A few months ago, OWC introduced the Envoy Pro FX, a portable SSD storage drive that is described as "the fastest, most compatible drive ever." I take a closer look at the Envoy Pro FX and its capabilities in my review below.

owc envoy pro fx featured

Key Features

  • Wide compatibility: The drive can be connected to a wide range of devices with Thunderbolt 3/4 or USB-C ports, such as the latest Mac, iPad Pro, and iPad Air models, as well as PCs and Microsoft Surface devices. There is also a USB-A adapter attached to the Thunderbolt cable included in the box.
  • Very fast speeds: Thunderbolt 3/4 compatibility allows for very fast read/write speeds up to an advertised 2,800 MB/s. I test speeds below.
  • Bus-powered: The drive is powered by the device it is connected to, not a power supply.
  • Tough design: The drive's aluminum housing has IP67-rated water and dust resistance and military-grade drop protection.
  • Storage capacities: 240GB, 480GB, 1TB, and 2TB.

Performance

The Envoy Pro FX enclosure is equipped with OWC's Aura P12 Pro, a high-performance SSD with M.2 NVMe 1.3 technology. With a PCI-Express 3.1 connection via Thunderbolt 3, OWC promises impressive read/write speeds up to 2,800 MB/s.

My test setup consisted of a base model 16-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz six-core 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor running macOS Big Sur 11.2, with the Envoy Pro FX connected directly to the MacBook Pro with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable. The drive was formatted with a single Apple File System (APFS) volume for macOS.

Using the popular AmorphousDiskMark 3.1 storage benchmark app by Katsura Shareware, the Envoy Pro FX achieved sequential read and write speeds of up to 3,002 MB/s and 2,324 MB/s respectively on my Mac. This is a bit above what OWC advertises, but in my actual usage of the drive, data transfer speeds were around the 2,700-2,800 MB/s mark. For example, I was able to transfer a 25GB file in around nine seconds.

envoy pro fx benchmark
By comparison, SanDisk's 1TB Extreme Pro SSD also uses M.2 NVMe 1.3 technology, but without Thunderbolt 3, sequential read performance is limited to up to 2,000 MB/s. And at the low end, external HDDs often top out at read speeds of around 100 MB/s to 150 MB/s. Of course, both of those options are far cheaper than the Envoy Pro FX, with some comparisons included in my pricing section below.

Design

With a sleek aluminum housing, the Envoy Pro FX resembles an Apple product, but the white OWC logo and Envoy Pro FX branding takes away from the aesthetic. The drive's "charcoal gray" color is a bit darker than the Space Gray finish of the MacBook Pro, but they still look nice side by side. Along the left and right sides of the drive are what OWC calls "deeply grooved fins" to help with heat dissipation and ensure sustained performance. The fanless drive never felt overly hot to the touch during some large file transfers in my testing.

envoy pro fx 3
The bottom of the drive has two non-skid rubber feet to prevent it from sliding around on a desk or other surface. On the front of the drive is a slim LED status light that appears blue when the drive is powered on and flashes slowly during file transfers, but the LED isn't very bright, so I found it pretty useless during daylight hours. (I'm no pro photographer, so the picture above makes the LED look brighter than it is.)

The back of the drive has a single Thunderbolt 3 port, which doubles as a USB-C port, as the two standards share the same connector design.

envoy pro fx 4
With no fan, the Envoy Pro FX has silent operation. As expected, the drive didn't make any noise during my testing, which is certainly pleasant. Unfortunately, the fans in my Intel-based MacBook Pro quickly revved up while completing a Time Machine backup to the drive, but I'll take the blame here for not upgrading to an M1 Mac yet.

As an external drive that fits in the palm of my hand, the Envoy Pro FX can easily be brought on the go, making it a convenient, portable solution for storing files while traveling. With a single Thunderbolt 3 cable that connects to a Mac for data and power, IP67-rated water and dust resistance, and military-grade drop protection, the Envoy Pro FX provides a plug-and-play experience without any worry.

Compatibility

The Envoy Pro FX can be connected to a wide range of devices with Thunderbolt 3/4 or USB-C ports, such as the latest Mac, iPad Pro, and iPad Air models, as well as PCs and Microsoft Surface devices. There is also a USB-A adapter attached to the Thunderbolt cable included in the box that allows the drive to be connected to USB-A devices.

To take advantage of the maximum speeds that the Envoy Pro FX offers, a 2016 or newer Mac with Thunderbolt 3/4 ports running macOS High Sierra or later is needed. OWC lists full system requirements on its website.

envoy pro fx drive guide
The drive comes preloaded with OWC's Drive Guide formatting utility for configuring the drive, with options to create a single Apple File System (APFS) volume that fills the entire drive for macOS High Sierra and later, a single HFS+ volume that fills the entire drive for older macOS versions, or a single exFAT volume that fills the entire drive for use with both macOS and Windows. The drive can also be configured manually.

Pricing

Given that the Envoy Pro FX is a top-of-the-line portable SSD, it should come as no surprise that the drive isn't cheap. Pricing starts at $199 for 240GB of storage, followed by 480GB for $229, 1TB for $319, and 2TB for $499.

A few comparisons with other 1TB drives compatible with the Mac:

A black 0.7-meter Thunderbolt 3 cable is included in the box with the Envoy Pro FX.

envoy pro fx 2

Final Verdict

The Envoy Pro FX is excellent, but pricey. If you want ultra-fast read/write speeds, this drive has certainly earned my stamp of approval; however, if you are simply looking for a drive to store your Time Machine backups, then it would be more economical to consider a basic 1TB hard drive for around a quarter of the price of the Envoy Pro FX, or a non-Thunderbolt SSD as a good middle ground in terms of price and speed.

The Envoy Pro FX can be ordered on OWC's website.

Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with OWC and Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. OWC provided MacRumors with an Envoy Pro FX for this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: OWC

Apple is working on a MagSafe-compatible battery pack for the iPhone 12, which unlike prior Smart Battery Cases for earlier iPhones, will attach to the ‌iPhone 12‌ models with magnets.

magsafe charging brick feature
The battery pack will be easy to pop on and off the iPhone, and because it will be easily removable, it won't be as bulky or as awkward as prior Apple-designed battery options. The MagSafe battery pack isn't out yet, but this guide covers everything we've heard about it so far.

Current Rumors

Signs of a MagSafe battery pack were first spotted in code in the iOS 14.5 beta, which had a reference to an unannounced "battery pack." The name was notable because there is no current product that Apple calls a battery pack, as prior Apple-designed battery options were referred to as Smart Battery Cases.

After code was found in the beta, Bloomberg confirmed Apple's work on a MagSafe battery pack, which has reportedly been in development for at least a year.

Design

The MagSafe battery pack attaches to the back of an ‌iPhone‌, and some of the prototypes have featured a white rubber exterior.

Previous Smart Battery Cases have been available in white, along with black and blush pink, so we could see some of the same color options with the MagSafe battery pack. It's likely that the MagSafe battery pack will have a silicone coating similar to Apple's silicone ‌iPhone‌ cases.

There's no word yet on what size the battery pack will be nor how thick it will be, but again, the Smart Battery Case perhaps gives some clues.

smarbatterycaseback

Apple's ‌Smart Battery Case‌

All of the Smart Battery Cases had a hump on the back where the battery was housed, so we could see the MagSafe battery pack work in the same way and it could be the same approximate size as the Leather Wallet attachment, another MagSafe accessory that goes on the back of a MagSafe ‌iPhone‌.

Magnetic Strength

According to Bloomberg, Apple has extensively tested the magnetic strength of the MagSafe battery pack to make sure that it stays firmly in place when charging.

Charging Speed

A MagSafe battery pack would perhaps charge the ‌iPhone 12‌ models at the same speed as a standard MagSafe charger, though that's not guaranteed and the charging could be slower because of the lack of a power adapter. The MagSafe charger charges the ‌iPhone 12‌, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max at a maximum of 15W, and the iPhone 12 mini at a maximum of 12W, but that charging speed may not be necessary for a battery pack that stays attached to the back of the phone while you're on the go.

Development Problems

Apple has been working on the MagSafe battery pack since before the ‌iPhone 12‌ models launched, but Apple has run into software issues that have delayed the accessory's launch.

Apple is trying to solve an issue that causes the ‌iPhone‌ to erroneously report that the battery pack is overheating, and there are also problems when a user switches between using the MagSafe battery pack when a case is attached and when the case is removed.

That there are problems may not come as a surprise to those who have owned Apple's previous Smart Battery Cases because there have been issues with some of them. Apple in 2020 launched a replacement program for Smart Battery Cases designed for the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR, as some of these cases were experiencing charging issues.

Alleged Features

Leaker Jon Prosser, who has a mixed track record when it comes to predicting Apple's plans, says that there will be two versions of the the MagSafe battery pack, one of which will feature feature "reverse charging."

It's not clear what "reverse charging" means in this context. It may be able to charge more than one device at a time, such as charging the ‌iPhone‌ and the AirPods at one time, or it could refer to the ‌iPhone‌ being able to charge the battery pack when plugged into a Lightning cable.

Alternate Options

Other companies are developing MagSafe-compatible battery pack options. Anker, for example, has introduced the PowerCore Magnetic 5K Wireless Power Bank, which is designed to adhere to the back of a MagSafe ‌iPhone‌ using the magnetic connection.

anker powercore magsafe battery pack side profile
Anker's Magnetic PowerCore Power Bank is not designed using Apple's official MagSafe system and is only able to charge an ‌iPhone‌ at a maximum of 5W.

Release Date

Because of the development issues that Apple has run into, it is not clear when the MagSafe battery pack will be released, and Bloomberg has said that there's a chance it could ultimately be delayed or canceled.

For this week's giveaway we've teamed up with BluShark to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win an aluminum Apple Watch Series 6 and a BluShark Apple Watch Band. One lucky reader will win the watch, and two others will get $100 gift cards to spend on BluShark Apple Watch bands.

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BluShark has a huge range of Apple Watch bands along with bands for other watches. Apple Watch bands are available in Leather, Cordura, CanvaSoft, and an AlphaPremier seatbelt weave. All of the bands are affordable, ranging in price from $24 to $78, and there are designs for both 38/40mm models and the larger 42/44mm models. Each band comes with Apple Watch lugs in silver, space gray, or black.

blushark alphapremier band
Leather bands from BluShark come in a range of attractive styles and colors. The Rally band, for example, has a perforated design and comes in brown, black, and red, while Italian Calfskin Leather bands are available in blue, black, and gray.

blushark rally band
BluShark's Leather Basics bands come in vintage gray, vintage brown, and saddle brown, and each of these has an attractive weathered look and a soft leather design that makes them comfortable to wear. There are also crocodile leather bands, ostrich leather bands, and Two Switch Leather Bands with a classic look.

blushark leather basics band
BluShark's Cordura bands use ultra strong and lightweight Cordura fabric, which is wear resistant and will hold up over time. They're thinly padded with leather so they're comfortable to wear, and they come in black, gray, and orange.

blushark cordura band
The CanvaSoft bands, available for $24, are made from a soft canvas material that's meant to provide a rugged canvas look without the stiffness that's normally associated with a canvas watch bands. They're 1.9mm thick and designed to be soft and pliable.

blushark canvasoft band
BluShark's AlphaPremier bands are made from a soft, supple seatbelt weave nylon and are modeled after BluShark's original AlphaPremier bands for traditional watches. The straps are dual-layer and held in place with nylon keepers, with the band available in black and white, black and red, black, navy blue, and gray.

blushark alphapremier band 2
We have one aluminum ‌Apple Watch Series 6‌ to give away, with the winner to choose the size, color, and accompanying Sport Band or Sport Loop, plus it will come with one of BluShark's own bands. Two other winners will get $100 BluShark gift cards to spend.

blushark apple watch bands 2
To enter to win our ‌giveaway‌, use the Gleam.io widget below and enter an email address. Email addresses will be used solely for contact purposes to reach the winners and send the prizes. You can earn additional entries by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, subscribing to our YouTube channel, following us on Twitter, following us on Instagram, or visiting the MacRumors Facebook page.

Due to the complexities of international laws regarding giveaways, only U.S. residents who are 18 years or older and Canadian residents (excluding Quebec) who have reached the age of majority in their province or territory are eligible to enter. To offer feedback or get more information on the ‌giveaway‌ restrictions, please refer to our Site Feedback section, as that is where discussion of the rules will be redirected.

The contest will run from today (March 5) at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time through 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time on March 12. The winners will be chosen randomly on March 12 and will be contacted by email. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and provide a shipping address before new winners are chosen.

Apple Fitness+, the latest service to join the Apple family, integrates tightly with the Apple Watch to offer a comprehensive and growing selection of workout and exercise videos made by a team of professional trainers.

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Apple Fitness+ Studio (via Men's Health)

Apple curates and records all of the videos at a location in Santa Monica, California, and each video features a similar background and style. For the first time, thanks to a virtual tour by Apple given to Men's Health, we have a look inside the Fitness+ studio. The virtual tour of Apple's 23,000 square-foot studio was conducted by Apple's senior director of Fitness for Health Technologies, Jay Blahnik.

The Fitness+ studio is modern, featuring wood accents and "all-white everything," according to a read-out of the virtual tour from Men's Health. The studio entrance consists of three sliding glass doors that when opened "reveal a verdant garden." Each month, a new team member chooses a quote that's placed on a wall right outside the studio. March's quote reads, "Please be responsible for the energy you bring into this space."

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Apple Fitness+ Studio Control Room (via Men's Health)

The studio itself features multiple screens scattered around the room that display a live view of what's being captured in the studio. The heart of the studio, of course, is the cameras. For recording Fitness+ videos, Apple uses seven high-end Super 35 cinematic cameras attached to robotic arms. Compared to a traditional human-controlled camera, the robotic arms help enable smoother transitions and movement. Blahnik says that the robotic arms also help the team better coordinate what's most appropriate to show the viewer during a workout.

We built the studio in a way that would allow shooting all the angles to make the right choices to show just the right angle at just the right time.

One selling point of Fitness+ is its tight integration with the Apple Watch. During a workout, Fitness+ will send metrics from your watch live onto your display. The information helps users stay motivated, engaged, and up to date on progress toward closing their activity ring or their current heart rate, but Apple wanted to go further than just display live metrics.

In the virtual tour, Blahnik explains that the team wanted to create a dynamic and fully immersive experience. To do this, Apple had to develop unique software that would display metrics on screen at the correct time during an exercise. For example, if a trainer says "Sprint all-out for 30 seconds" during a workout, Fitness+ will display a timer for 30 seconds on the screen.

When the trainer says in a HIIT workout, 'Sprint all-out for 30 seconds,' being able to see that time is an incredible motivator," says Blahnik. "It makes for a better, more immersive workout. [Integrated, dynamic smart metrics] take it to another level compared to a typical video workout. We had to think hard about how to curate the experience, so you're not overwhelmed by metrics and animations and that those things are happening exactly when you might expect them to and in ways that are helpful.

Adjacent to the studio is a rehearsal room that serves as a place for trainers to plan, coordinate, and rehearse their workouts before heading into the studio and pressing record. Like the studio itself, the rehearsal room is equipped with wooden floors, massive mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Blahnik describes the rehearsal room as a place for collaboration, emphasizing that trainers must be open to feedback and modifications for their workout.

[This] is where they ideate, collaborate, and get feedback from each other to create the best workouts... We needed trainers who are open to feedback from experts who know their stuff in that workout type, as well as fitness experts not in their space.

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Apple Fitness+ Rehersal Room (via Men's Health)

Apple Fitness+ launched on December 14, making the service still relatively young. Apple adds new content across all 10 of its current workout types every week, continually expanding the catalog of exercises and workouts users have access to. Blahnik calls Apple Fitness+ a "marathon, not a sprint" and says that Apple is excited about its future and that it's "really committing to and investing" in the service.

Apple Fitness+ is available for $9.99 per month, $79.99 per year, or as part of the Premier tier of the Apple One bundle. Learn more about Fitness+ in our guide.

Apple is working on a six-episode limited series called "In With The Devil," which is set to star Ray Liotta, Taron Egerton, and Paul Walter Hauser, reports Deadline.

Apple TV Ray Light 2 Pink
"In With The Devil" is based on the James Keene and Hillel Levin novel "In With The Devil: A Fallen Hero, A Serial Killer, and A Dangerous Bargain for Redemption," the true crime story of a football star who ends up in prison and is tasked with coaxing a confession out of a serial killer to get released.

Egerton, known for the "Kingsman" movies, will play James Keene, the football star who gets in trouble with the law and thrown in prison with no chance of parole. Hauser, known for "Cobra Kai" and "BlacKkKlansman," will play the serial killer whom Egerton attempts to befriend. Liotta will play the role of a Chicago policeman who is also Keene's father.

The limited series will be told through the relationship between the two prisoners, "exploring the lengths that people will go to in order to seek redemption, if true absolution is ever really possible, and if so, at what costs."

Apple Studios is producing the series, while Michael. R. Roskam will direct.

In other Apple TV+ news, Apple today announced that "Dear..." has been renewed for a second season. The unscripted series profiles celebrities through letters sent to them by people whose lives have been impacted by their work.

The second season will feature actress Viola Davis, musician Selena Gomez, actor and author Jane Fonda, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, singer Billy Porter, journalist Andre Leon Talley, actress Sandra Oh, waterman Laird Hamilton, and NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Apple today seeded the third beta of an upcoming watchOS 7.4 update to public beta testers, with the new beta coming two weeks after the second public beta and a day after the release of the third developer beta.

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The ‌watchOS 7‌.4 update can be downloaded after upgrading your iPhone to the public beta version of iOS 14.5. After installing iOS 14.5, the watchOS 7.4 software should show up, as long as you have the proper profile from Apple's beta software website. To update to the new software, the ‌Apple Watch‌ needs to have 50 percent battery life, it must be placed on the charger, and it must be in range of the ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌iPhone‌‌‌‌‌‌‌.

Alongside iOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4 introduces a new "Unlock with Apple Watch" feature that lets an ‌iPhone‌ with Face ID use an unlocked and authenticated Apple Watch as a secondary authentication measure when you're wearing a mask, alleviating the need to enter a passcode to unlock the ‌iPhone‌.

iphone apple watch unlock
Face ID does not work when wearing a mask, but this new Apple Watch feature provides an easy but still secure way to access the ‌iPhone‌ without the hassle of a passcode. It's similar to the Apple Watch unlocking on Mac and can be enabled in the Settings app under Face ID & Passcode.

An unlocked Apple Watch paired with Face ID can unlock the ‌iPhone‌ when a mask is worn, but it's only for mask usage. The Apple Watch cannot be used to authenticate Apple Pay or App Store purchases, nor can it be used to unlock apps that require a Face ID scan. In these situations, the mask will need to be removed or a passcode/password will need to be used instead.

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When the Apple Watch unlocks the ‌iPhone‌, you'll feel a haptic tap on the wrist and will receive a notification on the watch, similar to how it works when using the watch to unlock a Mac.

For those who use Apple Fitness+, the watchOS 7.4 update combined with iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 enables AirPlay 2 for Apple Fitness+, so workouts can be streamed to an ‌AirPlay‌ 2-enabled TV or set-top box. Apple Watch metrics do not show up on the screen when AirPlayed, however, and that feature is limited to ‌iPhone‌/iPad/Apple TV.

watchOS 7.4 is going to be available in a beta capacity for several weeks, with Apple planning to release the update in the early spring.

Related Roundup: watchOS 7

Initially filed in 2016, a class action lawsuit that accuses Apple of violating the Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act, Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, and other U.S. laws by providing customers with refurbished replacement devices is set to proceed to trial August 16, according to a notice this week from law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.

apple products refurbished store banner
Apple's repair terms and conditions state that, when servicing a customer's product, the company "may use parts or products that are new or refurbished and equivalent to new in performance and reliability." Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Maldonado v. Apple Inc., allege that refurbished or "remanufactured" devices are not "equivalent to new in performance and reliability" and thus are seeking monetary damages from Apple.

The class includes U.S. residents who purchased an AppleCare+ or AppleCare Protection Plan for an iPhone or iPad on or after July 20, 2012, either directly or through the iPhone Upgrade Program, and later received a "remanufactured" replacement device. Anyone who meets this description will automatically be included as part of the class, unless they opt out by May 3 to retain their right to sue Apple individually over the claims in the lawsuit.

Apple has denied any wrongdoing in this case, but if the court rules against Apple, class members may be entitled to an award of monetary damages. The exact payout, if any, would depend on how many class members submit a claim.

The case will be heard in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, and more details are available on the Replacement Device Lawsuit website.

Spatial audio is a sonic feature exclusive to AirPods Pro and AirPods Max that adds surround sound to Apple's premium audio wearables. By utilizing dynamic head tracking, it brings a theater-like audio experience to the movie or video you're watching, so that it seems as if the sound is coming from all around you.

spatialaudiofeature
The feature works by comparing the data from your iOS device's gyroscope and accelerometer against the data from your ‌AirPods‌ Pro or ‌AirPods Max‌, ensuring that the sound field stays anchored to the device, even if you move your head.

Unsurprisingly, spatial audio isn't universally supported by third-party apps and services. To save you spending time wondering if a particular app works with the feature, we've put together a list below of all the apps that have officially been updated to support Spatial Audio, and some popular apps that have yet to add support.

  • Air Video HD (Turn on Surround in Audio settings)
  • Apple's TV app
  • Disney+
  • FE File Explorer (DTS 5.1 unsupported)

  • Foxtel Go (Australia)
  • HBO Max
  • Hulu
  • Plex (Enable old video player in Settings)
  • Peacock
  • Discovery+
  • Paramount+
  • Vudu
  • Some TIDAL songs
  • Infuse
  • Netflix
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • VLC
  • Amazon Prime Video

We'll keep these lists updated as and when we learn of additional third-party apps and updates that come out in support of spatial audio. In the meantime, check the following details to make sure that your hardware is compatible with the feature.

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What You Need to Use Spatial Audio

To take advantage of spatial audio on ‌‌AirPods Pro‌‌ or ‌‌AirPods Max‌‌, you need an ‌iPhone‌ 7 or later or one of the ‌iPad‌ models listed below. Note that spatial audio is not supported by any Mac model or any Apple TV models.

  • iPad Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd generation) and later
  • ‌iPad Pro‌‌ 11‑inch
  • iPad Air (3rd generation)
  • ‌‌iPad‌‌ (6th generation) and later
  • iPad mini (5th generation)

You also need iOS 14 or iPadOS 14 or later installed on your device, as well as the latest firmware on your ‌‌AirPods Pro‌‌ or ‌‌AirPods Max‌‌. To learn more about using spatial audio, check out our dedicated how-to article.

Related Roundups: AirPods Pro, AirPods Max

While we are likely at least six months away from Apple unveiling the so-called iPhone 13 lineup, rumors about the devices are starting to accumulate, so we've put together this recap of everything that is expected so far.

iPhone 13 Notch Feature2
The upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will consist of the same four models and the same screen sizes as the iPhone 12 lineup, according to reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, suggesting that there will be a 5.4-inch iPhone 13 mini, 6.1-inch iPhone 13, 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro, and 6.7-inch iPhone 13 Pro Max. These names are simply placeholders, as Apple could certainly decide to use iPhone 12s branding or entirely different naming.

Key features expected across all four iPhone 13 models:

  • A15 chip: A faster system-on-a-chip in the next iPhones is a virtual guarantee, with the iPhone 13 lineup expected to be equipped with an Apple-designed A15 chip manufactured by TSMC based on its 5nm+ process.
  • Smaller notch: The notch that houses the front camera and Face ID components will be reduced in size on iPhone 13 models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple has achieved this feat by integrating various Face ID sensors into a single module, according to Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.
  • Larger batteries: iPhone 13 models will have larger battery capacities than iPhone 12 models, thanks to some space-saving design choices inside the upcoming devices, such as an integrated SIM card slot on the logic board, according to Kuo. iPhone 13 models are expected to be slightly heavier as a result.
  • Sensor-shift camera stabilization: Apple plans to expand sensor-shift image stabilization to all iPhone 13 models, according to Kuo and DigiTimes. This likely means that the iPhone 12 Pro Max's Wide lens with sensor-shift will be expanded to the entire iPhone 13 lineup. The technology stabilizes the camera's sensor instead of the lens for even greater image stabilization and improved photo quality.
  • 5G enhancements: iPhone 13 models will be equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 modem, according to Kuo and DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone 13 models would also be able to aggregate 5G data from both mmWave and sub-6GHz bands simultaneously to achieve an optimal combination of high-speed and low-latency network coverage.
  • Wi-Fi 6E: iPhone 13 models will be the first to support Wi-Fi 6E, according to Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Thomas O'Malley. Wi-Fi 6E offers the features and capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, including higher performance, lower latency, and faster data rates, extended into the 6 GHz band. The additional spectrum will provide a lot more airspace beyond existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi, resulting in increased bandwidth and less interference for devices that support Wi-Fi 6E.
  • Lightning connector: Despite previously predicting that Apple would release a high-end iPhone without a Lightning connector in 2021, Kuo recently said there will be "no portless design" this year. Kuo expects iPhones to continue using Apple's proprietary Lightning connector for the "foreseeable future."
  • mmWave expansion: A supplier-focused report from the Economic Daily News suggested that iPhone 13 models may support ultra-fast mmWave 5G in additional countries outside of the United States.

New features expected to be exclusive to the two iPhone 13 Pro models:

  • 120Hz display: iPhone 13 Pro models will be equipped with low-power LTPO displays with support for a 120Hz refresh rate, according to Kuo, display industry analyst Ross Young, and leakers such as Max Weinbach and Jon Prosser. A 120Hz refresh rate would result in smoother or more "buttery" content and scrolling. Like the 2017 and newer iPad Pro, iPhone 13 Pro models will likely have a power-preserving "ProMotion" feature with a variable refresh rate up to 120Hz.
  • Ultra Wide lens improvements: iPhone 13 Pro models will feature an upgraded Ultra Wide camera lens with a wider ƒ/1.8 aperture and autofocus, compared to ƒ/2.4 and fixed focus on iPhone 12 models, according to Barclays analysts and Kuo. The Ultra Wide lens will also be gaining sensor-shift stabilization, according to DigiTimes.

Apple typically announces its new iPhone lineup in September, but the iPhone 12 lineup was unveiled in October, a delay that was attributed to the pandemic. Bookmark our regularly updated iPhone 13 roundup linked below to keep track of the latest rumors.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13

Aqara makes a range of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices for multiple regions around the world. This review takes a look at six of Aqara's most popular products, including the Camera Hub G2H, Motion Sensor, Door and Window Sensor, Water Leak Sensor, Vibration Sensor, and Single Switch Module T1.

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With this broad selection of accessories, supported by the Camera Hub G2H, I was able to create a varied HomeKit setup and put Aqara's devices to the test. While Aqara does have its own app for controlling and setting up the accessories, it is possible to control, automate, and manage them entirely through Apple's Home app.

Designs

All of the Aqara smart home devices share the same minimalist design language. With the exception of the Water Leak Sensor, they each use a smooth, matte white plastic, almost like the texture of the Apple Pencil, with gray accents. The result feels high quality, and there is clear consistency across the family of devices.

I was very impressed by each product's design and it is noticeable how compact these devices are compared to many of their ‌HomeKit‌ competitors. This is especially important with smart home devices, where being discreet and fading into the background is vital.

Setup

For the Camera Hub G2H, users simply need to plug in the included micro-USB cable and download the Aqara app to begin the setup process. The Aqara app recognizes the Camera Hub on the network very quickly and automatically adds it to the Home app with all features, such as HomeKit Secure Video, ready to go.

Unlike many other smart home accessories I have used before, the G2H issues voice alerts to inform you about the status of the device, such as when it has been detected, is searching for a network, or has been successfully connected.

Setting up each of the other Aqara devices was even simpler. First, you open the Aqara app and select which accessory you would like to add. Then, you pull out the blue battery tab to power on the accessory and hold down the small pairing button. The Camera Hub G2H then issues voice alerts to clearly inform you that the new device has been detected, and a few moments later, added.

The voice alerts from the G2H are very loud and not entirely necessary, but the feature does add some clarity to what is going on in the pairing process at any given time.

I would have preferred it if I did not need to use a proprietary app, but overall, Aqara's setup process is one of the easiest I have experienced with ‌HomeKit‌. Where other accessories I have used have struggled to connect to the network or taken a few minutes to pair, Aqara's process was quick and hassle-free.

Camera Hub G2H

The Camera Hub G2H is a 1080p HomeKit-enabled smart camera with a 140-degree wide-angle lens. The camera features HomeKit Secure Video, two-way audio, and night-vision.

aqara review camera hub g2h 2

The base of the G2H rotates and folds out to orient the camera in any preferred direction, and it is also magnetic to attach to walls via a small metal plate included in the box. This plate can be affixed to a surface with an adhesive pad or directly screwed in. I was impressed by the amount of flexibility that the camera's fold-out base afforded, especially compared to some other smart cameras, and it was easy to quickly get it facing in the right direction.

aqara review camera hub g2h stand

The camera is powered via a standard micro-USB cable. Some other smart home cameras, such as the Logitech Circle 2, use a proprietary power cable, which makes it difficult to get hold of a longer cable if placing the camera further away from a power outlet, so the G2H's use of micro-USB makes it easy to obtain a longer cable if the one included in the box is insufficient for your setup.

The Camera Hub's support for HomeKit Secure Video allows it to encrypt and store footage in iCloud rather than on servers handled by Aqara. Recordings can be viewed in Apple's Home app, and all motion and people detection is done on-device for privacy purposes. Using ‌‌HomeKit Secure Video‌‌ requires an upgraded ‌‌iCloud‌‌ storage plan. Apple's 200GB plan supports one ‌‌HomeKit Secure Video‌‌ camera, while the 2TB plan supports up to five cameras.

The G2H also offers a standard night-vision mode and uses a small color-changing LED to indicate the device's status. While it is clear that the camera is not as crisp as some 4K alternatives and the colors were a little washed out, it copes well with different lighting situations and is more than acceptable for monitoring an area of the home.

In addition, the G2H features ‌HomeKit‌ two-way audio, allowing users to hear live audio from the camera and even communicate through its speaker via the Home app. The G2H's microphone apparently performs ambient noise reduction, but this was not especially noticeable to me during daily use. The speaker is very loud for its size and easily projects across a large room, and while it does not deliver the clearest possible sound, its quality is adequate for a brief voice message.

What makes the G2H different from many other cameras on the market is that it also functions as a Zigbee hub, allowing it to work as a local control center for other devices. This means that users do not need to connect a separate hub to their router to control Aqara's range of devices. As someone that already has a cluttered router with the likes of Philips Hue and Soma Connect Hubs taking up space and ethernet ports, the fact that the G2H doubles as a hub is an excellent idea, and it is good to see smart home accessory manufacturers finding innovative ways to stop relying on router-connected hubs.

The only downside to this solution is if you wish to use other Aqara devices without the camera, you would need to purchase a dedicated Aqara hub.

Motion Sensor

The Aqara Motion Sensor can detect movement within a range of 22 feet and 170 degrees. You can use the sensor to detect unexpected motion, such as to be alerted to a potential intruder, or simply for home automation to activate lights and other smart home devices.

aqara review motion sensor 2

The sensor is incredibly compact and light, making other motion sensors that I have used, such as the Philips Hue Motion Sensor, feel needlessly large and heavy. There is an LED embedded behind the sensor portion of the device to indicate status, but this remains off most of the time to fit in with the discreet design.

Furthermore, Aqara's motion sensor includes an optional fully-articulated stand, to allow for precise orientation. This base is adhesive to attach to a wall, and since the whole package is so light, I expect it would easily be strong enough to hold it. The stand makes Aqara's motion sensor much more versatile and easy to set up than many other motion sensors.

Door and Window Sensor

Aqara's Door and Window Sensor can detect whether a door or window is open or closed. The sensor can be used to alert users with a notification from the Home app when a door or window is opened unexpectedly, and the sensor can also activate ‌HomeKit‌ scenes, such as turning on lights when a door is opened. You can use Siri to ask if a door or window is open, or simply check the Home app.

aqara review door and window sensor

The Aqara Door and Window Sensor works with most types of doors, windows, and other fixtures with similar mechanisms, such as drawers, cabinets, and more, allowing for a gap of up to 22mm between the two parts.

I was struck by how small the sensor was, especially compared to the Elgato Door and Window Sensor, which is considerably thicker and bulkier. During daily use, the sensor was extremely responsive and updated the status in the Home app with virtually no delay.

Water Leak Sensor

Whenever the Aqara Water Leak Sensor detects water, it sends a notification via the Home app to your devices to alert you to leaks and potential flooding. While the main purpose of such a sensor is these alert notifications, it is also possible to set it to trigger ‌HomeKit‌ scenes.

aqara review water leak sensor

No wiring or screws are required to set up the sensor. You simply need to place it on a flat surface where you suspect dripping, leaking, or flooding could occur. The underside of the sensor has two sensitive leak probes which are able to detect up to 0.5mm of water, which is more than enough to be aware of an emergency leak.

The sensor has a durable IP67 water and rust-proof housing, and has a glossy plastic exterior for better water resistance.

To test the water sensor I tried tipping small amount of water under the device, and it immediately issued an alert notification to my devices via the Home app. After drying the sensor off on a towel, it was able to sense water again immediately.

Though the speed of the water detection was impressive and I was pleased that very little water was needed to initiate a detection, I was frustrated by the button on the sensor. The other Aqara devices have a small round button on their exterior for pairing, but due to the need for water resistance, the pairing button on the Water Leak Sensor is hidden under the top of the shell. Not only was it initially unclear where the button actually was, but it was also very difficult to press in due to the thickness of the shell. While it is true that users will very rarely have to press the button, I was disappointed that it was unclear where the button was, even after looking at the instruction manual, and that it required such a large amount of pressure to depress.

Vibration Sensor

Whenever the Aqara Vibration Sensor detects unexpected vibration, it will send an alert to your devices, much like the Water Leak Sensor. It can detect tilts, drops, jolts, and vibrations.

aqara review vibration sensor 2

The Vibration Sensor is extremely versatile. For example, you could adhere the sensor to a drawer or object to be alerted when it used, or even attach it to a window to alert to breakages as a security measure. Again, while the main purpose is alert notifications, you could easily integrate the Vibration Sensor into a ‌HomeKit‌ automation.

While the sensor seems to be sensitive enough to be useful, it does seem to take up to around ten seconds to reset, and I noticed that it is not quite as responsive as the other Aqara devices. Nevertheless, I was confident that the sensor could provide an alert notification when needed, but it simply lacked the seemingly instantaneous response of the other Aqara devices.

Single Switch Module T1

The Single Switch Module T1 is installed behind a wall switch and can be used to make ceiling fans, power outlets, light switches, and more part of your smart home setup.

aqara review t1 switch no neutral

The Single Switch Module was smaller than expected, but quite heavy for its size, and I am unsure how comfortable I am with this much weight tugging on the wires behind my switches.

Despite being installed behind a switch, the T1 works in a very similar way to the other Aqara accessories and pairs the same way, by holding down a small button on the device. The main difference is that you can specify what exactly is being activated by the T1 in the Home app.

My main takeaway from using the T1 is that the instructions included in the box could have been much better. It was not clear to me how the module should be installed, which is essential when it comes to rewiring a switch. As a result, I would not encourage anyone to undertake installation without significant confidence.

HomeKit Support

The Aqara app's ability to add accessories automatically to the Home app, combined with the company's embrace of ‌HomeKit‌ features such as Secure Video or two-way audio, makes for ‌HomeKit‌ support that is generally as good as it gets.

I did not receive any "no response" indicators from any of the accessories in my time using them, and they seemed to be consistently connected to my network.

When using the Home app to control the accessories, they were just as responsive as in Aqara's own app. The same cannot be said for some other smart home providers such as Philips Hue, where there is a clear advantage to using the company's own app. With the exception of the Vibration Sensor, which stuck out as distinctively less responsive and sensitive than the others, I was struck by just how responsive the devices were in general. Any changes in status detected by an accessory were updated in the Home app almost immediately.

This is key for devices such as a Motion Sensor, where you would want lights to come on immediately in response, for example. It also has the added effect of instilling more confidence in the devices themselves to do their job in the background.

The Bottom Line

The Aqara accessories set a high standard in terms of design, ease-of-use, reliability, and responsiveness that some other brands could learn a lot from. I like Aqara's compact, aesthetic designs, the pairing process was easy, and Apple ‌HomeKit‌ was well-integrated. Above all, Aqara's devices worked exactly as they should.

With competitive price points, Aqara's selection of ‌HomeKit‌ accessories make for a very compelling package within any smart home setup.

How to Buy

Aqara's full range of ‌HomeKit‌ accessories is available in the U.S. via Amazon.

The Single Switch Module T1 is unavailable in the United States as it is designed for the UK and EU market. For customers in these regions, Aqara's devices are available through third-party distributors.

Note: Aqara provided MacRumors with a Camera Hub G2H, Motion Sensor, Door and Window Sensor, Water Leak Sensor, Vibration Sensor, and Single Switch Module T1 for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Today we're highlighting a few deals on the iPad Pro at Amazon and B&H Photo, which are providing up to $100 off Apple's 2020 11-inch and 12.9-inch tablets. Sale prices start at $849.00 for the 256GB Wi-Fi 11-inch iPad Pro, down from $899.00.

iPad Pro Orange FeatureNote: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

There are a few more deals on the larger screened 12.9-inch models, which start at $949.00 for the 128GB Wi-Fi 12.9-inch iPad Pro, down from $999.00. Each size also has some cellular versions on sale as well, all of which you'll find below.

11-Inch iPad Pro

12.9-Inch iPad Pro

  • Wi-Fi 128GB - $949.00 at Amazon ($50 off)
  • Wi-Fi 256GB - $999.00 at Amazon ($100 off)
  • Wi-Fi 512GB - $1,199.00 at Amazon ($100 off)
  • Wi-Fi 1TB - $1,399.00 at Amazon ($100 off)
  • Cellular 256GB - $1,149.00 at Amazon / B&H Photo ($100 off, lowest price)
  • Cellular 1TB - $1,549.00 at Amazon ($100 off)

For even more iPad deals, head to our full Best Deals guide for iPad. In that guide we track the best discounts online for iPad, iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. Additionally, be sure to visit our Deals Roundup to shop for even more Apple-related products and accessories.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

The Apple TV+ original shows "For All Mankind," "Servant," and "Amazing Stories" have been nominated for Saturn Awards.

for all mankind apple tv plus

The Saturn Awards have been held annually since 1973, celebrating a wide range of genre fiction film, television, and home media titles. This year, the 46th annual awards include films and TV series released between July 2019 and November 2020.

"For All Mankind" has been nominated for Best Fantasy Television Series, competing against "The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance," "Locke & Key," "The Magicians," "Outlander," "The Twilight Zone," and "The Witcher."

"Servant" is nominated for Best Horror Television Series, and is up against "Creepshow," "Evil," "Fear the Walking Dead," "Lovecraft Country," "The Walking Dead," and "What We Do in the Shadows."

"Amazing Stories" has been nominated for Best Television Presentation (Under 10 Episodes), contending with "Dracula," "The Haunting of Bly Manor," "His Dark Materials, "The Mandalorian," and "Perry Mason."

There have been 286 nominations in over 40 categories and genres this year. An exact date for the awards this year has not yet been set, but it will likely follow in the next few months.

Yesterday, ‌Apple TV+‌'s animated movie "Wolfwalkers" was nominated for ten Annie Awards and last month Jason Sudeikis won a Golden Globe Award for his performance in the hit ‌Apple TV+‌ show "Ted Lasso."

Microsoft has officially released version 89 of its popular Chromium-based Edge browser, bringing its long-trialed vertical tabs feature to Mac for the first time.

microsoft edge vertical tabs
Vertical tabs are intended to make more efficient use of screen space, and should prove a welcome addition for users browsing on 16:9 ratio displays in particular. Users can click vertical tabs to switch between them and optionally group related tabs together.

"To make tab management and organization easier, vertical tabs is now generally available this month," said Microsoft corporate VP Liat Ben-Zur in a company blog post. "Now everyone can view and manage their tabs from a pane on the side with a single click. This allows you to clearly see the tab titles and controls, making it easier to find and switch between the tabs you need, regardless of how many you have open."

Edge users can toggle between horizontal and vertical tabs by clicking the new "Turn on/off vertical tabs" icon at the far left of the tab row. By default, vertical tabs are displayed as icons unless hovered over with the mouse pointer, but the expanded pane can also be pinned to the left side of the browser window so that each page's title remains visible.

In addition to vertical tabs, Edge now includes a new way to view browsing history. Now when users go to history, it opens as a lightweight dropdown from the toolbar instead of opening the full page view in settings. The idea is that it allows users to easily search, open and manage their history without navigating away. For users who prefer the original style, this drop-down can also be pinned to the right side of the browser window as a pane.

Microsoft Edge has won over many users with its frequent feature updates and the tight integration of Microsoft's design language with the design signature of macOS. The last major update came in January and introduced several new features, including system resource-releasing "sleeping tabs," a password generator and monitor, new visual themes, and more.

The browser can be downloaded from the Microsoft Edge website.

Twitter is actively exploring the possibility of bringing a rumored "Undo Send" feature to the social media platform, if a newly unearthed animation is anything to go by.

Twitter Feature
Serial app de-coder Jane Wong discovered the feature animation, which adds a new "Undo" button to the usual dialog that confirms a tweet has been sent.

The Undo button has a long oblong shape, which allows it to also function as a progress bar, showing the user how much time they have to act before the tweet is actually posted.

As noted by The Verge, the feature bears similarities to Gmail's last-chance option for preventing emails from being delivered after the user has clicked "Send."

Twitter's "Undo" tweet option is likely to be the closest it will come to allowing users to edit tweets – a feature long-requested but which has never come to pass.

Assuming "Undo Send" does eventually become a thing, presumably it will be an optional function so that live microbloggers and other users who post time-sensitive tweets aren't subject to an additional delay because of it.


Last month, Twitter announced new features coming to the platform for content creators, including a "Super Follow" feature that will let users charge followers for access to exclusive content.

Bloomberg, which first reported on the new features, also said that Twitter was exploring the possibility of introducing paid subscriptions to reduce its dependence on advertising to generate revenue. "Undo Send" was floated as one of several advanced features that could be included in the subscriptions.

Jane Manchun Wong regularly flags potential new features coming to high-profile apps and services. Last year the reverse engineering expert was first to tip that Twitter was working on a new verification system and that the company had at one time tested Emoji reactions to tweets.

Tag: Twitter

Microsoft has updated Visual Studio Code with official support for M1 Apple Silicon Macs, offering developers the ability to use the software without the need for emulation on Rosetta.

macOS universal download
The support is coming to the web and cloud app code editor as part of its February 2021 1.54 build, which alongside ‌Apple Silicon‌ support, includes several improvements and updates. Microsoft says that with native ‌Apple Silicon‌ support, ‌M1‌ Mac mini, MacBook Air, and Macbook Pro users will notice better performance and longer battery life.

We are happy to announce our first release of stable ‌Apple Silicon‌ builds this iteration. Users on Macs with ‌M1‌ chips can now use VS Code without emulation with Rosetta, and will notice better performance and longer battery life when running VS Code. Thanks to the community for self-hosting with the Insiders build and reporting issues early in the iteration.

With version 1.54, Visual Studio Code is now also a Universal build download. Users with Intel or Apple Silicon-based Macs will be prompted to download the same file, which will automatically work for whichever Mac chip they're using. Microsoft is also offering users the ability to download the specific version of Visual Studio Code that works for their Mac's architecture on its Downloads page.

Apple has sent out a new Apple Pay promotional email, offering Bed Bath & Beyond customers 10% back on purchases in the form of My Funds rewards when using Apple's digital payment service.

apple pay bed bath beyond promo feb 2021
My Funds is a program run by Bed Bath & Beyond that rewards its customers for shopping and engaging with the company. The rewards can be redeemed in store at Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy BABY and Harmon Face Values.

According to the terms and conditions, the promotion runs from March 4 until March 18 and My Funds rewards earned are valid for 30 days. More information about My Funds can be found on the Bed Bath & Beyond website.

The email also highlighted other home improvement merchants that accept ‌Apple Pay‌ either in-store or in-app, including Ace Hardware, Buy Buy Baby, Houzz, and Office Depot.

Earlier this week, Apple launched a new Apple Card promotion offering new ‌Apple Card‌ customers 6% Daily Cash Back for purchases made from Apple for the month of March.

According to market data from Counterpoint Research, Apple shipped 12.9 million models of the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE in the fourth quarter of 2020.

apple watch 6s 202009
The market saw an overall decline in smartwatch shipments compared to last year due to the ongoing global health crisis. Apple, however, saw a 19% increase in shipments YoY. Apple was the single largest smartwatch maker in Q4 of 2019 when it controlled 34% of the market. In the final quarter of last year, Apple Watch models accounted for 40% of the market share.

counterpoint research q4 2020 watch shipments
Apple's market share consolidation can be attributed to the new ‌Apple Watch SE‌'s success, the mid-range Apple Watch option. Apple released the SE model alongside its flagship Series 6 at a lower $279 price point, with some caveats such as the lack of an always-on display, ECG functionality, and the faster S6 processor.

Counterpoint senior analyst Sujeong Lim says that the new mid-range ‌Apple Watch SE‌ will likely push Samsung and other smartwatch makers to create similar, mid-range options for customers looking for cheaper alternatives to main flagships.

Earlier today, DigiTimes shared a preview of an upcoming report claiming that Apple is working on both iPad and Mac notebook models with OLED displays that could launch starting in 2022. The full report from DigiTimes is now available, and it includes several new alleged details about Apple's plans.

Oled iPads and MackBook Pro
According to the report, the first of these devices to adopt an OLED display is likely to be a 10.9-inch ‌iPad‌, presumably an updated version of the iPad Air. The updated ‌iPad‌ is said to be planned to go into production in the fourth quarter of this year with a launch coming in early 2022. In addition to the 10.9-inch ‌iPad‌, Apple is also said to be considering using OLED displays for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The sources pointed out that the first device to come with an OLED panel is likely to be a 10.9-inch ‌iPad‌, set to begin volume production in the fourth quarter of 2021 for an official release in 2022.

The US brand reportedly is also considering adopting OLED panels for its 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ and 16- to 17-inch MacBook Pro scheduled for release in 2022, but have not made a final decision, the sources noted.

While rumors of OLED displays for Apple's larger portables have only recently started to surface, the company has been rumored for some time to be transitioning to mini-LED displays on its iPads and Macs. DigiTimes says that the two display technologies will exist side-by-side, "each targeting different customer groups."

A number of sources including DigiTimes have indicated that a 12.9-inch ‌iPad Pro‌ with a mini-LED display is coming in the first half of this year, and DigiTimes says 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models coming in the second half of the year will also adopt mini-LED.