eXtensions - Saturday 24 August 2019


Cassandra - Weekend Review: Apple Rumors Bubbling; Radiation from Phones so Arm the Lawyers

By Graham K. Rogers


Wall Street opposites. Radiation from phones: bad devices or faulty testing; and do the lawyers care? Some sensible speculation about the next iPhones. A stylus for the iPhone? Perhaps overdue. Current Apple devices being sold off; lots of new ones expected. Apple TV may come here, but not the Apple Card.

Anyone who has read more than a couple of these Cassandra reviews will be aware of my distaste for Wall Street and its analysts: hangers-on, cockroaches. Part of their job is to make money out of others' losses and I suspect that the cyclical rises and falls are artificial: often brought on by analysts rumors that send the rest into a tailspin. Investors rely on their advice and if they are wrong, small investors and large can lose money.

My ire is more focused on those analysts who predict problems around the time of an Apple quarterly financial report: go down the share prices, then up they go again a short time after, with the sharp (and flexible) investor making a kill from the dip, in a similar way that currency speculators are known to have made huge sums from the announcements surrounding Brexit.

This week, Philip Elmer-DeWitt (Apple 3.0) highlights just the sort of analyst advice that annoys me, with conflicting predictions from Krish Sankar ($250) and Jun Zhang ($150). Elmer-DeWitt hits the nail on the head with "Zhang is still counting iPhone units, Sankar has moved on to Services." This reflects the comments of Jim Cramer a few weeks ago who angrily called out those analysts who failed to understand the company (Apple) that they were offering advice on.

I am not sure if this will affect Apple or not, but following the recent addition of a new 10% tariff on some goods from China, unsurprisingly there is now a retaliatory tariff on some $75 billion of goods from America to be imposed in September and December. There are no details in the report from Amanda Lee in the South China Morning Post on the specific goods selected, or if it is all of them. I wonder who will blink first.

In what seems to be a reaction to this, a summary of the president's comments seems to have some warnings for the business community about stormy seas ahead. A Tweet from Laurence Tribe, tells us that the president declared that U.S. companies "are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing . . . your companies HOME and making your products in the USA."


On the face of things, there is no legal basis to this. It is not a Presidential Order; but who knows how far the current administration is willing to go, because the Chinese seem to be an immovable object. Is the USA an irresistible force; and should businesses (like Apple) and the farmers become disposable bargaining chips?

It took about 24 hours between a report appearing in the Chicago Tribune about radiation levels from certain iPhones, Motorola and Samsung devices and a law firm in Chicago to launch an investigation (Juli Clover, MacRumors). I guess that is code for, See if we can get a class action lawsuit out of this.

I had marked the original testing reports for a closer look, particularly as Apple (and Motorola) had contacted the Tribune disputing the results saying that the phones had already passed the Federal standards. The Chicago Tribune had caused further tests top be made as a result. The Tribune initially started to put together the tests following a question that has been asked a number of times before concerning whether radiation from mobile phones is damaging to users. Despite this being looked at several times in the past, there has been no firm conclusion, so I guess they were going to try again, but with a sample of only 11 phones, this is statistically unsafe. But who cares, Apple is in there and that is good enough for most.

iPhone 7
iPhone 7 - Image courtesy of Apple

There is however, a point made by one member of the law firm with, "The fact that the Chicago Tribune can convene a group of experts and develop such convincing findings shows that the phone manufacturers may be intentionally hiding what they know about radiation output." Some readers may remember the reports from AnandTech on mobile phone benchmark testing which was highly critical of several mobile phone makers (not Apple). I mentioned to students that if Apple is ever caught cheating, it could go badly against them.

Independent and thorough testing should be done - following federal standards and methods closely - with a far larger sampling of phones and models. What the lawyers need to make clear is that they are not ambulance-chasing Apple and that any phone maker whose devices are found to be exceeding federal levels after several tests (and not just one handset) will be dealt with properly. As MacDaily News commented, however, "If basically every phone tested doesn't match their FCC compliance filings, perhaps something is wrong with the "not as comprehensive" Chicago Tribune testing?"

A rumor about the next iPhone that has some persistence has been the idea that Apple will be switching to USB-C. As far as I am concerned this cannot come soon enough. Samsung has already produced a phone with this connector, at the same time dropping the 3.5mm headphone jack (as well as the videos it had produced to ridicule Apple - now it has green bubble GIFs to highlight the differences in Messages). The time is right for Apple to do this too. The iPad Pro already has USB-C and this was one of the selling points for me, particularly as it would allow me to import photos directly from my DSLR camera. I know that Lightning-equipped iOS devices can also import photos using Apple's SD card adapter, so a switch to USB-C would just simplify the workflow for me if I needed to use an image while on the street.

Adding to the probability are reports in a number of sources, including from Benjamin Mayo on 9to5 Mac, that "the iPhone 11 will finally drop the 5W charger, and come with an Apple USB-C charger instead and a Lightning to USB-C cable in the box". There are sure to be moans about new adapters, but having used USB-C on several devices for a couple of years or more, I say bring it on. And with regard to those adapters, a couple of cables work far better for me, particularly the micro-USB to USB-C. These are quite cheap and good ones from Belkin are on Amazon and (locally) Lazada: but not in the shops.

Another (related) rumour suggests that the battery for the new iPhones will be significantly larger with capacities ranging between 3000 to 3500mAh for the 3 models expected (Joe Rossignol, MacRumors). Several other speculative predictions are included in the article which cites DigiTimes as source.

A small boost to the figures for the next quarter is the purchase of 15,000 iPhone XR devices by British Air for their cabin crew as a way to boost efficiency. ChanceMiller (9to5 Mac) reports that the units "will come pre-loaded with apps that allow crew to easily help customers during their flights" and already the staff are noticing the benefits. The basic 64GB iPhone XR costs $749 before any discounts are applied (and I bet the deal was sweetened), so 15,000 of these would be $11,235,000. I would guess that at least $5m was added to Apple's coffers.

Apple Pencil 1

Although Steve Jobs famously dismissed the stylus as a device for use with the iPhone, times have changed as has the way the iPhone is now used. After the iPad appeared in 2010, and the iTunes App Store went live, apps developed in a way that surprised even Apple, adding considerably to the usability of the device. With some of the latest features and apps on the iPad, such as importing and editing photos in high-end graphics apps, it was clear that a stylus was now needed and the Apple Pencil appeared. The Apple Pencil 2 that I have with the iPad Pro has a number of additional features.

Apple Pencil 2

With the iPhone also increasing its feature sets - I can edit RAW photos on the iPhone X I have - it may be time to put this to bed and a rumor from Michael Potuck (9to5 Mac) shows some cases that have been developed for the next iPhone. These have a design that includes an Apple Pencil slot. This is smaller than the Pencils I have, which would be sensible considering the iPhone relative size, but Potuck "wouldn't put much faith in it". We shall see.

With a number of Apple devices being offered in the USA for lower prices in recent weeks, this indicates to me a clearing of the decks. It is no surprise that several new and updated devices are in the pipeline over and above the iPhone and Apple Watch that should be arriving next month. We have also heard that new MacBook Pro models will be coming, including a 16" version, plus new iPads and other devices. A Mac Pro and suitable high-end monitor was also promised a few months back and that should also be arriving soon. Picking up a Bloomberg article that confirms what was really already known, Danny Zepeda (iMore) outlines what we can expect soon. I had better start saving.

I was pleased earlier in the week to find that I was probably wrong about my speculation on the non-availability of Apple TV in Thailand which is expected to be available in 150 countries on its release. I put out a correction. This probably means Apple is going head to head with Netflix which expanded to many countries a couple of years ago. That ended up shifting my viewing patterns and I cancelled the cable service. The company also had a seismic shift around the same time as HBO declined to re-sign and went instead with the AIS television service that was just being set up. That meant Game of Thrones went too. With that triple blow, the license to print money seemed a little less golden all of a sudden.

As I was already subscribed to MotoGP for the racing, the only thing I was using True for was Formula One and with the take over by Liberty that began to sag a bit. Economically, subscribing to the cable service for races every couple of weekends over only part of a year was not worth it, so I dumped cable and managed to do without F1. Liberty does have a subscription service, but because of copyright (True) the feed is not available here.

I still feel confident that the Apple Card will not be arriving here for the foreseeable future. We are still waiting for Apple Pay. While several other digital and online payment services have set up shop here, Apple Pay is not available and I have no idea if this is reluctance on the part of Apple or the Thai banks. The new card has found its way to several new owners in the USA and an interesting piece of advice came from Apple regarding its condition. A Support Document (HT210399) warns about contact with hard surfaces or materials. As well as cleaning instructions, the document warns, "Some fabrics, like leather and denim, might cause permanent discoloration that will not wash off." That would mean the Apple case for my iPhone X should not be used. Note too that the Apple Card has its own Twitter account (@AppleCard).

Nikon recently updated its SnapBridge app to allow downloading of RAW images to devices which have the app installed. The firmware of my Nikon D 850 was updated a short time ago so that I could use WiFi so I tried this out in two stages.

I set up the WiFi connection first on my iPad which requires me to access the specific menu on the camera, then join the camera's network on the iOS device. The user is advised of network name and the password. That can be changed if needed, although connections should only be brief. The iPad connected ok, and when I tried the iPhone the WiFi connected automatically (Keychain).

Nikon file transfers Nikon file transfers Nikon file transfers Nikon file transfers

Downloading RAW images was less successful. I had 5 test shots on the camera and connected the devices with WiFi easily. Initially, however, the link to start a download was grayed out and the WiFi disconnected. I made the connection again and noted that this was not instant on the camera. Once a notification appeared, the download link was active, but each time I tried, there was no apparent file transfer, either to the app or Photos. I appreciate that the images are large (the app recognises that and has a limit of 100), but this does not yet seem to be working.

The devices are at least talking to each other but real activity has yet to take place. This is a work in progress.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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