It’s Friday and once again I’m taking a few stories from around the web that are important but that either wouldn’t fill a full column or I just plain missed out on covering during the week. I’m planning on doing these more often going forward too, so if you have stories you want to see covered next week, just drop them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. Then hit subscribe and dropkick that little bell dingus so you don’t miss them when they land.
On deck for today are some privacy promising iOS updates, Facebook’s $5 billion fine, iPhone 11 photography, and the return of the Galaxy Fold.
iOS 12.4 Migration
There’s a bunch of stuff in the iOS 12.4 update that went out on Monday, including improvements to Apple News and how it handles magazine downloads, as well as a fix for the watchOS Walkie Talkie exploit that had Apple take the service a couple of weeks ago.
The most interesting, though, is Migration.
Basically, it’s a new way to transfer data from your old iPhone or iPad to your new iPhone or iPad. It works similarly to the existing Quick Setup. Same Bluetooth LE handshake, Wi-Fi connection, camera and animation code possession insurance, all of that. But, there are a couple of major differences.
First, instead of going through Apple’s online iCloud Backup Service to restore your data, it moves that data directly from one device to the other over a peer-to-peer, ad hoc Wi-Fi network.
At least mostly. Because of App Thinning, which is Apple’s technology to optimize apps for specific devices — namely, only downloading the exact resources you need for your exact screen size and density, and the bitcode for your exact processor — Migration will still re-download your apps from the App Store. But then it will move your app data across directly.
Second, you can do it with a wire if you prefer and you have one handy. You’ll likely need an adaptor, for example, a USB-A to Lightning adapter, so that you can plug into both devices, but once you have it, just plug it and go.
iMore has a complete how-to up, of course.
But as much as I find the implementation, especially the security aspects, fascinating. I find the implications, especially the privacy aspects, even more so.
Sure, going over Wi-Fi direct instead of using iCloud removes a potential point of failure in terms of recency of last online backup, storage space remaining, internet connectivity, and iCloud services status. But, most importantly, it removes iCloud and Apple from almost all of the chain.
You’re still authenticating with your Apple ID and downloading apps from the App Store, but none of your personal data is hitting the internet or flowing through anyone else’s server.
I’ve talked about the Chinese government mandating Apple store Chinese data in China in a previous video, but it’s far from a China-only issue. Increasingly, other countries are demanding data store be localized. And, let’s face it, given past policy and behavior, even some locals aren’t comfortable with data being stored on servers based in the U.S., U.K. either.
You could previously restore locally using iTunes and the Mac or Windows. Now you can do it directly, which means you don’t even need a Mac or Windows, which is critical to some markets.
It doesn’t solve for backup, online or local, and that’s something everyone should be keenly aware of. And yes, I’d love, love, capital-l o v e love Apple to release a next-generation router that includes private iCloud capabilities.
If you want to see that too, hit up the comments and let Apple know.
Facebook’s Five Billion Dollar Fine
On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced the biggest fine of its kind in history: $5 billion with a b dollars against Facebook for failing to protect user privacy, including and especially the data of friends, failing to honor a prior consent decree, and straight up lying to us all about it so damn always.
Ben Thompson sums it up succinctly in his Stratechery newsletter:
The FTC’s complaint also accuses Facebook of failing to vet third-party developers, treating developers differently based on their financial importance to the company, deceiving users by using phone numbers meant for security to target ads, and opting in some users to facial recognition technology without their agreement; all of these were held to violate the 2012 Order’s requirement for a reasonable privacy program.
While the amount sounds high, it’s a drop in the quarterly earnings for Facebook and both the company and investors had ample time to prepare for it and discount it.
Like docking your kid a buck from their $20 allowance after they’d already canceled just one of their dollar menu dashes for the week.
Those who voted against it wanted more, up to and including personal liability for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s other officers. Something I’m personally hugely in favor of since I think it’s the only real way we’ll elicit any real change.
Those who voted for it felt like it was the best deal they could get, lacking enough funding to push harder or survive Facebook pushing back harder under threat of harsher penalty.
Do I think it will change anything, even short term? No, I do not.
Facebook — and Google, for that matter — are already engaged in what I like to call the great privacy gaslight of our time. Facebook is intent on conflating privacy with encryption and Google with retention, offering us the word without the action while rolling out ever flashier services and devices expressly devised to ever-better harvest from us our data.
And, since most politicians seem hopeless outdated if not totally outclassed when it comes to technology, the only ones who can currently protect us are ourselves. By not giving over our data to begin with.
But, I’d love to know what you think. Was the fine enough, too much? And what else needs to be done?
iPhone 11 and “Smart Frame”
Every year, seemingly always right before Apple earnings, we get a bunch of weird stories about how the next iPhone will be boring or must-skip or whatever. Never mind the criticisms levied are true of pretty much every phone most years, and that Apple hasn’t even taken the stage to show off any of the new features that will be coming with the new phone — something no CAD-based dummy model can ever provide.
We just get premature pontifications and the scaldingest of hot takes.
But it’s those features that help sell phones. And thanks to Gui Rambo at 9to5Mac, we’ve gotten a few more details about one of the features Mark Gurman of Bloomberg rumored a long while back.
The new, third camera on the iPhone 11 is widely expected to be a super wide-angle. With it, you’ll be able to zoom out the way you can currently zoom in with the two camera system.
That’s cool and all, but here’s where it gets compelling: Smart Frame.
Snap a pic and, if you didn’t get exactly who or what you wanted where you wanted, you can adjust it in post.
So, if you cut a friend or family member off, or you just want that cup of coffee more to the left or right, iPhone 11 will be able to use the data from the ultra wide-angle to do it.
And, according to Gui, that includes both perspective and crop.
Now, Apple’s keeping those three cameras equilateral for reasons that I think go beyond just this as well, so while I’m ludicrously happy with each and every advance in computational photography — from Apple, Google, and everyone — and I can’t wait to use this feature in the field, it’s just going to be one of the things we see demoed this September. Just one.
So, I’m just going to say it again, avoid the dumb dull takes right now. Let them die. Kill them if you have to.
And hey, if you disagree with that, yell at me in the comments.
Galaxy Fold Take 2
I’ve said this before as well: The history of human technology has been foldables. Books. Wallets. Flip Phones.
We fold because it’s convenient and protective. And that’s why I think the future will be, at least in part, foldable as well. Fom wearables to phones to laptops to desktops to forget all that and think about everything that blurs all of them in between.
But to be 100% crystal clear, I still think that’s the future. Not the present. Not until its proven to be workable given the current constraints of current technology.
Trying to prove it right now are Huawei and Samsung. Huawei hasn’t shipped yet, so we’ll see what happens when and if they do. Samsung tried to ship, too early, had a bunch of problems, and had to stop, pause, and reset.
And now they think they have.
The Galaxy Fold is back. Or will be. This September.
It’s not a redesign. I don’t want to call it a patch job, though maybe that’s closer.
Here’s what Samsung has done:
- The top protective layer of the Infinity Flex Display has been extended beyond the bezel, making it apparent that it is an integral part of the display structure and not meant to be removed.
- Galaxy Fold features additional reinforcements to better protect the device from external particles while maintaining its signature foldable experience:
- The top and bottom of the hinge area have been strengthened with newly added protection caps.
- Additional metal layers underneath the Infinity Flex Display have been included to reinforce the protection of the display.
- The space between the hinge and body of Galaxy Fold has been reduced.
I’m eager to see it ship and see how it works in the wild. It still feels like an alpha, never mind beta product, and at $2K you’ll be paying for the privilege of publicly testing bleeding-edge tech.
But I’ve said this before as well. Just like Apple is often our more conservative cousin while wacky cousins Samsung and Huawei just keeps throwing ideas at the wall.
And I think having both approaches get us to the future faster.
So, I’m concerned that this patch job won’t be anything more than that — a patch job, and I wonder if Samsung and the market wouldn’t both have been better served just by canceling it and announcing a whole new Fold 2 design will be coming in the future.
But, it is what it is, so fingers crossed it delivers, even if only to highlight what needs to be done better.
VECTOR | Rene Ritchie
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