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ExtraBITS for 2 October 2017

In ExtraBITS this week, Twitter has seemingly dropped its Apple Watch app, the FCC wants Apple to enable radio chips that don’t exist, Apple explains Face ID security details, Twitter is experimenting with doubling its character limit, Siri goes back to using Google searches, and it turns out that you can pair a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3 with an Android phone, though doing so is a bad idea.

Twitter’s Apple Watch App Disappears -- With a recent update to Twitter’s iOS app, the company seems to have eliminated its associated Apple Watch app. In a statement, Twitter said that it is “focusing on supporting more robust, media-rich notifications” and is “committed to providing the very best Twitter experience on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Apple Watch.” The company never acknowledged removing the Apple Watch app or suggested that it might return. Twitter is the latest major tech company to abandon its Apple Watch app, following Amazon, eBay, and Google. Perhaps the lesson here is that users see many Apple Watch apps as largely gratuitous. Just because you can build it doesn’t mean you should.

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Hey FCC, iPhones No Longer Have FM Chips -- Ajit Pai, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, has called on Apple to activate hidden FM chips in iPhones to aid in hurricane relief efforts. The only problem, as Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, is that newer iPhones don’t have such chips. FM chips did exist incidentally in older iPhones, but they weren’t wired up in such a way to work at all. Pai may be well-intentioned (or else he’s trying to distract attention from how the FCC has responded to the recent hurricanes), but his crusade against Apple is ultimately a quixotic quest he could have avoided with a little research.

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Apple Documents Face ID Security Details -- Apple has released a white paper explaining some of the finer details of Face ID, the facial recognition system coming with the iPhone X. Much like Touch ID, Face ID stores only a partial version of your biometric data on the device, so even if an attacker extracted the data, they couldn’t reconstruct your face. Also, Face ID occasionally adds photos from successful logins to its model so it can continue to recognize you as your face changes over time. Unfortunately, Face ID may not be adequate to foil evil twins (we’re not kidding!).

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Twitter Doubling Character Limit to 280 -- Say it isn’t so! Twitter has announced that it is doubling the character limit for tweets from 140 to 280, nominally to allow those who write in languages like English, French, and Spanish to express as much information as those who write in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Twitter is rolling the feature out slowly, and so far the accounts with the new 280-character limit are being as obnoxious as possible about it. But what else would you expect?

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Siri Goes Back to Google -- Siri originally used Google for search results, but starting with iOS 7, Apple switched to Microsoft’s Bing search engine in an attempt to reduce its dependence on Google. However, Bing’s results have never been as good as Google’s, leading many people to avoid searching with Siri. We were chuffed to see that, soon after the release of iOS 11, Apple quietly switched Siri and the Mac’s Spotlight back to Google for searches other than image searches, which still use Bing. So far, it seems like an improvement.

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Nutty Hack of the Week: Pair an Apple Watch Series 3 with Android -- In the Stupid Apple Tricks department, iMore’s Serenity Caldwell has discovered that it is possible to pair a cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3 with an Android phone, although she admits that it’s a terrible idea. The process involves tricking the Apple Watch by inserting the SIM from an Android phone into an iPhone, pairing the Apple Watch, and then moving the SIM back to the Android phone. It works, but your Apple Watch will lose many features and have awful battery life. In other words: don’t try this at home.

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