What's Up With Apple: Tim Cook Talks Cars, LG Quits and More

One reason there’s so much speculation and burned pixels about what Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) plans to do next is that Apple does not offer many peeks into its plans. Keeping quiet about new products means never having to say you failed.

Apple is known to have begun looking at building a car in 2014. The company is also known to have fired many of the people who were working on the car (codename, Project Titan) a few years later. Earlier this year, Hyundai-Kia leaked news of a possible deal to build an Apple Car, and discussions between the Korean automaker and Apple were terminated.

In a conversation with New York Times writer Kara Swisher on her Sway podcast, Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say when Swisher asked about Apple Car:

We love to integrate hardware, software, and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs. And so that’s what we love to do. And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that. The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view. If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.

There are lots of things a company like Apple could do with autonomy, and Cook still won’t say whether Apple will build an autonomous vehicle. Cook and his Titans are apparently still seeking that intersection where the magic happens.

On Monday, Korean electronics giant LG announced that the company would be shutting down its smartphone division. Calling the decision “strategic,” LG said it was getting out of “the incredibly competitive mobile phone sector” and would now focus on “growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence, and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services.” Anything but smartphones.

Last month, tech research firm IDC forecast worldwide smartphone shipments would rise by 5.5% year over year in 2021 to more than 1.3 billion units, more than 40% of which will be 5G-compatible phones. By 2025, IDC expects 5G phones to account for nearly 70% of all smartphone sales.

LG’s share of that market was small and getting smaller: “LG has seen rapidly declining smartphone shipments in recent years, and the company is now believed to hold a market share of just two percent. LG has posted major financial shortfalls in its smartphone segment for 23 consecutive quarters, reaching a total loss of $4.5 billion.”

Hon Hai Precision Industry, aka Foxconn, reported Tuesday morning that first-quarter revenue rose by 44.5% year over year from NT$929.68 billion ($32.64 billion) to NT$1.34 trillion ($47.14 billion). After two months of lower sequential sales, Foxconn reported that March sales rose 9.8% month over month and nearly 27% year over year to $15.5 billion.

Even though sequential sales in January were down nearly 30% compared to December, the January 2021 total was 37% higher than in January 2020 and the February total soared by 84% year over year. Apple’s iPhone 12 probably deserves most of the credit for Foxconn’s big numbers.

Finally, Tuesday morning, Apple sent a note to app developers on Monday, reminding them of the “upcoming public release” of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 and the App Tracking Transparency feature that is part of the operating systems’ update. Here’s what Apple had to say:

Unless you receive permission from the user to enable tracking, the device’s advertising identifier value will be all zeros and you may not track them.

When submitting your app for review, any other form of tracking — for example, by name or email address — must be declared in the product page’s App Store Privacy Information section and be performed only if permission is granted through AppTrackingTransparency. …

As a reminder, collecting device and usage data with the intent of deriving a unique representation of a user, or fingerprinting, continues to be a violation of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement.

Apple is serious about this stuff.