Archive for January 2019 - Page 1


    Apple Revokes Enterprise Developer Certificates

    On Tuesday Techcrunch reported that Facebook had been paying people, in particular teens, $20 a month to install their "Facebook Research" app. The "Research" app includes a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client. The "Research" app is a rebranded app that was removed from the public iOS App Store in August of 2018 because it violated App Store terms of service. The old name of the app was Onavo.

    The method used by Facebook for this installation is by using an Enterprise Developer Certificate, which is designed for distribution of applications to a company's employees. In addition to distributing apps to their own employees Facebook used this method for external testers. This is in direct violation of the terms of service for the Enterprise Developer account which were agreed to upon signing up for the account.

    Once Apple found out about this, they revoked the Enterprise Developer Certificate. Revoking this certificate had a major impact on Facebook. Besides having their "Facebook Research" app no longer function, all of Facebook's internal applications used by employees were broken, meaning that they can no longer function.

    From an Apple spokesperson:

    “We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

    It turns out that Facebook is not the only big tech company that has been misusing their Enterprise Developer account.

    Yesterday, January 30th, Google stated that they were doing something similar with their Enterprise Certificate with an application named "Screenwise Meter". When users used the app, they were able to earn gift cards by installing the application. Just as with Facebook Apple has revoked Google's Enterprise Certificate. This revocation has same effect as Facebook, where Google's internal iOS applications ceased functioning. This includes employee-only beta versions of apps, as well as other applications used by employees. Here is a quote from the TechCrunch article:

    “We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon,” said a Google spokesperson. A spokesperson for Apple said: “We are working together with Google to help them reinstate their enterprise certificates very quickly.”

    As of today, Thursday January 31st, Facebook has had their Enterprise certificate re-instated, but Google has not had their Enterprise Certificate re-instated, yet.

    Some Thoughts

    I am somewhat surprised that Apple revoked the Enterprise Developer certificates, given that the companies involved.. However, Apple is fully within their right. Both companies violated not only the terms of service, but also used the applications to acquire consumer information. This is a clear violation Apple's principles and definitely should not be tolerated.

    Besides the violation of the policies, there are consumer implications. Both companies are relying on ignorance of users to collect information. In both cases the apps collected browsing history of all activity on the users iPhone, through the VPN that was installed when the app was installed. Additionally, Facebook gathered Amazon purchase history by having users send screenshots of their Amazon orders.

    I suspect that Google will get their Enterprise Certificate re-instated in the next couple of days. In the wake of these incidents, I would not be surprised if Apple starts cracking down on this type of behavior for all Enterprise Certificate holders.

    If it any smaller company had done something similar, it would be my guess that Apple would revoke the certificate and that would be the end of the discussion. A smaller company would likely not be able to get their Enterprise Certificates re-instated at all.

    These two instances should be a wake up call for all Apple Enterprise Certificate developers. If you are providing applications to end-users through your Enterprise Certificate, Apple may end up revoking your certificate and there may be no recourse.

    It will be interesting to see what other ramifications this will have on other developers. I also wonder if Facebook and Google will try doing something similar again in the future. Only time will tell whether or not this will happen.

    Source: TechCrunch (Facebook) and TechCrunch (Google)


    Apple's Group FaceTime Bug


    Over the last weekend a report of a serious privacy bug was found in Apple's Group FaceTime service. The bug would allow someone to enable the microphone and camera on someone's device.

    The Issue

    You can read the 9to5mac article for the steps on how this bug was activated. The short version is that if the person you are calling declined the call with the sleep/wake button, and you added your own phone onto the call again, you would be able to hear the original caller's microphone and see their camera.

    Apple is currently working on a fix. In the interim Apple has disabled Group FaceTime on the server-side, until a fix is released, which should be this week.

    Security Implications

    Imagine this scenario. A group of 3 people decides to have a FaceTime call. Person 1 calls Person 2. While the phone is ringing, Person 1 attempts to call Person 3, but accidentally clicks on their own contact information while scrolling.. Person 2 declines the FaceTime call accidentally, and the audio from Person 2's is audible by Person 1.

    I cannot emphasize enough how bad this bug is. Not just because of the fact that it should not have gotten through Quality Assurance (QA) and testing, but also because of Apple's focus on privacy. In regards to getting through QA, using the sleep/wake button to dismiss a call is an extremely common action and adding another person to a Group FaceTime call is the entire point of Group FaceTime. To add on to this, despite announcing Group FaceTime was announced at the 2018 World Wide Developers Conference (World Wide Developer Conference, Apple delayed Group FaceTime due to bugs and issues. This one was obviously not noticed during testing.

    You might think that this is a minor bug because you "have nothing to hide". While that is all well and good for you, there are others that need privacy or are in sensitive situations where this can be abused. One example of this could be a domestic violence situation where an abuser can use this bug to be able to spy on someone. This would not be a good situation at all.

    Another example could be a lawyer, who needs confidentiality of their clients. One last example is world leaders. If any of the world leaders, or their assistants, use and iPhone, they may have been able to use this bug to listen in. In other words, this is a really bad bug.

    The fact that this bug got through is bad, but it is compounded because one of Apple's core tenets is security and privacy. Any privacy bug is a problem for Apple because they make it a differentiator to other products on the market.

    It is good to see that Apple has taken this seriously and has temporarily disabled Group FaceTime services. Even though this is bad, it is possible that Apple will make some internal changes to improve testing of their features for privacy bugs. 



    Apple Posts Q1 2019 Results

    Back on January 2nd, I wrote a post about Apple revising its guidance for the first quarter of 2019. Today Apple announced their results.

    Apple posted quarterly revenue of $84.3 billion, this is a decline of 5 percent from Q1 2018. Even with revenue being own, the earnings per share is up 7.5 percent, as compared to a year ago, to $4.18 per share

    The iPhone's revenue declined 15 percent, which is why Apple provided the revised guidance earlier this month. However, the revenue from the remaining products were up 19 percent. Services, which is one of the areas that Apple has wanted to highlight is up to $10.9 billion, or 19 percent. Revenue for the Mac was up 9 percent, while Wearables is up 33 percent.

    The Wearables revenue is likely primarily driven by two products, the Apple Watch and AirPods. Additional wearables include the Beats headphone line and the HomePod.

    Other Tidbits

    There are some other tidbits from Apple's condensed statement.

    • Revenue in America is up about $1.75 billion, or about 5 percent.
    • Revenue in Europe, China, and Japan is down, $691 million, $4.78 billion, and $327 million respectively. This translate to 3.39 percent, 36.3 percent, and 4.73 percent respectively.
    • Revenue in the rest of Asia, outside of Greater China and Japan, is up $75 million, or about 1/10 of a percent.

    Q2 2019 Guidance

    As with all previous quarters, Apple has provided some guidance for Q2 2019. The guidance provided is:

    • revenue between $55 billion and $59 billion
    • gross margin between 37 percent and 38 percent
    • operating expenses between $8.5 billion and $8.6 billion
    • other income/(expense) of $300 million

    Closing Thoughts

    Even though Apple had to restate some of its guidance, Apple is on a solid footing for its overall business.

    Source: Apple


    Apple Smart Battery Case for iPhone XS: A Review

    iPhone XS Smart Battery Case packaging.

    It is not often that Apple enters into a new accessory category of products, but it does happen from time to time. One area that people might not have expected Apple get into was the battery case market, but Apple did get into the market. They did so back in 2015.

    Smart Battery History

    Back in December of 2015 Apple unveiled a brand new product specifically for the iPhone. At the time the iPhone was the iPhone 6s. They called it the "Smart Battery Case". The Smart Battery Case would provide additional battery for the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6s. The case came in two colors, Charcoal Gray and White. The case had a 1877 milliamp hour battery. This more than doubled the battery on the iPhone 6s. It would provide up to 25 hours of talk time, 18 hours of internets use on LTE, and up to 20 hours of video playback.

    With the release of the iPhone 7, Apple unveiled a version that would work with the iPhone 7. The case contained an even bigger battery, 2365 mAh, which is 26% bigger. With this bigger battery it provided even more usage, including up to 26 hours of talk time, up to 22 hours of internet usage on LTE, and up to 24 hours of playback. The iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case came in three colors; Black, White, and (PRODUCT)RED.

    Apple did not release a smart battery case for the iPhone 8, nor have they released a smart battery case for any of the Plus-sized phones. Apple has released a Smart Battery Case for their latest iPhones.

    New Smart Battery Cases

    iPhone XS Smart Battery Case in box.

    As mentioned in my post about the release, Apple has released some new Smart Battery Cases. Apple has done something a bit different. This year they released new Battery Cases for all of the iPhone models, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. This is a first for the larger iPhone sizes getting a Smart Battery Case.

    When I received my case, it shipped with no charge. This is likely due to standalone battery shipping restrictions. First, they can only be shipped via ground shipping and are not eligible for shipping via air. The second reason that they ship without any charge is to reduce any fire hazard. The lack of charge means that you will need to charge the device before usage. This is different from most of Apple's other devices, which usually ship with at least some charge in them.


    One of the features of the Smart Battery cases for this year's phones is the fact that the case can be charged on a Qi charger. You might expect that if the case is charging the iPhone would not be. This is not the way the Smart Battery Case is designed. It can in fact charge both the iPhone charges simultaneously with the case.

    If you have a Qi charger and it can support fast charging, which is 7.5 watts. The Smart Battery Case is capable of handling fast charging. The order of which items charges first depends on how much power you provide the case and iPhone. If you use the 5-watt charger that comes with the iPhone it will likely charge the iPhone and may not end up charging the case. If you increase this to 7.5-watts, the iPhone will be be charged first and then the Smart Battery Case. If you use a 10-watt or higher charger then both of the devices should charge simultaneously.

    Design and Feel

    The Smart Battery Case feels very similar to the iPhone Silicone case. The Smart Battery Case is made of the same material so this is to be expected. The interior of the Smart Battery Case is a soft microfiber lining. This is designed to help protect the back of the iPhone from scratching.

    The design of the Smart Battery Case has been tweaked from the previous ones for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6/6s. On the previous models the battery was approximately in the middle of the case with an equal amount of space on the top and bottom. The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case has the battery at the bottom. The edges of the battery at the bottom are rounded and the round edges also extend to both sides of the case. The top of the battery extends to between the volume buttons. This is where the hinge of the case is. The hinge allows you to put the phone into the case as well as remove it when necessary.

    I am not sure how many times the hinge can be pulled back before it breaks, and I am not about to test it to find out. With the new rounded design. the Smart Battery Case is great to hold. The Smart Battery Case does add some weight, and one might expect, given that it contains a battery.


    When you connect the Smart Battery Case to an iPhone, the iPhone will show both the iPhone's battery as well the Smart Battery Case's current level right on the notification screen. Just as with other accessories, if either the Smart Battery Case or the iPhone is currently charging, it will have a small lightning bolt next to the device to indicate that it is charging. After I put my iPhone XS into the Smart Battery Case. I noticed that the iPhone is constantly be charged. At least that is what I have noticed during my usage of the case. The specifications indicate that you will get up to an additional 13 hours of talk time, an additional 7 hours of internet usage, or an additional 11 hours of Video playback with the Smart Battery Case. I cannot verify this information as I generally do not let my iPhone or the case get that low. I did let the battery pack get close to zero, but never all the way down to zero.

    I have yet to remove the Smart Battery Case from my iPhone XS except to remove some dust from the top of the screen. I am not sure if I really even need the battery case, but having it on there may come in handy if I am away from a charger for more than 24 hours.

    Closing Thoughts

    The Smart Battery Case from Apple will definitely allow your iPhone to last longer. While it is not an inexpensive item, nor is it for everyone, if you are one who could benefit from the use of a battery case, it may be a worthwhile investment. The iPhone XS Smart Battery Case is possible solution. While it does add bulk, it does not feel awkward to hold. I do not yet know if I will end up keeping the case on the iPhone XS when spring and summer come around. Right now keeping it in a hoodie or coat pocket is not a big problem right now. I can only speculate how well it will work in the summer, but I guess we will find out. The Smart Battery Cases for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are available now for $129.


    A Couple of Milestones for Apple

    PowerPoint on a Mac Laptop

    A couple of milestones occurred today. The first milestone is that Office 365 has made its way to the Mac App Store. From Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller

    Apple and Microsoft have worked together to bring great Office productivity to Mac users from the very beginning. Now, with Office 365 on the Mac App Store, it's easier than ever to get the latest and best version of Office 365 for Mac, iPad and iPhone.

    With Office 365 you get access to Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, One Note, and One Drive. Additionally, you can purchase a subscription right from within any of the apps. Subscriptions are priced at $69.99 per year for a single user, and $99.99 for up to six users.

    PowerPoint on a Mac Laptop

    The second milestone is for a product that has been around a bit longer than Microsoft Office, but can run Office 365, that product is the Macintosh. 35 years ago today, on January 24th, 1984, Apple introduced one of its more influential products, the Macintosh. While it may not the most popular, it is still one of the iconic devices of today's modern world. Without the Macintosh a number of today's technology may not be available.

    Happy Birthday Mac!


    Apple Pay coming to Additional Retailers

    Contactless Payments being shown

    One of the services that Apple provides is a service called Apple Pay. Apple Pay allows you to use your iPhone or Apple Watch as the payment method, in lieu of using your debit or credit card. The money still utilizes the same accounts, it just provides a device-specific device identifier.

    The reason for using this device identifier is to help protect your actual card numbers. The device identifiers are unique to each particular iOS device and cannot be used on any other device. Therefore, even if the identifier is compromised it cannot be used elsewhere.

    If you currently use Apple Pay, you will soon be able to use it in even more locations. Apple Pay is coming to Target in the next few weeks. Along with Target, you can also use Apple Pay at all 245 Hy-Vee stores, which are prominent in the Midwest. In the next few months you will be able to use Apple Pay at more than 7,000 Taco Bell locations and 2,200 Jack in the Box restaurants.

    It is good to see Apple Pay expanding. While contactless payments are prominent in many other countries, in the United States it has been a slower rollout than one would expect. Any expansion is a good thing, not just Apple, but also for customers of these retailers.

    Source: Apple


    Gillette Steps Up

    This video by Gillette is causing a bit of a stir. I think this is a good one that everyone should watch.


    Apple Releases New Battery Cases


    Today Apple released a few new products, all of them being Smart Battery Cases. There are battery cases for the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the iPhone XR.

    The battery cases come in two colors, Black and White. The Smart Battery Cases are compatible with Qi Chargers, so you will be able to charge the case with any of your Qi Chargers you have purchased.

    You can order a Smart Battery Case today and it will be available on January 18th, 2019. If you do order one, it will cost your $129. I have ordered a Black Smart Battery Case for my iPhone XS and once I get it and have had a bit of time with it, I will let you know my thoughts.

    If you are thinking about ordering a Smart Battery Case, but you have questions, let me know and I will do my best to answer them, once I get my case.


    Additional HomePod Availability


    Apple has announced that the HomePod will go on sale in Greater China, including Hong Kong, this Friday, January 18th, 2019.

    The HomePod supports AirPlay 2, which allows applications to send music to the HomePod. There are many apps available that can send their audio to the HomePod. Specifically in Greater China there are some apps available including:

    • QQ Music
    • DeDao
    • iHuman Story
    • Dragonfly FM and Penguin FM in mainland China
    • Spotify
    • KKBOX
    • JOOX
    • Podcasts (in Hong Kong)

    These are just some of the apps available for use with the HomePod. Besides these audio apps, there are also China specific programs available. One is called the "New Artist of the Week"

    The New Artist of the Week". This program provides new talent with a prominent platform across greater China for their work to be discovered. Since launching in 2015, Apple Music has featured the debut releases of popular new artists coming from all over Asia, with music spanning a wide variety of genres and languages. New artists from mainland China include Corsak, Chace, Lucie Cheung, Gong, Dean Ting and Lu Xianghui. Popular playlists include The A-List International Pop, Today’s Hits, Best of the Week, The A-List Mandopop and Mandopop Replay, containing recent Mandopop hits from the past five years.

    The HomePod will be available for HK$2799 or RMB 2799 and is available in both white and space gray. AppleCare+ is available for the HomePod for HK$349 or RMB 329.

    HomePod is currently available in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico and Spain. HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation).

    Source Apple


    Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe: A Review


    Nintendo is a company that elicits a large amount of nostalgia, in the true sense of the word, for many across the world. Nintendo is able to do this through their characters, like Mario, Luigi, and Toad. Through their existence as a gaming company, they have had some ups and downs, some systems have done well, others not so much.

    The Wii was a huge success. Its successor the Wii U, not so much. However, Nintendo has hit a home run with the Nintendo Switch. One of the ways that companies help boost the number of games for their platform is by re-releasing previous games, or providing enhanced versions of previous games. Nintendo has supplied a number of games for the Nintendo Switch by creating enhanced versions of games that were available for the Wii U, including the game "Super Mario Bros. U", with its remastered version "Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe".


    Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe combines a couple of games, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U all into one game. I never played Super Luigi U, so this was an opportunity for me to play it. By default you play the New Super Mario Bros. U game, but you can switch to Super Luigi U by scrolling up on the selecting the "Play New Super Luigi U" button on the Main Screen.

    New Super Mario Bros. U is a modern take on a traditional Mario game, with its worlds, levels, and castles. New Super Luigi U takes Super Mario Bros U and adds a twist to it. The character you select in New Super Luigi U has slightly different physics. The levels are also slightly different. They are a bit more challenging, but they are also a bit shorter.


    Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Characters

    With the combination of the two games, you can select from a number of characters. These include Mario, Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Nabbit. Each of these characters has its own abilities. Mario, Luigi, and Toad are all just regular characters. Toadette and Nabbit have a couple of extra words with them. Toadette has "easier" and Nabbit has "easiest". Using Toadette or Nabbit will make things a bit easier and may help you get past a particularly difficult level, so make sure to use them when appropriate. If you have little kids playing, using Toadette or Nabbit will definitely help.

    There is one additional character that you can use, from time to time, but only within certain levels. That character is Yoshi. Yoshi allows you to grab enemies for points or even Apples. Once you get five apples, with one Yoshi, you will get a power-up for the level.

    Areas and Levels

    New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe Levels

    The areas within Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe are the same ones in Super Mario Bros. U. You have Acorn Plains, Layer0Cake Desert, Sparkling Waters, Soda Jungle, Rock-Candy Mines, Meringue Clouds, and Peach's Castle. As with other Mario games, each of the levels gets progressively harder as you progress through the game.

    Each area has a number of different levels, including castles. Throughout the levels you gather coins, once you hit 100 coins you get a 1UP. Which may be needed, particularly in later levels. Interspersed throughout the regular levels are mini castles. The castles are the only place where you can save the game, so it is best to take advantage of these when you can.

    Since the first Super Mario Bros 3. game, released in February of 1990, some of the Mario games have been some opportunities for extra items from Toad. Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has these opportunities as well, but they are deluxe versions. These waypoints will provide you with power ups that might help you during some levels. You can only have 10 extra items at one time. When you get an additional item, and you already have 10 items, you will have to discard an item. This can be the one that is to be added to your inventory, if you want.

    Within each level there is a checkpoint flag. This flag will allow you to return to the flag if your character dies during the second half of the level, which makes it much easier to finish the second time around since you do not need to go through the entire level again.

    Each area has its own type of environment and each has a different set of challenges. It may take some time to figure out the best way to approach a level, but that is all part of the fun.

    Large Coins

    Each one of the levels have three large coins that you need to collect. These are not always in the obvious spot. Some of these coins are easier with certain characters. Each time you get a large coin, you will be awarded 4000 points for each one, including ones that you have already gotten while playing back through a level.


    There are some tips that might help you through the game play. There are chances to use enemies, like turtle shells, to get rid of a large number of other enemies. When these opportunities arrive, try and take them. This is because each enemy you hit in succession doubles the number of points you are awarded. But, once you hit eight enemies in a row you will be awarded a 1 UP, or extra life.

    On the topic of 1 UPs, you can actually have a maximum of 99 lives. These lives are per character. This means that you can have 99 lives for Mario, another 99 lives for Luigi, another 99 for Toadette, and another 99 for Nabbit.

    You may find yourself having issues getting through a level. After you have died a number of times, either five or six, you will get a special box. This box will show you how to get through the level. In fact, it will actually do the level for you. You can exit the play through at any point and continue the level for yourself from that point. This can be a way to get through a level if you are having trouble making it through.

    Closing Thoughts

    It is always better to have more games for a platform than not have enough, as the case was with the Wii U. Some may feel as though it is easy money to just re-issue remastered versions of games, but in the case of Nintendo it is actually a way to extend their existing investment considering that the Wii U was not as successful as they had anticipated.

    If you have never played either of the games, but you enjoy playing Mario games and you have a Nintendo Switch, you cannot go wrong with Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. It is a fun game and well worth your time. Even after you finished the game, there is more playability by trying to get all of the large coins.

    Overall, Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is a great game, and with the ability to play with multiple people can be a great game for families to play. Super Mario Bros U Deluxe is available physically or digitally, depending on your preference. There is definitely more playability even after you have finished all of the levels.