Sneaking a Peek at iOS 16.4 Features

The Daily Observations

A look at iPhone sales in China, a sneak peek at iOS 16.4 features, and a bit of news around Apple TV+.

Counterpoint: iPhone Sales in China Grew 6% in January

The end of COVID restrictions plus lunar new year celebrations equaled a pretty good January for iPhone in China. Counterpoint Research issued iPhone numbers for the first month of the year in the Middle Kingdom. 

The overall smartphone numbers are a bit strange. According to the firm, January 2023 numbers are about the same as January 2022. However, that is seen as a really good start for the year, since January 2022 was the best month for smartphone sales in China for the year. The rest of the year was rocked by the occasional COVID lockdown. With those apparently in the rearview mirror, Counterpoint thinks smartphone sales in China should “recover to positive growth” this year, though that’ll be in the “low single digits,” in the firm’s estimation.

Not that everyone agrees. Counterpoint’s own release says some cynical smartphone watchers see the January-numbers as a function of pent-up December demand plus the early lunar new year. That said, Counterpoint counters that those factors helped clear out inventory and “ignited the discussion on whether the stagnant market will finally bottom out and rise in 2023.”

The “Tinker Bell Principle,” as I live and breathe. 

Let’s get to the iPhone part, which is small. Quoting Counterpoint: 

Apple remained China’s biggest OEM in January in terms of sales share and its sales increased about 6% YoY, according to preliminary data from Counterpoint Market Pulse Service.

Pent up demand and a holiday season almost definitely played a part in that. To see whether it continues, we’ll check in again in about a month. 

OS Numbers Show Sizable Gulf Between Recent iOS and iPadOS Installs

Well into their respective runs, Apple has released the first install numbers for iOS and iPadOS 16. 9to5Mac had the Cupertino-company laying out the numbers on its Developer site

According to the company, iOS 16 is powering 81% of compatible devices made in the last four-years. Broaden that to all devices running iOS and you’re still looking at a sizable majority. 72% of active iOS devices are running iOS 16-dot something, by Apple’s account.

iPadOS is a crazy different story. For iPads introduced in the last four-years, Apple says only 53% are running iPadOS 16, with 39% running iPadOS 15, and the remaining 8% running something older. Widen out and the numbers are pretty similar. Taking all iPads into account, Apple says 50% are running iPadOS 16, 37% are running iPadOS 15, with the remaining 13% running an older OS. 

No insight offered by Apple on the disparity, which is a bummer. It would be interesting to know why iPhone users are more into upgrading than those who use iPads.

Developers Get First Betas for Next Round of Apple OS Updates

Seemingly in lockstep with the install numbers, the first betas for the next rounds of operating system updates have made their way to developers. A piece from AppleInsider had the first developer betas of iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, tvOS 16.4, and watchOS 9.4 seeing the light of day Thursday. Meanwhile, a piece from MacRumors said the same for macOS Ventura 13.3.

Since nobody prints the non-disclosure agreements, you can’t really say, “the NDAs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.” Easier to say, “we’re hearing a lot of stuff that we technically aren’t supposed to.” 

“NDA’s aren’t worth the breath it takes to break them,” maybe.

Simplifying the Developer Beta Process

Since they are developer betas, we’ll start with a development for developers. A piece from MacRumors says the 16.4 betas of iOS and iPadOS let those folks “turn on developer betas directly from the Software Update section in the Settings app.” That eliminates the need “to install a profile from the Developer Center,” according to the report, making the whole process easier. 

Web Apps Get Pushy

Next up — a tool for developers that suddenly makes what’s been happening on my desktop make sense. You know how just about every site you visit asks if you want to turn on Notifications? My thought is almost always, “who would want to and why?” Another piece from MacRumors clues me in. According to that, Thursday’s betas add “support for web push notifications…” The piece explains:

Websites that are saved as web apps to the Home Screen can send iPhone and iPad users Web Push notifications through the Push API, Notifications API, and Service Workers. 

That assumes the user has given the green light for such notifications. I’m not sure that that’s 100% the same as what’s being asked on the desktop, though thinking of web pages as web apps made the constant question seem less silly. 

Changes for Apple Podcasts

There seems to be a slew of new features coming to Apple Podcasts in the updates. MacRumors again? Why not. The site lists a few podcast-centric changes on the way. They include a new Channels menu, changes to the Up Next queue, ways to get a better handle on unheard and “early access” content, and improvements to Podcasts integration with CarPlay. You can find more about what’s in-store on Apple’s site for podcasters.

Still Waiting in the Wings

It looks like the HomeKit Architecture Upgrade is headed back our way. Introduced in iOS 16.2, the update to the Home app was pulled pretty quickly after a big number of‌ bugs was spotted. A piece from MacRumors says “Home Upgrade Available” is now showing as an option in the iOS 16.4 beta. 

There are also said to be signs of life for the Apple Cash high-yield savings account. Announced in October, yet another piece from MacRumors says:

Code in iOS 16.4 has references to routing and account numbers, current balance, interest earned, data management, funds available for withdrawal, and more.

The way the site sees it, the groundwork is being laid. 

Still Sulking in the Dressing Room

If a mark of classical music is its age, Apple’s classical music app will stand with the most aged among them. A piece from 9to5Mac says the developer beta for iOS 16.4 “brings interface tweaks to Apple Music,” and “no sign of Apple Classical.” Well… none but the internal mentions that were already floating in the code. 

iOS 16.4 Beta Sports 31 New Emojis

Last of the new features for the day — a part that is always my favorite and among my least used (but I love ‘em anyway). TechCrunch says the iOS 16.4 beta brings with it 31 new emoji. Headed to the modern day hieroglyphs are hearts in pink, blue, and grey, a hand pushing to the left, a hand pushing to the right, a shaking face, a moose, a hair pick, a pea pod, and several more. 

No, I will never use most of them. But just being able to gives me an odd amount of joy. 

Lights, Camera, Wednesday?

Movie and TV news for Apple TV+, starting with a reminder about two titles hitting today. The Billy Crudup series “Hello Tomorrow!” starts today. That’s the retro-future dramedy about folks selling timeshares on the moon. The first three episodes should be streaming now. 

Also hitting today, the neo-noir thriller Sharper. Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan, and John Lithgow headline the film about big money, a big con, and… it’s hard to say how many other cons. That film should also be streaming now. 

Looking ahead a few weeks, you can add another show to Apple’s all-of-a-sudden Wednesday line-up. Apple’s video streamer issued a press release Thursday announcing a release date for the series “The Big Door Prize.” Based on the novel of the same name, the release says:

…“The Big Door Prize” tells the story of a small town that is forever changed when a mysterious machine appears in the general store, promising to reveal each resident’s true life potential.

Chris O’Dowd leads the cast. The first three episodes of “The Big Door Prize” hit Apple TV+ on Wednesday, March 29. Additional episodes will land on successive Wednesday’s through the finale on May 17.

And finally today, a much anticipated nerd movie from the Cupertino-streamer has a trailer and a release date. Engadget says the service has released a trailer for Tetris, which is — thankfully — a film about the game’s inception, not a computer generated blocky adventure.

Though it’s amazing we never saw that movie happen. 

Describing the movie that did happen, Engadget says:

Taron Egerton stars as Henk Rogers, a Dutch entrepreneur who (spoiler) secured deals to distribute Tetris on the Game Boy and other consoles. Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov (played by Nikita Yefremov) created the game during the Cold War, but because he was a government employee, he didn’t receive any royalties at the outset. On the surface, that might not sound like the most compelling foundation for a thriller, but the rights to the classic puzzle game were embroiled in a clash between communism and capitalism

That sounds almost as fun as the game itself. 

Tetris plays in the middle of March for audiences at SXSW. It’ll start streaming on Apple TV+ on Friday, March 31. Ahead of all of that, you can catch the trailer now on YouTube

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Apple’s OS adoption numbers piqued my interest — especially the iPadOS numbers. TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts kicks those around with me. Plus — Jeff dives into AI and Apple’s Neural Engine. That’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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