Posts tagged with "Apple"

iPhone 13: Apple reveals new version of its smartphone

September 16, 2021

Apple has revealed the iPhone 13. From the front, the new iPhone looks largely like its predecessor, the iPhone 12, with the same flat edges. But it does appear a little different on the back, where the cameras have been rearranged in a diagonal, The Independent reports.

And on the front, the “notch” that is cut into the top of the display is 20% smaller, Apple said. The company accomplished this by re-engineering the sensors in the top to enable them to take up less space.

The display itself also has been improved, Apple said, to be as much as 28% brighter when the iPhone is taken outside.

The phone also comes in a range of colors, including a new pinkish hue.

On the inside, the iPhone has been “completely re-architected”, Apple said—with new features and a bigger battery. The battery should last for 1.5 hours longer on the Mini, and 2.5 hours on the bigger iPhone 13, Apple said.

It is powered by the “A15 Bionic” chip, which, Apple claims, is the “fastest CPU in any smartphone”—although it compared its performance with its “leading competitor” rather than the existing processor in the iPhone 12.

The phone also has a new camera system that includes “vastly improved low-light performance,” Apple said.

For videos, Apple is introducing a new feature called “Cinematic Mode”, which will allow the focus to change quickly and dynamically in a way that the tech firm suggested would recall Hollywood films. It does that automatically, by using artificial intelligence to allow the device to create “cinema-grade videos”.

The normal, non-Pro version of the iPhone 13 will come in the same sizes as the iPhone 12—a medium-size model and a “Mini.” Like the iPhone 12, the 13 has 5G. But it has more antenna bands, which should allow it to work both more quickly and in more places. Apple also has  doubled the storage in the phones, meaning they now start at 128GB and go up to 512GB.

The Mini starts at $699, and the normal iPhone starts at $799, the same pricing as the iPhone 12. Some rumors had suggested that the price could be increased, as a result of processor shortages that have hit the entire technology industry.

Pre-orders will open on Friday, and they will go on sale a week later.

Research contact: @independent

Justice Department official to step down amid uproar over leaks inquiry

June 15, 2021

John Demers, the Trump-appointed head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, is expected to step down at the end of next week, according to a person familiar with the matter—a departure that was arranged months ago, but that now comes amid widespread backlash over DOJ investigations into leaks of classified information that began under the administration of the former president, The New York Times reports.

Demers is the longest-serving Senate-confirmed official from the Trump Administration to remain at the Justice Department during the Biden presidency.

John Carlin, the second in command in the deputy attorney general’s office—who, himself, left the agency in April—had before his own departure asked Demers to remain at the department, according to the person. Lisa O. Monaco had just been confirmed to serve as the deputy attorney general, and the three officials had a long history of working together on sensitive national security cases.

In response, Demers asked to leave by summer, and the two men eventually agreed that he would stay on through June 25, the Times’ source said.

But , the Times notes, Demers’s departure also comes as Democrats and First Amendment advocates have attacked the Justice Department following revelations that prosecutors supervised by Demers seized the records of reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN and of classified information.

The department’s inspector general announced an investigation on Friday into the matter.

While it is common for the Justice Department to try to find out who shared classified information with the media, it is highly unusual to secretly gather records from the press and lawmakers. The prosecutors also prevented the lawyers and executives of the Times and CNN from disclosing that records had been taken, even to their newsroom leaders, another highly aggressive step.

Such moves require signoff by the attorney general. But. Demers and his top counterintelligence deputies in the division would typically be briefed and updated on those efforts.

Much of the spotlight on national security cases during Demers’ three-year run focused instead on the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller, III, who ran the Russia investigation, the Justice Department’s highest profile and politically fraught national security matter.

But Demers’s ability to skirt controversy ended in recent weeks as the revelations about reporters’ record seizures and the gag orders came to light.

Justice Department officials say that all appropriate approvals were given for those orders, meaning that the attorney general at the time, not Demers, signed off.

Former Attorney General William P. Barr approved the decision to seize records from CNN and The Washington Post in 2020, people with knowledge of the leak investigations have said. But it is unclear who approved the request for email records from Google that belonged to Times reporters. The request was filed with a court days after Barr left,although he could have signed off on it before leaving.

A Justice Department spokeperson declined last week to identify whether Barr or his successor, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, approved that move.

Leak investigators in 2018 also obtained data from Microsoft and Apple that belonged to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both of California. Mr. Schiff is now the panel’s chairman.

In those instances, the Justice Department also told the technology companies not to inform customers about the subpoenas until recently.

The data was collected and the gag orders were imposed on the tech companies weeks before Demers was confirmed to lead the National Security Division.

Still, some Democrats demanded answers about what he knew about the leak cases. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, called on Demers on Sunday, June 13,  to testify before Congress.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump Justice Department secretly subpoenaed records on top Democrats, their families, and staff

June 14, 2021

After a series of damaging leaksto the media about contacts between senior White House functionaries and Russian officials during the early moments of the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice took the extraordinary step of subpoenaing data from Apple on top Democrats, their families, and their staff, in an effort to identify the source of the leaked information, The New York Times was first to report on Thursday night, June 10.

Indeed, the Times reported, at least a dozen people associated with the House Intelligence Committee had their records seized, including then–ranking member of the committee Adam Schiff and committee member Eric Swalwell

According to a report by Slate on Friday, the surveillance reportedly encompassed the subjects’ metadata, whom they were communicating with—not the content of those communications. One of the individuals whose records was subpoenaed was a minor, presumably a family member of one of the targets, because the DOJ suspected officials might be using their children’s computer to leak to avoid detection.

The surveillance was not made known to the targets until last month, due to a gag order on Apple that recently expired.

Other administrations, including the Obama Administration, have aggressively hunted leakers—but, Slate notes, the latest revelations show how far and beyond the Trump administration was willing to go, essentially from the start of the Trump presidency.

The records seized were reportedly from 2017 and early 2018, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions bore the brunt of Trump’s rage about all things Russia. Leaked contacts between Michael Flynn and then–Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak led to Flynn’s ouster and ultimately federal charges.

The leaked information was explosive: It showed the continuation of curious contact between Trump World and Russia; it also revealed that the FBI had used a court-authorized secret wiretap on Kislyak that ensnared the future national security adviser.

“Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry,” the Times notes. “But William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. … Barr directed prosecutors to continue investigating, contending that the Justice Department’s National Security Division had allowed the cases to languish, according to three people briefed on the cases.” The moves smacked of political targeting to some in the Justice Department.

The secret targeting of sitting members of Congress by the opposite party—particularly, those leading an investigation related to the White House, is an extraordinary step that requires truly extraordinary evidence, Slate says. Adding that,so far reports indicate no evidence was found linking the targets to the actual leaks.

What was found was that the Trump Administration had an ulterior motive: snooping on its political enemies.

These disturbing revelations come on the heels of news that the Trump DOJ carried out similar, secret surveillance of journalists covering the White House for a host of major news organizations—raising serious questions about the appropriateness of the Trump administration’s use of its surveillance powers in what Slate characterized as “a broad and dangerous overreach.”

Research contact: @Slate

Square acquires majority of Tidal, Jay-Z’s streaming service, in $297 million deal

March 5, 2021

What did Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey talk about when they went yachting around the Hamptons together last summer? Beyoncé knows—and now we do, too, based on a report by The New York Times.

Square, the mobile payments company founded by Dorsey (who also is CEO of Twitter) announced on March 4 that it would acquire a “significant majority” of Tidal, the streaming music service owned by Jay-Z and other artists—including Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé, , and singer and entrepreneur Rihanna, who is a client of Jay-Z’s entertainment management company, Roc Nation.

Square will pay $297 million in stock and cash for the stake in Tidal. Jay-Z will join Square’s board, the Times says.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Jay-Z announced that he would sell 50% of  his champagne company, Armand de Brignac—better known as Ace of Spades—to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton amid a downturn in the entertainment industry caused by the pandemic that has affected some of Jay-Z’s holdings.

“I think Roc Nation will be fine,” Jay-Z said in an interview last month about the sale of Armand de Brignac. “Like all entertainment companies, it will eventually recover. You just have to be smart and prudent at a time like this.”

Also last month, Dorsey announced that he and Jay-Z had endowed a Bitcoin trust to support development in India and Africa.

Tidal, which Jay-Z bought in partnership with other artists in 2015 for $56 million, provides members access to music, music videos and exclusive content from artists—but the streaming music industry has been dominated by competitors like Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

In 2017, Jay-Z sold 33% of the company to Sprint for an undisclosed amount. (After a merger, Sprint is now a part of T-Mobile.) Earlier this week, Jay-Z bought back the shares from T-Mobile, and most will be sold to Square as part of the deal.

Dorsey and Jay-Z began to discuss the acquisition “a few months ago,”  Jesse Dorogusker, a Square executive who will lead Tidal on an interim basis, told the Times.

“It started as a conversation between the two of them,” he said. “They found that sense of common purpose.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Reese Witherspoon’s new, free app adds to growing crowd of virtual book clubs

March 4, 2021

“C’mon, get app-y!” the Hello Sunshine website invites us this week. The media company—founded by actress and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon—has introduced a free app for its book club, offering the latest digital meeting place away from the crowds on big social media platforms, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Reese’s Book Club has operated since 2017 on Instagram, where it drew 1.9 million followers. Executives believe it can strengthen its relationship with readers with an app of its own.

“We wanted to build our cozy corner of the internet,” said Cynthia Rupeka, VP at Reese’s Book Club; which is a division of Hello Sunshine, the consumer name for Be Sunshine LLC.

Book club apps are becoming more common, the Journal notes, as people seek to congregate around specific interests in new ways.

Readers have flocked to Amazon’s Goodreads service, which enables users to create groups for a variety of reading interests. The service has more than 120 million members.

Oprah Winfrey has perhaps the most well-known book club, the Journal notes. She revived the club in 2019 with an Apple partnership that includes an Apple TV+ show with author interviews, a dedicated section in Apple’s Books app .and a podcast. The book club also reaches readers via social media and a Goodreads group.

The need is clear: People have felt more isolated during the pandemic, with 34% of U.S. adults saying that social media, video calls, and texting did not help them feel more connected to friends and family, according to data from Forrester Research, a research firm.

Discord, a chat startup popular with gamers that also has channels dedicated to other interests and the audio-only social network Clubhouse each recently raised $100 million from investors.

But users have maintained an appetite for novelty and ways to be entertained, Anjali Lai, senior analyst at Forrester, tells the Journal: “It is a little bit of a perfect storm for this desire to find like-minded consumers in a sort of private space, right behind these digital closed doors, that feels a bit more intimate, and connect with people in that way,” Lai said.

It’s also a profitable niche. Hello Sunshine receives a portion of the revenue from book purchases that result when members click out to e-commerce sites from its app.The company has corporate partnerships as well, such as an in-vehicle app in select Buick models. Drivers can listen to an audiobook via the app as well as podcasts from Hello Sunshine.

Research contact: @WSJ

Parler reappears with help from Russian-owned security service

January 20, 2021

Parler—a social network similar to Twitter to which then-President Donald Trump fled after he was tossed off his @realDonaldTrump feed for bad behavior—has reappeared.

Early in January, Parler also was taken down—by big tech companies Apple, Google, and Amazon after it was used by members to send messages inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol. However, its website is back  up—powered by a hosting service from DDoS-Guard, a Web security service that is owned by two Russians, according to a report by The Boston Globe.

“Our return is inevitable due to hard work and persistence against all odds,” CEO John Matze wrote in a new post—the latest since Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the site and it was banned from Apple and Google’s app stores. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”

According to the Globe, public data associated with the Parler.com domain name shows that one of the Internet servers it directs visitors to is routed via DDoS-Guard. Another server, specifically for routing Parler.com e-mail but not website content, is an Outlook.com address, operated by Microsoft.

A spokesperson for DDoS-Guard said the company was not hosting Parler and declined to comment on what services it was providing to the social media app. It confirmed it did store customer data as part of its offering.

On Sunday, January 17, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s decision to delist the Parler app despite complaints from critics that the move impinges on free speech.

“We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Cook said on Fox News Sunday, adding, ”We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection.”

Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik, a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington, according to public records made available by Internet regulator Icann. Epik is also the domain registrar for Gab, another less restrictive social networking site popular with the far right.

Most of the features on Parler.com appeared to remain down early Tuesday, the Globe reports—besides statements from Matze and other employees. Members are unable to log in or post messages and the app is still unavailable in the Apple or Google Play stores.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Epik said in a sprawling statement on its website from JanIuary 11 that it’s had “no contact or discussions with Parler in any form.” The statement also addressed propaganda, breakdowns in civil society, and editorial malfeasance on the part of “major media owners.”

Before its ban, Parler—which has less restrictive terms dictating what members can post and was endorsed by some Republican lawmakers and media figures—had seen a surge in users as Twitter and Facebook banished outgoing President Trump along with users and groups that supported the violence.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

 

Trump supporters flee to MeWe, Gab, and Rumble after Parler goes offline

January 13, 2021

Now that the account of @realDonaldTrump has been banned from Twitter—and both Apple and Google have dropped Parler from their app stores—supporters are flocking to the social media sites MeWe, Gab, and Rumble, Fortune reports.

Gab, a service that claims to champion free speech, said it added 600,000 new users over the weekend. Meanwhile, MeWe, a similar service, said it has added 400,000 users every day since Saturday and now has more than 14 million members.

The gains follow Sunday’s shut down of conservative social network Parler, which went offline after Amazon web hosting service dumped Parler as a customer because of violent posts and threats in wake of the Capitol riot. Shortly beforehand, both Apple and Google had banned Parler from their app stores.

Adding to the increased interest in alternative social media sites are bans by Twitter and Facebook on President Trump and other high-profile conservative personalities..

On Monday, Fortune notes, Facebook went to the additional step of removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal” in hopes of preventing future violence. The phrase is a popular rallying call of Trump supporters who falsely believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein told the news outlet, adding, “The melting pot of people coming to MeWe are coming from all directions.”

Weinstein hammered home the point that his goal is to be “more vigilant” in moderating content on his service, and that he does not want to be an “anything goes” app—a thinly veiled swipe at Parler’s lax approach.

He said that MeWe has just shy of 100 content moderators who review posts on its service, and that they actually adhere to “strict” terms of service that includes the possibility that they’ll alert authorities about any concerning posts. But on Monday, several QAnon and “patriot” private groups could be found, one of which called Patriots Unleashed asked users if they were “armed and ready” before allowing them to join.

Weinstein acknowledged that some of MeWe’s user growth has been due to Parler shutting down. But he added that the app was growing prior to the election and riots. As a result, he said MeWe’s users have a wide array of political views, and are not just Trumpists.

“Those other guys, they’re opinion chambers,” he said about Parler and Gab. “We’re a social network.”

The rise of alternative social media services began late last year after Facebook and Twitter began labeling and removing more posts on their services for election misinformation. Conservatives considered the crackdown to be evidence of bias against them and President Trump.

For example, Rumble, a little-known YouTube rival, suddenly soared in popularity. Over the weekend, users downloaded its app 162,000 times— a nearly 10-fold gain from last weekend, Fortune says.

But Mark Shmulik, analyst at investment bank AB Bernstein, said he doesn’t expect the latest rise in popularity of MeWe and Gab to be long-lasting. “It’s a fad,” he said. “There will be a little niche, but it won’t disrupt what we’re seeing on Twitter.”

Shmulik said Twitter and Facebook, though growing slower, are far larger and also attract a more diverse set of users with a diverse set of thoughts. That’s what makes big social media companies more engaging than the upstarts, he added, which he described as the “equivalent to Trump rallies.”

“You can continue that, but at some point you have to reach the masses,” Shmulik said.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey chips in 28% of his personal wealth, $1B, to COVID-19 relief fund

April 9, 2020

“I hope this inspires others to do something similar,” Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter and Square, said on Tuesday, April 7, of his plans to donate $1 billion—or just under one-third of his total wealth, to relief programs for the novel coronavirus, The New York Times reported.

Dorsey said he would put 28% of his fortune, in the form of shares in his mobile payments company Square, into a limited liability company that he had created, called Start Small. The new company would make grants to beneficiaries, he said, with the expenditures to be recorded in a publicly accessible Google document.

“Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime,” Mr. Dorsey said—fittingly enough, in a series of tweets announcing his plans.

“ After we disarm this pandemic,” he tweeted, “the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI [universal basic income]. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-eGxq2mMoEGwgSpNVL5j2sa6ToojZUZ-Zun8h2oBAR4 …

According to the Times, Dorsey, 43, joins a growing list of celebrities, world leaders, and techies who are earmarking some portion of their wealth to fighting the spread of the coronavirus and its effects.

Oprah Winfrey has donated more than $10 million of her personal wealth to COVID-19 relief efforts, while other Hollywood personalities — including Justin Timberlake, Dolly Parton, and Rihanna — have also made contributions. Last week, the Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said he would donate $100 million to American food banks through a nonprofit, Feeding America. And Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, also has organized relief campaigns through Facebook and his own philanthropic organization with his wife Priscilla Chan, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Even so, the Times notes, Dorsey’s contribution stands out for the sum he is putting in and for how much of his net worth that represents.

He said the first $100,000 donation would be to America’s Food Fund, a high-profile effort committed to feeding the hungry. It was started in a GoFundMe page last week collectively by Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Apple. To date, $13.4 million has been raised toward the goal of $15 million, contributed by 7,500 donors.

“Life is too short, so let’s do everything we can today to help people now,” Dorsey tweeted, followed by an emoji of a peace sign hand gesture.

Square declined a request for an interview with Dorsey. Twitter declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Corporate America races to respond to a crisis that routs the usual 9-5 routine

March 11, 2020

Employers are implementing contingency plans—from dividing teams across locations, to limiting visitors, to allowing employees to telecommute—as the spread of the novel coronavirus is starting to topple basic expectations about the safety and sustainability of office-based work, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The moves, designed to minimize disruption to businesses while protecting workers, range from advising colleagues to stand at least six feet apart, to requiring that people register their personal travel plans with their employers. While some companies have done emergency planning, the virus’s breadth and speed are posing challenges still hard to anticipate, executives said.

On Monday, the Journal notes, Bank of America began splitting up some employees on its Equities and Fixed-Income teams between New York and Connecticut—creating redundancies, so that if an employee gets sick and a whole team has to self-quarantine, a backup team can keep functioning in its place. More than 100 employees will work from Connecticut, while the majority will remain in New York.

Microsoft has instructed thousands of its workers in Seattle and the Bay Area area to work from home if they are able, and recommended that employees still needed in open office spaces stay six feet away from others. The company also asked its staff to try to limit prolonged interaction with other people.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a company email, encouraging staff in California and areas around the world with a high concentration of infections to work from home if possible over the coming week. The note represented an escalation in the company’s caution to staff. It last week had encouraged its 25,000 workers across Silicon Valley to work from home.

Meanwhile, the news outlet reports, Harvard informed students this week that they should not return from Spring Break; all classes will be held online. In addition, several colleges, including Texas A&M and MIT, have started asking employees and students to register their personal travel plans, so that administrators can keep track as coronavirus spreads—and MIT says, “Classes with more than 150 students will begin meeting virtually [this week]…; numerous MIT events have been postponed or modified.”

Stripe a San Francisco-area financial-technology company, has switched to videoconferencing for job interviews in place of on-site meetings. Becton Dickinson ,a medical-supplies company based in New Jersey, told employees to limit client meetings off-site.

Facebook, which on Thursday recommended that thousands of its employees in the San Francisco-area start working from home, is further encouraging people to stay away from the campus by canceling shuttle-bus operations for the coming week.

San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase last week asked several types of workers—including people with compromised immune systems, those who are “at risk because of age,” or people for whom getting sick would be especially problematic—to start working from home, according to Philip Martin, the company’s chief information security officer. He estimates that 200 out of 1,000 employees globally fell into groups that Coinbase asked to work remotely, including single parents and pregnant employees. The company on Friday suggested all employees begin working from home if they can starting this week.

However, The Wall Street Journal notes, working from home doesn’t work for swaths of the employee universe, from food-service and hotel staffers to nurses. Nearly four in 10 workers in the United States (or 37%) say it isn’t possible at all for them to do their job by working from home for a period of several weeks, according to a new Wall Street Journal/SurveyMonkey poll.

Companies say they are looking to federal and local authorities for guidance, but they are also closely watching how their peers respond, often not wanting to be first to implement a drastic protocol, said Lars Schmidt, the founder of Amplify, an HR consulting and executive-search firm.

“There’s a bit of a cascading impact,” he said. “Companies are holding out to see what others are doing.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Apple, Goldman Sachs market virtual Apple Cards to consumers

August 7, 2019

Apple and Goldman Sachs Group rolled out a virtual credit card on August 6, in a deal designed to enable the iPhone maker to diversify from device sales and to build out the Wall Street bank’s new consumer business.

Apple intends to market the card to iPhone owners, Reuters reports—offering 2% cash back on purchases via the Apple Pay service, no fees, and an app to manage related finances.

On the Goldman Sachs side, the new card is intended to help build the new Marcus by Goldman Sachs consumer brand; which the bank started in 2015 to even out volatile results from businesses, such as trading and investment banking.

On Tuesday, Apple shares were up about 1 percent at $195.30 in trading before the bell. According to the Reuters report, the company said a limited number of the people who had expressed interest in the Apple Card would start receiving sign-up invitations immediately.

“The Apple Card doesn’t play in the same league as premium rewards credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or AmEx Platinum,” said Sara Rathner, an expert on credit cards at NerdWallet.

She noted, “Those cards charge ultra-high fees, but in return you get some pretty sweet perks: massive sign-up bonuses, annual statement credits, free Global Entry, and a higher point-earning rate for travel expenses.”

Apple will offer an option for a physical card made of titanium, but with no visible number. Instead, the card’s number is stored on a secure chip inside the iPhone, which will generate virtual numbers for online or over-the-phone purchases that require a number.

Apple said purchase information would be stored on the user’s iPhone and that it cannot see the data. Goldman will not be allowed to use data for marketing purposes, even for selling its other products.

Gene Munster, managing partner with Loup Ventures and a longtime Apple watcher, said the card’s adoption is likely to be low in the first year, but it could generate about $1.4 billion of high-margin revenue by 2023.

That would add about 1.8% to Apple’s overall earnings and complement the much larger Apple Pay business for total payments revenue of $5.38 billion by 2023. Apple has roughly 50 million U.S. Apple Pay users now.

But at Apple’s size—$265.6 billion in sales for fiscal 2018—the revenue matters less than the effect on keeping Apple customers tied to its brand, Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies said for the Reuters story.

“If it works, it’s one more thing that causes you to stay deeply loyal and entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, even if something better comes along,” he said.

Research contact:  @Reuters