APFS is rolling out on iOS devices, Australian banks lost a fight against Apple Pay, ISPs in the USA can collect and sell your internet history, and Samsung announced their new phone.
Apple released the new versions of its major operating systems: iOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS. Most of this was minor tweaks and security patches so I won’t go into them. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything interesting, I’m particularly fond of the new theater mode for the Apple Watch myself1, but there are no main features that jump out to people.
Except, for tech minded people there was one thing that, while almost hidden in the release notes, has a big impact. Apple’s new file system, APFS, has finally been released for one of the platforms. And they started rolling it out not in a minor one, but in the one that is used by hundreds of millions of people across the world: iOS.
In a way it’s strange to test the conversion process on so many people and not even telling them about it beforehand2. Yes, because of its closed off nature iOS makes a certain amount of sense, but a similar closed off system exists for watchOS and tvOS. Still, I guess they were very confident and apparently with good reason. By now most people will have upgraded, and I haven’t heard anything about it going wrong.
In place file system conversions aren’t exactly new, but it’s still recommended you unmount the disk before you do so and make a backup before you do. If that happened here they managed to hide it very well, and for me at least the conversion went completely smooth on all devices. That said, I haven’t really seen a difference yet, probably again because of the closed off nature.
The real test will presumably come with the next major release of macOS. The change from case-insensitive to case-sensitive there will probably have some unfortunate consequences for applications, but all the features that come with a modern filesystem will hopefully ensure that it’s worth it.
Australian banks can’t work together against Apple
Some time ago, the four biggest banks in Australia had decided that they wouldn’t roll over to Apple (and Google) with regards to phone payment systems like Apple Pay. As someone who lives in this3 country, it was something I kept an eye on. We got Apple Pay at one bank last year, and it prompted me to open an account there4, and now several other smaller banks also offer it. But not the big 4.
These banks decided that they wanted to work together to force Apple to open up their Pay functionality to their apps as well as get other concessions. Apple obviously didn’t like that and so a lawsuit ensued. This is one of those cases where there isn’t really a good side. It’s 4 huge banks vs the most valuable company in the world, with consumers in the middle.
The judgment came in last week, and the banks aren’t allowed to collude in this way, in part because it would upset the phone market as they don’t have access like that on Android phones. While that part of it seems strange to me, I do believe this is a win for consumers. Mostly because I distrust big banks more than I do Apple, and feel like they mostly wanted to get better rates from Apple.
The thing is, Apple Pay works great in Australia. NFC payments have been possible basically everywhere5 since before I moved here, so everyone is used to it and no infrastructure is required. Hopefully this means those banks will now soon give their customers the option of Apple and Google Pay soon.
Internet Privacy Rescinded
In a move that benefits none of their citizens except some wealthy telcos, the US Congress (or rather the Republicans there as no Democrat voted for it) removed privacy protections. The end result of which is that ISPs can now collect and sell your internet history. I could go into a long rant about this, but the above piece by Bruce Schneier does a better job than I can. Of course, the ISPs, which often have a near monopoly status in a lot of areas, say there’s no need to worry. Which I’m sure we all believe.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung announced its latest flagship phone, and as usual that gives a view of the state of Android phones this year. Last year there were already some phones that came with full-body screens and Samsung built that into their latest as well. This looks great, and as an iPhone user it really makes me hope Apple will do the same6.
Aside from this there are a couple of interesting features. First is Bixby, their new virtual assistant. Bixby was acquired by Samsung last year, and is created by the developers of Siri. It’s supposed to be a better version of Siri, but based on the reviews it doesn’t seem to have a lot of integrations yet. Obviously this will need some time to mature.
Next up is the facial scanner. Similar to Windows Hello you can look at the phone and it will unlock for you. Alternatively, someone can hold a photo of you up (just using a phone) and it will also unlock. Ehm… This might not be a security feature that I would trust my data to.
Lastly, and most interesting, is DeX. This will allow you to connect your phone to a desktop setup and then act like a computer. Well, sort off. It only runs Android apps and there aren’t many that can handle even a tablet screen properly, let alone a big monitor. Which is a shame, and hopefully this will improve in the future. Because while there are complaints about things like the speed of Android devices7, it is tempting to imagine a future where you’d be able to use a phone as your main computer. Although at least at the moment this has obvious memory limitations.
This is what state of the art performance looks like on Android for the rest of 2017 pic.twitter.com/lYbZVI6hrV— Jeff Atwood (@codinghorror) March 30, 2017
All in all, there are some interesting things to this phone. Not everything works as well as they might hope8, but Samsung does have a strong showing here. Which they definitely need while every airline is still reminding us that it’s illegal to bring the Note 7 on a flight. That said, personally I still think the Google Pixel is the most interesting Android phone.
- And of course, Nightmode on the Mac is now a thing that could replace f.lux if you’ve got that installed. [return]
- There was a mention in the release notes but it was relatively far down, and who actually reads all of that anyway? [return]
- sometimes extremely frustrating [return]
- Full disclosure, as my preferred bank now also offers it I’ll close this account again. [return]
- With small Asian restaurants as the major exception I often run into. [return]
- There are rumors that they will, but generally less than half of the rumors are true so I tend to ignore all of them. [return]
- This might be better on launch or later updates, as most seem to be software limitations. [return]