Archive for April 22, 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

iPhone SE 2020 Reviews

Rene Ritchie:

The iPhone SE’s main camera is a hybrid, a chimera. It has the same sensor and lens system as the iPhone 8 but uses the image signal processor, the ISP, of the A13.


It’s especially fascinating to see the new iPhone SE out-shoot the iPhone XR, which has a slightly bigger sensor. That’s all part of the transition from big glass and big sensor to big compute.

In almost every case, the results between the last two generations of iPhones is so close that I’d have to pixel peep to see differences in most situations, which is not something normal humans do.

Lauren Goode:

A smaller phone body also means a smaller battery. This iPhone SE has essentially the same size battery as the iPhone 8; thanks to a much more efficient processor, the SE’s battery should perform better than the iPhone 8’s. And yet, relative to larger iPhones—the “Pro” or “Max” models, the iPhone XR, my iPhone 11—the iPhone SE’s battery life is middling.

Dieter Bohn:

I also get that this design looks tired in 2020. There are many comparably priced Android phones that have managed to reduce their bezels. That’s not just an aesthetic consideration, either. Smaller bezels mean you can fit a bigger screen in a smaller phone body.


The first is, for a $399 phone, the cameras are absolutely great, and any complaints or gripes should be promptly dismissed given that price. The second is that they’re quite good but have some baffling shortcomings that Apple could have overcome, even at this price point.


I’m not sure why the A13 Bionic allows the iPhone SE to gain all of those other benefits but not better night shots. I’m not going to say that night mode is a solved problem by any stretch, but Google has been doing it on cut-rate hardware for a couple of years now, so it’s certainly possible. And Apple’s camera would, in theory, be up to it, given the processor is the same as its more expensive phones.

Matthew Panzarino:

The biggest practical benefit of the pipeline, though, is the improved Smart HDR feature, which I covered in my iPhone 11 review. This really improves detail across massive tonal ranges from bright highlights to shadow detail. While it does not magically make the iPhone SE the same class of image-making device that the iPhone 11 is, it goes a long way to making your average snapshot look the best it can.

See also: MacRumors.


Update (2020-04-23): John Gruber (tweet):

The black front face is simply a better look, to my eyes. And it doesn’t hurt that when the display is off, the black front disguises the now-dated forehead and chin above and below the screen.


Like its iPhone 11 brethren models, the iPhone SE’s back panel markings have been reduced to the essential minimum: just the Apple logo, perfectly centered.


It has just one rear-facing camera lens and sensor, and that sensor (but not the lens) is apparently the same as that in the iPhone XR.


It’s clear to me, but well beyond the scope of this review to examine in detail, that the iPhone SE’s rear-facing camera is capable of much more accurate depth maps than the iPhone XR’s. Since they’re both single-imaging systems and the same (or very similar) sensors, the SE’s superior depth mapping can only be attributed to the A13’s much more powerful neural engine.


I strongly advise buying an iPhone SE while the getting is good. I would wager, heavily, that this is the last iPhone Apple will ever make with a home button and the old-style user interface.

Update (2020-05-06): Juli Clover:

We did a full hands-on video back on Friday, but we took the weekend to see how the iPhone SE’s camera measures up to the iPhone 8 and iPhone 11 Pro.

Based on an iFixit teardown that looked at the base camera hardware, the iPhone SE is using the same camera sensor as the iPhone 8, a 12-megapixel lens that features an f/1.8 aperture and a 28mm focal length, narrower than the 26mm focal length of the 12-megapixel wide-angle in Apple’s flagships.

Update (2020-05-14): John Moltz:

Let’s be clear right off the bat: the 2020 iPhone SE is not a real iPhone SE. And rather than keep referring to it as the iPhone SE Second Generation throughout this review, I’m going to just call it what it is: the iPhone 9. In fact, that’s what I’ve named mine.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what Apple calls it and I know that “SE” is an acronym that stands for “sell [it] e-gain”, but the reason I bought the original iPhone SE after owning an iPhone 6 and then an iPhone 6S was not because it was cheap, although that was nice. It was because it was small. Wonderfully, perfectly small.

Update (2020-07-06) Paul Carroll (via Hacker News):

Achieving an overall DXOMARK Camera score of 101, the Apple iPhone SE (2020) places near the center of our smartphone image quality database. While the budget-friendly Apple device offers comparable quality in many respects to the more expensive iPhone 11, its single camera setup falls short for zoom and bokeh shots compared to our top performers. The lack of an ultra-wide camera is also a disadvantage and is the main difference between it and the iPhone 11.


The iPhone SE (2020) achieves a good score for exposure and contrast, which is one of the device’s main strengths. Target exposures are accurate in most lighting conditions and performance is consistent. In our lab analysis we found contrast to be generally excellent, with bright target exposures in simulated indoor and outdoor lighting. It’s not as good in low light as the best performers, however, with some obvious underexposure in very low light.

iOS Mail Vulnerabilities in MFMutableData

Thomas Reed:

On Monday, ZecOps released a report about a couple concerning vulnerabilities with the Mail app in iOS. These vulnerabilities would allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the Mail app or the maild process that assists the Mail app behind the scenes. Most concerning, though, is the fact that even the most current version of iOS, 13.4.1, is vulnerable.

The way the attack works is that the threat actor sends an email message designed to cause a buffer overflow in Mail (or maild).


As for precautions to avoid infection, there are a couple things you can do. One would be to install the iOS 13.4.5 beta, which contains a fix for the bug.

ZecOps (Hacker News):

ZecOps found that the implementation of MFMutableData in the MIME library lacks error checking for system call ftruncate() which leads to the Out-Of-Bounds write. We also found a way to trigger the OOB-Write without waiting for the failure of the system call ftruncate. In addition, we found a heap-overflow that can be triggered remotely.

We are aware of remote triggers of both vulnerabilities in the wild.

Both the OOB Write bug, and the Heap-Overflow bug, occurred due to the same problem: not handling the return value of the system calls correctly.


Update (2020-04-23): Thom Holwerda:

This can be easily mitigated - just uninstall the Apple mail client and set another mail client as the default mail handler.

Oh wait.


Update (2020-04-24): Ben Lovejoy:

Bloomberg reports that Apple not only says it can find no evidence to support this claim, but that the vulnerabilities are not sufficient to allow the reported attacks to succeed.

ZecOps had said “with high confidence” that the vulnerabilities were “widely exploited in the wild” and stands by that.

Update (2020-05-28): TheHackersNews:

Apple is rolling out #iOS 13.5 & iPadOS 13.5 with patches for recently disclosed MailDemon flaws (under active attack), which, if exploited, could let attackers hijack devices just by sending emails.

NativeConnect in the Mac App Store

Vadim Shpakovski (9to5Mac):

We are excited to announce that NativeConnect has passed the review in the Mac App Store. As a result, we’re opening one more distribution channel for indie developers. So if you prefer the Mac App Store, as of today, our app is available for downloading!


NativeConnect uses proprietary APIs for accessing some features of the App Store Connect, and we’re happy that Apple is supportive and wants to extend the Developer Tools category with our lightweight client for their service.

The App Store version is a one-time purchase, whereas the direct sale version is a subscription.


Facecharm Rejected From the App Store

Filipe Espósito (tweet):

His idea was to allow users to send anonymous messages, not directly to each other, but through a third person who would intermediate the conversation. Basically, like when you send a message to someone through another person, but now in a digital way.

The app was submitted to the App Store review process on January 9, 2020, and the first rejection came a week later. Apple has argued apps that allow anonymous messages and calls are not appropriate for the App Store. Martin thought the idea of the app might not have been clear to the testers it since the app works based on mutual friends, so the messages are not entirely anonymous.

Even so, he was intrigued by Apple’s first response, as there are other apps on the App Store that allow users to send anonymous messages. The developer made some interface changes, and he then sent the app back to Apple, but it was rejected again.

Martin Otyeka:

You can forward an iMessage but the recipient is not informed that you didn’t author the message, and the original author is not identified.

You can forward messages on WhatsApp but they explicitly tell the receiver that it was “Forwarded” implying that you are not the original author.


A representative from the App Review Board called once again to explain the rationale behind my last rejection. I told them that Facecharm complies with all the requirements of Guideline 1.2 and asked if they can point to a specific guideline that I was breaking. I did not receive a direct response, only told that the App Review guidelines can’t possibly list all the reasons why an app can be rejected. They reasoned that the concept behind the app was “new”, the behavior “inappropriate” and that I should instead make the app like “every other messaging app where users communicate without a 3rd party”. In other words, don’t innovate–just conform to existing paradigms.

Damien Petrilli:

Step 1. Tell the developers to do an app like everybody else

Step 2. Reject it again because it’s “too similar with other Apps” and thus “doesn’t add any value”