Archive for September 20, 2021

Monday, September 20, 2021

iOS 15 and iPadOS 15

Apple (iOS release notes, iPadOS release notes, Hacker News):

iOS 15 is packed with new features that help you connect with others, be more present and in the moment, explore the world, and use powerful intelligence to do more with iPhone than ever before.

Federico Viticci (extras):

Surprisingly, iOS 15 doesn’t introduce any notable improvements to what made its predecessor wildly popular last year. In fact, as I’ll explore in this review, iOS 15 doesn’t have that single, all-encompassing feature that commands everyone’s attention such as widgets in iOS 14 or dark mode in iOS 13.

As we’ll see later in the story, new functionalities such as Focus and Live Text in the Camera are the additions that will likely push people to update their iPhones this year. And even then, I don’t think either of them sports the same intrinsic appeal as widgets, custom Home Screens, or the App Library in iOS 14.


But after three months of running iPadOS 15 on my M1 iPad Pro, I can’t help but feel like power users will still be left wishing for more. Yes, iPadOS 15 brings extensive keyboard integration for multitasking with a plethora of new keyboard shortcuts and yes, the new multitasking menu and improvements to the app switcher benefit everyone, including power users, but iPadOS 15 is a foundational update that focuses on fixing the basics rather than letting the iPad soar to new heights.

Dan Moren:

So it is with iOS 15, a release that appears with at least one of its most touted features, SharePlay, delayed until later this year, and another impressive piece of functionality—Universal Control—demoed but never even present in the betas. What’s left is a hodgepodge of interesting ideas and occasionally misguided attempts to prescribe how people should use their mobile devices. It’s an update that’s got a lot to recommend it, but that’s simultaneously tough to recommend, if only because it’s difficult to point to a single big feature that will make a huge difference in the life of the average user.


The reason that Time Sensitive notifications are significant is twofold. Firstly, they’re a class of notification that you can allow to break through your Focus, even if you haven’t specifically allowed notifications from that app. Secondly, they work with the second new major notification feature, Scheduled Summary.

Jason Snell:

In iPadOS 14, holding down the Command key would display a simple list of app-specific features and key equivalents. In iPadOS 15, Apple has expanded this feature to make it more like the iPad equivalent of the Mac menu bar. Not only does it list keyboard shortcuts, but it can list every command in the app (with suspiciously familiar labels like File and Edit). You can click or tap any of them to execute them. iPad apps that build out the Mac menu bar for their Catalyst version can pick this feature up for free. It’s another way that the Mac and iPad are increasingly complementing one another.

Then there’s the Globe key. Initially intended for supporting multiple languages, in iPadOS 15, the Globe key has become something much bigger: it’s a symbol for global keyboard shortcuts. (The Globe key appears on most modern Apple keyboards. If your keyboard doesn’t have a Globe key, don’t worry—you can use the Hardware Keyboard settings area to map a less-used modifier key such as Caps Lock to the Globe key.)

Hold down the Globe key in any app in iPadOS 15, and instead of seeing app-specific commands, you’ll see a list of functions that are available everywhere on the iPad.

Juli Clover:

A new Focus mode cuts down on distractions by limiting what’s accessible and who can contact you, and notifications can now be grouped up in daily summaries. There’s an option for a new Safari design that moves the tab bar to the bottom of the interface, and Tab Groups keep all of your tabs organized.

Joe Rossignol:

Apple recently updated its iOS 15 features page to indicate that Find My network support for AirPods Pro and AirPods Max has been delayed until “later this fall,” implying that the feature will not be available with the initial release of iOS 15.

Joe Rossignol:

According to the iOS 15 features page on Apple’s website, the following features require an iPhone with an A12 Bionic chip or newer, which means the features listed below aren’t available on the iPhone X or any older models.

It does still run on devices all the way back to the iPhone 6s, though.


Update (2021-10-20): Chaim Gartenberg:

It’s the most incremental and iterative iOS release in years, a grab bag of new features that, while nice to have, don’t really move the needle or change your iPhone experience much.

Juli Clover:

iOS 15 is absolutely packed with new features, and it can be overwhelming sorting through everything that’s new. If you’re wondering whether it’s worth upgrading and what new features might be worth getting access to right away, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best new additions in the iOS 15 update that you might not be aware of.

Ryan Burnett (via John Gruber):

What’s new in iOS 15. Includes before and after comparisons documenting the design evolution from iOS 14 to iOS 15. Settings, Photos, Safari, Calendar, Maps, and FaceTime are covered in 52 screenshots.

Peter Steinberger:

Heads up if you call isLowPowerModeEnabled anywhere - this now easily deadlocks on iOS 15.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

There’s been a change between iOS 14 and iOS 15 that now evicts apps from Now Playing on the lockscreen if they’ve been stopped for more than five seconds, which then lets the Music app forcibly claim the play/resume button. Anybody run into this? Is there a new API I’m missing?

Sami Fathi:

Adding to the list of issues facing iOS 15 and iPhone 13 users, a new, seemingly widespread bug is causing CarPlay to suddenly crash whenever a user attempts to play music, such as through Apple Music or third-party providers like Spotify.

Hide My Email

Tim Hardwick:

At its WWDC keynote on Monday, Apple announced that iCloud is getting a premium subscription tier called “iCloud+,” which includes tentpole privacy features like Private Relay and Hide My Email. Another feature included in iCloud+ that wasn’t discussed in the keynote is the ability to create a custom email domain name.

I think it’s better to use another e-mail provider, but at least with a custom domain you can more easily change in the future.


Expanding on the capabilities of Sign in with Apple, Hide My Email lets users share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private. Built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, Hide My Email also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.

It appears that you can set it forward to a non-iCloud address. So you can improve your privacy by hiding your real e-mail address from sites, but you also reduce it by routing your mail through Apple, and add a dependency on iCloud.

Tim Hardwick:

The following steps show you how to create a new dummy email address with Hide My Email, for use in Safari and Mail.


iCloud Private Relay

Michael Grothaus (via John Wilander, Alex Guyot):

The obvious comparison people will make is that iCloud Private Relay is Apple’s version of a VPN (something I have called for in the past for the company to offer). But from an engineering perspective, Private Relay’s privacy protections make VPNs look weak.


iCloud Private Relay uses a dual-hop architecture. When you navigate to a website through Safari, iCloud Private Relay takes your IP address, which it needs to connect you to the website you want to go to, and the URL of that site. But it encrypts the URL so not even Apple can see what website you are visiting. Your IP and encrypted destination URL then travels to an intermediary relay station run by a third-party trusted partner.

See also: WWDC, Nick Heer, Hacker News, Accidental Tech Podcast, MacRumors, TidBITS.

John Gruber:

It’s a little weird that Apple doesn’t want to talk about who these “trusted partners” are, because if we don’t know who they are, how are we supposed to trust them?

Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave:

Apple’s decision to withhold the feature in China is the latest in a string of compromises the company has made on privacy in a country that accounts for nearly 15% of its revenue.

Tim Hardwick:

According to Apple, “regulatory reasons” prevent the company from launching Private Relay in China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and the Philippines.

Apple mentioned these country limitations in June, but it seems that Private Relay will not be available in Russia either, after Apple apparently disabled the feature there over the last day or so.

Spencer Dailey:

Hats off to Apple’s architects. At first glance, the principle behind this “dual hop” seems inspired by Tor, a browser that “directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay network” with an encryption scheme that promises to “conceal a user’s location and usage” from prying eyes. The main issue with Tor has always been that it’s slow. Apple claims Private Relay works “without compromising performance”. There are reasons to be very skeptical of that claim by Apple (more on that later), but nevertheless, Private Relay will certainly be far faster than using Tor.


Private Relay will ruffle the feathers of ISPs and local network administrators.

This is a power move reminiscent of 1) when Apple launched the iPhone and decoupled phone software from the carrier, and 2) when Apple launched iTunes and CD-selling music labels had to come on board.

The industry will push back, leading to friction for consumers.

Many local area networks, such as WiFi on college campuses, will end up prohibiting Private Relay traffic. This will lead to inconvenienced users, who will be presented with dialogs to disable Private Relay for that network. I’m sure ISPs of all sizes will be tempted to also put in place hard blocks.

Florian Forster (via Hacker News):

If a user enables this feature, your RIBA [Risk Based Authentication] seriously will have a bad time. This is because, as you can see below, the user’s IP Address will be more or less useless as a signal. As of writing this blog I was in Switzerland and the IP used to egress my traffic was in a region located in the US. If this also tends to change a lot and fast you can basically throw away IP addresses as data of your RIBA.

Saagar Jha:

As expected, using Private Relay may get you flagged on certain sites, such as Wikipedia. Haven’t hit a captcha yet but I’m not looking forwards to it…

Frank A. Krueger:

Funny side-effect of iOS’s new private browsing: websites keep signing me out and reporting irregular login attempts. I have to remind myself that I sometimes live in Sweden now.

John Voorhees:

Private Relay currently has a significant impact on Safari’s performance. Here’s my Internet speed outside Safari using the Speedtest Mac app.

David Sparks:

My connection was noticeably slow and laggy. After a bit of troubleshooting, I discovered Private Relay is the culprit.

Dave Wood:

Why does iCloud Private Relay randomly turn itself back on? I didn’t reboot or anything here. And, the option to disable it again is missing. (Usually appears again if you go back a menu and forward again).


I have a VPN app that uses a tunnel to route traffic, and I’m finding that port 80 traffic cannot be routed when Private Relay is enabled. Oddly, it’s just port 80 traffic. HTTP traffic over 8080 or other ports still work fine.

Specifically, connecting the socket using the connect() function for a port 80 address always returns the same error "No route to host".

Jason Snell:

Essentially, Apple has decided to launch iCloud Private Relay as a beta when iOS 15 ships in the fall, and the feature will be turned off (for now) by default. Paying iCloud users will be able to turn it on and try it out.

John Gruber:

Here’s my concern about iCloud Private Relay compatibility, though: if web publishers want to make sure their sites are compatible with iCloud Private Relay, they can make it work. They might just need more time. But everyone knows there are sites that aren’t interested in your privacy. That’s the whole reason Apple even made this feature. For a lot of websites, if the answer to an iCloud Private Relay compatibility issue is “Disable iCloud Private Relay”, that’s fine by them. For a lot of privacy-invasive web publishers, their goal, I suspect, is to break iCloud Private Relay, not fix their shit-ass websites to work with it.


DuckDuckGo Email Protection

Sami Fathi (Hacker News):

DuckDuckGo today announced its brand new Email Protection feature that will allow users to save themselves from being tracked by trackers embedded into emails by forwarding them to a free and personalized DuckDuckGo email before being sent to their actual email.


One of the largest cornerstones of DuckDuckGo’s offering, compared to Apple’s Hide My Email, is its cross-platform compatibility.


DuckDuckGo is pledging that it never saves a user’s email and that even when emails are sent to its servers to be cleansed from trackers, that information remains private.


Mail Privacy Protection


In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.

Ben Lovejoy (MacRumors):

One of the new privacy features included in iCloud+ is what Apple calls Mail Privacy Protection. While that’s designed to protect Apple Mail users from overly intrusive marketeers, some are worried that it could badly hurt small publishers of email newsletters.

That’s because it will deny them access to a key metric used to sell the advertising that makes many such newsletters viable…

Casey Newton (Hacker News):

And so it’s no surprise that some observers look at Mail Privacy Protection and see a threat. “This is another sign that Apple’s war against targeted advertising isn’t just about screwing Facebook,” Joshua Benton wrote in Nieman Lab. “They’re also coming for your Substack.”


But after conversations with newsletter writers and media executives today, I’m not sure that people doing email-based journalism have all that much to worry about from the shift.

Nick Heer:

Email open rates are notoriously unreliable. Some sources will say that open rates are underreported; others will say that they are way too high. That is because open rates are determined by the number of times that a tracking pixel in an email is downloaded. If users have images turned off, it will not be triggered; if a user’s email client automatically goes to the next message when an email is deleted, it may register as the email being opened again and again.

Eric Blair:

It sounds like like MPP proxies will pre-download images regardless of whether you open the email. The effective open rate will look like 100% for Mail users. Since the download is out of band from the viewing, the access time is also meaningless.

Andrew Grant:


Also Apple.


Record App Activity

Jason Cross:

Apple is always expanding privacy features, and with iOS 15 you have a powerful new tool to find out which apps are accessing your phone’s features and data.


This will record a 7-day summary of exactly when and how often all your apps access things like your microphone or microphone, or which web domains they visit. Just come back to this screen a week later for a full report.

You can even tap Save App Activity to export a JSON file of all the data if you’re into that kind of thing.

Nick Heer:

I’ve just saved four days’ worth of app activity. It’s a 27 MB JSON file. An analysis of this would be wild, I am sure.

John Spurlock:

Want a better way view the json files saved from “Report App Activity” in iOS15 beta privacy settings?

I just published a simple web app that runs locally to slice and dice them.


Update (2021-10-20): Marco Arment:

I analyzed a week’s worth of my phone’s app activity, and it’s pretty surprising how many apps — big and small — send analytics data to Google.

Marco Arment:

Record App Activity isn’t intended to be a user-facing feature.

It’s part of App Privacy Report, which is coming later.

Record App Activity is more of a preview/preparation tool for developers.

Record App Activity is there mostly for devs to make sure we’re setting .attribution on our NSURLRequests to .user when that’s semantically correct. (See docs.)

For instance, I don’t set it when talking to Overcast’s servers, but I do when downloading user-selected podcasts.

Rejected for Mentioning iOS 15 Compatibility

James Thomson:

And, that’s the iOS 15 build of Dice by PCalc rejected for… mentioning iOS 15.

It feels like we’ve been down this road before.

It’s a longstanding unwritten rule, though in this case Apple had already posted the iOS 15 release candidate build and notified developers to submit their updates for iOS 15. So not being able to mention the OS version just adds confusion for users.

Marco Arment:

My Overcast build with the iOS 15 GM SDK, released after the very public event this week, was rejected for mentioning “iOS 15 compatibility” in the release notes.

Such a waste of everyone’s time, Apple. Come on.

Michael Love:

My best guess is that they’re somehow trying to avoid user confusion - they’re worried that if people see a bunch of iOS 15 updates before iOS 15 is out they’ll assume their phone isn’t compatible with it or the updates won’t work on 14 or whatever.

If Apple really doesn’t want users to see these updates before iOS 15 is released, there should be an option to submit your update now but have the App Store hold it for release until iOS 15 ships.

Dave Wood:

They’re probably confused because the change of term from GM to RC. Since iOS 15 is now RC, it is no longer pre-GM so doesn’t violate the rule they quote. Which is even funnier.

Curtis Herbert:

If Apple, year after year after year, pulls the BS of an app rejection because you mention the upcoming release … at some point ya gotta stop trying. Save yourself the headache. Just say “the new iOS” or “today’s update.”

Alexey Chernikov:

Just got rejected for mentioning “the latest iOS.”

Sash Zats:

That’s why you just “bug fixes and improvements”

James Thomson:

It is my understanding that mentioning iOS 15 is allowed in your release notes, as of now, and in future mentioning an unreleased OS should not cause a problem after app submissions for that particular OS have opened.

Thanks to Thompson for relaying an unwritten rule change, but it would be nice to have a written guideline to cite when the memo inevitably doesn’t get out to everyone.


Update (2021-10-20): Tanner Bennett:

Seems to me like the trouble that comes with rejecting hundreds of apps for mentioning it and having potentially broken apps on iOS 15 would far outweigh whatever trouble comes with user confusion from mentioning iOS 15 in app release notes… What kinda whack priorities are these

Saagar Jha:

Apple: don’t you dare mention our OSes that are in RC and we announced are going to launch next week

Also Apple:

TJ Luoma:

I saw three apps that mentioned iOS 15 which were allowed through app review. Glad to see that process is as cönsistent as ever.