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APPLE’S REDESIGNED MACBOOK PRO KEYBOARD USES NEW METHOD FOR REPELLING DUST, REPORTS IFIXIT

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Apple’s new MacBook Pro keyboards are slightly quieter than the ones found in the previous iteration of the laptop. But the company’s silence on the mechanism’s widespread mechanical issues, which Apple first acknowledged with a repair program last month, has left many scratching their heads and wondering if the new laptop’s largely unchanged keyboard is susceptible to dust and crumb contamination under the hood.

Now, iFixit says it’s uncovered something that indicates that the new MacBook Pro keyboards use a silicone membrane underneath each individual key to keep dirt and other unsavory particles from finding their way under the keyboard and locking it up. The repair organization dismantled a new 15-inch MacBook Pro keyboard to discover the new mechanism.

It bears a remarkable resemblance to an Apple patent that went public back in March. It described various methods for keyboard design that would prevent crumbs and dust from getting underneath the keys and causing mechanical issues. The methods describe using a “guard structure extending from the key cap” that would “funnel” contaminants away from the sensitive portions of the keyboard. That guard structure could be separated from the base when in an undepressed position and that it would not make contact with the base even when depressed due to a gasket sitting in between.

The patent application goes on to say that the gasket could comprise of a layer of silicone that would act as a membrane. iFixit now says that’s exactly what the new MacBook Pro keyboard contains, and that the sound of the keyboard is quieter as a side effect of the silicone membrane.

 

We won’t know for sure if this method is a successful solution to the MacBook keyboard gripes we’ve been hearing about for years now, since the company moved over to its new butterfly switch mechanism that debuted with the 2015 MacBook. But it does seem to illustrate that Apple is taking the issue seriously enough to implement a solution, even if it would rather not publicize the change and admit it had a bigger problem on its hands.

 

 

Source: The verge

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APPLE’S STOCK SOURS, MICROSOFT’S SOARS. SAY WHAT?!

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Wall Street investors are enamoured with a newly emergent tech company.

It has nothing to do with posting selfies or finding a soul mate. The company is instead making billions of dollars selling cloud-computing and other technical services to offices around the world.

Say hello to Microsoft, the 1990s home-computing powerhouse that is having a renaissance moment – eclipsing Facebook, Google, Amazon and the other tech darlings of the late decade.

And now it is close to surpassing Apple as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

Yes, that Microsoft. As other tech giants stumble, its steady resilience is paying off.

That Microsoft is even close to eclipsing Apple – and did so briefly a few times this week – would have been unheard of just a few years ago.

But under CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has found stability by moving away from its flagship Windows operating system and focusing on cloud-computing services with long-term business contracts.

“They’ve finally turned the corner and have become a viable cloud player,” said Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager for Synovus Trust. “They’ve made a very strong transition away from the desktop.”

A brief period of trading Nov 26 was the first time in more than eight years that Microsoft was worth more than Apple. Microsoft surpassed Apple again briefly Nov 27, before Apple closed on top with a market value of US$827bil (RM3.46tril), just 0.5% ahead of Microsoft’s US$822bil (RM3.44tril).

Apple has been the world’s most prosperous firm since claiming the top spot from Exxon Mobil earlier this decade. Microsoft hasn’t been at the top since the height of the dot-com boom in 2000.

Microsoft became a contender again in large part because Apple’s stock has fallen 25% since early October, while Microsoft hasn’t done any worse than the rest of the stock market. But the fact that it hasn’t done poorly is a reflection of its steady focus on business customers in recent years.

Just a few years ago, Microsoft’s prospects looked bleak. The company was dependent on licensing fees from the Windows operating system used in personal computers, but people were spending money instead on the latest smartphones. In 2013, PC sales plunged 10% to about 315 million, the worst year-to-year drop ever, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. It didn’t help that Microsoft’s effort to make PCs more like phones, Windows 8, was widely panned.

But a turnaround began when the Redmond, Washington, company promoted Nadella as CEO in 2014. He succeeded Microsoft’s longtime CEO, Steve Ballmer, who initially scoffed at the notion that people would be willing to pay US$500 (RM2,093) or more for Apple’s iPhones.

That bet paid off. Windows is now a dwindling fraction of Microsoft’s business. While the company still runs consumer-focused businesses such as Bing search and Xbox gaming, it has prioritised business-oriented services such as its Office line of email and other workplace software, as well as newer additions such as LinkedIn and Skype. But its biggest growth has happened in the cloud, particularly the cloud platform it calls Azure. Cloud computing now accounts for more than a quarter of Microsoft’s revenue, and Microsoft rivals Amazon as a leading provider of such services.

Being less reliant on consumer demand helped shield Microsoft from holiday season turbulence and US-China trade war jitters affecting Apple and other tech companies.

US President Donald Trump amplified those tariff concerns when he told The Wall Street Journal in a story published late Monday that new tariffs could affect iPhones and laptops imported from China.

The iPhone maker had already seen its stock fall after reporting a mixed bag of quarterly results earlier this month amid fears about how the technology industry will fare in the face of such threats as rising interest rates, increased government regulation and Trump’s escalating trade war with China.

Apple also spooked investors with an unexpected decision to stop disclosing how many iPhones it sells each quarter. That move has been widely interpreted as a sign that Apple foresees further declines in iPhone sales and is trying to mask that.

While smartphones caused the downturn in personal computers years ago, sales of smartphones themselves have now stalled. That’s partly because with fewer innovations from previous models, more people choose to hold on to the devices for longer periods before upgrading.

Morgan said Microsoft is outperforming its tech rivals in part because of what it’s not. It doesn’t face as much regulatory scrutiny as advertising-hungry Google and Facebook, which have attracted controversy over their data-harvesting practices. Unlike Netflix, it’s not on a hunt for a diminishing number of international subscribers. And while Amazon also has a strong cloud business, it’s still more dependent on online retail. – AP

 

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APPLE LOOP: NEW IPHONE XS HANDS ON REVIEW, TIM COOK CANCELS IPHONE BATTERY OFFER, IPHONE XR DELAYED

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Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes all the news from the Apple launch, the launch of the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, hands-on reviews of the new iPhones, the stunning Apple Watch 4, this missing MacBooks and iPads, changes to Apple’s battery replacement program, and why Tim Cook can’t keep a secret.

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 (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).

The new Apple iPhone Xs (L) and iPhone Xs Max (R) are displayed during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple’s 2018 iPhone Portfolio Revealed

The traditional September launch event dominates Apple Loop this week, so let’s get started on looking at the news and the initial thoughts. First up is the refresh of the iPhone X family, with the reveal of the 5.8 inch screened iPhone XS and the 6.5 inch screened the iPhone XS Max.

Echoing the design of last year’s iPhone X (which has been removed from the main portfolio), the two models have the new A12 chip, FaceID, OLED displays, and introduce Dual-SIM capability for the first time. Both sport dual cameras and Apple was keen to show off the software used to process the raw images:

iPhone Xs continues to bring innovations to photography, things not possible before iPhone. Capabilities like advanced depth segmentation using the Neural Engine, Smart HDR creating photos with high dynamic range and great image detail, advanced bokeh quality in Portrait mode photos and dynamic depth of field that is user adjustable in the Photos app, are all huge improvements in state-of-the-art photographic techniques that everyone can use.

Introducing The iPhone XR

Also announced at Apple’s event was the iPhone Xr. This will be the ‘entry-level’ member of the iPhone X family, on sale at $749. Sporting the A12 chip, the same wide-angle camera as the XS, and the use of FaceID to unlock and gesture controls replacing the home button mark it out as the ‘future’ of the iPhone, even though the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus units that it arguably replaces are still listed in Apple’s portfolio. From the press release:

iPhone XR brings the powerful A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, the TrueDepth camera system, Face ID and an advanced camera system that creates dramatic portraits using a single camera lens.

More details at Apple.com.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, introduce the company’s newest smartphone, the iPhone Xs (Karl Mondon/Digital First Media/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Pricing And Pre Ordering Details

Preorders for the iPhone XS and XS Max opened today (Friday 14th September), with a retail releases starting on Friday 21st September in the US – other territories may vary. Unlike last year, the more expensive handset is on sale first, and the cheaper iPhone XR will be open for ordering in the following month, with pre-orders beginning Friday, October 19 and in stores beginning Friday, October 26.

While production delays on the LCD are expected to be the practical reason behind the XR delay, last year saw the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus go on sale before the iPhone X, which potentially depressed sales of the more expensive handset. That situation is reversed this year.

Hands On With The Technology

What can you expect from the handsets? Forbes’ David Phelan was invited to The Steve Jobs Theatre and was graciously allowed to touch one of the mythical new handsets:

The question mark over just how big the iPhone Xs Max would feel was quickly answered: just fine. If you can handle the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone Xs Max feels the same, though a little more high-end thanks to the shiny stainless-steel frame instead of the aluminium one found on the 8 Plus. The notch was less dominating because the 6.5in display is bigger so the camera element proportionally smaller.

But although it’s the same physical size as the iPhone 8 Plus, the edge-to-edge screen means your fingers and thumbs have bigger distances to travel than ever.

But What Does It All Mean?

Reading the runestones of an Apple event used to be difficult. The launches used to debut new ideas, trajectories, and services. Now, they are very much more of the same, handsets with iterative updates, and Apple quietly ratcheting up the pricing. This year’s September event? It’s all about resetting definitions.

That could be the definition of what it means to be an edge, so you can sell a phone with an edge-to-edge display that has acres of bezel on it, or it could be redefining what a mid-range handset price is. I took on the former, while Andrew Orlowski examined the latter:

Yesterday Apple discontinued its budget iPhone SE and unveiled new models costing £1,500. Since relatively few people switch between platforms, Apple’s growth relies in part from making more money from people who already have an iPhone.

That doesn’t just mean more phones with a higher margins – but selling peripherals like AirPods and Watch, and upselling Apple services. The latter now generates almost £10bn a quarter, growing a third year-on-year, which offsets stagnating hardware unit sales.

… iPhone revenue is up 20 per cent year-on-year with unit growth of just 1 per cent. A quarter earlier, we saw the X effect as ASP rose from $628 to $728.

Apple COO Jeff Williams discusses Apple Watch Series 4 during an event on September 12, 2018, in Cupertino, California (Photo: Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images)

The Real Story Is The Apple Watch

If you wanted any sort of technological wow moment at the Apple event, you had to turn to your own wrist, and the launch of the Apple Watch 4. A larger display, louder speaker, and improved cellular reception were all solid updates, but the real news was the inclusion of an FDA-approved ECG monitor. Nicole Nguyen reports:

Apple’s newest touchscreen smartwatch also introduces built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality, which uses electrical signals for heart rate monitoring. It’s the first over-the-counter product to offer ECG to consumers.

Users open the app, put their finger on the watch’s digital crown, and after 30 seconds, you will receive heart rhythm classification. The app can classify signs of atrial fibrillation, which can be followed by a stroke.

Yes we saw the next iteration of the iPhone, the life-saving benefits of the latest Apple Watch, and even a nod to the HomePod (summary: it’s not dead, please buy it). But what about the expected updated to the iPad, MacBook and Mac ranges? Missing? Going loco down in Acapulco? Jeremy Horowitz has some ideas:

Apple has provided a clue that you won’t have long to wait. Back in August, it abruptly removed a tentpole feature called Group FaceTime from its iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, saying that it “will ship in a future software update later this fall.” That’s an atypically specific tip of the hat for Apple — and a perfect time to show off how multiple users’ faces, including Face ID-dependent Memoji, look on big iPad Pro and Mac screens.

So get ready for another Apple media event — and new point release updates to iOS and macOS — shortly after the dust has cleared with the new iPhones and Apple Watches. It’s going to be a busy run-up to the holiday season this year, but an exciting one.

Macbook, March 2015 (image: Apple PR)APPLE PR

More Expensive Batteries Sneaked Out

With all of the new products taking up the Apple oxygen, it was a good day to sneak out some news on the battery replacement costs. Apple is raising the prices on January 1st 2019 for out of warranty battery replacements. Chris Welch has more.

Walking into your local Apple Store and getting a battery replacement for your iPhone is pretty cheap at the moment. Just $29. But when 2018 comes to a close, that temporary pricing — introduced in response to last year’s throttling controversy that affected iPhones with aging batteries — will be going away.

…Apple has updated its battery page with the new rates that will begin on January 1st. In 2019, out-of-warranty battery swaps will cost:

More at The Verge.

And Finally…

Why can’t Apple keep a secret any more? Anyone who has been following the chatter online will have every iPhone announcement this week. From promotional shots discovered early, to mistakes with web server files, has Cupertino lost its touch in keeping quiet? Chuck La Tournous Investigates:

In truth, Apple’s secrecy was never quite as ironclad as legend suggests. The “Luxo” iMac, the G4 Cube, the infamous case of the lost/stolen iPhone 4 . . . the list of products that were accidentally pre-revealed goes on and on. Still, these leaks were mostly speculation based on snippets of information, fuzzy images of prototypes, or product pages, and magazine covers that went live a bit too soon.

Today’s leaks are different. They’re much more consistently accurate and come with fair regularity from reliable sources. Does that mean Steve Jobs was better at running a tight ship than Tim Cook? Probably not.

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.

I am known for my strong views on mobile technology, online media, and the effect this has on and communication will have on the public conscious and existing…MORE
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WHATSAPP CONFIRMS THAT MESSAGES BACKED UP ON GOOGLE DRIVE ARE NOT ENCRYPTED

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WhatsApp has been advertising their encryption policy for a while now. The company has left no stones unturned to make sure users understand that the messages are end-to-end encrypted and can’t be intercepted by anyone. However, it looks like the same can’t be said for Google Drive backups.

Recently, the company announced a partnership with Google to exempt WhatsApp backups from Google Drive free quota calculations. Previously the WhatsApp backups stored on Drive used to count within the 15 GB free space that a Google account offered. With the new partnership, WhatsApp also confirmed that the data stored on Google Drive is not encrypted. The company confirmed this in a blog post update about Google Drive- “Media and messages you back up aren’t protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive”.

That said, security researchers did point out that it’s not mandatory to upload backups on Google Drive so in case you’re not comfortable then just choose the local backup option.

As a WhatsApp user you have the choice to not backup your data to Google Drive,” said. They (WhatsApp) are not forcing you to backup. It is a feature. So, if you trust Google, you can enable it. At the same time if law enforcement agencies requests Google for specific user data, they have to comply.

– Sai Krishna Kothapalli, an independent security researcher

WhatsApp has always promised complete end-to-end encryption and has confirmed on various occasions that even the company can’t access the messages. While this is true because the messages are stored on the phones of the users and not on WhatsApp servers, the company says they can’t guarantee the same for Google Drive backups. If you’re not comfortable then don’t upload WhatsApp backups on Google Drive. The feature is present but is optional so if you don’t like it then don’t use it.

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