Tech gi­ants on run

David Court: Ap­ple’s $20m fine for slow­ing phones

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - David Court David Court is a free­lance tech­nol­ogy writer and ed­i­tor.

Ap­ple was hit with a size­able €11 mil­lion (NZ$19m) fine for de­lib­er­ately slow­ing down its smart­phones. The fine is the re­sult of an Ital­ian in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the na­tion’s com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­ity that found its soft­ware up­dates were de­signed to throt­tle the per­for­mance of older iPhones. Sam­sung was also hit with a €5m fine for sim­i­lar rea­sons. As I un­der­stand it, Sam­sung are set to ap­peal the fine, while Ap­ple have yet to com­ment. The wider con­text of this fine should have all tech com­pa­nies wor­ried. France is con­duct­ing a sim­i­lar in­ves­ti­ga­tion, where prison is a pos­si­ble op­tion if a guilty ver­dict is re­turned. Al­though jail seems a lit­tle harsh and I have my doubts it’ll come to that. What’s be­yond doubt is that there is a prob­lem here. Tech com­pa­nies are too quick to for­get about their older de­vices. And their cur­rent strat­egy of sim­ply forc­ing new, power-hun­gry soft­ware onto older de­vices isn’t good enough. With great profit – Ap­ple is the world’s first tril­lion-dol­lar com­pany – should come great re­spon­si­bil­ity. En­sur­ing an up­date doesn’t ‘‘throt­tle’’ a phone should just be the be­gin­ning. Es­pe­cially when said de­vice costs close to $2000. So what’s the an­swer? Iron­i­cally, Ap­ple is al­ready lead­ing the way here. Let’s start by tak­ing a look at what Ap­ple’s ra­tio­nale was for slow­ing down older de­vices. As ex­ist­ing iPhone users will have no­ticed – with alarm­ing reg­u­lar­ity – older hand­sets would start to slow down within a cou­ple of weeks of a new iPhone be­ing re­leased. This wasn’t a co­in­ci­dence. On the face of it, this ap­pears to be a pretty sin­is­ter way of forc­ing cus­tomers to up­grade. But this isn’t the whole story. Ap­ple says it slowed down older iPhones to pro­tect their lithium bat­ter­ies. This is be­cause when the new iPhones were launched, Ap­ple also rolled out a new ver­sion of iOS (the phone’s op­er­at­ing sys­tem) and the up­dates gave ex­ist­ing iPhone users ac­cess to the new fea­tures and se­cu­rity patches. The prob­lem is that these up­dates were, in­vari­ably, more de­mand­ing on the older de­vice’s pro­ces­sors, and thus bat­tery. So Ap­ple would ‘‘throt­tle’’ cer­tain as­pects of the older iPhones to pro­tect them. The good news is that Ap­ple has al­ready ad­dressed the is­sue head-on. iPhone users can now eas­ily turn off fea­tures that cause the per­for­mance drop. Ap­ple has also re­duced the price of of­fi­cial bat­tery re­place­ments by roughly 50 per cent. Which is a good start. Hope­fully, as is of­ten the case, other tech com­pa­nies will fol­low Ap­ple’s lead.

Get ready for 5G

Back in 2012, I was guilty of get­ting way too ex­cited about the launch of 4G. Fool­ishly, I be­lieved all the megabytes I was read­ing in the press re­leases. In my head, 4G for mo­biles meant that buffer­ing and wait­ing for web­sites to load were soon to be things of the past. And 300 megabits per sec­ond down­load speeds were just around the cor­ner. Fast-for­ward to 2018 and, just as I was with 3G, I’m happy to get a down­load speed of any­thing over 1Mbps. Well, it’s time to get overly ex­cited all over again as United States mo­bile gi­ant AT&T is plan­ning to launch a real mo­bile 5G net­work in the next few weeks. I don’t want to get overly hyped, like I did in 2012, but it’s re­ally hard not to. If 5G can do only half of what the in­dus­try says it can, it’s go­ing to be a mas­sive step for­ward for all of us. Which is ridicu­lously ex­cit­ing, as 5G has been de­signed to un­lock the po­ten­tial for so many ex­cit­ing things. Driver­less cars, in­ter­net of things de­vices, 4K stream­ing, vir­tual re­al­ity and much, much more. This week’s an­nounce­ment in the US is just the start.

Phish­ing at­tacks up nearly 300 per cent

Phish­ing – the fraud­u­lent tech­nique of send­ing blan­ket emails pre­tend­ing to be a rep­utable com­pany, in or­der to ob­tain a per­son’s credit card de­tails – was three times more likely to suc­ceed in the past year. Re­search con­ducted by In­tSights and Riski­fied, a cy­ber­risk an­a­lyt­ics and eCom­merce fraud-preven­tion com­pany, sug­gests phish­ing scams have risen by nearly 300 per cent in the past year. It’s scary be­cause it means we, the law-abid­ing global masses, are los­ing and on­line scam­mers are win­ning. What’s even more wor­ry­ing is that on­line phish­ing scams aren’t do­ing any­thing par­tic­u­larly new or special. The best way to pro­tect your­self is to in­stall good an­tivirus soft­ware and, as al­ways, dou­ble-check that email ad­dresses or URLs are le­git­i­mate. You can do this by sim­ply Googling a brand’s name and man­u­ally check­ing the URLs match.

App of the week: Mi­crosoft Teams

Ru­mour has it that for­mer Mi­crosoft chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill Gates met cur­rent chief ex­ec­u­tive Satya Nadella for a cof­fee to dis­cuss a po­ten­tial US$8 bil­lion bid to buy Slack in 2016. Need­less to say, they de­cided against it. In­stead, the com­pany started work on Mi­crosoft Teams – a di­rect ri­val to Slack’s emailkilling mes­sen­ger app, and in­dus­try in­flu­encers are now tip­ping Mi­crosoft’s to be the su­pe­rior so­lu­tion. Teams largely solves the same cor­po­rate prob­lems as Slack. How­ever, the main ben­e­fits here are bet­ter in­te­gra­tion with Mi­crosoft Of­fice files – that you can col­lab­o­ra­tively live-edit with­out leav­ing Teams – as well as seam­less video call­ing. Ad­mit­tedly, tech leads might find Mi­crosoft Team slightly more chal­leng­ing to set up than Slack. But not by much. But the pay­off is an Of­ficethemed ecosys­tem your work­force should be more familiar with. Mi­crosoft Teams is free to try.


The joy of a new iPhone wears off when the next model comes out and the old one slows down.

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