Apple and China news, high crazy by tweet, and tweaking Apple’s Crash Detection. Those are the sorts of things we’re noticing from the Observation Deck today.
China Lifts Zhengzhou COVID Lockdown
The Chinese government lifted the COVID-19 lockdown in Zhengzhou, China, the location of the Foxconn facility where most iPhone Pro models are assembled. This raises the possibility that normal operations at the facility will resume soon.
Naiveté thy name is… somebody. Assuming the plant gets to stay open for more than five-minutes, they have tens-of-thousands of positions to fill. Then again, maybe it depends on your definition of the word “soon.”
Apple Less Reliant on China (Kinda)
While a number of Apple watchers have decried the company’s dependence on China, 9to5Mac had an interesting story Wednesday. According to that, Apple is less dependent on China than it once was. The piece cites a Reuters report, saying Apple has dropped “the percentage of production sites in China from 44-47% in 2019 to 36% in 2021.” The piece quotes Reuters, saying:
The data shows how a diversification drive by Apple and its suppliers, with investments in India and Vietnam and increased procurement from Taiwan, the United States and elsewhere, is reshaping the global supply structure, although analysts and academics say it will remain heavily exposed to China for many years to come.
It’s kind of funny-not-funny. The “percentage of production sites” term makes it sound as if they’re talking about the number of places things are built. If you get that percentage down to one, but that one-percent is the iPhone City plant in Zhengzhou — makes one a pretty big number.
But look at me — cursing the darkness rather than celebrating the dawn. Yes — Apple’s dependence on China is troublesome, partly because of troubled relations between the U.S. and China, partly because of China’s authoritarian government, and partly because of the dangers of putting all your eggs in one basket. Moving those eggs around, as Apple is continuing to do, should help take care of the other two.
But it will take time. The piece has Eli Friedman, “an associate professor at Cornell University who studies labour in China,” saying the “China supply chain is not going to evaporate overnight. Decoupling is just not realistic for these companies for the time being.” That said he says he does expect such diversification to accelerate.
Senator Wants Answers from Apple on China, Expresses Concern Over Twitter Talk
Maybe Apple’s CEO should mention his company’s lessening dependance on China to Senator Josh Hawley. AppleInsider says the Republican senator from Missouri “has written an open letter to Apple’s Tim Cook, and amongst other topics, is accusing the company of helping China suppress free speech.” Quoting the report:
Hawley has previously said that Cook, and Google’s Sundar Pichai, [should] be held personally accountable over privacy issues to do with coronavirus contact tracing. Now he says that Apple should cut its dependency on China, bring work back to the US — and also should not ban Twitter.
Yeah, that might have been a made up thing, but we’ll get to that. Quoting Senator Hawley’s letter:
[U]nder your leadership, Apple has time and again assisted the Chinese Communist Party in surveilling and suppressing the basic human rights of the Chinese people… At the same time, it appears that Apple might be importing this model of speech control to the United States: reports indicate that your company might deplatform Twitter from the App Store as a consequence of the free speech policies implemented by new ownership.
It’s not “reports,” it’s “report.” And one might not even be able to call it a report, rather just something that Elon Musk said. But we’ll get to that.
Hawley’s letter includes a list of questions he’d like Apple to answer. Among them, according to AppleInsider:
- When will Apple condemn the treatment of workers in Zhengzhou?
- Why has it not already condemned this treatment?
- What are the “material risks” in Apple’s continued dependency on China?
- If China invaded Taiwan, what impact would this have on Apple?
- Why did Apple limit AirDrop in China?
Hawley’s letter was dated Nov. 29. He wants answers back from Apple by Dec. 6. That really doesn’t give much time for turnaround, though if Apple doesn’t have answers for those questions at the ready… well… one imagines the company will be able to meet the short deadline.
Sound and Fury: The Twitter Tales
So Elon Musk’s big, dumb Twitter jag against Apple earlier this week seems to have been based on little more than living into his newfound calling as the world’s largest troll. He made a number of accusations against the Cupertino-company on Monday. In one Twitter post he said that “Apple has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” asking “Do they hate free speech in America?” In another post he said, “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why…”
Now, it seems neither of those statements was true.
On the first one — the one that said Apple had “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter,” a piece from Gizmodo cites numbers from digital ad analytics firm Pathmatics that say “not so.” That firm had Apple spending $84,615 on Twitter ads the very same day that Musk said Apple had “mostly stopped advertising on Twitter. The day before that,” the firm says, “Apple spent a full $104,867.” In fact, Gizmodo says:
Apple spent $1,005,784 on Twitter ads in the first 28 days of November, already more than that company’s October budget of $988,523, according to [Pathmatics].
As for Apple’s threat to “withhold Twitter from its App Store…” never happened, according to — oh… this is embarrassing… never happened according to Elon Musk. Because remember, despite Senator Hawley’s assertion that “reports” indicated Apple might pull Twitter from the App Store, it was actually just something that Musk Tweeted.
On Wednesday, Elon Musk posted a video to Twitter of a reflecting pool at Apple Park. Musk wasn’t in it. Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn’t in it. And yet, it was accompanied by the message, “Thanks @tim_cook for taking me around Apple’s beautiful HQ.” Personally, I figured no meeting happened between the two, though DaringFireball’s John Gruber actually had the meeting confirmed by some insider. “A little birdie told me Cook was walking around campus with Musk,” reads part of Gruber’s confirmation. Not much later — at around 3pm the West Coast, Musk tweeted:
Good conversation. Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store. Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.
That prompted Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives to tweet:
Good to see Musk and Cook patch things up and resolve any issues. A step forward for both Musk and Cupertino looking ahead and no more issues it appears.
And that prompted me to pound one time on my keyboard and start day drinking.
Also — Cook is now following Musk on Twitter. And that prompted me to have another.
Apple TV+ Offers First Look for ‘Shrinking’
Apple TV+ has offered the world a first look at its next high-profile comedy series. The Mac Observer says the Cupertino-streamer has posted a teaser for its Jason Segel/Harrison Ford show Shrinking. In a press release the streamer says:
Shrinking follows a grieving therapist (played by Segel) who starts to break the rules and tell his clients exactly what he thinks. Ignoring his training and ethics, he finds himself making huge, tumultuous changes to people’s lives … including his own.
The video offers attitude and a sense of humor, though noting in terms of plot. It includes a number of actors, including Segel, bouncing into and out of view — first with frowns on their faces, then with smiles. It ends with Segel standing on a trampoline, suffering a disapproving look from Harrison Ford, who did not bounce on the trampoline.
There is reason for Apple to be hopeful around the title. While Segel and Ford are no small gets, the show counts among its creators Segel, Ted Lasso writer and co-creator Bill Lawrence, and Ted Lasso writer and cast member Brett Goldstein.
He’s here. He’s there. He is every bleeping where.
The first-season will be comprised of ten episodes. The first two of those premier Friday, Jan. 27, 2023.
Latest iOS Update Optimizes Crash Detection
And finally today, Apple on Wednesday released iOS 16.1.2. You might be expecting me to say, “and iPadOS 16.1.2,” but not this time. While some of what’s addressed in the iOS update could affect the iPad, the main feature addressed — Crash Detection — is not a feature of the tablet.
I’m assuming that Crash Detection is the primary reason for the update, as accidental calls about non-accidents keep happening. The latest vector — ski slopes. The Mac Observer highlights a report from KSL-TV out of Salt Lake City, Utah. That report has county officials “seeing an uptick in accidental emergency calls” coming from iPhones that think they’ve detected a crash as their owners are coming down the mountain. “For those who have not experienced it,” TMO explains:
…when the iPhone 14 or newer models of the Apple Watch sense that a crash has taken place, the device sends a message prompt with an alarm. The user has 20 seconds to respond. Should the 20 seconds elapse without a response from the user, (…) an automated message is sent to the nearest 911 call center.
But — you know… you’re speeding down that double-black-diamond or whatever… how are you going to hear or feel that notification in time to cancel the call? With ski season underway, one county official says dispatch is getting “three to five calls from Apple Watch or iPhone users per day.” So far none of those have been actual car crashes.
Now the kicker: Summit County Dispatch Center Supervisor Suzie Butterfield still wants skiers to leave the feature on. The piece quotes her as saying:
Somebody could ski and hit a tree and be knocked unconscious and not be visible to other skiers. We do not want you to turn the feature off. We would rather have you be safe. We don’t mind taking that call because if something really did happen, we want to be able to get to you.
Somebody please give Suzie Butterfield an award.
Anyway — between ski slope incidents and problems on certain roller coasters, it seems likely that the “Crash Detection optimizations on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models” are the primary reason for the dot-one-dot-two update — again because the other features in the update could affect iPad as well. In addition to the crash-ops, Apple’s release notes say the update offers “Improved compatibility with wireless carriers,” something a 5G iPad might like to have.
There may also be security fixes tied to the teeny update, though hard to say for sure. Right now, Apple’s security site simply says “details available soon…”
Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast
Year’s end can mean only one thing: War between Spotify and Apple Music. Nick deCourville joins me to talk about the end of the year music recaps Wrapped and Replay. Plus — new old content is officially “Included with Apple TV+,” and Will Smith does PR for Emancipation. that’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.