eXtensions - Wednesday 31 August 2022


Wednesday Review: Far Out Event, iPhone and Speculation; CSAM - Australia Acts, Sort Of

By Graham K. Rogers

Far Out

The expected Apple event for the next iPhone and perhaps other products will be held at Cupertino next week. Rumors are running hot with some contradicting others: Apple knows. Australia wants big tech to report how the companies are detecting CSAM images. Some are upset that Apple allows the Trump TruthSocial app, but PlayStore does not. There may be a really simple explanation.

This week Apple confirmed the rumors that an event was to be held on 7 September, sending out invitations slightly earlier than I had expected. I had assumed a 7-day lead-in. The image of an Apple logo in the stars was followed by the simple comment: "Join us for a special Apple Event on September 7 at 10 a.m. PT. Watch it live at apple.com." Note that "live at. . ." This event will be live at Cupertino as well as being transmitted, which is how I will watch it. It will be in the Steve Jobs Theater rather than outside which was the format for last June's WWDC (Brian Heater, TechCrunch)

The image and its text content of "Far Out" has of course generated some speculation, with Jaron Schneider (PetaPixel) suggesting that this could mean there is an astrophotography theme to the announcement. That implies new camera features some of which Schneider discusses. There is an AR Easter Egg if you look at the logo on the Apple events page using an iPhone, Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac) reports. Could this imply that Apple's long-awaited headset will be announced?


With this timing I expect the iPhone, of course, although what models there may be (and specifications) are still unknown. Whether there will be anything else, like Apple Watch, new Macs or other product announcements is also not known, so expect a flurry of rumors in the next few days. I would also expect that we will be told at the event when iOS 16 will be made available. We already know that iPadOS will be coming later.

Apple usually releases the iPhone on a Friday so 9, 16, 23 September are possible dates: orders followed by rollouts in Apple's favored countries, then 2nd tier countries. Some countries, like Thailand, will be a little later as the device has to be first approved by the local equivalent of the FCC.

That last point became more relevant when it was announced by T-Mobile and Space-X that they would provide "a new "satellite-to-cellular" service" nearly anywhere in the USA (Joe Rossignol, MacRumors). It also means, according to Elon Musk, that "there are no dead zones anywhere in the world for your cell phone". This is not a super fast network substitute but a way to eliminate dead zones that exist in some parts of the USA, as well as certain areas of the world.

Over the Hills Although I have not tried this recently, when I was testing connectivity in the early days of cellular networks here my original intention to send a file from my Palm via Bluetooth to my Ericsson device (pre-smartphone), then on to the Bangkok Post, needed some revision when my first attempt, over the hills near Tha Kradan, failed. I rode my bike closer to Kanchanaburi and tried again, with total (if slow) success.

The T-Mobile/Space-X announcement was followed by speculation that this was perhaps a way to beat Apple to the line with the (potential) revelation next week that the iPhone 14 could access satellites. "In February, Globalstar announced that it acquired 17 new satellites to provide "continuous satellite services" to a "potential customer," which might be Apple." A note in the article by Joe Rossignol (MacRumors) included the words, that the [T-Mobile/Space-X] "approach will face regulatory hurdles around the world." I can hardly wait for the whining from the local telcos.

Apart from the usual rumors that run alternatively between a doomed Apple and super sales, I saw one rumor that told me the Apple Watch Pro would not be compatible with older watch bands, while a short time later, another rumor told me that it would. A plausible suggestion concerning a second Apple event was mooted this weekend. Stephen Warwick (iMore) writes that as well as the expected iPhone event on 7 September a later event in October could be on the cards.

Last year Apple announced the MacBook Pro, but this year I would expect an iPad Pro update with the M2 chip, which some are saying may not be produced using the 3nm process but will be a 5nm chip. Warwick also suggests that new MacBook Pro devices could be released in this second event, including the 14" and 16" as well as a new version of the M2 chip, such as the Max. Warwick also lists other devices that might appear at this time. Taking this a little further, Joe Rossignol, Mac Rumors, lists several Macs (including the Mac Pro) with information on their last updates and when we might see a new version (and what could be inside).

iPad Pro
iPad Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

It has been anticipated for a while that legislatures around the world would take some steps with regard to CSAM images eventually. Many companies, such as Apple, Google and Facebook, are already checking for such images with mixed results. It was reported recently that the erroneous classification of an image sent to a family doctor to help in diagnosis caused the father of the child several problems over the next few months. He was not alone.

The process of checking for such images is lengthy and causes some stress (including long-term problems) to those who do the job. Apple had been checking for such content since 2020 (MacDaily News), but its plans announced last year to check automatically for CSAM images on device using hashed images were widely criticised.

The inevitability of being forced to take steps has been approaching for a while, with legislation pending in several countries (USA, UK) as well as the EU. This came a little closer this week with Australia announcing that using recent laws, it would "compel the technology giants to disclose measures they were taking to detect and remove abuse material within 28 days." As the "giants" are already involved in the identification of such images this sounds a bit like shutting the stable door when the horse has bolted, but governments are expected to do something.

MacDaily News, reporting on a Reuters story, like many, is all for detection of such images, but is highly critical of the planned on-device scanning which could undo years of protection. There is a link to the EFF petition that is intended to persuade Apple not to introduce its planned system. I have looked at this area several times since Apple made the announcement and read a number of journal articles about the potential. There is a need to detect CSAM images, but too much unresolved risk concerning PhotoDNA and its potential for abuse still exists.

By coincidence, Jane Horvath, senior director of global privacy at Apple, who made the announcement reported in the 2020 MacDaily News article (above) has announced that she is leaving the company to take up employment in a law office (Juli Clover, MacRumors): "Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher LLP, which has worked with Apple in the past."

Some people noticed this week that the Trump TruthSocial app was on the App Store but not on Google's Play Store. Some tried to read more into this than perhaps there was, with a sensible comment on Twitter from AC suggesting that, "Google will approve the Android app as soon as it meets Google's requirements, which is not yet the case. The app was approved by Apple because it meets Apple's requirements. The user-generated content is irrelevant for the decision. Otherwise we would be banning web browsers."

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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