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Inside Apple (Jan 21st, 2020)

$AAPL (10:07 AM EST January 21): $318.35 (-0.12%) // More info

I was pretty mad the first time I read today’s story about Apple scrapping encrypted iCloud backups (see #1), but I’m already over it. It does suck that iPhone users without Macs are forced to choose between backups and security, but most of the key iCloud services are synced separately and not included in backups, anyway. Security-conscious users with Macs can do encrypted local backups just fine. I’ve posted a Twitter thread today about why I don’t think this story is as big a deal as it might seem. I’m hesitant to say it’s a worthwhile trade-off to get law enforcement off Apple’s back, but I’m still okay with the security features we do have.

— Jon

1. Apple dropped plans to allow encrypted device backups in iCloud due to pressure from the F.B.I. “They decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore,” a former Apple employee told Reuters. Security-conscious users can make encrypted backups on a Mac. The article misses an important point, if my read of Apple’s Platform Security Guide is correct. It states that “backed-up… texts from iMessage” remain accessible to Apple and law enforcement since they’re in iCloud. I think that’s true for users who don’t use the separate iCloud sync feature for iMessage, but — again, according to my read — iMessage in iCloud is end-to-end encrypted, it’s just that its encryption key is stored in an iCloud backup. So if you use iCloud Backup, your messages are accessible, but if you use a local encrypted backup and still use iMessages in iCloud, they aren’t. You’re welcome to check my work on that. Here’s my Twitter thread with my full rationale. — REUTERS

2. The F.B.I. has plenty of third-party tools for cracking into iPhones without Apple’s help, but it says they’re failing for the two phones connected to the Pensacola naval base shooting. Security researchers are still sure it’s a “solved problem” and that cracking into these older phones is “trivial,” so what gives? There are two possibilities: Either the suspected shooter has a great passcode, or the devices are too physically damaged. — NEW YORK TIMES

3. Speaking at a gala where he was receiving an award, Apple CEO Tim Cook was more eager than usual to telegraph Apple’s “next big thing.” “I’m excited about AR,” Cook said. “My view is that it’s the next big thing, and it will pervade our entire lives.” He went on to describe a visit to an Irish AR gaming company, and he detailed a handful of everyday, real-world use cases for AR eyewear. — SILICON REPUBLIC

4. Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty has published a bull case for Apple stock (ticker: AAPL) that tops $500 per share. The scenario unfolds if Apple’s new services launch exceeds expectations by hitting 21% year-over-year growth, and if the new iPhone models can shorten the replacement cycle to 3.5 years. On October 24, Huberty’s bull case was $407, and Apple’s already pushing $320. — APPLE 3.0

5. Supply chain rumors suggest that the max-sized 2020 iPhone will be almost 10% thinner than the 11 Pro Max. We have already heard that the screen size will increase slightly from 6.5 to 6.7 inches. The new rumor also says it will be “slightly taller” than the 11 Pro Max. — MACRUMORS

6. Apple now sells refurbished iPhone XS and XS Max models for the first time, at prices around $300 off. The XS pricing now comes in at $100 above the XR, which Apple still sells new, and the same starting point as the iPhone 11. It’s kind of a perplexing entry; the only real advantages of the XS over the 11 are the OLED screen and the ability to go larger (for another $100) or smaller (for the same price). I bet they’ll sell some Maxes, but I don’t know how many refurbished XSes are going to sell. — APPLE.COM

7. Macworld’s Leif Johnson loves the new Apple TV+ anthology series “Little America,” and so do I. Each episode is a separate 30-minute dramatized version of the story of a real-life immigrant to the U.S., whom we meet at the end. They cover a broad range, and they all feel true, though the retellings punch up the stories in charming and often hilarious ways for the screen. — MACWORLD

8. Apple has won a patent for an OLED display with two different modes, one for displaying images and one for both capacitive and optical touch sensing. “Optical” touch sensing means it can be used for fingerprint identification. There’s no way Apple is getting rid of Face ID, but it’s easy to imagine Apple providing two methods of biometric identification if it can, whether for enhanced two-factor security or the convenience of unlocking your phone without your face sometimes. — PATENTLY APPLE

9. The iPhone 11 series made up for 69% of U.S. iPhone sales over the holidays, according to sales research from CIRP. The iPhone 11 alone accounted for 39% of sales, and the XR continued to sell well for a second year, surely thanks to its new $599 price point. CIRP found that the average selling price fell from $839 to $809 compared to the 2018 holiday season, proving that the less expensive 11 and the even less expensive year-old XR struck a chord. — 9TO5MAC

10. Disney has earned the right to take itself seriously as a tech company with the massively successful launch of Disney+. In its proxy filing this quarter, it added Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, and Netflix to its “media industry peer group,” i.e. the companies its board sees as competitors. Today it also announced it’s moving up the Disney+ launch in Europe. — @ALEXWEPRIN

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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