I’m sorry I criticized you, Apple. You win.

Bloomberg:

I’ve long been a critic of Apple, but today I give up: It’s the perfect tech company for this day and age, an example to the rest of Silicon Valley.

After Apple’s latest results announcement, one could knock it yet again for its stable dependence on a single mature product — the iPhone. That product delivered 62.2 percent of the company’s sales; the average for the previous 10 quarters was 62.4 percent, so the growth in earbud, smartwatch and streaming subscription sales does nothing to reduce the iPhone’s dominance.

Apple appears to be happy to think small and focus on its shareholders, not on pie-in-the-sky ideas, like other tech companies, including industry leaders.

But I’m no longer knocking Apple for any of this. In fact, I’m sorry I ever did.

Google is secretly building an HQ competitor startup called Arcade

Ashley Carmen, writing for The Verge:

Google is reportedly helping young tech entrepreneur Michael Sayman build and launch a social gaming startup. Bloomberg reports that the project — called Arcade — won’t be tied to any existing social networks; instead, users will create accounts based off their phone number. The games might involve some trivia elements. Google confirmed Arcade’s existence to Bloomberg but provided no details other than the project being “focused on mobile gaming with friends.”

So while this sounds like an extremely nascent endeavor, it appears Google is taking cues from live trivia game HQ. Those live trivia sessions can reach millions of users and have created real-world social gatherings where colleagues, friends, and families get together for a game. Bloomberg says Google won’t tie Arcade to a specific social platform because the game will generate its own place for users to hang out, which HQ demonstrates could work out just fine.

WhatsApp Co-Founder Jan Koum Quits After Internal Battle With Facebook Over User Privacy

Jan Koum, the billionaire CEO of Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp, is leaving the company following disputes over “the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption,” the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Koum will additionally step down from Facebook’s board, and was in the process of informing other senior executives at the company that he was on the way out when the Post contacted him. As the paper pointed out, Koum’s decision removes one of Facebook’s key players from the board:

Koum’s exit is highly unusual at Facebook. The inner circle of management—and the Board of Directors—have been fiercely loyal during the scandals that have rocked the social media giant. In addition, Koum is the sole founder of a company acquired by Facebook to serve on its board. Only two other Facebook executives—Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg—are members of the board.

In a post, Koum wrote he was leaving to pursue such relatable activities as “collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee.” But the timing of the move is curious to say the least, given Facebook is currently undergoing internal strife and external scrutiny over the company’s desire to gobble up everyone’s personal data and sell it to advertisers. WhatsApp has also seen increasing criticism (and intervention by French regulators) after the encrypted chat service began sharing user data with Facebook in 2016.

According to the Post, Koum and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton grew tired of Facebook’s relentless march towards integrating WhatsApp user data into advertising profiles—in defiance of promises made during the acquisition process that the company would remain independent. Where once WhatsApp generated money via cheap 99-cent subscriptions, it now feeds information like phone numbers and contacts into Facebook, generating revenue but undermining the service’s original purpose and security. Acton had already left in November, donating $50 million to competing chat service Signal and telling people to delete Facebook.

The Post added that Koum was especially concerned that Facebook was integrating new business services into WhatsApp, as well as that it might weaken the app’s end-to-end encryption in order to mine more user data. (Just look at Onavo, Facebook’s version of a VPN, which actually watches everything users do online even when they’re not using it.)

Mark Zuckerberg responded with his own comment on Koum’s post saying he was “grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

Koum’s decision to quit comes amid still-brewing fallout of the Cambridge Analytica mess, where a third-party app allegedly used Facebook’s advertising tools to scrape profile information on at least 87 million people without their consent, then shared it with an electoral firm that worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

But it also comes at a time when Facebook has become the de facto gateway to the internet in much of the world, including the more than 100 million peopleconnected to its walled-garden service for developing countries, which comes with WhatsApp. The chat service reportedly has a billion users of its own, so whichever direction Facebook takes it will help shape how hundreds of millions of people across the planet communicate online. If that sounds ominous, it should—the more one learns about Facebook’s business model, the less appealing letting it run so much of the online world sounds. For millions, it could be the difference between whether they are able to securely communicate or whether Zuckerberg and crew will always be listening in.

The best replacements for Apple’s defunct AirPort accessories

Chance Miller:

On Thursday, Apple made the disappointing announcement that it is discontinuing its AirPort line of network accessories. The company told 9to5Mac that it will continue to sell remaining inventory, but has no plans for future hardware.

With the AirPort devices on the way out, what are the best alternatives?

 As we noted this week, Apple published a new support document shortly after its announcement, outlining what customers should look for when shopping for a router. Apple explained that users can choose between a single router or mesh systems, which help bring Wi-Fi to larger areas.

Apple Kills AirPort Routers

Rene Ritchie:

Apple is ceasing production of its AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule Wi-Fi routers. I had a chance to speak to Apple briefly about the decision, and here’s the statement I was given:

“We’re discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products. They will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last.”

AirPort was originally introduced by Steve Jobs at Macworld New York in July of 1999. Back then, wireless technology was in its infancy and Apple felt it had to provide not only Wi-Fi support in Macs, but Wi-Fi support in general, up to and including the routers, in order to bring it to the mainstream. Over the years, as we progressed to faster and more robust Wi-Fi standards like 802.11n and 802.11ac, Apple similarly felt it had to stay in the market and help push those standards forward.

Not just for wireless routing, but for other features wireless routing made possible.

For example, AirPort Express, introduced in 2004, included a built-in audio jack that could connect speakers and stream music wireless across your house or business. Time Capsule, introduced in 2008, included a hard drive so that, when combined with OS X’s then-new Time Machine feature, it could wirelessly, almost effortlessly, back up all of your Macs.

Apple continued adding new features like dual-band support for simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections, and guest networks. But, over time, that slowed and then stopped.

The AirPort Base Station line was last updated in 2013.

Since then, we’ve seen the advent of mesh networking, which lets larger, more irregular, and more challenging areas enjoy better and more robust coverage. Rather than release AirPort Mesh, though, Apple chose to offer the Linksys Velop at its retail stores instead.

I take that as a sign that Apple nows sees Wi-Fi routers as a thriving industry all its own, with multiple, highly-motivated vendors that no longer need the platform-maker to push technology and innovation. And, looking at iMore’s list of the best Wi-Fi router alternatives to the AirPort Base Station it’s hard to disagree.

(Though, I think it’s safe to say that if Apple ever felt Wi-Fi routers were languishing and it had unique and important advances to contribute to the space, it would consider re-entering the market.)

[…]

Routers are different. They’re infrastructure. They’re behind televisions, underneath desks, and in closets. For some people, especially people who appreciate Apple’s design and manufacturing, and its unequivocal stance on security and privacy, the loss of the AirPort line will still be a blow.

I’m one of those people.

But I’m also reminded of a comment Steve Jobs once said to one of his direct reports: Sure, Apple could do that and make some money at it, but was it really a business Apple had to be in?

Sprint and T-Mobile to combine

The AP:

T-Mobile and Sprint have struck a deal that could reshape the U.S. wireless landscape, bringing it down to three major cellphone companies.

T-Mobile on Sunday closed a $26.5 billion agreement to merge with Sprint, upping Sprint’s market value to $6.62 per share, CNBC reported.

 The deal will help the companies slash costs and could make them a stronger competitor to the larger AT&T and Verizon. But consumers might see higher prices because the combined company wouldn’t have to offer as many promotions to lure customers.

Samsung Sees Slow Demand for OLEDs Used for Apple’s iPhone X

Mark Gurman and Sam Kim, reporting for Bloomberg:

Samsung Electronics Co. is the latest Apple Inc. supplier to offer a sign of weaker iPhone X sales, saying that it’s seeing slow demand for the screens used in the flagship product.

The South Korean electronics manufacturer said in an earnings report today that profits for its display business “were affected by slow demand for flexible OLED panels.” The division’s sales rose 3.4 percent in the latest quarter, compared with 20 percent for Samsung as a whole.

Flexible OLED panels are the screens used inside the iPhone X, and those are supplied exclusively by Samsung. Other component makers for Apple, which reports quarterly earnings results next week, have also issued gloomy outlooks pointing to lackluster demand for the top-end phone.

David Smith’s Pedometer++ hits 5,000,000 downloads

David Smith:

One my apps just hit a significant milestone. Pedometer++ had its 5,000,000th download. I find it mind bending to even imagine a number like that. It works out to be roughly the population of Ireland.

It is remarkable to me how something so simple can have had such a far reaching appeal. While the number is very fun and something I’m quite proud of, by far the coolest part of making this app has been the countless stories from users who have used it as part of a broader life change. It is truly staggering that something that started it’s life as a few UILabels and a switch could have gone on to be a part in genuinely improving the quality and health of people’s lives.

I am very grateful for all of the customers of the app, and while there are rather too many of you to thank individually, please consider this my thank-you note to all of you.

—Dave

I use Pedometer++ daily for step tracking so seeing how many people have downloaded it is great.

Loot crates are now illegal in Belgium

Mallory Lockyear, writing for Engadget:

Officials in Belgium have determined that loot boxes violate the country’s gambling laws and if publishers don’t remove them from their games, they face jail time and fines. Specifically, FIFA 18Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were found to be in violation. While Star Wars Battlefront II was also part of the Belgian government’s investigation, EA’s removal of the game’s loot boxes kept it from bumping up against the country’s legislation. In a statement, Minister of Justice Koen Geens saidthat if loot boxes in the aforementioned games aren’t removed, their publishers could be subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €800,000 (approximately $974,926). If children are involved, those punishments could be doubled

Last week, the Netherlands also decided that loot boxes in some games were essentially gambling and called for publishers to remove them by mid-June, while countries like the UK and New Zealand have declared that loot boxes aren’t gambling. A number of US lawmakers have introduced bills regarding loot boxes, both to study them and restrict access to minors. Meanwhile, in response to the loot box controversy, the ESRB added an “In-Game Purchases” label to boxed games that have some sort of in-game purchase, including those with loot boxes.

I can’t even…

Casey Johnston: ‘Don’t buy the MacBook Pros, even on sale’

Casey Johnston at The Outline, following up on her piece from late last year:

Since I wrote about my experience, many have asked me what happened with the new top half of the computer that the Apple Geniuses installed, with its pristine keyboard and maybe-different key switches. The answer is that after a couple of months, I started to get temporarily dead keys for seemingly no reason. Again.

I still had my 2013 MacBook Pro around, so I sold my 2016 MacBook Pro back to Apple’s refurb program, and now I just use the 2013 as my laptop (I used the recovered money to build a PC, lord help me). This old MacBook Pro is still fine, and most importantly, all the keyboard keys work. The new MacBook Pro is gone. When I started working at The Outline, I was offered a choice of a new MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air for my work computer, and I chose the MacBook Air, with its good keyboard that doesn’t break from dust. I’m fully committed to this bit.

My 12 inch MacBook has had a lot of issues with the keyboard along these same lines too. It’s been annoying (to say the least).

Apple may release new laptops with new keyboards that have these issues fixed, but Apple doesn’t seem too interested in fixing this issue for existing customers.