Ukraine invasion, App Store Changes, and retail openings – Apple’s February 2022 in review

By | March 1, 2022




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February 2022 was a mix of the very serious with Russia, and the off-kilter with Kanye West, but in between there were privacy issues, and surprising technology concerns.

Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine overshadowed everything in February 2022, yet oddly, it also unexpectedly shone a light into issues around technology. Few could have predicted, for instance, that the invasion would be spotted first not on broadcast news or Twitter, but Google Maps and Apple Maps.

So maybe Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen was right this month when he said there is “nothing to look forward to,” with Apple’s products, and they are always “just a slight refinement on the same thing.” But it turns out that there can still be surprises like the mapping invasion feature, even if Apple didn’t intend it.

No major launches in February

There were no new Macs, no new devices of any kind from Apple in February, but it’s unfair to say there were no launches. For a start, there was the major announcement of Tap to Pay – coming later this year.

When that does come, it will let iPhone users take credit and debit card payments from other iPhone users. At least in the US. And at least with participating vendors only.

We also heard about, but didn’t yet see, what was actually a genuinely major launch with the Apple TV+ deal with Skydance. Normally you can bet that Apple gets the best end of just about any deal it makes, yet this time that may not be true.

For Apple has agreed what’s sometimes been called a pay-or-play deal, sometimes a put deal. It means Apple is going to pay up for whatever Skydance makes.

That’s not totally true, as Apple will have at least a say in which Skydance films it wants to count under the deal. But Apple is going to pay the whole budget of up to $125 million each for a minimum of two movies.

On top of that, Skydance is also going to be paid at least $50 million for the two films. And the production company retains the rights to the movies, too.

It’s extraordinarily rare for any production company to pull off this kind of deal. There used to be a little more of it when broadcast television was at its peak and then it would typically be done to lock in talent.

Maybe that’s the case here, but all we can be sure is that Apple has its reasons. Or it signed the contract upside down.

Minor and quiet launches

The One under construction in Toronto (Source: Eduardo Lima, The Globe and Mail

The One under construction in Toronto (Source: Eduardo Lima, The Globe and Mail

Although this month, any sensible union negotiation would have to include something about danger money. February saw an armed hostage situation in an Amsterdam Apple Store, and the key word is saw.

Not only did staff hidden on the upper floors witness part of this armed robbery gone wrong, but social media showed footage of it in progress.

Apple was quick to praise its staff and the police for how they coped with the situation.

Apple Al Maryah Island

It was somewhat less quick to announce the opening of a new set of offices, to the extent that it still hasn’t mentioned it. That would perhaps be because the offices are in Russia.

Back in 2021, Russia passed into law a requirement that firms operating online and above a certain threshold of user numbers or revenue, must have a physical presence in the country. As of February 2022, Apple has complied.

It’s the first and so far only firm to do so, though reportedly Spotify is still debating the finer points of its lease.

Controversies large and small

At least you can be sure that when a major corporation launches something big, it’s all going to have been very well planned out. Or done by Amazon.

This is not to underestimate how hard it is to make a major change, but Amazon’s bringing the Comixology comicbook app into Kindle was problematic.

Amazon has owned Comixology for eight years, but it could have spent more of that time working on amalgamating it with the Kindle books app. As it is, you know it will work out in the end, but for a time, users were finding that removing a read comic from their library turned out to be the same as deleting it forever.

Migrating Comixology to an Amazon business model has created some problems for users

Migrating Comixology to an Amazon business model has created some problems for users

Speaking of integration, though, February was when 1Password officially added support for the Phantom cryptocurrency. The password manager could already handle secure documents and notes, but now its database has specific fields for it, just as 1Password’s software licence section has space for the serial number.

There’s no word that there is any kind of Comixology-like problem. And 1Password has a long and trusted history, but any time you touch crypto, you end up with controversy.

Though for unwarranted controversy in February 2022, you didn’t have to look far, you just had to wait for the rumor to come to you. Apple was reportedly working on a fidelity ring – a smart ring that knows when you take it off, and alerts your spouse.

Forget that even the U1 chip would have some problems detecting you slipping butter under it to work the stuck ring off your finger in a dodgy motel. Forget that the entire rumor was based on a 15-year old joke.

And instead remember that right now Apple is continuing to be at the center of a storm about the stalking capabilities of AirTags.

Sometimes the criticism is reasoned and reasonable, just entirely fair, such as when the New York attorney general issued advice about using AirTags. Sometimes it came from when people deliberately removed Apple’s anti-stalking features from AirTags.

Apple AirTag alert

Apple AirTag alert

It’s still a serious issue and if it’s come under the spotlight because it’s Apple that makes AirTags, it’s an important spotlight. We are all more aware of tracking now, and that’s obviously a good thing.

Unless, that is, you’re the CEO of Life360 and recently acquired the Tile tracking company. Then you have to tell investors that the scrutiny over Apple is hurting your business.

Everyone is against Apple

Tile owner Life360 wasn’t the only firm criticizing Apple in February. Microsoft took a bold stance about the company too. According to Microsoft, if Apple isn’t stopped now, its antitrust behaviour will just get worse.

And they should know, given their own struggles.

Whereas, so far as is known, no knitters have ever been threatened with being broken by government antitrust regulators.

Although it’s sometimes increasingly hard to figure out what governments will actually do if they want to. Such as advance a bill that could threaten encryption.

That said, the EU showed this month that it knows what it’s talking about. And European digital chief Margrethe Vestager has Apple’s number.

She says it looks like Apple is willing to pay fines, and keep paying them, rather than comply with the law. And that this is a bad example other Big Tech firms could follow.

You may have zoned out during bits of this. But somehow if you are a Dutch developer making a dating app – and you know what a wide and lucrative app market that must be – then Apple is saying yep, you can use third-party payment systems.

And for doing that instead of using Apple’s own in-app payment process with its 30% cut for Apple, these millions of developers get a cheap rate discount meaning they pay Apple only 27%.

There is a bit of a chance that the money raked in from that 3% saving might not be quite enough to cover the cost of installing and running your own backend credit payment system. A bit of a chance.

The costs of doing that are your business, literally, and as far as Apple is concerned, the only detail that is significant is how much you pay them. Which means Apple probably thinks South Korea is being unreasonable when it said this month that Apple’s App Store plan lacks detail.

Speaking of being unclear

Previously on Kanye West… in 2021, he released his “Donda” album, and he released it very slowly over the course of multiple launch events and missed launch dates.

It’s estimated that he made $7 million from merchandise sales at those launch events. But in February 2022, he still stood up and took a stance for the artists who are suffering from low payouts from streaming music services.

So just for them, just on their behalf, and not in any way to sell his own 1990s-sounding Stem Player, Kanye West announced that Donda 2 would be released in February – but not on Apple Music. Or Spotify. Or any streamer except his own.

If you’re a fan or if you just remember all the way back to “Donda 1,” your first shrug was at the idea “Donda 2” would come out in February. You were almost right: several tracks from it did manage to get released, though at time of writing 15 more have not.

And your second thought had to be to wonder for about one second how Apple would react to West referring to them, and rivals, as the “oppressive system” of streamers.

West surely thought about this for longer than Apple subsequently did, and surely has calculated that it’s worth Apple Music allegedly pulling its sponsorship deal.

What he does not seem to have thought about was that February 2022 was possibly a bad month to use the word “oppressive” about just a music service.



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