Over the weekend, The Guardian published a story revealing how third-party contractors listen to audio recorded by Siri as part of quality control. While that’s not too surprising in and of itself, the internet was up in arms about the fact that this kind of analysis isn’t completely disclosed by Apple anywhere, and the fact that there’s no way to opt-out of having your audio recorded and sent onto third parties for analysis. While Apple released a statement to The Guardian saying that it took every precaution to anonymise recordings so they couldn’t be associated with specific individuals, the content of the recordings often gave those details away anyway. The bottom line is, people seem to be uncomfortable with other humans listening to audio recorded by their devices, even though that’s a major part of improving these kinds of systems.
And just like that, Apple has announced its acquisition of the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. If you’re wondering how much One Instagram, or US $1 billion is worth in 2019, it’s equivalent to 2,200 Intel employees, intellectual property, and equipment, and leases, once the transaction closes in Q4 2019. The arrangement will still allow Intel to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, and as Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies Johnny Srouji says, "will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward".
A report from the Wall Street Journal claims Apple is in the final stages of negotiating a deal to buy Intel’s modem chip business. As part of the deal, rumoured to be around the US $1 billion mark, Apple will secure a number of cellular-modem related patents and technology from Intel, as well as some personnel transfers, providing a shot in the arm to Apple’s own own modem efforts. In the long run, Apple making their own cellular modems will reduce their reliance on third parties, whether that’s paying less royalties, or being less bound to their release schedules and cadences, so it’s not hard to see where Apple benefits from this deal.
A Bloomberg profile of Apple COO Jeff Williams says he’s much more like current Apple CEO Tim Cook than he is like the late Steve Jobs. Williams is now the second most important person at Apple after Cook, and although he comes from the same operational background as Cook, his hands-on approach to product development means he’s been positioned as Cook’s successor for a number of years now, according to several Apple sources within the company.
A rumour claims Apple will start sourcing OLED displays from LG soon, perhaps even starting with this year’s iPhones. As reported by MacRumors, Samsung is currently believed to be Apple’s sole supplier for OLED displays, which can cause problems if anything ever goes wrong. Apple is believed to be investigating LG for OLED displays as early as this year, with Chinese company BOE also on the cards for supplying OLED displays.
A new rumour from the Apple supply chain has Digitimes claiming that next year’s iPhone will feature a time-of-flight 3D sensor as part of the rear camera array. This new tech, similar to the Face ID sensors on the front of current iPhones, will allow for better 3D image capturing, which, among other things, will power even better augmented reality experiences. While Face ID is optimised to work at a certain short distance, a rear-facing implementation would need to work at ranges of many more metres to be useful.
New emoji are coming to the iPhone in Spring, which means they’ll either arrive with iOS 13, or one of its more minor updates later in the year. Apple highlights new emoji which allow for more inclusive and diversity in emoji, new disability-focused emoji, as well as plenty of updates for existing emoji categories like food, smileys, clothing, and animals.
IFixit’s teardown of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro has some good and bad news. Good news first: there’s a slightly larger capacity battery in this bad boy, which many blogs speculate is to keep the advertised 10-hour battery life even with the addition of the Touch Bar, Touch ID, and T2 security chip. Should you ever need to repair your MacBook Pro, some of the ports are now modular, too. But the bad news is that the flash storage is now soldered to the logic board, preventing any after-market upgrades. Other minor hardware revisions, right after the jump.
Thanks to the widely-publicised fallout as a result of a zero-day vulnerability in web videoconferencing app Zoom, Apple has released a silent update to macOS which removes the built-in Zoom webserver, preventing you from connecting to sudden video conferences once you click on a link. The update requires no user interaction on your part and is deployed automatically the next time your machine connects to the internet, and Apple says that their fix will protect both past and present users of the Zoom app, without hindering functionality of the Zoom app.
New MacBook Airs and 13-inch MacBook Pros are the order of the day. The new MacBook Air gets a True Tone display and a lower price, now starting at $1,699. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, gets a price increase of $100, but at the same time gets the latest 8th-generation quad-core processors, Touch Bar with Touch ID as standard on all models, and a True Tone display, just like the MacBook Air. Apple’s Newsroom post highlights lower prices for college students, but the education discounts seem the same as they always have.