The EU is to drop its litigation against Apple over its cosy tax relationship with Ireland now that the iPhone-maker has paid back 13.2 billion Euros ($15.4 billion) in back taxes, plus interest of 1.2 billion Euros ($1.4 billion). That sum is going in an escrow holding account pending Dublin and Apple’s appeal against the ruling.
Ireland’s finance minister Paschal Donohoe, announced on Tuesday that the government had recovered the full amount from the so-called “sweetheart deal,” which saw the trillion-dollar tech giant paying taxes as low as 0.05 percent as part of its arrangement with the country.
“The government fundamentally disagrees with the [European] Commission’s analysis in the Apple state aid decision and is seeking an annulment of that decision in the European courts,” said Donohoe. He added that as a committed EU member Ireland had “always confirmed that we would recover the alleged state aid”. Apple is refusing to comment on the decision, instead rehashing a statement from last year that said it is cooperating with the recovery process and was confident the decision would be overturned.
The EU deemed Ireland’s tax break to Apple illegal in 2016 as it gave the company a “significant advantage” over its competition. Apple was ordered to pay back the taxes it owed for the period between 2003 and 2014, along with interest. Unsuccessful appeals followed until Apple began paying back the money, starting with a $1.76 billion payment in May of this year, into an escrow fund.
“In light of the full payment by Apple of the illegal State aid it had received from Ireland, Commissioner Vestager will be proposing to the College of Commissioners the withdrawal of this court action,” European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email to Reuters.
Apple’s cherry-picked quotes aside, reviewers were mostly underwhelmed by the new iPhone, advising iPhone X users not to bother upgrading and owners of older models to hold fire for the iPhone XR.
But when it comes to the new Watch, the clear majority view is that the Series 4 finally delivers on the promise of the device – and now is the time to buy. Even mechanical watch site Hodinkee shared this view …
But the wait probably won’t be very long. 9to5Mac reports that a “2018 Fall iPad” has been referenced in iOS 12.1 code, which was released Tuesday.
There are no details as to what this new iPad might be like. But fall likely means October (November is also a possibility, but Apple historically held two iPad events in October and none in November), so at least we sort-of know when it’s coming.
As for what’s coming, nothing’s official yet, but there have been plenty of rumors describing a new iPad Pro with Face ID and no home button (check out the renders below).
According to Bloomberg, Apple is likely to launch at least two new iPad Pro devices, one with an 11-inch screen and one with a larger, 12.9-inch screen. And dependable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently said the new iPads will have a USB-C instead of Lightning connectors.
Lightning fast • even on older phones • A smarter Siri is compatible with more third-party apps • Password management’s never been easier • Notifications are finally grouped by app
Screen Time can be confusing to navigate • Shortcuts app isn’t for beginners • Memoji are kind of bland
The Bottom Line
iOS 12 may not have some of the big marquee features of previous years’ updates, but it still delivers massive improvements everywhere it counts most.
Bang for the Buck5.0
Every year, when Apple releases a new version of iOS, the questions start. Friends, family, total strangers — it doesn’t matter who asks, the question is always the same: Should I download the latest version of iOS?
They ask, not because they want my opinion on Apple’s latest software trick, but a separate, nagging concern: Won’t it slow down my phone?
No matter how many times I try to explain the importance of staying up to date with security patches, or the benefits of [insert new iOS feature] the perception is the same — that the new iOS update will muck up their phone (a perception certainly not helped by last year’s ).
But iOS 12 is different. With the latest update, Apple put performance and stability first, and not just for its most recent hardware. The update, which is compatible back to the iPhone 5S, has also been optimized to run faster and more efficiently on older phones. So, yes, you can update to iOS 12 without slowing down your phone. In fact, if you have an older iPhone or iPad, it should actually make it faster .
Apple’s focus on performance isn’t just limited to older devices. There are numerous under-the-hood tweaks that make iOS 12 faster and smoother for everyone. In practice, this may not be immediately obvious as the result is that, well, everything works the way you expect it to. I’ve been using iOS 12 since the first day the developer beta was available, and it’s easily the least buggy iOS update I can remember.
This focus on reliability may not make for the most exciting features — earlier reports indicate Apple shelved some planned features in favor of — but it’s what will make the biggest difference to everyone who uses it. It’s also incredibly important for Apple, which needs to regain trust after a year that included and the iOS 11 rollout. All that said, there are still plenty of new features that make iOS 12 worth your time.
Siri catches up
While even early iPhones felt like world-class smartphones, Siri hasn’t always measured up. There are for that (many of which Apple has addressed), but, for a long time, one of the biggest sticking points for Siri skeptics was that Apple’s assistant remained stubbornly closed off to third-party apps.
That changed in 2016 with the arrival of SiriKit in iOS 10, but even that was a bit of a letdown because it was limited to specific categories, like transportation apps. Shortcuts aims to fill those gaps by allowing any app to be compatible with Siri.
Shortcuts let you automate certain tasks using custom Siri commands. You can find suggestions for things you may want to automate in the Siri section of the main Settings app, and you can record a voice command you want to trigger that action. The suggestions iOS provides will be based on your own habits and the apps you use, including third-party apps.
For example, you can set up a shortcut to start a new voice memo, or read you the latest headlines in your preferred news app. It’s up to individual developers to support the feature, so not all apps will support it on day one, but there’s already a lot you can do with it.
If you want to really nerd out, you can use the dedicated , which is the redesigned and rebranded Workflow app that last year. One of the biggest issues with Workflow was that it was far too complicated for most people. Shortcuts addresses some of the usability issues with Workflow, but it’s still clearly meant for power users.
The app uses a drag-and-drop interface to let you chain multiple tasks together into a single shortcut. For example, you could get Siri to automatically make GIFs out of your photos, or ask Siri to “start your day” and automatically call up directions to work and information about the first appointment on your calendar.
It’s still not the most intuitive interface, but if you’re willing to spend a little time with it, you can get really creative. The app also provides a library of ready-made Shortcuts to make it easier to get started, and you can remix these to suit your needs.
If all that sounds too complicated, there’s another way to use Siri Shortcuts with very little effort. Periodically, Siri will also automatically push suggested shortcuts to your lock screen and Spotlight Search. These can be simple, like suggesting you return a missed call, or more complex, such as suggesting you enable “Do Not Disturb” at a movie theatre. Siri can even push shortcuts from third-party apps (provided the developer has add support for Shortcuts).
These suggestions are tailored to you based on your habits. Behind the scenes, Siri takes into account more than 100 different signals, such as the time of day and your current location, as well as how you typically use your phone, to build these recommendations.
How often you actually see these suggestions will depend on a couple of factors. Some of it has to do with how predictable your behavior is, like if you tend to use certain apps at very specific times. The apps you frequently use also play a role. What you see from third-party apps will likely be more limited to start, as many developers have yet to update their apps to support Siri’s new capabilities, but will get more useful over time.
On a more philosophical level, these types of suggestions are a significant step for Siri as it shows that Apple is finally doing more to make its assistant… well, more of an actual assistant. Last year, when I wrote my predictions for , I predicted that “iOS will be able to take a much more active role in determining what apps and actions are put in front of you at any given moment.” Now, we’re starting to see the first signs of that actually being possible.
If you’ve spent the last few years mostly ignoring Siri, now is definitely the time to start rethinking that.
Find your limits
Apple doesn’t just want iOS 12 to be better for your phone, it wants it to be better for you, too. At least, that’s the premise behind Screen Time, a feature that lets you see just how much you’re using your phone and set some limits — if you have the willpower.
The Screen Time feature itself is actually several different settings that boil down to two categories: a dashboard that feeds you stats on how much you use your phone, and various methods for limiting how much time you spend in apps. Before you start trying to set limits, it’s useful to take a peek at your dashboard.
If you spend a lot of time on your phone, prepare to be horrified. I’ve been regularly checking my Screen Time stats for months now and, well, I might have a problem.
The (sort of) good news here is that you can actually do something about this. You can set limits on categories of apps you want to use less, like social media apps, or schedule downtime away from your phone altogether. In both cases, it’s relatively easy to ignore your self-imposed limits, though iOS suspends the app icons as a visual reminder that you’re not supposed to be using them.
My issue with Screen Time is that the controls don’t feel like they’ll actually do much to change behavior. In my case, I clearly spend too much time on Twitter, and get far too many email notifications. But it’s not immediately clear what I should actually do about that. Sure, I can adjust my notification settings or set app-limits, but it would be nice if Screen Time could actually provide personalized recommendations about settings to change, much like the way it provides suggestions to maximize your storage.
It would also be helpful if it could contextualize your stats in some way. An average of 204 notifications a day sounds like a lot, but it’s hard to judge for yourself without something to weigh those numbers against.
My other issue with Screen Time is that app limits default to blocking entire entire categories of apps. Open the app limits menu and it greets you with a checklist of different categories, like social media or productivity apps.
While this approach may work for some, I’d prefer if it was easier to limit specific apps one-by-one, rather than entire categories. Yes, there are workarounds to this: you can exempt specific apps from app limits, and there is a way to set limits on a per-app basis, but these are far from intuitive.
One group I can see Screen Time making a big difference for is parents. While a lot of parental controls focus on the granular details — policing exactly what apps and websites are accessible, for example — Screen Time might be much more useful for parents worried about social media addiction. Because you’re able to set app-specific limits and set a schedule for when apps can and can’t be used (all protected with a separate, dedicated passcode) Screen Time could be a powerful tool for parents.
If you want to take a break without setting such granular limits, Apple’s also greatly improved Do Not Disturb. You can now opt to enable it for specific periods of times or tie Do Not Disturb to your current location, which could be particularly useful for when you’re heading into a movie theater or an important meeting.
Stock apps get a makeover
Many of Apple’s stock apps have also gotten some much needed attention. Books, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Apple News have been revamped. If you don’t already use these apps, the changes probably aren’t big enough to make you give them a second look, but if you do use them, you’ll appreciate the refresh.
Apple also introduced an all-new utility app that uses augmented reality, called .
The app uses AR to help you measure objects. In my testing, it works pretty well with easy-to-define objects, like books, but sometimes struggles with things that have more of an unusual shape. I could see the app being useful if you need to take some quick off-the-cuff measurements, but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable using it for anything I needed a precise measurement for.
Two of Apple’s apps that are likely to get the most attention are Messages and FaceTime. Messages is mostly unchanged from last year, though there’s a new for sharing images in Messages. The new star of Messages, though, is Memoji.
Sort of like Apple’s answer to Snapchat’s wildly popular Bitmoji, Memoji’s custom avatars are like the next step up from . I feel the same way about Memoji as I do Animoji. It’s entertaining the first few times you use it, and it’s great for demonstrating the power of the TrueDepth camera, but it still feels like a bit of a gimmick.
Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun creating my own avatar, and attempting to make approximations of friends and family, but that’s the problem: Memoji just don’t feel that personal. There just aren’t enough customization options to make them feel truly unique.
Speaking of fun, FaceTime also got some seemingly Snapchat-inspired features. You can use a bunch of new effects, like filters and stickers, or overlay Memoji and Animoji onto your own face while in a call. The much touted group-calling feature isn’t yet available, but it will finally bring FaceTime up to scratch with pretty much every other video chat app.
There’s more. Notifications are finally, finally, finally grouped by app, much like they are on Android. It’s a small change — and one, frankly, we shouldn’t have had to wait until iOS 12 for — but it makes dealing with notifications significantly less painful.
There’s also a feature called “Instant Tuning,” which lets you adjust notification settings directly from the notification itself. You can change the app’s settings to “deliver quietly,” which allows the notification to surface in Notification Center, but nowhere else, or turn them off altogether.
Passwords are even easier to manage. iOS can now automatically generate secure passwords and store them in your iCloud keychain. If you use a password manager, like OnePassword or LastPass, you can autofill passwords in apps and websites without having to manually open the app. And SMS verification codes are automatically pulled into your keyboard, so you don’t have to switch over to the Messages app to grab the code.
All of these are huge time-savers that make it even easier to use secure passwords on every service you use.
Should you download?
If you made it this far, the question is likely still in the back of your mind. If it wasn’t clear already, the answer is yes. In previous years, the only excuse for holding off on downloading was because you were either worried about bugs or worried about slowing down an older device.
But with this year’s emphasis on stability and speed, those excuses no longer hold water. In fact, the iOS 12 update should actually make your older iPhone or iPad noticeably faster while also giving you the latest Siri features and other improvements.
So, go download without anxiety: iOS 12 is an update that makes your iPhone (and iPad) better everywhere it counts most.
Roughly two-and-half minutes into my run, the watch kicks in. There’s a haptic buzz on my wrist.
“It looks like you’re working out,” the watch face reads. That’s followed by a big, yellow button, suggesting I start an indoor run. I tap the neon button and the clock starts, comping me a reasonable approximation of the time it took for the Watch to be sure what sort of activity it was detecting.
I wasn’t actually planning to test the feature on this particular run. In all the stretching/music picking/treadmill setting pre-run ritual, I’d just forgotten to set the damn thing. It feels like a small thing, but, then, most of the updates are relatively small in the grand scheme of things. In the case of the Apple Watch, radically departure would almost certainly be a bad thing.
You see, there are smartwatches and then there’s the Apple Watch. That’s not so much a tacit endorsement of the product, so much as an objective analysis of the numbers. Numbers from IDC earlier this year show Apple leading all wearables on the strength of its single smartwatch.
In fact, the company accounted for more than half of smartwatch shipments last year. Simply put, the Apple Watch has long represented a rare bright spot in a flagging wearables category. The device has been successful enough for long enough that analysts are once again bullish on the category going forward. That’s an impressive feat by any measure.
So what’s a market-dominating smartwatch maker to do? For Apple, the answer is two-fold. First, improve upon the overall experience without altering anything too much. With the Apple Watch Series 4, that means subtle hardware improvements like a larger screen while maintaining a similar form factor, as well as tweaks like the addition of haptic feedback to the Watch’s crown.
After all, Apple’s success doesn’t lie in any single standout feature. Rather, as with the iPhone, the company has excelled in providing an overall hardware and software experience that makes it possible to use the product mostly without thinking — as evidenced by the above workout feature.
Second, show the world precisely how committed you are to health. Even with the existence of cheaper fitness trackers, health and fitness have long been understood to be the primary drivers in smartwatch sales. For Fitbit, that means pivoting much of the company toward health care.
For Apple, it’s finding ways to have the Watch taken more seriously as a health-monitoring device. While it’s true that the product won’t be replacing medical products any time soon, the wearable has the decided advantage of constant monitoring.
That means, unlike hospital equipment and other pricier technology, it can be worn as a kind of safeguard. New features like the ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor on the rear of the device and automatic fall detection aren’t aimed at replacing doctor checkups. They’re safeguards for those times when users aren’t in a doctor’s care.
Analysts have bet much of the category’s future growth on Apple’s ability to identify and target new markets. Having cornered techies and a younger demographic, older users and those with health problems present a clear way to expand the Watch’s existing base.
Day to day
I wear a lot of smartwatches. It’s a byproduct/perk of the job. Between reviews, however, I always come back to the Apple Watch. For one thing, while I switch back and forth between Android and iOS handsets, my primary phone is an iPhone. One of Apple’s biggest appeals has been its ecosystem. The products just work well with one another to a fault — and once you’re locked in, it’s hard to get out.
That’s not the sole reason, of course. Google, Samsung and Fitbit all have iOS apps now. And while integration isn’t perfect, it’s certainly usable. The fact is that the Apple Watch is an elegant solution from both a hardware and software standpoint. It walks the key wearable line of being engaging when necessary and fading into the background the rest of the time.
Contrary to early reports (and speculation over that event invite), Apple stuck with the squircle (it’s a real geometry term, look it up) this time out. The design was a bit polarizing early on, but I suspect most users have since come to appreciate the things it affords, including the ability to fit more text on the screen.
The face of it
Of course, that’s doubly the case here. The clearest difference on the hardware side of the increased display size, which, like the iPhone X, Apple managed to increase the screen without making much of a dent in the overall footprint.
The Series 4’s case is slightly larger and wider than its predecessor, but it’s not really noticeable unless you happen to have two side-by-side. Even with the slightly larger surface area, the Apple Watch remains one of the more wearable wearables.
If you’ve used an earlier version with any regularity, on the other other hand, the increase in surface area is pretty readily apparent, especially when an email notification comes through. It also means app developers can jam in more detail and the Watch’s faces can feature additional complications (a descriptor I suspect makes Apple designers die inside a bit every time they have to utter it).
With the 30 percent larger display, you can add things like the Breathe app to the face for easy access. It’s a rare instance of the company pushing to bring more detail to a surface, but with the limited real estate afforded by a smartwatch screen, you take every precious millimeter you can get. The fact that the bezels are smaller also means app designers don’t have to lean as heavily on black backgrounds to help mask the unused space.
On the case
Apple also managed to make the new watch thinner than its predecessors. The benefit there is obvious when it comes to making a product designed to be worn on the body. And the slightly larger case size means Apple was able to accomplish this without having an impact on battery life.
It’s an interesting choice, given that much of the competition has zeroed in on battery life with recent upgrades, including, notably, the new Galaxy Watch, which Samsung rates at “several days.” With good reason — battery has long been one of the biggest issues with smartwatches.
As with earlier versions, Apple rates the Series 4’s battery at “all day,” which certainly lines up with my own testing. Even so, I would happily trade a millimeter or two of thickness for some additional mAhs. As it stands, you should be able to get through a day’s use without worrying about finding a charger, but the peace of mind of more battery life is always welcome.
I admit I didn’t think much of the digital crown when Apple mentioned it on stage. If anything, it sounded like a sort of parlor trick. When I finally had a chance to try the device on at the event the other week, however, I was surprised at how much I dug it.
Spinning the circle really feels like turning a mechanical dial. And when there’s nothing on screen to move by spinning it, the feedback simply shuts off. Again, it’s a small touch, but a nice one, nonetheless. This is still probably the one spot where Samsung really has a leg up on Apple. The Galaxy (nee Gear)’s spinning bezel is still my favorite method for interacting with smartwatch menus (and the top reason to consider a Samsung model). Though the new digital crown is a fairly close second place.
For your health
Apple devoted a good amount of the Apple Watch’s stage time to health and wellness. And understandably so. The company firmly believes that the product’s capabilities as a health monitor are the way forward for the Apple Watch. Added sophisticated tools like the ECG also go a long way toward the company continuing to position the wearable as a premium product.
After all, budget devices from companies like Xiaomi represent the other key growth area in the fitness space. Apple has also seen a surprisingly successful competitor in the form of the $200 Fitbit Versa. Sure, the company got off to a rocky start, but its latest Pebble-esque smartwatch looks to be a bonafide hit. And it’s a pretty solid solution for those looking for a low-cost or Android-friendly solution.
ECG is an interesting addition, because for most users, it’s not an everyday feature. It’s a great addition for older users and those with existing conditions. Information collected day to day can be shared with doctors via the Apple Health app. For the rest of us, the product has the potential to flag irregularities and things like atrial fibrillation.
No one is suggesting an FDA-approved feature can or should replace a doctor, but if it helps shed some light on heart issues, that’s certainly a net positive. And that’s really where the Apple Watch thrives as a health care device — it offers potential insight into larger issues. That includes the addition of things like low heart rate notifications in watchOS 5 (which joins the high heart rate notifications from its predecessor) and the irregular rhythm notifications that arrive via the ECG.
The feature won’t be available until later this year, so I wasn’t able to test the thing. And when it does arrive, it will only be available in the U.S., likely due to the intricacies of different health regulatory bodies from country to country. When it does arrive, it will work as follows, per Apple: “Simply touch the Digital Crown to generate an ECG waveform in just 30 seconds. This data can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation — a serious form of irregular heart rhythm — or sinus rhythm, which means your heart is beating in a normal pattern.”
That means the crown is essentially doing double duty, serving as one of two electrodes (the other is on the rear of the watch) for measuring heart rhythms. It’s a pretty novel addition to an existing feature.
Fall detection is the other feature I’ll readily admit I wasn’t able to properly test this time out. The feature is automatically enabled for users aged 65 and over. Everyone else will have to manually enable it via the iPhone app under the Emergency SOS setting. When it detects a fall, an Emergency SOS screen will pop up — not dissimilar to those Life Alert devices from the 80s. If the wearer is unresponsive for a minute, it will send out the alert.
I can, however, attest to the fact that I didn’t register any false alerts while wearing the device. Slamming your hands on the desk or collapsing into your bed won’t set it off. Apparently stunt people and others trained at falling won’t be able to set it off, either. I tried taking a few controlled spills into my rabbit’s floor pads, with no results beyond sore hands and a confused bunny. Don’t try this at home, kids.
Watch this space
There are other fun features scattered throughout. Walkie Talkie is a cool one. It’s more of a fun novelty than an indispensable addition. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with fellow Apple Watch owners over Wi-Fi or cellular, sending through transmissions with the push of a button. It’s also a good way to take advantage of 50 percent louder speakers.
The Series 4 isn’t the kind of refresh that justifies upgrading from the last generation, especially given the $399 and $499 starting prices for the standard and LTE models, respectively. But there’s certainly enough here to keep the Apple Watch at the top of the smartwatch heap. The addition of serious health features like ECG and fall detection further lay the groundwork for a what the device — and category — will become, going forward.
The new Apple Watch Series 4, which is now thinner and lighter than the previous model, hits shelves (both virtual and otherwise) on Friday, Sept. 21. And we’re here to remind you that there’s no need to wait in long lines for hours and hours. You can simply pre-order one (or two) and just have it shipped to you by the end of the weekend. Now isn’t that easier?
We’d recommend taking the plunge at Walmart, where you can get free 2-day shipping or may even be able to snag a discount on select models for picking it up in the store. The GPS and cellular versions of the Apple Watch 4, and its long awaited edge-to-edge display, are now available for pre-order with various colors and band options, such as a gold aluminum case with pink and white sports bands or a gold aluminum case with a pink sand sport loop. Unfortunately, space grey aluminum case and silver aluminum case (in both 40mm and 44mm) are out of stock temporarily. (Keep checking back though!)
For 2018, Apple ditched the ceramic and gold versions of the Apple Watch, opting to go with aluminum (40mm for $399 and 44mm for $429) and gold stainless steel (40mm for $699 and 44mm for $749) models instead. Each model also comes with optional cellular connectivity for an additional $100. The Apple Watch Series 4 is supported on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, and Sprint in the United States.
In addition, the new Apple Watch Series 4 features an all-new Digital Crown that is still used to scroll through apps, but now has an Electrocardiogram (ECG) feature that can detect if you’ve fallen. The smartwatch then can call for emergency assistance when you’re in need.
Apple’s release of iOS 12.1 earlier today has already given us a peek at a new feature: Memoji syncing. In that article, I suggested that this feature would make sense with the release of new iPads with a TrueDepth camera system later this year. Currently, Memoji is only supported on the iPhone – but adding support to the iPad would mean users would want to sync their characters between each device.
Now, iOS 12.1 offers another hint at new iPad models coming this year.
Today, Apple released the first beta of iOS 12.1. While it may seem too soon to start yet another beta cycle, software is never really completed, so it makes sense for Apple to offer betas to allow developers and users to start filing bug reports and testing new features, including the much-awaited group FaceTime.
As usual, Apple’s software release also offers some hints as to future features…
CarPlay, Apple’s iPhone feature that brings communication and entertainment functions to the built-in screen in your car, is appearing on a lot more aftermarket displays now and the company has a long list of auto makers committed to including CarPlay in new cars.
As CarPlay support shows up from more manufacturers, we’re also seeing more developers enable CarPlay capabilities in their own apps. As it stands, iPhone apps require special approval from Apple to show up on a CarPlay-compatible display. Once you install these apps on your iPhone, they appear on your CarPlay-enabled display when you connect your iPhone. Read on for the growing list of iPhone apps that support CarPlay. more…
Looking to pick up the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or Apple Watch Series 4 but forgot to pre-order? Don’t worry, there are a few tricks to potentially get your new iPhone XS, XS Max, or Apple Watch Series 4 on launch day.