Thursday, May 31, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iOS 11.4 and Messages in iCloud

TidBITS:

Almost a year after they were first announced, Apple has finally shipped AirPlay 2 and Messages in iCloud[…]

[…]

Frankly, we think it’s shameful that Apple is effectively charging for message sync features that have been free on every other Internet messaging client in history. But, unlike most messaging clients, iMessage is end-to-end encrypted, and that’s still true even if you use Messages in iCloud.

However, I don’t think it’s documented yet whether turning syncing on gives Apple the keys.

Ashraf Eassa:

Messages in iCloud is a brilliant way to convince people to buy more iCloud storage. Those chat logs can get absolutely huge.

Juli Clover:

First and foremost, the update addresses the “Black Dot” unicode bug that could crash apps on iOS devices with a specific character sequence involving certain emojis. Following the release of iOS 11.4, this particular sequence of characters will no longer cause apps like Messages to crash.

Apple says the update also successfully fixes an issue that caused iMessages to appear out of order on some devices, a frustrating bug that’s been around for quite some time and has been the subject of many complaints.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Now that iMessage in iCloud is here, it’s become essential to remap my ‘Delete Conversation’ menu item in macOS as it’s way too easy to accidentally ⌘-delete and watch an important or sentimental thread be wiped from all your devices. Hopefully won’t accidentally trigger now…

Russell Ivanovic:

When a device supports Airplay 2 you get a little checkbox next to it in the route picker. Fun fact you can play to both Apple TV and HomePod at the same time now.

Previously: iOS 11.3, “Black Dot” Unicode Bug, Messages on iCloud in iOS 11.3 Beta.

Update (2018-06-01): Steve Troughton-Smith:

Clearly this feature was totally ready to roll out and not in any way influenced by it being 51 weeks since its announcement. They are so confident in it it has no onboarding experience, a hidden enable toggle, and it’s disabled by default

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Oh neat, iMessage in iCloud has a size breakdown of each of your message threads. My average thread with any frequent contact is ~2GB, and my Messages are 32GB in total. That’s 32GB less storage space I now need on iOS devices, assuming cache eviction works as intended

Benjamin Mayo:

The byte sizes for Messages in iCloud is very wonky. My ‘Conversations’ total says Zero KB, but then I tap through and each thread is some number of MBs. Yet, the iCloud Storage screen says Messages is using several gigabytes.

Benjamin Mayo:

I will say this. For as wrong as the storage stats screens are, the actual Messages syncing has worked flawlessly for me. AirPlay 2 is similarly robust, and I’ve really been trying to trick that one.

Ryan Jones:

Just sad. Pathetic really.

Nick Heer:

Same here. Bizarre.

John Gruber:

Beat this:

Damien Petrilli:

Some wonders why Apple didn’t activated iMessage in the cloud by default.

I think the reason is simple: Apple got the numbers of ppl lacking storage on iCloud and its prob not small.

Would be a pretty bad PR if users stopped receiving messages because of that.

Josh Centers:

I warned that Messages in iCloud counts against your storage quota, but @bdougherty pointed out that it can actually save you space if you use iCloud backup. My testing confirmed and I’ve updated the article to reflect that.

Apple:

Messages in iCloud also uses end-to-end encryption. If you have iCloud Backup turned on, a copy of the key protecting your Messages is included in your backup. This ensures you can recover your Messages if you’ve lost access to iCloud Keychain and your trusted devices. When you turn off iCloud Backup, a new key is generated on your device to protect future messages and it is not stored by Apple.

In other words, turning on Messages in the iCloud makes iMessage less secure. Apple can read your messages unless you are not using iCloud Backup. [Update: I think Nat is right that there is not really a difference in security because iCloud Backup already made the messages available to Apple.]

Update (2018-06-03): Michael Yacavone:

There is no doubt that for me iMessage on iOS 11.4 is far worse than on 11.3. Example: Reading my iPad, phone beeps, respond there, two minutes later still not showing on iPad. Never happened on 11.3.

Update (2018-06-12): Noel Cornell:

It’s sadly as amazing as it disappointing how badly “Messages in Cloud” works after all this wait. Possibly one of my most wanted features for years. Now it’s here and it still just doesn’t work very well. Avatars sliding around the left side bar for minutes at a time.

Update (2018-07-11): Juli Clover:

The macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 update is minor in scale, focusing on bug fixes and security improvements. No major feature changes were discovered during the beta testing process, but Apple’s release notes say it adds AirPlay 2 multi-room support for iTunes with the accompanying iTunes 12.8 update.

11 Comments

« Messages in iCloud is a brilliant way to convince people to buy more iCloud storage. »

Can’t be more wrong. Instaed if needing space for Messages on each device backup, you need it only once. This greatly reduce storage needs.

Wonder when the Sonos play one will get its airplay2 update? The funny thing is, the longer we wait, the more apps they add and the less I actually need airplay. Alexa support still lags behind Echo on Sonos, but still so much better than Siri...

@Anonymous Do you have a link to a document stating that messages are no longer included in backups if you have syncing enabled?

> In other words, turning on Messages in the iCloud makes iMessage less secure. Apple can read your messages unless you are not using iCloud Backup.

My understanding was that iCloud Backup was already a path by which Apple could access decrypted iMessage traffic. Backup is the weak link, not Messages in the Cloud.

@Nat Of course, thanks. I’ll be interested to see more about how Messages in iCloud works. Presumably it can function with both iCloud Backup and iCloud Keychain turned off, so long as you have a trusted device, and without that device necessarily having a complete copy of the messages itself…

Does Messages in iCloud fix group messages appearing in different threads on different devices?

I thought the whole premise with iMessage is that Apple can NEVER decrypt and read your messages stored on their server -- whether it's through iOS Backup or Message Sync. Is that not true?

@Ben Apple has heavily implied that, but they’ve always been able to read the messages if Backup is enabled.

Wow, thanks for clarifying. It sure is disingenuous for them to clearly and repeatedly state how they can't access our info because they use encryption, but yet they actually CAN decrypt our messages? Holy crap. So yeah that's nice that the encryption prevents MITM snooping... but Apple does insinuate that the encryption is device specific (Secure Enclave and all that, right?)... and not available to Apple. I'm pretty sure I have heard Tim Cook say things like "we couldn't provide our customers' information to the FBI even if we wanted to. We don't have the encryption keys".

@Ben Yeah, iMessage itself really is very secure, with device-specific keys like Cook says. But that no longer holds once you turn on cloud backups, which is the only sensible thing for most people to do. And there’s no way to exclude backups for iMessage but still back up photos or other app data.

I wonder how hard it would be for Apple to make an option to encrypt the backups with a user-supplied password, before sending it to the cloud? (like iTunes can do for local backups). I'm guessing a randomized 20-character password used as a sort of encryption key would be almost impossible to crack.

Would that work?

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