Following this weeks’s earlier release of iOS 12.2 and macOS 10.14.4, watchOS 5.2 has also been released, bringing with it ECG-taking capabilities and irregular rhythm notifications to those in the EU and Hong Kong. Apple announced the news via a newsroom post that isn’t on Apple’s Australian press release site, which also tells us about the limitations of Apple Watch ECG readings, and that you should always talk to a medical professional if you are concerned about your Apple Watch ECG results.
Regardless of how many "initial thoughts" posts on Apple’s event yesterday, a common theme starts to emerge when you realise that Apple’s media-focused event was unlike its regular hardware-focused ones. For starters, two out of the three subscription services announced were without pricing or any kind of firm release date. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and without any real details about how Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, or Apple TV+ will work, that makes it hard to analyse how successful each one of Apple’s new services will be. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Australian retailer Myer announced on Friday that it would stop selling Apple products in-store and online. The move comes as part of changes to Myer’s overall strategy in an ever-changing and online-focused retail landscape, with a spokesperson saying that the company would not be "chasing unprofitable sales". Myer also says the space currently used by Apple products in their own stores, either as mini Apple Stores with their own wooden display tables or alongside other products, would be able to be used in a more productive and effective way.
Apple’s week of product releases and updates continued yesterday with the release of updated AirPods. The new AirPods hardware isn’t substantially different to the older version, but they do come with a H1 chip for an extra hour of talk time, and a "Hey Siri" ability not supported by the original model. A new Qi-compatible wireless charging case is also available, either with your AirPods (raising the price to $319), or can be purchased separately for $129. Otherwise, the updated AirPods will set you back $249.
Updated iMacs are the order of the day. The same all-in-one design now features Intel’s 9th-generation Core processors for faster performance across the board. The 21.5-inch iMac gets Intel’s 8th-generation for 60% faster performance on the 21-inch model, while the 27-inch iMac gets a 2.4 times performance boost with Intel’s 9th-generation processors. AMD’s Radeon Pro Vega graphics also makes its way to the iMac for the first time, although if I’m not mistaken, there’s been a very minor price bump of $100 across the board, despite the base model iMac not changing at all.
Apple has updated the iPad Air and iPad mini overnight. The iPad Air gets a new 10.5-inch form factor popularised by the iPad Pro, powered by an A12 Bionic processor paired with Apple’s Neural Engine, just like the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. The iPad mini sees a similar upgrade, and while the form factor stays the same at a comfortable 7.9-inches, processor and display upgrades are the name of the game, with Apple Pencil support also making it to the iPad mini for the first time. Both iPads are available to pre-order starting today at $779 for the 64GB Wi-Fi iPad, or $599 for the 64GB Wi-Fi iPad mini, and will be available in-store starting next week.
In a statement addressing Spotify’s claims from last week about the unfairness of the App Store, Apple tells us how it is. Apple says they don’t block updates or access to products like Spotify claims they do, and Spotify wants to have all the benefits of a free app without being free. All of Apple’s points are worth reading, but as TechCrunch points out, Apple addresses Spotify’s claims without mentioning their demands. In a masterclass of sidestepping the issue, while Apple is quick to point out inaccuracies in Spotify’s argument, it’s also not admitting any wrong, either.
Apple has announced dates for this year’s iteration of its Worldwide Developers Conference 2019, and there’s nothing too wild here. WWDC 2019 will take place from June 3-7 in San Jose, California, with sessions, labs, consultations, special events, ticket lottery, and scholarships that were available last year. Developers have now until March 20 to register for the ticket lottery, and the announcement also means we’ll have a keynote to look forward to in early June.
A blog post from Spotify says it all: "Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory". Spotify says that in recent years, Apple has made decisions that both limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience. It’s a fair argument, but I wonder what the App Store would look like today if it was simply the wild west, and Apple didn’t have the kind of control it has today. The standalone website Spotify created, timetoplayfair.com, might also be a little play on Apple’s own FairPlay DRM it uses for iTunes Store content.
Some fantastic journalism from Motherboard tells us the story of the special iPhones used by hackers to reverse-engineer some of the security features of regular, production iPhones. These "dev-fused" devices often have many security features disabled, intended for internal use at Apple, or have been intentionally reverted to a development state, and for that reason, they’re worth their weight in gold to hackers who then use them to find zero-day vulnerabilities, either for the payouts these bring from Apple’s own bug bounty program, or by companies to develop their own iPhone hacking software and hardware.