US Congress targets Apple over iPhone slowing

Apple is set to face a grilling in the US Congress over allegations it slowed older phones to encourage consumers to purchase newer models.

The head of the Senate’s commerce committe, Senator John Thune, has written to Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook to demand an explanation for why Apple slowed down phones with flagging batteries and why it would not provide free batteries if older ones caused so much difficulty to devices.

Mr Thune’s letter follows confirmation from French prosecutors that an investigation is being fronted by the finance ministry’s fraud control department after Apple admitted slowing down old devices with low-capacity batteries.

“Apple’s proposed solutions have prompted additional criticism from some customers, particularly its decision not to provide free replacement batteries,” Thune said, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Apple revealed it had “downclocked” older models’ central processing units (CPU) but said it did so to reduce the strain on dated batteries and stop the devices from unexpectedly shutting down.

The iPhone X
Image: Apple recently released the iPhone X

At the time, the company asserted it would never “do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades”.

Amid a wave of class action lawsuits over the “deceptive, immoral, and unethical” phone slowing, Apple issued an apology and vowed to be more transparent with customers over the capacity of iPhone batteries.

In a post on its website, it said: “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologise.”

The admission came after years of speculation from Apple customers that their older handsets were being slowed down in a bid to entice them into an upgrade.

Apple: A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance

A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance

We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

How batteries age

All rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes. Time and the number of times a battery has been charged are not the only factors in this chemical aging process.

Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry.

A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.

To help customers learn more about iPhone’s rechargeable battery and the factors affecting its performance, we’ve posted a new support article, iPhone Battery and Performance.

It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable. We don’t want any of our users to lose a call, miss taking a picture or have any other part of their iPhone experience interrupted if we can avoid it.

Preventing unexpected shutdowns

About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.

Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.

Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.

Recent user feedback

Over the course of this fall, we began to receive feedback from some users who were seeing slower performance in certain situations. Based on our experience, we initially thought this was due to a combination of two factors: a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system as iPhone installs new software and updates apps, and minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed.

We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, many of which are still running on their original batteries.

Addressing customer concerns

We’ve always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We’re proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors’ devices.

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

At Apple, our customers’ trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support — and we will never forget that or take it for granted.

Broadcom offers to buy Qualcomm for a record $130 billion

Wireless chip manufacturer Broadcom has officially bid to buy its rival Qualcomm in a deal worth up to $130 billion. If successful, it would become the richest tech acquisition in history, nearly doubling Dell’s $67 billion purchase of EMC in 2015. Rumors of the acquisition started popping up yesterday, and the offer will likely kick off a pitched battle between the two companies and regulators around the world.

Qualcomm has been particularly vulnerable lately, having been fined in Korea and Taiwan for breaching anti-trust rules, and fighting battles with Apple and other firms over wireless technology patents. The company has even gone so far as to file a lawsuit seeking to ban sales of the iPhone in China. As a result of all that, its stock has fallen steeply, making it a much better bargain than it was just a year ago. Broadcomm’s offer now represents a 30 percent premium over the current stock price.

“We would not make this offer if we were not confident that our common global customers would embrace the proposed combination,” said Broadcom CEO Hock Tan. “Our proposal provides Qualcomm stockholders with a substantial and immediate premium in cash for their shares, as well as the opportunity to participate in the upside potential of the combined company.”

We would not make this offer if we were not confident that our common global customers would embrace the proposed combination.

Qualcomm is not that thrilled about the unsolicited offer, however, according to Bloomberg and other sources. It will reportedly recommend that shareholders reject it, saying that it could get held up in regulatory purgatory, negating any potential stock gains.

Broadcom itself was recently acquired by Singapore-based Avago for $37 billion. The combined company, now called Broadcom, made a much-publicized announcement with Donald Trump to move its home base to Delaware (the company has joint headquarters in San Diego, California and Singapore).

Both companies currently supply Apple with wireless chips and patent licenses, and the deal would make Broadcom the world’s third-largest chipmaker after Intel and Samsung. If successful, Broadcom/Qualcomm would have a virtual monopoly and vast patent portfolio on wireless chips and technology.

That could have a sharp effect on the supply and cost of WiFi and cell modem chips, so US regulators might have serious concerns. In other words, don’t expect this deal to close anytime in the near future.

Share your thoughts.

iPhone users complain iOS 11 slows down their apps

Apple is catching some heat over the release of the new iOS 11. A litany of iPhone users are reporting experiencing a significant drop in performance after updating to the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system.

The issues range from reduced battery life to noticeably slower app performance, according to numerous posters on Reddit. Among other things, users are complaining that apps either take unusually long to open or crash altogether when loading. One common trait is that issues began occurring after updating to iOS 11.

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“Ever since I upgraded, launching apps is an absolute chore,” one dissatisfied user wrote. “Safari, Reddit, ESPN, Yahoo, texts [and more] all have a terrible time opening. They either crash back to home, freeze and require closing the app, or take well over a minute to load. I never had a single issue with my [iPhone] 7+ before last night.”

The sentiment seemed to be shared among Apple consumers.

“My iPhone 7 did so well throughout the public beats until the last one or two,” another user writes. “Now apps are slow, Snapchat is not functional when I open it via notifications, the Music app just crashed and my iPhone needs to be rebooted a few times a week. Battery life is suffering as well.”

Another complaint says the following:

I have this [performance] problem all the time. It seems to come and go a little bit, but sometimes my phone will just get stuck on apps, and it happens with Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Messenger, Safari, basically any app that I can think of. Often a hard reset is the only way out. [It all started] happening after iOS 11

A slew of users have also mentioned having difficulties using the control center from lock screen, including noticing faulty behavior when changing songs or adjusting the volume.

In all fairness, the issue doesn’t seem to be affecting all users, with some reporting their iPhones are functioning nice and smooth after updating to iOS 11.

One thing to keep in mind is that minor technical issues following major release updates aren’t all that uncommon –  even for the Big A. The good thing is that you can take some measures to alleviate the damage.

Those who are yet to move to the latest iteration of the mobile OS can check which apps are still not optimized for iOS 11 prior to updating. Unfortunately, if you have already installed the update, your best bet is to simply wait for Apple to distribute fixes in upcoming updates.

You could also opt to revert your iPhone back to iOS 10, but the process is rather cumbersome and not all users are reporting the move has been successful so far. You might be better off holding off for the next iOS 11 update.


Google buys HTC assets in $1.1bn return to mobile phone ownership

Google has bought part of HTC’s mobile phone division for $1.1bn (£820m), a return to hardware ownership for the company.

The deal will see 2,000 HTC staff join the US internet giant and underlines Google’s broadening ambitions in smartphone production.

Google develops the Android operating system used in more than 80pc of the world’s smartphones but largely relies on manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and HTC itself to make and sell its phones, unlike Apple, which controls the design and development of both software and hardware.

Last year it released the first Google-branded phone, the Pixel, which is manufactured by HTC, and is gearing up to release a new model next month, but having thousands of staff join the company will expand the venture. The Pixel has been well received but only produced in small quantities.

Of the 2,000 staff moving from HTC, roughly about a fifth of its workforce, many are already working on the Pixel. Google is also acquiring a licence for HTC intellectual property.

The Taiwanese group said it would continue to produce its own phones, including a new flagship device, as well as continuing its Vive virtual reality headset and investing in other technologies.

Hanging over the deal will be the ghost of Motorola Mobility, the phone maker Google paid $12.5bn for in 2011. Motorola struggled under its ownership and it was sold to Lenovo for $2.9bn in 2014, retaining certain patents. Two other hardware companies, Nest and Dropcam, have also been seen as disappointments under Google ownership.

“HTC has been a longtime partner and has created some of the most beautiful, high-end devices on the market,” Rick Osterloh, the head of Google’s hardware department, said.

The Taiwanese company, whose shares had been suspended pending the announcement, was responsible for some of the first Android handsets capable of competing with the iPhone. But it failed to capitalise and as Samsung moved into the high-end of the market, HTC’s market share collapsed. Shares have fallen 95pc since 2011.

The company’s chief executive Cher Wang said it still had a bright future. “We believe HTC is well positioned to maintain our rich legacy of innovation and realise the potential of a new generation of connected products and services,” she said.


iOS 11 has introduced a Snapchat loophole that is allowing people to secretly record other users’ snaps

Apple’s new iOS 11 update has introduced an iPhone feature that has unsettling ramifications for Snapchat users.

The operating system’s new screen record function is allowing some Snapchat users to record other people’s snaps without alerting them.

The app allows users to share photos and videos, called snaps, which disappear after a set amount of seconds, and screen-grabbing other people’s snaps is generally considered poor etiquette.

Until now, the only way to capture some else’s snap was via a screenshot, after which users received a notification alerting them that their photos or videos had been screen-grabbed.

This week iOS 11 introduced a screen record button in the iPhone command centre that lets people make video recordings of what they are doing and seeing on their screen.

Some Snapchat users have reported that the app is sending a screenshot notification when screen record is used while viewing someone else’s snaps.

Social experiment screenshot recordings for iOS11 notifies anyone on snapchat you took a screenshot of their snap. I have done that to 5 people

The Telegraph understands that Snapchat is attempting to fix the issue in its latest app update (version 10.17.5), which was released today. However the fully-updated app may not be able to detect when screen record is on if the person using it hasn’t also installed the latest version of Snapchat.

Tests conducted by the Telegraph showed that users were not getting alerts when snaps were captured using screen record until they installed the 10.17.5 update.

Even with the latest update, our tests found that screen recording didn’t always trigger a screenshot notification, and when it did these sometimes came through after a delay.

Snapchat screen record iOS 11

The issue will prove unsettling for regular Snapchat users, who are used posting transient photos and video knowing they’ll be alerted if anyone records them.

Snapchat’s ephemeral nature has been key in driving its rapid growth since it was founded in 2011 by a trio of Sanford University undergraduates.

Last month Snapchat announced it had reached 173 million daily users in the second quarter of this year and over 10 million people use the app on a daily basis in the UK.

The app is particularly popular with younger people with 45 per cent of Snapchat users aged between 18 and 24.


It’s about to get tougher for cops, border agents to get at your iPhone’s data

Infosec researcher tells Ars new iOS update will “f-up border searches.”

According to security experts who have reviewed early developer versions of the forthcoming iOS 11, law enforcement will soon have a harder time conducting digital forensic searches of iPhones and iPads. This move is possibly to enhance Fifth Amendment protections of Apple’s users and perhaps frustrate searches at the US border.

The changes were first reported last week by Elcomsoft, a Russian software company. These changes are coming in conjunction with another privacy-minded feature that will disable Touch ID by pressing the power button five times.

Prior to this latest version of the firmware, in order for an iOS device to be “trusted” by a computer that it was physically connected to, that device had to be unlocked first via Touch ID or passcode. Next, the device would prompt the user: “Trust This Computer?” Only then could the entire device’s data could be extracted and imaged. Under iOS 11, this sequence has changed to also specifically require the passcode on the device after the “Trust This Computer?” prompt.

While the change may seem minor, the fact that the passcode will be specifically required as the final step before any data can be pulled off the phone means that law enforcement and border agents won’t have as much routine access to fully image a seized device.

When Ars e-mailed, Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, he agreed that Apple’s move may enhance Fifth Amendment protections.

“I gather the government could still search the phone manually, but it will be significantly more difficult,” he said.

Nicholas Weaver—a computer science researcher at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California, who also wrote about this issue on Lawfare—agreed.

“What it is really going to [do is] f-up border searches,” he told Ars. “And good: It changes it from ‘just dump the phone for the heck of it’ to ‘search by human while they have phone in hand.'”

Bitter border battle
When Touch ID debuted four years ago, San Francisco lawyer Marcia Hofmann raised questions about allowing one’s fingerprint to be an easy way to open up a digital device. As she noted at the time, it’s fairly well-established law that being compelled to give up a passcode (rather than a Touch ID fingerprint) is generally believed to have more legal protections under the Fifth Amendment, which protects against self-incrimination.
Back in 2012, the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a defendant (“John Doe”) accused of possessing child pornography.

“We conclude that the decryption and production would be tantamount to testimony by Doe of his knowledge of the existence and location of potentially incriminating files; of his possession, control, and access to the encrypted portions of the drives; and of his capability to decrypt the files,” the court wrote. For now, this remains the highest court to have directly addressed the subject.

In one famous and more recent example, a former Philadelphia police officer accused of possessing child porn has been behind bars for nearly two years after refusing a court order to decrypt a hard drive believed to contain the offending files.

However, at the border, searching a digital device (or anything, really) is subject to a particular exception to the Fourth Amendment, which ordinarily requires a warrant. Due to this “border exception,” individuals can ostensibly be asked to decrypt their device. If they refuse, they could potentially be held in custody.

In the February 2017 case of a California artist who was questioned at San Francisco International Airport upon re-entry, after he finally agreed to unlock his iPhone, it was taken out of his sight for several minutes and could have been imaged without his knowledge. Under iOS 11, unless the artist, Aaron Gach, decided to actually give up the passcode (rather than type it in himself), he could at least have been reasonably confident that the phone could not be imaged without his knowledge.

More security = more better
As Ars has reported previously, Gach’s case is just one of a rapidly increasing number of border searches of digital devices. Customs and Border Protection has not provided any public explanation as to why. However, the agency maintains that such searches are exceedingly rare.
In March 2017, Robert Brisley, a CBP spokesman based in Atlanta, sent Ars a lengthy statement detailing the agency’s policy regarding such searches. That statement notes that the number of such electronic device searches remain minuscule, pointing out that, in 2016, “CBP processed more than 390 million arrivals and performed 23,877 electronic media searches. This equates to CBP performing an electronic search on 0.0061 percent of arrivals.”

“Requiring a passcode before a device can be accessed, imaged, or otherwise copied does have the potential to strengthen bulwarks against government access to individuals’ private data,” Abraham Rein, an attorney in Philadelphia who specializes in these issues, told Ars. “That said, courts have identified various ways around this Fifth Amendment protection in the compelled-decryption context, so whether this change would help in a given set of circumstances will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.”

Riana Pfefferkorn, a legal fellow at Stanford University, agreed. She also said that this new software design choice may not specifically be about enhancing Fifth Amendment protections and trying to frustrate police efforts.

“If a passcode is now required in order to sync a device with a new machine, that has practical utility for security purposes above and beyond the context of a device seized by law enforcement (for example if a thief, or an abusive partner, gets hold of the device while it’s unlocked),” she e-mailed Ars. “Bear in mind also that if law enforcement’s goal is to obtain a backup of the device, they can already serve legal process on Apple to get Apple to turn over the last device backup that was uploaded to iCloud (if that feature is turned on). That backup may not be super recent, however (as in the Syed Farook case).”

Neither Apple nor the International Association of Chiefs of Police nor Customs and Border Protection immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.

Apple will unveil the next iPhone on September 12th at its new campus

To the surprise of almost no one, Apple has announced it’ll be holding its annual iPhone event on Tuesday, September 12th. It’ll be the first event hosted at Apple’s new “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, California. Sure, Apple didn’t say exactly what to expect, but given that the company has introduced a new iPhone around this timeframe for the last six years, it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll be seeing new mobile phones.

That includes the “iPhone 8,” a device that’s expected to be radically different from its predecessors. Improvements rumored include an edge-to-edge OLED screen, face detection, wireless charging, a virtual home button and an updated dual-camera system.

Apple’s September event is usually its biggest of the year, at least from a hardware perspective. Beyond the new iPhone, we’re also expecting to hear about an iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, in keeping with Apple’s usual upgrade cycle. As for non-phone hardware, rumors are swirling about updates for both the Apple Watch and Apple TV.

Finally, we could hear more about the HomePod speaker that was unveiled at WWDC this past June. If Apple wants to have it out on the market for this holiday season, the timing makes sense to get more details and even a price and release date.

From a software standpoint, Apple will almost certainly say when iOS 11, macOS High Sierra and WatchOS 4 will be ready for customers to download to their devices. While the Mac updates have typically taken a little longer, the new iOS and WatchOS should be out within a few weeks from the event. Given how much Apple is expected to reveal, we’re not expecting much Mac news at this event. But regardless of what’s in store, we’ll be there to cover the news live.



Earlier this year it was rumored that the iPhone 8 wouldn’t get the what’s come to be standard September release date, but instead would launch later in the year.

However, KGI Securities has a new set of predictions and it looks like the upcoming model might get its September reveal after all. A new report from the company, which is usually pretty spot on with its predictions, says that the iPhone 8 will likely launch alongside the 7s and 7s Plus models.

Unfortunately, the sooner-than-expected release date is also likely to come with short supplies, which will be low at launch and continue to be constrained throughout the holidays and into 2018.

KGI also says that the new models will come in three colors: black, silver and gold. The company expects that the new phones will work with fast charging when used with a separately-sold USB-C Lightning cable and may support wireless charging via an additional accessory.

Earlier reports have also shown renders of the iPhone 8 with a nearly bezel-less display, a notch for the speaker and front-facing cameras and no home button.

If these supply predictions turn out to be true, expect long lines and quick sell outs come September

Apple released a slew of software updates today for nearly all of its systems; you can now download macOS Sierra 10.12.6, iOS 10.3.3, watchOS 3.2.3, and tvOS 10.2.2 to any of your compatible devices. The updates appear to be minor, as most of them focus on bug fixes.

MacOS Sierra 10.12.6 is the sixth update to this version of Apple’s operating system, and it may very well be the last before the introduction of macOS High Sierra. As per Apple’s usual refresher schedule, macOS High Sierra should be pushed out to users this fall.

According to Apple’s information page, macOS Sierra 10.12.6 improves the “security, stability, and compatibility” of Mac systems and tackles three main issues:

  • “Resolves an issue that prevents making certain SMB connections from the Finder.”
  • “Fixes an issue that causes Xsan clients to unexpectedly restart when moving a file within a relation point on a Quantum StorNext File System.”
  • “Improves the stability of Terminal app.”

That’s the extent of the details provided for any of these updates. Neither iOS 10.3.3 nor watchOS 3.2.3 lists any new features, but they do mention general “improvements” and “bug fixes.”

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Similarly to macOS, the operating systems for iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches will be totally revamped when iOS 11 and watchOS 4 launch. Both of those updates are expected to come out alongside macOS High Sierra in the fall.

MacOS Sierra 10.12.6 can be downloaded to supported Mac devices through the Mac App Store, while iOS 10.3.3 is available as a free OTA update, accessible through the Settings app, for supported iPhones and iPads. WatchOS 3.2.3 is available for all Apple Watch models through the Watch app under the General setting.

The full version of tvOS 10.2.2 is also now available for fourth-generation Apple TV devices and can be downloaded through the Settings menu.