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ISSUE 20.38.F • 2023-09-18 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates
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Susan Bradley

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In this issue

APPLE NEWS: Apple 2030

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Wi-Fi 7? Why not!

LEGAL BRIEF: Second city — the AI view from Washington

PATCH WATCH: Zeroing in on zero days


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Apple 2030

Will Fastie

By Will Fastie

Mother Nature deems Apple’s ambitious clean-energy goals worthy, albeit surprising.

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, in her starring role as Mother Nature in Apple’s fall event, stole the show. Apple goes Hollywood all the time in these events, but this was different.

In a nicely done surprise skit, Mother Nature has come to Apple to audit its progress on meeting its green goals, specifically carbon neutrality. This alone was funny because all companies seem to have stated goals, but it’s hard to know whether any are being achieved. Mother Nature was skeptical to the point of assuming Apple was just blowing smoke, so to speak.

Octavia Spencer as Mother Nature
Octavia Spencer as Mother Nature. Her assistant (left) carries an iPhone.Source: Apple, Inc.

Although the Academy will probably overlook Tim Cook’s powerful supporting role, he did a nice job — cowering to Mother’s pointed disbelief and then standing up to her as she questioned Apple’s commitments. As Mother Nature departed to terrify some lesser enterprises, she allowed the sun to shine down upon Apple Park.

The skit was a humorous take on a key theme of this event, Apple 2030. This is Apple’s plan to become completely carbon neutral by 2030. Like Mother Nature, I’m skeptical of such efforts, usually considering them pandering. But although I think Apple is hedging a bit, it has made progress. It says the new Watch Series 9 is now carbon neutral when ordered with appropriate straps, even if this is achieved somewhat artificially by using carbon offsets for the final 10%. To be fair, that last little bit is transportation, which Apple hardly controls.

I was impressed.

My key takeaway — and Apple’s, too

In its single most important announcement, Apple has replaced its Lightning connector on the new iPhone 15 models with USB-C. It was expected and desired, but that’s been the case before — and Apple has not budged. Now it has.

iPhone 15 USB 3 connector
Source: Apple, Inc.

My advice to owners of iPhones or any other Apple devices with the Lightning jack is to act now if you need accessories. Some reports say that Apple is pulling such accessories off the shelf quickly, to be replaced by their USB 3 equivalent. Although I’m not sure that this will happen instantly, I do think it inevitable. One pundit opined that this was just a way for Apple to sell another dongle — a Lightning-to-USB 3 adapter — so older accessories would work with the new iPhones. How callous.

Lightning is dead. Not from Mother Nature — just from Apple.

Saving people

The event opened with a series of vignettes featuring people who had been saved by Apple technology. Some of the stories recalled how the Apple Watch’s health monitoring had raised an alert about medical problems that allowed the owner to seek immediate help, in some cases saving the person’s life in the process. Other anecdotes concerned Emergency SOS, which allowed dramatic rescues.

Apple presented these stories as if they were ordinary, occurring routinely. That makes the vignettes even more dramatic. We all hold our own lives precious, so these stories convey a powerful message about the special value of Apple’s ecosystem.

My wife asks me to take my cell phone with me everywhere. I do that anyway, but she wants me to have a way to get in touch with her if something happens. Imagine if I were carrying an iPhone and wearing an Apple Watch — I wouldn’t even need to be conscious.

Watch Series 9

I’m far from an expert regarding wrist devices, so it’s hard to draw conclusions about the new features in Series 9. I can say only that Apple’s marketing is starting to wear me down. As for the news, here’s my quick take.

Carbon neutrality — As mentioned above, a buyer can choose a case-and-strap combination that Apple claims is completely carbon neutral. That’s part of Apple 2030, so the company touted it loudly.

S9 chip — The new system in a package (SiP) packs 60 percent more transistors than the S8 as well as a new four-core neural engine.

Double tap — The neural engine is twice as fast as previous watch series, which enabled Apple to invent a new gesture. Tapping forefinger and thumb on the hand wearing the watch taps the default button on the current screen. It means that many operations can be performed with just one hand.

For more details, see the Series 9 page at Apple.

The double-tap gesture may not seem like much. But if the watch can detect that, then perhaps future, more powerful versions of the watch can detect more complicated gestures, such as ASL. That would be quite the accessibility boon.

iPhone 15

Again, I’m not an iPhone expert. Visit the Apple site for details about the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro. Here are a few highlights that caught my attention.

USB-C — As noted above, the big thing about this announcement.

iPhone 14 Pro models — Discontinued, or at least no longer mentioned at the Apple site. The iPhone 14/Plus models remain in the lineup.

A16 Bionic chip — This was the processor in the iPhone 14 Pro models. It now powers the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. That accounts for Apple’s dropping the 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max models from its site.

A17 Pro Bionic chip — This powers the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max models. As usual, it represents improvements, however modest, in overall performance. However, the A17 includes a new USB 3.0 controller, which is significant. The USB-C port on the 15 and 15 Plus models runs at USB 2.0 speeds. That will probably be enough for most, but the 3.0 speeds enable new capabilities.

A17 USB 3.0 controller
Source: Apple Inc.

iPhone 15 Pro vs. Pro Max — Look closely at the specs for these models. Although there is but one iPhone 15 Pro page at Apple’s site, the Max offers significant features beyond simply a larger physical size. Most notable is the camera, with its new quad-prism lens that allows 5x optical zoom.

Range — Apple’s iPhone lineup now consists of the iPhone SE, iPhone 13, iPhone 14, iPhone 15, and iPhone 15 Pro. The base prices are, respectively, US$480, $600, $700, $800, and $1,000 — with 128GB of storage in each case. (Okay, those prices are actually one dollar less than I’ve shown, but it’s just too easy to think that $999 means $900 and change. I’m fed up with paying $3.699 for gas, too.)

Special mention — The combination of USB 3.0 speeds and the quad-prism, 5x zoom lens on the iPhone 15 Pro Max allows pro-level shooting, especially the ability to capture video directly from the phone to a computer or (perhaps more important) an external storage device.

External storage attached to an iPhone 15 Pro Max
A caged iPhone 15 Pro Max with extrnal accessoriesSource: Apple Inc.

When I cover Apple news, I’m usually focused on the silicon advancements in the Mac and iPad families. I think the A17 chip falls into that category.

For the average iPhone user, I’d call this evolution more or less ordinary. That means there’s enough bling to attract existing customers to an upgrade, but not necessarily enough to make them drool. However, the iPhone 15 Pro models have more than superficial upgrades, especially the Pro Max.

Who needs Blackmagic or Red?

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Will Fastie is editor in chief of the AskWoody Plus Newsletter.


Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Brian Livingston

Wi-Fi 7? Why not!

By Brian Livingston

International standards bodies are just months away from finalizing a wireless networking improvement that’s being called Wi-Fi 7. When devices start supporting and using the new protocol, Wi-Fi 7 promises theoretical speeds far beyond what’s currently possible with Wi-Fi 6 (which was officially approved back in 2014).

But don’t go out and buy all new stuff just yet. Theory is one thing, and reality is another. You may never see noticeably faster speeds from any Wi-Fi 7 devices you may own in the future. What are the reasons for this? I’m glad you asked.


Max Stul Oppenheimver

Second city — the AI view from Washington

By Max Stul Oppenheimer, Esq.

Multiple players are deciding their opening moves in reacting to the sudden entry of this technology into the public consciousness.

Not surprisingly, their approaches differ because their interests differ.

In my previous installment (2023-08-28), we saw how Microsoft is grappling with how to protect its interests — offensive and defensive — in a highly volatile and unpredictable future. In the short time since that article published, it appears that Microsoft may already be fine-tuning its approach.


Susan Bradley

Zeroing in on zero days

By Susan Bradley

September’s updates are out, with several zero days and several interesting vulnerabilities.

The good news is that for consumers and home users, many of these are unique to a business network and won’t be seen in a home network.

What will be seen this month is that the update installation and reboot process will take longer. I’m not sure what is triggering the slowness, but note that this month’s updates also include .NET updates. Patience.

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