An Apple Byte : iPhone Bluetooth Stalking Warning

Apple says it has worked with Google to create an industry specification that can alert users across both iOS and Android if a Bluetooth tracking device is being used to track them (also known as Bluetooth Stalking).

The new capability, which is being implemented in Apple’s new iOS 17.5 (and on Android 6.0+ devices) will deliver an “[Item] Found Moving With You” alert on those devices if an unknown Bluetooth tracking device is seen moving with them over time, regardless of the platform the device is paired with.

Apple says this will “help mitigate the misuse of devices designed to help keep track of belongings.” For example, if a user receives the alert on their iOS device, it means that someone else’s AirTag, Find My accessory, or other industry specification-compatible Bluetooth tracker is moving with them.

An Apple Byte : iPhone Users Get Google’s ‘Circle to Search’

iPhone users can now use a version of Google’s “Circle to Search” thanks to Google Lens and iOS Shortcuts.

The “Circle to Search” gesture, launched in January (which Google Pixel phone users may already be familiar with) is where users can circle, highlight, scribble or tap any part of an image or text on the screen that they want to use Google search find out more about.

Now, a new Google app shortcut means that iPhone users can use the Action Button on the iPhone 15 Pro to quickly visually search anything on the screen via Google Lens. Although Google’s iOS app already offers a way to use Lens for visual search, this new shortcut makes it easier to start a search with just a simple gesture.

Tech News : Chrome’s Real-Time Safe Browsing Change

Google has announced the introduction of real-time, privacy-preserving URL protection to Google Safe Browsing for those using Chrome on desktop or iOS (and Android later this month).

Why? 

Google says with attacks constantly evolving, and with the difference between successfully detecting a threat or not now perhaps being just a “matter of minutes,” this new measure has been introduced “to keep up with the increasing pace of hackers.” 

Not Even Google Will Know Which Websites You’re Visiting 

Google says because this new capability uses encryption and other privacy-enhancing techniques, the level of privacy and security is such that no one, including Google, will know what website you’re visiting.

What Was Happening Before? 

Prior to the addition of the new real-time protection, Google’s Standard protection mode of Safe Browsing relied upon a list stored on the user’s device to check if a site or file was known to be potentially dangerous. The list was updated every 30 to 60 minutes. However, as Google now admits, the average malicious site only actually exists for less than 10 minutes – hence the need for a real-time, server-side list solution.

Another challenge that has necessitated the introduction of a server-side real-time solution is the fact that Safe Browsing’s list of harmful websites continues to grow rapidly and not all devices have the resources necessary to maintain this growing list, nor to receive and apply the required updates to the list.

Extra Phishing Protection 

Google says it expects this new real-time protection capability to be able to block 25 per cent more phishing attempts.

Partnership With Fastly 

Google says that the new enhanced level of privacy between Chrome and Safe Browsing has been achieved through a partnership with edge computing and security company Fastly.

Like Enhanced Mode 

In its announcement of the new capability, Google also highlighted the similarity between the new feature and Google’s existing ‘Enhanced Protection Mode’ (in Safe Browsing) which also uses a real-time list to compare the URLs customers visit against. However, the opt-in Enhanced Protection also uses “AI to block attacks, provides deep file scans and offers extra protection from malicious Chrome extensions.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

As noted by Google, the evolving, increasing number of cyber threats, the fact that malicious sites are only around for a few minutes, and that many devices don’t have the resources on board to handle a growing security list (and updates) have necessitated a better security solution. Having the list of suspect sites server-side and offering real-time improved protection kills a few birds with one stone, allows Google a more efficient (and hopefully effective) way to increase its level of security and privacy. It’s also a way for Google to plug a security gap for those who have not taken the opportunity to opt-in to its Enhance Protection Mode since its introduction last year.

For business users and other users of Chrome, the chance to get a massive (estimated) 25 per cent increase in phishing protection without having to do much or pay extra must be attractive. For example, with phishing accounting for 60 per cent of social engineering attacks and, according to a recent Zscaler report, phishing attacks growing by a massive 47 per cent last year, businesses are likely to welcome any fast, easy, extra phishing protection they can get.

Tech News : Google Waits On Hold For You Until A Human Answers

Google’s new “Talk to a Live Representative” feature will call a business for you, wait on hold for you, and call you when a human representative is available.

Being Tested 

Similar to Google Pixel’s existing “Hold for Me” feature, “Talk to a Live Representative” is currently in testing in the US by Google’s Search Labs members (those who experiment with early-stage Google Search products) on the Google app (Android and iOS) and desktop Chrome. Following (successful) testing it’s been reported that the feature will be made available for all search users, i.e. on all devices, not just on Google Pixel phones.

Improved Version of Hold For Me 

Although “Talk to a Live Representative” is similar to “Hold for Me,” where the Google Assistant waits on hold for you and notifies you when the support representative is ready to speak with you, it’s slightly improved in that it handles the entire process and shortens it. For example, “Talk to a Live Representative” proactively calls the business on your behalf in the first place and asks you the reason for the call so the customer service representative will already know why you’re calling.

In short, the one major time and hassle-saving point of the “Talk to a Live Representative” feature is that you only need to actually pick up your phone when a human at the company is available to talk to you.

‘Request A Call’ Button 

Users will know if they can use the feature to call a business’s customer service number because Google will display a “Request a call” button next to its search listing if that business is supported. The button can then be used to select the reason for your call and Google texts you with updates about its progress and calls you when a human customer representative becomes available.

Some Companies Already Supported 

Although the customer service numbers for some companies are already supported by the new feature, it’s perhaps not surprising that these few are large, mostly US-based companies such as airlines (Delta and Alaska Airlines), retail giants (Costco and Walmart) and others including Samsung, ADT, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and more.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Although this is an updated/improved existing product being rolled out to a much wider market beyond Pixel phone users, it will be easy for any businessperson to see its potential value. Most of us will have experienced the frustration and inconvenience of having to be made to wait a long time on hold on customer service numbers (often being cut off) whilst also being distracted, having our attention divided, and feeling stressed by having to monitor the phone to make sure we don’t miss the opportunity when it’s answered.

Provided it gets successfully through the testing phase and does what it says on the tin, “Talk to a Live Representative” sounds like a feature that could be of real, practical use to UK businesses large and small. It sounds as though it could save businesses time, hassle, and stress and help them to concentrate more on their work, and help minimise disruption. Unfortunately, there’s no clear date for its general roll-out … if only Google could call us when the feature’s ready to use.

An Apple Byte : Instagram and Facebook Ads ‘Apple Tax’

Meta has announced that it will be passing on Apple’s 30 per cent service charge (often referred to as the “Apple tax”) to advertisers who pay to boost posts on Facebook and Instagram through the iOS app.

This move is a response to Apple’s in-app purchase fees, which apply to digital transactions within apps available on the iOS platform (announced in the updated App Store guidelines back in 2022). Advertisers wanting to avoid the additional 30 per cent fee can do so by opting to boost their posts from the web, using either Facebook.com or Instagram.com via desktop and mobile browsers.

Meta says it is “required to either comply with Apple’s guidelines, or remove boosted posts from our apps” and that, “we do not want to remove the ability to boost posts, as this would hurt small businesses by making the feature less discoverable and potentially deprive them of a valuable way to promote their business.” 

Apple has reportedly responded (a statement in MacRumors), saying that it has “always required that purchases of digital goods and services within apps must use In-App Purchase,” and that because boosting a post “is a digital service — so of course In-App Purchase is required”.

Meta’s introduction of the Apple tax for advertisers on iOS apps highlights the conflict with Apple over digital ad space control and monetisation and this move, aimed at challenging Apple’s app store policies, could make advertising more costly and complicated for small businesses.

An Apple Byte : Stolen Device Protection Update Rolled Out

Apple iPhone users are being urged to use a new feature called ‘Stolen Device Protection’ which was rolled out in a recent update to iOS.

As the new feature’s name suggests, it can help prevent someone who has stolen your device and knows your passcode from making critical changes to your account or device. It means that certain actions will have additional security requirements when your iPhone is away from familiar locations, such as your home or workplace.

The feature protects by including factors like a security delay and the need to authenticate Face ID or Touch ID before certain actions can be taken on a device.

The opt-in Stolen Device Protection feature can be turned on in Settings but requires the use of two-factor authentication for your Apple ID and setting up or enabling the following on your iPhone: a device passcode; Face ID or Touch ID; Find My; and Significant Locations.

An Apple Byte : Apple To Allow Sideloaded EU App Stores

In compliance with the regulations in the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), and following the iOS 17.2 update, it’s been reported that Apple will soon be allowing iOS users to sideload app stores in the EU.

This means that iOS users will be able to download and install apps from sources other than its official Apple App Store, which has previously been the only source for downloading apps on iPhone and iPad.

It’s been reported that sideloading from app stores in the EU could be available to iOS users in the first half of 2024. This opening up of competition to something that Apple has had full control over could affect the company’s revenue if users choose non-Apple channels for app payments.

An Apple Byte : ChatGPT Voice Free To All iOS Users

OpenAI’s president and co-founder, Greg Brockman, has announced that ‘ChatGPT Voice’ in its ChatGPT app, previously only available to Plus and Enterprise subscribers, is now available free to all iOS and Android users.

ChatGPT Voice (originally introduced in September) integrates voice capabilities with the existing ChatGPT text-based model. This allows users to have a conversation with it and ask the ChatGPT chatbot questions and be given answers, all by voice, i.e. talking to the app on your device. Greg Brockman said on X that the feature “totally changes the ChatGPT experience.”

iOS users who want to try ChatGPT Voice can access it in their ChatGPT app now. An example video of what ChatGPT Voice can do has been posted by Greg Brockman on X here.

An Apple Byte : Battery Drain Complaints Around Apple Watches

Recent user reports indicate a perplexing battery drain in Apple Watches, affecting even the robust Apple Watch Ultra. The problem, linked to the WatchOS 10.1 update, has raised alarm among consumers and professionals who rely on the device’s longevity for daily productivity and connectivity.

For business owners and professionals, an unreliable device can mean disrupted workflows, missed notifications, and potential loss of data crucial for time-sensitive decisions. This is particularly concerning for sectors that integrate wearable technology into their operations for tracking and communication purposes.

Recognising the urgency, Apple has taken steps to rectify the issue, suggesting an impending software update aimed at resolving the excessive power consumption observed when the Watch is paired with an iPhone. An interim iOS update has attempted to mitigate the issue but with limited success.

Businesses reliant on Apple’s ecosystem should stay alert to these developments. It’s advisable for them to keep their devices updated and to monitor any official guidance from Apple. Additionally, exploring alternative apps or dialing back on non-essential features can temporarily alleviate battery concerns until a permanent fix is deployed.

Given the impact on operational efficiency, organisations could review their technology dependency and prepare contingency plans, perhaps safeguarding against potential downtime and maintain business continuity.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The ongoing battery drain issue with Apple Watches may seem peripheral, nevertheless it is a reminder for businesses to understand the vulnerabilities within their tech infrastructure. As we wait for the definitive fix from Apple, companies might wish to communicate with employees about managing and troubleshooting all their devices to maintain productivity.

Specific to this particular watch issue, businesses might want to evaluate the necessity of certain applications like “MobyFace,” which have been identified as potential contributors to the battery drain. Removing or updating specific apps may provide temporary relief, which is vital for businesses that use Apple Watches for critical functions like health monitoring, on-the-go communication, or logistical tracking.

For tech-reliant businesses, this scenario also underscores the importance of maintaining diverse platforms and not depending on a single manufacturer or software ecosystem. By doing so, they can navigate around such specific device issues with minimal disruption to their operations. Additionally, keeping abreast of tech forums and support networks for early identification of such issues can help mitigate risks before they escalate into business-critical problems.

Tech News : What’s In The New iOS 17 iPhone Update?

With the recent release of the latest update of Apple’s iPhone software, iOS 17, we look at many of the useful new features and their benefits.

What’s Happened? 

Apple recently released a new updated version of its iOS (iOS 17), which contains many new features, security updates and fixes for Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and smartwatch. It has also subsequently released the iOS 17.0.2 update to fix an issue that prevented transferring data directly from another iPhone during setup, and the iOS 17.0.3 update to fix a recently reported overheating issue in Apple’s newly launched iPhone 15. The recently launched iPhone 15 range includes the iPhone 15 Pro with a titanium finish.

The iPhone X, however, and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have not been included in the update (although the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will still receive security updates).

New Features of iOS 17

Some of the key features of note of iOS 17 include:

Upgraded Autocorrect 

An upgraded autocorrect that learns the user’s normal language, allows swearing (and doesn’t substitute with the word “ducking”), reverts corrected text by tapping on the underlined where needed, and can predict full sentences during typing.

Standby Mode – More Like A ‘Hub’ 

The new Standby mode (which can be particularly useful when leaving the phone by the bed) gives a full landscape, hub style display while charging which includes the clock, calendar, weather, photos, chosen widgets, Siri interaction, and more.

Greater Personalisation Through Contact Cards 

Changes to calls and messaging sees Apple introduce greater personalisation through customisable contact cards, whereby users can create their own personalised visual cards (including a photo, text, and customisable colours) that display on the recipient’s phone and in their contacts app when calls are made. This could, of course be very useful in business interactions, e.g. including company information / branding elements in the card, displaying creativity, and creating a memorable identity that stands out.

AirDrop – Seamless Sharing of Cards 

Also, the contact cards aren’t just for viewing. The (seamless) AirDrop function allows users to share cards (like swapping a digital business cards) by bringing two devices close together.

Voicemails Get Live Transcriptions 

Voicemails have also been updated with live transcriptions that allow users to quickly grasp the essence of every message, such as if there’s background noise or if you’re multi-tasking at the time, plus FaceTime allows video voicemails.

Voice Cloning! 

A voice cloning feature allows users to create an audible version of any typed phrase, thereby helping with accessibility and adding a new AI dimension to communications.

Siri Refined 

Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, has also been refined to enable users to adjust Siri’s speaking pace thereby catering to diverse listening preferences, and activation can now happen simply by saying “Siri” rather than “hey Siri.”

Privacy And Security Updated 

Privacy and security, two elements that are particularly important to businesses, have been updated with iOS 17, as users can securely share passwords stored in their iCloud Keychain with trusted individuals. Also, Apple’s Safari browser has fortified its privacy stance by introducing facial recognition for private sessions. Users also get another useful heads-up in the form of receiving alerts before accessing potentially sensitive content.

Photo Recognition

iOS 17’s people album photo recognition also promises to be a helpful feature, e.g. with identifying people in business event photos, favourite people, and even family pets according to Apple.

Food Images – Suggestions 

For those in the food business or needing to find content about food (or simply food and cookery enthusiasts), tapping on a shared food image adds a culinary twist by offering recipe suggestions.

Paying Attention To Mental Wellbeing – Health App Updated 

Particularly since the pandemic, our mental wellbeing has been more in focus and Apple’s health app, traditionally associated with tracking physical activities, now ventures into the realm of mental health. Users can monitor their moods, thereby providing insights into patterns that might indicate anxiety or depression.

iPadOS 17 

With the update, Apple’s iPadOS 17 now has a suite of features tailored for the larger screen. The lock screen has received a lively makeover, allowing users to infuse it with widgets and animated wallpapers, thereby allowing more personalisation and convenience that could help with time-saving and productivity.

Also, the Health app (as highlighted above, with its new mental health focus) debuts on the iPad, sporting a refreshed interface and extensive health data insights.

Multitasking has also received a boost, with users now having the freedom to resize and position apps on the screen, closely mirroring a desktop experience.

WatchOS 10 Too 

With smart wearables now very popular, Apple’s watchOS 10 has also received updates including the integrated apps getting vibrant redesigns that focus on user-friendliness and quick access. For example, directly from the watch face, widgets dynamically update based on several user-specific parameters, ensuring relevant information is just a swipe away.

Choice, in terms of the range of watch faces available has been expanded, e.g. with animated faces like Snoopy and Woodstock, and even a cycling feature that transforms the iPhone into a surrogate bike computer when paired with the watch.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Apple’s iOS 17’s new features, and its new iPhone 15 launch, although marred slightly by the new phone having an overheating problem (plus a radiation-fear-fuelled banning of iPhone 12 sales in France), have given Apple something positive to shout about (and bury any less welcome news).

In the dynamic landscape of UK businesses, where agility and efficiency are paramount, Apple’s iOS 17 looks like offering enhanced productivity and a more sophisticated user experience. The introduction of customisable contact cards in the phone app, for example, offers businesses a modernised touchpoint, facilitating more personalised and streamlined digital communications with clients and partners. The innovative live transcription of voicemails allows businesses to rapidly digest essential information, potentially optimising response times and decision-making processes.

Also, the significant (and always welcome) advancements in privacy and security, including the ability to securely share iCloud Keychain passwords and safeguard private browsing sessions with facial recognition, promise to embolden businesses with heightened digital safety, hopefully helping to ensure that confidential business data remains uncompromised.

AI is making inroads everywhere it seems, and the photo recognition’s intuitive capabilities may be particularly useful in sectors like marketing and retail, enabling businesses to better categorise visuals and tailor marketing strategies.

The mental health tracking in the health app underscores a broader shift towards corporate well-being, allowing businesses to foster a more supportive and aware work environment.

Meanwhile, iPadOS 17’s multitasking enhancements echo the needs of dynamic enterprises, making workflow management and multitasking more like a desktop experience, thereby potentially aiding operational efficiency.

Ultimately, the suite of features presented in iOS 17, and its counterparts for iPad and Watch, could enhance the operational, communicative, and strategic dimensions of UK businesses. Apple is keen to show its commitment to the UK (e.g. with its 500,000 sq ft, six-story space inside Apple Battersea Power Station) and its contribution to the economy (claiming it supports more than 550,000 jobs across the country), and although most businesses use Microsoft rather than Apple products, Apple’s reputation for usability, security, and quality in the UK is likely to be enhanced by the iOS 17 update’s new features.