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Apple's August 2023 in review - Vision Pro grows nearer, Apple TV+ gets Messi, iPhone end call button drama

Apple looked to the future with Vision Pro, while others looked to the past with the End Call button

August 2023 was a month where Vision Pro was talked about, iOS 17's End Call button was argued over, Apple TV+ exploded with new football fans, and there was yet more about AI.

July 2023 was all but forgotten as we headed into what turned out to be the tumultuous waters of August and the absolutely shocking revelation about the iPhone's End Call button.

For the first time since the original iPhone was released, Apple moved the big red End Call button. Instead of centered and on its own near the bottom of the screen, it was now to the left and in a six-pack of controls.

If you were on the iOS 17 beta test from the start, you saw this and presumably didn't care.

No one cared in June. No one cared in July.

But come August, that repositioned End Call button was now at the center of another calamitous Apple-is-doomed furore.

People did have a point — 16 years of muscle memory is not to be ignored. And where moving the button off center might or might not be a big deal, changing it from being isolated to one of six controls means a vastly greater chance to tap the wrong one.

Without looking, can you tell if this is how your iPhone is now or was originally?
Without looking, can you tell if this is how your iPhone is now or was originally?

Nonetheless, the furore was a bit excessive and yet maybe that's what you need to be to get Apple to do anything. For in mid-August, Apple gave in and changed the position of the End Call button.

Being Apple, though, it kept the potentially problematic new block of six buttons, and switched a couple around so that End Call was in the middle.

It was enough to silence the critics, who anyway had moved on to Watch Band-gate.

Cleanliness is next to Apple Watch

This month, researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) published their findings after testing Apple Watch bands for bacterial build up. You don't want to think about it, but those bands are breeding grounds for bacteria including Staphylococcus spp and E. coli.

Before you tear the strap off your wrist, though, relax. Dangerous bacteria was only found in a mere 95% of wristbands tested.

You don't want to know how dirty Apple Watch bands get, but you need to
You don't want to know how dirty Apple Watch bands get, but you need to

To be specific, not to mention stomach churning, E. coli was on around 60% of the bands, while Staphylococcus spp was on 85%.

This hasn't even crossed your mind before now, but once you know about the bacteria, you also know the obvious answer. Learn how to clean your Apple Watch bands and everything will be fine.

It's not clear just how often you should clean yours, and it never will be since everyone's use case is different.

But if you've been wearing the same strap since the Apple Watch Series 0 in 2015, stop reading and get scrubbing.

Only a matter of time

It was only in 2014, or about a year before the Apple Watch came out, that we first got to hear of Microsoft Cortana. It was a Siri-like digital assistant and now the only word that matters here is "was."

Cortana had already exited phones stage right in 2021, but now its last home was shutting its doors. Microsoft whispered to users through a support document, that Cortana would no longer be supported in even Windows, from this month.

Take a last look at Cortana
Take a last look at Cortana

That means the presumably little-used Cortana joins the ranks of the little-remembered Bixby and totally forgotten Google Assistant, as a Siri rival that ultimately failed to rival Siri. It's a peculiar victory for Apple, as Siri was the first voice assistant, yet it has seemingly always been as frustrating as it is useful.

It's presumed that Microsoft's interest has gone from Cortana to all things AI, though, since that's where everyone's interest has gone. And since Microsoft has publicly committed itself to OpenAI's ChatGPT, and offerings including an AI-powered Bing search engine.

Apple is the only Big Tech firm to not bellow about AI and all the investment companies are making in what they guarantee is the future. The smart money says that Apple is at least as deep into AI as anyone, since it has been leveraging Machine Learning for years.

But in August 2023, Tim Cook said enough already, enough with the criticism that we can't spell "AI."

"We've been doing research across a wide range of AI technologies, including generative AI, for years," he said in response to the news that Apple had spent $22.61 billion on research and development in the financial year ending 2023.

"We're going to continue investing and innovating and responsibly advancing our products with these technologies to help enrich people's lives," he continued. "Obviously, we're investing a lot, and it is showing up in the R&D spending that you're looking at."

Bard is the future, says Google which is forever shutting down its services
Bard is the future, says Google which is forever shutting down its services

There are other research projects

At least part of those billions going on research will, though, have been spent on Apple Vision Pro. Now that Apple's long-expected VR headset has been revealed — although not really launched — the company is busy developing it further.

Apple is working to make it ready for users, and now developers are basically having some fun with it. Turing Software, developer of UTM Virtual Machines, revealed this month how it has installed Windows XP on an Apple Vision Pro.

That's the kind of combination that makes you want to sit down. The dreadful Windows XP, with that bland grassy knoll wallpaper, can now be displayed in Vision Pro.

A developer has got Windows XP running on the Vision Pro simulator, but it's not entirely clear why
A developer has got Windows XP running on the Vision Pro simulator, but it's not entirely clear why

An operating system that was released in 2001, and you haven't used since, is now available on hardware being launched in 2024.

That's ten years after Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP.

Apple disposes of some history

Go back to 2011 and Apple's website was still riding high enough as the destination for the highest-quality film trailers, that the company released an app. The iTunes Movie Trailers app was launched, and this month, it was killed off.

Gone and probably forgotten —  Apple's Trailers app was discontinued
Gone and probably forgotten — Apple's Trailers app was discontinued

Apple really did do well with movie trailers for a long time, with people only having to see its QuickTime video quality to recognize how poor Microsoft's video playback was.

Nonetheless, maybe Apple got too good at this. Maybe the ability to skip a trailer and just buy the movie to watch in glorious quality on an iPad, an iPhone, a Mac, or an Apple TV 4K was just too tempting.

Certainly, video and all parts of Apple's services from iTunes purchases to Apple TV+ streaming has been rising. This month, Apple even reached its goal of one billion paid subscribers.

Meanwhile, as it celebrated that milestone, Apple was also looking at the iTunes Movie Trailers app. And after a few weeks of stuttering, and a few years of barely any updates, it was discontinued.

There is a strong chance that the first time you heard of it was when it was being shuttered.

Speaking of services

Apple TV+ took a time to find a breakout hit, but once it had "Ted Lasso" — now remembered in biscuit form — it was off. "Severance," "Slow Horses," "Silo" followed, as did many more hits that didn't begin with S.

Ted Lasso has moved on into biscuits. Obviously.
Ted Lasso has moved on into biscuits. Obviously.

Possibly nothing, though, has brought more viewers and subscribers to Apple TV+ than sport. And specifically, the streamer's coverage of footballer Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami or somewhere.

Messi is a footballer with an astonishing career in the British football leagues behind him, and you'd assume that "behind him" was an important fact. But he's come to the US not as a kind of obvious retirement plan, more as a way to become an enormous celebrity all over again.

Presumably it's working for him, but it is definitely working for Apple. Because Apple TV+ MLS Season Pass subscriptions doubled after Messi joined that team.

And if it isn't enough for you that there's been wall to wall, minute to minute coverage of his joining the team, playing for the team, being part of the team, and anything else with the team that you can think of, there is more.

Footballer Lionel Messi
Footballer Lionel Messi

Apple TV+ announced this month that it was making a six-part documentary about Messi. This is entirely separate to Apple's other "documentary event" about him, too.

When Apple does and doesn't give in

Speaking of being all about him, Elon Musk tried taking on Apple on behalf of us all, except really it was just for Elon Musk. Having got Apple to break App Store rules and allow a one-letter app name — for X, the renamed Twitter app — Musk wants a change to App Store fees.

You can see Apple shrugging over the one-letter-app-name, but not over changing something that brings in income. And it didn't budge.

We'll never know quite how the conversation with Musk went — if there even was a conversation — but this month did coincidentally see something that may reflect discussions like this. Apple launched an ad campaign telling people to "Pay the Apple Way."

Apple did cave in to demands from China this month, though. It removed over 100 ChatGPT-like apps from China's version of the App Store.

The company put more effort into pushing back against India, though. While ultimately India turned out to be just flexing its muscles, for a time it looked as if Apple and all technology manufacturers would have to pay the Indian government for the right to import their laptops and other devices.

This was introduced as law with such short notice that you can picture Tim Cook pausing with a sandwich halfway to his mouth. But then while imports of MacBooks and iPads did briefly stop, pressure from technology firms got India to delay.

Promoting the
Promoting the "Apple Way" of paying

Apple was particularly vocal in this, but it seemed as if nothing could stop India. Until something did.

Nothing, though, stopped Russia as it decided to fine Apple over some Apple News row or other. The important thing is this Russian court devastated Apple by fining it the equivalent of two seconds' worth of profit.

You have to wonder whether Apple can possibly survive into September 2023.