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Apple revealed just how much money we've paid it, plus it got into a spat with Facebook, and it stepped up its fitness workouts.
This is a review of January 2021, but just take a step back to the same time in 2019 for a moment. Then the headline news was that Apple sales were down, and worries about China were up.
That would be back in the days before the coronavirus, so the China worries at the time were all about Apple's falling fortunes there.
Skip forward to January 2021, and after the most tumultuous of years, things were now looking almost entirely the opposite for Apple. The company broke $100 billion in a single quarter for the first time, and a significant part of that was down to China.
Throughout its history, Apple has always claimed to be focused on the long game instead of reacting to the daily volatile changes in the technology market. Two years ago, faced with serious problems in China, Apple made long-term moves that have now paid off.
Across the world, the iPad, the Mac, and Apple's services contributed to earnings so high they're hard to imagine. But they also contributed to another figure it's difficult to grasp — there are, today, over a billion iPhones in active use.
It's clear, then, that Apple can sit back for a while — and that everybody loves Apple. Yeah, no, about that.
Facebook wants to take Apple to court
The issue this month was the same as it had been since Apple announced it was going to make users actively decide whether or not to allow advertisers to track their iPhone use. When you're asked this, after what was then still the forthcoming update to iOS 14, you're likely to say no.
At first, you may think about it, as each app with any tracking asks you individually, and you may find you're fine with some advertisers, not fine with others. The worry for these firms, and Facebook, is that after the tenth time you're asked by any app, you're just going to hit no whenever the button comes up anywhere.
No, wait, that's not just a worry, that is actually the full and correct fear, and it is specifically because Apple wants to protect us. If you listen to Facebook, though, you're wrong to think that, because it's really something completely different.
If we weren't all socially distancing, it felt as if we'd have had a fistfight in the playground by now. Zuckerberg won't shut up about bad Apple and good Facebook, while Tim Cook was practically driven to say "seriously?"
The issues over privacy — sorry, Apple's money-grabbing business incentive — did lead to one of Apple's few launches in January 2021.
It's simplistic to an extreme, reading more like a picture book story than the report it aims to be, but it's also effective. It centers on the tale of a father and daughter spending the day together harvesting data for advertisers.
Apple released it on Data Protection Day, January 28, and at the same time, Tim Cook made the rounds of privacy conferences. He called privacy "one of the top issues of the century," and if Facebook is right that this is just marketing spiel, it's powerfully persuasive marketing spiel.
Tim Cook also made a compelling argument that Apple would really like it if all technology companies adopted this particular marketing spiel. Apple, he says, wants "to create ripples of positive change across the industry."
It also wants to put some of its massive earnings where its mouth is. As well as the privacy report launch, in January 2021, Apple stepped up its previously announced project called the Racial Equality and Justice Initiative.
The project is seeing the creation of the Propel Center, "a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)." There are also multiple investments in different projects, but as well as the cash, each one seems to see Apple being involved for the long haul.
Your definition of a long haul may be different to Apple's, but it's probably longer than 25-40 minutes. That's the typical length of Apple's last launch in January 2021, the new "Time to Walk" feature for Apple Watch.
For Apple Watch users who also subscribe to Apple Fitness+, this feature is like having a short audiobook read by a celebrity. From Dolly Parton, Shawn Mendes, and more, you get them talking to you about their lives as you walk.
Few launches, but several removals
If Apple didn't add very much to the world in January 2021, it did take some things away — both directly and indirectly. The indirect one had taken an exceptionally long time, but nonetheless you can trace the 2021 death of Flash right back to Steve Jobs dissing it https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/11/12/editorial-how-steve-jobs-thoughts-on-flash-gave-ipad-a-head-start-in-tablets in 2010.
It took a little less time for Apple to remove Parler from the App Store. Specifically, it took 24 hours.
The social media app was given that long to introduce moderation, following allegations of its being used to "plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal activities in Washington, D.C."
Parler said no at the time, arguing something about free speech and failing to mention that moderation costs a lot of money, and so Apple pulled it. Google didn't even wait 24 hours to remove it, but Amazon gave it a little longer before pulling the plug on its servers.
Important safety tip
This is the new charging technology that brilliantly uses magnets to make certain your iPhone 12 Pro lines up perfectly when you put it on the charger. It turns out that it's also potentially the technology that might potentially interfere with pacemakers, defibrillators, and other medical equipment.
It's because of the magnets, so it's not that MagSafe is somehow unusually dangerous, it's many types of device that use these.
Nonetheless, when you first read Apple saying MagSafe could stop your heart, you probably thought it's something to do with the price.
You might have reacted as badly to the news of there being Apple Silicon M1 malware — but that was to come in Apple's February 2021.