Graham Spencer

892 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 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]


Apple Releases tvOS 9.2: Bluetooth Keyboard Support, Siri Dictation, App Folders & More

Apple has today released tvOS 9.2 for the fourth-generation Apple TV which was released in late 2015. Like iOS 9.3, tvOS 9.2 is more than just a minor point release with bug fixes – it also comes with a few new features which make notable improvements to the product. The headline new features in tvOS 9.2 include support for Bluetooth keyboards, the ability to use Siri dictation to fill out text fields, folders for apps, and support for Live Photos.

For the past week I've been running a developer build of tvOS 9.2, and below I've outlined the changes, big and small, that this release brings.

How to Update Your Apple TV

If your Apple TV has not automatically prompted you to upgrade to tvOS 9.2, you can also request an update manually. Simply go to Settings > System > Software Updates > Update Software.

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Apple’s Town Hall: A Look Back

Jason Snell and Stephen Hackett have taken a look back at the products that Apple has introduced at their Town Hall venue since the iPod in 2001. Timely, because today's Apple Keynote will also be held at Apple's Town Hall.

Located at 4 Infinite Loop on Apple’s main campus, the Town Hall conference center was probably designed more for in-company meetings than for major events covered by worldwide media. And yet on numerous occasions over the years, it’s been exactly that.

Monday’s event in Town Hall could very well be the last hurrah for the old 300-seat venue, given that Apple is constructing a 1,000-seat auditorium in its new campus, due to open next year. Before it goes, here’s a look back at key public events in Town Hall, starting in late 2001.

Be sure to watch the accompanying video from Stephen Hackett which features clips from the various Town Hall media events.

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Apple Events App Now Available on the Apple TV App Store

As first reported by 9to5Mac, a new 'Apple Events' channel is now available on the fourth-generation Apple TV's App Store. The app will enable you to live stream the upcoming Apple keynote on Monday, March 21 at 10am PDT. In the meantime you can also re-watch Apple's previous keynotes going back to WWDC 2014.

Unlike the Apple Events channel on older Apple TVs, which automatically appeared on the Apple TV on the day of the event, fourth-generation Apple TV owners will have to manually download the Apple Events app from the App Store.

Apple has previously announced that the keynote will also be live streamed on its website if you use Safari on iOS or OS X, or the Microsoft Edge browser on a PC. Apple has also stated that the second and third generation Apple TV will also be able to stream the keynote. Although the Apple Events channel is not yet available on those older Apple TVs, in previous years it has appeared on the Apple TV a few hours prior to the keynote.

More screenshots of the Apple Events app for the fourth-generation Apple TV are embedded below.

You can also follow all of the MacStories coverage of Monday's Apple keynote through our March 21 Keynote hub, or subscribe to the dedicated March 21 Keynote RSS feed.

[via 9to5Mac]

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Apple Launches Advertising Campaign for Apple News

Speaking of Apple News, Peter Kafka of Re/code reports that Apple has started an advertising campaign focused on the iOS 9 app.

Remember Apple News? Figured. Apple would like to change that, so it’s launching an ad campaign promoting the news aggregator it launched, without much fanfare, last fall.

If you’re in San Francisco, Chicago or New York, you might see the ads on billboards and in airports; the rest of you will have to look for it online.

You can see two examples of the billboards in Re/code's article, one featuring ESPN and the other featuring VICE – but Kafka notes that Apple is also working with Vox Media.

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Apple News Format Now Available for All Publishers

Emily Jane Fox, writing for Vanity Fair, yesterday reported that Apple has now opened the Apple News Format to independent publishers:

Apple News’s 40 million users are about to have a lot more articles to read. The iPhone maker announced Tuesday the launch of a new Web-based editing tool that will open its native iOS news platform to independent publishers of all sizes.

Since Apple launched the app in September, it has attracted more than 100 major publishers as partners, including this magazine’s Web site. What the new launch means is that anyone—from individual bloggers to smaller, independent news organizations—will be able to edit and deliver their stories, videos, galleries, and audio in the Apple News format, with Apple News’s reach.

Content can be published in Apple's News app either via RSS or the Apple News Format. Up until now, the Apple News Format has been invitation-only and limited to large publishers such as Vanity Fair, Vox, and CNN. The advantage for publishers in using the Apple News Format is that it gives them greater control over the look of their stories in the News app, they get detailed analytics information, and can earn revenue through iAd.

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