I must be one of those people who lives in a cave. (Well, at least it’s a man-cave.) I didn’t even realize that Apple’s iOS 8 was released until I heard all of the hoopla in the news.
When Apple did their recent big presentation, I heard about the new watch and the new iPhone, but not about the new operating system. The smart-watch didn’t impress me. At CACC last month, I saw a few people wearing devices that told the time, maintained their calendar, synced with their portable devices, and even checked their heart rates and sleep cycles. In this regard, Apple seems a little late to the game, over-priced, and limited in functionality.
The new iPhone also didn’t impress me. The only significant difference that I have heard about is the bigger screen. I find it funny that pants pockets are getting smaller and phones are getting bigger… So, where do you put this new iPhone? You can’t be expected to carry it everywhere by hand when you’re also holding a venti pumpkin spice soy latte with whip no room. Someone really needs to build an iPhone protector that doubles as a cup-holder. (Oh wait, it exists.) Or maybe an iBelt… that hangs the iPhone like a codpiece since it is more of a symbol of geek virility than a useful mobile device.
Then again, I’m not an Apple fanatic. I use a Mac, but I don’t go out of the way to worship at the foot of the latest greatest i-device.
Apple formally announced all of these new devices on September 9th. I decided to look over the FotoForensics logs for any iOS 8 devices. Amazingly, I’ve had a few sightings… and they started months before the formal announcement.
The first place I looked was in my web server’s log files. Every browser sends its user-agent string with their web request. This usually identifies the operating system and browser. The intent is to allow web services to collect metrics about usage. If I see a bunch of people using some new web browser, then I can test my site with that browser and ensure a good user experience.
With iOS devices, they also encode the version number. So I just looked for anything claiming to be an iOS 8 device. Here’s the date/time and user-agent strings that match iOS 8. I’m only showing the 1st instance per day:
[18/Mar/2014:18:40:39 -0500] “Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; CPU OS 8_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/538.22 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/12A214″
[29/Apr/2014:13:27:58 -0500] “Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 8_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/538.30.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Mobile/12W252a”
[02/Jun/2014:16:56:45 -0500] “Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 8_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/538.34.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0 Mobile/12A4265u Safari/9537.53″
[03/Jun/2014:16:44:38 -0500] “Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 8_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/538.34.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0 Mobile/12A4265u Safari/9537.53″
After June 3rd, it basically became a daily appearance. The list includes iPhones and iPads. And, yes, the first few sightings came from Cupertino, California, where Apple is headquartered.
Even though iOS 8 is new, it looks like a few people have been using it for months. Product testers, demos, beta testers, etc.
When Apple released iOS 7, they added a new metadata field to their pictures. This field records the active-use time since the last reboot. I suspect that it is a useful metric for Apple. It also makes me wonder if iOS 8 added anything new.
As a research service, every picture uploaded to FotoForensics gets indexed for rapid searching. I searched the archive for any pictures that claim to be from an iOS 8 device. So far, there have only been five sightings. (Each photo shows personally identifiable information, selfies or pictures of text, so I won’t be linking to them.)
Amazingly, none of these initial iOS 8 photos are camera-original files. Adobe, Microsoft Windows, and other applications were used to save the picture. The earliest picture was uploaded on 2014-07-30 at 21:32:39 GMT by someone in California, and the picture’s metadata says it photographed on 2014-07-19.
Each of these iOS 8 photos came from an iPhone 5 or 5s device. I have yet to see any photos from an iPhone 6 device. (There was one sighting of an “iPhone 6Z” on 2013-01-30. But since it was uploaded by someone in France, I suspect that the metadata was altered.)
With the iPhone 5 and iOS 7, Apple introduced a “purple flare” problem. I don’t have many iOS 8 samples to compare against, and none are camera-originals. However, I’m not seeing the extreme artificial color correction that caused the purple flare. There’s still a distinct color correction, but it’s not as extreme. Perhaps the purple problem is fixed.
While this stops Apple from assisting with iPhone and iPad devices that use iOS 8, it does nothing to stop Apple from turning over information uploaded to Apple’s iCloud service. (You do have the “backup to iCloud” option enabled, right?) This also does nothing to stop brute-force account guessing attacks, like the kind reportedly used to compromise celebrity nude photos. The newly deployed two-factor authentication seems like a much better solution even if it is too little too late.
Then again, I can also foresee new services that will handle your encryption keys for you, in case you lose them. After a few hundred complaints like “I lost my password and cannot access my precious kitty photos! Please help me!”, I expect that an entire market of back door options will become available for Apple users.
Behind the Eight Ball
I didn’t really pay attention to Apple’s latest releases until after they were out. However, it wouldn’t take much to make a database of known user agents and trigger an automated alert when the next Apple product first appears. It’s one thing to read about iOS 8 on Mac Rumors a few months before the release; it’s another thing to see it in my logs six months earlier.
While I don’t think much of Apple’s latest offerings, that doesn’t mean it won’t drive the market. Sometimes it’s not the produce itself that drives the innovation; sometimes it’s the spaces that need filling.