Tag: Apple

Apple unveils credit card plans

By Nick Statt for The Verge

Among the most tangible announcements at Apple’s services event yesterday was also its most interesting: a credit card, aptly called the Apple Card, with both a physical and digital version that gives you up to 3 percent cash back. The product is, on the surface, a way for Apple to sell its brand on another everyday object you likely already own. But beneath the veneer of a titanium credit card with the Apple logo on it, the company is clearly charting out its post-iPhone future, one in which services reign supreme, by following a formula we’ve never quite seen it attempt before.

In this case, Apple has decided that it needs a traditional product, even one with the dubious moral baggage of a credit card, to promote Apple Pay. While the digital wallet and payment platform is growing fast, it’s still used by less than half of all global iPhone owners (and even less in the US). So just as Apple sees competing with Netflix and large cable companies as part of its future by creating its own TV shows and paying top dollar for Hollywood talent, the company no longer sees upending the status quo in payments as a viable path forward for Apple Pay.

“I think the strange optic here is that credit cards are not necessarily innovation in payments, even with better rates and loyalty,” says Rivka Gewirtz Little, a global research director at analyst firm IDC who specializes in payments. “So, to see a big tech firm, which hangs its hat on innovation, go such a traditional route – that’s what I think is a bit odd here. I’d like to see Apple get more innovative in transforming the way we pay.”

For years, as the iPhone has become ubiquitous and sales have started to slow, Apple has tried to emulate the paradigm-shifting success of the App Store and iTunes before it by barreling its way into TV and film, mobile payments, and news. But time and again over the last half-decade or so, Apple has run into the hard economic and logistic reality of trying to change industries that are far less malleable than mobile software and music.

And while Apple Pay may be a bold vision of the future, it’ll likely be years before contactless digital payments become truly mainstream in the US. In the meantime, Apple wants to sell you the benign and the boring — a credit card, a cable package, a magazine subscription — in hopes it can make its software and services as intrinsic a part of everyday life as its smartphone. Changing industries from the ground up is no longer Apple’s playbook, especially as it plays catch-up to companies like Netflix and Spotify.

Apple’s strategy mirrors that of Amazon. The e-commerce giant started out selling genuinely new and best-in-class products like the Kindle and then the AI-powered Echo speaker. But Amazon has since used the consumer goodwill it garnered and the power it wields over its digital storefront to sell you everything from microwaves and wall clocks to white label clothing brands, home supplies, and AmazonBasics-branded AA batteries.

Apple is doing the same, using the iPhone as the ultimate gateway to transform every iOS and Mac user into a series of multiple recurring revenue streams from products made first and in some cases made better by other companies, be it Apple Music, Apple News, iCloud, or the new TV app. Apple is stopping short of making its own version of Prime, in which all of these services could be bundled together, but the company appears to be taking its cues from Amazon’s subscription approach to further lock iPhone owners into a broader ecosystem.

With the Apple Card, the company is going one step further and trying to capture not just what you consume, but also the financial means you use to do so. Apple isn’t reinventing the wheel — the card, as reported by CNET, doesn’t have contactless capabilities like newer cards from competing banks, so you’ll need to slide it or input the chip into a reader to use it every time. Instead, Apple is giving users a no-frills credit card that’s a cleverly disguised way to juice Apple Pay adoption and usage.

Unlike the subscription services it plans to sell, the Apple Card comes with no annual fee, no late lees, and an interest rate supposedly lower than the industry average. On top of that, it has a pretty straightforward rewards program that incentivizes consumers to use Apple Pay to buy Apple products, for the most cash back at 3 percent thanks likely to the fact that Apple no longer has to hand over as high a processing fee as it does with a third-party card. If you have to use the physical Mastercard-branded card, you’ll get 1 percent back. (Granted, when it launches, the Apple Card will be one of the only cards on the market without a sign-up bonus, the primary incentivizing mechanism banks use to get people to open new lines of credit.)

To get customers to actually sign up, Apple is leaning heavily on its privacy-first approach. Effectively, Apple wants to be the only tech company you actually trust. Onstage yesterday, CEO Tim Cook said the card will not collect data on your transactions, and Apple will not let its partner bank, Goldman Sachs, sell any data to third parties. But of course that begs the question: how does it make money, and without those usual stipulations, is Apple not simply banking on users falling into debt and pocketing the insurance money they’re forced to pay for years to come?

The goal may not be to turn a profit, at least not on the service itself. It all comes back to Apple Pay. The reason Apple made a credit card in the first place is to spur adoption of Apple Pay, and to create a digital wallet that can be used not just in the real world, but also inside an iOS ecosystem that is increasingly being peppered with new, for-pay services.

“Mobile wallets are still a small section of the market, so it’s understandable there needs to be a big push if your aim is more adoption,” says Rasha Katabi, CEO and co-founder of credit card and digital payments startup Brim Financial. “As the adoption of e-commerce increases, and we’ve seen that at an exponential rate over the past few years, the relevance of having a physical card or lack thereof will track really closely to the adoption and migration from physical shopping to fully online shopping.”

The only online shopping Apple truly cares about happens within its ecosystem: in-app subscriptions for its new services, microtransactions in mobile games like Fortnite, Venmo-style peer-to-peer payments with Apple Cash, and purchasing of Apple hardware from within the Apple Store mobile app. All of this qualifies for the 3 percent cash back bonus, Apple confirmed to The Verge. And that arrangement sheds an interesting light on the entire Apple Card approach.

Through its incentives, Apple is creating a system where you’ll shop in the real world at Apple Pay partners for an extra cash back bonus, switch your App Store credit card to an Apple one with an even better bonus, and rely only on the physical card for when you absolutely have to. And all of it is underpinned by Apple’s privacy pledge and relatively solid security track record, as well as the luxury status symbol provided by an Apple-branded piece of titanium, with its number-less design that non-coincidentally makes it easy to gloat about on social media.

By Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac

A significant bug has been discovered in FaceTime and is currently spreading virally over social media. The bug lets you call anyone with FaceTime, and immediately hear the audio coming from their phone — before the person on the other end has accepted or rejected the incoming call. Apple says the issue will be addressed in a software update “later this week”.

Naturally, this poses a pretty big privacy problem as you can essentially listen in on any iOS user, although it still rings like normal, so you can’t be 100% covert about it. Nevertheless, there is no indication on the recipient’s side that you could hear any of their audio. There’s a second part to this which can expose video too.

9to5Mac has reproduced the FaceTime bug with an iPhone X calling an iPhone XR, but it is believed to affect any pair of iOS devices running iOS 12.1 or later.

The iPhone FaceTime bug could be reproduced by doing the following:

Start a FaceTime Video call with an iPhone contact.
Whilst the call is dialling, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and tap Add Person.
Add your own phone number in the Add Person screen.
You will then start a group FaceTime call including yourself and the audio of the person you originally called, even if they haven’t accepted the call yet.
It will look like in the UI like the other person has joined the group chat, but on their actual device it will still be ringing on the Lock screen.

Whilst the call is ringing, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and add yourself to the call.

The damage potential here is real. You can listen in to soundbites of any iPhone user’s ongoing conversation without them ever knowing that you could hear them. Until Apple fixes the bug, it’s not clear how to defend yourself against this attack either aside from disabling FaceTime altogether.

As it stands, if your phone is ringing with an incoming FaceTime request, the person on the other end could be listening in.

What we have also found is that if the person presses the Power button from the Lock screen, their video is also sent to the caller — unbeknownst to them. In this situation, the receiver can now hear your own audio, but they do not know they are transmitting their audio and video back to you. From their perspective, all they can see is accept and decline. (Another update: It seems there are other ways of triggering the video feed eavesdrop too.)

We have also replicated the problem with an iPhone calling a Mac. By default, the Mac rings for longer than a phone so it can act as a bug for an even longer duration.

Apple has taken Group FaceTime offline in an attempt to address the issue in the interim. They have said the issue will be fixed in a software update later in the week. Until then, if you are concerned, you should disable FaceTime in iOS Settings.

Amazon reaches $1trn value

By Bryan Rich for Forbes 

Today, Amazon became the second company (following Apple) to cross the one trillion-dollar valuation threshold.

This stock is up 72% year-to-date. It has doubled in the past year and has nearly tripled since Trump’s election. That’s what happens when you have a pour gasoline (economic growth) on a fire (a monopoly). No one should love Trump more than Jeff Bezos.

But at 161 times earnings, the market seems to be betting on the Amazon monopoly being left to corner all of the world’s industries. That’s a bad bet.

Much like China undercut the competition on price and cornered the world’s export market, Amazon has undercut the retail industry on price, and cornered the world’s retail business. That tipping point (on retail) has well passed. And as sales growth accelerates for Amazon, so does the speed at which competition is being destroyed. But Amazon is now moving aggressively into almost every industry. This company has to be/will be broken up.

The question is, how will the market value an e-commerce business that would no longer be subsidised by the high margin Amazon cloud business (AWS)? A separation of the businesses would put Amazon’s e-commerce margins under the Wall Street microscope (as every other retailer is subjected to) and materially impact a key sales growth driver for Amazon, which is investment in innovation (R&D).

By Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian

Huawei overtook Apple to become the world’s second-largest smartphone seller behind Samsung in the second quarter, the first time in seven years that any contender has managed to split the top two.

Multiple market analysts said that Huawei’s rise came as the slowdown in China, the world’s largest market for smartphones, eased, with growing market share in Europe. Huawei failed in its recent bid to launch in the US after government action against companies deemed a security threat.

Despite Apple being historically weak in the second quarter, analysts described the rise of Huawei as significant.

“The importance of Huawei overtaking Apple this quarter cannot be overstated,” said Canalys analyst Ben Stanton. “It is the first time in seven years that Samsung and Apple have not held the top two positions.”

Approximately 351m smartphones were sold globally in the second quarter, down 2% year-on-year due to market saturation, increasing prices, longer replacement rates, reduced mobile phone network subsidies and lack of feature and design innovation, according to data aggregated by the Guardian.

“Consumers remain willing to pay more for premium offerings in numerous markets and they now expect their device to outlast and outperform previous generations of that device which cost considerably less a few years ago,” Anthony Scarsella from IDC.

Samsung was worst hit by the slowdown of the big three, down 10% year-on-year selling 71.9m smartphones for a 20% share of the market. Huawei raced into the second spot selling 54.2m phones in the quarter, up 41%, for a 15% share of the market. Apple sold 41.3m iPhones, up 1%, for a 12% market share.

“The continued growth of Huawei is impressive, to say the least, as is its ability to move into markets where, until recently, the brand was largely unknown,” said Ryan Reith, programme vice president of IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Tracker.

Stanton said: “Huawei’s momentum will obviously concern Samsung, but it should also serve as a warning to Apple, which needs to ship volume to support its growing services division.

“If Apple and Samsung want to maintain their market positions, they must make their portfolios more competitive.’’

Tarun Pathak from Counterpoint Research said that Huawei’s two-pronged strategy using its fast-growing Honor sub-brand to capture the mid-tier segment below £500 and its premium Huawei-branded smartphones at the top end, such as the P20 Pro, appeared to be working.

Analysts said that Huawei’s exclusion from the US has forced it to work harder across Asia and Europe to achieve its growth goals, with its mid-range models proving particularly popular. Data from Canalys showed that Huawei grew it market share in China by 6% to a record 27% in the quarter, where 100m smartphones were sold across the country.

Outside of China, Huawei’s increasing brand recognition newly allowing it to compete at the top end, but the Chinese market remains key for Huawei as it has come under fire from the US, Australia and other nations over concerns it could facilitate Chinese government spying.

Huawei has denied it facilitates spying and has said it is a private company not under Chinese government control and not subject to Chinese security laws overseas.

China and the US are also embroiled in a trade dispute with both nations imposing tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods and fighting over technology and patents, which analysts said creates significant uncertainty for all of the major smartphone brands.

Huawei said Tuesday that overall it had 15% higher revenue in the first six months of 2018, steady at levels seen a year ago. Revenue rose to 325.7bn yuan (£36.52bn), while operating margin rose to 14%, from 11% a year ago.

Huawei’s consumer division, which houses its smartphones business, accounted for roughly a third of its total revenue last year. It got half its revenue from its mobile phone network.

By Chris Merriman for The Inquirer 

We’re not ones to tattle. But it seems that Apple has a tattling problem and it’s manifesting in an email about tattling.

Let’s put it another way, a leaker within the Apple business has leaked a memo warning people to stop leaking things or they might lose their jobs and gain a reputation as a leaking son-of-a-gun.

In a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg that had been published on the supposedly internal-only employee blog, the innovating-Windows-hating company warned that it had ‘caught 29 leakers’ in 2017 of which 12 were arrested.

“These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere,” it warns.

Amongst the leaks were details about the iPhone X and Apple Watch that were hidden inside software, and the internal announcement about iPhone feature delays that was later plastered all over the tech press.

“We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” it warns.

Of course, audiences love the rumours, and we love being a part of that process, so we don’t necessarily agree with these sentiments, especially as they come from a leak about a leak, which is just so precious we could melt (with laughter).

The tech companies tell us that rumours reduce sales of the finished product and give intelligence to rivals in a cut-throat market.

From our direct experience over the past 20ish years, rumours about much-anticipated handsets are some of the most popular and engaged with articles we write, and a fair few of them come with record sales in tow, so we’re not convinced that it’s all bad.

In fact, a lot of rumours are started by the companies themselves. We suspect that at least one upcoming handset we can think of has been massively hyped by the company itself dropping tidbits.

And no, we’re not going to tell you which One. Plus we suspect Apple has done it too, on more than one occasion.

By Nikki Schwab for DailyMail

President Trump is to have dinner with his biggest Silicon Valley backer, Peter Thiel, DailyMail.com has confirmed.

The dinner, a source close to Thiel said, will be a strategy session on how the president might be able to regulate Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google.

Trump has been fixated on Amazon as of late, blasting the online retailer again from the White House on Tuesday.

President Trump is expected to get advice from billionaire Peter Thiel on how to regulate the top tech companies that include Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple.

“Amazon’s gonna have to pay much more money to the Post Office. There’s no doubt about that.”

Trump charged the U.S. Post Office is “losing billions of dollars” all because it delivers packages for Amazon at below cost “and that’s not fair”.

Behind-the-scenes, a source told Axios that Trump is “obsessed with Amazon”.

“He’s wondered aloud if there may be any way to go after Amazon with antitrust or competition law,” a source told the publication.

Axios pointed out that the president ‘would love to clip CEO Jeff Bezos’ wings,’ but he doesn’t have a plan to do so. With billionaire Thiel’s advice, that could change.

Apple looking to buy cobalt directly from miners

Apple in talks to buy long-term supplies of cobalt directly from miners for the first time, according to people familiar with the matter, seeking to ensure it will have enough of the key battery ingredient amid industry fears of a shortage driven by the electric vehicle boom.

The iPhone maker is one of the world’s largest end users of cobalt for the batteries in its gadgets, but until now it has left the business of buying the metal to the companies that make its batteries.

The talks show that the tech giant is keen to ensure that cobalt supplies for its iPhone and iPad batteries will be sufficient, with the rapid growth in battery demand for electric vehicles threatens to create a shortage of the raw material. About a quarter of global cobalt production is used in smartphones.

Apple is seeking contracts to secure several thousand metric tons of cobalt a year for five years or longer, according to one of the people, declining to be named as the discussions are confidential. Apple’s first discussions on cobalt deals with miners were over a year ago, and it may end up deciding not to go ahead with any deal, another person said.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. Glencore Plc Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg late last year named Apple among several companies the miner was talking to about cobalt, without giving further details.

Securing supplies
The move means Apple will find itself in competition with carmakers and battery producers to lock up cobalt supplies. Companies from BMW AG and Volkswagen AG to Samsung SDI Co. are racing to sign multi-year cobalt contracts deals to ensure they have sufficient supplies of the metal to meet ambitious targets for electric vehicle production.

So far no major deals have been announced, although BMW’s head of procurement told Germany daily FAZ in early February that it was close to securing a 10-year supply deal.

Cobalt is an essential ingredient in lithium-ion batteries for smartphones. While smartphones use around eight grams of refined cobalt, the battery for an electric car requires over 1,000 times more. Apple has around 1.3 billion existing devices, while Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been bullish about the prospects for electric vehicles.

The price of the metal has more than tripled in the past 18 months to trade at more than $80,000 a metric ton. Two-thirds of supplies come from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there has never been a peaceful transition of power and child labor is still used in parts of the mining industry.

In recent years Apple has stepped up its engagement with cobalt suppliers after the origin of the metal in its supply chain came under scrutiny from human rights groups. In a report in early 2016, Amnesty International alleged that Apple and Samsung Electronics Co.’s Chinese suppliers were buying cobalt from mines that rely on child labor.

Last year Apple published a list of the companies that supply the cobalt used in its batteries for the first time, and said it would not let cobalt from small-scale mines in Congo into its supply chain until it could verify that the “appropriate protections” were in place.

Source: Bloomberg / MyBroadband

Beware this Apple phishing scam

A new Apple phishing scam is doing the rounds.

The scam informs user that their “Apple ID’ has been locked and threatens them with the fact that their information is now insecure.

In order to fix the “issue”, users are requested to follow a link which looks on the surface like an Apple-related site. Browsers and anti-virus quickly block the site as suspicious.

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