Posts tagged Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook: “I’m Proud To Be Gay”

Tim Cook is gay and proud of it, the Apple CEO revealed in a personal essay published Thursday by Bloomburg Businessweek. While he’d been silent on the matter of his sexual orientation for years, the CEO said he’d waited so long because he wanted to keep the focus on Apple’s products, not himself.

However, Cook said he decided to speak up in order to support other gays and lesbians with less visibility. 

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Cook also added, in a line showing his wit, that being gay had “given him the skin of a rhinoceros,” which came in handy in his job as Apple’s CEO.

Though the Apple CEO had not tweeted about the essay himself Thursday morning, “Tim Cook Speaks Up” quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter Thursday morning with many expressing support and gratitude.

Read Cook’s full essay on BusinessWeek.

Photo of Tim Cook via Apple

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Apple Pay: 1 Million Cards Down, 599 Million To Go

Apple Pay courtesy of McDonald’s

The breathless hype around Apple Pay among technology insiders and security fanatics doesn’t seem to be matched by iPhone users.

On Monday, at a technology conference organized by the Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple had activated 1 million credit cards in the first 72 hours after Apple Pay launched.

See also: Apple Pay: I’m Not Impressed

That sounds impressive—until you consider that there are more than 600 million credit and debit cards in the United States, and Apple has sold an estimated 20 million Apple Pay-compatible iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units.

There are some factors limiting Apple Pay’s reach. Not all banks work with Apple Pay yet, and Apple Pay is only available in the United States. Also, some users likely added more than one card to their Apple Pay wallets. So it’s difficult to come up with a clean figure for Apple Pay’s market share among eligible iPhone 6 users.

Nevertheless, it’s clearly a pretty small portion of the iPhone universe. So much for the grand theories about Apple leveraging its 800 million credit and debit cards on file with iTunes to take over the world of payments. Or for the notion that transaction fees from Apple Pay will make up a substantial revenue stream for Apple anytime soon.

Credit Where It’s Due

Give Apple credit: It’s punching far above its weight in payments, thanks to the power of its brand name. 

But it will ultimately take more than the gee-whiz novelty factor of paying with a phone tap or fearmongering about the security of credit cards to get consumers to switch from their existing payment routines. 

Before you start ranting about how Apple Pay is more secure, let’s get some things out of the way. Yes, Apple’s technique of disguising account numbers is a wise practice that we will see broadly adopted across many payment methods. Yes, the concerns about magnetic-stripe cards are real and legitimate, given the breaches at major retailers like Target and Staples. No, those concerns will not, by themselves, prompt most consumers to switch away from swiping their cards.

Instead, it will take substantial incentives, as banks themselves seem to realize. Wells Fargo is offering cardholders $20 to sign up for Apple Pay. Other banks may follow, if they haven’t already. What’s in it for them? By setting their cards up as the default choice in Apple Pay, banks hope to win a bigger share of customers’ spending.

Even then, we may not see widespread adoption for Apple Pay and other swiped-card alternatives until October 2015, when merchants and banks will have a hard choice: Either they must take on the risk of credit-card fraud, or adopt more secure systems like Apple Pay and new chip-based cards.

As Apple executive Eddy Cue wisely said on the day Apple Pay launched, “There’s a lot to do here and we have a lot of work to do.”

It does no one any good to exaggerate the significance of Apple Pay’s early adoption. A million cards sounds like a lot—until you realize the vast scale of the payments world Apple is playing in. (PayPal’s Braintree unit, for example, has 85 million cards on file.)

The right way to think about Apple Pay is as a catalyst for further changes in the payments landscape. By getting banks and retailers to work together on a new technological scheme for payments, Apple has broken the logjam. A flood of change is coming. It just may not all bear the Apple logo.

Lead photo by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

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The Mac Is Trouncing The iPad—And That Could Spell Trouble For The Apple Watch

The Wall Street Journal just declared that Apple’s “surprising growth driver” is none other than the humble (and seemingly post-PC passé) Mac. While it’s true that the Mac is driving growth, it’s anything but surprising.

See also: Apple iPad Sales Continue To Tank, Though The iPhone Is Doing Great

What is surprising is that the iPad has managed to hang on for so long as the second-largest revenue driver at the Cupertino company, given that it doesn’t really serve much of a need. And the Mac’s eclipse of the iPad might well be a warning for the Apple Watch.

Who Needs An iPad?

The biggest problem with the iPad is that it doesn’t do anything particularly well. Most anything I’d want to do with an iPad I can more easily do with my Mac or iPhone. I’ve seen people lugging their iPads around on hikes to take pictures of scenery and I’ve noticed people with portable keyboards hacking out blog posts, so I know some people think their iPads are useful.

But come on: those and most other activities are generally better on Apple’s other hardware. The WSJ’s Christopher Mims captures this feeling:

I tried using my iPad—yes, I have two—for reading on trips, but I found it to be a distant runner-up to my Kindle Paperwhite. As such, my iPad gets used once each week—for church, of all things. (It’s easiest to pretend to be reading scriptures while actually checking Arsenal soccer scores.)

I’m clearly not alone. According to IDC, market demand for tablets has slowed, with Apple hardest hit. As consumers fumble for reasons to buy a tablet, cost trumps brand, hurting Apple’s premium sales strategy.

Meanwhile, Back In Mac Land …

Apple’s other products don’t run the same risk. At least, not the ones that are currently available for purchase.

Though tablets threatened to displace desktop and laptop computers, they haven’t even dented them. The reason is utility. The WSJ notes several reasons for the Mac’s steady rise, even amid an industry-wide slump in Windows PCs:

Several factors have contributed to the Mac’s steady rise in the last eight years: a halo effect conferred by popular Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad; a decision to stop charging for updates of Mac operating software; high visibility through the company’s own retail stores; and Apple’s introduction of innovative designs like the MacBook Air at lower prices than the company usually charges.

Meanwhile, phones are actually threatening to displace tablets. Christopher Mims enumerates a long list of things the smartphone has replaced. My Kindle Paperwhite has replaced physical books for me, but that’s the only thing tablets have done better for me—and it’s a special-purpose tablet, not the iPad’s jack-of-all-apps approach.

So, About That Apple Watch

Which brings me to Apple’s forthcoming Watch. Like a tablet, Apple’s Watch risks being a nice-to-have, but not a must-have. Once it adds GPS, I can envision it being an excellent replacement for my iPod/iPhone (music) and Garmin (GPS/heartrate) while exercising, but is that a big enough market for Apple? 

See also: Without GPS, Apple’s “Sport” Watch Is A Non-Starter

There are, after all, only so many people who want to track every mile and every calorie of their exercise regimen. It will definitely be bigger than the market for the Apple TV streaming box, but I can’t see it sustaining iPhone-worthy sales for more than a year or two. Then the excitement will die down and people realize will that there was a good reason they’d already ditched their watches to tell time using their iPhones.

Apple’s iPhone revolutionized what a phone meant. It changed the way we communicate with each other, get directions on trips, book restaurant reservations and more. The Mac, 30 years in, doesn’t revolutionize anything but the tired PC experience.

For the iPad and the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch, it’s unclear how they materially change our lives to the point that we’ll shovel money into Apple’s bank.

Lead photo courtesy of Apple

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T-Mobile’s John Legere Explains The Apple SIM Card Mess

The iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 come with the Apple SIM—at least sometimes

In theory, the first Apple-made SIM card should break the lock carriers hold on new iPad users, freeing them to easily move from one cellular network to another. Too bad America’s biggest mobile operators are gumming up the works.

SIM cards typically identify mobile devices to a particular network. Apple’s new cards, however, are programmable, making it possible to switch carriers with a software update. That will not stand at AT&T, which will lock down Apple SIMs to its network, or at Verizon, which won’t support them at all. (Big Red will instead supply its own dedicated SIMs.)

See also: AT&T Ruins Apple’s SIM Bid In War On Carrier Choice

The complications mount from there, depending on whether you buy your new iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3 from a carrier or directly from Apple. Frankly, it’s a confusing mess.

Fortunately, outspoken T-Mobile CEO John Legere has volunteered to clarify things. Legere produced an epic “tweetstorm” over the weekend, firing off no fewer than 21 messages in rapid succession in his own (obviously self-interested) attempt to explain the chaos: 

Apple has remained above the fray so far, which is noteworthy because it used to take a hard line whenever carriers interfered with its plans. Maybe it just doesn’t want to play the heavy.

But it’s also possible that the U.S. was never the real target for its universal SIM anyway. Maybe Apple was never after anyone but business travelers and international users in the first place.

iPad image courtesy of Apple

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Apple Pay May Be Way More Than Your Wallet

Apple Pay may leap off store checkout counters and head to building security, buses, subways and other places, reports The Information

According to the site, the iPhone company is seeking out partners to expand the scope of its Near Field Communication–based mobile payments system. So far, Apple has reportedly spoken with HID Global and Cubic, makers of secure electronics building access solutions and transit fare systems. 

Currently, the NFC chip—offered by the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and upcoming Apple Watch—works only for paying at in-store cash registers equipped with compatible terminals. Apple has not yet granted third-party developers the tools to support NFC in its mobile devices. But if the deals are successful, the company’s mobile products could be used as secure passes for things like building keycards, transit passes and more. 

See also: Apple Is Walking Into Payments Naked

Apple has already shown deep interest in turning its iPhones (and perhaps Apple Watch) into secure access products. It already struck a deal with Starwood Hotels, so guests can use the iPhone to unlock hotel room doors. However, this arrangement hinges on the device’s Bluetooth technology, not NFC. The latter would present a more secure option, as it stores data separately in the Secure Element, where Apple Pay currently stashes users’ credit card data. 

See also: Apple Pay: I’m Not Impressed

While the company may be looking to expand its NFC-based features, other companies are trying to tear it down. Although Walgreen’s happily embraces Apple Pay, CVS and Rite Aid pharmacies have intentionally shut down its NFC systems, effectively barring Apple Pay (as well as any other system that uses the same technology, like Google Wallet). 

A spokesperson for Rite Aid said the chain was “still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.” But the real reason may be the fact that these drug stores are part of the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of retailers that has its own payments system in the works, called CurrentC. That’s far from the only competition. For instance, long-time payments competitors PayPal and Google are certainly gearing up to do battle with Apple Pay. 

See also: Apple Is Less Than Inviting To PayPal In Apple Pay

Apple’s take on mobile payments—which could still use some work—enters a crowded arena that doesn’t want for competition. That may explain why the iPhone maker’s exploring other territory, even before it has fully established itself in payments. It’s a hedged bet. Apple is wasting no time trying to cement its iPhones (and Watch) at the center of its users’ lives. And this is only just the beginning

Photo courtesy of McDonalds

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Apple Sent Porn To A Developer To Prove His App Could Be Used To Find Porn

Pornographic content is forbidden in the Apple App Store, but Apple seems to be OK with sending porn to developers who submit their apps for review, according to one who received an inappropriate pic. 

“It turns out Apple thought the best way to tell us our app could be used to surf porn was to surf for porn using our app,” Carl Smith, a Florida developer for nGen Works, wrote in a blog post on Medium (NSFW link). 

The email, which Smith shared with ReadWrite, appears to be from the Apple app review team and includes an attached photo of a man’s genitalia, but no warning of the enclosed content. This is the kind of thing that can create a hostile work environment for nGen employees whose jobs necessitate reading emails from Apple. 

See also: The Majority Of Porn In The United States Is Viewed On Smartphones

Smith suggested a number of alternatives he thought Apple could have used to indicate a concern about explicit content. The team could have sent nGen Works a search term to try, or even warn in advance what the emailed photo was of. Instead, Smith said the developers who opened the email had no warning that it would be graphic.

“What I want from Apple is for them to address the issue and put a policy in place that prevents an App store reviewer from sending pornographic images as an example of a issue,” he said. “They could have easily masked out the bad part of the photo or told us a phrase to search. At the very least warn someone before they open the attachments that they aren’t safe for work.”

“Specifically, we noticed your app contains objectionable content at time of review. Please see the attached screenshot/s for more information,” the Apple review team email reads, before offering a downloadable file that turned out to be the genitalia photo in question.

Smith said solution is hypocritical of the company. Of course nGen’s app, which allows users to enlarge, save, and search for Instagram photos, would be capable of browsing any photo that exists on Instagram already.

“This is a double standard,” Smith told ReadWrite. “If I type bad words into Safari I am going to see bad things. So I think Apple needs to address that.”

Smith said he doubted Apple’s “upper echelons” would approve of this action, and encouraged readers to spread the word.

We’ve contacted Apple for a comment on this allegation.

Photo via Shutterstock

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SearchCap: Apple Maps Connect, Foursquare Data & Yahoo Search Personalized

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web. From Search Engine Land: Yahoo Search Now Shows Your Flights, Events & Packages In The Search Results Yahoo announced that Yahoo Search, as well as Yahoo Mail‘s Today section…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

View full post on Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Apple iCloud Attacked, Experts Point Finger At Chinese Government

For Apple, China has been a great many things. Vendor. Partner. Customer. Competitor. Now perhaps one more thing can go on the list: Attacker. 

Following Friday’s debut of the latest iPhone 6 in China, hackers spent the weekend targeting Apple’s iCloud data storage service. Apple acknowledged that it has suffered “intermittent organized network attacks” trying to glean user data when they sign in to iCloud. 

As for who the perpetrator may be, security experts have one prime suspect in mind: the Chinese government

Because surveillance. 

China May Be “In The Middle”

The attacks appear to be of the “man in the middle” variety, a type that steps in between users and the sites they’re trying to access. Because these attacks relay data in both directions—to the users and to the legitimate site—people often don’t realize that a stranger is eavesdropping or pilfering their login information. 

See also: In The U.S., The Feds Are A Bigger Threat To Your Phone Than Malware

A representative for security monitoring website GreatFire told The New York Times claimed that the attack was either conducted by the Chinese authorities or parties sanctioned by them. The host servers for the attacks are only accessible by the Chinese government, the source said, or by state-run telecommunications providers. 

“You think you are getting information directly from Apple, but in fact the authorities are passing information between you and Apple, and snooping on it the whole way,” said the GreatFire rep. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have all suffered similar exploits for the same reason. 

Michael Sutton, vice president for threat research at security firm Zscaler, seems convinced of the Chinese government’s involvement in the hack. “Evidence suggests this attack originated in the core backbone of the Chinese Internet,” Sutton told The NYT, “and [it] would be hard to pull off if it was not done by a central authority like the Chinese government.” 

See also: Let’s Clear Up Apple’s Cloudy Photo Stream

Previously, Apple’s cloud security hit the news when nude photos of celebrities Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and others were stolen and circulated on the Internet. Like that case, this security breach does not appear to come from a systemic vulnerability or specific security hole. 

For now, Apple updated its site to disseminate information on how people can protect themselves. The company offers advice on what clues users should look for in Safari, Chrome, Firefox and other major web browsers, so make sure their connections are safe. The page was updated just today. 

The iPhone 6’s debut in China had been reportedly held up for a month, due to regulatory issues stemming from security concerns. 

Lead photo by Lewis Tse Pui Lung for Shutterstock

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Apple Launches “Maps Connect,” Self-Service Local Listings Portal

This afternoon Apple notified us of a new self-service portal to add or edit local business listings: Apple Maps Connect. It’s intended for small business owners or their authorized representatives (though not agencies) to be able to quickly and easily add content directly into Apple Maps….

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

View full post on Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

How To Stop Apple From Tracking You In Mac OS X Yosemite

The latest version of Apple’s operating software for its Mac computers, OS X Yosemite, turns out to be just a bit leaky where some of your personal information is concerned. Yosemite, it turns out, is configured by default to send local-search terms and your location information back to Apple and its third-party search partners.

See also: What’s Apple Going To Do With All Its Loose Ends?

Apple acknowledged that it does glean some information from Spotlight, the Mac’s built-in search tool for finding files in your computer or conducting online searches. But it denies that it uses any personally identifiable information itself and says it only passes along very general data to partners like Microsoft.

But maybe you don’t want to take any chances. So here’s how to shut down the tracking—a simple process, although one that’s not exactly obvious.

How To Turn Off Spotlight Snooping

To prevent your Mac from transmitting Spotlight search data, take these steps (courtesy of, a site set up by security researcher Landon Fuller):

Disable “Spotlight Suggestions” and “Bing Web Searches” in System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results.

Safari also has a “Spotlight Suggestions” setting that is separate from Spotlight’s “Spotlight Suggestions.” This uses the same mechanism as Spotlight, and if left enabled, Safari will send a copy of all search queries to Apple.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d already disabled “Spotlight Suggestions,” but you’ll also need to uncheck “Include Spotlight Suggestions” in Safari > Preferences > Search.

What’s Caught In The Spotlight

It’s now common knowledge that companies like Google save your Internet searches for a variety of reasons, among them to tailor both services and advertising more closely to your interests. What’s interesting about this case is that it involves searches on your own computer, not the Internet at large.

That can lead to unexpected results, as former Washington Post national-security reporter Barton Gellman noted Monday on Twitter:

It’s not uncommon for companies to collect user data or track behavior for purposes of “improving the service” (whatever that means). But many make the activity obvious and offer clear opt-out instructions. Apple did neither.

True, Apple does inform users about its tracking behavior—by burying the disclosure in a terms of service statement most Mac users will likely bypass. Its “About Spotlight & Privacy” terms read: “When you use Spotlight, your search queries, the Spotlight Suggestions you select, and related usage data will be sent to Apple.”

The company also states that if location services is on when you use Spotlight, your whereabouts will be sent to Apple too.

In a statement, Apple further clarifies its actions:

For Spotlight Suggestions we minimize the amount of information sent to Apple. Apple doesn’t retain IP addresses from users’ devices. Spotlight blurs the location on the device so it never sends an exact location to Apple. Spotlight doesn’t use a persistent identifier, so a user’s search history can’t be created by Apple or anyone else. Apple devices only use a temporary anonymous session ID for a 15-minute period before the ID is discarded.

We also worked closely with Microsoft to protect our users’ privacy. Apple forwards only commonly searched terms and only city-level location information to Bing. Microsoft does not store search queries or receive users’ IP addresses.

Washington Post writer and independent security researcher Ashkan Soltani called the Spotlight leakage was “probably the worst example of ‘privacy by design’ I’ve seen yet.”

Lead photo by Sasha Kargaltsev

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