MacRumors

Spotify has started releasing audiobook recordings on its streaming platform, indicating the company's intention to further broaden its library of non-music content (via The Hollywood Reporter).

spotify audiobooks collection
The collection of nine audiobooks are in the public domain, but are original recordings that are exclusive to Spotify. The titles include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, narrated by David Dobrik, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, read by Forest Whitaker, and Kate Chopin's The Awakening, read by Hilary Swank, amongst other classics. From the report:

The other titles that Spotify is releasing as part of the collection are Jean Toomer's Cane, narrated by Audra McDonald; Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, narrated by James Langton; Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, narrated by Sarah Coombs; Nella Larsen's Passing, narrated by Bahni Turpin; and Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, narrated by Santino Fontana.

To accompany the audiobooks, Spotify has commissioned series Sitting with the Classics on Spotify, in which Harvard professor Glenda Carpio offers a deep-dive on each book, exploring the history and breaking down the narratives and themes for a modern audience.

The classic audiobooks will be available for free globally but promoted only to English-speaking markets including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany.

Spotify says the collection is a test to see if the audiobooks gain traction on its streaming service, but if it takes off like podcasts have done on the platform, the company's dive into audiobooks could see it take on rivals like Amazon's Audible and Apple Books in a market that was valued at nearly $2.7 billion in 2019, according to a report from Grand View Research.

Over the past few years Spotify has spent $800 million buying podcasting companies like Gimlet Media and The Ringer, as well as acquiring the rights to popular podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience. According to today's report, Spotify now has 1.9 million podcasts on its platform and says 22 percent of its 320 million monthly active users engaged with that content during the third quarter of 2020.

Apple today announced that current Apple hardware engineering SVP Dan Riccio is transitioning to a new role where he will focus on an unspecified project, with John Ternus set to take over as Apple's senior vice president of hardware engineering.

apple dan riccio
In a statement, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Riccio made Apple a better and more innovative company, and that Ternus will bring a deep expertise and breadth of experience to the Hardware Engineering teams.

"Every innovation Dan has helped Apple bring to life has made us a better and more innovative company, and we're thrilled that he'll continue to be part of the team," said ‌Tim Cook‌, Apple's CEO. "John's deep expertise and wide breadth of experience make him a bold and visionary leader of our Hardware Engineering teams. I want to congratulate them both on these exciting new steps, and I'm looking forward to many more innovations they'll help bring to the world."

There is no word on what project Riccio will be working on, but Apple has an Apple Car and various augmented reality and virtual reality devices in the works. The ‌Apple Car‌ project was recently taken over by Apple AI chief John Giannandrea, so Riccio's role is a mystery.

Going forward, Riccio will be a vice president of engineering, which seems to be a title downgrade, so it's possible that he is aiming to take a step back from Apple. Riccio has been with Apple since 1998, when he joined the product design team.

Riccio became vice president of iPad Hardware Engineering in 2010, and in 2012, took over the Hardware Engineering team. Apple says that Riccio will "continue to play an instrumental role in shaping the future of Apple's products."

In a statement, Riccio said that working at Apple has been "the opportunity of a lifetime" and that it is now the right time for a change.

"Working at Apple has been the opportunity of a lifetime, spent making the world's best products with the most talented people you could imagine," said Riccio. "After 23 years of leading our Product Design or Hardware Engineering teams -- culminating with our biggest and most ambitious product year ever -- it's the right time for a change. Next up, I'm looking forward to doing what I love most -- focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn't be more excited about."

John Ternus initially joined Apple as part of the Product Design team in 2001, and in 2013 took on a role as vice president of Hardware Engineering. He has overseen the launch of products that include the first-generation AirPods, every ‌iPad‌, and the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

Designer Arun Venkatesan today shared an interesting deep dive into some of the classic watch designs that inspired various watch faces for the Apple Watch, detailing how Apple took design cues from well-known watches from companies like Rolex, Breitling, Heuer, and others.

apple california watch face
Venkatesan delves into the California watch face, the Chronograph and Chronograph Pro watch faces, the Count Up watch face, and the GMT watch face.

The California watch face, for example, was inspired by a dial design that originated in World War II. The mix of Roman and Arabic numerals was thought to make the watch face more readable in low visibility.

Originally called the "error proof" or "high visibility" dial, it adorned the fronts of "bubble back" Rolexes -- so-called because of the bubble-shaped back that gave the watches a thin appearance. Strikingly, the indices are set both in Roman and Arabic numerals where other watches would stick to one or the other. It's thought that mixing numerals aids both the wearer and his brothers-in-arms in reading the watch in low visibility conditions.

The GMT watch face, meanwhile, was based on classic watches able to track two time zones at one time, while Count Up is based on classic dive watches.

Unlike the previous faces, the name Count Up, refers to a type of bezel, not a dial or complication. Also known as the diving bezel, this rotating bezel, when coupled with the minute hand, helps measure elapsed time in minutes.

The count up bezel can be traced back to a monumental year in the history of the dive watch -- 1953.

Apple's Chronograph watch faces are built on a long history of chronograph watches that date back to the early 1800s and have become some of the most popular watch face types. Venkatesan says that his research led him to be impressed with Apple's dedication to design, as it's clear that Apple took the time to study the history of many of the classic watch faces that are available in a digital format on the Apple Watch.

As I researched and wrote this essay, my respect only increased. With the watch faces, Apple could have taken the easy way out by merely mimicking existing watch archetypes at a surface level. Instead, they intensely studied each one's history. When designing each face, they took into account that history and the constraints and opportunities afforded by modern technology.

For those interested in the history of the Apple Watch and those who want to know more about the classic watches that have inspired Apple's designers, Venkatesan's article is well worth reading through.

Verizon today unveiled a new unlimited plan designed to allow prepaid customers to access Verizon's fastest 5G network for $75 per month.

verizon 5g uw coverage map
As noted by The Verge, the plan is priced at $10 more than the standard unlimited prepaid plan and provides access to Verizon's 5G Ultra Wideband network, which is the fastest available 5G that can be accessed in a limited number of cities. It also includes unlimited 5G Ultra Wideband Mobile Hotspot data.

Prior to now, access to the mmWave Ultra Wideband network was limited to Verizon postpaid customers on eligible unlimited plans, but all of Verizon's prepaid plans previously had access to the slower sub-6GHz 5G network that's not much faster than LTE.

Verizon's standard 5G nationwide connectivity is available in more than 2,700 cities, but the faster mmWave Ultra Wideband 5G is limited to select parts of 64 cities across the United States, so those who subscribe to the higher-priced prepaid plan may not find widespread availability of the faster 5G speeds.

All of Apple's iPhone 12 models in the United States are compatible with mmWave 5G networks such as Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G.

Tag: Verizon

Apple today announced the launch of a new "Time to Walk" feature that's available to Apple Watch owners who are also Fitness+ subscribers, with the service offering up audio stories from celebrities.


We took a quick look at Time to Walk in our latest YouTube video to see what it's all about and whether it's a worthwhile addition to the Fitness+ service.

Time to Walk is technically a watchOS 7.3 feature and will be announced in the watchOS 7.3 release notes, but it is accessible now in watchOS 7.2 as Apple released it as an over-the-air server side update.

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Designed specifically for outdoor walks done while wearing an Apple Watch, Time to Walk features stories from musicians, actors, and athletes, with each story lasting from 25 to 40 minutes. Right now, there are four audio stories available from country music star Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green, musician Shawn Mendes, and actress Uzo Aduba.

Each audio story is meant to focus on the guest's "personal, life-shaping moments," and Apple has designed these workouts to feel like you're walking alongside the celebrity that's speaking. The person telling the story is also on a walk, and will describe their surroundings before jumping into a personal discussion.

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Shawn Mendes, for example, describes his walk in Griffith Park in Los Angeles before he delves into a discussion on the anxiety he faced when he went viral as a 15 year old, and the mindfulness techniques that he uses to achieve a sense of calm. Each of the Time to Walk stories is accompanied by photos at key intervals in the story, with Apple designing the discussions to feel like an intimate one-on-one experience.

Apple Watch owners are meant to feel like they're walking right alongside the celebrity sharing their Time to Walk story, and stories are punctuated by the ambient sounds like birds, footsteps, breathing, and other people in the area. After a story has finished, each speaker provides three songs to listen to that are related.

Time to Walk workouts are available to all Apple Fitness+ subscribers and can be accessed in the Workout app as a unique workout type. Since the audio is coming from the Apple Watch, AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones are required to listen. Time to Walk episodes can also be found in the Fitness+ section on the iPhone.

Time to Walk episodes download automatically as long as you have the setting enabled on the ‌iPhone‌, and it's turned on by default. It can be found if you open the Apple Watch app, scroll down to Workout, and make sure "Add Newest Workouts to Watch" is enabled. Apple plans to release new Time to Walk episodes every Monday through April.

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Apple is hoping that Time to Walk might serve as a gateway to getting people more involved with Apple Fitness+, which has been designed to be welcoming to people of all skill levels. Apple launched Apple Fitness+ last month, and the service offers workouts across a wide range of categories from dance and yoga to cycling, running, and HIIT.

A Fitness+ subscription is required for Time to Walk, and Fitness+ is priced at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, though those who purchased a new Apple Watch this year can get a free three month trial.

Apple today shared a first look feature of "Palmer," an upcoming Apple TV+ film that stars Justin Timberlake taking on the role of a former college football phenomenon who returns to his hometown to get his life back on track after a stint in prison.


Described as a story of "redemption, acceptance, and love," "Palmer" will be released on ‌Apple TV+‌ this Friday.

After 12 years in prison, former high school football star Eddie Palmer returns home to put his life back together--and forms an unlikely bond with Sam, an outcast boy from a troubled home. But Eddie's past threatens to ruin his new life and family.

Along with Justin Timberlake, "Palmer" stars Juno Temple, Alisha Wainwright, June Squibb, and newcomer Ryder Allen. The screenplay was written by Cheryl Guerriero, and it is directed by actor Fisher Stevens.

Apple recently announced plans to extend all ‌Apple TV+‌ free trials until July 2021, giving people more time to watch the available original content before making a decision on whether to subscribe. ‌Apple TV+‌ has been available for free since November 2019 for those who purchased an eligible Apple device in September 2019 or later.

Without the free trial, ‌Apple TV+‌ is priced at $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, but Apple is also currently crediting paid subscribers as well. ‌Apple TV+‌ is available on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Macs, consoles, and other set-top boxes, as well as smart TVs from brands like Samsung, Sony, and LG.

Italian consumer association Altroconsumo today announced that it has launched a class action lawsuit [PDF] against Apple for planned obsolescence (via Reuters).

iPhone slow
Altroconsumo is seeking damages of 60 million euros on behalf of Italian consumers who were "tricked" by the practice, with the lawsuit covering the iPhone 6, ‌iPhone‌ 6 Plus, ‌iPhone‌ 6s, and ‌iPhone‌ 6s Plus.

"When consumers buy Apple iPhones, they expect sustainable quality products. Unfortunately, that is not what happened with the ‌iPhone‌ 6 series. Not only were consumers defrauded, and did they have to face frustration and financial harm, from an environmental point of view it is also utterly irresponsible" said ​Els Bruggeman, Head of Policy and Enforcement at Euroconsumers. "This new lawsuit is the latest front in our fight against planned obsolescence in Europe. Our ask is simple: American consumers received compensation, European consumers want to be treated with the same fairness and respect."

These claims date back to the 2017 release of iOS 10.2.1, which included a feature that throttled the performance of older iPhones with degrading batteries to prevent device shutdowns at peak usage points. Apple did not make it clear that avoiding shutdowns would require device performance to be scaled down, which led to a huge consumer outcry and blowback that's ongoing today.

Italy in 2018 fined Apple 10 million euros for "dishonest commercial practices" for implementing an update that "caused serious malfunctions and significantly reduced performance, thus accelerating phones' substitution."

Apple has maintained that the idea of planned obsolescence is absurd, with the iOS 10.2.1 update designed to make iPhones last longer by preventing interruptions in usage. Following the fiasco, Apple implemented battery health features in iOS and debuted a $29 battery replacement program, but it has still faced multiple legal issues related to planned obsolescence claims.

The prior Italian lawsuit and fine were levied by regulators, while the current lawsuit seeks damages for consumers. Altroconsumo is seeking 60 euros on average for all owners of affected iPhones.

Apple is facing similar lawsuits in Belgium and Spain, and a fourth class action lawsuit is set to launch in the near future. Italy is also currently investigating Apple for improper commercial practices in regard to cloud computing services and recently fined Apple 10 million euros for misleading water resistance claims.

Apple today seeded a second RC version of an upcoming macOS Big Sur 11.2 update to developers for testing purposes, with the new update coming a week after the first RC and two months after initial macOS Big Sur release.

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Developers can download the updated ‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2 release candidate using the Software Update mechanism in System Preferences after installing the proper profile from the Apple Developer Center.

‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2 eliminates a feature that allowed Apple apps bypass third-party firewalls, security tools, and VPN apps. ‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11 included a ContentFilterExclusionList that let Apple's apps like the App Store, Maps, iCloud, and more to avoid firewall and VPN apps that users had installed. These apps were not able to filter or inspect traffic for some built-in Apple apps. That functionality has been removed in ‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2.

When ‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2 sees a release, Apple apps will be compatible with VPN apps and will no longer be able to bypass firewalls and other security tools.

According to Apple's release notes, the update also improves Bluetooth reliability and includes multiple bug fixes.

‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2 improves Bluetooth reliability and fixes the following issues:
- External displays may show a black screen when connected to a Mac mini (M1, 2020) using an HDMI to DVI converter
- Edits to Apple ProRAW photos in the Photos app may not save
- iCloud Drive could turn off after disabling the ‌iCloud Drive‌ Desktop & Documents Folders option
- System Preferences may not unlock when entering your administrator password
- Globe key may not display the Emoji & Symbols pane when pressed

The update addresses a bug that could cause external displays to show a black screen when connected to an ‌M1‌ ‌Mac mini‌ using an HDMI to DVI converter, and it fixes an issue that resulted in edits to Apple ProRaw photos in the ‌Photos‌ app not to save. It also includes fixes for ‌iCloud Drive‌, System Preferences, and more.

Related Roundup: macOS Big Sur

Apple is today launching a new "Time to Walk" feature that will allow Apple Watch owners who are Apple Fitness+ subscribers to listen to audio stories from celebrities, musicians, athletes, and other influential people while they walk.

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Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and Director of Fitness and Health technologies Jay Blahnik spoke to The Independent about the new feature to give some insight into how it works and how Apple envisions it being used.

With Time to Walk, guests that include Shawn Mendes and Dolly Parton will tell Apple Watch owners about their lives during the course of the walk. It's set up as a one-to-one experience, with the guest in question also on a walk, and photographs are shared at key points during each story.

According to Blahnik, there were many avenues for the "creative execution" of Time to Walk, but "having just the guest felt like the right thing." Williams said that Apple was aiming for a human connection in a time when many people are isolated.

"If you ask somebody to tell you a life story, they will almost always involve challenges and, because we all face those, it's wonderful to hear about other people's challenges and how they've dealt with them. It's such a part of the human connection."

"I think this is useful anytime, but one of the things with shelter-in-place is it can drive isolation. I think people yearn for social connection and Time to Walk encourages people to get out and walk and offers this sense of connection to interesting people. I've found that within a couple of minutes of an episode, I feel like I'm out walking with someone."

Time to Walk is an experience meant to mimic walking alongside someone else, and Williams said that there's "something just really intimate" about taking a walk and sharing it with another person. "There was a lot of thought put into how this could be the most intimate experience for the individual," said Williams.

On the topic of the full Apple Fitness+ service, Blahnik said that it was designed to be "welcoming to everybody," and that early feedback suggests Apple has been successful.

There's a lot of people saying they're really motivated to do a whole bunch of things on their own, but they just need someone to lead them through a 10-minute yoga session. And then there are other people saying, 'I've never done anything and this is my first step and I'm doing the 10-minute yoga because I'm brand new'. I think we'll see that with Time to Walk: there'll be people who usually do something much more hardcore for their workout, but they really enjoy walking their dog and this makes it more entertaining.

Blahnik expects that people may spend more time out walking with the Time to Walk stories, and that it may be a good on-ramp to get people involved with Apple Fitness+.

Each of the four Time to Walk episodes that are available now range from 25 to 40 minutes in length, and Apple plans to add new episodes every Monday between now and April. Time to Walk is considered a watchOS 7.3 feature, but episodes are available now for Apple Fitness+ subscribers.

Apple Fitness+ is priced at $9.99 per month, and in addition to these Time to Walk episodes, it provides access to home workouts across a range of categories from yoga and dance to running and cycling. Workouts can be watched on iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

Update: Williams and Blahnik also did an interview with Well + Good that covers similar topics.

Apple has shared a full trailer for "The Snoopy Show," which is set to launch on February 5, as an unlisted video on the Apple TV YouTube channel.

"The Snoopy Show" marks Apple's second series made in partnership with WildBrain (formerly DHX Media) and its subsidiary, Peanuts Worldwide. In 2019, Apple debuted faux documentary "Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10," and "Snoopy in Space," following Snoopy and the Peanuts gang as Snoopy pursues his dream of being an astronaut.

Starring the world's most famous Beagle, and his best bud, Woodstock. He's a dog like no other — whether he's flying high in the sky, or searching for treasure at the bottom of the sea, he's always up to something fun. So gather your gang, and get ready to follow along with The Snoopy Show, only on Apple TV+.

Apple won an Emmy for Outstanding Children's or Family Viewing Program for Peanuts in Space, and it has committed to producing a range of new "Peanuts" content in the future.

The Snoopy Show comes to ‌Apple TV+‌ on Friday, February 5, with a season of six episodes.

We're tracking a variety of different discounts to kick off the last week of January. This includes deals on MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini with the M1 chip, as well as Anker accessories, the iPad Air, and the AirPods Pro.

AirPods Pro Discount Feature desaturatedNote: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

AirPods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro are available for $199.98, down from $249.00 this week on Amazon. We did see the AirPods Pro at a lower price over the holidays, but in the new year around $50 off is among the best discount that you'll find on the noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones.

AirPods Pro are Apple's high-end Bluetooth headphones, offering active noise cancellation and many more features. The included charging case also supports Qi wireless charging, so you can recharge the headphones via any compatible Qi mat.

We track sales for every model of the AirPods in our Best AirPods Deals guide, so be sure to bookmark that page while you shop around for the wireless headphones.

M1 Macs

There are a few deals on Apple's newest M1-enabled Mac models, including the lowest price seen on the 13-inch MacBook Pro. This model, with a 512GB SSD, is on sale for $1,399.00, down from $1,499.00, which remains the best ongoing price for this device in 2021.

100 off m1 macbook pro

Anker

Anker's newest sale on Amazon includes discounts on wireless charging mats, Soundcore audio devices, and a few of eufy's smart home products.

iPad Air

The $40 discount on the 2020 iPad Air has broadened to include more colors this week, namely the Sky Blue option. Now you can get the Green, Rose Gold, Sky Blue, and Space Gray 64GB Wi-Fi iPad Air for $559.00 on Amazon, down from $599.00.

ipad air arrive feature

Shipping on the Sky Blue option is a bit delayed and this model won't be in stock until February 1, but all other colors are available now. You can also get the 256GB Wi-Fi iPad Air in Green, Sky Blue, and Space Gray for $699.00, down from $749.00.

Keep up with all of this week's best discounts on Apple products and related accessories in our dedicated Apple Deals roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

Apple today officially introduced Time to Walk, a new feature for Apple Fitness+ subscribers with audio stories from influential people that Apple Watch users can listen to with AirPods or other wireless headphones while walking.

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Time to Walk episodes will be automatically downloaded to the Apple Watch with a Fitness+ subscription, and users can start an episode directly from the Workout app. New episodes ranging from 25 to 40 minutes in length will appear in the Workout app from a different guest each Monday through the end of April, according to Apple.

Apple says each episode will be shaped by the guest's "personal, life-shaping moments" and include "lessons learned, meaningful memories, thoughts on purpose and gratitude, moments of levity, and other thought-provoking topics." Each episode will be complemented by photos that appear on the Apple Watch, and end with a short playlist of songs selected by the guest that users can listen to as they complete their Walk workout.

Time to Walk launches today with four episodes from the following guests:

- Country music star Dolly Parton has won nine GRAMMYs and is also a celebrated actor, businessperson, and humanitarian. Dolly reflects on her career, family, and growing up in rural Tennessee. "I've loved walking ever since I was a little girl in the Smoky Mountains," Parton says. "I think it's so important to be able to get out and walk if we can during this time. I do my best thinking when I walk. And while many of us feel confined during this time, I'm hopeful that people will take a walk down memory lane with me and we can all feel a little more freedom taking the time to walk together."

- NBA player Draymond Green won three basketball championships with the Golden State Warriors, helping to change how the game is played. He reflects on the virtues of failure and tuning out criticism. "There's nothing better than a walk in nature, getting lost in my thoughts, and taking a deep breath of fresh air," Green says. "Take all the stresses of your day and let them blow away with the wind. I hope sharing my stories with those who go on a walk with me will give them the same drive to chase their dreams that I had in chasing mine."

- Musician Shawn Mendes went viral on social media at 15, had his first platinum album by 19, and has toured the world. He shares how a slower pace has helped him personally and creatively. "Taking a walk is a great way to clear your mind," Mendes says. "It's the most simple thing you can do to calm the body and soul, reflect, and slow down. I hope people get to feel the same sense of calm I do while walking and can bring that to their own experiences."

- Emmy Award winner Uzo Aduba found stardom on the series, "Orange Is the New Black," but only after many rejections. She talks about lifelong relationships and keeping the faith. "I love walking either by myself or with my dog," Aduba says. "It's a time to connect and have the conversations with myself that can often get overlooked throughout the day, and bring peace of mind. The experience of walking and telling my stories gave me that familiar feeling that walking brings, answering questions that need to be answered, and addressing topics that need to be addressed. I'm so excited to share that with those who take the time to walk with me."

An equivalent Time to Push feature will be available for wheelchair users.

Apple Fitness+ launched last month, providing subscribers with access to a library of workout videos, with new content added on a weekly basis. Fitness+ integrates personal metrics such as heart rate from the Apple Watch to motivate users, animating them on the screen during key moments in the workout. Time to Walk will be unique given that the workouts can be completed outdoors without needing to watch a screen.

Apple Fitness+ is currently available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. After a one-month trial, the service is priced at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year in the United States.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Coming in at 5.4-inches, Apple's iPhone 12 mini is one of the smallest premium smartphones on the market, and has received a broadly positive reception amongst its owners, despite reports of lackluster sales compared to Apple's larger iPhone 12 models.

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The reason for the smaller margin of ‌iPhone 12 mini‌ sales compared to the ‌iPhone 12‌, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max is likely a sign of a change in the way people use their smartphones, combined with rapidly evolving market forces, particularly in China, where Apple has recently made further inroads and where larger devices have historically been more popular.

The size of the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌ harks back to the early days of smartphones – the original iPhone had a 3.5-inch display, for example, while devices above 4 to 5 inches were considered "phablet" territory just a few years ago. However, times have changed, and with phones now increasingly used for video consumption and gaming, larger devices have become the norm.

Original iPhone Twitter

The original ‌iPhone‌, circa 2007

Yet whether because of its pocket convenience, conduciveness to little (and perhaps younger) hands, or its ability to be used singlehandedly, the continued lure of the smaller form factor device remains, and it's not a desire limited to Apple users, either. Since the launch of the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌, many people have been left wondering if another smartphone company might step up to the plate and offer an equivalent rival Android offering.

Enter, Sony.

Serial leaker Stever Hemmerstoffer (@Onleaks) on Sunday revealed newly leaked images of the company's upcoming Compact Xperia, a 5.5-inch device that's smaller than its 2017 predecessor, the popular but relatively short-lived 5.7-inch Xperia XZ1.

5 5 inch sony xperia onleaks
Measuring 140 x 68.9 x 8.9mm, it's slightly larger than the 5.4-inch ‌iPhone 12 mini‌ (131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4mm), but whenever it launches, it will be the standout contender for the smallest Android phone on the market, given current similar rivals.

Consider that the Pixel 5, which some see as Google's equivalent to the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌, comes in at a not-insignificant 6-inches (measuring 144.7 x 70.4 x 8mm), while the Galaxy S20 – the smallest in Samsung's latest lineup – is nearly an inch larger than Apple's device.

Returning to Sony's yet-to-be-released 5.5-inch Xperia Compact successor, the phone has a flat display that's surrounded by thick bezels and a chin, while an 8-megapixel selfie camera lies within its water-drop shaped notch. On the rear is a dual-lens setup in a vertical array featuring a 13-megapixel main camera.

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A fingerprint sensor is embedded in the power button – similar to Touch ID on the latest iPad Air – and a 3.5mm mini jack sits in the top of the phone for those who prefer wired headphones.

Other than that, not much else is known about the new Xperia Compact, suffice to say that it appears to be a direct response to Apple's decision to resurrect the small form factor phone. In which case, its relative success or failure in the Android market will be interesting to compare to the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌'s apparently mixed fortunes against Apple's other flagship 2021 offerings thus far.

Tag: Sony

The Apple Watch Series 7 will reportedly feature blood glucose monitoring via an optical sensor, according to ETNews.

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The report, which mainly focuses on the blood glucose capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, explains that Apple is intending to bring blood glucose monitoring to the upcoming Apple Watch Series 7 using a non-invasive optical sensor.

Measuring blood glucose levels, also known as blood sugar levels, is vital to managing conditions such as diabetes. Normally, measuring blood glucose requires testing a drop of blood in a blood sugar meter or using an implanted continuous glucose monitor (CGM). The ability to observe any major increases or decreases in blood glucose may raise awareness of a potential health condition or simply help to improve a user's diet.

Apple is said to have secured patents around blood glucose monitoring, and the company is now purportedly "focusing on securing reliability and stability prior to commercialization of the technology." The Apple-designed optical sensor is believed to be a skin-top continuous monitoring solution that does not require an implant.

Rumors suggest that Apple has been interested in adding blood glucose monitoring to the Apple Watch for some time. The company reportedly established a team of biomedical engineers and consultants specifically working on sensors for non-invasively monitoring blood sugar levels in 2017, and work on the sensor reportedly progressed to trials at clinical sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. Apple CEO Tim Cook has even been spotted testing what was believed to be a prototype glucose monitor connected to his Apple Watch.

Apple has added new health-oriented features to the Apple Watch in recent years, such as the ability to measure blood oxygen levels or take an ECG. Late last year, ‌Tim Cook‌ teased the future of the Apple Watch, saying that the device is still "in the early innings," with Apple testing "mind blowing" capabilities in its labs. "Think about the amount of sensors in your car," said Cook, adding "and arguably, your body is much more important than your car."

The Apple Watch Series 7 is expected to arrive later this year, but there have been few rumors around what the new models may feature. While there have been reports of microLED displays and solid-state buttons with haptic feedback for the Apple Watch, these are not directly expected for the Apple Watch Series 7.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Earlier this week, Apple seeded the watchOS 7.3 Release Candidate, which is typically the final beta version of a software update. The release notes for the update list a new "Time to Walk" feature for Apple Fitness+ subscribers, described as "an audio experience in the Workout app where guests share inspiring stories as you walk."

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Apple Fitness+ subscribers will be able to open the Workout app on an Apple Watch, select Time to Walk, and choose from one of the audio stories to listen to during their walk. The feature will likely extend to wheelchair users.

Based on a screenshot of a since-removed Apple Fitness+ promotional video shared by Twitter user Othmane, it appears that Time to Walk will include a 30-minute story from singer Shawn Mendes at launch. Othmane says the video also showed stories from singer Dolly Parton, NBA star Draymond Green, and actress Uzo Aduba, known for her role as Suzanne Warren on the Netflix original series "Orange Is the New Black."

While settings for Time to Walk started showing up weeks ago in earlier betas of watchOS 7.3 and iOS 14.4, the stories are not yet accessible. The feature should launch when the software updates are publicly released, likely this coming week.

A new setting on the Apple Watch can be toggled on to ensure that new Time to Walk stories are added to the Workout app as they become available. The stories will be downloaded when the Apple Watch is connected to power and near a paired iPhone, and they will be deleted automatically upon completion of the workout.

Apple Fitness+ launched last month, providing subscribers with access to a library of workout videos covering strength, yoga, dance, running, walking, cycling, rowing, and more, with new content delivered each week from a team of trainers hired by Apple. Fitness+ integrates personal metrics such as heart rate from the Apple Watch to motivate users, animating them on the screen during key moments in the workout. Time to Walk will be unique given that the workouts can be completed outdoors without needing to watch a screen.

Apple Fitness+ is currently available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Apple is offering a one-month free trial to all Apple Watch users, and an extended three-month trial to customers who purchased a new Apple Watch Series 3 or newer after September 15, 2020. After the trial, the service is priced at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year in the United States.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Since the launch of iPhone 12 models in October, Apple has acknowledged that the devices may cause electromagnetic interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, but the company has now shared additional information.

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Apple added the following paragraph to a related support document today:

Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device (more than 6 inches / 15 cm apart or more than 12 inches / 30 cm apart if wirelessly charging). But consult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines.

While the support document already mentioned "MagSafe accessories" in the title, Apple has further emphasized that accessories like the MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger may also interfere with medical devices:

All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets—and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices.

Apple continues to state that while all iPhone 12 models contain more magnets than prior iPhone models, they are "not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior iPhone models."

Earlier this month, an article in the Heart Rhythm Journal indicated that iPhone 12 models can "potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient" due to magnetic interference with implantable medical devices. Three doctors in Michigan tested this interaction by holding an iPhone 12 near a patient's implantable cardioverter defibrillator, which immediately went into a "suspended" state for the duration of the test, according to the article.

"We hereby bring an important public health issue concerning the newer generation iPhone 12 which can potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient particularly while carrying the phone in upper pockets," the doctors wrote. "Medical device manufacturers and implanting physicians should remain vigilant in making patients aware of this significant interaction of the iPhone 12 and other smart wearables with their cardiac implantable electronic devices."

The article in the Heart Rhythm Journal was first surfaced by Brazilian website MacMagazine.

Apple provides more information in the "Important safety information for iPhone" section of the iPhone User Guide.

Related Roundups: iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro

Microsoft yesterday shared a new ad on YouTube titled "Microsoft Surface Pro 7: The Better Choice," in which the company compares its tablet computer to Apple's 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, as spotted by MSPoweruser.


The ad highlights the Surface Pro 7's touchscreen and included stylus as opposed to only a "little bar" (the Touch Bar) on the MacBook Pro. Other advantages of the Surface Pro 7 mentioned in the ad include the detachable keyboard, a cheaper price, and the claim that the tablet is "a much better gaming device" than the MacBook Pro.

Results uploaded on Geekbench show that the Intel Core i3-equipped Surface Pro 7 with 4GB of RAM has single-core and multi-core scores of 769 and 1,851, respectively. Additionally, the Intel Core i5-equipped Surface Pro 7 with 8GB of RAM has single-core and multi-core scores of 1,210 and 4,079, respectively. By comparison, the ‌M1‌ chip running on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8GB of unified memory achieved greater performance than both Surface models with single-core and multi-core scores of 1,735 and 7,686, respectively.

The 12.3-inch Surface Pro 7 starts at $749.99 with 128GB of storage and 4GB of RAM and increases to $2,299.99 with 1TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. In comparison, the current 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 with 256GB of storage and 8GB of unified memory and increases to $2,299 for 2TB of storage and 16GB of unified memory.

Microsoft has long positioned its Surface devices as an ideal combination of both a tablet and computer experience. In years past, Microsoft has released several ads promoting its Surface lineup over Apple's MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iPad lineup.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro 13"

Apple is working on a third-generation version of the AirPods, and for this updated version rumored to be launching in 2021, we could see some design changes for the first time since the ‌AirPods‌ came out in 2016. This guide covers everything that we know about the upcoming ‌AirPods‌ 3.

AirPods Gen 3 Feature

Design Updates

The third-generation ‌AirPods‌ may be updated with a design that's similar to the AirPods Pro, featuring a shorter stem and replaceable silicone ear tips that are able to better fit a wider range of ears.

airpodsdesign

The current ‌AirPods‌

Though the ‌AirPods‌ 3 might look like the ‌AirPods Pro‌, they're not expected to get Pro-level features like Active Noise Cancellation and will instead be identical in overall function to the current ‌AirPods‌.

airpods 3 part
A leaked image that's said to be the ‌AirPods‌ 3 surfaced in November 2020, featuring a design that is similar to the ‌AirPods Pro‌, which is in line with rumors. The ‌AirPods‌ 3 have a more Pro-like rounded shape and are smaller in size.

airpods 3 render

New Internal Hardware

Apple is rumored to be working on a new wireless chip that could be included in the third-generation ‌AirPods‌, and there could potentially be some improvements in battery life. A new wireless chip could bring extended range, but the ‌AirPods‌ 3 are expected to function like the current version with fast device switching and quick pairing with Apple devices, among other benefits.

In more technical news, the ‌AirPods‌ 3 will feature a more compact integrated system-in-package (SiP) that's similar to the SiP used in the ‌AirPods Pro‌. This will allow more of the audio features to be integrated into a smaller casing design like the ‌AirPods Pro‌.

Cost

Since the ‌AirPods‌ 3 aren't getting Active Noise Cancellation, it's likely the pricing will remain as is, with Apple charging $199 for the ‌AirPods‌ with Wireless Charging Case. It's not known if there will be a cheaper version available with a standard charging case that charges over Lightning as Apple could opt to discontinue this option.

Release Date

‌AirPods‌ 3 are rumored to be coming in the first half of 2021, and if there is a March event as there has been in past years, the ‌AirPods‌ could make a debut in March.

Read More

For more on the current-generation ‌AirPods‌ and what we expect to see when the ‌AirPods‌ 3 launch, we have a full AirPods roundup with all of the details you might want to know.

Related Roundup: AirPods
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Caution)