Today, Apple has posted a set of updates that are designed to patch recently reported vulnerabilities found in Intel and ARM CPU processors. These are very important security updates. You should install them as soon as you can.
The vulnerability, which impacts all modern Intel and ARM CPUs, can be found in just about every PC, smartphone, and tablet on sale. Microsoft Windows, Linux distributions, and hardware vendors all need to update patches to prevent the “Meltdown” and “Spectre” vulnerabilities from being exploited and granting cyber-attackers access to highly sensitive data that is held in a computer’s protected memory space.
Confused about all of this processor vulnerabilities and patching? It’s totally understandable. If you really want to understand what’s going on, check out Rene Ritchie’s excellent Meltdown and Spectre FAQ at iMore.com.
To correct the problem this time, and your milage may vary here, I cleared the checkmark for the Use full resolution for Retina display option. I left the single window and full screen VM settings as they were.
The Apple //e was the undisputed sales winner when compared with the other two Apple computers released that same year, the Apple Lisa and the Apple ///.
I have found memories of the Apple //e. It was the second computer that I owned, my first was a vTech Laser 128 – an Apple // clone, and my first computer from Apple. I had the same setup as the one pictured above. I loved that thing and used it form many years until the system board finally failed. The thing that I really enjoyed about the Apple //e was that it embodied that hacker sense instilled in the product by Steve “Woz” Wozniak. The //e was super easy to open (the top case just popped off), giving the user easy access to the many expansion bays and add-on cards. This computer fueled my interests in operating systems and hardware which would play a major role in my decision to enter the Information Technology field many years later.
I still have my old Apple //e 5.25-inch floppy disks, including the disk with my favorite Apple //e program, Apple Presents Apple. It was the first Apple //-series program I used. As the name implies, Apple Presents Apple, was the program Apple included with the //e that taught people how to use their new computer. My favorite game was the apple bin game, which taught you how to use the open and closed Apple keys (which would later become the Command key) as keyboard shortcut modifiers.
My Dad and I have been lucky enough to have picked up new iPhone X smartphones on launch day this year. Since then, I have been using my iPhone X for two months now. I bought the Space Grey 256GB iPhone X. What follows is my review of the iPhone X based on my day-to-day usage.
iPhone X Hardware
The iPhone X hardware, as you would expect from Apple, is exquisit. I am a fan of the glass and metal design language. 2017 brings yet another variation on Apple’s idea of “Space Grey”, but I like this year’s color used on the back glass. The front of the iPhone X is completely black. iPhone X feels heavier in the hand than my year old iPhone 7. Its a kind of heavy that brings with it the air of being a premium product. In practical use, I don’t notice the weight difference between iPhone X and my iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Apple had done a good job blending the radio antenna lines into the top and bottom portions of the stainless steel band. If you are not looking for them, there is a good chance that you won’t see them. This is a vast improvement over the iPhone 6.
Like the iPhones 7 and 7 Plus before it, and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also released this year, there is no headphone jack. People upgrading from the iPhone 6-series may find this a bit jarring as my Dad did the first time he went to use his old pair of EarPods. Fortunately, Apple still provides a Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter and new Lightning EarPods in the box. AirPod users, like my self, won’t miss the headphone jack, but I realize that AirPod owners are still in the minority.
iPhone X is the first iPhone to ship without a Home button of any kind. It is the first thing that people notice about it when I show it to them. So much so, that the lack of a Home button is mentioned before mentioning the new Super Retina display that reaches all the way to the bottom of the device. The transition from pressing the TouchID Home button to swiping up on the Home Indicator bar. In the time I’ve had iPhone X, I’ve only instinctively “pressed” the Home button about six times from muscle memory. In all of those few instances, I was focused on the task I was trying to accomplish and not thinking about iPhone X. When I tried to press the Home button, it immediately felt wrong.
The front of the iPhone X is dominated by the 5.8-inch Super Retina display. According to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for iPhone X the nerdy details about the display are that it is a 2436 x 1125 pixel screen which is about 20% taller than the 4.7-inch display found on iPhone 6/7/8. In practical use, I don’t notice any loss of space coming from an iPhone 7 Plus. Actually, I prefer the width of the non-Plus iPhones because I feel that it gives the user a firmer grasp on the device without having to sacrifice display area. In my opinion, I feel less likely to drop the iPhone while trying to use it one-handed.
As you begin to use iPhone X, it becomes clear that the long-term vision of the iPhone is to be all display on the front of the device. But today, we have the “Notch”. The notch is the non-technical term for the sensor array that is at the top center of the iPhone X. Apple has packs an incredible amount of technology into a relatively small space, including the new flood illuminator, dot projector, and the new front facing FaceTime camera – all of which are necessary for FaceID. Again, in practical day-to-day use, I don’t notice the notch any more. For me, it just melts away as I focus on the content that is on the screen.
iPhone X, like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, includes hardware that supports the Qi inductive charging technology. This has been a technology I have been waiting to come to the iPhone ever since I switched from my 2009 Palm Pre to the 2011 iPhone 4S. It has been a long wait. With a compatible Qi charger, I’m using the Mophie Wireless Charging Base which Apple has been promoting and selling in their retail stores. The Mophie charger does support the faster 7.5w charging that comes with iOS 11.2, but it is expensive. Equally good and less expensive Qi chargers are available at Amazon. In my experience, I have had zero problems with aligning my iPhone on the charge base, charging with a case on, or having the iPhone become misaligned due to notification vibrations. I feel this is because the Mophie base has a soft touch, rubberized finish that helps keep the iPhone in place. While the 7.5w fast charging feature is faster than using the 5w wall plug provided by Apple in the box, it is not nearly as fast as using a USB-C Lighting cable and 29w Apple power brick. I’m all for 29w USB-C cable charging my personal 10.5-inch iPad Pro and first generation 12.9-inch work issued iPad Pro. But, in my case, placing my iPhone X on the Mophie pad, which is on my nightstand, when I go to bed gives me a full charge by the time I wake up in the morning. While I am on the subject of charging, I should mention that in my daily usage of the iPhone X, which is to say I’m not on my iPhone all day long, I can get just about two full days out of a single charge. Most days, when I go to bed, my iPhone X battery is down to the 42-47% range. Your milage will vary, undoubtedly, based on your usage patterns.
The iPhone X’s dual camera system is the first time that the dual camera design has been implemented on a 4.7-inch device. This year’s camera upgrade is a nice bump over previous years, however, I don’t understand the the technical details about cameras and photo theory, so I don’t have an informed opinion here. I will say that for taking every day photos, the iPhone X is great, and if you are a casual shutter bug, you are likely going to enjoy using this camera. If you know what you are doing, you will be able to get some great photos out of this hardware.
iPhone X and iOS 11
If you are familiar with past iPhone or iPad devices, you will be familiar with iOS 11 on iPhone X. As mentioned earlier, the lack of any kind of Home button has forced Apple to change some gestures around. Raise to Wake and swiping up on the Home Indicator is now an important gesture combination for unlocking your iPhone with FaceID enabled. FaceID, which I will talk more about later, seamlessly integrates with Apple’s biometrics features of iOS 11. Apps that support TouchID will automatically work with FaceID and Apple Pay.
On the iPhone X, the iOS 11 Control Center sheet has moved from the bottom of the screen to the top right “ear” of the iPhone’s display. I’m not a big fan of this, as the use of two hands is required to safely activate Control Center. If it really bothers you, the Reachability option can be enabled by going to Settings > General > Accessibility. I haven’t turned Reachability back on, but I have seriously considered it in the past.
The multitasking gesture is another important gesture on iPhone X. Apple describes the gesture as swiping half-way up the screen from the Home Indicator and the holding for a short pause to engage the multitasking view. I found this to be a bit clumsy. Alternatively, I have found that if I make a right-hook style gesture, starting at the Home Indicator and swiping up and to the right in a right turn street sign arrow motion, I can more reliably activate multitasking.
Apps that have been updated for iOS 11 and the iPhone X specifically, look great on the Super Retina display. I like the stock iOS keyboard UI on iPhone X.
As you can see in the screen shots, above, the iOS 11 keyboard on iPhone X (left) is raised up from the extreme bottom of the iPhone as compared with the iOS 11 keyboard on iPhone 7 (right). I feel that this upward shift gives the user a better grip on the iPhone while still providing access to the emoji keyboard and Siri dictation buttons.
When an app hasn’t yet been updated for the iPhone X screen, below, iOS 11 fills in the screen with black bands at the top and bottom of the screen in such a way as to not interfere with the Home Indicator and status information displayed on either side of the notch.
FaceID, in my opinion, is a transformative technology. In today’s world of heightened personal information security and constant electronic surveillance, strong pass-phrases are more important than ever. When strong security measures are implemented, usability can suffer. FaceID, I feel, is a good balance between strong security and ease of use. I like to think that I have good pass-phrase hygiene. With FaceID enabled on my iPhone X, I don’t think about passwords anymore. I just pick up my iPhone X, swipe up, and boom, my iPhone is unlocked. I didn’t have to think about entering a PIN or pass code. The FaceID technology in iPhone X quickly scanned my face, did lots of complicated math, and compared the result to the value stored in the Secure Enclave. It’s like magic.
FaceID, as mentioned before, just works with the iOS biometrics security platform of iOS 11. Any app that was written to take advantage of TouchID will work out of the box with FaceID. iOS fans always expect apps like Agile Bits 1Password to just work. However, when financial and shopping apps that have TouchID support automatically work with FaceID, that’s something special that delights customers. This level of integration is hard to come by on other mobile operating systems. Initially, I found the double-click the Power button mechanic of Apple Pay, FaceID, and iPhone X positioning relative to the NFC terminal to be a little bit more difficult to use than Apple Pay with TouchID, I have gotten use to the new way of doing things. The Power button double-click seemed a little odd, until I realized that the same steps are required to use Apple Pay on Apple Watch. I’m left handed, so when I use Apple Pay with FaceID , I have become accustomed to holding iPhone X in my right hand, using my right thumb to double-click the Power button to activate the FaceID authentication scan. In practicality, using FaceID to authorize Apple Pay payments is much easier than many tech bloggers thought it would be based on the accidental beta iOS 11 HomePod firmware leak that happened this past summer.
Rough Road for Early Adopters
There were a few things that were a little bumpy on launch day. My iPhone X arrived with an early version of iOS 11, either iOS 11.0.1 or 11.0.2. My iPhone 7 Plus already had the general release of iOS 11.1. Just before setting up my iPhone X, I backed up my iPhone 7 Plus to iCloud. When I tried to restore my iCloud backup to my iPhone X, I received an operating system mismatch error. In the excitement of the day, it took me almost an hour to understand what the error message was telling me. The fix was to setup iPhone X as a new device, upgrade to iOS 11.1, and then hard reset the X and then restore my iPhone 7 Plus iCloud backup. This really put a damper on the excitement of unboxing my iPhone X and getting to play with it.
I also had some trouble getting my Apple Watch (Series 0) to properly restore and sync up with iPhone X. I ended up unpairing and repairing my Watch twice before it finally worked correctly. I wasn’t able to determine exactly what was going wrong, and based on searching the Internet, some people had this problem too, but not everyone. Just more cold water on an otherwise exciting day.
As a tech nerd in the IT field, I could appreciate the massive technical undertaking it is to rollout a new version of iOS and three new iPhones during the same quarter. My technical side says these were minor issues. The Apple fan side of me found these problems to super frustrating one the one day of the year when I am overly excited about getting a new Apple product. Fortunately, problems like this don’t happen too often on iPhone launch day which is my equivalent to a developer’s and the tech media’s Apple WWDC week.
If you are a gadget lover, and if you are reading this blog, you probably are, I really think you are going to like the iPhone X. It has exceptional build quality, an amazing display, an incredible camera system, and the transformative FaceID system. Some changes to iOS 11 were necessary to accomodate the jettison of the Home button. After a few days to a week, the replacement gestures will start to feel natural. Early adopters who received their iPhone X on launch day, like my Dad and I, ran into some trouble getting things setup, but anyone buying an iPhone X now should be in the clear.
All of the tech news in the run up to iPhone X’s announcement this past September focused almost exclusively on the $999 starting price. While the iPhone X is expensive, if it is out of your price range, iPhone 8 and iPhone 7-series devices are great choices for people upgrading from older iPhones or coming into the Apple ecosystem from other smartphone platforms.
Today, Apple published a letter to customers to clear the air about older iPhones and battery performance. Starting with iOS 10.2.1, released about a year go, Apple quietly began “optimizing” iPhone performance on iPhone 6-series, 6S-series, and the iPhone SE to keep these iPhones running longer and avoid unexpected device shutdowns without warning. The problem is that Apple didn’t really tell anyone that this was going on, leading some people to point to this behavior as proof positive that Apple was underhandedly trying to encourage iPhone upgrades.
First and foremost, we have never – and would never – do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
I completely believe Apple when they talk about creating products that customers will love. Slowing down the iPhone CPU to prolong the service life of an iPhone was not meant to be a malicious or user-hostile action against their customers. I firmly believe that the exact opposite is true. Apple made this change so customers could keep using their iPhones for multiple years without having to upgrade them.
While Apple still hasn’t specifically stated when this CPU slowdown to prolong daily usage starts, older iPhones that have chemically degraded batteries and are running under peak loads will be slowed down when iOS 10.2.1 or later is installed. Recently, with the release of iOS 11.2, Apple added iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus to the list of devices that can be slowed down when a degraded battery is detected.
The letter to customers, posted on Apple.com is an apology to customers for the sloppy handling of how this feature, which is meant to prolong iPhone service life — not shortening it, was communicated to customers. Which is to say, for the average customer, not at all. As a long time fan and Apple enthusiast, I’m saddened to see Apple having to publish a letter like this. I strongly denied the rumors and conspiracy theories that Apple was intentionally slowing down iPhones as a means to drive revenue generation. Since Apple’s admission that they are in fact slowing down iPhones is like a punch to the gut.
So, where do we, as iPhone users, go from here? In my opinion, Apple is trying to make things right for all of their customers. Frist, Apple is apologizing for the lack of communication on this subject. Second, Apple will release an iOS 11 update early in 2018, my guess is in iOS 11.2.5 currently in the beta stage, that will give users some level of visibility into their battery’s health so they can determine whether or not they will experience a CPU slowdown due to a chemically degraded battery. And, thirdly, Apple is reducing the cost of out of warrantee battery replacements to $29 from $79.
It is important to keep in mind that this is not an “Apple problem”. All Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries have this problem. To help Apple customers better understand the implications of the changes implemented in iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2, Apple has published a new knowlege base support article iPhone Battery and Performance.
I really wish Apple had been upfront about this particular feature with the release of iOS 10.2.1. It would have saved them from getting the proverbial black eye that they are dealing with now. Apple, unlike most Android smartphone vendors, truely care about the prolonging the useful life of an iPhone. They do this by providing frequent feature updates, security patches, and, yes, even trying to optimize performance on older hardware.
Overall, I am glad Apple is taking these steps to repair and improve their standing with there customers in light of these recent revelations.
On December 12, Apple released a pair of AirPort firmware updates to close the WPA2 key reinstallation attack vulnerability. The vulnerability was first publicly announced in October, after alerting vendors of the vulnerability much earlier in the year.
The AirPort firmware updates can be applied using the iOS AirPort Utility, available for free from the Apple iOS App Store. If you have an Apple AirPort running in your home or office, you need to update it right away to close this serious vulnerability.
About this time last year, I wrote about my doubling-down on Apple AirPort hardware in the face of media reports (aka: rumors) that Apple had abandoned the AirPort product line. I still hold that there are much better Wi-Fi solutions available today, even for die hard Apple fans like us. The Wirecutter (https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-wi-fi-mesh-networking-kits/) has a very good review of mesh network Wi-Fi devices from vendors such as Eero and Netgear. You really should be running them over Apple’s AirPort at this point. Still, despite Apple reportedly walking away from AirPort, as a customer, I am glad that Apple tool on the task of releasing a pair of security updates for the aging devices. It seems only fair to customers, since Apple is still selling the AirPort hardware online and in retail stores.
What About My Other Apple Gear?
Apple updated iOS 11, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS back in October. If you are running iOS 11.1, watchOS 4.1, tvOS 11.1, or the latest versions of macOS High Sierra 10.13, Sierra 10.12, or El Capitan 10.11 you have already installed the WAP2 patch. Use the Software Update feature of these operating systems to verify that you are up-to-date or install the latest software releases if need be.
If you are still running macOS/OS X Mavericks 10.10, you should consider upgrading to High Sierra to gain the WPA2 patch. Mavericks and earlier versions of macOS will not be patched.
What About Everything Else?
The WPA2 key reinstallation vulnerability is not a flaw or vulnerability that is specific to Apple hardware and software. It is a flaw in the WAP2 system itself. Thankfully, the flaw can be fixed with software. What that means, though, is that to improve your chances of being protected against attacks using the WAP2 vulnerability, you must patch all of your Wi-Fi equipment, including routers/modems, smart devices (i.e.: light bulbs, switches, and cameras), TVs, Blu-ray player, and gaming consoles, for example.