Apple’s stores are shut down, and will seemingly remain so for the next month, at least. But that hasn’t slowed iPhone news.
Over the past several days, rumors have been swirling about the fate of this year’s major iPhone release—and a minor release, to boot. One report suggests Apple may need to delay the handset, which could be known as the iPhone 12, but another suggests it’s still on track. And then there’s speculation a new iPhone SE, also referred to as iPhone 9, could be introduced at any moment. Apple, of course, isn’t commenting.
Also this week, Apple acquired DarkSky, one of the highest-rated weather apps on iPhone and Android, and promptly removed it from the Google Play marketplace. Meanwhile, in an intensifying war of words, Bluetooth tracker company Tile said Apple’s anti-competitive behavior has “gotten worse.”
Read on for more on those stories and others in this week’s Apple news roundup:
Major iPhone questions
Will Apple release its high-end iPhone this year? Apple employees are “scrambling” to place orders and keep this year’s iPhone release on schedule, The Wall Street Journal reported this week, citing sources who claim to have knowledge of Apple’s internal discussions. COVID-19 is disrupting Apple’s supply chain and Apple can’t easily predict whether consumer demand will be high enough for it to premiere a new, high-end iPhone, according to the report. While that would suggest the iPhone 12’s debut is in doubt, Foxconn, Apple’s top supplier, said this week that the handset’s production is on track and it anticipates producing iPhones this year, in time for a fall release.
Where’s the iPhone SE?
Apple plans to launch a new budget-friendly iPhone any day now, according to several reports this week. Tech news site The Verge found a mention to an “iPhone SE” on Apple’s website before the company took the leak down. Apple news site 9to5Mac said the iPhone SE’s launch is “imminent.” Earlier rumors said Apple would introduce the iPhone SE this past week, but it never happened. But when it does, look for it to come with a 4.7-inch screen, a design similar to the 2017 iPhone 8, and a budget-friendly price of $400, according to reports.
Apple acquires DarkSky
Apple has acquired DarkSky, a wildly popular mobile weather app, the companies confirmed this week. While the deal’s terms were not disclosed, Apple promptly removed the app from the Google Play marketplace, leaving would-be Android users out of luck. For Android users who had already bought DarkSky, the app will stop functioning on July 1, Apple said. Android users were understandably upset with Apple’s move, and some critics say it is another example of Apple intentionally hurting its competition. DarkSky is also used by third-party companies to integrate weather information into their apps, and Apple said it will remove their access to the service next year, causing even more ire. Apple didn’t say what it plans to do with the iOS app, but DarkSky’s features could give the company’s default Weather app a boost.
An AI buy
Apple also acquired artificial intelligence startup Voysis this week. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Voysis’ technology improves voice assistant functionality in shopping apps. It’s unclear exactly what Apple would want with Voysis’ technology, but it seems likely it’ll be used to improve Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.
Zoom’s security woes
Security researcher Patrick Wardle said this week that the increasingly popular video conferencing app Zoom has a zero-day flaw that would allow hackers to access a Mac user’s microphone and webcam and spy on them. A zero-day exploit is a bug that has been discovered in an app but hasn’t been fixed by the company, leaving all users at risk of being attacked. The vulnerability was announced alongside another flaw that would give users full control over a device. The news followed reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that warned of “Zoom bombing,” a term used to describe hackers getting unauthorized access to a Zoom video chat and disrupting the feed with obscenities and even worse behavior. Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said this week the company needs to do a better job with security and promised changes.
Apple Stores remain closed
Apple retail chief Deidre O’Brien sent a memo to employees this week informing them that Apple’s retail stores will remain closed until early May. The note, which was obtained by Apple-tracking site 9to5Mac, came just a week after O’Brien said Apple’s stores could open in early April. Apple shut down all retail stores outside of mainland China last month in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tile accuses Apple of anti-competitive behavior
Tracking company Tile said in a Congressional hearing this week that “Apple’s anti-competitive behaviors have gotten worse, not better.” The company’s general counsel, Kirsten Daru, said that Apple continues to push notifications to iPhone users asking them if they want to allow Tile to track their locations. Daru said that the location-tracking feature is critical to Tile’s business, and suggested Apple might be engaging in the behavior because it’s working on a competitor to the Tile tracking devices that lets users see the locations of products anywhere in the world. Apple didn’t comment on Daru’s claims, but it did post a support video this week that mentioned AirTags location trackers. Apple quickly removed the video, but the message was clear: It’s working on a Tile competitor that could be released sooner rather than later.
Apple Card payment deferrals
Apple Card users will be able to defer their March and April payments, the company said this week. Apple said in a note to Apple Card users that it also won’t charge interest on missed payments. Apple released the Apple Card last year. Goldman Sachs is its banking partner.
Questions about Apple’s COVID-19 app
Apple created a COVID-19 app last week that lets users screen their symptoms to determine whether they should consult a doctor about a possible COVID-19 illness. And this week, four U.S. senators sent a letter to Apple asking how the company is handling the information users are adding to the app, and whether its policies are in compliance with HIPAA regulations. The senators, including former Democratic presidential nominees Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, also queried Apple on “specific terms of any agreement between your company and the federal government and/or state governments.” Apple hasn’t yet responded.
One more thing…
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow and heir to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, along with actor Leonardo DiCaprio and the Ford Foundation launched a GoFundMe mission this week to raise $15 million for the America’s Food Fund, an effort to feed those in need. They group collectively donated $12 million towards the goal, and as of this writing, the GoFundMe has raised an additional $700,000 from other donors. You can donate to America’s Food Fund here.
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