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Apple's October 2023 in review: Scary Fast new Macs, Google's trial, and The Afterparty's over

Apple can be frightening when it wants to be.

Apple slipped in some new Mac launches in October 2023, while a DOJ versus Google case slipped out some details about just how much the search firm pays the iPhone maker.

One sec — 30 days hath September, April, June, and November. No, October 2023 had 31 days so in fact Apple did not squeak in a big product launch with seconds to go.

Instead, it brought us its "Scary Fast" event and new Mac a whole day before the end of the month. Which was nice because up to about October 30, the prevailing wisdom was that Apple was done for the year.

But still, this was a peculiar event. The fact that it was later in the year than most people expected is a shrug, but Apple ran it at 5:00 PM ET, a full seven hours later than just about any other launch it's made in a couple of decades.

That odd time, plus the news that Apple was running watch parties and making gift bags, it was enough to make you wonder. Normally people analyze Apple's invitation graphics for clues — and this time the image was a nod to the Mac's history — but now it was all about time.

For 5:00 PM ET just so happens to be 7:00 AM in Tokyo. So maybe we were going to see a live linkup to, say, a Japanese gaming firm.

That was seriously discussed, even though we knew the event was prerecorded. In the end, as AppleInsider did predict, the reason for the time turned out to be most likely because a smart Apple PR person knew it would get all of this attention.

Left: Susan Kare's original Happy Mac. Right: the version in the dock of every Mac today
Left: Susan Kare's original Happy Mac. Right: the version in the dock of every Mac today

Plus it was Halloween, there were some bats in the video, and Tim Cook did act as if 5:00 PM ET in Cupertino was midnight in Transylvania. (As it happens, it is.)

Gains and losses at the event

If it seems wrong to concentrate on the trappings of the launch event instead of on what was actually launched, it is. But when there is sound and fury, there's usually nothing else, and while this event wasn't exactly empty, it wasn't dramatic either.

The new M3 MacBook Pro
The new M3 MacBook Pro

This was the launch of the M3 processor, and as fast as it is and faster than the previous models, it was the first time we weren't especially blown away. Opinions vary, and no one says M3 is exactly slow, but it wasn't as eye-poppingly faster as the M1 was compared to the Intel processors.

Still, we got M3 versions of the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro — and they came in black, too.

Apple's M3 MacBook Pro summary
Apple's M3 MacBook Pro summary

The iMac didn't add or change any colors from its 2021 revision, nor did it really change anything at all, except for the move to an M3 processor.

With the iMac, it was a case if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Whereas with the 13-inch MacBook, it was more Apple giving up working on the Touch Bar and retiring it.

Some people liked the Touch Bar a lot, but it's gone now
Some people liked the Touch Bar a lot, but it's gone now

Anecdotally, people who actively disliked the Touch Bar tended to be touch typists. So for them, having to look down at the bar to see what controls were there was a distraction.

But there were plenty of other people who loved the Touch Bar, and of course, the moment it was gone, they all spoke up fondly.

Can't innovate, my ass

If the M3 wasn't electrifying — and, again, you wouldn't turn one down — then there was other news this month that shows Apple has still got it. Only Apple could do something that initially sounds like an April Fools' joke, and be serious about it.

It was revealed that Apple plans to update the software on its iPhone, while they are still in their boxes. And while they are still on the shelves of stores or in pallets next to courier trucks ready to be sent out.

Even this is too much: Apple will update that iPhone without taking it out of the box
Even this is too much: Apple will update that iPhone without taking it out of the box

Seriously, without opening the box at all, Apple has plans to update the software. It's to avoid the common issue that you buy a new iPhone, and the first thing it does is tell you to update to a newer version of iOS.

Arguably, it's a very big hammer to end a rather small problem, but this is Apple thinking further than anyone else.

Although you wouldn't want to be the poor storeroom clerk charged with updating one iPhone box at a time.

Mind you, nor would you want to be whoever at Apple got all of the inconsistent complaints about the iPhone 15 overheating. Whoever they were or their team was, though, they figured out something and released an update that addressed the issue without affecting performance.

Big Tech needs sorting out

With the iPhone 15 now in customer's hands after the September 2023 launch, it was time to get serious about much more than intermittent overheating. And it was time for the UK government to do its thing.

Find My on an iPhone in the UK
Find My on an iPhone in the UK

Its thing being to ignore crumbling schools (literally crumbling), poverty, food banks, and all of that, and instead stand up for us all against Big Tech. Reportedly, executives from Apple, Google, and Samsung were ordered to report to Whitehall to discuss ways of preventing smartphone theft.

Specifically, the UK was to tell these companies that they should design some systems in their phones to act as a theft deterrent.

Given that the UK is on the verge of a general election and most pundits expect roaring defeat for the current government, it's possible that the politicians involved were looking to the future. And to being the holders of the Guinness World Record for the Shortest Meeting Ever.

For everything that the UK was reportedly going to demand, at least Apple was already doing all of it, if not every manufacturer.

Pickleball and couch surfing

Something that either everyone is doing or everyone should be doing, is playing pickleball. This month, findings from the Apple Heart and Movement Study claimed that the sport is an aid to mental health, as well as physical.

Pickelball player with an Apple Watch
Pickelball player with an Apple Watch

If you are more into watching TV than running, October 2023 had some bad news for you. Apple TV+ went and controversially cancelled "The Problem with Jon Stewart."

It was put down to an amicable parting between the show's production company and Apple, which tells us nothing. There was supposition that the show wanted to cover issues regarding China and that Apple consequently dropped the series.

However, Apple TV+ didn't even blink when the show publicly criticized Apple itself. So who knows, maybe they ran out of ideas or steam, or something.

Whereas this month saw two examples of ideas, on the smallest and the largest of scales.

The smallest was that Apple TV+ hit "Ted Lasso" returned to our attention — as a Barbie doll. It was a rather late promotion for the excellent Barbie movie, but it was a thorough one as there were also doll versions of "Ted Lasso" characters Rebecca Welton and Keeley Jones.

The new Ted Lasso Barbie doll could be Kenough for you
The new Ted Lasso Barbie doll could be Kenough for you

Each sells for $50, and there was a strict maximum of two per order. So you could spend anywhere from nothing to $300.

And if you did spend that much, you now have a way to spread that cost out a little. After months in beta testing, Apple launched Apple Pay Later in the US.

No party for "The Afterparty"

While all that promotion of a great film and a now-ended TV series was going on, Apple quietly made another cancellation.

The Afterparty
The Afterparty

"The Afterparty" was dropped by Apple TV+ this month, following a second season that was excellent — but not as much so as the first run.

However, unlike, say, Disney+, Apple is not going to remove "The Afterparty" from its streaming service, so you can go watch it right now.

Apple probably keeps its shows available because, compared to Netflix or Disney+, it has so very few. But it also isn't removing them to save a nickel or two in royalties to writers and other creators, as Disney+ appears to be doing.

That could be because as everyone knows, Apple has pots of money. But one of those pots did find itself on shaky ground this month.

Google and the DOJ

Previously, the fact that the Department of Justice was suing Google felt like just another day and just another suit. But despite Apple very specifically not being included in the case, Apple got included in the case.

Prior to October 2023, Apple executives including Eddy Cue were called as witnesses. Cue, for one, just talked about how Apple uses Google as its default search engine because it's the best.

But then during this month, studies into Google financial documents turned up the fact that the search company pays Apple to be the default on iPhones. That wasn't a shock, that wasn't news, but the figure was.

It was estimated that Google presently pays Apple up to $20 billion a year for being the default.

Apple Park cost $5 billion to construct, or three months of what Google allegedly pays Apple to be the default iPhone search engine
Apple Park cost $5 billion to construct, or three months of what Google allegedly pays Apple to be the default iPhone search engine

Since one of the potential outcomes of the DOJ's lawsuit is that Google would have to stop making deals like this, suddenly the case became more important at Apple Park.

Where currently everyone at Apple seems to be focused on Vision Pro, which was again reported to be on track for release early next year.

We've heard that before and we'll doubtlessly hear it again, but in that month Tim Cook did take time to stress you'll have to see Vision Pro to really understand it.

"There are huge differences in how people look at it, depending on if they've read about it or actually tried it," he said. "I believe even more about how profound spatial computing is. When you've tried it, it's an aha moment, and you only have a few of those in a lifetime."

It would be good if Apple would have an a-ha moment and stop its shameful and illegal union-busting efforts, though.