Zoom to iPhone users: We’re no longer sending your data to Facebook

The iOS version of popular remote-working video app Zoom has been updated to remove the code that was sending user data to Facebook. 

The update comes in response to a Motherboard analysis that found the Zoom iOS app was sending some analytics data to Facebook’s Graph application programming interface (API), even from Zoom users who don’t have a Facebook account. The video-conferencing company also failed to mention this type of data transfer in its privacy policy. 


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Zoom on Friday released an updated version of its iOS app after removing the Facebook software development kit (SDK) it had used to implement the ‘Login with Facebook’ feature that was transferring device data to Facebook’s Graph API. 

Data that was being transferred included the operating system type and version, IP address, the iOS Advertiser ID, the device time zone and language, the device model and carrier, screen size, processor cores, and disk space. 

SEE: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

However, it did not include information about meetings, such as names of participants or notes, according to Zoom. 

“Our customers’ privacy is incredibly important to us, and therefore we decided to remove the Facebook SDK in our iOS client and have reconfigured the feature so that users will still be able to log in with Facebook via their browser,” wrote Zoom founder Eric Yuan in a blogpost.

He said the SDK was “collecting device information unnecessary for us to provide our services.”

“We sincerely apologize for the concern this has caused, and remain firmly committed to the protection of our users’ privacy. We are reviewing our process and protocols for implementing these features in the future to ensure this does not happen again,” he added. 

The company was called out last year over security issues caused by the way it implemented a bypass to Apple Safari restrictions on Macs. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Zoom has become a popular tool for millions of people working from home amid the global coronavirus pandemic

The company last week issued guidance for users who want to prevent strangers gate-crashing Zoom events. Some users weren’t aware that publicly sharing a meeting link online allows anyone else with the link to join the event.  

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Go Google free: We pick privacy-friendly alternatives to every Google service

Over the past two years, I’ve been switching between a succession of iPhones and a series of Android devices, using each for an extended amount of time. Spending months with each mobile platform has been a tremendously useful exercise, helping me understand the strengths and weaknesses of the two dominant smartphone options.

But every time I pick up one of those Android devices, a nagging question pops up in the back of my mind. It’s the same one I hear from friends, family members, and readers every time the topic turns to smartphone platforms: “Aren’t you worried about your privacy when you run Google’s software?”

It’s a legitimate question, and there’s no easy answer.

Google, like Facebook, has a business model that’s built on surveillance. The company’s stated mission of “organizing the world’s information” also includes capturing as much as possible of your information. That information is the base layer of some undeniably useful services, which in turn fuel the advertising that makes up the overwhelming majority of Google’s revenue.

In 2019, Google took in just over $75 billion in revenue. Roughly 84% of that revenue, about $134.8 billion, came directly from the advertising platform made possible by data collected from a few billion people, including you and me.

To be fair, Google provides ample privacy controls, including options to delete saved data. They also count on most people being too busy, distracted, or unconcerned to actually use those controls. And even if you meticulously delete your activity history. there’s not much you can do about the profile that Google and its subsidiary DoubleClick (and the advertising ecosystem that’s grown up around them) create based on those activities in real time.

google-privacy-dashboard.jpg

Going through Google’s default privacy controls is an exhausting task.

We won’t even talk about the antitrust investigations in the United States, where Google is reportedly “in serious trouble,” and another antitrust probe in the European Union, which has already fined Google multiple times for anticompetitive behavior.

Unlike the other giant of online advertising, Facebook, the option to delete your Google account isn’t very practical. It’s hard to imagine a world without Google’s outsized influence, but it is possible to rebuild your personal online environment around an alternate set of services and experiences.

There are plenty of options from smaller third parties, but for the most part the replacements for the Google services you know come from Apple and Microsoft. Those two tech giants have the requisite scale, but their business models don’t rely disproportionately on data collection and advertising. When your revenue comes mostly from high-margin hardware (in Apple’s case) and business-focused productivity services (in Microsoft’s case), it’s easier to place greater value on personal privacy, and there’s less incentive to design products and services that explicitly turn data into revenue.

So how do you reduce the role of Google in your tech life? I took a look at my own experience to see where you’ll find the most interesting alternatives. Note that some of these options require paid subscriptions, in contrast to Google’s ad- and data-supported services.

Say adios to Android

There are two and only two mobile device platforms that matter: Android and iOS. As a result, ditching Google means learning to love Apple hardware and software. Because of the way Google licenses Android, it’s almost impossible to find a device that isn’t loaded with Google services. And although you can tweak and tune privacy settings and replace default apps, you can’t easily get rid of the Google Play services and store.

Switching to an iPhone isn’t exactly painful (except perhaps for the pricetag). You get world class hardware, and you also avoid one of Android’s worst flaws: unpredictable updates.

Apple devices get fully supported updates for years, and you are not at the mercy of a carrier to get the latest version. That support lasts a long time, too. The iPhone 6S, for example, which debuted more than four years ago, runs the brand-new iOS 13 and will be supported for another year. You can’t say that about any Android phones released in 2015.

In fact, even new devices often have to wait, sometimes forever, for upgrades. I have three Android phones on my desk right now, from Motorola, Samsung, and Google. All three devices were released in 2018, but each one is running a different Android version (8, 9, and 10). I have no idea if or when those two phones running out-of-date Android versions will get the latest features.

And I have to say I trust Apple’s biometric support more than I trust the same features on Android devices. A pair of snafus involving biometric technology in late 2019, on the latest premium devices from Samsung and Google, make me even more comfortable with switching platforms.

Choose an alternate default web browser

If your objective is to cut ties with Google, you’ll need to choose a different web browser than Google Chrome, naturally. The logical alternatives are Mozilla Firefox and Opera; on MacOS and iOS, you can also choose Safari.

Several people in the comments section have recommended the Brave browser, a relatively recent addition to the category, led by Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich and focused relentlessly on privacy. I tried Brave when it first came out and will take another look. It’s a strong contender. 

The dark horse in this field is Microsoft’s new cross-platform Edge browser, based on the open-source Chromium engine. (I do not recommend the legacy Edge browser, available only in Windows 10, which is deprecated and will be replaced with the new Edge within a year.)

The most relevant feature is tracking protection, which offers this simple but easy-to-understand interface in the new Edge Settings pane on the desktop.

edge-tracking-protection.jpg

This Edge setting blocks trackers without requiring third-party software.

How effective is it? Click that Blocked Trackers link to see a running count. On this browser, the number-one source of trackers is Google, which accounts for more than 20% of the blocks on my production PC. 

After a lengthy beta test cycle, the new Edge browser was officially released in January 2020; in addition to running on Windows, it also runs on MacOS and has versions for iOS and Android. It allows you to install extensions directly from the Chrome Web Store, and pages you visit look like they’re running in Chrome.

Pick a privacy-focused search engine

duckduckgo-privacy-essentials-extension.jpg

The Bing brand is an easy punchline for anyone trying to get some cheap tech-oriented laughs, but the underlying data is no joke. In its just-concluded 2019 fiscal year, Microsoft brought in more than $7.6 billion in revenue from search advertising. That’s a fraction (less than 10%) of what Google makes, but it’s still a very big business on its own; that revenue makes it the fifth biggest division at Microsoft, one of the only companies big enough to compete with Google on this playing field.

But you don’t have to insert yourself into Bing’s advertising ecosystem, either. The privacy-focused DuckDuckGo (“the search engine that doesn’t track you”) returns results using Microsoft’s data along with a few hundred other primary sources,

For desktop use, you can also get the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension for Chrome (which works in the Chromium-based Microsoft Edge as well).

In the comments, several readers have recommended Startpage.com, a Dutch company that uses Google search results repackaged in a privacy-focused format that eliminates tracking.

Replace Google Voice

I’ve always been reluctant to use Google Voice for any serious business-related purpose, because it seemed like yet another free service that Google would eventually kill off. One plausible theory I’ve heard is that Google Voice is so widely used by Google execs that discontinuing it is not an option.

Google Voice has the twin benefits of being device-independent and supporting SMS messages. That means you can use a virtual number other than your regular mobile phone number for security-related tasks, like two-factor authentication. That makes SIM-swapping scams dramatically less effective.

Google Voice also runs on multiple devices, which is handy for someone who switches devices regularly. Not having to reconfigure 2FA when you switch to a new device is liberating.

I can’t find a free alternative to Google Voice that I can comfortably recommend, but the venerable Line2 service, at $10 per month (or $99 a year, billed annually) fills the bill. YouMail, a call-blocking and voicemail service, includes a second line with SMS support as a standard feature on its $10.99 per month YouMail Professional products. I’ve used it for several years and recommend it.

Use something other than Gmail as your default email client

I’m old enough to remember when Gmail was a closed beta and you had to have an invitation to get your own account. In retrospect, we should have gotten a clue that something was amiss when the Gmail beta launched, officially, on April Fool’s Day, 2004. (Not a joke. DuckDuckGo it.)

Back in 2017, Google stopped its controversial practice of scanning the content of free Gmail accounts for the purpose of targeting ads, and the company says any processing it does of message content (to generate reply suggestions, for example) is done by machines. And, of course, paid GSuite business accounts have always been disconnected from Google’s ad infrastructure.

The main reason I don’t use Gmail, though, has nothing to do with privacy. It’s just that I really really don’t like the browser-based interface on the desktop, where I do most of my serious email work. Alas, that’s how Google wants its customers to use Gmail on PCs, and Gmail developers don’t seem to care that their service doesn’t play well with other clients.

For business accounts, I use Office 365, and most of my personal accounts are on Outlook.com. If your employer uses Gmail, you’re not free to switch, but for personal mail it’s easy to set up a new default address, forward messages from Gmail, and hardly skip a beat.

For paid business email, there are third-party alternatives if you’d rather avoid working with Microsoft directly. I recommend Intermedia, which offers hosted Exchange and Office 365 with a much less intimidating interface. Many hosting providers offer email options to go with your custom domain; for example, you can get Office 365 subscriptions from GoDaddy, with or without a hosting package. It pays to check with your current hosting provider.

There’s certainly no reason to delete your Gmail account, but switching to a new default email service doesn’t have to be painful. Back in 2013, I made the case against Gmail and wrote detailed instructions for switching from Gmail to Outlook.com. The basic principles haven’t changed in all that time.

Get off of Google’s cloud

Some of Google’s stickiest services are its cloud-based storage and collaboration tools: GSuite (Docs, Sheets, Slides), Google Drive, and Google Photos.

Office 365, which includes a terabyte or more of OneDrive storage with every subscription, is the logical alternative to GSuite and Google Drive. Earlier this year, I did a comprehensive comparison of the two services, “Office 365 vs G Suite: Which productivity suite is best for your business?” Read that for a quick refresher on what makes Office 365 different from GSuite.

You can also choose from a wealth of independent cloud storage providers, including well-known services like Dropbox and Box and others that are less well known but technically superior, like Intermedia’s SecuriSync, which is available bundled with email and Office or as a standalone product.

Google Photos is a harder service to replace. For the basic task of backing up and organizing your digital photos, both Apple (iCloud) and Microsoft (OneDrive) offer options to upload photos from the default camera roll on your mobile device to their respective services. OneDrive is the clear choice if you also want those photos to be accessible on a Windows 10 PC.

But no one quite does the AI-powered magic that Google does with Photos. Just be aware that all that magic also feeds Google’s insatiable appetite for data.

Consider Apple’s Maps app

In its early days, Apple’s Maps product was clearly inferior to Google Maps. That’s no longer true, and Maps now plays the same counterweight-to-Google role on iPhone that Bing plays to Google Search. Location tracking is one of the key privacy concerns of our time, so it’s worth at least trying to make the switch.

For those who decide Apple Maps is not good enough, though, you have no credible alternatives to Google.

How do you solve a problem like YouTube?

If you’re a YouTube fan, there’s virtually no way to avoid having your activities tracked by Google, with the inevitable algorithmic recommendations not far behind.

And there’s nothing quite like YouTube on the planet. You can avoid some tracking by using your browser’s private/incognito mode, but that’s at best a partial fix.

Do you see any options I missed? Use the contact form to send me your thoughts via email, or share other alternatives in the comments section below.

Related and previous coverage

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Do you own an iPhone 11 Pro Max? Your battery might be wearing out faster than expected

Do you own one of those super-expensive iPhone 11 Pro Max handsets? Might be a good idea to check to see if your battery is wearing out faster than expected.

A few weeks ago, a reader got in touch, worrying that their iPhone 11 Pro Max was suffering from premature battery wear. The information that was offered by the Battery Health feature in iOS certainly seemed to suggest that this was the case. And the owner says the handset was charged once a day using the stock charger.

I dismissed it as a one off.

However, since then, more people have got in touch with the same problem. Battery health dropping faster than expected. Some have approached Apple and been told it’s nothing to worry about, others report getting the handset exchanged.

There are also a few reports over on Apple’s support forum of the same issue.

Must read: Coronavirus social distancing got you down? Tips and tricks to help you get through it

The problem is more noticeable on older handsets, so the longer you’ve had it, the more apparent the problem should be.

You can check your Battery Health by going Settings > Battery > Battery Health. As far as Apple is concerned, anything over 80 percent is good. Also, according to Apple, like other iPhones, the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s battery should be good for at least 500 recharge cycles.

That said, this is worth keeping an eye on.

Seeing anything similar? Let me know below.

See also:

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Apple: Programming language Swift 5.2 is out – Xcode 11.4 and faster code completion

Apple has released version 5.2 of its widely used Swift programming language for writing apps for the Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.  

Apple’s open-source Swift 5.2 programming language arrived with Tuesday’s release of Xcode 11.4, the latest version of Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE). Swift 5.2 builds on Swift 5.1, released in September, and Swift 5 from March 2019. 

Xcode 11.4 lets developers distribute macOS apps as a ‘universal purchase’ with the iOS version of the same app. Once developers adopt this, it will allow users to make a single in-app purchase that applies to macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS devices.   

The prospect of universal purchases for macOS is a lure for developers to build apps with Mac Catalyst, Apple’s platform to help developers bring iPadOS apps across to its 100 million Mac users. Universal purchase is enabled by default for new Mac Catalyst apps created in Xcode 11.4.  

According to Ted Kremenek, a member of the Swift Core Team, Swift 5.2 “drastically” improves compiler diagnostics with better quality and more precise error messages. 

It also offers faster code completion, increased reliability in debugging, improved handling of dependencies in the Swift Package Manager, and tooling improvements with Language Server Protocol (LSP) and SwiftSyntax. 

Swift 5.2’s code-completion feature works up to 1.2- to 1.6-times faster for large files compared with Xcode 11.3.1, according to Kremenek. 

Swift 5.2’s new compiler diagnostics engine addresses potentially confusing error messages flagged in code in Swift 5.1 and is now better at pinpointing the exact piece of code that needs fixing. 

It also promises more efficient creation of incremental builds, the mode in Xcode for compiling builds to debug a Swift project. 

“To minimize the wasted work done by Incremental mode builds, the Swift 5.2 compiler – notably the type checker – leverages a new centralized logic for caching, lazy evaluation, and dependency tracking between requests, where a request is a self-contained unit of computation,” notes Kremenek. 

“This logic is now used by the compiler to more efficiently resolve declarations and their references to one another.”

Kremenek suggests other performance optimizations to Swift 5.2’s compiler behavior should also improve Xcode’s Whole Module mode, which is used for release builds. 

LLDB, the open-source and default debugger in Xcode, is now better at reconstructing type information for Swift programs from debug information. 

LLDB can also now import C and Objective-C types from debug information in the DWARF format, instead of compiling the Clang module from source code, notes Kremenek. 

The Swift Package Manager in Swift 5.2 improves resolution for package dependencies. These should reduce the chance of dependency version conflicts and improve the quality of error messages, while also offering better performance in complex package graphs. 

Finally, there are updates to the SourceKit-LSP implementation of the Language Server Protocol (LSP) for Swift and C-based languages. Microsoft created LSP, a client-server protocol, to integrate features such as auto complete. 

Xcode 11.4 and its Command Line tools package include Swift 5.2 SourceKit-LSP, which now supports the FixIts LSP feature so that Swift errors, warnings, and notes with FixIts are supported using LSP’s Code Actions.      

Swift now also supports LSP local refactoring, meaning Swift local factorings such as extract-to-method are now supported using the ‘Refactoring’ Code Action kind, according to Kremenek.

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    Explore your surroundings in isolation: Strava releases Routes feature for runners and bikers

    strava-routes-1.png

    Image: Strava

    My preferred form of exercise is running and after living in the same house for five years I’ve established several favorite routes. While these are great to track progress, I also like to mix things up and explore other routes. The new Strava Routes feature provides personalized route suggestions powered by the Strava community and OpenStreetMap.

    After installing the updated Strava app on your phone tap on the Explore tab and then Explore Routes button. The app will build three routes for you and show them on your smartphone display. You can simply choose to save a suggested route or view details if you like what you see. You can also tap on the buttons at the top of the display to change your starting location, type of exercise (run or ride), preferred distance, elevation preference, and surface preference.

    Also: Garmin Forerunner 945 review: Music, mapping, payments, pulse, and incident detection

    At the bottom of the display is an option for you to draw your own route if you don’t like any of the three options presented by Strava. The routes suggested by Strava are based on public Strava activities and open-source data from OpenStreetMap. A looped course around popular waypoints is generated and presented to you.

    The suggested routes present the total distance and a time estimate for completion. For biking routes, Strava uses your four-week average speed to calculate the time to complete. For running, the company uses your average grade-adjusted pace for your previous four weeks so it should be fairly accurate.

    I was pleased to discover a few new routes using local roads I didn’t even know existed so I have saved these routes and plan to try them out over the next month. After choosing the routes, my first question was, “How am I going to now follow the route or remember the details when I run?” If you have a Garmin device then you can sync routes to the device with the Strava Routes ConnectIQ app and be guided by the device. 

    You can also download a TCX or GPS version of the route and then use that with your favorite device or service. If you have a Polar GPS sports watch, like the Vantage V, then follow the instructions from Polar to import and use your new Strava routes.

    Garmin has a course creator and the ability for many devices to create round trip routing. The Strava Routes option looks to offer more global appeal and provides a personalized experience that lets you find and create routes with ease. I’ve created routes in the past with Garmin, but it can be a bit time consuming and doesn’t provide expected completion times.

    Also: Garmin Darth Vader Legacy Saga Series review: Star Wars themed sports watch offers extensive health and fitness features

    Strava is a service powered by the community so you can also overlay a Heatmap to see the popularity of sections of your new routes. You can share your route with others and I imagine as more and more Strava athletes try out this feature we will see more new routes and active Heatmaps. This is the first release for Routes and Strava stated it is already working hard on updates and improvements. A Strava Summit membership is required for Routes, but there is also a free trial available so you can evaluate if this function is worth the price of membership.

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    iOS 13.4 for iPhone and iPadOS 13.4 for the iPad is out — there’s a lot of bugfixes here

    While the coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of things to change, it doesn’t seem to have put a stop of iPhone and iPad updates. 

    It’s time to fire up your iPhone and iPads and download the latest updates.

    For the iPhone, Mail has been upgraded to have always-visible controls to delete, move, reply to, or compose a message, and responses to encrypted emails are now automatically encrypted when you have configured S/MIME.

    Files gets a revamp too, with iCloud Drive folder sharing from the Files app, new controls to limit access only to people you explicitly invite or grant access to anyone with the folder link, and permissions to choose who can make changes and upload files and who can only view and download files.

    CarPlay gets third-party navigation app support for the CarPlay Dashboard, along with in-call information appearing on the CarPlay Dashboard.

    The App Store and Apple Arcade gets a number of tweaks, incluing Universal Purchase support enables the use of a singular purchase of a participating app across iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.

    This update also supports audio playback in USDZ files for AR Quick Look.

    There are also Nine new Memoji stickers to play with, which include Smiling Face with Hearts, Hands Pressed Together, and Party Face.

    Must read: Coronavirus social distancing got you down? Tips and tricks to help you get through it    

    There are also a whole raft of bugfixes for the iPhone:

    • Adds status bar indicator to display when VPN has disconnected on iPhone models with all-screen displays
    • Fixes an issue in Camera where the viewfinder may appear as a black screen after launch
    • Addresses an issue where Photos may appear to use excess storage
    • Resolves an issue in Photos that may prevent sharing an image to Messages if iMessage is disabled
    • Fixes an issue in Mail where messages may appear out of order
    • Addresses an issue in Mail where the conversation list may display empty rows
    • Resolves an issue where Mail may crash when tapping the Share button in Quick Look
    • Fixes an issue in Settings where cellular data may incorrectly display as off
    • Addresses an issue in Safari where webpages may not be inverted when both Dark Mode and Smart Invert are active
    • Resolves an issue where text copied from web content may appear invisible when pasted when Dark Mode is active
    • Fixes an issue in Safari where a CAPTCHA tile may display incorrectly
    • Addresses an issue where Reminders may not issue new notifications for an overdue recurring reminder until it is marked as completed
    • Resolves an issue where Reminders may send notifications for completed reminders
    • Fixes an issue where iCloud Drive appears to be available in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote even when not signed in
    • Addresses an issue in Apple Music where music videos may not stream in high quality
    • Resolves an issue where CarPlay may lose its connection in certain vehicles
    • Fixes an issue in CarPlay where the view in Maps may move away briefly from the current area
    • Addresses an issue in the Home app where tapping an activity notification from a security camera may open a different recording
    • Resolves an issue where Shortcuts may not appear when tapping on the Share menu from a screenshot
    • Improves the Burmese keyboard so punctuation symbols are now accessible from numbers and symbols

    The iPad gets a whole bunch of tweaks and features, the biggest of those being mouse and trackpad support.

    • All-new cursor design highlights app icons on the Home Screen and Dock and buttons and controls in apps
    • Magic Keyboard for iPad support on iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later) and iPad Pro 11-inch (1st generation or later)
    • Magic Mouse, Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad, Magic Trackpad 2, and third-party Bluetooth and USB mouse support
    • Multi-Touch gestures on Magic Keyboard for iPad and Magic Trackpad 2 enable you to scroll, swipe between app spaces, go Home, access App Switcher, zoom in or out, tap to click, secondary click (right-click), and swipe between pages
    • Multi-Touch gestures on Magic Mouse 2 enable you to scroll, secondary click (right-click), and swipe between pages

    The iPad also sees updates to the Mail app, Files, and App Store and Apple Arcade. 

    iPad users also get the nine new Memoji stickers.

    There are also a huge list of bugfixes for the iPad:

    • Fixes an issue in Camera where the viewfinder may appear as a black screen after launch
    • Addresses an issue where Photos may appear to use excess storage
    • Resolves an issue in Photos that may prevent sharing an image to Messages if iMessage is disabled
    • Fixes an issue in Mail where messages may appear out of order
    • Addresses an issue in Mail where the conversation list may display empty rows
    • Resolves an issue where Mail may crash when tapping the Share button in Quick Look
    • Fixes an issue in Settings where cellular data may incorrectly display as off
    • Addresses an issue in Safari where webpages may not be inverted when both Dark Mode and Smart Invert are active
    • Resolves an issue where text copied from web content in a third-party app may appear invisible when pasted if Dark Mode is active
    • Fixes an issue in Safari where a CAPTCHA tile may display incorrectly
    • Addresses an issue where Reminders may not issue new notifications for an overdue recurring reminder until it is marked as completed
    • Resolves an issue where Reminders may send notifications for completed reminders
    • Fixes an issue where iCloud Drive appears to be available in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote even when not signed in
    • Addresses an issue in Apple Music where music videos may not stream in high quality
    • Addresses an issue in the Home app where tapping an activity notification from a security camera may open a different recording
    • Resolves an issue where Shortcuts may not appear when tapping on the Share menu from a screenshot
    • Improves the Burmese keyboard so punctuation symbols are now accessible from numbers and symbols

    Updates can be downloaded over the air by going to Settings > General > Software Update.

    See also:

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    Microsoft: .NET 5 preview for Windows 10, iPhone, Android Surface Duo apps is out

    New design, more colors: Microsofts gives new look to 100 mobile apps icons
    Microsoft also gives Windows 10 a new take on the classic four square grid.

    Microsoft has released the first developer preview of .NET 5, its next major release of the .NET family that’s set for general availability in November and allows developers to build native apps that support Windows 10, iOS, and Android devices. 

    The .NET 5 preview builds on .NET Core 3.0 and 3.1, which were released in the second half of 2019. According to Microsoft, .NET Core 3 has gained the fastest-ever adoption among developers and an additional one million users in the past year. 

    The release of .NET 5 is important because it further unifies .NET development across the desktop and mobile thanks to its integration of mobile-app building platform Xamarin.

    The .NET Core 3 release introduced Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) for building desktop apps, Arm64 support, ASP.NET Blazor for building single page applications, and the gRPC RPC framework for connecting services across data centers.

    SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF)

    .NET 5 will include ASP.NET Core, Entity Framework Core, WinForms, WPF, Xamarin and ML.NET. 

    Ahead of the final version of .NET 5, Microsoft has a clear message for developers: “.NET Core and then .NET 5 is the .NET you should build all your NEW applications with.” 

    “Having a version 5 that is higher than both .NET Core and .NET Framework also makes it clear that .NET 5 is the future of .NET, which is a single unified platform for building any type of application,” said Scott Hunter, director of program management at Microsoft .NET.   

    The first preview includes support for Windows Arm64 and the .NET Core runtime, while the second preview will include an SDK with ASP .NET Core but not WPF or Windows Forms, which should arrive in a subsequent preview. 

    The preview should allow developers to update existing projects by updating the target framework. 

    The main goals for .NET include providing a unified .NET SDK with a single Base Class Library (BCL) across all .NET 5 applications, with Xamarin moving to the .NET core BCL. Since Xamarin is integrated into .NET 5 the .NET SDK will support mobile. 

    It also enables native applications to support multiple platforms including Window Desktop, Microsoft Duo (Android), and iOS.

    SEE: Microsoft buys JavaScript developer platform npm; plans to integrate it with GitHub

    Microsoft’s ongoing work on Blazor should also mean web application support across platforms, including browsers, on mobile devices and as a native desktop application for Windows 10 and Windows 10X.

    In the future .NET 5 will also allow for high-performance cloud applications, better support for containers in the runtime, and support for HTTP3. 

    Hunter is urging developers to move all .NET Core applications to .NET Core 3.1 in anticipation of .NET 5’s release in November. 

    “We will make the transition from .NET Core 3.1 to .NET 5 as painless as possible,” he noted. 

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    Apple hit with giant €1.1 billion fine by French competition watchdog

    Apple settles lawsuit over slowing down iPhones
    The class-action lawsuit in the US claims that Apple artificially degraded iPhone performance to boost upgrades.

    Apple has been issued with €1.1 billion ($1.23 billion) fine by the French competition watchdog, which found that the company had carried out anti-competitive practices within its distribution network.

    The fine is the largest ever imposed by the French organization against a single company. Two global distributors of Apple’s products, Tech Data and Micro, were also fined an additional €76.1 million ($85 million) and €62.9 million ($70.2) respectively, bringing the total in fines to €1.24 billion ($1.38 billion). Apple said it would appeal.

    The competition watchdog said that it had found that Apple and its two wholesalers had agreed not to compete and to prevent distributors from competing with each other. It found Apple’s ‘Premium’ distributors could not risk promoting or lowering prices, which led to an alignment of retail prices between Apple’s integrated distributors and independent premium distributors. Finally, it said Apple has subjected premium distributors to unfair and unfavorable commercial conditions compared to its network of integrated distributors.

    Isabelle de Silva, president of the Competition Authority, said: “In light of the strong impact these practices have on competition in the distribution of Apple products via Apple resellers, the authority inflicts the highest sanction ever imposed in a case (€1.24 billion).”

    The complaint was brought in 2012 by one of Apple’s Premium Resellers (APRs), eBizcuss, and involved Apple’s failure to supply enough products to re-sellers to satisfy client demand, which placed smaller distributors at a disadvantage in the face of Apple Stores. Unable to compete on pricing and services, eBizcuss’s turnover dropped by 15%, and by 2012 the company had to leave the French market.

    The Cupertino giant’s distribution network differentiates between different types of sellers. Apple has its own integrated sellers –  Apple Stores and the Apple website – and also sells its products to international wholesale groups, Micro and Tech Data. Wholesalers then redistribute products to a network of about 2,000 smaller re-sellers in France, which include supermarkets, as well as small and medium tech businesses, including APRs like eBizcuss. 

    The investigation found that Apple and wholesalers Micro and Tech Data had reached an agreement between 2005 and 2013, by which Apple divided up products and allocated re-sellers to Micro and Tech Data, in order to control exactly how much of each product could be sold and to whom. 

    Not only did this stem competition between Micro and Tech Data, according to the competition watchdog, but it also meant that re-sellers were dependent on stocks decided by Apple. The French authorities recognized that producers are allowed, to a certain degree, to manage their distribution network, but only under the condition that this does not bring about anti-competitive practices.

    “Apple and its two re-sellers agreed to not compete with each other,” said De Silva, “thus sterilizing the wholesale market for Apple products.”

    In addition, the investigation found that Apple has been imposing selling prices on APRs to make sure that the prices found in smaller re-seller shops aligned with those established by the tech giant within its own stores and website.  

    Particularly, APRs were given very little freedom to launch promotion campaigns for products. Apple implemented strict rules on promotions, and kept a close eye on APRs’ pricing strategies. Resellers feared that their competitors would be favoured for deliveries if they cut their prices too much.

    An eBizcuss representative said: “We note that Apple practices price-policing for consumers. If prices are inferior to Apple’s public prices, we are contacted by Apple Sales local representatives to ask us to push prices back up.”

    The French authorities noted that the company’s close surveillance of pricing was also detrimental to consumers: it is estimated that prices for Apple products were aligned on half of the retail market. 

    Finally, the Competition Authority condemned the iPhone maker for abusing re-sellers’ economic dependence on Apple products. With most of these re-sellers being small and medium businesses, De Silva indicated that this practice was, in the Authority’s view, “particularly serious”.

    Lack of appropriate supply, discriminatory treatments and unstable remuneration were all cited as harms inflicted by Apple on APRs. For example, many re-sellers were left without stock when new products launched, which meant they were unable to meet peaks in demand from customers. 

    In a statement to ZDNet, Apple said: “The French Competition Authority’s decision is disheartening. It relates to practices from over a decade ago and discards thirty years of legal precedent that all companies in France rely on with an order that will cause chaos for companies all across industries.”

    “We strongly disagree with them and plan to appeal. We are extremely proud to serve our French customers and believe they should be allowed to choose the product they want, either through Apple Retail or our large network of re-sellers across the country.”

    Earlier this year, the French watchdog for competition and fraud levied another, albeit much smaller, €25 million ($27.4 million) fine against Apple for failing to warn customers that updating some versions of iOS would slow down their iPhone, sometimes to the point that users would have to purchase new devices. Apple accepted the fine and said it was happy to have resolved the case with the French authorities. 

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    Using iOS 13 to diagnose (and easily repair) an iPhone battery problem

    The other day I noticed something strange about my iPhone. I was taking screenshots of the Settings app for another piece I was writing, and I noticed something out of place.

    If you want to play along at home, take a look at the screenshots in this post and see if you can spot something odd.

    I’ll wait here for you.

    Seen it? No, let me give you a clue, look at the off-screen battery usage figure.

    OK, here’s what I noticed in the Settings > Battery screen:

    Something unusual

    Something unusual

    That’s telling me that something is chewing at the battery off-screen for, well, most of the day. This means that something was running while I wasn’t using the phone. While background activity is normal, that much isn’t.

    Since I first noticed this from a screenshot I’d taken, I decided to take a look to see if the problem was still on-going.

    Problem is still there

    Problem is still there

    Yup, it was. So, what’s the problem?

    It's the Photos app

    It’s the Photos app

    It’s the Photos app. It’s doing something in the background, and had been for 125 hours over the previous ten days.

    Now, it might have been doing something legitimate, or it might have gone haywire. Since this problem just appeared and hadn’t happened following an iOS update, and it seems to have been sustained for days, I was leaning towards it being the app gone haywire.

    Must read: Fixing up a 30-year-old Swiss Army Knife

    So, another question. How would you fix an app gone haywire?

    I decided to take the simplest course of action, and just reboot the handset. Would it work?

    I rebooted, and waited a few hours, and saw that background usage — measured by the light blue bars in the chart — had fallen dramatically.

    Fixed!

    Fixed!

    Fixed.

    Now, what’s interesting is that when it came to battery life, I’d not really noticed that much of a hit. The iPhone 11 Max Pro has such a huge battery capacity that it absorbed this very well indeed.

    See also:

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    Apple closes its retail stores outside Greater China until March 27

    Apple said it is closing all of its retail stores outside of China until March 27. Stores within China have reopened following the COVID-19 outbreak.

    In a statement, Apple said the company will continue to provide service online but made the decision to close stores to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission. Apple said it will deep clean its stores, move to flexible work arrangements outside of China and will continue to pay hourly workers.

    Meanwhile, Apple moved its developer conference online.

    How the physical retail closure impacts Apple’s revenue remains to be seen. Details about retail sales are rolled into Apple’s geographic reporting in regulatory filings. However, Apple said 31% of its sales were direct in fiscal 2019. That sum would include physical retail as well as digital sales and services.

    According to Statistica, Apple has 271 stores in the US. 9to5Mac puts the global Apple Store footprint at 510.

    In addition, Apple stores also go beyond just retail purchases in that they offer services, provide a point to trade-in devices and are a way to access AppleCare. There will be an obvious revenue hit from the global store closures just as there will be from the China retail closures.

    In Apple’s recent earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook highlighted the impact of the company’s retail footprint. “The retail stores did fantastic on iPhone, very strong double-digit growth in iPhone from a year-over-year point of view. And one of the

    factors that enabled that was the — getting to monthly payments on the Apple Card to make it very simple. Of course, that’s U.S.-only at this point, but the U.S. is a very key market for us. And so it was an important part of it,” said Cook.

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