Inside Apple - March 3rd, 2020

Inside Apple (Mar 3rd, 2020)

Apple rejected reducing China dependence / Apple implicated in transferred Uyghur labor / Device inventory running low

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$AAPL (9:49 AM EDT March 3): $294.87 (-1.32%) // More info

I’m grateful to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute for not taking Apple’s human rights claims at face value (see #2). I think Apple’s desire to be a force for good in the world is genuine and earnest, but that’s not what the company is designed and incentivized to do. It’s designed to make and sell profitable technologies, and its ability to do good comes from reinvesting some of its surplus, not from the process of business as usual. Business as usual involves extracting resources from the ground and rapidly assembling millions and millions of devices in factories, and doing that profitably requires downward pressure on costs. It shouldn’t be surprising, despite Apple’s efforts from faraway California, when its suppliers violate human rights to cut corners. It should be disappointing, and Apple’s customers must hold Apple accountable to protect these people and solve this problem.

— Jon

1. As early as 2015, members of Apple’s operations team suggested relocating some manufacturing capacity outside of China to reduce dependence, but management rebuffed the suggestions. It was deemed “too challenging to undertake” at the time. Today, Apple has developed some manufacturing capacity in Vietnam, India, and elsewhere, but it would be logistically impossible — and probably ill-advised, given the Chinese government’s likelihood to retaliate economically — to completely break it off with China. In response to questions about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Apple’s operations, CEO Tim Cook has been downplaying the scale of any changes to the scale of “adjusting some knobs” rather than ”fundamental change.” — WALL STREET JOURNAL (paywalled) (Read in Apple News+)

2. A new think tank report says Apple and 83 other major corporations benefit from the labor of Uyghur workers transferred across the country by the state in violation of their human rights. The report identifies four factories, operated by Apple suppliers O-Film Technology Co., BOE Technology Group, GoerTek, and Foxconn, that use Uyghur labor either directly or through contractors. The state has transferred an estimated 80,000 Uyghurs from their home province of Xinjiang to factories across China, sometimes directly from Xinjiang’s notorious detention camps. Apple’s recent supplier responsibility report reiterated its high standards for human rights in its supply chain. — AUSTRALIAN STRATEGIC POLICY INSTITUTE

3. Inventory is running low for many Apple devices, notably including the iPad Pro. Some in the Apple blogosphere want to attribute that to an imminent refresh, but I don’t buy it. First of all, supplies are also low for AirPods Pro, Apple Watch Series 3 and 5, an iPhone 11 in some countries, as well as Chinese-made hardware for other companies, including Facebook’s Oculus Quest and some HP computers and printers. Foxconn itself says it won’t be back to normal capacity until the end of March now. But furthermore, the latest indication is that the new iPad Pro is now shipping in the fall. — BLOOMBERG

4. Apple (ticker: AAPL) bounced back hard Monday from its coronavirus-related swoon, leading the Dow with a 9.3% jump. From its Friday close at $273.36, Apple closed Monday at 298.81 and recovered its symbolic $300 mark in pre-market trading, though it dropped slightly but quickly after this morning’s open, along with the rest of the market. Over the past two trading days, Apple’s market cap increased by $180 billion, which analyst Neil Cybart points out is the size of Netflix, or of Nike and Spotify combined. This is not to say that everything’s fine, only that the animal spirits of the market achieve truly ludicrous scale when a company is as valuable as Apple. — CNBC

5. 20th Century Fox Television has poached Apple TV+ creative exec Michelle Mendelovitz to be a senior vice president of drama development. Mendelovitz started at Apple in 2018, part of a contingent of Sony defectors. She oversaw development of “For All Mankind,” “Servant,” “Visible: Out on Television,” and more, a pretty hefty chunk of Apple’s highest-quality programming. — VARIETY

6. The Banker, Apple’s feature film starting Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, and Nia Long, premiered Monday after a long delay due to allegations against the son of the real-life subject of the film by members of his family. Bernard Garrett Jr. was initially listed as a co-producer on the film but was removed from the project after the allegations surfaced. Apple delayed the project while investigating the claims but decided to go ahead with the release. — DAILY MAIL

7. Apple has launched an initiative called “She Creates” as part of International Women’s day on Sunday, March 8. Apple will feature apps and games created by women on the App Store every day in March, and there are two new Today at Apple sessions in retail stores, one featuring the music of Alicia Keys and one called “Playful Portraits,” an art lab drawing on the work of three female artists. — MACRUMORS

8. Apple has announced the winners of its Night Mode iPhone photo competition. The winning images will be featured on the web, on Apple’s Instagram, and in a worldwide billboard campaign. The frankly incredible images can be seen in full resolution in Apple’s press release9TO5MAC

9. Apple will settle the U.S. lawsuit over iPhone battery performance throttling for $500 million. The suit says that customers wrongly believed their iPhones needed to be replaced because they slowed down as their batteries degraded. Apple imposed the battery throttling feature without informing customers, and this was its mistake. The feature itself actually prevents phones from shutting down unpredictably due to unavoidable loss of power draw from the batteries. Now users can switch that off and accept the risk of sudden shutdown if the want to. To its credit, Apple decreased the cost of first-party battery replacements soon after this became a public problem. — REUTERS

10. A thriving community of people after my own heart is making amazing, modernizing modifications to classic iPods to keep using the dedicated music player into the smartphone era. There’s a lot to be said for having a small device with long battery life and great controls that’s just for playing music. It’s a pain to maintain a local music library on an iPhone, and it’s expensive to get one with enough capacity. I salute these heroic defenders of owning music rather than renting it. — ONEZERO

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 Inside staff writer Elizabeth Barr.

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