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Do all new iPhones suffer from a hardware design flaw? It sure seems like it

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The latest iOS 12.1 release extends battery throttling to the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and even the iPhone X, after only telling US senators back in February that this would likely be unnecessary.

This raises an important question – why do devices that were only released last year need added performance management to prevent crashes and unexpected shutdowns?

Must read: iOS 12.1: Tips and tricks to help you get the most from your iPhone or iPad

Before we go any further, let’s refer to what Apple has said on this matter. Apple goes into a lot of detail, but here’s are the two paragraphs that matter:

With a low battery state of charge, a higher chemical age, or colder temperatures, users are more likely to experience unexpected shutdowns. In extreme cases, shutdowns can occur more frequently, thereby rendering the device unreliable or unusable. For iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus, iOS dynamically manages performance peaks to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down so that the iPhone can still be used. This performance management feature is specific to iPhone and does not apply to any other Apple products. Starting with iOS 12.1, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X include this feature, but performance management may be less noticeable due to their more advanced hardware and software design.

This performance management works by looking at a combination of the device temperature, battery state of charge, and battery impedance. Only if these variables require it, iOS will dynamically manage the maximum performance of some system components, such as the CPU and GPU, in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns. As a result, the device workloads will self-balance, allowing a smoother distribution of system tasks, rather than larger, quick spikes of performance all at once. In some cases, a user may not notice any differences in daily device performance. The level of perceived change depends on how much performance management is required for a particular device.

Now there’s a lot going on here, and while it’s interesting that Apple talks about “low battery state of charge” (has iOS 12.1 change the way the iPhone works when set to Low Power Mode, or is this some secret sauce that’s in addition to that feature?), it’s the talk of “higher chemical age, or colder temperatures” that has my curiosity piqued.

Let’s look at colder temperatures thing first. Apple publishes operating ambient temperatures and nonoperating temperature ranges for its devices. For all iPhones, these are 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C) and -4° to 113° F (-20° to 45° C). Inside these temperatures you should be fine, outside of them you’re on your own. When Apple talks about throttling with respect to colder temperatures it is unclear if it is talking about temperatures within the operating ambient temperatures range, or outside of this. I’m assuming that it is within these ranges (because Apple hasn’t updated these temperatures for older devices), so I’m left wondering if the iPhone had a problem operating within these stated temperatures.

In other words, did the iPhone suffer from a design flaw that Apple is now compensating for? It sounds like it from what Apple has stated here.

Now let’s come back to “higher chemical age.” In a nutshell, the older a battery is (“higher chemical age” is a fancy way of saying that), the higher the battery’s impedance (or resistance), and this lowers its ability to deliver peak power when demanded. Without that power, bad things – like crashes and shutdowns – can happen.

But should iPhones that were released only last year already be suffering from “higher chemical age”?

According to Apple, the battery “is designed to retain up to 80 percent of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles,” and beyond that, the battery is considered worn and heading toward end-of-life. Some batteries can and do retain more than 80 percent charge after well over 500 recharge cycles, but in my experience, once you hit 500 recharge cycles, your battery is on borrowed time.

Note: You can find more information on recharge cycles here.

Back in May of this year I became concerned about how fast I was going through recharge cycles on my daily driver iPhone 8 Plus. In four months I’d used up 91 of those recharge cycles (I got my iPhone 8 Plus on launch day). I decided to take measures to reduce on the number of recharge cycles I was using up (one way I did this was by using wireless charging less).

Note: I used the excellent macOS app CoconutBattery to get access to the iPhone’s battery recharge cycle count.

I just rechecked this today and I’ve now burned through 344 recharge cycles.

iPhone battery recharge cycles

In a little over a year, I’m already what feels like a stone’s throw away from that 500 recharge cycle mark. Compare this to my late 2013 MacBook Pro, which has seen daily use for several years now and is only at 357 recharge cycles.

There’s a simple reason why I’m going through recharge cycles as quickly as I am. The iPhone suffers from a simple design flaw. The battery is too small and requires recharging too often. A bigger battery would have a greater capacity, and therefore need charging less often. If my iPhone had a battery twice the capacity of the battery it currently has, it would have only gone through half the recharge cycles.

Apple’s pursuit of thinner and lighter has resulted in a device with a battery so small that after only a year the company has to drop a software update that tries to compensate for this.

When you consider that this means that a $1,000 iPhone might have a lifespan of only about 18 months before needing to be replaced (or at least have the battery replaced – and what an odyssey that can be), it certainly makes me question whether the iPhone represents the sort of value for money that I expect from such an expensive bit of kit.

It sure seems to me like Apple has built a hardware design flaw into the iPhone, and is now using software tweaks to try to make them less noticeable.

And given that Apple doesn’t seem to have bumped up the battery capacity on the newer iPhone XS and iPhone XR models, this seems to be a problem that will be affecting these devices in a year’s time.

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Facebook’s decision-review body to take “weeks” longer over Trump ban call – TechCrunch

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Facebook’s self-styled and handpicked ‘Oversight Board’ will make a decision on whether or not to overturn an indefinite suspension of the account of former president Donald Trump within “weeks”, it said in a brief update statement on the matter today.

The high profile case appears to have attracted major public interest, with the FOB tweeting that it’s received more than 9,000 responses so far to its earlier request for public feedback.

It added that its commitment to “carefully reviewing all comments” after an earlier extension of the deadline for feedback is responsible for the extension of the case timeline.

The Board’s statement adds that it will provide more information “soon”.

Trump’s indefinite suspension from Facebook and Instagram was announced by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on January 7, after the then-president of the U.S. incited his followers to riot at the nation’s Capitol — an insurrection that led to chaotic and violent scenes and a number of deaths as his supporters clashed with police.

However Facebook quickly referred the decision to the FOB for review — opening up the possibility that the ban could be overturned in short order as Facebook has said it will be bound by the case review decisions issued by the Board.

After the FOB accepted the case for review it initially said it would issue a decision within 90 days of January 21 — a deadline that would have fallen next Wednesday.

However it now looks like the high profile, high stakes call on Trump’s social media fate could be pushed into next month.

It’s a familiar development in Facebook-land. Delay has been a long time feature of the tech giant’s crisis PR response in the face of a long history of scandals and bad publicity attached to how it operates its platform. So the tech giant is unlikely to be uncomfortable that the FOB is taking its time to make a call on Trump’s suspension.

After all, devising and configuring the bespoke case review body — as its proprietary parody of genuine civic oversight — is a process that has taken Facebook years already.

In related FOB news this week, Facebook announced that users can now request the board review its decisions not to remove content — expanding the Board’s potential cases to include reviews of ‘keep ups’ (not just content takedowns).

This report was updated with a correction: The FOB previously extended the deadline for case submissions; it has not done so again as we originally stated

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Facebook faces ‘mass action’ lawsuit in Europe over 2019 breach – TechCrunch

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Facebook is to be sued in Europe over the major leak of user data that dates back to 2019 but which only came to light recently after information on 533M+ accounts was found posted for free download on a hacker forum.

Today Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) announced it’s commencing a “mass action” to sue Facebook, citing the right to monetary compensation for breaches of personal data that’s set out in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Article 82 of the GDPR provides for a ‘right to compensation and liability’ for those affected by violations of the law. Since the regulation came into force, in May 2018, related civil litigation has been on the rise in the region.

The Ireland-based digital rights group is urging Facebook users who live in the European Union or European Economic Area to check whether their data was breach — via the haveibeenpwned website (which lets you check by email address or mobile number) — and sign up to join the case if so.

Information leaked via the breach includes Facebook IDs, location, mobile phone numbers, email address, relationship status and employer.

Facebook has been contacted for comment on the litigation.

The tech giant’s European headquarters is located in Ireland — and earlier this week the national data watchdog opened an investigation, under EU and Irish data protection laws.

A mechanism in the GDPR for simplifying investigation of cross-border cases means Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) is Facebook’s lead data regulator in the EU. However it has been criticized over its handling of and approach to GDPR complaints and investigations — including the length of time it’s taking to issue decisions on major cross-border cases. And this is particularly true for Facebook.

With the three-year anniversary of the GDPR fast approaching, the DPC has multiple open investigations into various aspects of Facebook’s business but has yet to issue a single decision against the company.

(The closest it’s come is a preliminary suspension order issued last year, in relation to Facebook’s EU to US data transfers. However that complaint long predates GDPR; and Facebook immediately filed to block the order via the courts. A resolution is expected later this year after the litigant filed his own judicial review of the DPC’s processes).

Since May 2018 the EU’s data protection regime has — at least on paper — baked in fines of up to 4% of a company’s global annual turnover for the most serious violations.

Again, though, the sole GDPR fine issued to date by the DPC against a tech giant (Twitter) is very far off that theoretical maximum. Last December the regulator announced a €450k (~$547k) sanction against Twitter — which works out to around just 0.1% of the company’s full-year revenue.

That penalty was also for a data breach — but one which, unlike the Facebook leak, had been publicly disclosed when Twitter found it in 2019. So Facebook’s failure to disclose the vulnerability it discovered and claims it fixed by September 2019, which led to the leak of 533M accounts now, suggests it should face a higher sanction from the DPC than Twitter received.

However even if Facebook ends up with a more substantial GDPR penalty for this breach the watchdog’s caseload backlog and plodding procedural pace makes it hard to envisage a swift resolution to an investigation that’s only a few days old.

Judging by past performance it’ll be years before the DPC decides on this 2019 Facebook leak — which likely explains why the DRI sees value in instigating class-action style litigation in parallel to the regulatory investigation.

“Compensation is not the only thing that makes this mass action worth joining. It is important to send a message to large data controllers that they must comply with the law and that there is a cost to them if they do not,” DRI writes on its website.

It also submitted a complaint about the Facebook breach to the DPC earlier this month, writing then that it was “also consulting with its legal advisors on other options including a mass action for damages in the Irish Courts”.

It’s clear that the GDPR enforcement gap is creating a growing opportunity for litigation funders to step in in Europe and take a punt on suing for data-related compensation damages — with a number of other mass actions announced last year.

In the case of DRI its focus is evidently on seeking to ensure that digital rights are upheld. But it told RTE that it believes compensation claims which force tech giants to pay money to users whose privacy rights have been violated is the best way to make them legally compliant.

Facebook, meanwhile, has sought to play down the breach it failed to disclose in 2019 — claiming it’s ‘old data’ — a deflection that ignores the fact that people’s dates of birth don’t change (nor do most people routinely change their mobile number or email address).

Plenty of the ‘old’ data exposed in this latest massive Facebook leak will be very handy for spammers and fraudsters to target Facebook users — and also now for litigators to target Facebook for data-related damages.

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Pakistan temporarily blocks social media – TechCrunch

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Pakistan has temporarily blocked several social media services in the South Asian nation, according to users and a government-issued notice reviewed by TechCrunch.

In an order titled “Complete Blocking of Social Media Platforms,” the Pakistani government ordered Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Telegram from 11am to 3pm local time (06.00am to 10.00am GMT) Friday.

The move comes as Pakistan looks to crackdown against a violent terrorist group and prevent troublemakers from disrupting Friday prayers congregations following days of violent protests.

Earlier this week Pakistan banned the Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan after arresting its leader, which prompted protests, according to local media reports.

An entrepreneur based in Pakistan told TechCrunch that even though the order is supposed to expire at 3pm local time, similar past moves by the government suggests that the disruption will likely last for longer.

Though Pakistan, like its neighbor India, has temporarily cut phone calls access in the nation in the past, this is the first time Islamabad has issued a blanket ban on social media in the country.

Pakistan has explored ways to assume more control over content on digital services operating in the country in recent years. Some activists said the country was taking extreme measures without much explanations.

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