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 : Police Warnings Over iOS 17’s NameDrop

It’s been reported that iOS 17’s new NameDrop feature has prompted the Police to issue warnings to parents on social media (in the US) about its potential to be abused, possibly posing a risk to their children.

NameDrop, introduced with iOS 17.1 in November allows those with iPhones and Apple Watches running watchOS 10.1 to share their contact information, (plus photos and more with AirDrop) simply by holding their phones close together (within a few millimetres).

Police in several US states have issued warnings that this feature could, therefore, enable predators to use NameDrop to steal personal contact information from unsuspecting teens just by placing their phone next to the teen’s phone.

The Police also highlighted the fact that for protection, the feature can be turned off by going to settings, selecting AirDrop, selecting “Bringing Devices Together,” and then moving the toggle to off. There is also a ‘Contacts Ony’ option which means that only someone on the iPhone’s contact list can connect through AirDrop and NameDrop.

Featured Article : UK Proceeds With iPhone ‘Batterygate’ Case

The so-called ‘Batterygate’ iPhone throttling case has been given the go-ahead by UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal which could mean a near $1 billion (£853 million) damages payout to affected Apple customers.

What Is ‘Batterygate’? 

Batterygate refers to a 2017 software update to iPhones by Apple that customers reported had slowed older iPhones down. It was alleged by some at the time that this had been an intentional move designed to motivate customers to buy a new battery or a new iPhone.

Which iPhones? 

The older models of iPhone (released between 2014 and 2016) affected by slowing following the update were the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone SE.

Claims Gained Momentum

Claims by customers that their iPhones have been slowed by the update were supported by comparative performance tests of different models of the iPhone 6S on Reddit and Technology website Geekbench.

As customers’ concerns mounted and received more press, Apple publicly admitted that its software update was responsible for the slowing, Apple apologised to customers in January 2018, and in 2020 agreed to pay $113m (£85m) in the hope of putting an end to the ‘Batterygate’ scandal.

Also, in France in early 2020, Apple was fined $27 million by the country’s consumer watchdog for throttling the battery on older iPhones and it’s been reported that Apple had many (66) smaller batterygate lawsuits against it in the US, settling for $500 million in 2020, and agreeing (in a separate case) to pay out $113 million to 34 US States for the throttling of iPhone 6 and 7 devices.

Power Management Tool 

Apple’s explanation of the iPhone update was that it was a power management tool to help combat performance issues and to help prolong the life of customer devices by managing their ageing lithium-ion batteries and preventing the inconvenience of a sudden and unexpected shutdown. Apple said (in 2018) that it would never intentionally “degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

Justin Gutmann’s Lawsuit 

However, in 2022, consumer champion Justin Gutmann filed a lawsuit against Apple over the matter. In the lawsuit Mr Gutman claimed that hardware used by Apple in seven affected iPhone models couldn’t cope with the demands of the device’s processor and operating system. Mr Gutmann argued that Apple introduced the software tool in a concealed way to hide the fact that iPhone batteries may not have been able to run the latest iOS software at the time.

Mr Gutmann also alleged that the “power management tool” pushed as part of the iPOS update had slowed the performance of their phones leading to many owners having to pay for replacement batteries or buy new phones. Mr Gutmann alleged that using the update to force people to pay for replacement batteries or entirely new phones amounted to Apple exploiting its market dominance in the UK. It was alleged that Apple’s apology and offer of a payout were essentially a plan to save Apple the cost of having to recall products and provide replacement batteries, by making users seek to buy their own new batteries or new iPhones after noticing a slowdown (following the update).

Mr Gutmann, therefore, decided to launch his own lawsuit, seeking around £768m (now £850m) in damages for up to 25 million UK iPhone users.

Case To Go Ahead 

Now, for the latest development in ‘Batterygate’ Mr Gutmann’s near $1 billion lawsuit on behalf of the affected owners has been cleared to proceed to court by UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal.

With around 25 million customers affected, if the case doesn’t go Apple’s way, all the affected owners will be entitled to a compensation payout from Apple for each model of iPhone that they owned that was subject to slowing caused by the update.

In its summary, The Competition Appeal tribunal highlights how the collective proceedings order (CPO): “seeks to combine, on an opt-out basis, the claims of consumers and business entities who have purchased, or were gifted, certain Apple iPhone models in particular iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus (“Affected iPhones”)”.  It also highlights how “Apple’s application to strike out the claim was dismissed” (Apple tried to have the case thrown out), and that the Tribunal has now “decided that the requirements of a CPO are met in this case.” 

The Tribunal did, however, also note that “aspects of the claim lack clarity” which it says, “impacts both the questions of the existence of abuse and the manner in which loss to the class is to be assessed.”  In other words, there’s likely to be some room for Apple’s lawyers (backed by the huge resources of the company) to mount a persuasive argument against the allegations made in the lawsuit.

Following the news that the lawsuit has been given permission in the UK, Mr Guttmann has been quoted as saying: “I’m heartened that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has given the nod for our groundbreaking claim to proceed to a full trial. This paves the way for millions of consumers, who were left paying for battery replacements or new phone models, to receive the compensation they deserve.”  

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Batterygate has been a blot on Apple’s reputation that has been hanging around for years now, resulting in it having to settle many claims in the US already and pay a £27 million fine in France. Although Apple is a multi-trillion-dollar company with considerable financial and legal resources, it has been (and could still be) quite an expensive episode for the company, plus the fact that it’s paid out (settled) with many in the US could point to the fact that it may lose or may agree a sizeable settlement in the UK.

The UK lawsuit which has just been given the go-ahead, and which rests on whether Apple essentially exploited its market dominance in the UK could, therefore, potentially see 25 million UK iPhone users get compensation without having to take any individual action (it’s an opt-out claim on their behalf) and see Apple possibly pay as much as $1.6 billion ($1 billion / £853 is just the midpoint figure).

With Apple (a company that makes 80 per cent of its revenue from new devices) just launching its new iPhone 15 (which had an overheating issue that required an update), it may be very keen for batterygate to disappear as soon as possible which the settling of this lawsuit may be another major step in achieving. What with the iPhone 15 overheating issue, iPhone 12 sales recently being banned in France over radiation fears, and the newly launched iOS 17 needing quick fix for three critical vulnerabilities, Apple may feel that it needs a break from very public bad news stories.

All that said, however, at the heart of this case are millions of owners whose expensive vital communication devices were suddenly slowed, causing them considerable inconvenience, perhaps causing stress and costing them money to find replacement batteries or even going to expense of buying a new phone. It wouldn’t be the first time that a giant, dominant tech company has been accused of exploiting its market dominance at the expense of customers, and it now remains to be seen whether affected UK customers in this case are finally entitled to compensation and whether Apple will receive another blow to its reputation in the final rounds of batterygate.

Security Stop Press : iPhone Permanent Lock-Out Threat

As featured in a recent Wall Street Journal report, iPhone thieves are exploiting a security setting called the ‘recovery key’ to permanently lock owners out of their own iPhones and gain access to their financial apps.

The method, however, hinges first upon ‘shoulder surfing’, i.e. looking over the iPhone user’s shoulder to get the passcode, or finding a way to make the device’s owner share their passcode. Once the passcode has been obtained, the thief uses it to change the device’s Apple ID, turns off “Find my iPhone” and resets the 28-digit recovery code (which was intended to be a security measure), thereby locking the owner out of their own device.

The advice to iPhone owners is to use Face ID or Touch ID when unlocking the phone in public, set up an alphanumeric passcode that would be very difficult for thieves to figure out, consider using the iPhone’s Screen Time setting to set up a secondary password, and to regularly back up your iPhone via iCloud or iTunes.

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.

Tech News : iPhone 15 Overheating Problems

Following complaints from customers about an overheating issue with the Apple iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple is reported to have issued a statement explaining the causes, with a promise that it’ll be fixed with an update.

Overheating 

Since the iPhone 15 went on sale in September, some customers have been taking to social media to report that their devices had been heating up to the point that they were too hot to touch. The Apple iPhone is powered by the new iOS 17 system.

Speculative Causes

Some of the user speculation about the possible causes of the overheating has included blaming the new titanium casing because it may be less effective at dissipating heat than the old stainless steel casing, the introduction of the new USB-C port to comply with European law (Apple has been forced to replace its ‘Lightning Cable’), and the new Taiwan-made A17 Pro chip.

Apple has denied that the casing or the USB-C port have been a cause of the overheating and has also said that it will not be reducing the performance of the new chip as a way of preventing overheating.

The Actual Causes (According To Apple) 

In a statement issued to many of the main media channels, Apple has acknowledged the issue and identified what it believes the conditions that may be causing phones to “run hotter than expected.” In the reported statement, Apple identified these as the causes of the overheating:

– Increased background activity in the first few days after setting up or restoring the device.

– A bug in iOS 17 (Apple’s latest operating system, released September 18 this year).

– Recent updates to third-party apps that are causing them to overload the system. It’s been reported that these updated third-party apps include Instagram, Uber, the and the Asphalt 9 video game app. Uber is already reported to have fixed the issue with its app.

Will Be Fixed With An Update 

Apple has assured users that the problem isn’t dangerous and that it’s working on a bug fix update for the iOS17 system as well as working with the apps that were running in ways that contributed to the system overload and subsequent overheating.

Recent Woes With iOS 17 And The iPhone 12 

This latest overheating problem adds to a string of bad publicity and their likely negative effects on sales and reputation. For example:

– Apple’s iPhone 12 sales recently being banned in France over fears that it could be emitting dangerous radiation. Apple has disputed ANFR test findings that led to the ban but has opted for a software update to fix any radiation issues because it had a limited time to comply, and other countries were threatening sales bans too.

– Just days after the iOS 17 launch, Apple had to release the  iOS 17.0.1 and iPad OS 17.0.1 security update to fix three critical vulnerabilities, all of which may already have been actively exploited against versions of the iPhone OS before iOS 16.7.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

It must be particularly frustrating for Apple that just as it was about to launch the iPhone 15, it was facing sales bans of the iPhone 12 based on a report in France showing a slightly high radiation ‘limb SAR’ value (which Apple disputes), followed by the need to issue a security update to its iOS 17 just days after its release.

Now it’s facing reports from angry customers about overheating of its latest iPhone release – they say trouble comes in threes. Any reports of overheating phones and radiation, for example, are likely to trigger fears about fires and cancer risk among consumers. The iPhone 12 sales ban must have hit sales, and overheating may also be a turnoff to customers plus a chance for Apple’s competitors to pick up sales. Bearing in mind what seems like a succession of issues, which could potentially chip away at the reputation of iPhones being a safe and secure choice, it’s not surprising that Apple has sought to get updates out there as quickly as possible, challenged the speculation, and issued a statement for the media to report. It remains to be seen if the updates fully fix the issues and silence the criticism and Apple must be hoping (and trying to ensure) that attention can soon be shifted to the positive aspects of the new features of its new phone and OS rather than the potential risks they may pose.

Tech News : iPhone Battery Risk Warning

Apple has issued a warning to iPhone users about the dangers of practices like charging a phone under a blanket or pillow at night, risking overheating and posing a fire risk.

Danger From Prolonged Heat Exposure 

In a wide ranging post on the iPhone user-guide section of Apple’s website, the company warns about the dangers of “prolonged heat exposure” in relation to skin contact with an iPhone, its adapter, or wireless charger. For example, Apple says that “sustained contact with warm surfaces for long periods of time may cause discomfort or injury” and ask users to “use common sense to avoid situations where your skin is in contact with a device, its power adapter, or a wireless charger when it’s operating or connected to a power source for long periods of time”. 

Don’t Sleep On Your Phone 

One specific example of a high-risk heat exposure situation given by Apple is “don’t sleep on a device, power adapter, or wireless charger, or place them under a blanket, pillow, or your body, when it’s connected to a power source. Keep your iPhone, the power adapter, and any wireless charger in a well-ventilated area when in use or charging.” 

Also, Apple warns iPhone users to “Avoid prolonged skin contact with the charging cable and connector when the charging cable is connected to a power source because it may cause discomfort or injury,” saying that “Sleeping or sitting on the charging cable or connector should be avoided.” 

What Could Happen? 

There have been many reports over the years of mobile phone-related accidents and incidents caused by overheating. For example, back in 2016, Samsung announced an (informal) recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phones following the discovery of a manufacturing defect in batteries which caused some phones to generate excessive heat and combust. There have also been high profile examples of phone batteries/chargers catching fire on aircraft, e.g. in January when a phone power-bank aboard an aircraft about to fly from Taoyuan International Airport spontaneously ignited. The fire filled the cabin with smoke, caused panic, there were 2 (minor) injuries, plus all 189 passengers and crew had to be to be evacuated.

Apple Examples 

As for Apple devices specifically, there are many anecdotal and isolated incidents on the Internet where Apple iPhones reportedly caught fire due to issues with the battery or charger. A couple of examples which relate to overheating caused by/when covering the phone/charger include:

– In 2017, a woman in Tuscon, Arizona reported that her iPhone 7 Plus exploded due to battery issues. The incident drew attention when she shared images of her burnt phone on social media.

– In 2019, a young girl (an 11-year-old) in California reported that her iPhone 6 caught fire while she was lying on the bed and burned holes through her blanket. It was reported that after the incident, the girl said she didn’t plan to sleep with her phone next to her in future and suggested that the phone may have caught fire after overheating.

– In January this year, a family in Cincinatti posted photos and video captured by security cameras which allegedly showed an old iPhone 4 in their possession catching fire and exploding while charging.

Lithium-Ion Batteries 

Although (as highlighted by Apple’s warning on its website whereby adapters and wireless chargers can be the source of fires) it’s long been known that Lithium-ion (Li-ion) phone batteries can pose a risk of overheating under certain circumstances. For example, known causes of overheating and fire in Li-ion batteries include excessive charging, using high current-drawing apps, exposure to high temperatures, using inferior quality (third party) chargers, old or degraded batteries, physical damage, software bugs, poor battery design or manufacturing, plus even exposure to direct sunlight.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

For mobile manufacturers like Apple and others, identifying known risks to users is important for safety and compliance and the announcement and information on their website covers a wide range of potential risk areas.

However, the main point for users to remember in relation to covering phones while they’re charging (e.g. with pillows or bedcovers) or even leaving them on the bed, is that this should be avoided because an iPhone, its power adapter, and any wireless charger need to be used in a well-ventilated area when in use or charging.

There have been many stories circulating of phones overheating and the potential dangers of lithium-ion batteries in certain circumstances are widely known by most people, so it’s more a case of users taking (as Apple suggests) a common-sense approach, if possible, to minimise risks. That said, many people charge their phones overnight, and many have them on or near the bed when they fall asleep and there’s an argument that mobile phone manufacturers need to make batteries and charging safer as well as focusing on matters like the circular economy and the right to repair (and replace their own batteries).

Although other battery designs are being tested (e.g. stacked, graphene, solid state, and more) heat still appears to be the problem and until a battery design that is more efficient, effective, greener, affordable and safer can be introduced at scale, mobile phone users need to take responsibility and be aware of how best to mitigate the risks of overheating, thereby ensuring their own safety and the safety of others around them.