March 2021

on current events

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Vaccinations in the US are happening at an accelerating pace.

As of March 14, 2021:

As of March 11, 2021:

Here is a view of Covid-19 vaccinations administered around the globe.

The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography continues to hold virtual events on photography and art and they are open to the community.

Apple and iOS news

[ RUMOR ] An Apple event could be held on March 23, according to a leaker. Apple might launch the (also rumored) AirTags, new iPads, and possibly updated AirPods (v3??).

[ RUMOR ] iPad Pro With Thunderbolt and Mini-LED Display Coming 'As Early As April', reports MacRumors, based on a report by Bloomberg. ( We will know soon enough if these rumors are accurate.)

We are still (im)patiently waiting for iOS14.5 which is in beta currently. Recall that it will include the option to unlock your faceID-based iPhone, when wearing a mask, with your Apple Watch. Meanwhile, here is a list of features coming with 14.5.

iOS 14.5 appears to have a new Apple Music feature called ‘City Charts’, reports 9to5Mac. `Users will soon have access to playlists from over 100 cities around the world with the most played songs in each.’

Apple released a fun ad with a messy chef to showcase ceramic shields in iPhone 12, and a tagline `More spill and splash resistant than ever. Ceramic Shield, tougher than any smartphone glass. Relax, it’s iPhone’. Watch:

Future releases of iOS security fixes could soon be delivered separately from other updates, beta code suggests, reports 9to5Mac.

Apple Maps started to display COVID-19 vaccination locations. `Ask Siri or search within Apple Maps to find nearby COVID-19 vaccine providers throughout the US, with operating hours and links to important information’, Apple announced in their press release yesterday (March16). This is made possible by VaccineFinder, a free, online service developed by Boston Children’s Hospital that provides the latest vaccine availability for those eligible at providers and pharmacies throughout the US. Providers can add info on COVID-19 testing or vaccination locations. Users can find nearby COVID-19 vaccination locations from the Search bar in Apple Maps by selecting COVID-19 Vaccines in the Find Nearby menu or by asking Siri, `Where can I get a COVID vaccination?'

Apple is also enabling local businesses to update their entries to display COVID-related info, like shopping hours. This is very helpful and all within Maps.

Also, with iOS 14.5, Apple Maps Could Feature Real-Time Crowd Data for Points of Interest, reports MacRumors: `Apple has begun testing a new feature that could provide Apple Maps users with real-time crowd data for points of interest, similar to Google Maps.’ This is a very useful feature.

Siri can now tell you what Oprah is reading. Apple has a partnership with "Oprah's Book Club" and also offers a `follow-along’ reading experience, via the Apple Books app and the Apple TV+ app. Just ask `What is Oprah reading?` and Siri plays a brief synopsis read by Oprah.

SellCell helps you sell or buy, by comparing prices from 35+ Buyback Companies to find the best deal. SellCell shows The top 100 most popular cellphones, with Apple iPhones having the top 12 spots (as of March 17). Results are updated daily.

Apple brand loyalty hits all-time high as Samsung loyalty dives, based on a survey by SellCell. It shows that 91.9% of iPhone owners plan to buy another iPhone when they next upgrade, up 1.4% from 2019. SellCell says that only 74% of Samsung smartphone owners plan to buy another Samsung model, down from 85.7% in 2019.

Arstechnica reports FaceTime users bombarded with group call spam. `FaceTime users are getting bombarded with group calls from numbers they’ve never seen before, often as many as 20 times in short succession during late hours of the night.’ They remind us that `A user can also turn off FaceTime in iOS settings or in the macOS app, but that prevents users from receiving wanted calls as well. Last, people can uncheck their phone number under the FaceTime setting “where you can be reached.” Once again, however, this will prevent wanted calls that are initiated using the user’s number.’ Another option is to enable DNB (Do not disturb) during night hours, and this is good practice in general. Hopefully Apple will issue a FaceTime fix soon.

Apple’s press release today: Apple’s $4.7 billion Green Bond spend is helping to create 1.2 gigawatts of clean power. `In 2020, Apple funded 17 Green Bond projects that will avoid an average of 921,000 metric tons of carbon emissions annually, which is equivalent to removing nearly 200,000 cars from the road. The projects will generate 1.2 gigawatts of renewable energy globally, with Apple adding over 350 megawatts of newly installed renewable energy over the last year in Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, and Denmark. Apple’s Green Bond issuances are among the largest in the private sector.`

Here is a comparison HomePod vs. Mini by 9to5Mac.

Apple is discontinuing the original HomePod to focus on the Mini HomePod.

Apple’s statement to techCrunch is: `HomePod mini has been a hit since its debut last fall, offering customers amazing sound, an intelligent assistant, and smart home control all for just $99. We are focusing our efforts on HomePod mini. We are discontinuing the original HomePod, it will continue to be available while supplies last through the Apple Online Store, Apple Retail Stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers. Apple will provide HomePod customers with software updates and service and support through Apple Care.’

Here is iMore’s Rene Ritchie with thoughts and background info on why Apple is killing the HomePod. He’s guessing that perhaps Apple is working on a follow-on version.

Remember the Apple older ads with the Mac vs. PC guy? Justin Long played the Mac guy. No, Intel hired Justin Long to throw shade at M1 Apple Silicon in Intel’s new ad campaign.

iOS apps

SlowFastSlow is an app that lets you control the speed of your iPhone videos. The app is fun and free.

Olga gave a demo of SlowFastSlow with one of her dog videos.

Apple spotlights Caria app: it helps debunk the myths of menopause, Apple reports in their Newsroom. Download Caria from the App store.


Lee points us to Emojiconomics, a podcast episode of Planet Money (NPR) about how emojis come about and how they can be funded by various companies.

You can also find the story on NPR's Emojinomics article: `The story behind that little truck is actually a window into the shadowy corporate cabal behind emoji and the big and sometimes dare we say DARK MONEY that companies are pushing around behind the scenes to shape our keyboards and influence how we communicate every day.'

tips & tricks

Apple has a webpage to Manage your AppleID.

On iOS and also on macOS, you can select the address you prefer to use to send replies from.

gadgets & accessories

A review of Kensington StudioDock, by 9to5Mac. They say it’s `an impressive iPad USB-C dock with a plethora of I/O’. See a video overview and demo (Unboxing ends around 1:10 if you want to skip):


Apple Watch saves another person, this time in New Hampshire. The man was ice-skating but suddenly the ice broke. “I remember telling myself, 'OK, don't panic. Don't panic. Figure out what your options are here,'” Rogers said. As his breathing labored, Rogers turned to his Apple Watch. “It worked. Saved my life, I think,” Rogers said. He called 911. Man uses Apple Watch to call 911 after falling through ice in Somersworth, reports WMUR. Thankfully, firefighters responded within five minutes and safely rescued the skater.

privacy & security

A Hacker Got All My Texts for $16, reports Vice: `A gaping flaw in SMS lets hackers take over phone numbers in minutes by simply paying a company to reroute text messages’. Here is an example: `Looking down at my phone, there was no sign it had been hacked. I still had reception; the phone said I was still connected to the T-Mobile network. Nothing was unusual there. But the hacker had swiftly, stealthily, and largely effortlessly redirected my text messages to themselves. And all for just $16.' This

The flaw is in SMS communications and design. This shows the lack of security and the vulnerability of SMS and so much that depends upon it (such as verification text messages for security), and other vulnerabilities of our infrastructure. (Note: this is referring to SMS text messages, not Apple’s iMessage service.)

Apple is required to follow a new Russian law for Russian iPhone buyers: pre-install apps on iPhones as part of device setup.

next meeting

We are returning to monthly iPUG meetings, on our usual 1st Tuesday of every month. (We will discontinue the extra meetings on the 3rd Wednesday of the month that we added during 2020.)

The iPUG meetings will continue via Zoom, as long as social distancing is needed for Covid precautions.

The next iPUG meeting will be on Tuesday, April 6.