Apple to pay $113 million settlement over its iPhone ‘batterygate’ slowdowns – CNET

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Apple landed in hot water over its handling of users' batteries.

iFixit

Apple is paying $113 million to settle an investigation by 34 states and the District of Columbia over the company's practice of slowing down the performance of older iPhones when their batteries degrade. The practice wasn't announced by Apple but rather proved by internet sleuths. That led regulators and customers alike to criticize the company for not being forthcoming, particularly when asked about it in the past.

"Big Tech must stop manipulating consumers and tell them the whole truth about their practices and products," Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who helped lead the investigation, said in a statement. "I'm committed to holding these goliath technology companies to account if they conceal the truth from their users." Apple will pay Arizona in particular $5 million, with the rest split among other states. The Washington Post earlier reported the news.

In court filings, Apple said it had agreed to the settlement to resolve the investigation, but it added that "nothing contained herein may be taken as or construed to be an admission or concession of any violation of law, rule, or regulation, or of any other matter of fact or law, or of any liability or wrongdoing, all of which Apple expressly denies." 

"No part of this judgment, including its statements and commitments, shall constitute evidence of any liability, fault, or wrongdoing by Apple," the company said in the filings.

The news is the latest example of how big tech is coming under ever more scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers. Though the "batterygate" saga, as it's known, happened before larger tech scandals like Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data privacy and political elections scandal, the event marked a turning point for the iPhone maker. 

For years, Apple denied allegations that it purposely slowed down iPhones, but the conspiracy theory persisted, arguing that the tech giant made the handsets less usable to push people to upgrade -- a practice referred to as planned obsolesce. When Apple admitted it slowed down iPhones -- though for a different reason, it said -- the news drew attention from around the globe.

"Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices," Apple said in an initial statement on Dec. 20, 2017, as it faced mounting criticism. It explained that when older batteries can't supply enough power when phones are attempting more-complex tasks, like playing a video game, it slows the phone's chips down to a level the battery can perform at.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple cuts prices on some battery replacements, Spotify...

1:29

Critics cried foul, and just over a week later, Apple formally apologized while insisting it acted in the best interest of customers. It also offered a $29 battery replacement for a limited time to anyone who asked, rather than charging the typical $79. And it added features to its iOS software that better explained how iPhone batteries work and gave people the choice to preserve battery life or push their phone's performance.

Shortly after apologizing over batterygate, Apple began including software features to be more transparent about how it handles batteries.

Apple

"We have never -- and would never -- do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that," Apple said at the time. "We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize." 

Still, lawsuits and investigations followed. In March of this year, Apple agreed to pay up to $500 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, in which the company agreed to pay customers $25 per iPhone, with a minimum payout of $310 million. It covered current and former iPhone owners in the US who had an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus or SE running iOS 12.2.1 or later. It also covered the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus running iOS 11.2 or later before Dec. 21, 2017. 

At the time, Joseph Cotchett, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that "the settlement provides substantial relief to Apple consumers and, going forward, will help ensure that customers are fully informed when asked to update their products." Apple denied any wrongdoing.

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Apple lowers App Store ‘tax’ to 15% for developers making under $1M a year – CNET

apple-logo-6223

Apple's App Store is an economy unto itself. That comes with challenges.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's changing the way it treats small developers next year, halving the 30% commission it charges on sales made through its App Store for the iPhone, iPad and Mac computer. The 15% commission will apply to companies making up to $1 million in sales per calendar year.

"The savings mean small businesses and developers will have even more funds to invest in their businesses, expand their workforce and develop new, innovative features for app users around the world," Apple said in a statement. The program will begin on Jan. 1 and will be based on a developer's sales this year.

Apple said it chose $1 million because internal studies find that apps tend to find greater success when they reach that amount. And if a developer dips below that amount, they become eligible for the program again.

The shift comes after years of debate among Apple's 28 million app developers, who've bristled at the iPhone maker's commissions as the digital storefront's expanded to more than 1.5 billion active devices. Apple has also required that the only way people can download sanctioned iPhone and iPad apps is through its app store. To many developers, Apple's heavy-handed approach stifles their business.

It's not just small developers that have taken issue with Apple over the App Store commissions. Epic Games, maker of the hit battle royale game Fortnite, and powerhouse music service Spotify also have targeted the company.

Apple's latest change "demonstrates that...App Store policies are arbitrary and capricious," Spotify said Wednesday in a statement, adding that "Apple's anti-competitive behavior threatens all developers on iOS." Spotify pulled out of Apple's in-app purchase system three years ago in protest against the 30% commission, which Spotify must pay while Apple's own rival music service, Apple Music, doesn't. 

"We hope that regulators will ignore Apple's 'window dressing' and act with urgency to protect consumer choice, ensure fair competition, and create a level playing field for all," Spotify said Wednesday. 

Apple has charged a 30% commission on all app sales since launching its App Store in 2008, a year after the first iPhone debuted. Apple also charges up to 30% for in-app purchases of digital goods like extra lives to play a game, a new look for your character or a subscription to a language learning app. It also requires developers to submit their apps for review to ensure they're secure and meet editorial guidelines around issues such as nudity and harassment.

For developers, the enormous app economy, which Apple pegged at more than a half trillion dollars, is worth it in the end. Apple users are typically more willing to pay for apps as well.

"The App Store has been an engine of economic growth like none other, creating millions of new jobs and a pathway to entrepreneurship accessible to anyone with a great idea," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "Our new program carries that progress forward -- helping developers fund their small businesses, take risks on new ideas, expand their teams and continue to make apps that enrich people's lives."

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Apple banned Fortnite from its App Store in August.

Angela Lang/CNET

Under pressure

Developers haven't just complained about Apple's commissions, some have pushed back. Fortnite developer Epic sued Apple in August over its commission structure after Apple banned Fortnite from the App Store because of direct-payment disputes. (It also sued Google, which had kicked the game out of its Play Store for similar reasons.)

Epic itself charges a 12% fee for games sold through its own marketplace. Epic says that commission amount is more fair, allowing the company to make money while giving game makers more funds to feed back into development.

Meanwhile, Spotify and other companies have filed complaints about Apple's practices with the European Union's Competition Commission. The EU in June launched two investigations into Apple, one focused on its App Store and the other on its handling of the technology behind its Apple Pay payments service.

"It appears that Apple obtained a 'gatekeeper' role when it comes to the distribution of apps and content to users of Apple's popular devices," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement at the time.

To many industry watchers, the battle between Epic and Apple amounts to a corporate slap fight over money between a multibillion-dollar company and a multitrillion-dollar company. But to some, it's a more dramatic example of a long-standing issue Apple's faced.

Now playing: Watch this: Epic vs. Apple lawsuit heads to trial in 2021

3:46

David Barnard, a longtime self-employed independent developer based in Texas, estimates Apple's commissions on his apps added up to about $750,000 over the past 12 years. "Would I have loved to put that into a retirement account? Sure," he said. "But I probably would have reinvested that into the apps -- hiring more developers and all that."

Barnard is also a developer advocate at app sales platform RevenueCat, where he meets and learns about many other developers' businesses. He believes Apple's stringent app review process causes more trouble for developers than the company's commission.

Still, he said if Apple gives more money to developers, it could help companies get off the ground. It may even allow some developers to come up with new app ideas they'd otherwise have dismissed because they wouldn't be able to make the business work under Apple's fees, he said.

But he also suspects it wouldn't make that much a difference to others.

"If you can't make the economics work when Apple takes 30% off the top when you sell digital trinkets in a game, you have different problems," he said.

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Apple and Verizon to hold iPhone 12 event for businesses Nov. 19 – CNET

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Apple's working with Verizon to push the iPhone even harder.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple and Verizon are holding an event Thursday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET to pitch the iPhone 12 and 5G wireless networking to businesses.

Verizon said in an announcement Monday the event will "showcase how business customers can use the new iPhone 12 lineup and Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband to power innovative solution," which is about as business-sounding as you can get. The companies will focus on manufacturing, field service and healthcare, according to the announcement. It included an image of someone using a Microsoft HoloLens headset to interact with a skeleton, with not any iPhone 12 in sight.

ar-healthcare-1230x690

w

Verizon

The event, which comes mere weeks from the iPhone 12's launch, will be the fourth announcement from Apple in three months. Both Apple and Verizon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Apple’s remaking Mac computers, and it’s taking control to do it – CNET

030-apple-big-sur-2020-announcment.png

Apple is making big changes to the insides of its computers.

Apple
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple has always sold its computers like luxury cars, highlighting sex appeal while promising they can get the job done too. Now, with new innards it custom-built itself, Apple is hoping to kick that appeal into overdrive.

This week Apple began preorders for its new $999 MacBook Air and $1,199 MacBook Pro laptops, as well as its revamped $699 Mac Mini no-frills desktop. The company says the new machines can run laps around their previous iterations, hitting benchmarks that, according to Apple, make them among the fastest personal computers in the world. Plus, the company says, they're able to do that while offering better battery life and, in the case of the MacBook Air, without a sometimes noisy fan too.

All those changes, Apple says, come from the company's new M1 silicon chip that it built specifically to act as the brains of its computers. The move is a seismic shift for the company, which for the past 14 years has relied on processors made by chip giant Intel. Intel supplies a vast majority of the central processing units, as they're known, used by PCs. But, soon, it won't be supplying them to Apple anymore.

Apple has spent more than a decade on research and development, and at least $1 billion buying more than half a dozen companies, to create its own rival processor based on the well-regarded A-series chips that've been powering its iPhones and iPads for a decade. Now morphed into the M1 for its computers, the chip, Apple says, doesn't just compete with processors made by Intel, it trounces them.

"Every Mac with M1 will be transformed into an entirely different class of product," Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji, said when discussing the chip at the company's online unveiling event Tuesday. "With its unique combination of remarkable performance, powerful features and incredible efficiency, M1 is by far the best chip we've ever created."

Apple's move to remake its computers follows its long-established trend of taking increasing control over both its devices and the components that power them. Apple has already created custom chips for security, such as with its Face ID and Touch ID unlocking features. It's created custom image processing chips too, for making photos taken by its phones look that much better.

Now playing: Watch this: New M1 Macs are a huge shift for Apple

5:51

Apple also makes the iOS and iPadOS software powering its devices, allowing it to finely tune the hardware and software for those gadgets, like the iPhone 12, which CNET reviewer Patrick Holland said got some of our highest ratings ever. "5G support, a new striking design, improved cameras and four different models all add up to make the iPhone 12 an absolute unit," he wrote.

For many people, it was a forgone conclusion that if Apple could take over the chips inside its Mac computers as well, it could deliver a similarly crowd-pleasing experience.

"The touted improvements strike at the heart of PC buyer concerns: performance and battery life," said Ross Rubin, an analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple's M1 chip

Apple's M1 chip for Macs is a close relative to the iPhone's A14, but it's more powerful.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

More power

Apple's efforts to custom-build nearly every part of its devices have helped it become one of the largest phone makers in the world. Its App Store, similarly, has become a central hub of tech industry innovation, despite Apple's tight control over the behavior and content of apps offered there. Additionally, iPhone and iPad owners can download only sanctioned apps from Apple's App Store, another form of control that other companies don't wield, like Google and its competing Google Play store for devices powered by its Android software.

Despite Apple's tight grip, the App Store has flourished. Apple says it counts more than a billion iPhones being used today, and many of those customers have proved more willing to pay for software than people who own other devices are. 

apple-new-macbookpro-photoshop-screen-11102020

Apple's new MacBook Pro laptop can run almost a full day on its battery.

Apple

As a result, the App Store has helped spawn companies like the social networking sensation TikTok, the ride-hailing giant Uber, and the photo sharing service Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Apple said its research found that the App Store helped facilitate over half a trillion dollars in commerce last year.

Still, not everyone is convinced Apple's approach will work every time.

Anything you can do...

21-iphone-12-pro-max

Apple's iPhone 12, powered by chips similar to those in the company's new computers, is one of CNET's highest rated phones ever.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple says its move away from Intel chips will take about two years, and that it'll continue supporting Mac computers powered by the chips for an even longer time. What's unclear is how much the tech industry will follow Apple's lead. The company's computers nabbed only 7.4% market share in 2019, according to analyst firm IDC.

But there's enough reason to believe that Apple's moves may start a trend.

When Apple made major changes to its computers by adding webcams to the MacBook Pro in 2006, developing a superthin chassis for the MacBook Air in 2008 and pushing out supersharp "retina" screens in its MacBook Pro in 2015, other computer makers followed. Today's PC laptops have largely ditched the bulky plastic from a decade ago, developing into similarly thin, metal-clad designs. Sometimes, they're even known for so closely borrowing Apple's ideas that on first glance, you might mistake them for Apple products.

With the new Mac computers, Apple's break with the industry isn't just about new materials or adding peripherals, like better speakers or a new type of fingerprint sensor, that other manufacturers can buy and add to their products. By redesigning the guts of the machines, Apple is creating custom parts few companies have the resources to make.

"This stuff is really hard," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, and a former executive at chipmaker AMD. He said major PC makers like Dell and HP will need to focus more on the way their software works, and take a closer look at what types of hardware they put into their computers. "Everyone's going to have to take silicon more seriously."

To be sure, some companies have dipped their toes into using mobile chips to power computers.

Most notably, in 2012 Microsoft tried selling the Surface RT, a tablet-laptop hybrid powered by mobile chips made by Nvidia. But the device couldn't run many standard apps, something CNET's reviewers said made it "limited and confusing." The drawbacks hurt its appeal so much that Microsoft had to report an embarrassing $900 million loss a year later. 

In 2019, Microsoft kickstarted a new effort, this time with its Surface Pro X, then for $999, powered by a chip it designed along with Qualcomm. Reviewers say its design and capability is much better this time around, though the gadget is still frustratingly unable to run popular apps like Adobe Photoshop.

"It's certainly closer to being the right product at the right time," CNET Editor Dan Ackerman wrote in his review of the device in October

Apple is avoiding those issues by partnering with developers like Microsoft and Adobe, and smaller ones too, to help them rework their apps to take advantage of the new chips.

It also built a feature for its new Mac computers called Rosetta, which makes popular apps, including those made by Adobe, run on the devices. Apple hasn't listed all the apps that it's tested, but it's suggested that most popular apps will work.

All that may help Apple stay ahead of other computer makers as it makes the switch.

"Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes," Apple CEO Tim Cook said when announcing the new devices Tuesday. "This is exactly why we are transitioning the Mac to Apple silicon."

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Apple’s remaking Mac computers, and it’s taking control to do it – CNET

030-apple-big-sur-2020-announcment.png

Apple is making big changes to the insides of its computers.

Apple
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple has always sold its computers like luxury cars, highlighting sex appeal while promising they can get the job done too. Now, with new innards it custom-built itself, Apple is hoping to kick that appeal into overdrive.

This week Apple began preorders for its new $999 MacBook Air and $1,199 MacBook Pro laptops, as well as its revamped $699 Mac Mini no-frills desktop. The company says the new machines can run laps around their previous iterations, hitting benchmarks that, according to Apple, make them among the fastest personal computers in the world. Plus, the company says, they're able to do that while offering better battery life and, in the case of the MacBook Air, without a sometimes noisy fan too.

All those changes, Apple says, come from the company's new M1 silicon chip that it built specifically to act as the brains of its computers. The move is a seismic shift for the company, which for the past 14 years has relied on processors made by chip giant Intel. Intel supplies a vast majority of the central processing units, as they're known, used by PCs. But, soon, it won't be supplying them to Apple anymore.

Apple has spent more than a decade on research and development, and at least $1 billion buying more than half a dozen companies, to create its own rival processor based on the well-regarded A-series chips that've been powering its iPhones and iPads for a decade. Now morphed into the M1 for its computers, the chip, Apple says, doesn't just compete with processors made by Intel, it trounces them.

"Every Mac with M1 will be transformed into an entirely different class of product," Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, Johny Srouji, said when discussing the chip at the company's online unveiling event Tuesday. "With its unique combination of remarkable performance, powerful features and incredible efficiency, M1 is by far the best chip we've ever created."

Apple's move to remake its computers follows its long-established trend of taking increasing control over both its devices and the components that power them. Apple has already created custom chips for security, such as with its Face ID and Touch ID unlocking features. It's created custom image processing chips too, for making photos taken by its phones look that much better.

Now playing: Watch this: New M1 Macs are a huge shift for Apple

5:51

Apple also makes the iOS and iPadOS software powering its devices, allowing it to finely tune the hardware and software for those gadgets, like the iPhone 12, which CNET reviewer Patrick Holland said got some of our highest ratings ever. "5G support, a new striking design, improved cameras and four different models all add up to make the iPhone 12 an absolute unit," he wrote.

For many people, it was a forgone conclusion that if Apple could take over the chips inside its Mac computers as well, it could deliver a similarly crowd-pleasing experience.

"The touted improvements strike at the heart of PC buyer concerns: performance and battery life," said Ross Rubin, an analyst at Reticle Research.

Apple's M1 chip

Apple's M1 chip for Macs is a close relative to the iPhone's A14, but it's more powerful.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

More power

Apple's efforts to custom-build nearly every part of its devices have helped it become one of the largest phone makers in the world. Its App Store, similarly, has become a central hub of tech industry innovation, despite Apple's tight control over the behavior and content of apps offered there. Additionally, iPhone and iPad owners can download only sanctioned apps from Apple's App Store, another form of control that other companies don't wield, like Google and its competing Google Play store for devices powered by its Android software.

Despite Apple's tight grip, the App Store has flourished. Apple says it counts more than a billion iPhones being used today, and many of those customers have proved more willing to pay for software than people who own other devices are. 

apple-new-macbookpro-photoshop-screen-11102020

Apple's new MacBook Pro laptop can run almost a full day on its battery.

Apple

As a result, the App Store has helped spawn companies like the social networking sensation TikTok, the ride-hailing giant Uber, and the photo sharing service Instagram, which was bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Apple said its research found that the App Store helped facilitate over half a trillion dollars in commerce last year.

Still, not everyone is convinced Apple's approach will work every time.

Anything you can do...

21-iphone-12-pro-max

Apple's iPhone 12, powered by chips similar to those in the company's new computers, is one of CNET's highest rated phones ever.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple says its move away from Intel chips will take about two years, and that it'll continue supporting Mac computers powered by the chips for an even longer time. What's unclear is how much the tech industry will follow Apple's lead. The company's computers nabbed only 7.4% market share in 2019, according to analyst firm IDC.

But there's enough reason to believe that Apple's moves may start a trend.

When Apple made major changes to its computers by adding webcams to the MacBook Pro in 2006, developing a superthin chassis for the MacBook Air in 2008 and pushing out supersharp "retina" screens in its MacBook Pro in 2015, other computer makers followed. Today's PC laptops have largely ditched the bulky plastic from a decade ago, developing into similarly thin, metal-clad designs. Sometimes, they're even known for so closely borrowing Apple's ideas that on first glance, you might mistake them for Apple products.

With the new Mac computers, Apple's break with the industry isn't just about new materials or adding peripherals, like better speakers or a new type of fingerprint sensor, that other manufacturers can buy and add to their products. By redesigning the guts of the machines, Apple is creating custom parts few companies have the resources to make.

"This stuff is really hard," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, and a former executive at chipmaker AMD. He said major PC makers like Dell and HP will need to focus more on the way their software works, and take a closer look at what types of hardware they put into their computers. "Everyone's going to have to take silicon more seriously."

To be sure, some companies have dipped their toes into using mobile chips to power computers.

Most notably, in 2012 Microsoft tried selling the Surface RT, a tablet-laptop hybrid powered by mobile chips made by Nvidia. But the device couldn't run many standard apps, something CNET's reviewers said made it "limited and confusing." The drawbacks hurt its appeal so much that Microsoft had to report an embarrassing $900 million loss a year later. 

In 2019, Microsoft kickstarted a new effort, this time with its Surface Pro X, then for $999, powered by a chip it designed along with Qualcomm. Reviewers say its design and capability is much better this time around, though the gadget is still frustratingly unable to run popular apps like Adobe Photoshop.

"It's certainly closer to being the right product at the right time," CNET Editor Dan Ackerman wrote in his review of the device in October

Apple is avoiding those issues by partnering with developers like Microsoft and Adobe, and smaller ones too, to help them rework their apps to take advantage of the new chips.

It also built a feature for its new Mac computers called Rosetta, which makes popular apps, including those made by Adobe, run on the devices. Apple hasn't listed all the apps that it's tested, but it's suggested that most popular apps will work.

All that may help Apple stay ahead of other computer makers as it makes the switch.

"Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes," Apple CEO Tim Cook said when announcing the new devices Tuesday. "This is exactly why we are transitioning the Mac to Apple silicon."

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Apple’s new MacBooks and Mac Mini could change PCs as we know them – CNET

26-macbook-pro-16-inch

Typically, people talk about the way Apple's devices look. But this time what matters most is under the hood.

Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

On Tuesday, Apple announced its first personal computers powered using chips that are more like those in an iPhone than those in a typical PC. The machines are the $999 13-inch MacBook Air, the $699 Mac Mini and the $1,299 MacBook Pro. That alone is exciting to tech fans, but it's also a sign of what's possibly to come, whether you buy a Mac or not. Apple has said it's going to change the brains of its computers over the next couple of years. Starting with the just-unveiled machines, Apple is going to throw its weight behind its self-made chips.

Most people may not care about a change to a small chip in their Mac computers, but it could mean big changes for Apple and the tech industry, too. For the past 14 years, Apple has relied on Intel-made chips to power its laptop and desktop computers. Apple has spent more than a decade on research and development, and at least $1 billion buying more than half a dozen companies, to create the M1, a chip similar to those in iPhones and iPads and that takes on Intel. Now Apple's first computers powered by the M1 have been made available for preorder and will start shipping next week. 

Apple says the M1 is more powerful and energy efficient, allowing for potentially smaller and slimmer designs, longer battery life and new technologies as well.

"Advancements of this magnitude only come from making bold changes," Apple CEO Tim Cook said during Apple's event Tuesday. He added that Apple's own chips will usher in new technologies and "extraordinary battery life" from the computers. "This is exactly why we are transitioning to Mac Apple silicon at Apple," Cook said.

For Apple, this moment has been more than a decade in the making. The question that's nagged the company since co-founder Steve Jobs died in 2011 is, What comes next? Jobs ushered in the Mac computer, the iMac all-in-one desktop, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Since his death, Apple's biggest new product has been the Apple Watch, which has turned into an enormous business. Last year it outsold, by a huge margin, the entire Swiss watch industry. Still, it's not an iPhone-like dent in the universe.

By combining all its devices under the same chips and common code, Apple will be able to offer an experience that truly spans its desktops, laptops, phones and watches. The company has already said app developers will be able to create one app and send it to all devices, with adjustments for keyboard and mouse versus finger touch and gestures.

The result may be a further blurring of the lines between what a computer is, and what it's meant to do.

The changes are already beginning with Apple's newest computer software, MacOS 11 Big Sur, which brings to PCs even more of the icons, sounds and general look of the iOS software that powers iPhones. Big Sur will be made available on Thursday for free for recently made Macs.

"With the current Mac -- it's the Mac versus the PC," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "Now, if it behaves like an iPhone, I can manage it like an extension of my iOS devices."

Apple's iPad Air uses the new A14 Bionic chip. It's got 11.8 billion transistors.

Apple's iPad Air and iPhone 12 use the company's A14 Bionic chip. The new Macs might too.

Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

What may come

apple-iphone-logo-3743

The difference between computers and phones is becoming a matter of screen size.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple says its transition to new chips may be a little bumpy, as app developers change the way their apps are coded to work with this new machinery. In the meantime, Apple promises most of the software we all use, including web browsers; photo and movie editors from all sorts of companies; and even Microsoft's popular Office suite of programs, will work on the new machines on day one.

What's likely to change more than anything involves a component other than the chip for the laptop and desktop. Apple's iPhones and iPads don't have fans to keep their chips cool. So far, the company has pulled off that same trick with its MacBook Air laptops, though its new Mac Mini and MacBook Pro do have fans.

But aside from those changes, and what-if speculation about detachable laptop-iPad hybrids, Apple watchers seem hard pressed to come up with design-change ideas. (Writer's note: Apple, please bring back the MagSafe magnetic charging cables to the laptops. Pretty please.)

Another longer term play may be the integration of cellular service into these types of mobile chips. Computers with built-in cellular radios have been niche products at best, but these kinds of processors are designed to work with cellular radios. People buy connected iPads all the time -- a connected MacBook Air isn't a huge leap. 

Though that's not likely to come out any time soon, the carriers will probably be eager to get 5G into a future generation of Apple's silicon-based MacBooks.

Now playing: Watch this: New M1 Macs are a huge shift for Apple

5:51

New way to pay

apple-card

Apple's credit card may be the company's secret weapon when it comes to getting more people to consider Mac computers.

CNET

By switching to its own chips and away from ones made by Intel, Apple will get more than the expected performance and power efficiency boost. It'll be able to more closely tune its software to work with its specialized chips, for example. And the company will also be able to manage manufacturing.

"When you control your own destiny and control your own parts, you can save money," said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research.

Generally, O'Donnell said, chip prices make up at least 20% of a laptop's costs. If Apple were to turn those savings into lower prices, it could attract new people who now just won't pay or can't afford the company's laptops, which start at $999.

It may also spark consumer interest and spur competition from other PC makers, who've so far only toyed with using mobile-phone chips in computers (though with just under 7% market share in 2019, according to IDC).

But the Apple credit card could be the company's true ace up its sleeve, analysts say. Putting Macs on a two-year, interest-free installment plan could get people hooked on the idea of buying a computer for about $42 a month.

"Getting the Mac into a larger population could be huge," O'Donnell said.

Regardless, Apple's move is bound to make waves, both by showing us how powerful its iPhone chips are, and potentially spurring the industry to change their devices to keep up.

"This is the biggest announcement in 'computers' in a long time," tweeted Steven Sinofsky, a venture capitalist who oversaw Microsoft's Windows software division more than a decade ago. "The real impact is the direction this takes things."

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MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac Mini with M1: Everything Apple just announced – CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

During Apple's third online-only virtual event since September, the tech giant announced three more new products: the MacBook Air, the Mac Mini and the MacBook Pro. Available in stores Nov. 17 with preorders open now, the computers mark a new era in Apple hardware, because they're all equipped with the company's new proprietary M1 processor. Developed after Apple's long partnership with chipmaker Intel dissolved, the M1 chip features eight cores and promises faster performance and more efficient power consumption.

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro will run the latest version of MacOS, known as Big Sur. First introduced back in June, the OS will be available for download on Nov. 12, and will be optimized for the M1 processor.

For a quick rundown on all the products Apple launched, check out the list below and for more info, read CNET's ongoing coverage of today's Apple event, which includes first-take analysis on each device.

Apple

Featuring a 13.3-inch display, the fanless Air can be configured with up to 16GB of unified memory and up to 2TB of storage. Apple says it has up to 18 hours of battery life, which is the longest battery life on any MacBook Air, and it is 9x faster than the previous Air. The company also says it is faster than 98% of PC laptops sold in the last year. Read our MacBook Air with M1 first take.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple reveals first MacBook Air with new M1 chip

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Apple

During its keynote, Apple said the Pro was "the perfect Mac for many creative pros." The 3-pound, 13.3-inch laptop has a longer reported battery life than the Air, at 20 hours. It's equipped with three mics, a FaceTime HD camera and a GPU that's 5x faster than the previous model. Read our MacBook Pro with M1 first take.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro revealed with M1 chip

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Apple

Apple's compact computer promises to be 3x faster overall than its successor due to the M1 chip. The Mac Mini has a built-in speaker, Wi-Fi 6 connectivity and ports for Thunderbolt USB 4 and HDMI 2.0, and a headphone jack. Read our Mac Mini with M1 first take.

Now playing: Watch this: Apple's new Mac Mini gets M1 chip

3:50

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You can’t vote by text or tweet. Don’t get fooled – CNET

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Most people can vote only in person or by mail.

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This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the run-up to voting in November.

No, you can't vote by text message. Or by tweet. Or, minus a few rare exceptions, over the internet. 

If you didn't know that, now you do. If you did know it, good. Tell your friends.

The reason I'm writing it is that in the past few elections, hackers and online trolls have reportedly tried to disenfranchise voters by offering false voting alternatives like text messaging, to effectively trick people into not actually casting their ballot. 

For the vast majority of people, the only way to vote is by going to the polls or by using a mail-in ballot. The good news is that the word appears to be getting out. More than 100 million people have already cast ballots in early voting.

Fooling people into thinking that some technological wizardry like an app, website or text message will record their vote is just the latest gambit in the centuries-old practice of voter suppression. Though it's less overt than threatening voter safety or straight-out refusing to let someone cast a ballot, it has the same effect. And for people who don't understand the limits of tech, and the limited ways we're using it in our elections, this bit of trickery could lead people to accidentally throw away their chance to have a say.

Election officials and cybersecurity experts have been working overtime to strengthen our voting system against cyberattacks and election meddling. Facebook, Twitter and Google have tightened rules on political ads

But there's still a chance trolls will try to strike at the 2020 US presidential election. In October, federal intelligence and law enforcement officials warned that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data. In at least some cases, Iran appeared to use the data to send fake emails to voters in an effort to intimidate them.

"We've been working for years as a community to build resilience in our election infrastructure and today that infrastructure remains resilient," FBI Director Chris Wray said in a statement during a press conference announcing the news. "You should be confident that your vote counts."

But that works only if you actually vote.

Happened before

It makes sense that a scam to trick people into "voting" by text would be so effective. For years, viewers cast millions of votes for their favorite singers on the hit reality show American Idol. And many of those Idol votes were cast via text.

Thankfully, there aren't any concrete examples of significant hoax voting campaigns this year, but it has happened before. Most notably, during the 2016 election some Twitter accounts tried to trick people into texting a number to record their vote. "Avoid the line," the tweet read.

Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to avoid a repeat. Twitter has outright banned political ads, and Facebook will follow suit next week, in the final days before the Nov. 3 Election Day. Twitter is also changing the way it points its users toward tweets their friends have liked or accounts their friends have followed.

On top of that, both companies have said they're preparing for Election Day itself, setting up policies to respond to any urgent issues that might arise on their services.

"Things move at the speed of Twitter on Twitter," said a company spokeswoman. "The work is never done."

Election tech

We may not be able to vote by text or on a website, but in 2018, West Virginia did attempt to allow voting by app. The program, created by a company called Voatz, is designed to help military service members overseas cast their ballot. To use the app, voters must register by taking a photo of their government-issued ID and uploading a selfie video of their face. Facial recognition software then makes sure the person in the video matches the person depicted on the government ID, and listed in voter records. People from 31 countries were able to vote back then using the app.

West Virginia dropped its app plans earlier this year, though, after researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the Voatz app had "significant security flaws." Voatz responded at the time that all the pilot programs it had participated in had been "conducted safely and securely with no reported issues." 

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner played down his state's move, attributing it to the government testing different systems. Warner says we need to stop listening to "naysayers" when it comes to app-based voting. "If we can do the census online, if we can do telehealth, if we can do telebanking and so forth, we can certainly solve this," Warner has said. His office didn't respond to a request for comment.

Including the West Virginia pilot in 2018, Voatz said it's been used in 11 government elections across five states and 29 counties. "Perception is key," Voatz CEO Nimit Sawhney said. He added that tests like West Virginia two years ago and this year in Utah County, Utah, help to show that the company's technology can be another option in addition to in-person and by-mail voting.

Now playing: Watch this: For November's election, make a plan to vote

24:55

Still, many experts aren't convinced voting by app or through a website is a good idea, beyond these small programs designed for disabled people, expats and military service members.

"We're a very long way away from a place to make sure we could use the technology to vote safely," said Sarah Brannon, managing attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. In their work, Brannon and about 10 other attorneys have focused their efforts on clearing barriers that keep eligible voters from being able to cast ballots by traditional means, particularly by mail.

"This is such an unprecedented year," she said.

If there are large-scale efforts to disrupt the election by tricking people into thinking they can vote by text or by some other method, we may not learn about it until after Election Day.

Researchers at the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University have begun their waves of phone calls around the country to collect data on student voting patterns. The institute monitors more than 10 million students on 1,100 campuses. Director of Impact Adam Gismondi said one thing he'll be looking for is how COVID-19 could upend typically mundane things like where polling places are located.

Voters have already showed up for early polling in record numbers this year, he noted, speaking to potential erosion of trust in anything other than an in-person ballot.

"Public polling shows a real split among the population among who is willing to trust a mail-in ballot," Gismondi said. "We don't have any wide-scale data, but anecdotally, I have seen a movement toward some level of showing up in person for early voting because I think there's concerns about votes being counted properly and votes being thrown out as we get closer to Election Day."

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iPhone sales fell 20% ahead of iPhone 12 launch, but Apple isn’t worried – CNET

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Now that the iPhone 12 is out, the next question is how well it'll do.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple's iPhone sales plummeted 20% as consumers awaited the release of its iPhone 12 amid the continued spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended lives, disrupted business and slowed manufacturing across the globe. But Apple executives said they weren't terribly worried about it.

That's primarily thanks to Apple's delay releasing the iPhone 12, creating a fluke in financial reporting that artificially made the company's sales look lower than they otherwise would. Last year's number included about a week of newly announced iPhone sales. This year's number did not. As a result, Apple tallied $26.4 billion in older iPhone sales, down more than a fifth from the same time a year ago.

Instead of lingering on those numbers, though, Apple executives painted a rosy picture of the holiday shopping season, saying it expects sales of its iPads, Macs, Apple Watches and other products to jump at least 10%. And the company was also upbeat about iPhone sales, which it predicted would see sales rise as well.

A primary reason, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, is new wireless technology.

"We've got a once in a decade opportunity with 5G," he told analysts on a conference call Thursday, talking about the next-generation wireless service that promises faster and more reliable downloads. "There's a lot of excitement around 5G."

To push that point, Apple said that aside from the iPhone, the company's sales rose 25% from the same time a year ago, despite supply constraints amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. 

"Back in April, I said we were in the most challenging environment in which Apple as a company has ever operated. That atmosphere of uncertainty -- of resolve, of making difficult calls with limited information -- has not only come to define Apple's year, but each of our lives," Cook said. "When we first began to grapple with COVID-19, I said there are worse things for a company whose business is innovation than having to periodically do just about everything in an entirely new way."

All told, Apple said it notched profits of $12.7 billion, down about 7% from the same last year. That translates to 73 cents per share in profit, off $64.7 billion in overall revenue, which itself was up slightly from the $64 billion reported last year. It was also enough to beat average analyst estimates, which were 70 cents per share in profits on $63.7 billion in revenue, according to surveys published by Yahoo Finance. 

Investors responded pushing Apple's stock down more than 5% to $109.20 after it closed regular trading up 3.7% to $115.32 per share. It's risen by about half so far this year.

Challenging year

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Apple still faces a myriad of competitors, whose typically lower prices make them particularly appealing during economic uncertainty.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's latest financial disclosures are just the latest sign of how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world economy. In the US, overall smartphone sales grew slightly in the same period after falling double digits earlier this year, according to Counterpoint Research. Apple derives most of its revenue from sales of its iPhone family of products. 

Broadly, the US is now preparing for the presidential election next week, during which Americans will choose their leader to manage the coronavirus and economic troubles that have followed its spread. The US GDP, a measure of America's economy, swung wildly over the past few months, making its worst quarterly drop on record earlier this year before rising more than 33% between July and Sept. All told, it fell 3.5% from the same time a year ago, before COVID-19. Analysts warn that more coronavirus-related lockdowns may set the economy back further. 

As the US has grappled with rising coronavirus cases across the country, the US government has chosen not to enact further stimulus efforts after passing a series of bills earlier this year. That's led to a souring mood on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen about 6% in just this week.

That raises questions about how enthusiastically people will participate in holiday shopping this year, and whether they'll be willing to shell out for one of Apple's iPhone 12 models, which start at $799. The iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini are slated to launch early next month. 

There's also uncertainty about whether Apple itself can produce enough supplies to keep up with any potential demand. Though Apple's considered one of the best supply chain companies in the world, it warned earlier this year iPhone sales would slow because of manufacturing issues in China. The company also noted "supply constraints" during its call with analysts on Thursday.

Still huge

While iPhone sales numbers were garbled by the iPhone 12's delayed launch, Apple was upbeat about other parts of its business. Mac sales grew nearly 30% to $9 billion and iPad sales grew nearly 46% to $6.8 billion. The company's "wearables, home and accessories" business, which includes the Apple Watch, AirPods and HomePod, grew 20% to nearly $7.9 billion. Its services business, including Apple Music and Apple TV Plus, rose more than 16%, the slowest growth among the company's non-iPhone divisions.

The Americans continue to be Apple's biggest market, rising more than 4% to nearly $30.7 billion. Its weakest market was in China, which saw a sales decline of 29%, which Apple attributed to the iPhone's delay. "Given the initial data points that we see on iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro," Cook said, "I would tell you that we're confident that we will grow this quarter in China."

"We are very bullish," he added.

Now playing: Watch this: The 5G iPhone may not make 5G an overnight sensation

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Bet on 5G

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Apple made a big deal about its support for 5G when announcing the iPhone 12.

Apple

Despite the economic uncertainty around the world, Apple watchers say the iPhone 12 could represent one of the company's most successful products in years. 

Analysts routinely discuss Apple's introduction of upgraded 5G wireless networking features, which promise faster and more reliable download speeds, will kick off a "super cycle" of purchases not seen since 2014. Back then, the then-new iPhone 6 helped Apple's holiday sales tally rise to 74.5 million units, up more than 45% from the 51 million it sold during the same period in 2013. Apple's holiday iPhone sales haven't budged much ever since.

Without giving details or official "estimates," Apple executives repeatedly told analysts they expect the company to perform well during the holiday shopping season. That includes increased iPhone revenue and double-digit growth in its other products and services. "We're off to a great start," Apple CFO Luca Maestri said during the conference call with analysts Thursday.

The holiday shopping season will also include the launch of the company's new Apple One service, which offers some of the company's services like its music and new fitness subscriptions, into a discounted bundle starting at $15 per month. Cook said Apple One will be made available starting this Friday, and its fitness service will arrive before the year's end.

One of Apple's biggest challenges, other than the pandemic in general, has been building enough iPhones for people who want to buy them.

"How long we will be supply constrained, it's hard to predict," Cook said. "We're working really, really hard to remedy those as quickly as we can but at this point. I can't estimate when when we'll be out of that."

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Is iPhone 12 a smash hit? Apple may offer its first hint this week – CNET

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Apple's iPhone 12 earned positive reviews ahead of its launch last week.

James Martin/CNET

Apple's iPhone 12 is winning praise for its new design, strengthened screen and better cameras. Now we're about to learn if that's enough to sell a phone that starts at $799 in the middle of a global pandemic and economic catastrophe.

On Thursday, Apple is due to report results for its fiscal fourth quarter, and Wall Street analysts on average expect it to tally 71 cents per share in profits on about $64.2 billion in sales, according to surveys published by Yahoo Finance. That's below the 76 cents per share it pulled in a year ago, which is likely due in part to the delayed launch of the iPhone 12. That handset landed on store shelves Oct. 23, "a few weeks" after Apple's three-month reporting window ending in late September.

Read more: iPhone 12 takes us a step closer to Apple's portless future

Now playing: Watch this: Our in-depth review of the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro

13:48

What that all means for most of us is that no matter what results Apple reports for the calmer sales period between July and September -- before the iPhone launch -- investors will instead be looking for any verbal cues that indicate how the first few days of sales actually went.  

Critically, it's already won praise. Reviewers like CNET's Patrick Holland called the iPhone 12 "one of our highest-rated phones of all time," and famed TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo estimated 2x higher preorder sales than for last year's model.

Whatever Apple reports will likely be seen as a bellwether across the tech industry, which has struggled to keep sales and manufacturing steady as COVID-19 anxiety ripped through warehouses, slowed shipping and put people out of work. Nearly 44 million people have been infected by the virus since it was first detected late last year, and more than 1.1 million people have died. Efforts to contain the pandemic through social distancing, quarantines and other health protocols have helped touch off an economic crisis that's put millions of people around the world out of work.

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A key selling point of the new iPhone 12 is its 5G wireless connection.

screenshot/Apple

Now, as the holiday season approaches, families aren't just weighing whether they can safely come together to celebrate. They're also anxious about their budgets, as economists warn of more economic roller coasters ahead.

That all makes selling a new gadget, particularly a new iPhone with a hefty entry price, a hard proposition. Apple's not alone, either. Samsung released its $999 Galaxy Note 20 5G in August, and both Sony and Microsoft will start selling their new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X video game consoles that go as high as $499 each.

When it comes to Apple, though, analysts are still talking of the holiday shopping season as a likely major one for the iPhone this year.

"We believe this will translate into an unprecedented upgrade cycle for Cook & Co," Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a message to investors Tuesday.

Searching for clues

With the iPhone 12's sales left out of Apple's financial report Thursday, industry watchers will likely listen extra carefully to CEO Tim Cook as he discusses the company's results on the after-hours conference call with analysts. And though he's known for keeping information close to the chest as one of Apple's chief secret-keepers, he and his lieutenants do occasionally make news too.

In a July conference call, Apple's executives took the unusual step of confirming a new iPhone was planned for the fall and warning it would be delayed by "several weeks" when compared to last year's launch.

Apple was also one of the first companies to warn about the impact of the coronavirus on its business. It told investors about slowed sales and manufacturing in China in February, a month before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and lockdowns began in the US.

iPhone 12 Pro

Analysts expect the iPhone 12 to kick off a "super cycle" of upgrades, despite the pandemic.

Patrick Holland/CNET

On Thursday, it's a safe bet he'll likely answer more questions about the impact the coronavirus may have, now that cases are rising around the world and doctors are warning of a tough winter.

The question now before Wall Street is whether people will be reaching for iPads and iPhones to help them get through what's likely to be a long next few months.

The good news, as much as anyone can get these days anyway, is that analysts overall believe as many as half the iPhones being used worldwide are three years old or more, making it likely they're due to be replaced by one of Apple's four iPhone 12 models. Two of the models, the $799 iPhone 12 and $999 iPhone 12 Pro, have already launched, and the entry level $699 iPhone 12 Mini and top-tier $1099 iPhone 12 Pro Max go on sale next month.

"5G speed is only one factor in a consumer's upgrade decision," Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster said in a blog post earlier this month. "The age of the phone is another factor, and iPhone owners have been holding on to their devices longer."

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