred. This case should never have been brought.

We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated.

Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk.

This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy. Apple remains committed to participating in that discussion.

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Apple Is Selling Microsoft Office 365 as an Accessory for the iPad Pro

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

Apple wants the iPad Pro to replace Windows, and to convince customers it's bringing in a familiar face or two: Microsoft's Office Suite. As part of the ordering process for the new iPad Pro, buyers are given the option of adding a subscription for Office 365 — the only non-Apple accessory to appear in the order form. Office 365 bundles in the mobile apps and full Mac versions of a number of old standbys, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. (You can also choose between the Home, Personal, and University tiers, each of which offers different features.)

The Microsoft Office apps for iOS are easily some of the best apps available, particularly for the iPad. Whilst they aren't yet at feature parity with their Windows and Mac counterparts, they are remarkably close in many respects. I've been using the Word, OneNote and Excel iPad apps extensively in the recent weeks, and I have been really happy with how they work.

It is worth noting that Microsoft Office is actually free to use on the 9.7" iPad Pro, but requires an Office 365 subscription if you want to edit documents on the 12.9" iPad Pro. This disparity is because of Microsoft's rather odd policy in which Office is free to use on any device with a display smaller than 10.1" - but for devices with a larger screen, an Office 365 subscription is required.

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Court Grants the Justice Department’s Request for iPhone Hearing to Be Postponed

A hearing scheduled for Tuesday, 22 March 2016, between Apple and the Justice Department was unexpectedly cancelled on Monday after a request from the Justice Department. In its application requesting Tuesday's hearing to be postponed, the Justice Department stated that a third party approached the FBI on Sunday with a possible method that could unlock the iPhone, without requiring assistance from Apple.

On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. (“Apple”) set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case.

Judge Sheri Pym granted the request after Apple did not object, and the Justice Department will now have to file a status report by 5 April 2016. The court order compelling Apple to assist the FBI has also been stayed by Judge Pym "pending further submissions" because Monday's submissions from the Justice Department have resulted in "uncertainty surrounding the government's need for Apple's assistance".

It is not clear who contacted the FBI with the possible method, and on a call with BuzzFeed and other reporters, a law enforcement official refused to name them, other than saying that it came "from outside the U.S. government". Apple's attorney told reporters that it did not know what the supposed vulnerability is, but that fixing it will be "an urgent priority for the company" and that they will insist that the government share details of the exploit if the case moves forward.

As The New York Times points out, it is unlikely that this is the last we will hear about this case, particularly if the FBI concludes that the new method will not work. In any case, we will learn more when the Justice Department files their status report in the coming weeks before the court imposed deadline of 5 April 2016.

“This will only delay an inevitable fight over whether the government can force Apple to break the security of its devices,” said Alex Abdo, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, an advocacy group.

For the Justice Department, cracking the iPhone would be a mixed blessing. While it would give investigators access to data that they see as crucial to a terrorism investigation, it would cut short the encryption debate that the F.B.I. had been trying to start for years before the Apple case came along.

Courtesy of BuzzFeed, you can read the Justice Department's motion to vacate here, and the Court's order here.

[via BuzzFeed and The New York Times]