Update for iOS and Macs negates text bomb that crashed devices


Last week we reported a major bug in Apple operating systems that would cause them to crash from mere exposure to either of two specific Unicode symbols. Today Apple fixes this major text-handling issue with iOS version 11.2.6 and macOS version 10.13.3, both now available for download.

The issue, discovered by Aloha Browser in the course of normal development, has to do with poor handling of certain non-English characters. We replicated the behavior, basically an immediate hard crash, in a variety of apps on both iOS and macOS. The vulnerability is listed on MITRE under CVE-2018-4124. If you were curious.

Apple was informed of the bug and told TechCrunch last week that a fix was forthcoming — in fact, it was already fixed in a beta. But the production version patches just dropped in the last few minutes (iOS; macOS). Apple calls the magical characters a “maliciously crafted string” that led to “heap corruption.” It seems that macOS versions before 10.13.3 aren’t affected, so if you’re running an older OS, no worries.

The iOS patch also fixes “an issue where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories,” which is welcome but unrelated to the text bomb.

You should be able to download both updates right now, and you should, or you’ll probably get pranked in the near future.

There’s no App Store ’emoji apocalypse,’ just inconsistent policy enforcement


A number of iOS app developers have been mystified by a new wave of app rejections related to their use of Apple’s emojis. They’ve suspected that a new App Store crackdown is underway. However, the company hasn’t changed its policy on Apple emoji usage in apps, nor its enforcement, according to sources familiar with the App Store review team’s processes. The policy does seem to be inconsistently enforced at times, though.

That’s led to previously approved apps receiving rejections, while other apps in breach of policy have been let in.

Specifically, Apple told some developers who used its emoji in their apps that they were in violation of the 5.2.5 “Intellectual Property” guideline.

For example, one rejection notice read:

“Your app and app’s metadata include Apple emoji which creates a misleading association with Apple products.”

The site Emojipedia, which covers the broader emoji ecosystem, recently detailed some of the newer examples of apps facing rejections, including Github client GitHawk, bitcoin wallet tracker Bittracker,matching game Reaction Match, emoji-based game Moji Match, and others.

As Emojipedia had determined, we’ve confirmed that Apple will only allow apps using emojis in specific contexts, like in a text field.

Meanwhile, any other usage should be banned by App Review, including when emoji are used as elements in a game, as replacements for buttons or other parts of the app’s user interface, as sticker packs, in app logos or icons, or in promotional images, also as Emojipedia had suspected, based on the pattern of rejections.

While emojis exist as part of the Unicode standard, Apple’s implementation of that standard is copyrighted. That means the company is within its legal right to control the usage of their own emoji designs, especially in their own App Store.

However, Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge takes issue with the fact that Apple should have such a policy around its emoji at all.

“It seems reasonable to me that Apple would want some level of control over emoji use in the App Store, but banning it outright from anything other user-inputted text feels a step too far in my opinion,” he says.

That said, Apple’s decision to reject apps based on their use of Apple emoji is not a new occurrence. If you go back far enough on Twitter, you’ll findmany examples of developerscomplaining about the same thing over the past couple of years.

Adding to the more recent confusion, as Emojipedia also pointed out in its reporting, was the fact that Apple’s own app development course on coding using Swift offers an example of an app with emojis that seems to breach its policy.

The real issue here is that the App Review team has not consistently enforced the policies around Apple emoji use. In addition, Apple it doesn’t speak up to clear the air when it’s aware developers are confused.

That leads to a situation where developers will just try to sneak their app through, even though it seems to be in violation of the guidelines. (That sometimes works, too.)

But in the end, it wastes developers’ time because they later may get caught by App Review. They then have to go back and overhaul their app to address the problem at a much later stage of development.

Apple declined to comment about the emoji-related rejections.

Featured Image: Frank Behrens/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

Annual smartphone shipments in China declined for the first time in 2017


China’s smartphone market is no longer growing after it witnessed its first annual decline in shipments during 2017, according to new figures released today.

The writing was on the wall with a market decline first noted in Q2 but this is the first time a drop has been sustained over a twelve-month period. That’s according to data from analyst firm Canalys which reported that total smartphone shipments dipped four percent year-on-year to reach 459 million units in 2017. In particular, the numbers in Q4 were down 14 percent on one year previous with 113 million units shipped.

Despite evidence of buyer saturation, Huawei continued its impressive growth spurt with 24 million shipments in the final quarter of 2017, growing its numbers nine percent above the market.

Sister companies Oppo and Vivo have exploded on to the global stage with strong sales in emerging markets in Asia, but, in China, their numbers fell 16 percent and 7 percent, respectively, with 19 million and 17 million shipments, according to Canalys.

Finally, the launch of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 helped Apple pip Xiaomi to fourth place with 13 million shipments in Q4 2017.

Slowing growth at home has prompted Chinese phone brands to look overseas, with many turning to India where they have long beaten out the local competition and nascent markets like Indonesia, which could grow significantly.

Xiaomi, in particular, which beat Samsung to the top spot in India in Q4, has also made moves into Spain, Mexico, Russia and parts of Africa, too.

The U.S. has proven a tougher market to crack. Xiaomi has sold accessories there for some time, but it is yet to make the leap of smartphones despite many public declarations of intent.

Those that have been more aggressive have met tough pushback. AT&T, the second-largest U.S. carrier, canceled plans to carry the Huawei Mate 10 Pro following reports of pressure from the government. There are also rumors that Verizon is facing pressure over its plan to stock the device, which has already seen its launch pushed back from an original summer timeline.

Huawei instead plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro unlocked and it recruited Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot to front its campaign as its “Chief Experience Officer.” But carrier deals remain a key way to reach users without an upfront price that can near the quadruple digits. Huawei has distribution with key retailers like Best Buy and Amazon, but the company ultimately won’t penetrate the market the way it hopes without that extra push.

Featured Image: Russell Monk/Getty Images

Apple’s MacBook Air turns 10


Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs triumphantly held up a manilla interoffice mail envelope to a round of applause at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. It was a silly gimmick, but it got the point across. A year after introducing the Macworld crowd to the iPhone, the company was about to add another cornerstone product to its repertoire.

Ten years and seven generations later, the MacBook Air’s design hasn’t changed all that much — a rarity for an aesthetically obsessed company like Apple. Sure, there have been little tweaks over the years, like the second generation Magsafe connector and a change to the ports, but otherwise, the wedge-shaped, “world’s thinnest notebook” has remained remarkably consistent.

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That first Air hit the market in February 2008, weighing a mere three pounds (Apple would later shave off a few ounces, but the weight would also stay more or less the same), coming in at two pounds less than a MacBook with the same screen size.

A year after effectively killing the smartphone keyboard, the Air maintained a full-size QWERTY. Jobs promised “no compromises,” but some were certainly made in the name of keeping the system thin and light.

Jobs talked down the importance of the optical drive, another in a long like of Apple-spurred obsolescence — in this case, the company was right on target there. Apple’s design team also hid some ports in a flip-down hatch, ultimately doing away with that bit in 2010. Even so, the laptop was a beautiful bit of engineering. Like the iPhone and iPod before it, this was peak Apple. 

In recent years, the laptop has largely stagnated — particularly once the company released the redesigned 13-inch MacBook. Air fans have mostly given up hope that the company will offer a major refresh to the line, as Apple has shifted its laptop strategy.

Even though the product is no longer a main focus for the company, the Air’s had remarkable staying power. The laptop seems destined to fade away, rather than burn out — but even so, in the cut throat world of consumer electronics, a decade’s a pretty good run.

Apple picks up Reese Witherspoon thriller starring Octavia Spencer


Apple is adding another TV project to its upcoming slate: Are You Sleeping, a crime show based on America’s love affair with true crime podcasts (which are, ultimately, all Apple’s fault). The show has a lot of star power attached, as its executive produced by Reese Witherspoon and will star Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer (via THR).

The series is also created by Nichelle Tramble Spellman, a writer and producer for The Good Wife, and one half of the creative team behind HBO’s controversial Confederate series. Spellman will also write the series, and ‘Serial’ producer Sarah Koenig will consult to make sure the true crime podcast elements have that real, true crime feel.

This marks the fourth series Apple is reportedly working on, including the Amazing Stories anthology series revival, the as-yet unnamed morning news TV show drama starring Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and the Ronald D. Moore-created space drama, all of which were picked up directly to series.

Are You Sleeping is based on a novel written by Kathleen Barber, which was published last summer and focuses on what happens to a murder victim’s daughter when a hit podcast sheds new light on her father’s murder.

Featured Image: VALERIE MACON/Getty Images