Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes the leaked iPhone 7 design, the key to Apple’s success in 2016, the major missing feature in the iPhone SE, Apple’s streaming event on March 21st, why Siri is not unlocking your iPhone, Apple’s Supreme Court appearance over eBook pricing, Apple fighting for public opinion against the FBI, and Apple’s new Twitter support account.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days.
As expected, the case manufacturers looking to get ahead of the production game are gambling that they have the dimensions and ports figured out for the iPhone 7. Serial leaker @OnLeaks has picked up details of a new iPhone 7 case that highlights the curve on the corners, the flat back… and the lack of a 3,5mm stereo jack for your classic headphones. Benjamin Mayo picks up the story for 9to5Mac:
On the bottom of the phone, it appears to feature only a Lightning port surrounded by two equal-width speaker grilles, which could mean the phone will include some kind of stereo sound output. Aside from the lack of a headphone port, it’s hard to see any other major differences from the case leak.
…It would generally be expected that the iPhone 7 feature more significant design changes, as is usual with Apple’s tick-tock cycle. Unfortunately, this case does not help paint a better picture than ‘iPhone 6s with no headphone jack’. Questions about thinness also cannot be answered, as there are no written dimensions.
The headphone jack is going to be the lightning rod (no pun intended) of the design, and Jay McGregor picks up on this with his follow-on report:
The debate will rage on whether or not this is a good move for consumers. Do the pros of potentially better sound and a thinner phone outweigh the negatives of a painful transitional period, the initial limited amount of products with a lightning port connector (forcing people to buy new headphones or a proprietary convertor) and the issue of electrical waste? No, in my opinion.
Perhaps the unusually early nature of these leaks have forewarned headphone makers to prepare new designs for the world’s most popular smartphone, which will neutralize some of the teething issues. But there’s no doubt that this will be an awkward sell.
The iPhone SE is on the way, flanked by a new iPad. The presumptively titled iPhone 7 will follow in September. At some point the Apple Watch 2 will arrive unexpectedly (probably on the arm of Chuck Norris). Apple has a lot going on this year, but it all boils down to trying to maximise the impact of a single word. Upgrade:
Apple needs to persuade its existing users to move up to the newest technology. When technology was immature, the yearly jump in capability used to be enough to bring the majority of people over. That’s no longer the case. Looking into the back catalogue, the iPhone 5S it’s still ‘good enough’ smartphone for most people. The iPad range has the same issue as many tablet devices in that ultimate power is not the main purchase reason – the older models remain convenient for email and browsing. It’s rare for people to see laptops and desk-bound computers as anything other than multi-year investments. And the jury is still out on the upgrade cycle of a smartwatch, even if the Apple Watch 2 is likely to make the sort of leap that you saw between the iPhone and the iPhone 3G.
Watch for Apple pushing the idea of ‘switch to your new Apple device’ at every opportunity during 2016.
From the reports we have at the moment, the iPhone SE is going to be missing one of Apple’s best hopes at challenging the user interface paradigms for the next few years – it looks like 3D Touch will not be present in the ‘not-budget’ handset. For 3D Touch to take off, it needs to be in the vast majority of handsets before developers will use it for primary features. With the iPhone SE set for many years of use, forgoing 3D Touch is a courageous choice. Ashraf Eassa looks at this issue in more depth for the Motley Fool:
The exclusion of this feature is likely for a couple of reasons. The first is that the additional components required to add 3D Touch tack on cost and that may simply reduce margins by too much, particularly on a low-cost device. Secondly, Apple likely wants to give customers a reason to “buy up” to the higher-priced iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
Although I understand Apple’s reasoning, and it probably makes sense from a near-term financial and business perspective, I still believe that Apple should have endowed the SE with 3D Touch.
… In addition to the app ecosystem argument, there’s also the simple fact that Apple spent a significant amount of time touting 3D Touch as the killer new feature in the iPhone 6s/6s Plus. In fact, of the roughly 1 hour that Apple spent at its fall event talking about the new iPhones, a full 10 minutes were spent on extolling the virtues of 3D Touch.
It just seems strange for the iDevice maker to launch a new premium-tier phone without this key feature.
If Apple wants the iPhone SE to stop being portrayed as a cheaper and weaker iPhone, then it needs to make some tough decisions. I agree with Eassa, 3D Touch should have been in the SE.
Apple has announced a press event for March 21st, and has stated that it will be streamed live on Apple TV for iPad, iPhone, and Mac users. It is widely expected to see the launch of the aforementioned iPhone SE, and an update to the 9.7 inch iPad. Apple Insider notes a few more moments that may be happening:
The keynote will kick off that Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. It will be held at Apple’s corporate headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Calif.
It’s possible the presentation could be the last to be held at Apple’s current headquarters, as Cook said at last month’s annual shareholders meeting that the 1,000-seat theater at Apple’s upcoming Campus 2 may open in time for next year’s shareholder meeting. Apple is also expected to hold an event this fall, but it will likely be in San Francisco rather than Cupertino, if history is any indication.
We’ll bring you coverage and reaction of the event here on Forbes later in the month,
You might have spotted a video doing the rounds that shows a complicated path of options to ‘unlock’ an iPhone without having to enter a passcode. Rest assured it’s false. In short, one of the first moves in the video is to open Siri, by using a registered fingerprint it unlocks the device – even if it looks like the device remains locked during the process. A classic case of magician’s misdirection in a video, but it has lit up the viral shares. So kudos to Adrian Kinglsey-Hughes who attempted to debunk it:
You don’t have to be eagle-eyed to notice what’s actually happening here – the user is simply activating Touch ID while summoning Siri. Yes, I know, it’s really that simple, and I’m only covering this in an attempt to balance out the flood of stupidity.
Let’s file this video under “roll-your-eyes-stupid.”
King Canute could not have done it better, but Canute didn’t have truth on his side.
The long-running court legal saga of price-fixing in the eBook market has come to an end, with the US Supreme Court rejecting Apple’s appeal. While the five major publishers involved settled with the Department of Justice before the trial, Apple carried on alone. Seth Fiegerman reports for Mashable:
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal filed by Apple to overturn a stinging ruling that it led a broad conspiracy with several major publishers to fix the price of e-books sold through its online bookstore.
The court’s decision means Apple now has no choice but to pay out $400 million to consumers and an additional $50 million in legal fees, according to the original settlement in 2014.
This week saw Apple VP Craig Federighi standing up to apply more political pressure in the case of the locked iPhone 5C from the San Bernardino shootings. He did this through an opinion column in The Washington Post:
That’s why it’s so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.
It’s likely that this case will result in new federal laws, in which case the public positioning of the relevant cases will be vital to carry political support. While it’s not a direct counter-move, the head of the United Kingdom’s GCHQ (broadly equivalent to America’s NSA) spoke at MIT asking for a mythical ‘golden key’, arguing it would not weaken protection. Gordon Corera reports for the BBC:
The solution is not, of course, that encryption should be weakened, let alone banned. But neither is it true that nothing can be done without weakening encryption,” he said, adding that it was wrong to see every attempt to tackle the misuse of encryption by criminals and terrorists as a “backdoor”.
Mr Hannigan reiterated that the British government position – as set out in the new investigatory powers bill – would not outlaw the type of end-to-end encryption which is at the heart of the row between Apple and the FBI. Instead, he said, it will demand companies take reasonable and practical steps to provide data when demanded.
As well as the more traditional channels of web, telephone, and email, Apple has started to use Twitter for support. The Apple Support channel is replying to customer tweets at over 100 tweets per hour (reports Joe Rossignol for MacRumors):
Keyhole, a real-time social media analytics website, provides a closer look at the Apple Support account. The data shows that the account, and related tweets, have already generated over 124 million impressions, with 44.6% of users viewing the tweets from an iPhone. 77% of the account’s followers are male.
Apple joins a growing number of companies, ranging from retailers to banks, that provide customer service on Twitter in 140 characters or less. A customer can send a tweet to @AppleSupport, and an Apple Advisor will typically reply with a generic message that requests the user send more details via Direct Message.
The account is staffed between 0500 and 2000 Pacific time and will respond to queries, post hints and tips, and generally be useful. You can read more and interact to @AppleSupport through your regular Twitter client.
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, or this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.