Your Tech Night Owl Newsletter — Issue #969

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Gene Steinberg

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***Issue #969***
July 9, 2018


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If you’ve tried the iOS 12 public beta, you might at first not see much of a difference. But going through settings and just experimenting with different apps, you ought to see some telling differences. Apple has also done lots of under-the-hood work to make your gear perform better.

The iPhone 6 is often used for demonstration. It’s the next-to-oldest model supported by iOS 12 and the update credibly disproves the oft-repeated theory that Apple deliberately designs a new OS to run badly on older devices to entice you to buy a new iPhone. This is also the logic — such as it is — that fuels class-action lawsuit as the result of this ongoing conspiracy.

Not so with iOS 12, although I don’t have enough experience with the public beta to really quantify the improvement. But if it works as advertised, with performance boosts of 50% or more on an iPhone 6 and major improvements on other supported models, it would mean that Apple has reached the seemingly illogical conclusion to sell fewer iPhones by speeding up older ones so you’d keep them longer. Then again, how is disappointing existing customers with poor performance supposedly to improve sales? Happy customers are more apt to stay Apple.

On the other hand, my wife’s iPhone 5c is stuck in the iOS 10 zone, and has been somewhat sluggish for years. But she still keeps it because we’re cash short, and she uses it mostly to make phone calls. But she finds the small screen too confining and uses her iPad for other tasks.

And what about Apple’s competition? Well, it doesn’t seem as if all those so-called “iPhone killers” over the years have killed much of anything, except, perhaps, to commit suicide. Most don’t sell so well. Even the Samsung Galaxy S9, the alleged lastest “king of the killers,” wasn’t terribly successful.

Now on last weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented a special encore episode, in which we were joined by tech journalist Derek Kessler, managing editor of Mobile Nations — who also leads their coverage of the Tesla. The owner of a Tesla Model S luxury sports sedan, Derek offered sage insights into recent reports of problems with self-driving vehicles, such as Tesla’s Autopilot. He cited cases involving a Tesla and an autonomous driving test vehicle from Uber, the ride hailing company. Are self-driving features ready for prime time, or will it take longer, much longer, for them to become fully dependable? What about drivers being lulled into a false sense of security when exposed to such systems? Derek also discussed his experiences with his Model S, and the prospects for the company’s Model 3 mid-sized vehicle. Will production hit acceptable targets before the company runs out of cash? It’s certainly getting there, but is still way behind schedule. What about widespread charging stations, and what about all the incompatible systems?

You also heard from commentator Rene Ritchie from iMore. During this episode, Rene talked about the recent Google I/O event, focusing mainly on a controversial AI demo. What about the fact that Google seems more focused on flashy demos than user privacy? What about published reports that the AI demo may have been faked? He also talked about Apple’s ongoing problems with Siri, which hasn’t advanced all that much since its introduction in 2011. What does Apple have to do to make it comparable to digital assistants from Amazon and Google? Did the introduction of the HomePod reveal Siri’s limitations in a way that convinces Apple to fix what’s broken? You also heard Rene’s reaction to all those fake news stories that the iPhone X was a huge failure, even while it became the best selling smartphone on the planet for two straight quarters. He offered a possible reason why investors have continued to spread false rumors about iPhone sales over the years.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest cohost J. Randall Murphy present author Kerry Trent Haggard, a long time enthusiast of classic horror and UFOs who first learned of the Aurora UFO crash from his friend John Cochran in the summer of 2015. Kerry, who had witnessed a flying saucer during his childhood, became fascinated with the story, and he and John spent the next several months working day and night to form an outline for a screenplay based on the fictional hunt for the buried extraterrestrial. From there it grew into the novel, “Traveler,” the main topic of discussion for this episode. Haggard will also talk about his interest in antique cars, and the legal problems he confronted due to going too far in selling rare movie posters.


Recently, Apple settled its outstanding patent issues with Samsung, so it’s free to buy the parts it needs without that cloud hanging over dealings with the South Korean electronics giant. For Samsung, one hopes they will be a little more careful about copying, or stealing, technology and focus more on selling gear. And parts.

While Apple has continued to seek out alternate suppliers for the components it sources from Samsung, this settlement may actually help preserve at least some of the business. With no legal complications to consider, the two companies can do what they do best, and doing business with one another ought to be a more positive experience.

But that still leaves other lawsuits in place for Apple to consider. Over the years, there have been patent lawsuits, some of which Apple wins, but they lose some too and have to settle. Other actions come from people who feel that Apple has doing something evil with greedy intent.

Sometimes it’s about alleged defective hardware, such as recent complaints that the keyboards on the MacBook, beginning in 205, and MacBook Pros, beginning in 2016, are defective. They are purportedly subject to early failure, possibly requiring an expensive repair. If an Apple service person isn’t able to properly clean it out, there is only one solution, but keyboard replacements generally include the top portion of the case, resulting in a cost to the consumer of hundreds of dollars once the unit is out of warranty.

This will probably not impact the legal byplay, but Apple has admitted there’s a problem by instituting an extended keyboard repair program, thus covering these models for up to four years from the date of the original retail sale. If a keyboard survives four years, you obviously shouldn’t have any concerns premature failure.

But as I said, it will probably not impact those lawsuits. That Apple will refund money paid to repair these units before the program went into effect won’t either. But, then, what do the members of this class expect to receive if repairs are free? A coupon? An iTunes gift card? An apology written in blood from Tim Cook?

Remember that this isn’t the first extended repair program from Apple, nor will be the last.

In the meantime, dozens of people are still suing Apple because of what’s been called “Throttlegate.” This is the allegation that Apple, without any advance warning, used an OS update to deliberately cripple performance of older iPhones with worn batteries as part of a gigantic conspiracy to fool you into buying the new model.

That you can fix the problem with a new battery doesn’t appear to count, perhaps because Apple should have taken the extra step to inform customers that batteries are replaceable. I thought most customers knew that, though I suppose the fact that you can’t easily replace it yourself may be a factor.

Now in this case, Apple goofed. The original 10.3 updater, which throttled performance of some iPhones to keep them from unexpectedly shutting down, had nothing in the liner notes to indicate what Apple had done to fix the problem. By reducing peak performance, the problem was supposedly eliminated and it’s fixed by the new battery, which restores full performance.

Apple did eventually own up to the problem, and also cut prices for battery replacements from $79 to $29, at least until the end of this year. That ought to give affected customers sufficient time to get those replacements. Those who paid full price are entitled to request a refund.

So what is the affected class complaining about? If the battery is replaced for a fraction of its original price, and performance is restored, where’s the harm? The time customers suffered from reduced performance then? Is that even quantifiable?

I suppose if they went ahead and bought new iPhones, Samsungs or whatever as a result of the mistaken impression that their phones were worn out, Apple might possibly be liable in some fashion. But even if they did agree to reimburse these customers, how would they determine that the new purchase was made because of Throttlegate? Because the customer swears to it?

It would open a huge can of worms.

All or mostly because Apple’s release notes for the affected updates were lacking detail. If the judges are still taking the lawsuits seriously, I suppose Apple might have to settle. But maybe reason will prevail, these customers will get their new batteries, and leave the lawyers to fend for themselves. Even if the lawsuits are still won, what reward should customers expect? A battery discount?


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