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Apple Is Reopening Over 100 US Retail Stores This Week, Most With Curbside or Storefront Service Only

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Michael Steeber, reporting for 9to5Mac:

While individual US state guidance varies, you can generally expect to be required to wear a mask and pass a temperature check to enter an Apple Store for the foreseeable future. The ability to browse is limited, with Apple emphasizing online sales and in-store support.

We recently analyzed the COVID-19 response of more than two dozen top retailers in comparison to Apple’s procedures. The new safety guidelines Apple has enforced for the protection of employees and customers are among the most stringent in the industry and have proven successful at reopenings around the world.

Josh Centers, writing at The Prepared last month, proposed The Apple Store Index as an indication of where it’s actually safe to reopen retail establishments, and to what degree.

And Apple is choosing to burn millions, possibly billions of dollars in cash to keep people safe. Because as much as closing its stores is costing the company, a pile of dead employees and customers will cost even more. And Apple, being a wildly successful business even in the worst economic conditions, can withstand a lot more pressure to re-open than any politician. While many governors are having their arms figuratively twisted by President Trump and angry protestors, no one will be calling for Tim Cook’s head until at least Apple’s Q2 earnings report, due on April 30, 2020. Even then, years of strong performance under Cook and his prior experience in dealing with shareholder uprisings will insulate him for a long time.

So for that reason, no matter what my governor says, I won’t consider stepping into a crowd until Apple gives the all-clear.

It’s worth noting that Apple’s retail reopenings in China have gone well.

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joelowrance
80 days ago
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Curbside service? The fire codes along those curbs will change multiple times before any service happens.
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jtr
79 days ago
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"Josh Centers, writing at The Prepared last month, proposed The Apple Store Index as an indication of where it’s actually safe to reopen retail establishments, and to what degree."

★ ‘What Time Is It in London?’

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Nilay Patel asked this of Siri on his Apple Watch. After too long of a wait, he got the correct answer — for London Canada. I tried on my iPhone and got the same result. Stupid and slow is heck of a combination.

You can argue that giving the time in London Ontario isn’t wrong per se, but that’s nonsense. If you had a human assistant and asked them “What’s the time in London?” and they honestly thought the best way to answer that question was to give you the time for the nearest London, which happened to be in Ontario or Kentucky, you’d fire that assistant. You wouldn’t fire them for getting that one answer wrong, you’d fire them because that one wrong answer is emblematic of a serious cognitive deficiency that permeates everything they try to do. You’d never have hired them in the first place, really, because there’s no way a person this stupid would get through a job interview. You don’t have to be particularly smart or knowledgeable to assume that “London” means “London England”, you just have to not be stupid.

Worse, I tried on my HomePod and Siri gave me the correct answer: the time in London England. I say this is worse because it exemplifies how inconsistent Siri is. Why in the world would you get a completely different answer to a very simple question based solely on which device answers your question? At least when most computer systems are wrong they’re consistently wrong.

I tried the same question on every other system I know where it should work: “What time is it in London?”

So every other service that tries to answer “What time is it in London?” gets it right. Only Siri gets it wrong.

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joelowrance
84 days ago
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Gruber catching on to what everyone else already knows: Siri is usually OK only for timers or alarms.
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The State of Scamware on the Mac

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Last week there was a hubbub regarding a report from antivirus software vendor Malwarebytes that claimed “Mac threats increased exponentially in comparison to those against Windows PCs” in 2020. That line got a lot of headlines.

Michael Tsai:

This sounds really bad at first, like the number of Mac threats is growing in proportion to the (larger) number of Windows threats. But I guess they are just using the non-technical meaning of “exponential,” so the whole thing boils down to “more than.” […]

This sounds unnecessarily alarmist compared with the contents of the report, and I remain convinced that for most users Apple’s built-in security measures are sufficient. I’ve seen far more Mac problems caused by anti-virus software than actual viruses.

Computer viruses are called viruses because like biological viruses, they spread by themselves. What Malwarebytes is talking about are scam apps — things that trick or otherwise convince the user to install voluntarily. Dan Goodin had a piece at Ars Technica last month about the scourge of fake Adobe Flash installers — which work because unsophisticated Mac users had been truthfully told they needed to upgrade their version of Flash for a decade. It’s a real problem — but third-party antivirus software is not the answer. As usual, Tsai has a wonderful compilation of links to commentary on the matter.

Be sure to read Jason Snell’s excellent take, which convincingly makes the point that Apple has been working to protect Mac users from these sort of apps for years, exemplified by this technical note Apple published back in November, expanding their definition of “suspicious software” that MacOS defends against.

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joelowrance
175 days ago
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2020 state of scamware on mac, on 1997's HTML. Not that any of us really miss 62kb pages
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★ My 2018 Apple Report Card

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At the end of January, Jason Snell published his annual Six Colors Apple Report Card for 2018. This year 55 voters (hand-selected by Snell) graded Apple in 11 areas. I was one of them, and thought it only fair to publish my grades and remarks here at Daring Fireball. Comments in [brackets] are additional commentary I wrote now, and were not included in what I submitted to Snell.

Mac: D

I’d say it’s been an OK year at best. On the MacBook front they had decent MacBook Pro updates and the third-gen butterfly keyboard seems to have fixed the reliability problems with the previous keyboards. But these keyboards are not great. A few people really like them, but most people agree they feel worse than the old keyboards. I may be biased as a writer and a keyboard aficionado, but it used to be the case that Apple’s notebook keyboards were widely hailed as the best in the world — that’s no longer the case, and I think that’s a problem.

I like the new retina MacBook Air a lot, but it was overdue by at least a year.

The new Mac Mini is great, but we still didn’t get a new Mac Pro and none of the iMacs were updated. That’s not good.

Mojave seems fine overall but I personally don’t care about Dark Mode, and the new “Marzipan” apps — Home, News, Stocks, Voice Memos — range from “not great and a little weird” (Home) to “downright terrible” (the other three).

[A “D” may seem harsh here, but the more I think about these MacBook keyboards the more unacceptable I find the whole situation. Apple makes a great keyboard today — the standalone Magic Keyboard 2 has a terrific feel and is completely reliable.

I heard a story years ago about Steve Jobs after the release of the original iPad. Jobs had been on medical leave in 2009 and when he returned to Apple, he was focused almost entirely on the iPad. In 2010, after the iPad was introduced, he had a meeting scheduled with engineers on the MacBook team. The meeting was big picture — What’s the future of the MacBook?, that sort of thing. These engineers had prepared a ton of material to present to Jobs. Jobs comes into the meeting carrying an iPad. He goes to a then-shipping MacBook on a table and wakes it up. It takes a few seconds. He says something like “Look at how long this takes.” He puts it to sleep, he wakes it up. It takes a few moments each time. Then he puts the iPad on the table and hits the power button. On. Off. On. Off. Instantly. Jobs said something like “I want you to make this” — and he pointed to the MacBook — “like this” — and he pointed to the iPad. And then he walked out of the room and that was that.

Is this story true? I don’t know. But it sounds true — and MacBooks do wake up a lot faster than they used to. I’d like someone at Apple to go to the MacBook team with a Magic Keyboard and do the same thing. “I want you to take this keyboard and put it in these MacBooks.”

The MacBook keyboards, lack of iMac updates, and still-missing Mac Pro would’ve led me to give Apple a “C” for the Mac. I took off a whole grade for how embarrassingly bad the “Marzipan” apps are.]

iPhone: A

On the hardware front, the iPhone XS and XS Max are great flagships, and months later I continue to be amazed by the quality and capabilities of their camera systems, both for stills and especially for video. There are some Android phones that are arguably as good as the iPhone for still photography but Apple is years ahead on video.

The iPhone XR is way more XS-comparable than I expected. The compromises Apple chose — LCD instead of OLED, a single rear-facing camera, aluminum instead of stainless steel — aren’t noticeable by most people. And the XR gets better battery life — noticeably better. After spending a few weeks using an XR full-time, I honestly question whether its LCD isn’t better than the XS’s OLED for my needs.

iOS 12 is one of my favorite iOS updates for iPhone in years. Apple promised back at WWDC that they were focusing on performance and they delivered. It’s faster and more reliable, and the new grouped notifications are a joy to use. iOS 12 on iPhone is Apple at its software best.

iPad: B

I really wish this were two categories, hardware and software. On the hardware front Apple had an “A” year. The new 9.7-inch iPad at a sub-$400 starting price is a terrific mass market tablet, now with Apple Pencil support. The new iPad Pros are, quite simply, the best portable computers ever made by anyone. They are astounding in every regard — display quality, performance (CPU and GPU), size and weight. They feel like artifacts from a few years in the future.

Software-wise, I’d be tempted to rate this year for iPad as “N/A”. It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad — it was nothing. Which, effectively, is bad, because I think the iPad needs an “iPadOS” overhaul. The iPad has always been great for simple use cases. “It’s just a big iPhone” is, for many people and many use cases, a compliment, not an insult. But the iPad needs to scale better for advanced use cases — without complicating simple use cases — and iOS 12 wasn’t an advance on that front in any meaningful way.

Apple Watch: B

I don’t think Apple gets enough credit for its expertise in miniaturization. They’ve long been the best company in the world at making ever-smaller ever-more-powerful tiny personal computers, and their lead seems to be growing, not shrinking. Apple Watch exemplifies that.

My only beef with Series 4 hardware and WatchOS 5 is that there’s an aesthetic mismatch between new hardware and watch faces and old hardware and watch faces. The new WatchOS faces only look right on the new Series 4 watches, and the old faces only look truly right on the older watch hardware.

Apple TV: C

I don’t think Apple needed to come out with new Apple TV hardware this year, but they should have dropped the price on the existing hardware.

Services: B

iCloud Photos is now one of the best sync services I’ve ever used. It’s fast and reliable, and it handles data that I consider invaluable — my family’s photos and videos. iCloud overall has gotten very good. But the 5 GB free tier is just ridiculous at this point.

HomeKit: C

[No remarks.]

Hardware Reliability: B

[No remarks.]

Software Quality: C

[No remarks.]

Developer Relations: C

[No remarks. ]

Environmental/Social: B

[No remarks submitted, but I wish now that I’d made mention of Lisa Jackson’s remarks on stage at the September iPhone XS/XR introduction. Given all the conspiracy theories about Apple and planned obsolescence, it was fascinating to see Jackson on stage touting the durability and longevity of iPhone hardware. Apple promised that iOS 12 would run faster than iOS 11 on older hardware and they made good on that promise. Apple is right to be proud of this, and it’s good for customers and good for the environment. And in the long run, good for Apple.]


Retail: C

In between Snell’s release of the 2018 report card and my posting this piece, Apple has announced that Angela Ahrendts is leaving in April. In the wake of this, there’s been a lot of commentary about the state of Apple’s retail stores, which, in turn, makes me think that “Retail” should be one of the categories on the Six Colors report card. If it were, I’d have given Apple a “C”.

The two best things Apple has done in retail during the Ahrendts era are opening architecturally amazing new flagship stores around the world, and the “Today at Apple” program in every store. But for me, personally, I don’t care about huge new flagship stores in Dubai or Paris, and I don’t partake in the “Today at Apple” classes. I care about two things: buying stuff and getting service at my local Apple Store here in Philadelphia.

I’ve disliked the experience of buying stuff at the Apple Store ever since they did away with queues for checking out. I just want to get in line, wait my turn, pay, and leave. Instead, the way to check out at an Apple Store is to wander around until you get the attention of an employee who has one of the handheld checkout iPod Touches. This can be maddening. My wife refuses to shop at an Apple Store for this reason. I know you can use the Apple Store app to check yourself out, but I don’t like it. Part of the reason Apple’s stores are too crowded is that people are wandering around trying to pay for things.

And getting technical support at Apple Stores is terrible now. In the old days you could just walk in with a broken or otherwise problematic device and get an appointment at the Genius Bar within the hour. Now, the Genius Bar is booked for days in advance — sometimes close to a week. In some ways that’s inevitable — Apple is way more popular now than it was pre-iPhone. But inevitable or not, the result is that getting support at an Apple Store now stinks. And frankly, the technical acumen of the Genius Bar staffers is now hit-or-miss.

“Today at Apple” is nice, but the primary purposes of an Apple Store should be shopping and service — and I think both of those experiences should be a lot better.

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joelowrance
546 days ago
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Retail is a C? If I never step foot inside another apple store it will be too soon.

"I know exactly what I want and like to spend $2000"

"Certainly, sir! Can I have your name and someone will be with you in 45 minutes"
kyounger
546 days ago
So maddening.
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satadru
543 days ago
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Totally agree that Instant-on is now de rigeur. My chrome os tablet is instant on, and that's such a wonderful thing to have.

Not sure about the Apple Store experience though. One of the nice things about being in NYC is that you can find an appointment the same day at some Apple Store in the city.
New York, NY

Rene Ritchie’s Review of the New Smart Battery Cases

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I got mine this morning. First impressions:

It’s thick and heavy, but for a practical reason. It packs a big battery. I’m writing this at 10p and my iPhone is still at 100 percent. The case is on the cusp of depletion, but I had only gotten it up to 75 percent before unplugging it. It’s a much more clever design than the previous one. Texture- and button-wise, it feels exactly like Apple’s regular silicone cases.

One note: mine arrived with 0 percent charge. From what I’ve seen, so is everyone else’s. Apple products usually arrive with some usable amount of battery charge, but I think something is different about standalone batteries, as opposed to batteries built into devices. Apple.com’s ordering page even states that standalone lithium-based batteries can only ship by ground, not air. At 0 percent, it wouldn’t charge when placed on a Qi charger. I had to charge it via Lightning for a bit first, then it worked on the Qi charger as expected.

If you want a battery case, I feel certain Apple’s is the one to get. But if you only need a portable charger occasionally, I think an external battery pack is still the way to go — if only because it’ll charge any device.

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joelowrance
574 days ago
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At only $129.00? Bargain at half the price
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jhamill
574 days ago
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Stand Alone Batteries ship via ground only due to US shipping regulations. All lithium ion batteries not contained INSIDE a product can only be shipped by ground.
California

Sorry, Even a ‘Record-Setting’ Fine Isn’t Going to Cut It

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Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, reporting for The Washington Post:

U.S. regulators have met to discuss imposing a record-setting fine against Facebook for violating a legally binding agreement with the government to protect the privacy of its users’ personal data, according to three people familiar with the deliberations but not authorized to speak on the record.

The fine under consideration at the Federal Trade Commission, a privacy and security watchdog that began probing Facebook last year, would mark the first major punishment levied against Facebook in the United States since reports emerged in March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, accessed personal information on about 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

The penalty is expected to be much larger than the $22.5 million fine the agency imposed on Google in 2012. That fine set a record for the greatest penalty for violating an agreement with the FTC to improve its privacy practices.

It could be 10 times the $22 million fine levied against Google and it wouldn’t make Facebook bat an eyelash or regret anything. The company needs to be broken up.

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joelowrance
574 days ago
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how about every FAANG company gets broken up?
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