AppleCare+ Is Now Billed Monthly by Default and Costs More That Way


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As its iPhone sales have fallen, Apple has begun focusing on alternative sources of revenue, like its lucrative Services division. Much of the company’s presentation for the iPhone 11 was spent demonstrating games and projects related to Apple TV. Apple wants to be a major media provider and it’s hoping you’ll reward it with lots of content purchases.

One change to AppleCare+ flew a bit under the radar. Up until now, AppleCare was a 24-to-36-month extended warranty available from Apple on various iDevices like MacBooks, iPhones and iPads. The company has typically billed a single flat rate for the service interval, though many repairs still cost money, even if you’ve purchased AppleCare+.

Now, Apple is making a change to the program. The good news is, you’ll be able (in theory) to buy AppleCare+ for a longer period of time. The bad news is, it’s going to cost you more by default even for the period of time that the program normally covers if you choose to pay by the month.

AppleCare-Pricing-Watch-XR

Image credit: 9to5Mac

The screenshot above by 9to5Mac shows pricing for AppleCare+ for the Apple Watch Series 5 and the iPhone XR. Paying month-to-month (you’ll be re-upped automatically) is essentially a subscription, even if Apple isn’t calling it that. But if you do the math, you’ll see that the month-to-month program costs significantly more. Over two years, you’ll pay $95.76 instead of $80 for AppleCare+ if you slap it on the Apple Watch. As for the iPhone XR, the two-year fee comes out to $191.76, up from $150. That’s roughly 1.2x more over the same period of time. The up-front pricing on the iPhone 11 is $149, while up-front cost on the iPhone 11 Pro is $199.

Apple’s legal document states:

For Monthly Plans, your Plan Term is one (1) month. Your Plan will automatically renew each month unless cancelled as set forth in the “Cancellation” Section 9 below, including in the event that Apple is no longer able to service your Covered Equipment due to the unavailability of service parts, in which case Apple will provide you with thirty (30) days’ prior written notice of cancellation, or as otherwise required by law.

There’s no more option to buy a fixed-term service plan and then pay for it at a monthly reduced rate. Instead, you can pay for 24 months of coverage upfront at one price or simply go on the month-to-month program. While the end result of this is that people will be able to have AppleCare+ for longer periods of time on the same device, it’ll also mean paying Apple more money for the privilege of doing so.

If anything, we suspect this change is a nod to the fact that users often keep their devices for longer periods of time these days. Reports have suggested that Americans now only replace their iDevices closer to every three years, rather than every two. Converting customers to a small monthly fee for AppleCare+ gives Apple a steady monthly revenue stream that replaces some of the sales revenue it loses when it sells fewer iPhones. The fact that customers are being billed monthly would also help smooth revenue quarter-over-quarter — people only buy a new device every few years, but if they pay you $8 a month, that’s revenue you can count on. Multiply that by some millions of customers, and you’ve got a hefty chunk of reliable income. Apple, these days, is all about reliable income.

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iOS 13 will be available on September 19 – gpgmail


Apple announced in a press release that iOS 13 will be available on September 19. Even if you don’t plan on buying a new iPhone, you’ll be able to get a bunch of new features.

But that’s not all. iOS 13.1 will be available on September 30. Apple had to remove some features of iOS 13.0 at the last minute as they weren’t stable enough, such as Shortcuts automations and the ability to share your ETA in Apple Maps. That’s why iOS 13.1 will be released shortly after iOS 13.

As always, iOS 13 will be available as a free download. If you have an iPhone 6s or later, an iPhone SE or a 7th-generation iPod touch, your device supports iOS 13.

watchOS 6 will also be released on September 19. Unfortunately, Apple will release iPadOS 13 on September 30.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 13. This year, in addition to dark mode, it feels like every single app has been improved with some quality-of-life updates. The Photos app features a brand new gallery view with autoplaying live photos and videos, smart curation and a more immersive design.

This version has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign in with Apple” and a bunch of privacy popups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consent, background location tracking. Apple Maps now features an impressive Google Street View-like feature called Look Around. It’s only available in a handful of cities, but I recommend… looking around as everything is in 3D.

Many apps have been updated, such as Reminders with a brand new version, Messages with the ability to set a profile picture shared with your contacts, Mail with better text formatting options, Health with menstrual cycle tracking, Files with desktop-like features, Safari with a new website settings menu, etc. Read more on iOS 13 in my separate preview.

On the iPad front, for the first time Apple is calling iOS for the iPad under a new name — iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved, the Apple Pencil should feel snappier, Safari is now as powerful as Safari on macOS and more.


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Live from Apple’s iPhone 11 event – gpgmail


The moment is finally here, Apple fans. This morning at 10AM PT/1PM ET, the company will unveil the latest version of the iPhone. You can read up on all of the latest rumors here (or watch this handy video). You can also watch the live stream right here.

The iPhone could well present a shift in the way the company positions its products amid slowing sales. The line is believed to include both a standard and “pro” version, the latter of which will include a fully revamped triple camera system

Also expected is a new version of the Apple Watch with sleep tracking, dates for the latest versions of iOS and macOS and a key update on content plays including Apple TV+ and Arcade.

As always, we’ll be arriving in Cupertino bright and early to bring you all of the latest live. Just bookmark this here post and we’ll see you soon.


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Watch Apple unveil the new iPhone live right here – gpgmail


Apple is set to announce new iPhone models today. The company is holding a keynote on its campus at 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris). And you’ll be able to watch the event right here as the company is streaming it live.

Rumor has it that the company plans to unveil three new smartphones. The iPhone 11 should replace the iPhone XR in the lineup, while the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max should replace the iPhone XS and XS Max respectively.

Apple could also update the Apple Watch with a new titanium version. You can also expect to get the release date of iOS 13, iPadOS 13, tvOS 13, macOS Catalina and watchOS 6. Let’s see if Apple announces the launch dates of Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade as well.

When it comes to less likely announcements that could still happen, Apple has been working on new MacBooks, a new Apple TV with a more powerful system-on-a-chip and new iPads. All eyes are on the new iPhone, but Apple could use today’s conference to announce those other products.

You can watch the live stream directly on this page. For the first time, Apple is streaming its conference on YouTube.

If you have an Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old ones. The app icon was updated a few days ago for the event.

And if you don’t have an Apple TV and don’t want to use YouTube, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed now works in all major browsers — Safari, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Of course, you also can read gpgmail’s live blog if you’re stuck at work and really need our entertaining commentary track to help you get through your day. We have a team in the room.


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Apple tweaks its App Store algorithm as antitrust investigations loom – gpgmail


That Apple has used its App Store to offer itself a competitive advantage is nothing new. gpgmail and others have been reporting on this problem for years, including those times when Apple chose to display its apps in the No. 1 position on the Top Charts, for example, or when it stole some of the App Store’s best ideas for its own, banned apps that competed with iOS features, or positioned its apps higher than competitors in search. Now, in the wake of antitrust investigations in the U.S. and abroad as well as various anticompetitive lawsuits, Apple has adjusted the App Store’s algorithm so fewer of its own apps would appear at the top of the search results.

The change was reported by The New York Times on Monday, who presented Apple with a lengthy analysis of app rankings.

It even found that some searches for various terms would display as many as 14 Apple-owned apps before showing any results from rivals. Competitors could only rank higher if they paid for an App Store search ad, the report noted.

That’s a bad look for Apple which has recently been trying to distance itself and its App Store from any anti-competitive accusations.

In May, for example, Apple launched a new App Store website designed to demonstrate how it welcomes competition from third-party apps. The site showed that for every Apple built-in app, there were competitors available throughout the App Store.

But availability in the store and discoverability by consumers are two different things.

Apple admitted to The NYT that for over a year many common searches on the App Store would return Apple’s own apps, even when the Apple apps were less popular or relevant at times. The company explained the algorithm wasn’t manipulated to do so. For the most part, Apple said its own apps ranked higher because they’re more popular and because they come up in search results for many common terms. The company additionally said that one feature of the app’s algorithm would sometimes group apps by their maker, which gave Apple’s own apps better rankings than expected.

Above: via The NYT, the average number of Apple apps that returned at the top of the search results by month

Apple said it adjusted the algorithm in July to make it seem like Apple’s own apps weren’t receiving special treatment. According to the NYT, both Apple VP Philip Schiller, who oversees the App Store, and SVP Eddy Cue, who oversees many of Apple’s apps, confirmed that these changes have not fully fixed the problem.

The issue, as Apple explains it, is that its own apps are so popular that it had to tweak its algorithm to pretend they are not. Whether or not this is true can’t be independently verified, however, as Apple doesn’t allow any visibility into metrics like searches, downloads, or active users.

Maybe it’s time for Apple’s apps to exit the App Store?

The report, along with the supposed ineffectiveness of the algorithm’s changes, begs the question as to whether Apple’s apps should show up in the App Store’s charts and search results at all, and if so, how.

To be fair, this is a question that’s not limited to Apple. Google today is facing the same problem. Recently, the CEO of a popular software program, Basecamp, called Google’s paid search ads a “shakedown,” arguing that the only way his otherwise No. 1 search result can rank at the top of the search results page is to buy an ad. Meanwhile, his competitors can do so — even using his brand name as the keyword to bid against.

The same holds true for the App Store, but on a smaller scale than the entirety of the web. That also makes Apple’s problem easier to solve.

For example, Apple could simply choose to offer a dedicated section for its own software downloads, and leave the App Store as the home for third-party software alone.

This sort of change could help to eliminate concerns over Apple’s anti-competitive behavior in the search results and chart rankings. Apple might balk against this solution, saying that users should have an easy way to locate and download its own apps, and the App Store is the place to do that. But the actual marketplace itself could be left to the third-party software while the larger App Store app — which today includes a variety of app-related content including app reviews, interviews with developers, app tips, and a subscription gaming service, Apple Arcade — could still be used to showcase Apple-produced software.

It could just do so outside the actual marketplace.

Here’s how this could work. If users wanted to re-install an Apple app they had deleted or download one that didn’t come pre-installed on their device, they could be directed to a special Apple software download page. Pointers to this page could be in the App Store app itself as well as in the iOS Settings.

An ideal spot for this section could even be on the existing Search page of the App Store.

With a redesign, Apple could offer a modified search screen where users could optionally check a box to return a list of apps results that would come only from Apple. This would indicate intentional behavior on the consumer’s part. That is, they are directly seeking an Apple software download — as opposed to the current situation where a user searches for “Music” and sees Apple’s own music app appear above all the others from rivals, like Spotify and Pandora.

Alternately, Apple could just list its own apps on this page or offer a link to this dedicated page from the search screen.

And these are just a few variations on a single idea. There are plenty of other ways the App Store could be adjusted to be less anti-competitive, too.

As another example, Apple could also include the “You Might Also Like” section in its own apps’ App Store listings, as it does for all third-party apps.

Image from iOS 1Above: Apple Music’s App Store Listing

This section directs users to other apps that match the same search query right within the app’s detail page. Apple’s own apps, however, only include a “More by Apple” section. That means its keeping all the search traffic and consumer interest for itself.

Image from iOS

Above: Spotify’s App Store Listing

Or it could reduce the screen space dedicated to its own apps in the search results — even if they rank higher — in order to give more attention to apps from competitors while still being able to cater to users who were truly in search of Apple’s software.

But ultimately, how Apple will have to behave with regard to its App Store may be left to the regulators to decide, given Apple’s failure to bake this sort of anti-competitive thinking into its App Store design.

 


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Cash Value of Android Zero-Day Exploits Surpasses iOS


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Apple has long positioned itself as the more secure option to open platforms like Windows and Android, but that might no longer be the case. As previously unreported “zero-day” iOS exploits pile up, security researchers are seeing the cash value of such research fall. Zerodium, the largest purchaser of such flaws, has updated its bug bounty payments. Android exploits now command a maximum of $2.5 million, but iOS tops out at $2 million. 

Last month, we reported on a series of iOS exploits uncovered by Google’s Project Zero. Google isn’t in the business of selling exploits, so it researched the scheme and reported it to Apple in a responsible manner. Google detected websites using multiple attack chains to steal data from almost all versions of iOS, and they were operating for at least two years.

Apple rolled out an update to iDevices that blocked those exploits, but you have to wonder how many more unreported attacks are floating around out there. The perpetrators of this hack weren’t even treating the exploits like a valuable commodity. They were hacking iPhone users indiscriminately when they could have been using targeted attacks against high-value targets. They might never have been caught going that route. 

Apple talks up iPhone security, but Zerodium says it’s falling behind.

Zerodium buys exploits for big money so it can exclusively report the research and mitigation measures to its corporate and government clients. Zerodium founder and CEO Chaouki Bekrar says that the company still gets ample submissions for iOS exploits, mostly connected to Safari and iMessage. There are so many that the company has started turning down some offers from researchers. On the other hand, functional zero-click or one-click exploits for Android are increasingly rare, especially for versions 8.0 and later. 

Given the state of the major operating systems, Zerodium decided it makes sense to assign a higher value to Android exploits. Zerodium doesn’t pay $2.5 million for just any Android hack, though. Researchers have to submit basic details of the hack first, and then wait on an offer from Zerodium. The $2.5 million top offer only applies to serious flaws in Android 8, 9, or 10. Apple’s lower $2 million maximum bounty is still nothing to sneeze at — serious exploits for desktop systems top out at $1 million. Since mobile platforms were built more recently, they have more security features integrated at a low level. That makes them harder to hack than desktop operating systems.

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Google Discovered Malicious Websites Used to Hack iPhones for Years


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Apple likes to talk up its focus on security and privacy, but iPhone owners have unknowingly been targets of an indiscriminate and severe hacking campaign for at least two years. Google’s Project Zero team uncovered the scheme, which used websites loaded with unpatched exploits to install malware on iPhones that could track user locations, steal files, and more. Apple patched the flaws after they were reported, but we’re only now finding out the scale of the attack. 

According to Google, its researchers discovered the malicious websites in early 2019. Currently, the team believes the network of hacking sites had been operating for more than two years, attracting thousands of visitors per week. Unsuspecting iPhone users who visited the pages would come away with malware running as root on their devices — that’s the highest level of software privileges that even the device owner doesn’t have on iOS. 

Project Zero researchers identified five different exploit chains in the wild, leveraging 12 distinct security flaws. Seven of them involved the Safari browser engine, which even third-party browsers have to use. This wasn’t just targeting some archaic version of iOS, either. The attacks covered almost every version of iOS 10 through the latest iOS 12. After implanting the malware on iPhones, attackers could track user locations, copy photos, and even access the user’s on-device password storage. 

Again, this all happens silently in the browser. For all the fretting over malicious code popping up in apps for both Android and iOS, this is much more severe because the attackers don’t have to trick users into installing anything. It’s been a long time since zero-day browser-based hacks like this have shown up in the wild. Years back, there were websites you could visit that would use exploits to instantly jailbreak iPhones. Modern security practices ended easy browser hacking, or so we thought. 

Google reported the flaws privately to Apple in February, but it gave Apple just one week to roll out patches. That’s much shorter than the customary 90-day disclosure timeline. That drives home the seriousness of the attack. Not only is the impact on users severe, but the attackers were also actively infecting thousands of phones per week. Apple rolled out an update (iOS 12.1.4) six days later to fix the flaws. 

If there’s any bright spot in all of this, it’s that the attackers didn’t seem to have any particular target. Their victims were anyone unlucky enough to click on the malicious web link. While this hole is patched, the campaign carried on for two years. There could be other active exploits in the wild right now that no one in the security community knows about.

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Malicious websites were used to secretly hack into iPhones for years, says Google – gpgmail


Security researchers at Google say they’ve found a number of malicious websites which, when visited, could quietly hack into a victim’s iPhone by exploiting a set of previously undisclosed software flaws.

Google’s Project Zero said in a deep-dive blog post published late on Thursday that the websites were visited thousands of times per week by unsuspecting victims, in what was described as a “indiscriminate” attack.

“Simply visiting the hacked site was enough for the exploit server to attack your device, and if it was successful, install a monitoring implant,” said Ian Beer, a security researcher at Project Zero.

He said the websites had been hacking iPhones over a “period of at least two years.”

The researchers found five distinct exploit chains involving 12 separate security flaws, including seven involving Safari, the in-built web browser on iPhones. The five separate attack chains allowed an attacker to gain “root” access to the device — the highest level of access and privilege on an iPhone. In doing so, an attacker can gain access to the device’s full range of features normally off-limits to the user. That means an attacker can quietly install malicious apps can be installed to spy on an iPhone owner without their knowledge or consent.

Google said based off their analysis, the vulnerabilities were used to steal a user’s photos and messages, and track their location in near-realtime. The “implant” could also access the user’s on-device bank of saved passwords.

The vulnerabilities affect iOS 10 through to the current iOS 12 software version.

Google privately disclosed the vulnerabilities in February, giving Apple only a week to fix the flaws and roll out updates to its users. That’s a fraction of the 90 days typically given to software developers, giving an indication of the severity of the vulnerabilities.

Apple issued a fix six days later with iOS 12.1.4 for iPhone 5s and iPad Air and later.

Beer said it’s possible other hacking campaigns currently in action.

The iPhone and iPad maker has a good rap on security and privacy matters. Recently the company increased its maximum bug bounty payout to $1 million for security researchers who find flaws that can silently target an iPhone and gain root-level privileges without any user interaction. Under Apple’s new bounty rules — set to go into effect later this year — Google would’ve been eligible for several million dollars in bounties.

A spokesperson for Apple did not immediately comment.


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Apple releases first beta of iOS 13.1, indicating iOS 13 is nearly done – gpgmail


Surprise, Apple didn’t release yet another beta version of iOS 13. The company released the first developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 13.1 instead.

This is a curious move as Apple doesn’t usually share beta versions of .1 updates before the release of major updates. What’s even more surprising is that Apple released new beta versions for watchOS 6.0 and tvOS 13.0 today.

Chances are that iOS 13.0 is pretty much done by this point. Usually, Apple releases major versions of iOS a few days after announcing the new iPhone — the press event will likely take place at some point in early September. The company might release iOS 13.0 a bit earlier than expected this year.

Apple removed some minor features in iOS 13 in early beta versions of iOS 13. As MacRumors spotted, many of those features are now back in the beta version of iOS 13.1. Those features include Shortcuts automations and the ability to share your ETA in Apple Maps.

It’s clear that Apple is trying to make iOS 13.0 as stable as possible, even if it means releasing some features a bit later this fall.




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Apple patches previously-fixed security bug that allowed iPhone jailbreak – gpgmail


Apple has fixed a security flaw for a second time after it accidentally reintroduced an old bug in a recent software update.

iOS 12.4.1, released Monday, contains a security fix that was first patched months earlier in iOS 12.3. Apple rolled out a fix in May, but accidentally undid the security patch in its latest update, iOS 12.4, in July.

In a brief security advisory published after the software’s release, Apple said it fixed a kernel vulnerability that could have allowed an attacker to execute code on an iPhone or iPad with the highest level of privileges.

Apple’s latest security advisory for iOS 12.4.1.

Those privileges, also known as system or root privileges, can open up a device to running apps that are not normally allowed by Apple’s strict rules. Known as jailbreaking, apps can access parts of a device that are normally off-limits. On one hand that allows users to extensively customize their devices, but it can also expose the device to malicious software, like malware or spyware apps .

Spyware apps often rely on undisclosed jailbreaks exploits to get access to a user’s messages, track their location, and listen to their calls without their knowledge. Nation states are known to hire mobile spyware makers to remotely install malware on the devices of activists, dissidents, and journalists. Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by agents of the Saudi regime, is believed to have been targeted by mobile spyware, according to reports. The company accused of supplying the spyware, Israel-based NSO Group, has denied any involvement.

Apple confirmed it pushed out a fix in its security notes, which included a short acknowledgement to Pwn20wnd, the team which confirmed last week that its jailbreak was working again.

The same kernel vulnerability was fixed in a supplemental update for macOS 10.14.6.




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