October 2019 in review: AirPods Pro & lots of OS updates - but no Apple event
October 2019 was full of news about China, just not much about tariffs or manufacturing. It also had the first hints of the Mac Pro, and the macOS and iOS releases were stumbling ahead.
It depends how you count things. October 2019 did mark one year since Bloomberg published its disastrously wrong article about Chinese spy chips in Apple and Amazon servers. But according to information we've had recently, that article was at least a year in the making. So Bloomberg has really had two years to sort this out. But as of this month, and as of this writing at the end 2019, the publication has issued zero apologies.
We'd have taken affirmation, we'd have eagerly accepted it if the company had chosen this anniversary month to produce the evidence it said was out there, but it didn't. Instead, we learned that the company has now promoted one of the articles' co-writers and appears to have been retaining them both on staff despite not publishing their work all that much.
October started out feeling like it was all going to be like this, a combination of expectations and disappointments. Practically throughout the entire month, and certainly after it was practical, people kept expecting Apple to announce an October event.
Even before the month began, AppleInsider was running the numbers and saying that it was touch and go whether we'd get an event. But heading into October also meant that we were officially in the fall, and Apple had said that's when the new Mac Pro would be out.
While these images were buried in the Catalina code, we had already seen the actual devices themselves — back at the Mac Pro launch where they were on full display. Take a look at our original video from the launch.
True, our video and everyone else's concentrated more on the actual Mac Pro and the Pro Display XDR. So perhaps it's not surprising that the sliver and black peripherals were seen as news in October, and the reaction wasn't unprecedented, either.
Surely no one is going to buy a Mac Pro just for the color of the keyboard. But based on what happened before with the Space Gray iMac Pro peripherals, some Mac Pro owners looked likely to sell them on eBay. If you're tempted to buy or sell, note that eventually, Apple did release the Space Gray devices on their own.
Much more concrete news about the Mac Pro came from a Final Draft Pro X update — and then from the FCC, too. Late in the month, the US Federal Communications Commission approved the Mac Pro, and that usually means that the release is imminent.
The hardware we did get
There were similar, if less well-founded, rumors that Apple was very soon going to release its third version of the AirPods. Not only was this true, the words "very soon" were accurate too. After a brief period of solely being available to order online, the new AirPods Pro went on sale in Apple Stores around the world.
Tim Cook maintains that the AirPods Pro, with their higher price tag but also improved ear fitting and new noise cancellation, were not a replacement for regular AirPods. He says they're a companion piece, a complement.
Since having both AirPods and AirPods Pro would mean your spending about $450 for devices that we now know will run out of useful life in a few years, we were less inclined to agree.
Then we used the AirPods Pro, and now we can't imagine going back to the previous ones. The noise cancellation is startlingly good, and the way that it comes with multiple tips to fit different-sized ears is tremendous. If basically unrepairable.
Unsurprisingly, you needed to update your iPhone to the latest variant of iOS 13 to use the new AirPods Pro. (This month you also absolutely had to update your old iPhone 5 to iOS 10.3.4 because a time rollover change in how GPS works would cut off your use of everything from iCloud to Mail.)
If that GPS-related update wasn't Apple's fault, other things were. Most noticeable was how the newly released iOS 13.2 was actually bricking some HomePods. Some people were fine — so long as they didn't reset it or remove it from the Home app — but others had to wait for Apple to issue a fix.
That happened quite quickly. But you weren't so lucky if you were a musician who'd been waiting to update your Mac to macOS Catalina. While Catalina came out this month, Apple was soon telling DJs to stick to last year's Mojave.
This wasn't precisely because of a bug, more than a feature had been left out in the move away from iTunes into separate apps for Music, Podcasts and TV. The way you could export a playlist using XML was changed, and it affected third-party developers.
Then AppleInsider learned that Catalina wasn't playing very nice with certain eGPU setups either. You had to have a pretty specific combination of hardware, typically a Mac mini with a Radeon 570 or 580-based eGPUs, but if you did, you could find your machine wouldn't even boot up.
Catalina was proving to be another case of expectations and disappointments. Just as how iOS 13 had been unusually problematic, Catalina followed a similar situation with promised features being delayed. The much-awaited and much needed iCloud Folder Sharing was bumped from the October launch to sometime in Spring 2020.
Software we did nearly got
Throughout the month, Adobe got a lot of press for its Photoshop for iPad — but it was far from all good. And while Adobe effectively just announced it again this October, after its initial announcement back in October 2018, it still didn't come out.
But enough people were using the beta version to mean there was a consensus that Photoshop for iPad wasn't great. Having instead spun it as being the full Photoshop as known and beloved on the Mac, and some other platform, Adobe now began saying we were wrong to expect it to be the full Photoshop at all.
"Launching every single feature that was accumulated over 25 years on the iPad on day one would not best serve our customers and the needs they have," said Scott Belsky, chief product officer of Adobe Creative Cloud.
In other words, it's an unimaginably giant job to get Photoshop onto a new platform, and Adobe was going to have to work their way up to what they had promised.
China and software
Every single month so far in 2019 had seen issues to do with China, ranging from manufacturing to political ones — but not October. This month saw a lot of news about China, but it was all centered on a single app.
"HKmap Live" was an app that ostensibly showed people in Hong Kong where police and protesters were, so that they could avoid the areas if needed. Having allowed it onto the App Store, Apple then removed it, saying that "the app allowed users to evade law enforcement."
It wasn't clear, though, whether this was Apple acting on its own or responding to pressure from the Chinese authorities.
Whatever the cause, the app bounced back to life — before Apple removed it again. This time the seemingly permanent removal did follow noise from China, with a Hong Kong legislator asking Tim Cook to put "values over profits, pls!"
Later, Chinese state media went so far as to call Apple "unwise and reckless" for having allowed the app. But the same day it said that, an Apple memo was leaked showing that Cook supported the choice to remove the app. So it didn't look like it would be back any time soon.
With no hardware event and not even a software or services one, when we weren't following the on/off "HKmap Live" story, we were popping in our AirPods Pro and wondering what to use our Apple Cards to buy. Also, this month, we had to wonder what we already had used our Apple Cards to buy, as there was a problem with the statements.
With money comes legal problems. October 2019 had its regular share of lawsuits against Apple, and it had Apple formally supporting DACA. But there was one odd case. This is the month that a Russian man sued Apple for "turning him gay."