iPhone Falling in Line on USB-C

Apple will finally join the rest of the world in switching to USB-C cables for charging iPhones. What pushed them over the line, and what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, European regulators pushed Apple over the line. The European Union is a large market, and that market includes countries that are geographically close to EU members, even if they’re not members. The regulators are looking at standardizing all types of battery charging systems to reduce the number of cords and charging devices people use to cut waste. If you can use one cord (charger) for multiple devices, fewer cords and chargers will wind up in landfills after they’re worn out and discarded.

Most of the device world has gone to USB-C cords and chargers, and Apple is under pressure to ditch its Lightning cords. Rumors abound that Apple’s new iPhone – iPhone 15 is next in line for an introduction sometime this year – will have a USB-C port.

The EU’s regulations will go into effect next year, and it’s possible that Apple will only make USB-C ports available only in Europe. But that doesn’t make any business sense. We can figure on it being a reality.

So what will it mean for you as a user?

Most likely it will be speed. One respected iPhone analyst believes the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra will get USB-C ports that support data transfer speeds of up to either 20Gbps or 40Gbps, up from just 480Mbps on current iPhones. While USB-C isn’t a data standard, several types of USB-C cables exist, including USB 2.0, 3.0, and Thunderbolt 4. You’ll need to look at speed rates for each of them.

You’ll also get faster charging times. Apple’s phones currently max out at 20W charging speeds, while USB offers up to 240W. Few phones offer more than 50W charging, but Apple is still lagging behind the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones, which can charge at 45W. Access to faster charging speeds can be a significant upgrade and allow Apple to stay more competitive going forward.

USB-C also unlocks better support for accessories, including external storage, hubs and docs, external displays, keyboards, mice, etc. While all these things are already available on iPads, adding enhanced connectivity to the iPhone through USB-C will give you more choice and flexibility on how they use your phones.

You’ll be able to use the same charger that powers other devices, like your MacBook laptop or iPad, to charge your iPhone, and there’s a broad accessory ecosystem for USB-C. It’s been standard on most electronics, including many other Apple products, for the better part of the last decade. In all likelihood, this also will mean you’ll no longer feel tied to Apple-approved chargers, giving you more flexibility to shop around. The rumor mill reports that many device and charging system manufacturers will produce units to meet Apple’s standards.

Want to add one more twist? There have long been rumors that Apple has been developing a port-free iPhone, which would eliminate all cords. The entire smartphone industry shifted to Qi wireless charging several years ago, Apple included, so wireless chargers are compatible across platforms.

As you all know, we like new technology, and faster data transfer speeds may be something you justifiably need. We can help you determine if the change to USB-C is a game-changer for you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your needs.

Unlocking Phones of Masked Users

Apple’s upcoming upgrade to iOS 14.5 will make it possible to use an Apple Watch to use facial recognition to unlock your iPhone while wearing your mask. iPhone users without the watch and Android users will still have to jump through hoops to unlock their phones while masked. A year into the pandemic, we have to ask: Why has this taken so long?

Biometrics have long played a role in being able to unlock a cell phone. The first systems used a fingerprint for touch ID, and it has been a bellwether. Many cell phone users still rely on it. Face ID came along next, and many cell phone users rely on it to unlock phones quickly and easily. It’s as good as unencumbered gets.

But with COVID-19 and mask wearing, Face ID doesn’t work. If you want to use the technology while complying with public health needs, Face ID is about as cumbersome as it gets. The less-than-ideal workaround is something like this:

  1. Go to the Face ID option in the settings.
  2. Register for an alternate appearance by going to Set Up Alternate Appearance (or the Reset Face ID).
  3. Take a mask and fold it in half. Assuming the nose as the center point, put it in front of your face. It is recommended that you cover only the tip of the nose with the mask.
  4. Start registering your face like you normally do with the Face ID.  When the system prompts with a message “Face Obstructed,” start removing the mask very slowly until the system says move your head slowly to complete the circle.
  5. Once the process is done successfully, you will get a message that the Face ID is set up.

If this doesn’t work the first time, you’ll need to retry it. You may need to try another trick, such as selecting an alternate appearance option if it’s available.

Apple contends you should use a numeric code to unlock your phone while wearing a mask. They also note that manipulating the Face ID software could compromise your phone’s security. Most likely, they’d prefer you get an Apple Watch if you don’t already have.  

Once your iPhone is running iOS 14.5 and your Apple Watch has WatchOS 7.4 installed, you can turn on Unlock with Apple Watch with a few taps. Open the Settings app on your iPhone and then select Face ID & Passcode. Next, scroll down until you find the section titled Unlock with Apple Watch. The name of your Apple Watch should be listed there. Next to it is a toggle to turn the feature on or off. Slide that switch to the On position and then back out of the Settings app. 

Whenever you’re wearing a mask, all you’ll need to do is hold your phone up as normal to unlock it with Face ID. You’ll feel a haptic tap on your wrist, letting you know your watch was used to unlock your phone. The alert on your watch will also include a button to lock your phone in case it was unlocked by someone else. It’s a security feature to ensure someone else doesn’t pick up your phone and unlock it while wearing a mask.

You can expect to see iOS 14.5 in April. As the release date gets closer, we’ll pass along whatever we find out about other security features. Once it’s available, we’ll be on hand to help you configure your watch, phone and iPad if need be. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to find out what you’ll need to upgrade your iOS security.

Facebook and Apple Fight is About Monetizing You

If you’ve downloaded and installed Apple’s iOS 14.3 update for iPhones and iPads, you’ve put yourself in the sights of Facebook and Apple. Called “App Tracking Transparency” feature, it labels apps in the App Store, telling users what data those apps collect and whether it’s used to track them for advertising. Facebook, which makes its money from advertising, says the feature will harm small businesses that rely on targeted online advertising.

In many cases, you’re worth pennies on the dollar, but there are hundreds of billions of pennies at stake. And while both sides try to cloak their stands in privacy and free enterprise, it’s really about “fee enterprise.”

The gist of Apple’s policy is that when you download an app from the App Store, your activity on the device can’t be tracked unless you give permission. Until now, you had to opt-out to avoid being stalked electronically online. Most people usually ignore the opt-out/opt-in option, and Facebook and other web-based operations have made a lot of money by tracking you and selling the data to companies who want to sell something you want – or have indicated you may want.

According to a recent article in Forbes, Facebook itself estimates a 60-percent swing in advertising effectiveness between targeting and non-targeted advertisements. Facebook’s ad charges the article notes, will presumably match its ad-placement effectiveness. With the company controlling about 25 percent of a $40 billion online U.S. advertising market, up to $6 billion in annual revenue is at stake in the US alone. Google and Amazon also profit immensely from tracking you and selling your data.

The bottom line is that anyone who opts out is 60% less valuable than a regular customer, and that’s part of legal proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission and in 48 states. Apple, of course, has been taken to task for its practices in handling App Store operations, including who gets to put apps there, and other technical issues. They’re not saints, but that’s a separate issue from the Facebook issue.

The Forbes article likens Facebook’s operations to Ladies Night at a nightclub. On Ladies Night, clubs let women in for free expecting that they will attract men who will pay a cover, as well as spend money on the women and themselves. In a similar way, Facebook provides users with free services in the hope that advertisers will spend money on them. Facebook is like the owner-bartender who, for $10, will tell you everything he knows about a particular woman, including her relationship status and favorite drink.

I can’t speak for how a woman might feel after reading this, but anyone can feel some outrage about being put on display and sold. Yet at the same time, we’re looking for new and interesting products or services when we go online, and we may be open to new ideas when they’re presented to us. To me, that’s Facebook’s argument. You might view Apple as the guy who senses harassment and comes over to “protect” you.

To expand the transparency/privacy conversation, you have choices. You are able to use search engines and plug-ins that block unwanted ads while you browse the web and visit sites. Websites are fighting back by not allowing you access unless you unblock the ads on their site. You may not like the choices. You may not like sacrificing privacy for convenience or vice versa. But this is all part of the opt-in/opt-out battleground over who gets to profit from you.

If you have any questions about how to configure apps to meet your privacy or convenience needs, we can help. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment to walk you through the process.

The Worst is Yet to Come

What do factory closings and travel bans have in common? They’re going to affect the flow of technology to your business and home. Unfortunately, we have no idea yet on how bad the impact will be or how long it will take to recover.

Right now, the demand for products hasn’t caught up to the factory closings, but we can see the writing on the wall. The supplier that makes the cameras for Apple’s iPhones is still shut down, and Foxconn, the major supplier of phones has been shut for weeks. Even if the manufacturers have inventory to ship, the illness – or potential for illness – could shut down all forms of transportation into the United States. We just don’t know how long all of this will go on.

The travel bans are forcing the cancellations of technical conferences, and that will impact the flow of new hardware and software products and upgrades to you. The technology industry depends on conferences. It’s where they give developers the chance to look under the hood and ask questions. In turn, they start working on apps for new hardware or to fit the capabilities of new software – and all of that translates into new capabilities for your business, entertainment and quality of life.

We don’t know what the effects of the travel bans will be because we don’t know what was planned for development and rollout in the long-range future. But when you combine travel bans with factory shutdowns, it’s obvious that we’ll need to make do with what we have. And that may affect anybody who’s forced to work at home.

We haven’t begun to comprehend what could happen if offices are forced to close and employees have to work remotely. In our experience, we see a lot of laptop computers that never leave the office. In a shutdown, they might need to go home. While we can fix a lot of problems with computers remotely, we strongly recommend you test every computer. Employees can take them home and see how easily and quickly they can log in to your corporate network.

At the same time, you should make sure your network, servers and cloud connections are all functioning properly and that every piece of equipment and application is up to date on firmware and software. With your computing being distributed, it’s critical to do whatever you can to prevent problems before everyone and everything scatters to individual homes. You should also make sure everyone who’s logging in remotely understands they should not work from a public network, like from a Starbucks. You have no way to control the security of public networks, and you can bet hackers will be sipping lots of lattes as they search for ways to get some kind of information they can monetize.

If you have any questions at all about the operating conditions of your computers and other parts of your technology systems, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs. If you must close your office and have employees work at home, make sure they know how to contact us. Just as you’re being proactive with personal health, it’s time to be proactive with your technology’s health.

Our iPhone Decision

Apple will start accepting pre-orders for its new iPhone 11 this coming Friday, and for the Rosenthal family, this meant going right up until last night to decide who – besides me – would get a new phone and what features would be on it, and who would get an older phone. I’m getting all the bells and whistles, but how did we divide up the rest of our purchases and recycling? Here’s our thought process.

I decided to get the iPhone 11 Pro because I wanted the camera. Danit is undecided, but she is leaning toward the iPhone 11 because she likes the purple case that’s available. Charlie will keep the iPhone XR he got earlier this year, and Leah will get Danit’s iPhone X.

To me, the 11 Pro’s camera is the killer technology. As we travel more, I’m less inclined to drag along my DSLR camera unless we’re going on a major, major trip – where I’ll want high-quality photos that only that type of camera can provide. Using the phone’s camera, I can store pictures directly to my electronic library – my iCloud account – instead of having to download them from the camera’s card.

The big factor on the new phone’s camera is the ultrawide lens option. It’s a triple-camera system with new Ultra Wide, Wide and Telephoto cameras that Apple touts as a pro-level camera experience designed for everyone. The Telephoto camera features a larger ƒ/2.0 aperture to capture 40 percent more light compared to iPhone Xs for better photos and videos. For video, each camera in the triple-camera system records 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilization. With a wider field of view and large focal plane, the Ultra Wide camera should be great for shooting action videos. That’s what Apple says; we’ll see if it’s true.

Audio Zoom is supposed to match the audio to the video framing for more dynamic sound. With iOS 13, we’re supposed to get better video editing tools.

If you have any questions about whether to move to the iPhone 11 or which model to select, we’re happy to discuss your needs vs. the features. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us, and we’ll chat about it.

Avoiding Apple Store Snafus

What drives employees crazy at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar? In short, it’s all the un-genius things customers do or don’t do before they come in for help. You can get better service if you prepare your phone and account before you walk in.

A recent article in Yahoo News surveyed current and former Apple Store employees about their biggest complaints when people visit the Genius Bar at stores. The complaints involve a number of time wasters, and they revolve around all the things that customers can and should do before their visits for problems or repairs with iPhones – and likely their iPads, too.

Here’s their advice that can make you a genius in their eyes:

  • Know your Apple id (hint: it’s usually your email address) and your password for your Apple and iCloud accounts. If you and Apple can’t access your data, Apple won’t do any work on your phone or device because they won’t take any responsibility for losing your data (unless it’s entirely their fault). If your device is totally inoperable, you can reset your password at home from a computer. Apple Store personnel can sometimes help you reset it, but more often than not, they’ll ask you to come back when you’ve resolved your password issue.
  • Have all your data backed up to iCloud. That includes your Contacts, photos and videos and anything else that can be possibly stored on your phone. As with all computing, we recommend regular backups to protect your data. Backing up to iCloud is simple: Go into your Settings and tap your name. Then tap iCloud and scroll to iCloud Backup. Make sure it’s turned on and tap it. Then tap Back Up Now. You can also back up your device to your iTunes account. It’s a little more complicated, but Apple has a support page to walk you through the process. The reason this is critical is because once Apple opens your phone or device, all data stored within is wiped clean. If Apple (or any other seller) provides a new phone or device, they’ll transfer your iCloud (or iTunes) data to your new device.
  • Make sure your device is fully charged. If it’s DOA when you get to the store, so’s your appointment. You can probably charge it there, but you’ll probably have to go the back of the line for getting help.
  • Be honest about what happened to your device. On a technical level, the wrong information you provide can delay Apple employees from getting to the right diagnosis.
  • Don’t ask them for help with your Gmail or Facebook password. If they have time, Apple people can usually help you out, but it’s not their job. And technically, they are not trained to solve these problems. Any organization that requires a password usually has a recovery process, and that process usually offers you an option to verify or authenticate your identity via a text message or email.

We sometimes encounter the same problems with our clients when it comes to dealing with data and password recovery or computers or devices that are “dead as doornails.” We can take the time to help resolve issues, and with devices that aren’t operating properly, we can sometimes fix software problems or help you determine the right questions to ask at the Genius Bar.

If you’re having trouble getting your Apple products ready for a visit to the Apple Store, contact us by phone – 973-433-6646 – or email for help. We might be able to solve your problem and find a solution to prevent it from happening again. Or, we may be able to help you maximize your time at the Genius Bar.

Apple TV+ – Delicious or Wormy?

Apple has announced it will launch its own TV streaming service this fall, Apple TV+. Apple will join Netflix, Amazon and others in providing content. We don’t what it will cost, and we don’t know if the experience will be delicious or full of worms. But we can count on Apple disrupting the market and changing the game. It’s how they play it.

Let’s start with the promises. Apple claims its new stream will be “the new home for the world’s most creative storytellers featuring exclusive original shows, movies and documentaries.” If you want a hint about if they’ll be able to keep that promise, they will debut with a sneak peek through a new Apple TV app that works across iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, smart TVs and streaming devices. You’ll be able to subscribe to Apple’s TV channels a la carte and watch them through the app.

You may want to look at Apple’s move as another reason to cut the cable cord, but we don’t see it that way. Even though increasing numbers of people are streaming programs through their TVs, in addition to computers and devices, cable companies are accommodating customers who want programming from “non-TV” providers. You can get Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple – in addition to premium content providers such as HBO and Showtime – through your cable system. And why not? As gatekeepers, they’re happy to pick off a few dollars in subscriber fees from any and all content providers.

And it’s as a gatekeeper and content provider that Apple may be trying to maximize its hold on content viewing. Apple has a big market share of smartphones and an even bigger share of tablets – all in addition to a large base of Mac computers. But it’s way behind Roku and Amazon for connected TVs with only 15 percent of the market. Further, more than half of the nation’s TV streamers use Roku or Fire TV, and some 30 percent use smart TVs. Apple gets only 15 percent of the streamers. Clearly, Apple will need to partner with those who deliver content just as much as it will need to provide strong content to make this venture work.

We don’t know what Apple TV+ will cost, but various sources figure it will fall somewhere in the range of $10 to $15 per month. Apple could undercut the market with attractive intro deals. They have the resources to do it if they wish. With a push based on low prices and innovative programming, Apple could disrupt the industries that create and deliver content, especially in the short term. But history tells us that other industry giants will react to meet their own needs – and that some upstart will find a way to step on the giants’ toes.

Whatever happens, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • High-definition streaming requires a fast internet connection and a powerful Wi-Fi network. If you have multiple high-def TVs and a slew of devices, you’ll need lots of speed and capacity.
  • Many consumers get their internet from cable providers, and there are some things you need to balance when figuring out how much content to get from cable or the internet. Cable companies are willing to give you good internet speed if you’re a cable TV customer. If you are an internet-only customer, you may pay more for your connection, and you may face caps on how much data you can download. For the cable companies, it’s all about profitability.
  • How and where do you want to watch your content? Cable is good for big TVs for large groups, but you can take your devices anywhere. Consider the price of what you watch on. You can get a really good, fairly big TV for $500 or less, and you can pay twice that much for a mobile device.

We can help you make smart decisions about how and where you’ll watch programming by looking at the technology currently in your home and recommending what you’ll need to have a system that works for your preferences. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for answers to your questions or to set up an appointment to discuss your needs.

Tech Preps for Trips

For all the acclaim that Israel gets for technology, I was shocked at how slow the wi-fi service was while we visited there. With all the advanced security systems in place and all the tech startups and established R&D places there, I was expecting blazing internet service. Instead, I found internet service was based on DSL technology, and I had to ask why??? It was the slowest internet service I’ve experienced anywhere on the planet (though I’m sure I haven’t visited the places that are even slower).

While your experiences in Israel may differ from mine, the visit reinforced the need to plan for your tech needs as you plan your itinerary. In our case, I brought two phones, and we had Danit’s phone.

I ordered SIM cards for Israeli cellular service for my iPhone X and Danit’s iPhone before we left the US. They were ready for me at the airport, and using a little tool I carry, it was a simple matter to pop out our US SIM cards and install the Israeli cards. Our cost was $60 for the two cards, and we got 10 gigabytes each of data usage plus the ability to make unlimited calls worldwide. We also got the 4G cellular data service, and it was really fast.

Of course, that meant my iPhone X did not have my US phone number. That meant I lost access to voice mail for my number, and I lost the ability to receive text messages. The solution was to carry an old iPhone 5, which was activated for my US number. That gave me the ability to monitor US calls and texts and to use my “Israeli” phone to call and text as needed. The only issue with SIM cards in other countries is that you are likely to get text messages in the language of the country tied to the phone number. Along that line, if you are using your phone for GPS car navigation, you should check your settings to make sure you get displays and voice directions in English – and maybe in kilometers, too.

There are a number of workarounds for phone-number challenges. One is to get a Google Voice number through Google. You can then forward that to any phone number you want, such as the phone number tied to your SIM card in another country. I chose to get a US phone number in Israel for my Israeli phone, and people who needed to reach me immediately could use that number. That helped me balance time away while being accessible.

If you are averse to getting a SIM card and changing your phone number, you can arrange for international service with your cellular carrier. That can be expensive (“expensive” can be a relative term), and if you have an iPhone phone that you bought from a Verizon store, you’re stuck with just a CDMA radio in your phone. Without getting overly technical, CDMA is one of the two radio systems used in cell phones, and it’s used in the US. GSM is the other radio system, and it’s used worldwide.

Most Android-based phones, all iPhones sold in AT&T stores and iPhones sold in Apple stores have both radios built in, giving you seamless service if you decided to use an international phone plan from your carrier. If you are planning to buy a new iPhone and want to use Verizon as your carrier, we recommend buying it in the Apple store to get both radios and keep more options available.

If you opt not to have cellular service on your phone, you can still use wi-fi for email, browsing and making calls through various apps, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others. Just be aware of security needs when using public networks. You can also rent a cellphone in the country you are visiting.

We can help you plan for tech needs for travel. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about what’s available in the countries you’ll be visiting.