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.

What’s the point of audio messages?

David Sparks wrote about the point of audio messages in iMessages.

Now that we’ve all been using iOS 8 awhile how big of a thing is the ability to send a recording of your voice via iMessages? I’ve done it once for the sole purpose of demonstrating how it works. I thought it may be a generational thing but my kids report they aren’t using it either.

For some languages, it is easier and faster to send audio messages than to have to type the messages by hand. Audio messages would also be useful for people who can speak a language but doesn’t know it well enough to be able to type it out.

On the celebrity data theft

Nik Cubrilovic has written one of the best pieces on the recent celebrity data theft. On the surface it’s easy to say that Apple’s iCloud security was breached and private photos stolen, but upon further inspection it’s very clear that there is a lot more going on. Let’s also not forget that interest in nude photos of celebrities has been around since forever.

What we see in the public with these hacking incidents seems to only be scratching the surface. There are entire communities and trading networks where the data that is stolen remains private and is rarely shared with the public. The networks are broken down horizontally with specific people carrying out specific roles, loosely organized across a large number of sites (both clearnet and darknet) with most organization and communication taking place in private (email, IM).

What is Apple Watch

Matt Gemell shared his thoughts on the Apple Watch.

It’s important to understand what Watch is, and why it’s interesting. Apple isn’t pursuing the tech consumer crowd with this product, and that’s unprecedented for the company.

Before iPhone, there were two kinds of mobile phones: regular ones, and so-called smartphones. The latter were business tools, with plastic mini-keyboards, and advertising campaigns that focused on Exchange integration and other such soul-numbing corporate concerns.

Now, the iPhone defines the smartphone category. There are iPhones and the many similar, imitator devices, and there are also still the “dumbphones”, quickly passing from the consumer’s consciousness. Apple owns the category, in popular consciousness. Just like iPods define what a portable digital music player is.

iPhones, iPads and iPods (and Macs) have one thing in common: they’re for the consumer who’s looking for a piece of technology. People who primarily want a device, and then select that device based on reputation, fitness for purpose, price, and perhaps aesthetics and build quality. In all cases, though, they begin with the fundamental concept of a gadget. iPhones and the rest all belong to the tech sector.

There are already smartwatches available, and they’re all also gadgets. They live in the tech sector too, and they’ve been designed and marketed as such, to the same old crowd of consumers. They are geek toys, without exception.

Apple doesn’t care about that market, because it’s a tiny segment of an industry they already dominate. What Apple cares about is the wristwatch market.

Wristwatches are for everyone, geek or not, and premium watches are for the discerning, style-conscious consumer looking to advertise that they have a certain lifestyle. These buyers begin with the concept of a watch, not a gadget on the wrist.

Many people listen to music. Only some people were interested in a portable music player and fewer people used MP3s. The iPod brought portable digital music into the mainstream.

Many people had a mobile phone. Only some people were interested in a smartphone. The iPhone brought smartphones into the mainstream.

Many people had a personal computer or laptop. Only some people were interested in the idea of a tablet. The iPad changed that and for many people the iPad replaced their PCs.

Many people wear a watch. Only some are interested in a smartwatch. Will the Apple Watch revolutionise how the space on the wrist is utilised?

How does the iOS 8 time-lapse feature work?

Dan Provost wrote on Studio Neat about the iOS 8 time-lapse feature.

This is an efficient way to assemble a time-lapse. When you start recording a time-lapse, the app only captures 2 frames per second. If the recording period extends beyond 10 minutes, the app switches to capturing only 1 frame per second, and deletes every other frame it had captured in the first 10 minutes. When the recording duration doubles (20 minutes), the same thing happens. Now the app is only capturing 1 frame every 2 seconds, and previous frames are dropped to match this tempo. And so forth. The longest video I recorded was 8 hours, but presumably using this method you could record for much longer (Apple’s website casually mentions 30 hours). Because the app is being so efficient with frame capture and storage, you don’t need to worry about your phone capacity filling up.

The result of this method is that anything you shoot will generally end up being between 20 and 40 seconds long, an ideal shareable length. Also worth mentioning, the resulting video is always 30 fps, the standard framerate for video. No surprises there.

It just works.