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Apple's app approval process has gone from stringent to easy

Over the past decade, the policies governing the Apple App Store have changed significantly. In the early days, getting any app into the store was incredibly difficult. Apple didn't want anyone they considered a competitor to have software on their platform. They even denied Google Voice for duplicating native features. Today, in addition to Google Voice, there are hundreds of voice and text services on the iPhone that duplicate native features from a myriad of competitors, including Google and Microsoft.

The company's content policing policy was also very different a decade ago. An early app submission, named Ninjawords, was a dictionary - one of the simplest and most innocuous apps possible. However, Apple took offense to the dictionary containing certain words and forced the company to censor the dictionary. Today, Apple allows apps like Tumblr, to display adult content.

These days, the company's less stringent guidelines have led to a platform that occasionally lets through an app with potentially malicious intent. The App Store isn't quite the security threat of Google Play, but it is letting through fake apps, including those that steal personal data and violate copyrights. But there is a big difference between an unofficial Pokemon game and an app that pretends to be a productivity tool.

This week, just such an app made waves on the App Store. An app called "Setup for Amazon Alexa" managed to not only crack Apple's security, but it also cracked the top 10 utility apps in the store. The app gathers IP address, as well as your Alexa device's serial number, though it is not known exactly what can be done with that information. It is possible that this could be enough to monitor transmissions sent from the device to Amazon for processing, turning the device into more of a spy device than most people already consider them.

Needless to say, if you have downloaded the app, you should uninstall it immediately.

December 23, 2018 - Episode 516 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple's quality control is folding, the Xbox One is closer to a PC, and T-Mobile isn't ready to hijack your TV just yet.

Predictions for 2019 - Episode 184 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses some of his predictions for what we will see and, more importantly, what we won't see in 2019. Avram expects to see the price of SSD drop seeing around 10 cents per gigabyte, meaning that you will be able to purchase a 1 terabyte drive for around $100. This should start a trend in laptops replacing their built-in drives to SSD, even on less expensive machines. He also expects a little disappointment in 5G - he expects that it will not go anywhere in 2019. Instead, it will be a lot of hype and very little delivery. Some cities will see spotty coverage start to show up, but nowhere is going to have a real rollout.

Apple's quality control is failing, iPad Pros are shipping bent

Once upon a time, Apple was run by a maniac with a level of obsession that could become painful for the people around him. This man was Steve Jobs, and he was known to do everything in his power to prevent anything even close to wrong from leaving his company. When the iPhone 4 was announced, it was to come in both black and white. However, it took over a half year before we would see the white model because Jobs wasn't presented with a shade of white he liked. Even when something slipped his notice, he blamed other companies.

After ceding control of the company, things changed fairly quickly. Today, it is not unusual for Apple to ship broken, defective, or knowingly poorly designed products. The iPhone 5, which was the last product Jobs had his hands on, shipped with scratches and dents. Then there was the famous #bendgate, where iPhone 6 would bend in a pocket. This week, Apple has combined both of these controversies into a new one, featuring the new iPad Pro.

According to owners in the MacRumors forums, some units have a bend in the body. Some claim that it happened after transporting it in a bag or backpack, while others claim that it was there when they opened their box. As it turns out, the latter seems to be more likely, as Apple has confirmed this is a reality. The company claims that this manufacturing defect is a normal part of the manufacturing process and that the bend will not get worse over time.

The question is, is this change in the company's treatment of its customers and lack of manufacturing control acceptable? Phone sales have slipped enough that the company is not reporting individual model sales anymore. iPad sales have always been slow, with Android and Windows devices outselling the company's tablets. The stock price has also shown a fall, down nearly 20 percent in 2018. It might be time for Apple to return to the obsessiveness of Jobs.

December 9, 2018 - Episode 515 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, China's phones are looking for a home, Valve has found a new competitor, and the internet is having a change of heart.

Viper Gaming V765 Mechanical RGB Illuminated Gaming Keyboard - Episode 183 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch has a hands-on with a gaming keyboard he is currently reviewing for Tom's Hardware: the Viper Gaming V765 Mechanical Keyboard. This keyboard is designed for gamers, featuring a shorter actuation distance, making it easier to respond quickly while gaming. The switches are an uncommon white, which makes they click, but not require as much pressure to actuate. But it is also good for regular typing, as the keys put less pressure on your fingers, meaning you can type more and longer without fatigue. While he has not published the full interview, Avram is incredibly impressed with the keyboard, especially for the price.

Chinese smartphone companies mired in surging new global concern

Over the past few years, fears over Chinese smartphones manufacturers has grown. In the US, under the previous administration, Congress banned the import of any Huawei phones, later downgraded from an outright ban to a governmental ban. Under the current administration, bans were renewed and expanded to include ZTE, and then reduced once again. Following the US lead, Japan has reportedly banned governmental use of both manufacturers' handsets.

These bans come from reports of Chinese government-backed software included on the phones, with the intent to log keystrokes and data transmissions. These fears were raised after several security firms raised concerns over some software discovered deep inside the Android operating system installed on handsets tested. Handsets are not the only concern, however, as UK telecom company BT has announced they will not use Huawei's hardware for their 5G installation and will, in fact, remove all existing Huawei hardware over the next 2 years.

Adding to Huawei's global troubles is the arrest of CFO and deputy chairman, Meng Wanzhou. She was arrested by Canadian authorities at the request of US law enforcement, with extradition expected quickly. While charges have not been made public, it is likely that it has to do with violations of international sanctions against Iran. The company has reportedly shipped handsets to the country, despite sanctions over human rights concerns.

During the last Olympic games, Samsung had to scramble to deal with the sanctions themselves. While not shipping handsets to Iran regularly, their plan, as a title sponsor, was to give special phones to every Olympian. Unfortunately, sanctions prevented them from following through on the gifting to both Iran and North Korea. Olympians from those nations were required to return the phones after the games. Huawei could certainly learn a lot from the commitment of Samsung in this case.

This will not be the end of troubles for these two manufacturers, however. With 5G installations underway internationally, Huawei stands to lose a lot in their network infrastructure sales. And, if more countries follow the lead of the US and Japan, handset sales will be a problem, as well.

December 2, 2018 - Episode 514 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Apple is looking to the past, the FTC is looking to the future, and Google is looking at a revolt.

2018 Holiday Deals You Can Still Get - Episode 182 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch talks about some of the Holiday deals that are still available. While Black Friday used to be a single day, it expanded into Cyber Monday, and today it encompasses nearly the entire month of December. Some of the deals that are available expire on Cyber Monday, there are still a ton of deals that you can get for yourself or a loved one right now.

Apple is hoping to prevent customers from suing using old ruling

What do Apple and concrete blocks have in common? The Supreme Court has been asked to answer that exact question. In the 1970s, a group of concrete block manufacturers got together to regulate the price they all charged for their product. This guaranteed that the price of the product would be higher than if they competed against one another. The State of Illinois sued, claiming that the inflated costs of blocks would increase the price of construction projects for the state.

The case made it to the US Supreme Court, who ruled that the state could not sue for damages because damages could not be proven. The Court said that it would be impossible for any court to unravel the cost distribution from supplier to sub-contractor, sub-contractor to general contractor, general contractor to state with any meaningful way. As such, they ruled that only the direct customer of the company could sue for damages from anti-trust.

Now, how does this apply to Apple? The company is trying to use this ruling to prevent consumers from suing over anti-trust issues. Specifically, a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011, claims that Apple is using its monopoly position as the exclusive app store provider for iOS to gouge consumers on price. Apple has argued that they do not set the price for the products and provide distribution as a service to app developers, so the app developers are their customer, not the consumer.

While Apple claims that their App Store is a service for developers, and is more like being the owner of a mall rather than a store (despite its name), the Justices did not seem to buy into the argument. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said,

The first sale is from Apple to the customer. It's the customer who pays the 30 percent.

This ruling has the potential to have major repercussions throughout the industry, as legally defining who the customer of an app distribution platform is, could change the way Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and more, treat their consumers. If consumers are not customers, these companies could increase their fee to developers because they can retain a monopoly. If consumers are customers, and the lawsuit can continue, we might see alternate distribution methods appear on Apple devices.

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