Huawei has a history of trying to beat Apple at its own game (it unveiled a “Force Touch” phone days before the iPhone 6s launch), and that’s truer than ever now that the iPhone X is in town. At the end of a presentation for the Honor V10, the company teased a depth-sensing camera system that’s clearly meant to take on Apple’s TrueDepth face detection technology. It too uses a combination of infrared and a projector to create a 3D map of your face, but it can capture 300,000 points in 10 seconds — that’s 10 times as many as the iPhone X captures.
It’s secure enough to be used for payments (unlike the OnePlus 5T), and almost as quick to sign you in as the company’s fingerprint readers at 400 milliseconds. Even the silly applications of the tech promise to be better. The company showed off a not-so-subtle Animoji clone that could tell when you were sticking out your tongue in addition to tracking the usual facial expressions.
There’s one major catch to this system: it’s not actually part of a product yet. Huawei’s Honor team showed the system without mentioning what phones would use it, let alone when they would ship. This was a spec announcement to show that Huawei would eventually have an answer to Apple’s 3D face detection, not something tangible you could buy in the near future.
In an overview of its differential privacy technology, Apple slipped in some super important data regarding the popularity of its emojis. The document included an image ranking the top 10 emojis among US English speakers and taking the number one spot was the “face with tears of joy” emoji. The red heart and “loudly crying face” rounded out the top three.
The image is just a simple chart without any real numbers attached, so there’s no telling just how popular that emoji is over all the rest. Really it was just a demonstration of how Apple uses its differential privacy tools, many of which it described in the overview. In it, Apple said, “There are situations where Apple can improve the user experience by getting insight from what many of our users are doing, for example: What new words are trending and might make the most relevant suggestions? What websites have problems that could affect battery life? Which emoji are chosen most often?” But the company said getting that information while maintaining privacy is a bit tricky but key. To do that, it uses its differential privacy technology, which Apple describes as “a technique that enables Apple to learn about the user community without learning about individuals in the community. Differential privacy transforms the information shared with Apple before it ever leaves the user’s device such that Apple can never reproduce the true data.”
Apple says it uses these tools to improve the usability of features like QuickType and emoji suggestions, lookup hints and Safari energy draining domains, among others. You can check out the full overview here.
With the release of iOS 11.1, Apple added over 70 new emojis, and I’m betting the cursing face one will make a run for one of those top 10 spots pretty quickly just based solely on how often I plan to use it. However, iPhone X users will no longer be limited to the selection of static emojis as the company announced in September that the new phone will include the ability to animate a selection of emojis based on what you say.
Did it seem ridiculous to you that Beijing officials ordered a ban on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus over a dubious design patent claim? You’re not the only one. A court has reversed the ban (which was suspended during a dispute process) and declared that Apple isn’t violating the patents of Shenzhen Baili Marketing Services, which insisted that the iPhone 6 riffed on the look of its 100c smartphone. Regulators issued the ban without real proof of wrongdoing, according to the ruling, and the iPhone has traits that “completely change the effect” of its design versus its (frankly very generic-looking) rival. Customers haven’t had a problem telling the difference between the iPhone and 100c, the court says.
This is water under the bridge for Apple given that it stopped selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus a while back — it wasn’t going to lose much money even if the court upheld the ban. However, the win could serve as a shot across the bow of other Chinese companies that might try a similar move in the future. If they want future claims to stick, they’ll have to show that there’s more than a passing similarity between devices. Otherwise, they may not get much more than a brief burst of publicity.
Less than 24 hours ago, Wikileaks published a large cache of documents detailing top secret CIA operations conducted by its Center for Cyber Intelligence. Included in the 8,761 documents and files, referred to was Vault 7, are references to zero-day exploits that were reportedly being used to track and control iPhones but also Android phones and Samsung smart TVs.
While the authenticity of some of Wikileaks’ claims are still in question, Apple has confirmed that some of the threats towards its mobile operating system are very real. In a move to reassure customers, the company issued a statement noting that it has already taken steps to patch “many” of the 14 iOS vulnerabilities listed and is working to “rapidly address” the rest.
An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch: “Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy and security. The technology built into today’s iPhone represents the best data security available to consumers, and we’re constantly working to keep it that way. Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 percent of users running the latest version of our operating system. While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.”
Apple hasn’t specified which exploits it has patched or when it expects the remainder to be fixed, but the statement does stress the importance of keeping your devices updated. Apple has reiterated time and again that it values the privacy of its customers, so it’s likely that upcoming software updates could be expedited to ensure iPhone and iPad users are protected.
Apple and other giant tech companies have long stashed cash overseas where they’ve paid less taxes on it, but the days of that happening could be numbered. Earlier this week, the EU said that Apple must pay back a whopping $ 14.5 billion (plus interest) because of an illegal tax deal between the company and Ireland. Unsurprisingly, Apple is appealing the ruling, and CEO Tim Cook is pretty angry at the way the company’s actions have been characterized.
“It’s total political crap,” Cook said of the EU’s ruling to the Irish news publication Independent. “No one did anything wrong here.” Specifically, Cook denies that Apple paid incredibly low tax rates in Ireland for years, including less than one percent in 2014. “They just picked a number from I don’t know where,” Cook explained. “In the year that the Commission says we paid that tax figure, we actually paid $ 400 million. We believe that makes us the highest taxpayer in Ireland that year.” Cook also pointed out that Apple pays a worldwide total tax rate of 26.1 percent and that the company paid taxes in Ireland at the “statutory rate” of 12.5 percent.
Beyond Apple’s battle with the EU is the question of whether or not any of this money will flow back into the US — companies like Apple are expected to pay a 35 percent tax rate to the US on overseas profits, but only once they move that money back to America. As noted by The Wall Street Journal, Cook has begun hinting that Apple is getting ready to move some of its vast cash reserves back into the US.
According to the WSJ, Cook told Irish state broadcaster RTE that Apple could repatriate some of its overseas funds in 2017. “We provisioned several billion dollars for the US for payment as soon as we repatriate it, and right now I would forecast that repatriation to occur next year,” Cook said. But he’s also previously said that Apple wouldn’t do this until changes to the US tax code offered a more fair rate, something that apparently Cook expects to happen sooner than later.
Amidst all this financial turmoil, Apple is expected to unveil the next iPhone and Apple Watch next Wednesday. There’s no sense of how long it’ll take for the company to resolve its issues with the EU, but Cook indicated that he hopes to work directly with Ireland to mount the case against having to pay back that money.