John, MacStories’ Managing Editor, has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He also co-hosts MacStories’ podcasts, including AppStories, which explores of the world of apps, MacStories Unwind, a weekly recap of everything MacStories and more, and MacStories Unplugged, a behind-the-scenes, anything-goes show exclusively for Club MacStories members.
This week on AppStories, we explore the popularity of Substack among writers leaving big media companies, rethink our email workflows after leaving Hey, and consider data portability and the tradeoffs of proprietary app systems.
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Later today, Epic Games and Apple will square off in a high-stakes trial in US federal district court that’s nominally about money. However, if that were all that was at stake, the claims each company has made against the other would likely have been resolved by now. Companies the size of Apple and Epic settle because it’s rarely in their interest to have a judge make decisions for them. However, this trial is different.
There’s more to these disputes than Epic’s allegation that Apple violated antitrust laws and Apple’s claims that Epic violated its developer agreement. Underlying it all is the way the dispute was precipitated by Epic. The Fortnite creator’s actions don’t necessarily absolve Apple of antitrust violations, but Epic’s calculated orchestration of events leading to the dispute have not gone unnoticed by the judge presiding over the case and may influence the trial’s outcome. Coupled with Epic’s efforts to get regulatorsaroundthe world to take up its cause and its very public crusade against the way Apple operates the App Store, it’s not surprising that the claims haven’t settled. Instead, the parties will begin today with opening arguments in front of US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who the parties have agreed will decide the dispute instead of a jury.
Regardless of your opinion of the way Apple runs the App Store or Epic’s litigation tactics, the thing to keep in mind as the trial starts is that the judge is being asked to settle a legal dispute, not set policy. Both companies have made specific claims against the other, which by definition means the judge’s ruling will likely be narrower in scope than it would be in an antitrust case brought by the US government. Nor is any remedy imposed by the judge likely to be as broad as government regulation of the App Store might be someday.
Still, that doesn’t mean the stakes aren’t high; they are. An adverse ruling against Apple could significantly change the way the company operates the App Store and would likely trigger more antitrust lawsuits and regulatory scrutiny in the future. As a result, I thought it would be useful to dig in and take a closer look at some of the parties’ arguments and the context in which this dispute arose to provide a better sense of what to expect from the trial, which is expected to run about three weeks, and what the outcome might be.
Apple has just published its financial results for Q2 2021. The company posted revenue of $89.58 billion. Apple CEO Tim Cook said:
“This quarter reflects both the enduring ways our products have helped our users meet this moment in their own lives, as well as the optimism consumers seem to feel about better days ahead for all of us,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Apple is in a period of sweeping innovation across our product lineup, and we’re keeping focus on how we can help our teams and the communities where we work emerge from this pandemic into a better world. That certainly begins with products like the all-new iMac and iPad Pro, but it extends to efforts like the 8 gigawatts of new clean energy we’ll help bring onto the grid and our $430 billion investment in the United States over the next 5 years.”
I’ve used 1Blocker to block ads from cluttered websites for years. No ad blocker is perfect. Some ads still get through, and blockers can sometimes interfere with the functionality of a website, but of all the ones I’ve tried, 1Blocker strikes the best balance. The app is also available on all of Apple’s platforms, making it easy to block intrusive ads but allow them on sites where they don’t wreck the reading experience.
1Blocker, which I have coveredmanytimesin the past on MacStories, was the first iOS app I know that bundled multiple sets of content blocking rules to offer more filters than the iOS would otherwise allow. The system also allows 1Blocker to filter more than just advertising, such as social media widgets, comments, and adult sites.
Today, 1Blocker has expanded its coverage even further with a feature called Firewall. If you’ve read Federico’s in-depth story about iOS and iPadOS 14.5, you’re familiar with App Tracking Transparency. That’s the OS feature that requires apps to request permission before tracking your activity across multiple apps and websites. Firewall takes that a step further by automatically blocking trackers and doing so even if the trackers are what are known as first-party trackers because they don’t correlate your data with data collected by other companies. It’s an extra layer of protection between you and data brokers.
Eve Systems has announced the availability of an update to its Eve Energy Smart Plug and Power Meter, which now supports HomeKit over Thread. Thread is the technology that began appearing in HomeKit devices late last year with the introduction of the HomePod mini. It’s a mesh networking system that allows devices to communicate with each other in your home without first communicating with a central hub or over the Internet. Thread-enabled devices also tend to be more responsive and use less power than devices that only use Bluetooth or rely on WiFi connections.
Because the new Eve Energy is a smart plug, it has a continuous source of power that allows it to act as a Thread router like the HomePod mini. That’s significant because the more edge routers you add to a Thread system, the more robust the mesh network becomes. However, there have been few devices other than the HomePod mini that could act in that capacity.
Eve Energy’s Thread radio acts as a border router for connecting other Thread devices in your home.
As a HomeKit device, the new Eve Energy plug can be controlled by Apple’s Home app or the Eve for HomeKit app. The device also reports the energy used by whatever it powers, giving users a way to assess the power consumption of their appliances and any power-hungry electronics.
I haven’t had a chance to try the new Eve Energy yet, but I hope to in the coming weeks. I’ve owned a couple of earlier-generation Eve Energy smart plugs, and both have worked better than other smart plugs I’ve tried in the past.
With the announcements over the past several months, it’s clear that Eve Systems is committed to building Thread into their products, which I’m glad to see. Thread support is still relatively rare to find in HomeKit devices, but the pace seems to be picking up. I’m eager to see how a larger, mixed Thread network of devices performs compared to older Bluetooth and WiFi-based ones.
In the aftermath of the release of iOS and iPadOS 14.5 and other OS updates yesterday, Apple updated the Browse tab of the Music app with a collection of Apple Music playlists called ‘Chart-Toppers in Cities Around the World’ that are available on iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS. The playlists collect the top 25 songs in 103 cities around the globe.
The new collections occupy a row just below the featured content at the top of Music’s Browse tab. To access all 103 playlists on iOS, tap ‘See All.’ The twelve playlists that I see in my US-based account are US cities presented in no discernible order. After that, cities are listed alphabetically.
Browsing through playlists, I’ve occasionally come across a grayed-out song that isn’t available in the US, but that’s been very rare. It’s been fun browsing through playlists to see what’s popular here in the Chicago area compared to other cities in the US and elsewhere. My music tastes aren’t very well aligned with the top 25 lists, but I’m glad the playlists have been added. The collections are a fascinating peek into pop culture worldwide and an easy way to listen to what’s popular with other Apple Music subscribers.
Apple announced today that it has increased its planned investment in the US over the next five years. The company had previously set a goal in 2018 of investing $350 billion but is now planning on spending $430 billion and adding 20,000 new jobs in the US, a 20% increase over the previous goal.
At the center of Apple’s revised plans is a new campus that it will build in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh-Durham, which will create at least 3,000 jobs. The company is also setting aside $100 million to support local schools and other community initiatives.
In addition to the North Carolina campus, Apple has committed to creating 20,000 new US-based jobs over the next five years. According to the company’s press release, those jobs will be located in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington, and Iowa. Apple’s plan to spend $430 billion in the US also includes increased spending with more than 9,000 manufacturers and suppliers in all 50 states. Finally, the company plans to continue its investment in clean energy initiates across the US, including a new solar storage facility in Monterey County, California.