Facebook apologizes to users, businesses for Apple’s monstrous efforts to protect its customers' privacy

The Register:

Facebook has apologized to its users and advertisers for being forced to respect people’s privacy in an upcoming update to Apple’s mobile operating system – and promised it will do its best to invade their privacy on other platforms.

The antisocial network that makes almost all of its revenue from building a vast, constantly updated database of netizens that it then sells access to, is upset that iOS 14, due out next month, will require apps to ask users for permission before Facebook grabs data from their phones.

Your first reaction is probably, “This is satire.”

Then you realise it’s real.

Facebook wants advertisers to know however that it has their back. It will continue to suck as much information as possible off every other device and through every other operating system.

[…]

Facebook closes out by promising that it will do all it can to prevent user privacy from being respected in future. “We believe that industry consultation is critical for changes to platform policies, as these updates have a far-reaching impact on the developer ecosystem,” it said.

Ok.

Epic Games Sends Emails to Fortnite Players Blaming Apple for New Season's Unavailability

Epic Games email to players via MacRumors:

Apple is blocking Fortnite updates and new installs on the ‌App Store‌, and has said they will terminate our ability to develop Fortnite for Apple devices. As a result, the Chapter 2 - Season 4 update (v14.00), did not release on iOS and macOS on August 27.

Apple limits competition so they can collect 30% of consumer payments made in apps like Fortnite, raising the prices you pay. Epic lowered prices through a direct payment option, but Apple is blocking Fortnite in order to prevent Epic from passing on the savings from direct payments to players. Epic has taken legal action to end Apple’s anti-competitive restrictions on mobile device marketplaces. Papers are available for our August 13, August 17, and August 23 filings. In retaliation for this action, Apple blocked your access to Fortnite updates and new installs on all iOS devices.

I can see why people who don’t know the whole story will jump on Apple. Epic Games is banking on their user base to not know what’s going on. But will they be as forgiving once the players realise what Epic Games is doing?

  1. It is not a case of Apple blocking the update. It is Epic Games choosing to violate the app store policy in their update.
  2. The result of the new season not being released on iOS and macOS is because of Epic Game’s choice.
  3. The macOS app isn’t affected, but Epic Games choose to remove it as well.
  4. Apple Did not block player access to updates. Epic Games chose not to release an update that conforms to the app store policy, like their previous updates have.

Does Epic Games think that they can fool their userbase by pinning the blame of them violating terms of service on Apple?

App stores, trust and anti-trust

Benedict Evans:

Specifically, Apple tried to solve three kinds of problem.

  • Putting apps in a sandbox, where they can only do things that Apple allows and cannot ask (or persuade, or trick) the user for permission to do ‘dangerous’ things, means that apps become completely safe. A horoscope app can’t break your computer, or silt it up, or run your battery down, or watch your web browser and steal your bank details.

  • An app store is a much better way to distribute software. Users don’t have to mess around with installers and file management to put a program onto their computer - they just press ‘Get’. If you (or your customers) were technical this didn’t seem like a problem, but for everyone else with 15 copies of the installer in their download folder, baffled at what to do next, this was a huge step forward.

  • Asking for a credit card to buy an app online created both a friction barrier and a safety barrier - ‘can I trust this company with my card?’ Apple added frictionless, safe payment.

All of this levelled the playing field. You knew you could trust Adobe or EA with your credit card, and you knew you could trust them not to abuse your PC too much. Panic, Rogue Amoeba or Basecamp have accumulated reputations that mean they get trust too, for tech insiders who’ve known about them for years. But what about a random Vietnamese developer who’s made a fun little game about a bird that flaps? The iOS software model removed trust as a problem, and as an advantage for big companies. You still have to hear about the app - the App Store solves distribution but not discovery - but you don’t have to worry about paying for it and you don’t have to worry what it might do to your computer.

There are people who won’t be able to understand the process of looking for an app, differentiating if the source is reliable, and then downloading the app before finally installing it. THen there’s the problem of what to do if it is a malicious app that makes the device unusable.

Avoid payment fraud is another topic altogether.

Curation by the app store makes helps users overcome this problem. There was a time when friends would look for the tech savvy people in their circle to help them to install a software. The app store has made it easier for users to experiment with different apps and for app developers to reach more users without having to build up the trust in the app maker.

Inefficiency of wireless charging

Eric Ravenscraft on OneZero:

To get a sense of how much extra power is lost when using wireless charging versus wired charging in the real world, I tested a Pixel 4 using multiple wireless chargers, as well as the standard charging cable that comes with the phone. I used a high-precision power meter that sits between the charging block and the power outlet to measure power consumption.

In my tests, I found that wireless charging used, on average, around 47% more power than a cable.

Charging the phone from completely dead to 100% using a cable took an average of 14.26 watt-hours (Wh). Using a wireless charger took, on average, 21.01 Wh. That comes out to slightly more than 47% more energy for the convenience of not plugging in a cable. In other words, the phone had to work harder, generate more heat, and suck up more energy when wirelessly charging to fill the same size battery.

We know that wireless charging is slower than using a cable, but now we have some numbers to understand that it’s not just slow but also not energy efficient.

Wireless charging is convenient, but only to a certain extent. It is just slightly more convenient than taking a few seconds to plug in a cable. But if you need to do something on the phone while it’s charging, chances are you’ll have to remove it from the charger. With wired charging, you can keep the cable plugged in to reply an urgent message.

Mini programs are the new mobile app growth driver

Emma Lee on TechNode:

Monthly active users (MAU) for Wechat mini programs reached 829 million in June, up 11.6% year on year compared with 743 million a year ago, according to a Quest Mobile report published on Tuesday.

[…]

Mini programs offer a lightweight, convenient way to try out a limited version of a service, and are a crucial channel for apps to acquire new users who want to use the full range of services, the report said.

Beyond user acquisition, mini programs are key to providing users with practical functions without having to download a full app. When they download a full app, they need to first register for an account before they can use just a few functions. With mini programs, they can log in using their WeChat account and access the function right from the app they are in.

Ecommerce apps are using mini programs for stores, giving the vendors a place to customise the user experience when in the store. Likewise, service apps such as food delivery services and crowd-sourced review platforms are using mini programs as business pages that vendors can customise.

The battle for China's community group buying market

TechNode:

In the standard model, consumers from different cities can form a group to purchase goods—it is not restrained by geography. This standard model is often more spontaneous in the way that a shopper can share product links with anyone in their network.

But community group buying is more intentional and organized. This model usually has a community leader who takes responsibility for maintaining relationships among the residents in the buyers’ Wechat group. Consumer trust in the community leader is the foundation of this purchasing model.

The community leader often receives a commission based on how many orders are made within their community. This provides more motivation to socialize with the residents in the WeChat group.

The community model not only ends up being cheaper for buyers but the platforms, too. Since all members of one buying group live within the same community, platforms can replace individual deliveries with daily bulk deliveries to service a community.

By building on word of mouth marketing, it helps brands to strengthen the consumer loyalty and leverages on their fans to promote their brand and products.

WeChat groups can help the brands to be very specific when it comes to targeting the consumers. For example, I’m in groups for dog owners and pet owners in the neighbourhood.

Arm processors: Everything you need to know

ZDNet:

Apple Silicon is the phrase Apple presently uses to describe its own processor production, beginning last June with Apple’s announcement of the replacement of its x86 Mac processor line. In its place, in Mac laptop units that are reportedly already shipping, will be a new system-on-a-chip called A12Z, code-named “Bionic,” produced by Apple using the 64-bit instruction set licensed to it by Arm Holdings. Again, Arm is not the manufacturer but the designer of the processing cores and other on-chip parts. In this case, Arm isn’t the designer either, but the producer of the instruction set around which Apple makes its original design.

This sums up why calling them Arm Macs would be wrong.

Also, this interesting explanation about the differences between X86 and Arm:

The maker of an Intel- or AMD-based x86 computer does not design nor does it own any portion of the intellectual property for the CPU. It also cannot reproduce x86 IP for its own purposes. “Intel Inside” is a seal certifying a license for the device manufacturer to build a machine around Intel’s processor. An Arm-based device may be designed to incorporate the processor, perhaps even making adaptations to its architecture and functionality. For that reason, rather than a “central processing unit” (CPU), an Arm processor is instead called a system-on-a-chip (SoC). Much of the functionality of the device may be fabricated onto the chip itself, cohabiting the die with Arm’s exclusive cores, rather than built around the chip in separate processors, accelerators, or expansions.

As a result, a device run by an Arm processor, such as one of the Cortex series, is a different order of machine from one run by an Intel Xeon or an AMD Epyc. It means something quite different to be an original device based around an Arm chip. Most importantly from a manufacturer’s perspective, it means a somewhat different, and hopefully more manageable, supply chain. Since Arm has no interest in marketing itself to end-users, you don’t typically hear much about “Arm Inside.”

Apple/Google coronavirus API: not one US state is yet using it

9to5Mac:

An analyst of the US contact tracing landscape paints a depressing picture. Not a single US state currently offers an app that uses the Apple/Google coronavirus contact tracing API — and only four states plan to do so.

Others have launched GPS-based apps that raise immediate privacy concerns and are unlikely to see significant adoption, while the majority of states who responded plan to offer nothing at all…

After all that effort to get the API out as soon as possible to deal with the pandemic? So instead of curbing the spread of the virus, the decision is not to use something that has been proven effective. In some cases, the decision is to go with something that has greater privacy concerns.

Apple defends App Store's 30% cut ahead of Tim Cook testimony

CNBC:

For Cook, the questioning is expected to center around Apple’s App Store, which is the only way to install consumer software on an iPhone. For years, developers have alleged Apple engages in anti-competitive behavior, with complaints centering around Apple’s 30% cut of digital goods, and business practices such as requiring developers to use Apple’s payment system for digital purchases.

It’s a given that the App Store has to review the apps and ensure that the apps that we install are safe and secure. How can the process be made more easily accessible without compromising the security of our devices?

“The commission rates charged by digital marketplaces most similar to the App Store, such as other app stores and video game digital marketplaces, are generally around 30%,” the authors of the study wrote.

The Apple-backed study has four major findings:

  • Most app stores charge the same 30% cut on digital goods.
  • Retailers, travel booking services and other marketplaces can charge more than 30% for their services.
  • Distributing software through an app store is less expensive than distributing through brick-and-mortar retailers.
  • Other app stores and digital marketplaces often require users to use their in-app payment mechanism and forbid sellers from redirecting buyers to finish the transaction in another venue.

I wonder if anyone has done a comparison chart on this?

Tencent-backed Missfresh raises $495 million

Tencent-backed Missfresh raises $495 million · TechNode:

Tencent-backed grocery delivery startup Missfresh has raised $495 million in funding, billing the round as the largest single fundraising in China’s grocery delivery industry, Chinese media reported.

Instead of ordering waimai(takeout food) that is generally considered unhealthy, the trend is to order groceries before they get off work so the groceries is delivered when they reach home, just in time for them to prepare dinner. Delivery time stated on the app is within 30 minutes, though my personal experience so far is around 15 minutes.

  • The unexpected boost came as whole cities were placed under lockdown to curb the spread of the disease, forcing people to stay at home.
  • The resurgance of the grocery delivery market offers a boost to several players in the sector, including JD Daojia, Meituan, and Ele.me, Dingdong Maicai.

The lockdown forced people to cook at home and this helped with the growth of the grocery delivery industry. Pupu Mall is another emerging player.