Tech giants on run
David Court: Apple’s $20m fine for slowing phones
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.