FaceTime

Apple disables Walkie Talkie app due to vulnerability that could allow iPhone eavesdropping

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, apple store, Apple Watch, Companies, FaceTime, iOS, iOS 10, iPhone, Mobile, privacy, Security, TC, technology, vulnerability | No Comments

Apple has disabled the Apple Watch Walkie Talkie app due to an unspecified vulnerability that could allow a person to listen to another customer’s iPhone without consent, the company told TechCrunch this evening.

Apple has apologized for the bug and for the inconvenience of being unable to use the feature while a fix is made.

The Walkie Talkie app on Apple Watch allows two users who have accepted an invite from each other to receive audio chats via a “push to talk” interface reminiscent of the PTT buttons on older cell phones.

A statement from Apple reads:

We were just made aware of a vulnerability related to the Walkie-Talkie app on the Apple Watch and have disabled the function as we quickly fix the issue. We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and will restore the functionality as soon as possible. Although we are not aware of any use of the vulnerability against a customer and specific conditions and sequences of events are required to exploit it, we take the security and privacy of our customers extremely seriously. We concluded that disabling the app was the right course of action as this bug could allow someone to listen through another customer’s iPhone without consent.  We apologize again for this issue and the inconvenience.

Apple was alerted to the bug via its report a vulnerability portal directly and says there is no current evidence that it was exploited in the wild.

The company is temporarily disabling the feature entirely until a fix can be made and rolled out to devices. The Walkie Talkie App will remain installed on devices, but will not function until it has been updated with the fix.

Earlier this year a bug was discovered in the group calling feature of FaceTime that allowed people to listen in before a call was accepted. It turned out that the teen who discovered the bug, Grant Thompson, had attempted to contact Apple about the issue but was unable to get a response. Apple fixed the bug and eventually rewarded Thompson a bug bounty. This time around, Apple appears to be listening more closely to the reports that come in via its vulnerability tips line and has disabled the feature.

Earlier today, Apple quietly pushed a Mac update to remove a feature of the Zoom conference app that allowed it to work around Mac restrictions to provide a smoother call initiation experience — but that also allowed emails and websites to add a user to an active video call without their permission.

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Apple’s iOS 13 update will make FaceTime eye contact way easier

Posted by | Apple, apple inc, Apps, FaceTime, Gadgets, iOS, iOS 12, iPhone, iPhone XS, mobile phones, operating systems, TC | No Comments

Apple has added a feature called “FaceTime Attention Correction” to the latest iOS 13 Developer beta, and it looks like it could make a big difference when it comes to actually making FaceTime calls feel even more like talking to someone in person. The feature, spotted in the third beta of the new software update that went out this week, apparently does a terrific job of making it look like you’re looking directly into the camera even when you’re looking at the screen during a FaceTime call.

That’s actually a huge improvement, because when people FaceTime, most of the time they’re looking at the screen rather than the camera, since the whole point is to see the person or people you’re talking to, rather than the small black lens at the top of your device.

Guys – “FaceTime Attention Correction” in iOS 13 beta 3 is wild.

Here are some comparison photos featuring @flyosity: https://t.co/HxHhVONsi1 pic.twitter.com/jKK41L5ucI

— Will Sigmon (@WSig) July 2, 2019

The catch so far seems to be that this FaceTime feature is only available on iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which could mean it only works with the latest camera tech available on Apple hardware. That could be because of the new image signal processor that Apple included in the A12 processor that powers the iPhone XS and XS Max, which also provide improvements over previous generation phones in terms of HDR and portrait lighting effects.

It’s also possible with any updates or features that arrive in iOS beta releases that they could expand to other devices and/or vanish prior to the actual public launch of iOS 13, which is set for this fall. But here’s hoping this one remains in place, because it really seems to make a huge difference in terms of providing a sense of “presence” for FaceTime calls, which is one of the core values of the Apple chat feature overall.

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Apple is adding group FaceTime video calls to iOS 12

Posted by | Apple, Apps, FaceTime, iOS 12, iOS at WWDC 2018, Mobile, WWDC 2018 | No Comments

Apple is adding the ability to FaceTime more people onto a video call, allowing up to 32 people to be on the call — and tapping an increasing interest in group video calling stemming from apps like Houseparty

As far as features go, this was a pretty natural addition to the FaceTime App. Houseparty exposed a lot of interest in this area, allowing multiple friends to spin up a video chat. But it’s also a technically strenuous proposition running multiple livestreams, and Apple does seem uniquely positioned to absorb the technical overhead (and costs) of running multiple FaceTime streams all at once. Houseparty allows up to 8 people streaming in a video call at once, though the last significant update we might have heard from Houseparty was some tweaks to notifications in January last year. Houseparty said it had 1 million users in November 2016.

The app spreads out each stream as a series of tiles that will move around based on who is engaging on the call at the time. When someone speaks, the tile automatically gets larger automatically as a way to try to highlight whoever is talking to create a more robust experience. The whole goal is to try to make it easier to video call with a lot of different people all at once in a way that still feels pretty social.

Houseparty, for example, sits at around #10 on the App Store for the social category and still a top-200 app, according to App Annie. It has a 4.4-star rating in the App Store and was last updated at the beginning of June, according to the App Store. So it’s still chugging along, though it does seem like Apple may nullify an app like Houseparty if it hasn’t locked in a huge and engaged fan base. 25 million App Store and Google Play users worldwide have already downloaded the app, according to app analysis firm SensorTower.

The next version of iOS tends to come out around the time of the next Apple event, which usually happens around September. Apple announced a stream of updates to iOS in its next version, iOS 12, including FaceTime group chats.

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Apple adds camera effects like stickers, filters and Memoji to messages

Posted by | Apple, Apps, AR at WWDC 2018, FaceTime, Group Video Chat, imessage, iOS at WWDC 2018, messages, Mobile, Social, TC, Visual Communication, WWDC 2018 | No Comments

Apple is invading Snapchat’s territory with new effects that let you embellish what you shoot through the Messages camera. Today at WWDC, Apple announced that iOS 12’s Messages camera will offer a variety of sticker packs, style transfers like a “comic book” filter, drawn shapes and both Animoji and the new personalized avatar Memoji.

These effects will also be available in FaceTime, which now supports group video conversations with up to 32 people. That could spell trouble for dedicated group video chat apps like Houseparty and Facebook’s Bonfire, as well as bigger apps that offer it like Snapchat.

These effects could make people who want more visual communication choose Apple’s native messaging app rather than third parties like Snapchat, Instagram Direct or Facebook Messenger. The new features will be available in iOS 12 that launches today in developer beta before a full release this fall.

Stickers were previously only available in message threads where they’d appear on a white background. But now you can overlay them on photos, videos and FaceTime. That opens opportunities for new fashion stickers that let you add sunglasses, hats, mustaches, clothes and more that only make sense when stuck to your selfie.

Apple is starting far behind here. Snapchat’s been adding creative features since 2013, and Instagram joined in with its clone of Stories in 2016, followed by Facebook in 2017. They’re all now equipped with GIFs, color filters, augmented reality and more. Animoji and Memoji are the Messages camera’s biggest differentiators, so Apple may need to aggressively promote the ability to overlay these on imagery if it wants to steal attention from Snap and Facebook.

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