Tuesday Morning News
OK, we have a lot of news to get through this morning before it gets buried under the influx of whatever Apple reveals tomorrow morning, so let’s get into it. Bloomberg says Apple and its manufacturing partner Foxconn have broken a Chinese labour law by using too many temporary staff to assemble this year’s iPhone. Chinese labour laws stipulate that no more than 10% of a workforce can be comprised of temporary/dispatch staff, with Foxconn having closer to 50% dispatch staff in August, according to undercover investigators. Apple has confirmed the issue, and now says they’re working with Foxconn to ensure the proper resolution.
The Guardian reports on an internal project at Apple that changed Siri’s responses to sensitive topics, removing the word "feminism" from Siri’s vocabulary despite having a pro-equality stance. Internal Apple guidelines explain that Siri’s responses should be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content, with recommended courses of action being to not engage, deflect, and inform. Apple says that Siri’s purpose as a voice-powered personal assistant is to be helpful, with factual, inclusive responses that are relevant to all users, rather than offering opinions.
The New York Times has a great piece on App Store anti-trust. Their own investigation shows that Apple often places its own apps above those of its competitors, whether deliberately or somehow influenced by algorithms that prioritise the vendor’s own apps over others. While Apple execs claim that the company doesn’t manually manipulate the order of App Store search results, and that Apple’s app often rank higher due to broad search terms or being more highly-ranked than the alternatives, the evidence collected by the Times is pretty damning in this regard — or show one hell of a coincidence, one of the two.
Over at The Washington Post, they tell us about Apple’s app-copying problem. The well-publicised phenomenon of Apple copying the best ideas for inclusion in later versions of its operating systems is so well known that it has a name — Sherlocked — which dates back to pre-Spotlight days. None of this is entirely new, but it does represent a big issue for developers that have worked hard to come up with an idea, execute, and found so much success that Apple has to step in and offer its own take on the feature. For developers, it’s hard to know whether to be flattered or depressed.
Rumour has it the new iPhones will feature a new chip this year. The Rose R1 co-processor operates similarly to the M1 Motion Coprocessor of previous iPhones, but uses many more sensors to give a more accurate picture of where the device is in 3D space. It’s possible that the Rose R1 will replace the motion coprocessor, with more accurate location positioning thanks to UWB wireless technology.
The Apple Watch has a serious lack of competition in terms of health and communication-focused wearables. With that said, The Verge asks where the Apple Watch goes next, as if there’s still ways Apple can improve the best wearable the market currently offers. I can think of a few ways — better battery life and an always-on screen — but it’s not as if they’re deal-breakers right now, so I’m willing to be surprised. Iterative upgrades are probably fine.
This is more developer-focused than anything else, but there’s a lot being said about how the Apple Music web beta is built on top of a web framework that has fallen out of favour, and what that means for web frameworks in general. What you might not have noticed, however, is that the beta Apple Music web interface also uses Web Components, a slightly more esoteric web technology that hasn’t seen widespread adoption because developers are too busy riding their high horse or whatever, not because the web technology is objectively bad.
Craig Hockenberry writes about the iCloud saga as seen in iOS 13 and macOS Catalina that was so bad that Apple had to revert the entire iCloud framework it was planning to ship in those versions. It’s not the first time Apple has rolled back a framework to whatever previously shipped, but there’s one of two problems here: either Apple is overconfident in its ability to re-write frameworks from scratch, or people just don’t understand betas have a very real possibility of data loss, despite Apple’s best intentions.
Back in the day, customising the UI of your apps was one of the ways you could make your macOS (or iOS, back when jailbreaking was much more of a thing it was today) install a little more distinctive than anyone else’s. We’ve lost a little of that, but The Iconfactory is bringing a little customisation back, starting with Twitterrific. It starts by creating your own colour theme for a Twitter client, but who knows where it ends.
MacRumors says Apple is bringing back the 3D window displays in Apple Stores. Recent Apple Store window displays have been much more subdued than previous iterations, so I’m glad to see the eye-catching installations make a return.