Apple Breakfast: An avalanche in a walled garden
Apple generates a lot of news, and it can be hard to keep up. If your mind was on other things this week, our Saturday-morning roundup of Apple-related headlines will bring you up to date.
An avalanche in a walled garden
A couple of months back, following the quick-fire announcement of multiple concessions to developers, we posted an analysis piece arguing that the App Store was under pressure and Apple was cracking. There was a real sense of momentum: it felt like complaints about Apple’s unyielding stewardship of the App Store stretching back for years were finally hitting the critical mass needed to effect real change. Walled garden, meet avalanche.
I experienced a similar sensation this week, when Apple revealed plans for a Self Service Repair programme, under which repair manuals for the company’s products will be made available for free, and authorised parts and tools will be sold online. This was shockingly unexpected, but perhaps shouldn’t have been: it was the final result of years of mounting pressure from the Right To Repair campaign.
In these two aspects of its business – mobile software distribution and hardware repair – Apple has followed the same template. Resist reform as long as possible, then just before an external body forces its hand (such as the EU drafting home repair legislation), make the mildest possible version of the reforms ‘voluntarily’ and present it as a PR win in hopes of avoiding something worse.
So let’s look again at the repair programme Apple has announced. It is limited: only the 12- and 13-series iPhones are included initially, with M1 Macs to follow “soon”. It is distant: the programme won’t start until an unspecified point early in 2022 in the US, and other countries will have to wait longer still. There is no indication that the actual design of the phones will change to make them easier to service. And it could and almost certainly will be a more expensive way of sourcing parts than going to third-party sellers.
The press release also reeks of reluctance, with constant reminders that, in Apple’s view, getting your device repaired at an authorised repair store is still the best solution for the vast majority of people. Indeed Tech Advisor’s Dom Preston, in a podcast I took part in this week, raised the smart point that those free repair manuals are hardly going to be incentivised to make the procedure look easy: they will represent another opportunity to convince readers that home repairs are for experts only.
So overall it is easy to be cynical about the Self Service Repair programme, and see it for what it probably is: a goat tied to a stick to distract a T-Rex. But let’s also give Apple its due. On this front at least it is leading the way. Discounting niche players like Fairphone, no major Android manufacturer has announced a similar initiative.
Perhaps, when you think of the number of handsets for which detailed repair manuals would need to be created, none of them realistically could. But Apple is often a useful pioneer, giving cover and motivation for rivals to follow suit. And whether or not the intentions that lead to it are pure, we may yet come to enjoy the financial and environmental benefits of a repairs-friendly phone industry, and look back on this week as an important milestone.
Apple’s controversial app adverts
A Forbes exposé has revealed an Apple business practice that the company claims is standard for the industry, but may come as a surprise to some readers: it buys Google adverts for iOS apps with high-value subscriptions (such as HBO and Plenty of Fish), and then directs people searching for that app to the App Store rather than the app owner’s website, in order to capture a 15-30% revenue cut. One anonymous developer described the practice as “not ethical”.
David Price was unimpressed by Apple’s response to the article, denouncing the company’s “shabby greed” in this week’s Different Think column and comparing its supposed rebuttal to the hollow cynicism of Captain Renault in Casablanca: harsh words indeed. The Macalope, meanwhile, argued that Apple had hit a new low.
News in brief
Way back in 2013 Apple Store employees in California complained they were subject to bag searches off the clock, which in some cases could add 45 minutes of unpaid time to their working day. The class-action lawsuit was thrown out in 2015, but revived last year, and Apple has now agreed to pay out nearly $30m to the staff affected.
Whatever replaces the iPhone as the industry’s defining product, Apple Silicon will be crucial for the company’s next breakthrough, says Samuel Nyberg.
Hard times for electronics manufacturers, which according to iPhone maker Foxconn face a continuing chip shortage stretching into the second half of 2022. Not even Apple is immune to such factors, and those who intend to buy an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple Watch over the next six months (and maybe more!) can expect short supplies and long waits. More discussion of this in the video of the week, below.
Apple is accelerating plans to make a fully self-driving car, according to a new report.
Defence lawyers in the ongoing Kyle Rittenhouse court case have sought a mistrial, complaining that video evidence sent to them by the prosecution was compressed by the Mail app on a prosecutor’s iPhone.
If Apple keeps letting its software slip, the next big thing won’t matter, reckons Dan Moren.
Don’t believe those lying Alder Lake vs M1 Pro benchmarks, advises the Macalope.
Apple’s Focus mode is too complicated. Jason Cross explains how to make it better.
The M1 Mac mini is a great device, but should you hold out for the next model instead? Martyn Casserly offers detailed buying advice.
Video of the week
The ongoing chip shortage and supply chain disruption continue to disrupt tech buyers, and the Christmas/holiday season is likely to further complicate the issue. Tech buyers should expect stock shortages and longer delivery timelines.
While some retailers, like Apple, are beginning to catch up with hardware demand, customers are waiting longer for their devices than in previous years. Even though it might take a while to receive your device, there’s still some good news: if it breaks, you’ll be permitted to fix it yourself. Apple will roll out its Self Service Repair programme in 2022, allowing iPhone 12 and 13 users to buy tools and ‘genuine’ replacement parts and fix their devices themselves.
Michael Simon and Ken Mingis join Juliet Beauchamp to discuss what tech buyers need to know ahead of the shopping season, including predicted deals, availability and delivery problems. They also explain what they know about Apple’s new Right to Repair programme and how it could change the repair process.
Three new reviews this week. We would heartily recommend that you feast your eyes upon them:
We’ve also written two new head-to-head comparisons:
The work goes on, and there’s always more to do. Next week you should be able to look forward to, at long last, our Apple Watch Series 7 review.
Software, bugs & problems
The iOS 15.2 software update, expected to roll out within a month, will put a stop to a feature/bug on the iPhone 13 that stopped Face ID from working if the system detected a third-party replacement screen. You’ll still see a warning message that it’s “unable to determine if your iPhone display is a genuine Apple part”, but at least Face ID will work.
At the start of this month we covered the ‘memory leak’ bug in macOS Monterey, which caused applications to suddenly gobble up vastly more memory than expected. We may now have a culprit, and a cure: users have spotted than changing the colour of the mouse pointer can get things back to normal.
Also in fix news, Apple has shipped iOS 15.1.1 to iPhone 12 and 13 owners; it should solve the dropped-call problem those handsets had previously experienced.
The rumour mill
Looking forward to the second-gen AirPods Pro, which most of us have been expecting to finally arrive in the spring of 2022? Time to wipe that smile off your face, because the latest rumour says they won’t be here until the autumn of next year, a full three years after the original launch.
Early days to be talking about the iPhone 14, admittedly, but nobody can stop the rumour mill spinning. And this week it spun up a tasty tale about the faster, more stable Wi-Fi 6E standard.
Apple deals of the week
We’re getting ever closer to Black Friday (which is on 26 November, so mark your calendars) and there are some appealing deals out there already. To give you an idea of what’s likely to appear next week, Karen Haslam outlines the Apple deals to expect this Black Friday.
I’ve embedded a list of the best current Apple deals below, but other than that, we’re done for this week. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley!
1. Adobe Creative Cloud Black Friday Deal – 1 Year
Was: £596.33 upfront or £49.94 p/m
Now: £362.21 upfront or £30.34 p/m (Up to £234.12 off)
Adobe has over £230 off a year of Adobe’s Creative Cloud All Apps for Black Friday. The offer ends 26 November!
2. Apple AirPods with Charging Case (Wired)
Now: £99 (£20 off)
3. Apple iPad mini (2021, 6th gen)
Now: £459 (£20 off)
A small but worthwhile saving on Apple’s new iPad mini model for 2021. This price applies to all four colour finishes at the 64GB/Wi-Fi tier.
We’ve spotted a few retailers lately raising their prices ahead of Black Friday (very poor form, that) but this is fractionally cheaper than the £459.97 Amazon was charging a week ago.
4. Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
Now: £75 (£74 off)
Amazon’s slashed an incredible £74 off the Magic Keyboard with numeric keypad as a part of its early Black Friday sale.
5. Apple iPad Pro 11in (2021, M1, 2TB) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
Now: £1399 (£500 off)
We’re not sure if Amazon will bring back the £639 discount we saw in October on this iPad Pro M1 variant, but £500 off is still an excellent deal. See our review of the 11in iPad Pro with M1
6. Apple iPad Pro 11in (2021, M1, 256GB)
Now: £799 (£50 off)
7. Apple Magic Mouse 2
From: Smartfone Store
Now: £59 (£20 off)
Apple may have discontinued the Magic Mouse 2, but you can pick it up from the Smartfone Store with £20 off. Very has the second-best price at £64.99.
8. Apple 16in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 10-Core CPU/16-Core GPU, 2021
Now: £2,159.10 (£239.90 off)
KRCS has doubled its already appealing discount on the new 16in MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chip, jumping from 5% to a 10% saving.
Similar discounts are available on the other configurations on KRCS’s website.
9. Apple iPhone 13 with free AirPods
Now: From £34 per month
Grab the brand new iPhone 13 and bag a free pair of Apple AirPods while you’re at it! We’re separately looking at where to buy the iPhone 13 and the best offers on contract and SIM-free.
10. Apple AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case
Now: £199 (£40 off)
A solid saving on the AirPods Pro, Apple’s excellent true-wireless earphones with ANC.
Note that these now come with a MagSafe-compatible charging case, something that wasn’t available until the launch of the AirPods 3 in October 2021.
11. Apple 12.9in iPad Pro (2021, M1, 2TB) – Wi-Fi + Cellular
Now: £1,985 (£163.57off)
Amazon has £163 off the M1 iPad Pro 12.9in with 5G. With 2TB of storage, it’s ideal for anyone dealing with lots of 4K video editing. This discount is the biggest we can see at the moment.
12. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (128GB) – Returned Stock
From: BT Shop
Now: £878.88 (£170 off)
BT already has £170 off a refurbished iPhone 13 Pro Max in ‘excellent condition’. It’s a handset that’s been returned, which means it’s practically new (as the handset only released on 24 September!).
To find the deal, scroll down to ‘Buy Used Stock’ on BT’s page. You also get a 6-month warranty.
13. Apple iPhone 13 with new AirPods (3rd gen)
Was: £69 per month, £49 upfront
Now: £34.50 per month for 6 months (includes AirPods 3 + £100 Amazon voucher)
If you’re currently with another network provider and looking to switch, you can get a £100 Amazon voucher from Three with this bundle deal that not only slashes the monthly price in half the first six months, but also includes a pair of the latest AirPods.
14. Apple iPad Air (2020, 64GB)
Now: £529.97 (£49 off)
This is the cheapest we can find the latest iPad Air right now, although both Laptops Direct and eBuyer had it cheaper recently – they simply ran out of stock. Check both in case they’ve got their hands on some more.
15. Apple 14in MacBook Pro, M1 Pro, 8-Core CPU/14-Core GPU, 2021
Now: £1,709.10 (£189.90 off)
The new 14in MacBook Pro with M1 Pro chips has nearly £200 off at KRCS, after the site doubled its usual discount for Black Friday.
You can save even more on the models with more cores.
16. Apple iPhone 12 (64GB)
Now: £657 (£22 off)
A £22 discount on a year-old phone might not sound like much, but bear in mind that Apple already reduced the RRP – this is an additional saving on top of that.
In fact AO, slightly naughtily, is citing the price it charged before Apple dropped the RRP and claiming this as a discount of £106. That’s pushing it, but this is still a good deal on a phone that remains powerful and reliable.
17. Apple MacBook Air, M1, 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 256GB (2020)
Now: £899 (£100 off)
18. Apple Watch Series 6 (40mm)
Now: £289 (£90 off)
Following its official discontinuation in September 2021, retailers have continued to sell the Apple Watch Series 6 at a discount. It cost £379 when new, so this is a sensible rather than ultra-generous saving; but bearing in mind that the Series 7 does not represent a huge step forward, this is a decent option at less than £290.
19. Apple Watch Series 7
From: John Lewis
Now: £349 (£20 off with MYJL200)
The Apple Watch Series 7 offers a larger, brighter display, slimmer bezels and more. Over at John Lewis you can save £20 when you sign up for a free My John Lewis account and spend £200 or more. Just use MYJL200 at checkout.
20. Apple MacBook Pro (2020, M1, 8GB/256GB) – Refurbished “Pristine”
Now: £889.99 (£409 off)
If you prefer, there’s now over £400 off an M1 MacBook Pro with 256GB storage in “Pristine” condition from MusicMagpie when you consider the additional £90 discount at checkout. Students can also save an extra 10%!