Apple Reportedly Dropped Plans for End-to-End Encrypted iCloud Backups After FBI Objected

More than two years ago, Apple informed the FBI that it planned to roll out end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups, according to Reuters. Apple ultimately dropped the plan at some point after the FBI objected, although the report notes that it is unclear if the federal agency was a factor in the decision.


A former Apple employee told Reuters that the company did not want to risk scrutiny from public officials for potentially protecting criminals, being sued for making previously accessible data out of reach of government agencies, or the move encouraging new legislation against encryption.

"They decided they weren't going to poke the bear anymore," the person said, after Apple's legal battle with the FBI in 2016 over unlocking an iPhone used by a shooter in the San Bernardino, California attack. In that case, the FBI ultimately found an alternative method of unlocking the iPhone.

Apple faces a similar standoff with the FBI over refusing to unlock two passcode-protected iPhones that investigators believe were owned by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the suspect of a mass shooting at a Naval Air Station in Florida last month. Apple said it has provided the FBI with all data in its possession.

Apple has taken a hard line on refusing to create a backdoor into iOS that would allow the FBI to unlock password-protected iPhones to assist in their investigations, but it does provide data backed up to iCloud to authorities when lawfully requested, as outlined in its semiannual Transparency Reports.

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Disney+ to Launch in Europe Ahead of Schedule on March 24

Disney+ is coming to Europe sooner than we thought. Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom will now get the streaming service on March 24, Disney revealed today.


Additional Western Europe markets, including Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal, will follow in summer 2020, said the company in a press release. Disney+ is already available in the Netherlands, where it launched as a free pilot trial back in September.

The new launch date is a week earlier than was initially scheduled. In November, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the launch date for European markets would be March 31.

Pricing has also been confirmed at £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription. Disney+ will be available on Amazon Fire devices, LG and Samsung smart TVs, Roku's streaming devices, Apple TV, iOS, Android, Xbox One, and PS4 at launch.
Users will access high-quality and commercial-free viewing, up to four concurrent streams, unlimited downloads on up to ten devices, personalised recommendations, and the ability to set up to seven different profiles, including the ability for parents to set Kids Profiles that have an easy- to -navigate, child-friendly interface to access age-appropriate content.
Over 500 feature films and over 7,500 shows will be available on the service including new original content like the critically acclaimed "The Mandalorian" and "The World According To Jeff Goldblum," along with timeless classics like "Lady and the Tramp" and the entire Pixar library.

(Thanks, Ricardo!)

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Rumored 6.7-Inch iPhone Said to Be Thinner, Have Larger Rear Camera Sensors, and More

Apple is widely rumored to release four new iPhones in the fall, including one 5.4-inch model, two 6.1-inch models, and one 6.7-inch model, and Japanese blog Mac Otakara has offered a few details surrounding these devices. The information is said to come from sources within Apple's supply chain in China.


The translated report is quite difficult to decipher, but here are some details that are being suggested:
  • 6.7-inch model will have a thickness around 7.4mm, which would be nearly 10% thinner than the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 8.1mm
  • All four new iPhone models will have OLED displays and Face ID
  • 5.4-inch model's height would be between the iPhone SE and iPhone 8, while at least one of the 6.1-inch iPhone models would have a height that falls between the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro
  • 6.7-inch model will be slightly taller than the iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • 5.4-inch and lower-end 6.1-inch models will have dual-lens rear camera arrays identical to the iPhone 11
  • 6.7-inch model will have a triple-lens rear camera with larger sensors than the iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • 5.4 inch, 6.7-inch, and at least one 6.1-inch model will have different numbers of microphone holes along the bottom
In line with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the report suggests that the new iPhone lineup will be introduced in September as usual.

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
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Apple Begins Selling Refurbished iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max Models

Apple today began selling certified refurbished iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max models for the first time since the devices were released in September 2018.

At the time of writing, the refurbished models are available in Space Gray, Silver, or Gold with 64GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage through Apple's online store in the United States. All of the models are unlocked, aka SIM-free.


Refurbished models available:
  • iPhone XS - 64GB: $699, down from $999 in September 2018
  • iPhone XS - 256GB: $829, down from $1,149 in September 2018
  • iPhone XS - 512GB: $999, down from $1,349 in September 2018
  • iPhone XS Max - 64GB: $799, down from $1,099 in September 2018
  • iPhone XS Max - 256GB: $929, down from $1,249 in September 2018
  • iPhone XS Max - 512GB: $1,099, down from $1,449 in September 2018
Apple says all refurbished iPhone models are thoroughly inspected, tested, cleaned, and repackaged with a new white box and all manuals and accessories. Apple also installs a new battery and replaces the outer shell, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between a refurbished and brand new iPhone.

Any refurbished iPhone model comes with Apple's standard one-year warranty effective on the date the device is delivered, which can be extended with AppleCare+ at a cost of $199 for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

Apple is not offering refurbished iPhone XR models at this time.

Related Roundup: iPhone XS
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Apple Launching New Internal Activity Challenge for Employees

Starting in February, Apple is hosting its annual company wide fitness challenge for all of its employees, tasking them with closing all three Apple Watch Activity rings every day of the month.

Employees who successfully finish the challenge will be rewarded with a t-shirt that says "2020" in a logo with ‌Apple Watch‌ Activity-style rings, as shared by an Apple employee.


The employees who complete the challenge every day will earn a "gold" ranking and will receive a gold pin along with their t-shirt, and there are also silver and bronze rewards accompanied by silver and bronze pins.

Apple in 2018 and 2019 hosted similar challenges offering employees Activity-themed ‌Apple Watch‌ bands as prizes.

Apple's February fitness challenge is internal only and is limited to Apple employees, but Apple also regularly hosts public fitness challenges, though these do not come with physical rewards.

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Tim Cook Visits Ireland, Calls for Global Corporate Tax Reform [Updated]

Tim Cook visited Ireland today to collect an award from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for Apple's 40 years of investment in the country. Apple's CEO also met with Irish musician Hozier and Dublin-based game studio WarDucks.

In 2016, the European Commission found that Apple received illegal state aid from Ireland and forced the company to repay 13 billion euros in back taxes. Apple and Ireland are both appealing the ruling. Apple has previously expressed confidence that the ruling "will be overturned" by European courts.


In that regard, Cook today called for global corporate tax reform, telling Reuters and others that Apple "desperately" wants the system to be fair. "It's very complex to know how to tax a multinational," he added.

"I think logically everybody knows it needs to be rehauled, I would certainly be the last person to say that the current system or the past system was the perfect system. I'm hopeful and optimistic that they will find something," said Cook, referring to the intergovernmental economic organization OECD.


Update: IDA Ireland has issued a press release about Apple's award that includes a statement from Cook:
Ireland has been a second home for Apple for forty years and this honour is even more special for us because it recognizes the contributions of our incredible team here who work tirelessly to serve our customers around the country, and around the world. I believe deeply that our most important work together is still ahead of us, and I'm grateful to the people of Ireland for their commitment to openness, to innovation and to the cooperation that will make possible the next generation of world-changing ideas.
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Apple Gains Footing in Court Feud With Former iPhone Chip Architect

A former Apple executive who worked on the chips that power iPhones and iPads has had a request to toss a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by the company rejected by the court in a tentative ruling.


Last August, Apple sued its former A-series chip lead, Gerard Williams III, for breach of employment contract. Williams was the lead designer of Apple's custom ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ chips from the A7 to A12X, before he departed the company in March 2019 to start his own chip company, Nuvia Inc, with two other former Apple chip executives.

Apple accuses him of breaching the contract because it barred him from planning or engaging in any business activities that are "competitive or directly related to Apple's business or products." Williams argues that a provision in the contract conflicts with a California law that allows workers to develop new businesses while they're employed elsewhere.

However, Bloomberg today reports that Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Mark Pierce said the law doesn't permit an employee "to plan and prepare to create a competitive enterprise prior to termination if the employee does so on their employer's time and with the employer's resources."

The judge also dismissed a claim by Williams that Apple invaded his privacy by reviewing text messages he wrote to coworkers that were critical of the company. In one of the messages, Williams is said to have claimed that Apple would have "no choice but to purchase" his new company.
Williams sought to have those texts excluded as evidence in the suit. Pierce disagreed. "There are no allegations in the complaint establishing that the text messages were obtained as the result of eavesdropping upon or recording a confidential communication," he wrote.
The judge sided with Williams in dismissing Apple's bid for punitive damages, saying the company has failed to show how Williams intentionally tried to harm Apple by being disloyal.

Bloomberg notes that the tentative ruling regarding the California law doesn't address the merits of Apple’s claims, but it will allow the company to proceed with pretrial information-sharing if the judge decides to make it final.

Claude Stern, Williams' lawyer, said he would contest the judge's findings at a hearing in San Jose on Tuesday. He argues that Williams can't be sued for simply coming up with a new business idea while working at Apple, as opposed to taking inventions he worked on that belong to his previous employer.

Tag: lawsuit
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Apple and Tim Cook Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States, an annual federal holiday commemorating the American civil rights movement leader.


Apple today honored the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a full-page tribute on its website. A photo of Dr. King is accompanied by an iconic quote of his: "Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day in a follow-up tweet.



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Jennifer Aniston Wins SAG Award for Outstanding Performance in Apple TV+ Series 'The Morning Show'

It has been a big week for Apple TV+ news, with release dates announced for several upcoming series, a multi-year agreement with actress and producer Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and now a major award win.

At the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles tonight, actress Jennifer Aniston won an SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for her leading role as morning news anchor Alex Levy in the Apple TV+ series "The Morning Show."


This is the first SAG Award that Aniston has won on an individual basis. Her last SAG Award came in 1996 for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series alongside her "Friends" cast members. She beat out Helena Bonham Carter ("The Crown"), Olivia Colman ("The Crown"), Jodie Comer ("Killing Eve") and Elisabeth Moss ("The Handmaid's Tale").

"The Morning Show" actors Steve Carell and Billy Crudup were also nominated for SAG Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series, but the category was won by Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones").


Last month, Aniston was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in "The Morning Show," but she did not win.

This is the second major award win for Apple TV+. Last week, actor Billy Crudup won a 2020 Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Cory Ellison in "The Morning Show."

"The Morning Show" was widely panned by critics upon the launch of Apple TV+, but they were only provided with the first three episodes to watch. The series has a strong audience score of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and as more episodes came out in the series, some critics began to view the show more favorably too.

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Apple Announces Release Dates for Several Upcoming Apple TV+ Shows

Apple today shared release dates for several of its upcoming Apple TV+ shows that are set to launch during the spring and summer of 2020, and offered first looks at some of the content.

"Amazing Stories," a sci-fi anthology series executive produced by Steven Spielberg, is set to premiere on Friday, March 6. "Amazing Stories," which is a reimagining of the original 1980s series, was one of the first shows that Apple picked up for ‌Apple TV‌+.


The show will focus on a new topic each episode, similar to "Black Mirror" and "Twilight Zone." Apple says that each episode of the series will "transport the audience to worlds of wonder through the lens of today's most imaginative filmmakers, directors and writers."

Stars in "Amazing Stories" include Dylan O'Brien ("Maze Runner," "Teen Wolf"), Victoria Pedretti ("You"), Josh Holloway ("Lost," "Yellowstone"), Sasha Alexander ("Rizzoli & Isles," "Shameless") and Robert Forster ("Twin Peaks").

"Central Park," an animated ‌Apple TV‌+ series from "Bob's Burgers" creator Loren Bouchard, will premiere on ‌Apple TV‌+ this summer. "Central Park" is described as an animated musical comedy that focuses on the Tillermans, a family that lives in and takes care of Central Park.


"Defending Jacob," a series starring Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, will debut on Friday, April 24. The show is a drama series that unfolds around a shocking crime in a small Massachusetts town, following a district attorney who is torn between his love for his son and his duty to uphold justice.


"Home Before Dark," a series that focuses on the story of child journalist Hilde Lysiak, is set to premiere on Friday, April 3. The show follows a young girl who moves from Brooklyn to a small lakeside town where her father is from. Her pursuit of the truth leads her to unearth a cold case that everyone in town tried to bury. The show stars Brooklynn Prince, Jim Sturgess, Abby Miller, Kylie Rogers, Adrian Hough, and more.


Documentary series "Home," which focuses on "the world's most innovative homes," will premiere on Friday, April 17. Apple says that each episode "unveils the boundary-pushing imagination of the visionaries who dared to dream and build them."


Apple also announced a new series from the UK, "Trying," which will launch on Friday, May 1. The show is described as a look at "growing up, settling down, and finding someone to love." It will feature Rafe Spall and Esther Smith as Jason and Nikki, a couple who want a baby but can't have one.


Recently announced docuseries "Dear..." that profiles famous people through letters written to them is set to debut on Friday, June 5. The show stars Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Yara Shahidi, Stevie Wonder, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland, Big Bird, and more.

Apple today also announced the renewal of "Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet" for season 2 ahead of its upcoming debut on Friday, February 7.


All of the shows listed above will be available on ‌Apple TV‌+, which is priced at $4.99 per month or free for a year for those who recently purchased an iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod touch, or ‌Apple TV‌.

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Apple Shares New 'Slofie' Videos Highlighting iPhone 11 and 11 Pro Cameras

Apple today shared two new "slofie" videos taken using the slow-motion capture feature of the front-facing camera of the iPhone and iPhone 11 Pro.

The two short videos, called "Backflip" and "Whiteout," feature slow motion selfie videos captured by professional snowboarders.




Apple's iPhones have long had a "slo-mo" slow motion video feature for capturing slow motion content with the rear camera, but with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, slow motion capabilities were also added to the front-facing camera, enabling "slofies."

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Latest iOS 13.3.1 Beta Includes Toggle for Disabling U1 Ultra Wideband Chip

The second beta of iOS 13.3.1, released earlier this month, includes a toggle for disabling the Ultra Wideband chip in the device.

Found by Twitter user Brandon Butch (via 9to5Mac), the toggle can be found by opening up the Settings app, selecting Privacy, choosing Location Services, selecting System Services, and then toggling off the "Networking & Wireless" option.


Disabling this feature warns that Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Ultra Wideband performance will be affected.

Apple added this toggle in the beta after it was discovered that the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max continue to track user location even when location services toggles are disabled.

Apple said that this was expected behavior due to the Ultra Wideband chip and that the iPhone was operating as designed explaining that location data needed to be used because there are international regulatory requirements that mandate the U1 chip be disabled in certain locations.
Ultra wideband technology is an industry standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations. iOS uses Location Services to help determine if ‌‌iPhone‌‌ is in these prohibited locations in order to disable ultra wideband and comply with regulations.

The management of ultra wideband compliance and its use of location data is done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.
Apple at the time promised to add a toggle to allow customers to disable the U1 chip entirely, and that toggle will be available to everyone after the release of iOS 13.3.1.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS
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