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Apple & Google directed by Senator Paul Wyden to pull Saudi tracking app

 

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has issued a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, calling on the pair to pull an app used to track the movements of Saudi women.

Absher

“It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women, but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy,” Sen. Wyden wrote in part of the letter. “By permitting the app in your respective stores, your companies are making it easier for Saudi men to control their family members from the convenience of their smartphones and restrict their movement. This flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend.”

The app, Absher, is operated by the Saudi government and has innocuous purposes like paying parking fines, but can also be used to monitor and limit the travel activity of wives and daughters under a man’s guardianship, even canceling those permissions entirely. Although Saudi Arabia has loosened some of its old policies toward women —for instance by letting them drive — the country remains very patriarchal.

Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern about Apple and Google’s continued hosting of the app. Human Rights Watch in particular has suggested that the companies could simply ask Saudi Arabia to remove guardianship options and resubmit.

Apple has yet to publicly comment on the matter, but the company is often an outspoken proponent of human rights, including those concerning gender and race. It has repeatedly shut down attempts to set up a human rights committee, however, and has been accused of maintaining double standards, turning a blind eye to abuses in the Middle East and China in order to preserve its business interests.

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Casper enters smarthome gear with iPhone-connected Glow bedside lamp

 

Casper, until now known for its mattresses, on Tuesday launched the Glow — a bedside sleep light with its own gesture and iPhone controls.

Casper Glow

Physically resembling Apple’s HomePod, the Glow‘s main feature is automatically adjusted color temperature. One gesture, for instance, will trigger a 45-minute transition from bright conventional lighting to a dim red before shutting off. On the flipside of sleep it can gradually wake owners up over the course of 30 minutes, using a time picked in a companion iPhone app. Functionally this is similar to smartbulbs by companies like Philips and LIFX.

A gyroscope sensor lets owners control brightness by twisting. The product can be taken off its wireless charging station for walking around at night, and shaken to trigger a low-level lantern setting. A built-in battery is said to run for up to 7 hours during continuous use.

The iPhone app also lets owners control power, pick from five preset modes, and sync multiple Glows together. So far Casper hasn’t announced support for Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or any other third-party smarthome platforms.

Casper Glow iPhone app

A single Glow costs $89. People wanting a pair can get them for $169.

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Apple exec admits Qualcomm was the only option for 4G in the iPhone for years

 

Potentially aiding Qualcomm’s trial defense against the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Apple has admitted that for years, there was no other realistic option but Qualcomm when it wanted 4G modems for iPhones.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

While the company considered alternatives like Broadcom, Ericsson, and Intel as far back as 2012, none of them could meet specifications, Apple’s director of cellular systems architecture Matthias Sauer said in testimony on Jan. 18, as reported by Bloomberg. The company relied on Qualcomm 4G modems until 2016’s iPhone 7.

Apple did consider using Intel for a 2014 iPad, Sauer added, but skipped the idea out of business reasons and a decision that it didn’t need the specifications it had been looking for, such as carrier aggregation.

The FTC’s lawsuit accuses Qualcomm of antitrust violations by forcing chip buyers to sign patent licenses at inflated rates. The Commission rested its case last week.

Qualcomm has defended its practices by a number of means, for example pointing to the high cost of innovation. Apple though has called the chipmaker’s demands “onerous,” at one point asking Apple to cross-license all its intellectual property to get a direct license for standards-essential patents, something Apple decided to skip.

COO Jeff Williams recently revealed that Apple wanted to return to a mix of Intel and Qualcomm modems for 2018 iPhones, but was shot down by Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf. The two companies have been engaged in a global legal war since 2017, instigated by Apple, which sued over nearly $1 billion in rebates allegedly withheld as retaliation for cooperation with antitrust investigators.

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Apple again starts selling iPhone SE, this time on clearance for $249

 

Apple returned the iPhone SE to its U.S. online store on Saturday, but only as part of a clearance effort to seemingly liquidate the remaining stock of the discontinued handset.

At a new special price, those who are interested can grab a brand new, unopened iPhone SE for only $249 with 32GB or 128GB for $299. They come fully unlocked sporting the same specs as when it was introduced in 2016. As a refresher, the iPhone SE includes the A9 Apple processor, Touch ID, and the four-inch form factor.

Those current prices are $100 and $150 off respectively compared to Apple’s prices before the phone was removed from sale.

Currently, Apple is only selling phones with displays above 4.7-inches, much to the chagrin of small-handed iPhone lovers. MacRumors was first to spot the discounted offering.

Grab one while you can because, with the discount, these likely won’t last too long. Gadget reseller Gazelle has some used models available as well, though they are also selling through.

It isn’t clear how long the iPhone SE will remain supported by iOS. The A9 processor first shipped with the iPhone 6S in September 2015.

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Apple Business Chat continues expanding with auto dealer platform Gubagoo

 

The newest company to adopt Apple Business Chat is Gubagoo, which specializes in setting up 24/7 chat for auto dealerships and manufacturers.

Gubagoo Apple Business Chat

Business Chat brings a “Chat with Messages” button to dealer sites, and tapping on it will connect with Gubagoo chat crews via the iOS Messages app. From there a person can browse car inventory, ask questions, and book appointments such as repairs or test drives.

Tapping on a vehicle in chat will pop up a range of tools and details, such as a payment calculator, trade-in options, tech features, and performance specs. People can even go through early application stages, finishing up in person if and when they decide to buy.

While the average person may not know Gubagoo the company claims over 4,000 dealerships as clients, making it likely that online car shoppers have run into the company’s platform. Until now that platform has been linked exclusively to the Web and Facebook.

Apple Business Chat expands on normal Messages functions so companies can support or sell to customers on iPhones and iPads. For Apple, at least part of the point is probably deflecting people away from Facebook Messenger, which not only offers similar services but is one of the world’s most popular chat platforms in general, with the advantage of being cross-platform. Messages is only on iOS, watchOS, and macOS.

Also on Tuesday, brokerage firm TD Ameritrade began offering both Business Chat and Apple Pay, letting people transfer up to $10,000 per day to their accounts for immediate use. Previously clients had to conduct wire transfers or wait several days for money to process.

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Samsung has a long history of mocking Apple before copying it

Stop us if you’ve heard this one. Apple makes some change to its iPhones, Samsung’s PR company mocks the very idea —and finally Samsung copies it. Sometimes the company keeps a low profile, sometimes it shouts about Apple’s missteps, but always, always Samsung then goes the same way.

Samsung logo with an Apple-style bite taken out of it

Samsung logo with an Apple-style bite taken out of it

We’re not going to critcize Samsung phones here. Let’s not even get into the argument that Android copied iOS —partly because yes, of course it did, but mostly because we want to specifically examine Samsung.

The company usually makes a case that its technology is ahead of Apple’s and while you can regularly dispute that, it is often quite true. Samsung’s phones were waterproof before the iPhone was, for instance, and later in 2019 it’s highly likely that they will release 5G-capable phones and Apple won’t.

What we can’t get over is how Samsung’s PR department keeps hammering on this same nail. As part of all this, it regularly lampoons people who buy iPhones as being deaf to Samsung’s alleged technology superiority —but it treats its own users as being blind. Where Apple users sometimes get called sheep, Samsung is always hoping that its own users have goldfish memories.

The latest case is of course to do with the notch in the iPhone X range which naturally features far more prominently in Samsung’s advertising than it does in Apple’s own.

Yet this all goes back a long way. If it’s usually in such a specific sequence that you could predict when Samsung will mock and how many months later it will copy, there are occasions when its PR company is just wilfully ignoring the facts in order to take a shot at Apple.

Such as with Apple Stores. This one took a long time as Apple Stores opened in 2001 and it was late 2018 when Samsung ran a series of ads spoofing them.

That was part of Samsung’s series of ads called Ingenius which are all set in a mockup of Apple Stores and use, well, mockups of Apple Genius staff.

To be fair, Samsung could’ve done much the same thing with Microsoft Stores and would there have saved some money by not having to hire so many extras as customers.

Yet they could also have used their own stores. There are Samsung Experience Stores and there have been since they were introduced in 2013. It’s easier to find the website for them than it is an actual store, though. And that’s in part because of the last line on the page. “Finding a Samsung Store inside Best Buy near you is easy. Just enter your zip code.”

We added the emphasis but we didn’t enter our zip code—because there’s nowhere to type it. We do hope that this is a fluke, some temporary hiccup, because each time we try, we see only this the page.

Surely this usually works

Surely this usually works

It’s a gorgeously-designed page in the sense of how it looks but it doesn’t actually work.

Lightning fast

So Samsung is mocking the Apple Store experience when you didn’t even know that there was a Samsung Experience Store. Shortly before it opened these shelves inside Best Buy, Samsung also ripped Apple apart for how the company changed from a 30-pin dock to a Lightning cable.

This was 2012 and when we’re reminded that Apple made this change at all, it is startling to realise it was so long ago now. Samsung was right that it was happening and Samsung had a point about how big a change it was. To this day, you will find 30-pin connectors on devices in hotels, for instance.

However, there was also this: when Samsung released that ad, several websites pointed out this third-party product which you can still buy today.

What was that about changing from 30-pin to Lightning?

What was that about changing from 30-pin to Lightning?

That’s apparently the fistful of different cables that you needed to charge all the variations of Samsung phones. In 2012, it was being sold as a 17-in-1 set and today it’s an 18-in-1 set so either the makers missed one or Samsung’s done it again —without Apple mocking them.

Blatant

Call us idealistic, but we do credit customers with noticing things like this. We’re idealistic but also practical, though, so we wouldn’t assume that absolutely everybody would recognize a copy six years after the original. We do expect industry people too, however.

This one is Apple’s version in 2007. Call it Before.

And in 2013, Samsung’s After.

Innovation

In that case, Samsung used Apple’s advertising skill. In the cause of speed and efficiency, it skipped the bit where it first mocked Apple, it just went straight to using the ideas. This isn’t the only time it’s done that —see if you can spot any Apple-esque elements in this ad —but from around 2013, it kept quiet. For a while.

It’s as if it believes both industry experts and its own customers are so siloed that they won’t recognize a copy. They might well have a point there as usually Android advertising passes us by but we did pick up on Samsung’s great online payment innovation.

Samsung Pay innovation

Samsung Pay innovation

Apple Pay launched in 2014 and Samsung Pay was announced about a year later in 2015.

And Samsung couldn’t stop itself. While its advertising claimed that Samsung Pay was more widely accepted than any other system at all, it only showed an Apple Pay transaction failing. That claim about wide acceptance is qualified, by the way, with a little footnote saying “Refers to service coverage”.

We’re sure they’re right and the fact that it initially only worked with then then new Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Note 5 is just a detail. And actually, Samsung Pay does have an advantage over its rivals in that can work with old-style payment machines where you had to swipe your card.

Maybe that gag about failed Apple Pay transaction emboldened Samsung’s PR department, because it’s since then that they’ve gone all out to ridicule their Cupertino rival.

You don’t know jack

Civilization ended in 2016. That was when Apple dropped the headphone jack with the introduction of the iPhone 7. It was such a cataclysmic event that it may have taken you until 2018 to get over it —only to have another of Samsung’s Ingenius ads revive the trauma.

Take a guess what’s happening now. It appears that Samsung’s Galaxy A8S hasn’t got a headphone jack either. We’ll see what happens with the S10.

One notch

Someone at Samsung’s PR department is clearly spotting genuine issues with Apple’s iPhones, or at least things that could be genuine issues to some people. That dropping of the headphone jack was mildly inconvenient and it did mean we all have headphones lying around that we can’t use any more. It was definitely a valid point.

We’re just amused that nobody in Samsung’s PR department talked to Samsung itself. Fortunately, though, they would never make that mistake twice.

Or at least not twice in the same ad campaign.

Throttling

In 2018, both Apple and Samsung were fined for allegedly throttling the speed of their older phones, intentionally slowing them down in order to make you buy new ones.

Italy’s anti-trust body fined Apple the equivalent of $11.4 million and Samsung only $5.7 million so maybe Samsung could claim a little higher moral ground. Except it didn’t, it carried right on mocking how Apple iPhones slow down.

That’s enough now

Then riddled throughout the whole series of Ingenious ads, there are also decreasingly subtle digs at Apple and at Apple fans for that notch introduced in the iPhone X.

There’s no disputing that it detracts from the otherwise edge to edge display on the iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR. You might not mind it, but you know that it would be nicer if it weren’t there. That said, you also know that it’s necessary. The notch is where Apple puts its TrueDepth technology which powers the Face ID system.

Samsung can’t let Apple be the only one with working Face ID so its new phones are set to have the same idea, at least to an extent. And in the case of the Samsung A8S, that same idea is going to feature what looks like a hole punch in the display.

It's not a notch, you've got to give them that

It’s not a notch, you’ve got to give them that

It’s up to you, it’s up to each of us, whether we find that more distracting than a notch but the same thing applies. The display would be better without it.

And there’s one other thing that you know applies. Apple is not going to mock Samsung’s hole punch in its advertising.

Classy

We’re going to say that, yes, Apple is too classy to hammer on Samsung in its major advertising campaigns. However, it’s also smarter. Possibly it’s also more arrogant, but it’s definitely smarter.

All phone manufacturers copy from —are inspired by —each other and, again, Samsung has legitimately beaten Apple to certain features.

Yet, the way that Samsung keeps on going through same loop of derision and copying leaves us feeling that it’s an also-ran. That’s wrong, Samsung makes some great phones yet this pummelling away at Apple is dangerous.

And having your ad agency insult the buyers of your rival’s products doesn’t feel like a winner, either. Maybe it is, maybe this is why Samsung is doing so well compared to all other Android makers.

Except of course that it’s now copying Apple’s China woes.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

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Apple assembly partner Foxconn says December revenues down, blames ‘consumer category products’

 

Apple’s primary assembly partner, Foxconn, said on Thursday that it saw revenues for the month of December drop 8.3 percent year-over-year, likely a reflection of weak iPhone demand.

Foxconn iPhone assembly

Revenues slid to $20.12 billion versus $21.91 billion in 2017, Reuters reported. It’s the first such decline since last February.

“The main reason is that the fall for consumer category products was rather big,” a Foxconn representative said, without providing detail on which clients or products were the culprits.

Foxconn is heavily dependent on Apple orders, and the iPhone in turn is Apple’s biggest product. Manufacturing is usually most intense in late summer and the fall as the two companies prepare to launch new models then cope with holiday demand.

Apple CEO Tim Cook confessed to soft iPhone sales earlier this month, pointing his finger mostly at the Chinese market. He put lesser blame on other markets, as well as factors like “foreign exchange headwinds,” fewer carrier subsidies, and even discounted battery replacements, which some have called an admission that Apple depends on degraded batteries to spur upgrades.

In a recent interview Cook denied suggestions that the iPhone XR has been a flop, saying it has been the bestselling iPhone model since its launch. That may simply be bad news, however, for the iPhone XS and XS Max.

All three phones have come under fire for being too expensive. An XR starts at $749, $100 more than Apple’s once-standard pricetag. An XS is at least $999, and an XS Max is $1,099 — especially rich shoppers can spend as much as $1,449, more than some Macs.

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Editorial: Apple note sends media pundits into a fit of histrionic gibberish

After Apple restated its December quarter revenue guidance to account for weaker than expected iPhone demand in China, media across the spectrum has cranked their clickbait content generators up to 11 to take full advantage of AAPL panic season. Unfortunately, what almost all of them are writing is ignorant gibberish that has nothing to do with actual events.

One year after iPhone X was “too expensive and not innovative enough” yet became the wildly successful, top selling iPhone, Apple again faces the problem of media that refuses to believe in facts and accept any reality that diverges from its faulty, perpetually wrong assumptions

The broken record of clickbait content mills

Like recent batches of Romaine lettuce, the stomach-churning word-salad served up about Apple over the past couple days doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the issues the company actually, and specifically, detailed for its investors. In fact, virtually all of it appears to have been prewritten and simply queued up to have been printed whether or not Apple had issued any statement, or even if the company hadn’t faced any problems in China at all.

It’s like a sentient broken record that can’t stop playing itself. All the former business magazines that are now just branded blogs with contributor networks agree: Apple’s problem in China this quarter is really evidence that “its devices are now so expensive and the improvements to them so minimal that many users prefer to fix them and postpone buying a new one,” as virtually every one of these content mills plunked out as “news” this week.

Quick, somebody tell the editors digging through Getty Images looking for photos of shriveled up apples to illustrate this commentary that “nobody is buying iPhones because they are so expensive and not innovating” that Apple is selling well over 200 million iPhones every year at an average price of nearly $800. And this quarter, that’s driving an anticipated $84 billion in sales, even with critical Chinese sales skidding sideways.

Again, as a reminder, this will be Apple’s second-biggest quarter in history. Maybe you’ve heard us say this once before.

Content generators: your personal theories are bafflingly stupid. Virtually everyone on Earth paying for a decent smartphone is voluntarily paying Apple a premium. The only reason Apple isn’t dramatically expanding its iPhone sales every year is because there are only around a billion people on the planet who can currently afford to live an affluent “Designed in California” lifestyle.

Recode

On the right, Apple at $89-93 billion in quarerly revenues; on the left, Apple shriveling up with only $84 billion in quarterly revenues

A wholesale rejection of facts to cling to the commodity ideology

As a public company, Apple was legally required to reissue its guidance because of a material change. It clearly stated the primary cause of that material change: lower than expected iPhone sales in China–and it’s not a mystery why demand for a variety of goods is sliding sideways in China right now. It’s also affecting makers of things–like Ford–that are not premium-priced and don’t really involve “innovation,” so trying to reread Tim Cook’s comments on demand in China through the lens of mistaken assumptions is rather foolish.

Separately, Apple noted that “in some developed markets, iPhone upgrades also were not as strong as we thought they would be,” but only after clarifying that “Greater China and other emerging markets accounted for the vast majority of the year-over-year iPhone revenue decline.” [emphasis ours]

While Apple volunteered a lot of comments about how it wished it could be doing better, they weren’t all equally important factors. One of the comments made pertained to the generous subsidy Apple offered on battery upgrades through the end of December, giving existing customers the opportunity to replace their battery for $29 rather than $79. That clearly induced a lot of customers to take advantage of the deal, delaying an intent to upgrade to a brand new model.

Rather than taking Apple’s comment at face value, many pundits decided that this was exculpatory evidence for their cynical personal conspiracy theories that Apple had been working to degrade the use of older iPhones as part of a devious strategy to force new upgrades, making Apple no better than Google and every other Android maker that refuses to support their devices after the initial sale.

No Android licensees are offering highly subsidized batteries to extend the use of their years-old Android products, but facts have no power to overturn the desperately held beliefs of those who really want to believe them.

It appears that writers are largely just repeating their personal theories of what’s going on without any actual evidence to support them. Those theories are also completely disconnected from anything Apple reported and have no grounding in what’s observably happening. Take a look at these hot takes that are not even warm–nor capable of being taken seriously.

Apple and Samsung are the same: Vlad Savov, The Verge

Writers at the Verge have long worked to suggest that Apple is “virtually the same thing” as various Android licensees, equating it to the wildly dissimilar Samsung, branding Xiaomi the “Apple of China” and–well let’s not even mention what they wrote about Motorola a few years ago. Its latest piece, working to serve as “coverage” of the Apple guidance note, ignores everything Apple stated to reiterate a series of cliche talking points that are simply false.

“If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Samsung’s soft sales of the Galaxy S9 through 2018 and Apple’s dramatically reduced forecast of iPhone revenues for the end of that year, it’s that most people who want a great smartphone already have one,” wrote Vlad Savov. That’s something the Verge likes to repeat, but it’s simply false. Repeatedly saying something doesn’t make it true, even if it might sound convincing to people who aren’t aware of what’s actually happening. That’s also the opposite of journalism.

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 didn’t underperform because people “already have great smartphones.” Rather, the flagship didn’t reach expectations because–just like Google’s Pixel models–there’s simply very limited interest in Androidland for premium-priced handsets of any kind, largely because Android commodity can be attained for much less. The reality is that Samsung isn’t really selling any fewer phones these days. It’s just selling similar volumes of now mostly lower-end phones. Strike one on the facts, Savov.

Second, Apple’s revenue restatement has nothing to do with people “not buying a great smartphone.” iPhones make up a majority of Apple’s revenues. If iPhone sales were broadly crashing due to a lack of interest from a satiated audience, Apple wouldn’t be forecasting quarterly revenues just 5 to 9 percent less than its original guidance. Outside of China, there is not a material iPhone demand issue, even if there are the business challenges that have always existed for Apple–including a strong U.S. Dollar.

Apple has clarified that while new iPhone demand has been less than it expected in various markets, the “vast majority” of its change in revenue guidance was due to China and other emerging markets, not a global situation conveyed by the cliche truthiness that “people who want a great smartphone already have one.” Strike two on facts.

As “proof” that Apple was not really being honest about China in its statement to investors, Savov cited a fellow writer at the Verge who offered a personal anecdote about why he was not buying a new iPhone this year after years of annual upgrades. Of course, if his personal experience were representitive of iPhone buyers, Apple would have been selling a billion iPhones every year over the last five. These people aren’t deep thinkers.

The Verge

One Verge editor illustrated his piece with a Tweet from a fellow writer demonstrating a loose grasp of logic.

Apple and Samsung aren’t covered similarly by the media

Now consider the difference in media coverage between Apple and the largest Android licensee: Samsung didn’t warn its investors that its Galaxy S9 wasn’t selling well until after its mobile revenues crashed. When Samsung issued its original revenue guidance for its most recently reported Q3 in October, phone blogs reported, “things look pretty solid. According to the report, the company is back on track by smashing another profit record.”

However, while Samsung Electronics as a whole did meet its guidance with revenues that were up 5 percent year-over-year, Samsung’s Mobile IM phone segment actually crashed by 12 percent YoY in the last quarter, without any Applesque warning or explanation. In fact, that crash was not really a surprise because in the previous quarter Samsung’s Mobile IM reported even worse revenues that were down by 22 percent YoY!

There was no flurry of news reports belaboring the idea that Samsung Galaxy was on its last legs or that the company needed to make an emergency pivot into some new product category or was desperately in need of “innovation.” Samsung’s crashing phone revenues were covered up by its surging revenues elsewhere.

Somewhat ironically, this was due in large part to Samsung being the largest Apple supplier, albeit one that the “Apple Supplier” Watchers like to ignore because it’s doing quite well selling flexible OLED panels and other high-end components to Apple–which is making tons of money selling finished iPhones. That fact is a serious problem for the “iPhone-is-doomed, supplier data indicates” media narrative, so they just omit it. But it’s a fact, and “nobody is buying smartphones anymore” is simply not a fact.

OLED iPhone X

The 22 percent crash in Samsung’s phone renenues was obscured by healthy component sales to Apple

The crashing phone revenues at Samsung are not even comparable to Apple’s lowered guidance. Nobody ripped their garments apart when the world’s largest Android licensee posted a 22 percent and then a 12 percent drop in its actual smartphone-centric revenues with no guidance warnings at all. Additionally, Apple isn’t expecting to post a 5 to 9 percent drop in either iPhone or total revenues. It announced a 5-9 percent drop from its original guidance.

Apple now expects to report about $84 billion in revenues in Q1, compared to its record year-ago Q1 revenues of $88.3 billion. That’s a revenue decrease of less than 4.9 percent YoY, significantly less than half of the 12 percent crash Samsung Mobile IM suffered last quarter without anyone even noticing, let alone causing any faces to melt, and not even comparable to the 22 percent crash that the media shrugged off in October while only modestly acknowledging that the Galaxy S9 wasn’t exactly a hit.

Samsung IM Mobile’s percentages of revenue change are based on smaller numbers; Samsung ships many more phones than Apple while generating less than half the revenues, and its calendar Q2 and Q3 are much smaller than Apple’s fiscal Q1 ending in December. But Samsung’s roughly $5.5 billion hit in revenues in Q2 on its flagging flagships is far harder to recover from than the $5 to $9 billion guidance shortfall Apple outlined. Apple also has booming iPad, Mac, Watch and Services businesses that Samsung effectively lacks entirely, and even with significantly slower sales in China, Apple will still be bringing in $84 billion in revenue at the same profit margins it has been earning.

That means Apple was grazed by the bullet of weakening Chinese demand while Samsung has been taking a solid punch directly to the gut every quarter. So why are pundits freaking out about Apple’s relatively minor shift in expected guidance, while shrugging off Samsung’s even larger hits against a much smaller and far less profitable business—like in Q2, when Samsung IM earned $2.2 billion while Apple reported profits of $12.612 billion?

It’s because they are content clickbait generators charged with whipping up the web into a frenzy of social network interactions to support surveillance advertising, that aren’t really that interested in talking to their readers about what’s actually happening.

Apple and the planned anti-obsolescence of iPhones

So, everything The Verge opened with was straight up false. But it kept going, claiming falsely that Tim Cook’s letter to investors “can be summed up as ‘too many good phones already out there.'”

False again, that’s strike three. That’s the opposite of the statements Apple has been broadcasting for some time now. And it’s just not true at all, if you define truth as being supported by significant, observable facts.

Apple has devoted significant time at its last few media events from WWDC to Brooklyn outlining that its installed base of satisfied users is not the fearsome negative that analysts keep depicting it as. Instead, Apple views this as entirely desirable and actually works to make sure that existing iPhones remain usable and in operation for as long as possible. It’s been doing this via iOS upgrades that have long supported iPhones for four years or more in an industry that can’t manage to deliver Android updates for even 18 months.

Five years ago, the Verge balked at the high price of iPhone 5s and offered recommendations for rival phones that aren’t even supported today

Apple’s articulation of its “planned anti-obsolescence” blew peoples’ minds because it’s completely opposed to the cynically-cliche idea that Apple is working to sabotage existing devices with fatty iOS releases and battery shenanigans that make older phones feel like they need to be replaced, just to sell more iPhones.

If that’s the case, why has Apple been supporting five-year-old iPhones with every iOS release? In fact, a major driver of iOS 12 involved work to make it more efficient on older iPhones.

Apple isn’t having problems selling new iPhones the way that GoPro ran into with its cameras–facing a relatively small addressable market that grew content with the one action camera they bought for quite a long time.

If Apple had the GoPro problem, it wouldn’t be able to be introducing ever more expensive new models! Apple has been selling over 200 million iPhones every year since 2015, even as its product portfolio has trended higher into more expensive models. That means Apple is regularly upgrading a large percentage of its installed base. It also refutes another tired media narrative that insists that Apple’s prices are too high. If that were the case, iPhone sales would be collapsing like Samsung’s and its Average Selling Price would be eroding along with Androids, not growing toward $800 in a sea of $250 Android commodity.

If buyers thought iPhones were priced too high, the ASP of iPhones would be trending downward. Apple sells a broad range of iPhone models at different price tiers. It is impossible to coherently argue that customers can’t afford $999 iPhones as the largest segment flocked to iPhone X. This season, the newest, premium priced lineup of iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max each found the largest segments of demand from users. That’s not the case for Samsung or other Android licensees, which only sell a tiny number of premium handsets while sitting on high volume sales of low-end devices.

For about a billion iOS users, the more than 200 million new iPhones Apple sells every year means that about a fifth of Apple’s installed base upgrades in a given year. Some upgrade every year, some wait three years or more or until some feature grabs them–or until they break their old one beyond repair. But the overall percentage remains at about a fifth.

That tells us that Apple doesn’t expect any large percentage of its brand new iPhone X users to rush out and buy an iPhone XS upgrade. Rather, it again expected to woo about a fifth of its entire installed base to get either a new iPhone XS; or the big new iPhone XS Max; or the new, affordable iPhone XR; or perhaps an older model that’s still a nice upgrade to users of an iPhone 6s or earlier.

And, it appears to have accomplished this, everywhere else in the world but China.

Every time Apple changes its lineup, it has to recalculate where it expects demand to lie and what consumers will find valuable at any given price point. This year that math was complicated by various factors. China’s lack of economic growth played a bigger role than anticipated. The fact that Apple is now saying its initial estimates from three months ago were only off by 6 to 9 percent indicate that the company has a pretty good grasp on what the market wants and will pay.

The fact that Apple is beating itself up and holding meetings to determine how to do better doesn’t mean the company is facing a fearsome doom; it means that it’s a relentless perfectionist. It’s like the professional ice skater that flips and twirls through a series of impossible tricks, only to be upset that she didn’t land one planned maneuver perfectly. As with unit sales reporting, observers would never notice anything is wrong if Apple didn’t transparently outline its invisible internal issues in SEC reports and notes to investors.

Note that in Androidland, no licensee has ever reported its units sold; there is no scrutiny of Samsung’s massive faceplants whether losing over $5 billion in lost Galaxy S9 sales this summer or burning up $5 billion in Note 7 fires earlier. The media only ever makes excuses for Samsung’s visibly sloppy ice performances, and most of the world’s Androids are now produced by Chinese production factories and don’t have to report revenues or any data about their financials.

Apple’s installed base vs market share

One of the favorite cheers of Android promoters is that these companies are generating market share on volumes of devices sold. Unfortunately, one quarter of “share” is a Pyrrhic victory for factories that produce large volumes at near zero profits. That’s because buyers are just as likely to buy their next Android from another commodity factory.

There is no loyalty in Androidland, no reason for Android licensees to even try to keep old phones working, no point to subsiding battery replacements, and no hope for any licensee to ever build an installed base of loyal buyers. It’s a vicious cycle of self-defeating greed and cheap efficiency that’s effectively cork-screwing a hole for itself into the ground.

For Apple, the more existing iPhones it can keep in active use, the larger the addressable market it can count on to buy upgrades each year. Counterintuitively, rather than making its older phones break early, Apple wants to keep them working, so that even refurbished trade-ins and hand-me-downs keep serving someone with a potential to upgrade to a new iPhone someday in the future.

Existing iPhone users are far less likely to leave iOS because Apple keeps working to make its platform an attractive place to stay. Unlike Android, Apple is cultivating a rich ecosystem, not just the barest compatibility API for running shared software across the device outputs of various Chinese factories.

The Verge entirely misses this. Instead, it kept hammering on the tired and incorrect idea that “nobody is buying smartphones anymore,” before inevitably turning its story–ostensibly about Apple and Samsung–into a native advertisement for a camera feature of Google’s Pixel: a phone that isn’t being purchased in any volume.

The Verge couldn’t resist turning its “nobody is buying Apple-Samsung anymore” story into a native ad for Google, ironically featuring a photo of the author using the Google Pixel that nobody is actually buying

But that trite word salad is not just ineffective advertising for Google, it’s obviously false–Samsung is still selling vast volumes of phones, it just isn’t making money or reaching premium buyers. At the same time, Apple is still selling peak volumes of iPhones while making almost all the money in the industry by effectively reaching premium buyers.

“Nobody is buying smartphones anymore” is the kind of nonsense that actively prevents readers from understanding what’s really happening. It’s not remotely true.

Mobile phone buyers are also not just waiting for a compelling technical “innovation” upgrade, another trite bit of cliche analysis The Verge repeated. A big percentage are breaking their phones, or losing them, or are simply upgrading to get the new color they want.

Tech reviewers think that they are representative of the public and that the mass market is keenly interested in chips and RAM or a photo feature Google is promoting. If that were the case, how has Apple been successfully selling a Product(Red) iPhone and iPod for all these years, and why isn’t Pixel finding buyers?

Have Android promoters never set foot in a store? Do they think nobody buys jeans anymore just because there isn’t any apparent technical innovation occurring in pants-making? Do they imagine that nobody buys TVs anymore because everyone must already have one by now? Do they wonder why people buy shirts that cost more than the component fabric that occurs on the garment’s bill of sale? What is it about Apple that turns the most mundane discussion of financials into an illogical tirade of hyperbolic derangement?

More Word Salad

M.G Seigler, writing for 500ish.com took a series of his tweet storm-hot takes on Apple’s Q1 and condensed them into a blog posting that effectively insists that the company desperately needs to show growth, and now that iPhones aren’t growing materially, it has to really get on the ball with Services.

Prescient! Except that iPhones haven’t really been growing since they first passed up 200 million per year back in 2015. This isn’t news. It isn’t insightful to look back on the last four years of iPhone sales and repeat cliche ideas like the “law of large numbers” to explain that there’s not another China on the brink of delivering a new American-sized batch of middle class consumers.

It’s also not brilliant to point to Apple’s Services strategy of the last few years and say “hey, Apple better actually do this thing it said it would. The thing it regularly indicates that it is successfully doing! Listen to me, I got so many answers.”

The technorati all talk about how Apple’s CEO isn’t very visionary and has an “innovation problem,” and then turn around and are starstruck by the sheer brilliance of these bloggers regurgitating the same Captain Obvious fluff, mixed up with their full-on delusion about “pricing too high,” as if Apple would be really set for success if it had instead engaged in a pricing war with Android licensees and established to consumers that iPhones are only worth at most $400.

Today Apple could lower prices if it needed to. In an alternative scenario where iPhone prices were already margin-bustlingly low, Apple would have no options. Good thing Apple doesn’t follow the advice of pundits and analysts who were screaming from the rooftops that the real solution to China was a $300 iPhone. We’d never have gotten iPhone X.

Is this the end of Apple or Apple punditry?

Kara Swisher, hot on the heels of announcing that “the innovation cycle has slowed down at Apple,” and asking “Where is their exciting new product and where are their exciting new entrepreneurs within that company?” turned around and wrote an entire piece for the New York Times that meanderingly accused Apple and the tech industry at large of suffering from an apparent lack of innovation.

It’s lazy to ask a question and then fail to offer any answers

“Apple has hung the moon for investors for so long now that the idea of the company struggling sent the entire global stock market into a paroxysm of fear and plunging indexes,” Swisher wrote. That’s colorful language, but what does it mean? Apple has been perpetually dying to analysts and investors since the 1990s. It has turned in quarter after quarter of insane performance for years, only to be rewarded with a staggeringly low stock valuation that assumed zero growth in the future. Even when hitting the trillion dollar market cap last fall, Apple’s shares were still priced in the toilet relative to the Price/Earnings of any of its peers.

Over the last decade of Apple’s indisputable iPhone super success cycle, the company’s stock has repeatedly crashed in half as investors and high-frequency trading bots were persuaded to sell shares for nothing on the news that Apple had run out of “innovation.” How can you write about Apple’s most recent stock panic without even the most basic awareness of 2008, 2013 and 2015?

“There is no question that Mr. Cook and his team have done a tremendous job taking advantage and managing this last cycle of innovation, but it’s apparent that it’s now winding down,” Swisher wrote, painting a picture of a world where there’s nothing left to invent or develop or design, and certainly nothing that could be commercially successful. What incredible logic: Apple has apparently hit so many home runs that it is clearly out of home run hitting potential.

Swisher sounds like she’s channeling John Dvorak, writing his famous 1984 screed that “the Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a ‘mouse.’ There is no evidence that people want to use these things.” It might be time to change the tune about Apple.

It wasn’t pundits who thought up the potential of iPhone, or the App Store, or iPads, or Machine Learning, or Augmented Reality, or any of the wildly innovative, technological underpinning features in silicon firmware, in software, in mass production assembly and in every other discipline that non-technical people simply take for granted. It was individuals at Apple who came up with this stuff while being ceaselessly derided for being “devoid of innovation,” as if that phrase is inherently clever to scribble out into words or call in to CNBC on a “why Apple is doomed” expert interview.

News flash: it’s not. It makes you sound like an idiot. It’s a catchphrase for incompetent nincompoops, which is why it’s also a favorite cliche among stuffed shirt analysts and pundits with nothing valuable to say.

Step back and watch the accolades among other Twitter accounts praising the attestation of Apple’s “innovation problem,” like a congregation of the faithful applauding each other’s beliefs because they all want to believe the same set of ideas. Amen! Makes no sense but let’s say it again, Apple isn’t innovative! Preach!

Few pundits have ever accurately seen anything coming apart from the PR they’re handed to propagate. Remember the platitudes for the prospects of Motorola and “innovations” like Google Glass?. Why should they be expected to be able to see what’s next today? And why is the common, unanimous opinion that nothing new is likely to ever happen in the future–and certainly not at Apple, with its big problem of “not being innovative”–why is that worth anything at all?

Bloomberg has audacity in calling Apple the liar

Bloomberg, after publishing a bombshell report that at this point appears to have been invented by an imaginative writer and presented as factual without credible sourcing–and then failing to substantiate the story or retract it–rushed in next to accuse Apple of lying about its prospects in China. Supposedly, Apple has done so with the goal of embarrassing itself with the need to restate its quarterly guidance. On the conspiracy-level meter, this one breaks the machine.

“Apple failed in the No. 1 mission of being a public company: being honest with investors about its business,” Shira Ovide crowed for Bloomberg, barely a year after the company published a flurry of other false coverage that clumsily misread data supposedly sourced from Apple’s supply chain to insist that iPhone X wasn’t selling well anywhere. You might say Bloomberg “failed in the No. 1 mission of being a media company.”

Must be fabulous to be able to scribble up any old irresponsible garbage without consequence, and still have other media wonks treat you with respect for simply continuing to publish your musings, as long as it remains bitterly critical of Apple. Say any baseless lie with overt arrogance and you can be anything you want to be in America.

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Huawei punishes staff with pay cuts for marketing tweet sent via iPhone

 

Chinese smartphone giant Huawei has issued harsh punishments to two of its staff in the aftermath of New Year’s Day marketing tweet sent out with the label “via Twitter for iPhone.”

Huawei's deleted tweet

Both of the workers have been demoted one rank and had their monthly salaries cut by 5,000 yuan, or about $728, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. One person, the company’s digital marketing director, will have his pay rank frozen for a year.

The memo indicated that an outsourced social media firm, Sapient, encountered “VPN problems” with a desktop it was using for publishing, so instead turned to an iPhone with a roaming SIM card to trigger the message at midnight on New Year’s. Twitter is normally blocked in China, so a VPN (virtual private network) is a commonplace tool for reaching it.

The post — which read “Happy #2019” — was almost immediately deleted, but not before screenshots made their way to social networks like Weibo, where they were roundly mocked.

Huawei has had similar embarassments in the past. A notable example was when Israeli actress Gal Gadot, serving as a paid ambassador, promoted the Mate 10 Pro on Twitter but used her iPhone to do it.

The illusion of brand unity has become important at smartphone makers around the world, especially given the intense competition between iPhone and Android as platforms. In reality workers will often have devices from rival companies, even at Apple, though corporate leaders sometimes take measures to deter this.

Huawei likely has little to worry about in the near future, as Chinese iPhone sales were poor enough in the December quarter to trigger this week’s guidance downgrade. That sent Apple shares plummeting, and prompted CEO Tim Cook to promise management would “take action” to put the company on the right course.

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Wistron pouring $340M into facilities associated with India iPhone production

 

Apple production partner Wistron is increasing its investment in manufacturing for the Indian market, with the upped spending being made to expand the plants that manufacture iPhones for the local market to avoid international import issues.

The iPhone 6s, one of two iPhone models produced by Wistron in India

The iPhone 6s, one of two iPhone models produced by Wistron in India

A filing at the Taiwan Stock Exchange reveals Wistron has authorized its subsidiary in India to spend 30 billion rupees ($340.62 million), in order to expand and meet future demand for its services in the region. Currently the company has a paid-up capital of 1.8 billion rupees for its Indian operations, making the investment a considerable increase in resources.

The company advised it is expanding its investment to ramp up production capacity in its Narasapura plant, Digitimes reports, with the first phase of its expansion expected to complete in the first half of 2019.

Wistron’s operations in India notably includes assembly of the iPhone SE and iPhone 6S for the local market, with the investment thought to help reduce the impact on production caused by various factors.

For the Indian market, Apple still relies on imports to make up the bulk of purchases in the country not already covered by Wistron’s supply. Apple is likely to be hit by a proposed luxury goods tax, one that is designed to discourage imported goods, and one that could be mitigated by increasing production in the region.

A less pressing issue is the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and China, which may eventually force a price rise for the iPhone in the United States of about 10 percent. The issue is sufficient enough that reports have surfaced suggesting the supply chain may shift some elements outside of China in order to evade the extra levy.

The investment may not entirely center around the iPhone, as it is reported Wistron is also planing to move some of its PC, Internet of Things, medical, and cloud services businesses to India.

Wistron is not the only Apple partner apparently looking to increase its local production. In December, Foxconn was reportedly planning to invest $214 million on expanding its own plant in India, in order to accommodate iPhone production.

DigiTimes is generally poor at predicting Apple’s future product plans, but is an accurate manufacturer financial watchdog, in regards to capital expenditure.