AWT News Update: April 21, 2016

Today's indirect Apple news is brought to you by the FBI, Griffin Technology, and Walmart... You'll know what we mean by indirect when you listen to the stories we have for you today.

  • That worthless FBI iPhone hack cost a lot of money...
  • Griffin's coming out with a new accessory on Monday that owners of the 12-inch MacBook will appreciate
  • Walmart updates its app to make contactless payments, but doesn't have all the necessary pieces in place to make it work

The text version of this podcast can be found below.

Text Version

Hi, I’m Steve Sande from Apple World Today, and this is the AWT News Update for April 21, 2016.

This first story is from the “Your tax dollars at work” department. FBI director James Comey was speaking at a security conference in London today, and mentioned indirectly that the agency spent about $1.3 million to hack the iPhone 5c used by the San Bernardino terrorist. By indirectly, Comey mentioned that it cost “a lot, more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months.” NBC News found that the FBI director is paid about $180,000 each year, and a simple calculation came up with the number. The high figure seems to indicate that whoever was able to perform the hack, it wasn’t Israeli company Cellebrite. The company was paid $15,000 for some work for the FBI, but it doesn’t appear Cellebrite was the company that actually provided the exploit. By the way, it’s been reported that no actionable intelligence data - such as names of accomplices or terrorist cell leaders — was gained by the hack on that iPhone. That’s $1.3 million that was not well spent.

One of the major complaints about the 12-inch MacBook was the lack of the big safety feature that Apple has had for years on its laptops — the MagSafe connector. Accessory manufacturer Griffin is introducing a new 6-foot long USB-C cable next Monday that’s called the BreakSafe that brings the safety of MagSafe to the little MacBook. The $40 BreakSafe has a tiny magnetic connector that plugs into the USB-C port, then attaches magnetically to the rest of the cable. Trip over the power cord, and that magnetic connector breaks free, keeping your MacBook from taking a tumble to the floor. Given that USB-C will probably migrate to other MacBooks in the future, it’s surprising that Apple didn’t consider a breakaway cable like this. At least one manufacturer is keeping an eye out for us!

Attention Walmart shoppers. As you well know, Walmart doesn’t support Apple Pay, instead using a flaky QR code-based system called Walmart Pay. This system lets customers register their credit, debit and gift cards in the official Walmart mobile app. To pay, point of sale terminals will display a QR code that the shopper points his or her iPhone camera at, authenticates the purchase with a passcode or Touch ID, and then the transaction is done. This capability was just worked into the latest version of the Walmart app, although the company’s stores apparently still don’t have the necessary software to display the QR codes needed. This is a case where a stubborn corporate entity that wants to have control over its touchless payments isn’t accepting the standard digital wallets like Apple Pay and Android Pay, instead using its own clunky solution. We can only hope it fails.

We’ll be back tomorrow afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.