China’s COVID Crisis Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Daily Observation Deck Feature

China’s COVID crisis may keep hitting Apple, iPad grows Apple in India, and the Apple/AliveCor fight continues.

China’s COVID Crisis Could Hinder Apple Recovery in 2023

The end of zero-COVID policies in China doesn’t necessarily mean zero COVID problems for Apple. One of the concerns expressed about China’s transition from what some called “draconian” attempts to contain COVID-19 to more of a “living with COVID” approach was the speed with which it was done. Experts worried beforehand that if such a transition moved too quickly, health and other systems might buckle under the weight of increased COVID cases. Flash ahead a couple of weeks, and there’s worry that we’re seeing just that. And that could be bad news for Apple. 

The Financial Times (via Ars Technica) ran a report Monday, saying:

Apple’s business is under threat from a widespread coronavirus outbreak in China, with supply chain experts warning of a growing risk of months-long disruption to the production of iPhones.

The piece had the CEO of one components-tracker saying there’s potential for plenty of kinks in the supply chain outside of Foxconn factories. Resilinc CEO Bindiya Vakil was quoted in the piece, saying:

We should be seeing a lot of operations get impacted by absenteeism, not just at factories, but warehouse, distribution, logistic and transportation facilities as well…

The Turnaround That May Not

Many had expected the March-quarter to start a significant turnaround for Apple. Now though, the under-vaccinated Chinese population’s sudden exposure to COVID-19 is calling that into question on both the production side and the consumer side. The Financial Times says as many as one-million people in China could die this winter due to COVID exposure. At least one Apple store in China had to cut hours last week due to illness among the staff. Additionally, there’s the question of what China’s consumers will do in the face of the COVID wave. Asymco’s Horace Dediu isn’t sure China will spend through it the way much of the rest of the planet did. Quoting Dediu:

Though the rest of the world saw demand rise during lockdowns, it was due to work-from-home and stimulus… With low immunity and minimal safety nets, Chinese consumers could hunker down and avoid big purchases next year.

Canalys: iPad Pulled Apple to Growth in India’s Computer Market in Q3

New numbers from market tracker Canalys show iPad growing in India. The firm issued a press release last week covering tablet and PC sales for the country for the third-quarter of 2022. According to Canalys, notebooks in India tanked in the third-quarter, which brought the whole traditional computer market down nearly 13%. Tablets were up though, and iPad was up big — with an asterisk. The firm attributes Apple’s strong growth in that segment to a couple of factors — fulfillment of backlog demand from the second-quarter and “promotional activity.” 

Still, growth is growth and Apple achieved it. The Cupertino-company grew iPad shipments in India ~71%, taking third-place in tablets for the country with a ~twelve-and-a-half-percent market share. Apple’s growth in tablets was enough to spur growth for the combined PC/tablet space. Putting those two together, Apple saw third-quarter growth of just over 61% — claiming a fourth-place market share of 5.3%. 

Mac laptops and desktops do not make the top-five in India, according to Canalys. 

Apple Temporarily Removes Option to Upgrade Home Architecture in iOS 16.2

A bit of a gaff for Apple just ahead of the holiday weekend. A piece from iDownloadBlog says Apple removed the option to upgrade to the new HomeKit architecture in iOS 16.2’s Home app late last week. 

Eh. Not a big weekend for new tech, I guess…

According to the report:

As part of the transition to the new Matter smart home connectivity standard, Apple has rebuilt its Home app in iOS 16.2 around a new smart home architecture. When the user opens the Home app after upgrading to iOS 16.2, they see a banner or splash screen offering to upgrade their smart home.

Or, they did. Some people I know had no issue with the upgrade. Others met with error messages, trouble with sharing options, devices that could no longer communicate, and more. While it’s unclear how many people were negatively affected, it was apparently enough to make Apple pump the brakes. In an update to its Home architecture upgrade support document the company said it had “temporarily removed the option to upgrade to the new Home architecture,” adding that the “option to upgrade will return soon.”

ITC Says Apple Watch Violates Patents Held by AliveCor (But…)

Apple got an unwanted present from the International Trade Commission (ITC) on Christmas Eve eve. 9to5Mac ran a piece last Friday that had the ITC saying that Apple Watch infringes patents held by medical device maker AliveCor. The ITC decision marks a serious turn in a legal fight that’s gone on for the past couple of years. This is legal battle is one that could end with a ban on Apple’s latest watches. 

According to the report, AliveCor made a band for Apple Watch with ECG capability soon after Apple released its watch in 2015. AliveCor’s hope was that it could strike a partnership with Apple. Instead, Apple slipped ECG functionality into Apple Watch itself in 2018. AliveCor complained to the ITC in 2021. Apple asked the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to invalidate the patents in question. And now — all parties are in a bit of a holding pattern.

Apple Granted a Reprieve From the Ban, For Now

9to5Mac says the ITC has declared a Limited Exclusion Order and a cease and desist that could ban the sale an import of Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra. The order actually does ban that sale and import, though it’s also suspended enforcement of the Order until all appeals between the two companies have been heard. It seems unlikely that Order will ever be enforced, though. The report says the:

…Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), said earlier this month that AliveCor’s technologies are “unpatentable,”  which means that they’re too obvious or too general to be patentable.

Apple Gets $98 Million Tax Bill from Japan

Apple’s on the hook for $98 million in Japan. Actually, for most of us a bill for $98 million would put us “on the hook.” For Apple, it’s lunch money. Anyway, a piece from AppleInsider indicates that Apple owes Japan a $98 million tax bill. According to the report:

Japan offers tax-free shopping for visitors staying less than six months to buy certain goods without paying the country’s 10% consumption tax. However, the exemption doesn’t apply to purchases for resell purposes.

And there’s the rub. Authorities on the island nation have found bulk purchases of iPhones and other Apple kit for which the foreigners were not charged the tax. “At least one transaction involved an individual buying hundreds of iPhones at once,” according to the piece, “strongly suggesting that Apple didn’t tax a possible reseller.”

Sounds like Apple knew this was coming. The piece says the Cupertino-company actually ended the tax-free shopping option back in June.

Apple was not the only company to face this issue. AppleInsider says Japanese tax authorities found somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,000 untaxed transactions that should have been taxed from July 2021 through June 2022. That’s led to penalties and taxes equal to roughly US$654 million.

Carrot Weather Dangles Discount for Dark Sky Users

And finally today, as darkness approaches for the Apple-owned Dark Sky weather app, Carrot Weather is making a play. The app is probably best known for its… colorful forecasts. A piece from iDownloadBlog says those have four categories — Friendly, Snarky, Homicidal, and Overkill. 

While the latest update includes UI tweaks that’ll make it more familiar to Dark Sky users, the piece says Carrot Weather includes a number of features Dark Sky does/did not. Among those are:

…watchOS complications, widgets, a fully customizable interface, additional weather data sources, lightning and storm cell notifications, professional-grade individual radar stations and more.

Now how would you pay? Well — you’ll pay 25% less for Carrot Weather’s highest level with this promotion. iDownloadBlog says “New Carrot users with Dark Sky installed on their iPhones can get 25 percent off the Premium Ultra subscription…” That drops the price from $40-per-year to $30. Of course, a lot of the Dark Sky features have been folded into Apple’s own Weather apps for iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. 

The standalone Dark Sky app goes permanently dark on Sunday, Jan. 1.

This week on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations podcast

Regulars and friends of the show are looking at two-stories a day — the first being the most important Apple or tech story of 2022, with the second being their most interesting or favorite tech story of 2022. 

TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts shared his two Monday — one was a real life saver, while the other had a lock on his interest… 

Today, TMO writer Nick deCourville looks at a partial Apple get together and crashing at the amusement park.

Tomorrow — Daily Tech News Show’s Tom Merritt takes a really intelligent look at Artificial Intelligence and the state of streaming today… and we’ll talk about the rest of the week later this week. 

4 thoughts on “China’s COVID Crisis Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving

  • Ken:

    That laptops (notebooks) tanked in the third quarter of 2022 will not have gone unnoticed, by Apple or anyone else looking to sell hardware. Most IT architecture in South Asia is built around Windows, so not surprising that Macs do not make the top five selling computers.

    That tablets, notably iPads soared 71%, taking third place amongst tablets in this overwhelmingly Windows-dominated market, will also have caused some Linda Blair-esque/Exorsist-level head spinning in both Cupertino and Redmond. I’ll leave it to you to figure in which location those spinning heads were smiling.

    With many now working either hybrid or at home, the value proposition of the clamshell laptop, which tends to underperform relative to similarly priced desktops, with the simultaneous performance improvements in the iPad Pro and Air, might just be putting the squeeze on emerging markets with less disposable income, resulting in a very different calculus on hardware purchases. After all, how many of those laptops are used for anything other than email, website access, word processing and spreadsheets – all of which can be done on an iPad with a keyboard and the MS 365 app, assuming that users do not know about or are comfortable with Apple’s suit of similar apps. Apple are no doubt paying attention.


    As Jeff mentioned, it’s not simply the uncertain vaccine coverage for the Chinese population, it’s a witch’s brew of enforced immunological nativity from prolonged isolation (people remaining susceptible with no natural or other antibodies against SARS-CoV-2), national vaccine development whose products appear to under-perform relative to vaccines produced outside of China and the absence of any independent assessment of efficacy using the gold standard of a double-blind, randomised vaccine trial to determine not only vaccine efficacy but permit modelling of infection spread based on the use of said vaccines in the face of unrestricted physical contact, uncertain logistics, particularly in rural areas, and how this will affect vaccine access, and the interaction with other pathogens, like influenza, that undoubtedly are circulating in China.

    This may be an illustration of ‘tough-love’ CCP style, in which Xi is letting the people have what they demanded – all at once – in an attempt to underscore his authority, ie next time they will do as he says. ‘Disobedience and rebellion bring pain and ruin’ kind of thing.

  • “…the under-vaccinated Chinese population’s sudden exposure to COVID-19 is calling that into question on both the production side and the consumer side. The Financial Times says as many as one-million people in China could die this winter due to COVID exposure…”

    They had how long to get vaccinated? Not that we don’t have a serious problem with antivaxxers and the under-vaccinated.

    1. It isn’t just about getting vaccinated, there. I hear it’s more about getting effective, properly tested vaccines; China’s policies aren’t like the rest of the world’s.

      1. “I hear it’s more about getting effective, properly tested vaccines;”

        They had how long to get them?

        “China’s policies aren’t like the rest of the world’s”

        And now they are paying for it.

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