Welcome to our weekly collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.
Annoying the right people
I feel like you can generally tell how well you’re doing your job by looking at who’s getting annoyed. Are you punching up, or punching down? Are you speaking truth to power, or just sucking up to it? In short, are you—as you should be—comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable?
It doesn’t get much more comfortable than Facebook and Google, whose parent companies recorded 2021 profits of $39 billion and $76 billion respectively. And going by the two companies’ response to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency measures, both are feeling quite afflicted. I think that’s probably a good sign.
ATT, for those who haven’t been keeping up, reveals the data collected by your iPhone and iPad apps, and obliges developers to ask for permission if they want to track you across other apps and websites. Seems like a pretty good idea, right? That all depends on your business model.
Last week we covered Google’s accusation that ATT is “ineffective,” and its proposal of an alternative system… which appears to be less effective, is described in far vaguer terms, and won’t be here for another two years. Android Privacy Sandbox may eventually become an effective privacy tool, but the odds are against it, because Google’s business model, or a large part of it, is turning user eyeballs into advertising revenue, and tracking is fundamental to that process.
Facebook’s incentives are even more tilted towards the needs of the advertiser, and the company has been predictably shrill in its condemnation of ATT from the start. It claimed back in the summer of 2020 that the changes would “hurt many of our developers and publishers at an already difficult time for businesses,” but in the end, it was Facebook itself that experienced the biggest hurt: $200 billion wiped off its value in a single day after a disappointing earnings report and a warning that ATT would claim some $10 billion in revenue this year. Facebook returned to the subject last Friday, calling the feature “harmful” and once again weeping vicarious tears on behalf of the mom-and-pop businesses which it definitely cares about more than its own plummeting revenues.
Facebook is annoyed about ATT because not being able to track users makes its platform less appealing to advertisers and costs it money. Google is annoyed about ATT because it makes its own privacy measures look ineffective by comparison, which threatens to push users to iOS and cost it money. Apple isn’t ethically superior to either of these companies: it just has different incentives. Looking after users, not pandering to advertisers, is how it makes money.
It’s funny, because in other areas of its business Google knows the value of prioritizing the user. Remember when websites used to stuff their headlines with nonsensical keywords to game Google’s search rankings? That doesn’t happen anymore–or at least, nowhere near as egregiously as it used to–because Google trained the algorithm to recognize natural language and downrank obvious attempts to trick the system. Google realized that the best way to grow its market share was simply to create the best possible search engine for users: the one that finds the most user-friendly search results, not spider-bait gobbledegook.
So maybe there is hope for a change of heart at Google HQ. But I can’t see Facebook getting any less annoyed about ATT–which should be music to Tim Cook’s ears.
Trending: Top stories of the week
Hey Samsung fans! Stop suffering and just switch to the iPhone already. The latest Exynos chip is laughably bad compared to Apple’s A15.
Here’s why the year of the Mac might actually be a major letdown.
The foldable iPhone has been delayed until 2025, according to a reputable source. On the plus side, however, Apple appears to be working on a folding display for the MacBook. This would give you a full-size keyboard when folded, an external display, or an iMac-style all-in-one when unfolded.
Mind you, Jason Cross isn’t convinced. Read his latest Rumor Reality Check column to see why (in his view) Apple isn’t releasing a folding screen anytime soon.
Apple is getting closer to ditching Qualcomm as its 5G modem supplier, according to a new Digitimes report. The company has reportedly begun coordinating with other chip companies to develop custom-made 5G modems for future iPhones. In the latest episode of Today in Tech, Michael Simon and Computerworld Executive Editor Ken Mingis discuss how Apple will transition to its own 5G modems (and what that means for Qualcomm). Plus, they discuss those Google privacy measures I wrote about above.
Bugs & problems
Another flaw in the T2 Mac chip has been discovered, and this one could allow attackers to crack short or common passwords. Time to make your passwords long and unusual, folks!
It’s easy to mix up work and personal iCloud accounts. Here’s how to untangle a merged set of iCloud Photos.
David has loved the iPhone since covering the original 2007 launch; later his obsession expanded to include the iPad and Apple Watch. He offers advice to owners (and prospective owners) of these devices.