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Inside Apple (Jan 22nd, 2020)

$AAPL (9:36 AM EDT January 21): $318.09 (+0.48%) // More info

Yesterday’s big story about the lack of iCloud backup encryption sparked some great discussion. Dereck B. wrote, “I wholeheartedly disagree with your stance. Apple positions itself as a privacy-friendly company … So no, it’s not ok that they scrapped this project.” I certainly don’t think it’s simply okay that iCloud backups aren’t encrypted, but I do think there’s a case to be made that it was the right trade-off for the company. Feel free to jump in on our discussion on Twitter.

— Jon

1. In a TV interview from Davos, Switzerland this morning, U.S. President Donald Trump increased his pressure on Apple to compromise iPhone security to help with an F.B.I. investigation. “Apple has to help us, and I’m very strong on it,” the president said. “They have the keys to so many criminals and criminal minds, and we can do things.” Echoing his tweet from last week, Trump pointed to the tariff exemptions he granted Apple and insisted on Apple’s compliance with this F.B.I. request as a quid pro quo. Apple has already provided ample assistance with this investigation but is unwilling to compromise the encryption of iOS because it would weaken security for everyone. — CNBC

2. Things have been quiet on the so-called “iPhone 9” front for a while, but new reports from the supply chain suggest mass production of the new low-cost iPhone will begin next month, aiming for a March launch. This timeline is consistent with earlier reports from the fall. The new phone is expected to replace the iPhone 8 in the lineup at the lower $399 starting price established by the iPhone SE. In the same way that the SE put then-modern (6S-class) internals into the iPhone 5 chassis at the lowest iPhone price point, this phone will do the same with the iPhone 8 chassis. — BLOOMBERG

3. Apple enabled exporting of Apple Card transaction history in spreadsheet format with a server-side update yesterday. Previously, statements were only available as PDFs, requiring hacky third-party solutions to convert them into more usable forms. It’s currently only the basic CSV format, but Apple says Open Financial Exchange (OFX) format will be supported in the “near future.” It’s good to see some iteration on the basic Apple Card product, but here’s hoping this is just the beginning of much more powerful financial tools for Apple card users. — IMORE

4. Apple has requested pitches from outside producers for podcasts related to shows on Apple TV+, and it has discussed creating some with the producers of its original video series. Apple hasn’t yet released any original podcasts, but there have been rumblings for a while that it’s working on them, possibly as “Podcasts+” subscription-only content. These new reports suggest a different strategy, using standard, free podcasts as promotional vehicles for the Apple TV+ subscription. — BLOOMBERG

5. At least seven senators violated U.S. Senate rules of decorum by wearing Apple Watches on the floor during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. The rule is meant to prevent communication from the proceedings, but senators are also not supposed to stand or move around during the trial, so they won’t be able to fill those Activity rings. In addition to the senators, an aid to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was also wearing an Apple Watch at the trial. — ROLL CALL

6. Law enforcement forensics labs are working hard to find their own exploits to get around iOS device encryption. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office gave Fast Company a tour of its cybercrime unit’s lab where agents try to get around Apple’s lockout mechanisms to prevent brute-force attacks. This is all just a cost-saving measure, anyway; there are plenty of expensive tools from security companies that governments can use to get in. — FAST COMPANY

7. Apple’s recent acquisition of Seattle-based Xnor.ai might be more than the usual Apple talent-and-IP deal. This company pioneered “Edge AI” methods of doing sophisticated machine learning — the kind Google Assistant and Alexa are great at because of their vast data collections — right on your local devices, and it’s dramatically faster than cloud-based systems. — MACWORLD

8. EA is inexplicably killing all of its Tetris apps on the App Store, removing them from the market and preventing existing downloads from working. The apps hadn’t been updated in a year and a half. Tetris feels like something that should not be owned by a single company at this point, but, tragically, it is. Here’s hoping for some first-class Tetris clones that figure out exactly where the IP infringement line is. — MACRUMORS

9. Netflix had a bit of a defensive Q4 earnings call, trying to reassure the market that everything’s fine despite the launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+. In a weirdly petty move in its letter to investors, Netflix included a screenshot of Google Trends comparing “jack ryan” from Amazon, “Morning Show” from Apple, “Mandalorian” from Disney, and “Witcher” from Netflix over the course of the quarter, trying to prove that Google searches equal TV show success or something. Netflix missed Wall Street estimates for U.S. subscriber additions last quarter, though it beat on revenue. — 9TO5MAC

10. The youth of today have figured out an ingenious way to talk in class using AirPods. As is usually the case when a new generation exploits older people’s technology, the technique is deviously simple: They trade one AirPod with each other, and they use Google Translate’s text-to-speech button on their own phone to “talk” to each other back and forth. — @LOUISANSLOW

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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