eXtensions - Friday 22 December 2023

Friday Comment: Updates & Changes; Watch Withdrawn; Watch Band Changes; On-Time Deliveries

By Graham K. Rogers


This week Apple updated Sonoma and iOS, but not iPadOS. Patent problems for Apple as the ITC blocked Apple's use of Masimo blood-oxygen sensing technology. The Watch is not currently on sale in the USA. A rumored redesign for the Watch next year will mean current bands may not work. Apple delivers an order early: a relief after recent delays. Phoenix: a quick look at this new color film from the same company that makes Ilford B&W films.

Time Machine Early Wednesday morning here I saw a couple of emails that told me Sonoma had been updated to 14.2.1. I had been expecting this as there were mentions in several online sources on Tuesday. Once I had started Time Machine - I always backup before an update - I reached for the iPad mini (I was using the iPad Pro at the time), but no update was shown for that. There was, however, an update for the iPhone (14.2.1), which I installed. I had another look at the iPads and neither showed that an update was available. This is unusual.

Apple also released security updates (XProtect and XProtect Remediator) which I installed using Howard Oakley's, Silent Knight from the Eclectic Light Company. While reading news after breakfast I did see some references to an iPad update, but this was still not shown as available on my devices.

I wondered if this were a gradual rollout as happens sometimes, but with the other OS available, this seemed unlikely. Adam Engst (TidBits) confirmed that there was no release for iPadOS in a useful comment, "Apple Releases macOS 14.2.1, iOS 17.2.1, iOS 16.74, and iPadOS 16.7.4". He also thinks this is unusual. Ed Hardy (Cult of Mac) also writes that there is no iPadOS release. It looks like those other sources were on autopilot.

One of the most useful additions to the suite of features the Apple Watch has was the blood-oxygen sensor that indicates the % of oxygen in the blood. That, the heart rate and fall sensor are some of the most important health features on the Watch for me. At the beginning of the year the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that the blood-oxygen features were owned by MASI who had several patents covering the tech. While Apple insisted that the technology had been developed in-house several of those working on it had been formed Masimo employees and this may have swayed the court in its decision.

Apple Watch As reported widely elsewhere, the ITC ruling now comes into force, unless vetoed by the President, and this is unlikely. Most sources refer to the detailed article by Chance Miller on 9to5 Mac. Apple accepts the fact of the ban and the Apple Watch 9 as well as the Ultra has now been removed from sale in the USA. There was a clear comment at the end of the article in Macworld on this, with Michael Simon writing, "Apple will need to either strike a licensing deal with Masimo or develop its own blood-oxygen tech that doesn't infringe on Masimo's patents."

It struck me that they could also try and buy the company but I do not think they will manage that, even if they try. I am sure that the idea has been discussed at Cupertino. I had a quick look at Masimo, a medical technology company and it could be a good fit considering the way Apple has been emphasizing health in recent years. However, with current sentiment concerning big tech (Apple, Facebook, Google et al) there could be a likelihood of legislators examining monopoly questions were Apple to look at buying Masimo.

Apple understandably took a hit on Thursday (recovering slightly later), while the share price of Masimo (MASI) rose. While Apple is (still) a $3 trillion company, Masimo is valued at $6 billion. Apple paid $3.2 billion for Beats and I suspect there is much more potential value here. However, a later report (4am here) comes from Juli Clover (MacRumors) who writes that Apple engineers are "racing" to change the algorithms used for the blood oxygen sensor". It is hoped that the "workaround" will circumvent the patents although this is too late for the sales ban. This was reported widely, but Christian Zibreg (iDownloadBlog) adds, that "other potential workarounds" are being examined.

There is another unwelcome side-effect of this as now the Watch cannot be repaired if it is out of warranty, Juli Clover (MacRumors) reports. This would normally mean replacing the device with a new one. Under the ITC ruling, Apple cannot import new Watches, so there are no replacements and users with out-of-warranty devices "need to wait on repairs until hardware replacements are available again." This affects any Watch from the Apple Watch 6 as these all have the blood-oxygen sensor. As this is a US-only ban, I checked and the Apple Watch 9 is still available in the Thai online store.

Another Watch rumor that appeared this week concerned the bands. We are told these are to be replaced and the old bands will no longer work. A later report from Stephen Warwick (iMore) confirmed the rumor - 100% true we are told - but provides more background. This is not simply an arbitrary move by Apple, but a redesign of the way bands connect, to provide more space within the Watch to allow a larger battery or more components. The device has kept its shape (more or less) since its April 2015 release, so an overhaul may well be justified.

Apple Watch Band

I recently had delivery problems and in my comments I made a comparison of how Apple deals with busy times. In confirmation of their logistical abilities, just before the weekend I ordered a small device online from Apple and was given a delivery date of 19 December, which was reasonable. Coming home from lunch in Bangkok on Sunday (17th), there was a phone call and I was told that the delivery was being made, two days ahead of the scheduled date.

Green rice field

After much frustration with the delivery of the new Harman Phoenix films, I loaded the camera and spent a couple of days using up the 3 reels. Although the images were not selected in terms of a photo-shoot, there were certain things I wanted to check with this experimental film, particularly the greens of the rice crop just across the road from where I live. Passing the two fields almost every day, I can see how quickly everything changes from a waterlogged area to the smallest sprouts - usually with herons and grebes digging down for the insects, eels and fish that become available - to a rich green. The closest I can think of is the richness of the grass in Ireland at certain times of the year.

Phoenix output roll 1 Phoenix output roll 1

Output from the first roll of Harman Phoenix

I was lucky this time as when I loaded up the Nikon F3, a gift from some of my students (now all profs in their own right), the farmer was spraying the fields with some chemicals. I also caught him when he was reloading the spray equipment with the help of his wife. Walking back I took time also to smell the flowers: or at least take some photos and to end the first roll there were a few shots of the condo entrance. I will look in more detail next time at what I found, including a lens fault and other problems I experienced.

Phoenix output roll 2 Phoenix output roll 3

Output from the rolls 2 and 3 of Harman Phoenix

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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