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Inside Apple (Jan 14th, 2020)

$AAPL (9:58 AM EST January 14): $313.96 (-0.95%) // More info

It’s disappointing — but not surprising — that we’re back to the standoff between the U.S. government and Apple about encryption backdoors (see #1). The media are gamely reporting law enforcement’s claims that Apple is weakening national security by refusing to provide back-door access to accused terrorists’ phones, but, as friend-of-the-newsletter Nick Heer is fond of pointing out, why don’t the media balance that argument out by reporting all the ways backdoors themselves would threaten national security?

— Jon

1. U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has requested that Apple create encryption backdoors to unlock two iPhones belonging to last month’s Pensacola shooter, but Apple has refused. In a statement, Apple disputed Barr’s claim that Apple has not assisted the government in the investigation, stating that it has promptly shared many gigabytes of information with the FBI. The company is holding fast on its position that encryption backdoors weaken national security much more than they would supposedly strengthen it by allowing investigators into these two phones. In my opinion, as usual, the press is doing a bad job distinguishing between the national security claims of law enforcement and the technical facts about how much national security depends upon strong encryption. — BUZZFEED NEWS

2. Apple has filed an unreleased Mac in the Eurasian Economic Commission database described as a “portable Mac running macOS Catalina.” Optimists are speculating that this must be a 13-inch (or 14-inch?) MacBook Pro with the new Magic Keyboard introduced in the 16-inch MacBook Pro in November. Whether or not the smaller MacBook Pro gets the same screen size expansion, I think it’s definitely weird that it has an inferior keyboard to the larger version of what is supposed to be the same basic machine. — MACRUMORS

3. Apple TV+ adventure drama See has bagged Guardians of the Galaxy’s Dave Bautista for season 2. Bautista has never had a major TV acting role before, though he was a pro wrestler, which maybe sort of counts. The show stars Jason Momoa, and the addition of Bautista reflects the violent show’s need for more muscle. — DEADLINE

4. Despite overall 2.3 percent year-over-year growth in the PC market in Q4, Mac shipments and market share declined. Apple remained in the #4 position for PC market share behind Dell, HP, and leader Lenovo. Apple shipped an estimated 5.26 million Macs last quarter, down 3 percent from 5.43 million in Q4 2018. — GARTNER

5. Apple released the first beta version of a new macOS app called Reality Converter. This app converts common file types for 3D objects into Apple’s USDZ format, which is used in Apple’s augmented reality frameworks. It’s meant to be used in conjunction with Reality Composer, the user-friendly app for creating 3D content and integrating it into apps, which Apple released at WWDC last June. — 9TO5MAC

6. Apple acknowledges that new mining efforts are still required to keep up with electronics demand, despite its robot-driven advances in device recycling. Apple wants to become a “closed-loop” manufacturer that recovers minerals from recycled devices rather than relying on the mining industry, but it isn’t there yet, and some industry analysts believe it’s impossible. A human rights lawsuit in December helped rekindle the urgency of this issue, alleging that mining companies that sell minerals to Apple and other tech companies employ child labor and allow terribly unsafe conditions. — REUTERS

7. A new macOS beta hints that Apple might offer a “Pro Mode” to boost performance for computing-intensive tasks on laptops, but developer Marco Arment advocates for the opposite feature: Low Power Mode for laptops. Arment points rightly to the popularity of Low Power Mode on iOS, which allows users a one-tap toggle to knowingly sacrifice some background performance in exchange for dramatically extended battery life when needed. Arment thinks, given the capabilities of current laptops, users would derive equal benefits from that feature on the Mac. — MARCO.ORG

8. After anecdotal reports that a December 16 firmware update to AirPods Pro made noise cancelation worse, RTINGS has tested it and found that there is indeed a drop in isolation in the bass range compared to the previous version. There are some improvements in other ranges, so it’s not all bad, but the current firmware does do a slightly worse job eliminating engine rumbles of planes and buses, a pretty key use case. Apple pulled this firmware update a few days after its release, so there’s clearly more tweaking to be done. Unfortunately, if you connected your AirPods Pro to your phone during the time it was live (as I did), you’re stuck on that firmware until the next update. — RTINGS

9. Apple TV+ has added five more stars to its series based on Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi novel, Foundation. The new names are Lou Llobell, Leah Harvey, Laura Birn, Terrence Mann, and Cassian Bilton, joining Lee Pace and Jared Harris as leads. While “For All Mankind” and “See” offer new spins on the genre, this show will be the first classical sci-fi show on TV+. — VARIETY

10. Apple Card still doesn’t let you download your spending data in a format you can put into a spreadsheet, so programmer Jed Schmidt built a tool that does it. Dubbed, the software is designed specifically to parse Apple Card’s PDF statements and move it into a spreadsheet. Hopefully Apple’s building more robust tools of its own to help its credit card customers manage their money. — CNBC

Jon Mitchell has been a tech journalist since 2010. He covered Apple, Google, and the societal effects of social media for the storied blog ReadWriteWeb (now ReadWrite). He co-hosts Internet Friends, a podcast about life online with occasional lengthy digressions into Apple news. He’s the author of In Real Life: Searching for Connection in High-Tech Times from Parallax Press. He has recently, reticently returned to Twitter at @ablaze.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, staff writer at Inside.

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