Travelin’ Tim Takes his Time in China

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Tim Cook and China and iPhone and China, updates aplenty for Apple gear, and Apple’s big plans for the big screen come into focus.

Apple CEO Meets with China’s Commerce Minister

Tim Cook’s time in the Middle Kingdom continues. After visiting at least one Apple store over the weekend and speaking at the China Development Forum, a piece from 9to5Mac says Apple’s CEO met Monday with China’s commerce minister Wang Wentao. Citing a Reuters report, the piece says the two “met to discuss Apple’s continued ‘development in China.’” They’re said to have focused specifically on “stabilizing industrial and supply chains” in China. According to the piece, the commerce minister “reportedly emphasized to Cook that ‘China is willing to provide a good environment and services for foreign companies including Apple.’”

All of that was buttressed by an official statement. A CNBC piece quoted that as saying:

China will unswervingly promote high-level opening-up, steadily promote rules, regulations, management, standards and other institutional opening-up…

The wording is weird — maybe a lost in translation or a lost in machine translation thing… It does make you wonder though… Think China’s heard about India? And Vietnam? And Arizona?

iPhone 13s Top-Three Sellers in China in 2022

Speaking of China — as we so often do — can you guess what the top-three selling smartphones were for that country last year? According to market tracker Counterpoint Research, they were iPhone 13. The firm’s blurb says, “Apple contributed over 10% of China’s smartphone sales volume in 2022.” Assuming we’re going by units, that’s over 98-million iPhones for China alone. Running down the top-three:

  • iPhone 13 was first 
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max was second
  • iPhone 13 Pro was third

A few interesting points among those points. For starters — those three iPhones were the only iPhones in China’s top-ten. Second — 2022 was the first year one of Apple’s Pro-phones was able to crack the top-ten. Third — it is crazy how many smartphones must be out there. According to Counterpoint, “the share of the top 10 models in China has been flat at around 22% for the past three years…” hence Apple’s top-three accounting for just over 10% of the market. 

One other note of interest. Counterpoint says “all smartphones in the 2022 list were priced at less than $500,” the three iPhones, of course, not included.

Updates-a-Plenty for Apple Gear

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 16.4

Monday was a big day for OS updates from Apple. Most of our update news comes compliments of MacRumors, starting with the release of iOS and iPadOS 16.4. Some of the most anticipated features for the releases include:

  • 21 new emoji including animals, hand gestures, and objects…
  • Notifications for web apps added to the Home Screen
  • Voice Isolation for cellular calls…
  • Support for duplicate detection in iCloud Shared Photo Library

There are also new accessibility features, including VoiceOver support for maps in the Weather app, and the feature that’ll let the phone dim flashing light or strobe effect video automatically — provided that feature has been turned on. 

All of that, plus changes to the Apple Podcasts app, an order tracking widget, support for the PlayStation 5 DualSense Edge wireless controller, security fixes, and bug fixes. iOS and iPadOS 16.4 are available now in Settings on compatible devices. 

Securing Older Devices

As tends to be the way, Apple did release a security focused update for iPhones and iPads that have not or cannot make the move to blank-OS-16-dot-anything. A piece from MacRumorssays if your device is running 15.7.whatever, you need to update to 15.7.4. That fixes an actively exploited vulnerability, according to the report.

Sending Out More SOS-es

In lockstep with the OS releases, Apple on Monday expanded the availability of Emergency SOS via satellite to six more countries. This is the feature that’ll let users call for emergency assistance when they’re out of wifi and cellular range. It’ll also let users message contacts when they’re off the grid, letting them know that they are — in fact — still alive. 

Available in a few countries already, a piece from AppleInsider says the service has expanded to a few more. They include Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Belgium.

Updates for Many Macs

Making our way to the trad computer, MacRumors has word of the release of macOS Venture 13.3. Some hot newness is the same as the iOS and iPadOS updates, such as new emoji, duplicate detection in iCloud Shared Photo Library, and the aforementioned accessibility features. Then there are Mac specific features like one tied to Freeform, transliteration support for a few keyboards in languages foreign to the U.S., keyboard layouts for Native American languages, security fixes, and bug fixes. 

Just like with the iPhones and iPads, Apple’s also offering security updates for Macs that can’t or won’t make the move to Ventura. Those come in the forms of macOS Monterey 12.6.4, and macOS Big Sur 11.7.5. Each is available now through the Settings app on an associated Mac.

Watch Me Now!

Moving now to the wrist, Apple on Monday released watchOS 9.4. Fixes, expansions, and a chance at deletion on this one. Deletion of preloaded apps, that is. Features listed by MacRumors include:

  • Making it so that wake-up alarms are not silenced with cover to mute. That should keep users from accidentally cancelling their alarms during sleep
  • Cycle Tracking makes the move to Moldova and Ukraine
  • AFib History is now available in Colombia, Malaysia, Moldova, Thailand, and Ukraine

As for the preloaded app deletion, a separate piece from MacRumors says the watchOS update makes that possible. It’s not just that you can remove the apps. Rather, the piece says you can delete Activity, Depth, Emergency Siren, Find My, Heart Rate, Maps, Wallet, Workout, and World Clock right from the watch. According to the report:

Prior to watchOS 9.4, you could remove an app from your Apple Watch by removing it from your iPhone, but the app needed to be deleted from both devices. With watchOS 9.4, you can delete an app like Activity or Maps on your Apple Watch, leaving it intact on the ‌iPhone‌.

All of that plus security fixes, too. watchOS 9.4 is available now through the Watch app on an associated iPhone.

Vision + Sound + Vision

Let us now do the “and the rest” thing. Pieces from MacRumors say:

  • tvOS 16.4 for Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD does the thing where flashing or strobing video can be dimmed automatically — provided you set it to do so. It also brings security fixes.
  • And finally Studio Display Firmware Update 16.4 does stuff worthy of a Studio Display. Things having to do with “in-field recalibration” and the “spectroradiometer.” I don’t know what they do either, but… you sprung for the Studio Display. You might as well go for the firmware update, too.

Apple Reportedly Acquires AI Video Compression Startup WaveOne

Apple’s bought a company that uses AI to compress videos — that is the word from TechCrunch. According to the report, “Apple has quietly acquired a Mountain View-based startup, WaveOne, that was developing AI algorithms for compressing video.” Like, really quietly. Like — Apple won’t even say it happened. That’s how quiet. 

Still — other signs point to the acquisition. Not only are some former WaveOne workers — including one of its cofounders — now rockin’ an Apple lanyard, the startup’s “former head of sales and business development” posted about it on LinkedIn last month. According to the sales dude:

After almost two years at WaveOne, last week we finalized the sale of the company to Apple… We started our journey at WaveOne, realizing that machine learning and deep learning video technology could potentially change the world. Apple saw this potential and took the opportunity to add it to their technology portfolio.

“…change the world” in ways (one assumes) you will see, but are unlikely to perceive. If I understand what TechCrunch is saying, WaveOne uses AI to reduce the size of video files and apply intelligence to the video decompression side — prioritizing faces, for example, or the subject of a given shot.

As for Apple’s interest, TechCrunch says:

…the obvious answer is more efficient streaming. Even minor improvements in video compression could save on bandwidth costs, or enable services like Apple TV+ to deliver higher resolutions and framerates depending on the type of content being streamed.

Ah yes — it is as Tim Cook said*, “Even minor improvements in video compression… can change the world.”

*Tim Cook never actually said that as far as we know.

Fitbit on iPhone Now Requires iOS 15 or Later

Fitbit has a message for you users of older iPhones — might be time to consider an Apple Watch. The site 9to5Google says:

…Fitbit has raised its minimum requirements for iOS devices. The app (and in turn the fitness trackers) now requires iOS 15 or higher in order to function. As recently as early March, Fitbit required iOS 14 or higher.

Conversely, this week’s watchOS 9.4 update runs on Apple Watches as far back as Series 4, while the Watch app only needs an operating systems as recent as iOS 10, which is not recent at all. 

But hey, Fitbit — you do you. 

Apple TV+ Announces Theatrical Releases for ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’

And finally today, Apple TV+ is signaling its intentions on its biggest film so far — way, way in advance. The Cupertino-streamer issued a press release Monday, announcing a limited release, a wide release, and vague streaming plans for the Martin Scorsese film Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s hard to imagine you need a reminder, but just in case — the release says:

…based on David Grann’s bestselling [non-fiction] book of the same name, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is set in 1920s Oklahoma and depicts the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation, a string of brutal crimes that came to be known as the Reign of Terror. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons, Cara Jade Myers, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion and Tantoo Cardinal.

If you just can’t wait, you will have to. And if you just can’t wait to see it at home, you will really have to. According to Apple, the film:

…will first be released exclusively in theaters worldwide, in partnership with Paramount Pictures, limited on Friday, October 6, and wide on Friday, October 20, before streaming globally on Apple TV+.

How long before? Apparently you’ll get it when you get it. 

News of the staggered release would seem to fold in nicely with rumors we heard last week about Apple’s big movie plans. It was then that Bloomberg said Apple plans to put about a billion dollars a year into films that it would then put into theaters. Highlighting the Bloomberg rumor, a piece from Yahoo! Finance said Apple TV+ films thought to be hitting the silver screen before your TV screen included Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle, Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, and Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon.

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast 

TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts and I talk about Tim Cook’s time in China and iPhone’s fortune in China. Plus: a look at Monday’s OS updates and questions around them. That’s all today on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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