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The iOS 14.5 Update

The iOS 14.5 Update
By Newsletter • Issue #11 • View online
This Morning Edition is being sent to all subscribers since it covers the latest version of iOS 14.5, which was released on Monday.
Apple’s latest update for the software on your iPhone, iOS 14.5, might be the most important one it has ever released – at least from the perspective of the company’s focus on privacy. At the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last year, Apple talked about two specific changes that were coming, and both have the potential to completely change the way we interact with software on our devices. 

© Shutterstock
© Shutterstock
There were two major changes to iOS 14 that Apple talked about last year during its WWDC. The first was the “privacy nutrition labels” that every developer is required to include with their apps in the App Store. Those went live as developers updated their apps earlier this year. The other is the one getting all the attention right now.
App Tracking Transparency
By far the biggest thing coming to iOS 14.5 is Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature. This requires developers to request permission before they can track users, something many, if not most, of the apps people use every day do already. This is the change that Facebook has spent a lot of effort complaining about publicly, and it’s the change that will likely have the largest effect on advertisers. 
In an interview with Kara Swisher on her podcast, Sway, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that ATT is coming in “just a few weeks now.” Probably more important than when it arrives, is what it’s meant to do.
“What it tries to get at is companies that are taking advantage of tracking you across apps of other companies, and therefore putting together an entire profile of what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, surveilling you across the web 24/7,” Cook said about the feature. 
Apple hasn’t been shy about its feelings towards apps that track users, but the biggest problem it’s trying to solve is that most users have no idea it’s happening at all. As for how it affects you, Cook explained the feature this way:
“They’ll see a simple pop-up that basically prompts them to answer the question of, are they OK with being tracked or not? If they are, things move on. If they’re not, then the tracking is turned off for that individual with respect to that specific app.”
iPhone Unlock with Apple Watch
Less notable, but no less useful, this is probably the best feature coming to 14.5, especially if you have an Apple Watch and use an iPhone with FaceID. Obviously, FaceID isn’t very useful when you’re out and wearing a mask. 
Now, however, if the iPhone detects that you are wearing a mask, it will look to see if you are wearing an Apple Watch that has been unlocked by your iPhone. If it detects one in close proximity, it will unlock your iPhone.
When it does, you get a notification on your watch, with the option to lock your device in the event someone else has picked it up and you would rather they not have access to your personal information. Honestly, this feature may be developed for the pandemic, but it’s a game-changer. I’ve been using it for a few months, and it works reliably almost all the time.
Privacy Nutrition Labels
Though they are not technically new, it’s also worth paying attention to the privacy nutrition labels Apple now requires all developers to have for their apps in the App Store. The idea is that the developer has to tell you what information they collect and how they use it before they ask you for permission to track you. 
In that sense, it’s important to see the labels and the ATT pop-up as two pieces of the same move to give you more control over how your personal information is used. It wouldn’t make much sense to require developers to ask you for permission before they track you if they didn’t have to tell you what they track and who they share it with.
I encourage you to look through the labels for the apps you use regularly. There’s a good chance you might be surprised. In fact, just like the labels on the food we eat–which many people ignore–they don’t do you any good if you don’t read them and make informed decisions based on the data they track. 
Sideloading on the iPhone
As the trial starts between Apple and Epic Games next week, one of the points raised is that, unlike Google, the iPhone maker does not allow users to self-install apps downloaded directly from the internet. Known as side loading, Android allows developers to make their apps available directly to users, without going through the Google Play Store.
In theory, that gives users far more control over the software they put on their devices. In practice, however, barely one-half of one percent of users actually do this.
The fact that almost no one uses sideloading on Android is actually an interesting case for why Apple should allow it. Ironically, it’s also why it’s kind of a dumb argument. Suggesting Apple should do something that almost no one actually cares about is a strange case to try and make, but I do think it’s an important case to make. Here it goes.
First, the reason Apple doesn’t allow sideloading. Apple says it’s to protect users. Apple “curates” the App Store to be sure that the apps that users download add value to the platform, and for the sake of protecting users from malicious apps.
When asked by Kara Swisher why Apple doesn’t allow other app stores on the iPhone, Tim Cook’s response was that “if you had side loading, you would break the privacy and security model.”
Of course, requiring developers to only offer their apps through the iOS App Store serves another purpose–requiring that apps use Apple’s in-app-payment system (IAP). That’s how Apple is able to collect its 30% cut of transactions and subscription fees.
It’s also likely the reason there are plenty of apps in the App Store that any objective observer would categorize as a scam. I wrote recently for Business Insider about a few of the things Apple could do to crack down on scams, if it really wanted to make the App Store the curated utopia it claims it to be.
Still, I think the argument that Apple should allow sideloading is a pretty dumb argument for a completely different reason–almost no one actually does it. It’s strange to advocate for something that almost no one seems to care about as a solution for the control Apple exerts over the App Store.
Then again, I still think Apple should open up the iPhone in a way that allows users to add apps–even if those apps might end up causing a problem. I understand all the arguments about why it won’t, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.
It would get the benefit of saying that it has opened up its platform while knowing that only a very small number of users will actually take advantage of it. Any potential downside, especially to Apple’s ability to collect a cut of IAP, would be limited to less than 1% of users. Unless Apple knows those users also happen to be its biggest spenders, it feels like this move is all upside.
A few related stories you might like:
With 4 Words, Apple Just Exposed the Biggest Problem with Facebook |
Opinion | Apple’s C.E.O. Is Making Very Different Choices From Mark Zuckerberg - The New York Times
Apple downplays complaints about App Store scams in antitrust hearing – TechCrunch
The App Store has a fake-app problem. Here's how Apple should crack down on one of its most lucrative businesses.
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