Archive for May 7, 2021

Friday, May 7, 2021

Epic v. Apple, Day 4

Adi Robertson (tweet):

Epic spent the fourth day of trial offering its counter-narrative: the iOS App Store isn’t actually very good. Calling two Apple executives to the stand, Epic’s attorneys took jabs at everything from the update review process to Apple allegedly leaking Marshmello’s Fortnite concert playlist. They pushed Apple to justify its claims about privacy and security by producing hard research demonstrating threats and breaches — which Apple largely didn’t do.


The attorneys spent much of their time trying to catch Apple executives in contradictions, and while they quoted disgruntled developers like the ones above, they rarely delved into the substance of their complaints. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers became audibly irritated with Epic repeatedly producing documents to establish a “state of mind” about the App Store rather than hard facts, since the files would be uploaded for public viewing.


There’s one plausible reason Epic doesn’t have more specific stories: many developers are reportedly scared to criticize Apple. That’s been a running theme in congressional scrutiny of Apple, and Epic has vividly established the consequences of getting banished from the App Store[…]

Nick Statt (tweet):

Matt Fischer, the current App Store vice president who reports directly to longtime executive Phil Schiller, took the stand in Oakland as an Epic witness to answer questions about the App Store business model, as well as its role in the broader iOS operating system.


Fischer provided the company’s first robust rationalization for many of the App Store’s more controversial policies. He called the store "incredibly unique" in the benefits it provides to consumers and developers and steadfastly defended it against claims that Apple overlooks fraud. That, in turn, justifies the commission Apple collects and the restrictions it imposes.


The key takeaway from day four is that the future of this trial could very well hinge on how Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers perceives the true purpose of the App Store. Is it a level playing field designed to protect user privacy and security and take only its fair share? Or is it an increasingly byzantine pillar of Apple’s walled garden, one preoccupied with chasing profit and marred by inconsistently applied and ever-changing rules?


The App Store chief also shed light on how Apple came to the conclusion it would not charge certain app makers a 30% fee if they produced a physical good or service, compared to a digital one like Epic and other game developers.

Nick Statt:

[Fischer] argues Apple didn’t want to take 30% of, say, an Uber ride or Amazon purchase because Apple couldn’t guarantee / had no insight into whether the product or service was delivered as ordered.

I don’t see how it really does for digital content, either.

Adi Robertson:

Epic is now calling Trystan Kosmynka, senior director of marketing at Apple.


“Do you recall an app called Tribe?"

Describing app being “hidden” for being a store within a store, but it’s been live since 2015. So it was on the store for about 3 years before the ERB ruling.


Raising the example of Roblox, which Epic lawyer refers to as a game with a collection of games in it. “I don’t see it that way,” says Kosmynka.


Just to be clear, the argument here is that experiences inside Roblox (which IIRC there are actual game studios devoted to building) are not games, because otherwise Roblox could be arguably similar to the Epic Games Store in being a store inside the App Store.

Sami Fathi:

In the latest batch of emails, the vice president of the App Store, Matt Fischer, claims that Apple features apps made by its competitors “all the time” on the store and rejects the sentiment that it seeks to degrade the exposure of those apps.

According to internal Apple correspondence submitted as evidence by Epic, an Apple employee wrote an email regarding a collection of apps on the App Store that were a part of the VoiceOver collection. In the email, which was forwarded to Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of global accessibility policy, the employee claims that Fisher feels “extremely strong” about not featuring competing apps on the platform.

John Gruber:

Peter Kafka was kind enough to invite me on his podcast this week to talk — a little! — about the Epic-Apple lawsuit that started in court this week. I think I articulated pretty well my takes on what Apple should be allowed to do with the App Store and iOS, and what Apple should do with the App Store and iOS.

See also: Leah Nylen.


Does Apple News Track You?

Lockdown Privacy:

If Apple actually cared about privacy, they’d stop tracking users without consent in their own apps.


Screenshots of the Apple News third party tracking behavior, blocked by Lockdown Privacy on iOS 14.5, plus description of the Comscore company from Wikipedia (they’re one of the largest marketing/tracking companies on Earth).


Both iPhone analytics and Ask To Track are disabled, so tracking is supposed to be completely disabled. But apparently not for Apple. 🤔


Ads that are delivered by Apple’s advertising platform may appear on the App Store, Apple News, and Stocks. Apple’s advertising platform does not track you, meaning that it does not link user or device data collected from our apps with user or device data collected from third parties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes, and does not share user or device data with data brokers.


We may use information such as the following to assign you to segments:


• Apple News and Stocks: The topics and categories of the stories you read and the publications you follow, subscribe to, or enable notifications from.

• Advertising: Your interactions with ads delivered by Apple’s advertising platform.

When selecting which ad to display from multiple ads for which you are eligible, we may use some of the above-mentioned information, as well as your App Store browsing activity, to determine which ad is likely to be most relevant to you.

I find Apple’s definition of tracking very confusing. Apple News and Google’s apps both use an opaque advertising identifier, separate from your user or device ID, and I guess this is somehow why they are able to say that they don’t track you. But it doesn’t seem like that should be enough. As Lockdown shows, Apple seems to be sharing the data with a third-party data broker. And, unless Google is segregating its data, it is falling afoul of the clause about linking app data with data collected from third-party apps or Web sites.

For Facebook, even if it uses the IDFA, Apple considers that tracking. Facebook knows who you are in the Facebook app because you’re logged in. But if an ad leads you to purchase an app, you probably won’t log into Facebook from within that app. So how can they know it’s you? Well, if that app can report the same IDFA to Facebook, that proves that you purchased the app.

Apple gets around this without “tracking” because it controls the App Store app, which is the only way to purchase apps. The ad and the purchase both happen in the same app, and they’ve defined tracking such that that doesn’t count. It’s not tracking if you own everything.

Timothy Buck:

Facebook selling an ad to a small developer and being able to prove it lead to an in-app purchase is “tracking” to Apple & requires opting in.

But Apple doing the same thing is described as “targeted ads” and does not require opting in.

Tim Hardwick (Hacker News):

According to the latest data from analytics firm Flurry, just 4% of iPhone users in the U.S. have actively chosen to opt into app tracking after updating their device to iOS 14.5. The data is based on a sampling of 2.5 million daily mobile active users.

There’s not much reason to turn it on given that Apple forbids apps from offering the user a benefit for doing so.


Based on Apple’s job postings I’m beginning to suspect their stance on ads and tracking was nothing more than a clever ruse to weaken competitors while they build their own a personalized ad business for iOS.


Update (2021-05-10): James O’Leary:

occasionally I challenge people about it, people wave it away with ‘differential privacy’, including a lead at Apple I talked to. they could not explain how it would work here

Update (2021-05-24): Damien Petrilli:

Never gave Apple any permission to farm my contacts in order to suggest Game Center friends. Still they do, and you can’t disable it.

Yet they claim to follow the same rules as third party devs...

Oluseyi Sonaiya:

I think the complaints about ATT aren’t just about app installs, because, as I understand it, it hinders FB’s ability to collect data about iOS users, period. It hurts the personalization that drives as performance across all of FB’s units.

See also: Nicolas Rieul.

Update (2021-06-05): Benjamin Mayo:

It’s been niggling at me for months that App Tracking Transparency is defined in such a way that Apple’s own data collection activity is unaffected.


I’d refer to this as Apple’s ad tracking. Apple officially calls this “Personalised Ads”, because it wants to define tracking as a third-party concept. The behaviour of Personalised Ads is not conveyed through any kind of user-facing dialog or permissions prompt, unlike Apple Tracking Transparency. In fact, Apple enables ads personalisation by default. The setting to turn it off is buried in Settings, tucked away at the bottom of the Privacy screen (conveniently positioned below the fold).


I think what irks me the most about this situation is that an Apple ID is a prerequisite to owning an iPhone and you can’t download any application from the App Store without one. Apple’s delineations of first-party and third-party allows the App Store to share any information it pleases with the News app, without telling the user at all. It feels wrong that News silently target ads to me based on the apps I download, the music I listen to and the television shows I watch.

Hello Weather

John Gruber:

Longtime readers know I have a thing for good iPhone weather apps. I find weather apps to be an evergreen playground for design ideas — and that’s more true than ever now with iOS 14 widgets. One of my very favorites in recent years is Hello Weather. It’s attractive, original, and highly useful.

I’ve been looking for something to eventually replace Weather Line, and Hello Weather looks like a good find. It has nice, clean design that nevertheless presents lots of information. The main drawback that I’ve seen so far is that the hourly forecast doesn’t go very far into the next day.

Private iPad Camera Multitasking Entitlement

Jeremy Provost:

A few months back I was surprised to see that Zoom had somehow been able to tap into using the camera during iPad Split View multitasking. This is an obvious feature for a videoconferencing app so that you can keep one eye on your meeting while you consult notes, look at a presentation, or slack off on Twitter.

I scoured the web and found no reference to how to enable this feature for our own iOS Zoom client, Participant for Zoom. We asked Zoom and to our surprise they gave us the answer, and in the process revealed an apparently private process, available only to those deemed worthy by Apple.


Unfortunately, unlike with CarPlay there is no public process for requesting this entitlement. In fact, its existence is not even documented by Apple publicly.


You can’t say “we treat every developer the same” while privately giving special capabilities to certain developers.


Update (2021-05-10): See also: Hacker News, 9to5Mac, MacRumors.

Update (2021-08-18): Jeremy Provost:

Did we hear back from Apple? Yes, we were told that our request was forwarded to the appropriate team. Unfortunately we never heard from that team. I have periodically checked in with Apple and been told that the request is still under review.


Meanwhile, there had been a new development that slipped right under my nose.


Beginning with iOS 13.5, you can use the Multitasking Camera Access entitlement to let your app continue using the camera when using the Multitasking feature. This scenario occurs in both Split View and Slide Over modes. In iOS 15 and later, this behavior extends to Picture in Picture mode using AVKit’s new API.


You must request access to use the entitlement. For information about requesting access, see

Update (2023-02-16): Jeremy Provost:

To provide an update: we were approved to use the relevant entitlement for development in mid-October 2021.


We replied to Apple’s email, as requested, with details of the implementation and the request to grant us the distribution entitlement.

The bad news is we have heard exactly zero words from them in the 5 weeks that have followed.


Reimagining Apple’s Documentation

Paul Hudson:

For a number of years my #1 WWDC wish was that Apple would do something to dramatically rethink its approach to developer documentation.


The top 500 most popular APIs (measured by page views) should have example code attached, ideally several examples with headers clearly marking what problem is being solved.


Any place where header files have documentation comments and their matching online documentation is “No overview available” should have the header docs copied straight online.

No APIs mentioned in the WWDC Platforms State of the Union talk should be allowed to ship with “No Overview Available” as their documentation – either can the feature or prioritize documentation.

Link directly to relevant WWDC videos from API pages, ideally to precise timestamps. Even better, make sure everything mentioned in those videos gets included in the text documentation too.


Update (2021-05-10): Ken Harris:

You forgot:

• Stop moving webpages around all the time without adding HTTP redirects.

• The Human Interface Guidelines shouldn’t link to a guide on that tells us to use a feature of Xcode that was removed 5 years ago.