Technology

What's Up With Apple: Squelching AirTags Stalkers, New Small Business Services, and More

On Tuesday, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) released a beta version of its next iPhone software upgrade, iOS 15.2. Among the changes in the software is a new feature called “Unknown Items” that allows iPhone owners to scan for AirTags or for items included in the iPhone’s Find My-list.

According to a report at MacRumors, an “Items That Can Track Me” option has been included under the Items tab in the Find My app. By tapping this choice, people can scan for nearby items (like AirTags) that could be used to track their location: “When activated, the Unknown Items feature scans for anything that’s nearby, and will let users know either way if there’s a device that belongs to someone else nearby. If an item is detected, Apple offers instructions on how to disable the device so that it can no longer be used for tracking purposes.”

The possibility that an AirTag could be surreptitiously attached to someone’s personal property and then used to track or stalk that person was identified early on as a potential flaw in the devices.

On Wednesday, Apple announced a new services program for small businesses, Apple Business Essentials, a subscription service for companies with up to 500 employees. According to the announcement, “the service supports small businesses through the total device management life cycle — from device setup to employee onboarding and device upgrades — while providing strong security, prioritized support, and secure data storage and backup.”

The new program follows last year’s acquisition of Fleetsmith, a startup that had created the program.

Provided that the price is right, IDC analyst Tom Mainelli told TechCrunch:

Apple’s focus on small businesses makes a great deal of sense. Enterprise customers likely already have management systems in place to manage their Apple products, but smaller companies don’t always have full-time IT. That means it can be tough for them to manage everything, especially when it’s a mix of employer-provided and employee-purchased devices.

During the beta test period, the service is free. Apple has yet to set a firm price and is unlikely to until next spring.

Briefly noted:

New York Times tech reporter Farhad Manjoo has written an op-ed in which he praises Apple’s new M1-powered laptops: “The chips portend a future absolutely saturated with computing power …”

Apple has lost a second appeal in its attempt to rehash the patent-licensing deal it made two years ago with Qualcomm. Apple has contended that the six-year licensing agreement is at “imminent risk” of expiring at the end of the agreed period in 2025.

Defense attorneys for Kyle Rittenhouse, the man charged with two murders in a Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting last year, argued in court Wednesday Apple’s iPad can manipulate film footage. Here are the words, according to The Verge:

iPads, which are made by Apple, have artificial intelligence in them that allow things to be viewed through three-dimensions and logarithms. It uses artificial intelligence, or their logarithms, to create what they believe is happening. So this isn’t actually enhanced video, this is Apple’s iPad programming creating what it thinks is there, not what necessarily is there.

The judge in the case, Bruce Schroeder, apparently accepted that argument.