Former Android VP calls iPhone 6 ‘the most beautiful smartphone ever built’

The Verge reported on former head of Android and current Xiaomi VP Hugo Barra praising the iPhone 6.

Using careful language, Barra suggested that Xiaomi phones and software sometimes resemble existing products because the company is young and its designers lack confidence.”It’s a fight, but I think we’re learning and we’re progressing,” he said. “When you look at the stuff that’s coming next from us, you’re going to see some unique new twists.”

CurrentC customer relations

Karen Webster wrote on PYMNTS about the scariest things in payments.

Customers, furious at not being able to use the payment method of choice to shop at Rite Aid, are taking to Twitter to not only let their feelings be known, but letting Rite Aid know that they are now, literally, walking across the street to Walgreen’s so they can use Apple Pay. Walgreens is also taking to Twitter to tweet their thanks to Rite Aid for giving them so many new customers. Marketing people are probably furious and full of “I-told-you-so’s” and the CEO is now probably going to be the one brought in to decide whether losing sales and reputation is worth saving a few cents on interchange.

Of course, what making matters worse is that CurrentC can’t even offer Rite Aid an alternative for its customers to use today or even tomorrow or the day after that. Rite Aid is saying, and I would guess a little sheepishly, just wait folks, we’ll have something too, soon, like sometime in 2015. And, it will be great.

Of course, it is entirely believable when a company tells customers that they have the customers’ best interests at heart, but they will prevent you from using a solution that is readily available and make you wait until next year for a more complicated solution.

MCX doublespeak

Kevin Fitchard wrote on Gigaom about the surreal interview given by MCX CEO Dekkers Davidson.

He said no MCX member would be fined or penalized for accepting Apple Pay (contrary to an earlier report in the New York Times), while reiterating that member merchants have all agreed to use CurrentC exclusively.

So are the members free to breach the agreement with no penalties?

From what I gather based on numerous sidestepped questions asked at the press conference, Davidson feels that MCX retailers are free do whatever they like as long as they quit the consortium, and that competition and third-party innovation are great as long as they’re done at some other retailer’s stores.

Davidson sounds confused to me.

One of Davidson’s final comments was perhaps the most telling. He said the goal of MCX was for retailers to establish much stronger bonds with their customers, the implication being that Apple, Google or the carriers stand in the way of establishing that bond. “Three’s a crowd,” he said.

I prefer a crowd than banking solely on the first mobile payment solution to be hacked even before it launched.

Samsung suffered a 73.9% drop in Q3 mobile profits while Apple’s rose 11.3 percent

AppleInsider wrote about Samsung and Apple’s Q3 mobile profits.

That means Samsung is now earning about one third of Apple’s profits while still shipping over twice as many phones.

Take a moment to let that sink in.

Why Apple Pay has little to fear from retailers

Dan Frommer wrote on Quartz about why Apple Pay has little to fear from retailers.

How CurrentC works:

Because it’s designed to skirt the existing credit-card infrastructure, CurrentC’s current version only supports payments via checking accounts and certain store cards. And it comes with a questionable privacy requirement: To “confirm your identity,” CurrentC demands both your driver’s license number and social security number.

When it comes to actually paying, the system gets even more cumbersome. CurrentC describes the process on its support site: You need to select a “Pay with CurrentC” option on the register, activate your phone, open the CurrentC app, enter a four-digit passcode, press the “Pay” button, “either scan the Secure Paycode that the cashier presents (default) or press the Show button at the bottom of your screen to allow the cashier to scan your Secure Paycode,” select the account you want to pay with, and then press a “Pay Now” button.

How ApplePay works:

For comparison, paying with Apple Pay is comically simple: Hold your iPhone—sleeping or awake—next to the store’s credit-card reader, touch your finger to your phone’s home button to verify your identity, and that’s it. As long-time Apple watcher John Gruber explains, “What Apple gets and what no one else in the industry does is that using your mobile device for payments will only work if it’s far easier and better than using a credit card.”

CurrentC and antitrust implications

Dave Mark wrote on Loop Insight about CurrentC and antitrust implications.

Quoting from Reuters:

Antitrust experts said CVS and Rite Aid have the right to drop a vendor if they believe they can save money by going around the credit card companies and Apple, both of which will take a piece of the action.

But they could run into antitrust trouble if they coordinated on dropping Apple Pay and Google Wallet or if someone else, perhaps a person working with CurrentC, organized their decision to drop Apple and Google’s payment services.

“If I was a regulator, I would want to take a look at that,” said Peter Carstensen, who teaches antitrust at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Dave asks the questions that I’m asking as well:

But is that what happened here? What caused them both to drop Apple Pay? Was it a contractual requirement? Was there an email that went out from MCX to the exchange merchants laying out some rule requiring them to block Apple Pay?

On the Apple SIM

I’m sure most consumers didn’t notice it, but the Apple SIM is probably one of the most important improvements to come with the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

The Apple SIM allows the consumers to switch carriers without having to switch SIM cards. Not everybody is on board yet, but it currently supports AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and EE in the US and UK. Verizon is noticeably missing from the list.

iPad plans aren’t always tied to contracts, but this paves the way for future iPhones (and iPads) to possibly discard the notion of a removable SIM card entirely. I’ve been traveling recently and it always frustrated me that I needed to physically swap a SIM card, which functions to identify my account, when switching networks. Ideally all I’d need was a username/password sign on process to tell the phone that I’m on a different network. Of course, carriers would totally be against the idea because it reduces the lock-in, but it makes total sense from a consumer standpoint.

This really feels like one of those things that only Apple can do. Telecommunication companies are well known for avoiding change, but Apple has somehow managed to get them to relax some of their archaic processes, definitely thanks to the millions of iPhones sold.

Will we someday be able to buy an iPhone that doesn’t require a removable SIM card? I sure hope so.

FBI is wrong about Apple’s encryption

Ken Gude wrote on WIRED about Apple’s encryption of data on iOS 8.

Apple’s new operating system, iOS 8, makes two changes to the encryption of data on the device that dramatically increases the security of those data. First, it now encrypts and passcode protects virtually all data on the device—such as text messages, photos, contacts, and notes—unlike previous versions of iOS. Secondly, and most importantly, it virtually eliminates the possibility that the encrypted data can be unlocked without the passcode. Earlier operating systems allowed Apple to unlock any device with a key that it controlled. But in iOS 8, Apple has essentially thrown away the key so it can’t access the data anymore. Hackers, cyber criminals, and thieves can’t access it. And governments, foreign and domestic, can’t access it either.

The only key you can’t steal is one that doesn’t exist. Having a golden key that certain authorised parties can use means that the key can be stolen.

The elimination of the key is the crucial element of Apple’s improved security systems and the crux of Comey’s criticism. The existence of the key allowed Apple to unlock individual devices and gain full access to the data on the device, sometimes in response to a request from the government, but far more often from device owners who had either lost it or had it stolen. Since it is impossible to create a back door into an operating system that eliminates the possibility that other unauthorized access will occur, the key also created a vulnerability that could be exploited by hackers, cyber criminals, or foreign intelligence services. This vulnerability could have opened the door to a much larger data breach than those at Target or JP Morgan, affecting tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions more worldwide.

Comey wants us to believe that the elimination of the key could allow violent criminals to “go dark”—thus evading detection and arrest. It is possible to construct a hypothetical scenario in which the only evidence of criminal activity is stored on a suspect’s personal device, consists only of data not backed up in cloud storage, and is not in the possession of third parties like telecommunications carriers or app developers. But none of the criminal cases cited by Comey meet that hypothetical because in real life those instances would be extremely rare and far outweighed by the clear public benefit of preventing the very real threat of a large-scale data breach that could affect millions of Americans.

This sums up the situation pretty well. Are we going to make millions of phones vulnerable based on the hypothesis of being able to catch a few criminals?

Choosing an iPad model

John Gruber wrote about the iPad Air 2.

I’ve seen criticism that Apple now offers too many iPad models to choose from. The array of iPads for sale — three generations, two sizes, four storage tiers (16/32/64/128), and cellular-vs.Wi-Fi-only — is certainly not simple. But I don’t think it’s that tough for a would-be iPad buyer to decide. I’d say there are only four questions:

  1. What size — Mini or Air?
  2. What color?
  3. Cellular?
  4. How much more money do you want to spend?

If you answer yes to question 3, you have to answer another question: Which carrier? But with Apple SIM, that’s no longer a long-term commitment unless you choose Verizon.

Question 4 is the tricky one, because you have to evaluate multiple factors, all of which cost additional money: performance, Touch ID, thinness/weight, and of course storage capacity.

Compare this with the Samsung insanity.

Apple’s new A8X powered iPad Air 2 smokes new Android tablets

ApppleInsider reported on the performance of the iPad Air 2 compared to its competitors.

New Geekbench processor benchmarks show Apple’s triple core, 64-bit A8X Application Processor is dramatically faster than the latest Android tablets, despite their additional cores and faster clock rates.

Apple is outperforming the competition in the phones segment as well.