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Apple Response to Hong Kong Protests Overshadows macOS Catalina Release

October 12, 2019, 1:30 PM UTC

For Apple, this week was supposed to be about its release of the long-awaited macOS Catalina operating system. Instead, the company found itself in hot water over protests in Hong Kong.

Under pressure by Chinese government, Apple removed an app called HKmap.live from its App Store. That prompted supporters of the protest to criticize Apple for turning its back on them and siding with an authoritarian regime.

Meanwhile, there were reports this week about New York law enforcement having the ability to crack encrypted iPhones. And in another move that drew complaints, Apple this week removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from the iOS 13 version it offers in Hong Kong.

Read on for more on those headlines and others:

Apple’s Hong Kong Protest Response

Apple this week removed from its app store HKmap.live, which allowed users in Hong Kong to pin the location of police, travel obstructions, and protesters. Supporters called it an important tool for keeping people safe. The Chinese government, however, said that it was a tool to help protesters commit crimes. Beijing threatened Apple if it didn’t remove the app, which was only allowed into Apple’s App Store last week. The app’s creators and its supporters said Apple had hurt free speech and the broader effort to resist the Chinese government.

Tim Cook Responds

After facing international backlash, along with internal complaints, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded on Thursday by justifying the decision about HKmap.live. Cook said Apple had received “credible information” from local law enforcement that the app was being used “maliciously to target individual officers for violence,” among other problems. He added that the app violates Hong Kong law and Apple’s App Store guidelines. “We believe this decision best protests our users,” Cook said.

Apple Deletes Taiwanese Flag Emoji in Hong Kong

In yet another hit to free speech in Hong Kong this week, Apple’s iOS 13 update removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from the operating system. China’s government has long held that Taiwan is a part of China, but Taiwan claims complete independence. Apple hasn’t commented about its move, but it’s clearly something that China’s government would approve of.

Here Comes macOS Catalina

Months after its unveiling, Apple this week introduced its free macOS Catalina update. The operating system comes with new features, including Apple’s Arcade cloud-gaming service and a feature called Sidecar that lets users convert their iPad into a secondary display. My colleague Lisa Marie Segarra published an article about macOS Catalina this week that explains whether it’s worth downloading or not.

Big Hardware Updates Planned for Early 2020?

Apple will release new mobile devices in early 2020, TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said this week. Kuo, who has been one of the more accurate Apple prognosticators in recent years, said Apple plans a budget-friendly iPhone SE 2 and new iPad Pro models in the first quarter of 2020. Kuo didn’t share many details about Apple’s planned devices, but said that the new iPad Pros will be more powerful than previous models.

New York Law Enforcement Can Crack Your iPhone

Although Apple has declined to work with law enforcement to access data on iPhones, New York City law enforcement has been able to crack the devices since early 2018, according to security site OneZero. Local law enforcement in New York uses a tool from Israeli forensics company Cellebrite to circumvent the iPhone’s encryption and passcodes to access the device’s contents. The Manhattan District Attorney reportedly paid $200,000 over three years for access to the technology.

Planning for the 5G iPhone

Earlier this year, Apple said its acquisition of Intel’s modem business for $1 billion would let it build its own chips for future iPhones and iPads. This week, an unidentified source told Fast Company that Apple probably will be unable to add its own modems into iPhones for connecting to ultra-fast 5G wireless networks until at least 2022. Until then, Apple will use Qualcomm chips, and is expected to debut its first 5G-compatible iPhone next year.

One More Thing…

Apple is now selling Microsoft’s $60 Xbox Wireless Controller. The Xbox controller works with Apple’s game-streaming Arcade service. But oddly, Apple isn’t selling Sony’s PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller, which also works with Arcade. Earlier this week, I asked why. And you can read about it here.

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