MacRumors

Apple is set to report its earnings results for the first quarter of the 2021 fiscal year on Wednesday, January 27, and many analysts forecast that the company's quarterly revenue will exceed $100 billion for the first time. Apple's currently quarterly revenue record is $91.8 billion, set in the first quarter of the 2020 fiscal year.

iphone 12 launch apple store
In an investor note shared with MacRumors, Monness Crespi Hardt analyst Brian White estimated that Apple will report quarterly revenue of $105.2 billion following the launch of several new products and services in the final three months of 2020, including the entire iPhone 12 lineup, a redesigned iPad Air, the first three Macs with Apple silicon, the HomePod mini, the AirPods Max, Apple Fitness+, and Apple One subscription bundles.

"In our view, Apple's portfolio was positioned better-than-ever heading into the recent holiday season," said White, adding that Mac and iPad revenue should remain strong as many customers continue to work and learn from home amid the pandemic.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty is even more optimistic, forecasting that Apple will report quarterly revenue of $108.2 billion, according to MarketWatch. Huberty referred to the iPhone 12 as "Apple's most successful product launch in the last five years," and she also cited "sustained work and learn from home demand" for Apple products.

Apple's earnings report will be released on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time and will be followed by a conference call with Apple's CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Apple's stock price is up around 3% today.

Tag: AAPL

Anker and RAVPower have a collection of discounts going on this week on Amazon, providing sales on accessories like portable chargers, wireless chargers, surge protectors, HomeKit-compatible smart home products, and more.

anker quickieNote: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running.

All of the Anker sales will last for a few more days, but RAVPower's deal on the 20,000 mAh power bank is part of today's Amazon Gold Box, so if you're interested be sure to shop that sale before the day ends.

ravpower
Otherwise, there are a few markdowns on HomeKit cameras from Anker's smart home brand, eufy. This includes a few cameras in the eufy Security product line, like the eufy Security 2C 2-Cam Kit, which is on sale for $169.99, down from $199.99.

Portable Chargers

Wireless Chargers

Wall Chargers

Smart Home

Audio

Head to our full Deals Roundup to get caught up with all of the latest deals and discounts that we've been tracking over the past week.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

New universal chat app "Beeper" combines 15 different chat platforms into a single inbox and offers iMessage on Android and Windows (via The Verge).

beeper app

The app comes from a team including former Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky, and enables users to integrate a range of messaging services, including WhatsApp, SMS, Signal, Telegram, Slack, Twitter, Skype, Hangouts, Discord, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger, into a single, searchable inbox. Most striking is support for Apple's iMessage, as it is only officially available on Apple devices.

The app is "using some trickery" to achieve this, with the website's FAQ revealing that an always-online Mac running the Beeper app is needed to use as a bridge. Alternately, Beeper will ship a "Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage" to users unable to use a Mac.

The app is built on the open-source Matrix messaging protocol. While the clear short-term objective is to make it easier to chat across different services, Migicovsky has discussed the prospect of all users gradually transitioning to the open-source Matrix itself to chat, rather than simply using it as a bridge between services.

Beeper will cost $10 per month for its hosted option, and is set to be available on macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. Prospective users can request an early invitation to join the app on the Beeper website.

Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman.

Apple VR Feature

As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view of the real world, will be more limited. Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook Inc.'s Oculus, Sony Corp.'s PlayStation VR and headsets from HTC Corp., the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans.

According to the report, the initial device has hit "several development hurdles" and the company has "conservative" sales expectations. However, the high-end, niche product reportedly aims to prepare outside developers and consumers for more mainstream AR glasses further down the line.

The plans suggest that Apple's first headset will be far more expensive than those from rivals, which cost about $300 to $900. Some Apple insiders believe the company may sell only one headset per day per retail store. Apple has roughly 500 stores, so in that scenario, annual sales would be just over 180,000 units — excluding other sales channels. That would put it on par with other pricey Apple products, such as the $5,999 Mac Pro desktop computer. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

According to the report, Apple plans to put much higher resolution displays in the headset than those in current VR offerings, and it aims to include advanced chips more powerful than even its latest M1 processors found in Apple Silicon Macs.

Apple is also said to have included a fan in the design of the headset, which is codenamed N301 and in a late prototype stage and yet to be finalized, suggesting the company's plans could change or the device could even be scrapped.

The inclusion of the fan and powerful processors is said to have initially resulted in a device that was too large and heavy, so Apple reportedly brought the headset closer to the face and helped shrink the size. This meant users can't wear eyeglasses while using the headset, so to address this, Apple has developed a system where custom prescription lenses can be inserted into the headset over the VR screens. Apple is also said to be discussing how it might implement prescriptions at the point of sale online and in retail stores.

Meanwhile, the AR glasses, codenamed N421, are in an even earlier development stage and are "several years away," according to people with knowledge of the matter, although Apple had initially planned to to release them as early as 2023.

Current prototypes of the AR glasses are said to resemble high-priced sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips. Former chief designer Jony Ive, who has since departed the company, is said to have preferred the concept of the N421 glasses over the headset.

Apple was initially aiming for an ultra-powerful headset that came with a hub to house the processor, but Ive did not want to sell a device that would require a separate, stationary device for full functionality.

Ive instead wanted a headset with less powerful technology that could be embedded directly in the device, but the leader of the AR/VR team, Mike Rockwell, wanted the more powerful device. It was a standoff that lasted for months, and Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive.

As a result, the headset is reportedly designed to work as a standalone device, meaning it can operate on a battery rather than be plugged into a wall or a Mac. According to Gurman, prototypes of the headset include external cameras to enable some AR features. Apple is said to be testing using the cameras for hand-tracking and is also working on a feature where a user can type virtually in the air to input text.

Apple's AR/VR ambitions have long been rumored, with many of the developments emerging from Gurman's reporting. Be sure to check out the full Bloomberg article, and for everything we know on Apple's AR/VR plans, check our dedicated roundup.

LG's UltraFine 4K Display listing appears to have been removed from regional Apple Stores across Europe sometime over the last 48 hours.

lg4kdesign
The LG monitor was out of stock for quite some time in Europe over the holiday period. Now it no longer shows up in searches of Apple's online stores in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and several other European countries.

Meanwhile, listings for LG's UltraFine 5K Display still appear in some European stores such as the UK and Italy, but stock is currently unavailable. LG's UltraFine 4K and UltraFine 5K Displays remain in stock and available to order in the United States, however.

This isn't the first time LG's UltraFine Displays have been unavailable to order on Apple's online stores in some parts of the world. However, on previous occasions, the displays were out of stock and eventually replenished, and at no time were the listings removed. That they have been this time round could suggest that one or both are set to be discontinued.

Introduced in May 2019, the UltraFine 4K features a 23.7-inch display with a 3,840 x 2,160 pixels resolution, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, three downstream USB-C ports, up to 500 nits brightness, P3 wide color gamut support, and built-in stereo speakers. The display is priced at $699.95 on Apple's online store in the United States.

The Thunderbolt 3 LG UltraFine 5K Display offers a 5,120 x 2,880 resolution with 14.7 million pixels and P3 wide color gamut, plus built-in stereo speakers, a camera, a microphone, and an adjustable stand at a $1,300 price point.

Apple continues to sell its high-end, 32-inch Pro Display XDR with a 6K resolution for $4,999, and a Bloomberg report last week claimed Apple is working on a lower-priced external monitor that would be sold alongside it. However, that product is said to be in early development and is therefore unlikely to launch anytime soon, making the apparent lack of LG UltraFine Displays harder to gauge.

(Thanks Colin and Alpar!)

Tags: LG, Europe

Apple's iPhone 13 series will feature a redesigned Face ID system that will allow for a smaller notch at the top of the screen, according to a new report today.

iPhone 12 Yellow
The rumor comes via hit-and-miss Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes, whose supply chain sources also claim that the ultra wide-angle lens in Apple's next-generation iPhones is due for an upgrade.

The next-generation iPhones' Face ID system will see some design changes with the size of the notch at the top of the screen to shrink and their ultrawide angle lens upgraded from 5P to 6P, the sources said.

The new design integrates Rx, Tx and flood illuminator into the same camera module, similar to that of a LiDAR scanner in the back camera module, to enable smaller notch sizes, the sources stated.

This is the third time that we've heard rumors of a thinner or shallower notch for the ‌iPhone 13‌. Japanese site Mac Otakara has previously cited sources within the Chinese supply chain that say the same thing, while leaker "Ice Universe" has also claimed a smaller notch is coming this year.

Both rumors have suggested that rather than being reduced in width, the notch may be reduced in height to make it less noticeable, so it's possible the 2021 ‌iPhone‌ models will have a notch that's the same length but not as tall.

Today's story claims that the new Face ID camera module will be supplied by Foxconn and Korea-based LG Innotek, while the front-facing camera modules will be supplied by O-Film.

In addition, DigiTimes' sources claim that the ‌iPhone 13‌ series will "continue to use the 7P lens module" used in last year's iPhones. However, the ‌iPhone 13‌ Pro models will feature a larger CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) bringing "resolution improvements," while the non-Pro models will inherit the CIS used in the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max:

The sources revealed that the Pro family of the next-generation iPhones reportedly will feature a newly-designed CIS, while the other models will adopt the CIS used by the ‌iPhone 12 Pro‌ devices. The CIS will be supplied mainly by Sony, the sources said.

The rumors come from the same DigiTimes story that appeared on Wednesday in a preview version, claiming that the entire ‌iPhone 13‌ lineup will feature sensor-shift optical image stabilization.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13

Apple CEO Tim Cook gifted former United States President Donald Trump with the first 2019 Mac Pro that came off of the assembly line in Austin, Texas, according to a financial disclosure report that was released today (via The Verge).

2019 mac pro side and front
"‌Mac Pro‌ Computer, the first created at the Flex Factory in Austin, Texas," reads the entry, which values the machine at $5,999, the base price for a ‌Mac Pro‌. The ‌Mac Pro‌ would not have been the very first from the Flex Factory because the facility was also used for 2013 ‌Mac Pro‌ assembly.


Ahead of the launch of the new ‌Mac Pro‌, Cook and Trump visited the Texas facility where some of the new models would be put together. At the time, Cook said that he was "proud" to build the new ‌Mac Pro‌ in the United States.

Apple's Austin, Texas facility continues to be used to assemble the ‌Mac Pro‌, with the machines shipped across the United States.

As of December 8, Apple has been requiring developers submitting new apps and app updates to provide privacy label information that outlines the data that each app collects from users when it is installed.

appstoreprivacy feature
Many app developers, such as Facebook, have complied and now include the privacy labels alongside their apps, but there's one notable outlier -- Google.

Google has not updated its major apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome, and YouTube since December 7 or before, and most Google apps have to date have not been updated with the Privacy Label feature.

The Google Translate, Google Authenticator, Motion Stills, Google Play Movies, and Google Classroom apps do include privacy labels even though they have not been updated recently, but Google's search app, Google Maps, Chrome, Waze, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Photos, Google Home, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Assistant, Google Sheets, Google Calendar, Google Slides, Google One, Google Earth, YouTube Music, Hangouts, Google Tasks, Google Meet, Google Pay, PhotoScan, Google Voice, Google News, Gboard, Google Podcasts, and more do not display the information.

On January 5, Google told TechCrunch that the data would be added to its iOS apps "this week or the next week," but both this week and the next week have come and gone with no update. It has now been well over a month since Google last updated its apps.

google apps collage
When it said that an update was coming soon, Google gave no reason for the delay, and still has not offered up an explanation for the lengthy period of time between app updates. Google typically pushes updates much more frequently across its catalog of apps, and its Android apps have continued to be updated regularly.

There has been speculation that Google is hesitant to provide the privacy label data because of the negative feedback that other companies like Facebook have received, but there's still no confirmed explanation.


Apple implemented App Privacy information in iOS 14.3 to provide customers with upfront details about what data an app collects from them so they can make an informed choice when opting to install an app. App developers are required to self-report privacy information in the ‌App Store‌, and developers must identify all data collection and use cases.

Ubuntu Linux is installable and functional on M1 Macs thanks to work done by Corellium, Corellium CTO Chris Wade announced early this morning. Security researchers at the company have developed a port that has been released on GitHub with an installation tutorial coming later today.

Linux on M1 Feature
Corellium has been able to successfully boot into Linux over USB, with a USB-C dongle enabling networking capabilities and support for USB, I2C, and DART. There are some limitations, with no support for GPU acceleration and the port instead relying on software rendering.


Corellium has been working on a Linux port for the ‌M1‌ Macs since earlier this month, and over the weekend, progress was made on the project.


For those unfamiliar with Corellium, it is a software virtualization company that focuses on Arm, offering tools for security research, app testing, and more. Corellium is embroiled in a legal battle with Apple at the current time, as Apple is unhappy with Corellium's work on iOS emulation software.

Corellium recently won a victory against Apple after a judge decided to throw out copyright claims in the lawsuit and agreed with Corellium that the company operates under fair use terms. The other claims in the lawsuit have yet to be dismissed.

Apple this week announced that its "Joint Venture" program will be ending on February 22, 2021. In an email, shared by MacRumors reader Ben, Apple said existing members will continue to have full access to the program through this date.

apple business customers
Launched in 2011, the Joint Venture program provided business customers who purchased a Mac, iPhone, or iPad with priority technical support, training on Apple products and services, and setup assistance for up to five Apple systems. The program had an annual fee that started at $499, and additional systems could be covered for $99 each.

Joint Venture essentially provided outsourced IT for small and medium-sized businesses that needed greater support and service than standard Genius Bar appointments and AppleCare telephone support. Fortunately, businesses can still receive priority technical support by purchasing AppleCare Help Desk Support, which provides two designated contacts with unlimited support incidents for Apple hardware and software for $499 per year.

Apple says existing Joint Venture customers will receive a prorated refund for any remaining portion of their membership.

Amazon today is discounting Apple's 21.5-inch iMac from mid 2020 (3.0GHz 6-Core, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD) to $1,349.00, down from $1,499.00. This is the lowest price we've ever tracked for this model, and it's being matched at B&H Photo.

iMac 27 inch 2020 saleNote: 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.

Although the 21.5-inch iMac technically hasn't seen a hardware update since 2019, Apple does now ship these models with an SSD. This change was made alongside the refresh seen to the 27-inch models in August 2020.

There are a few discounts on 27-inch models, but they aren't quite lowest-ever prices. The 27-inch iMac with 3.1GHz 6-Core, 8GB RAM, and 256GB SSD is $1,689.99, down from $1,799.00. Additionally, the 27-inch iMac with 3.3GHz 6-Core, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD is $1,876.93, down from $1,999.00.

You can keep track of ongoing sales on Apple's iMac line by visiting our Best iMac Deals guide. There, we keep track of the best iMac offers from Amazon, Adorama, B&H Photo, and other retailers, so be sure to check back often if you're shopping for an iMac for the first time, or thinking of upgrading.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

Apple has reportedly cut production of the iPhone 12 mini by two million units to create more manufacturing capacity for the iPhone 12 Pro, according to a new Morgan Stanley investment note seen by PED30.

iphone 12 vs iphone 12 mini

Apple is believed to have made the switch for the first quarter of 2021 in an effort to combat continuing lead times for the more popular ‌iPhone 12 Pro‌.

‌iPhone 12 Pro‌ lead times remain extended far beyond any model launched in the past 4 years at 10 days. Lead times decreased from 22 days ~2 weeks ago as Apple ramps iPhone 12 production signaled by our iPhone supply chain team, led by Sharon Shih, recently raising March quarter ‌iPhone 12 Pro‌ builds by 2M units (which offset a 2M build reduction for the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌).

The report supports previous analysis that the ‌iPhone 12 mini‌ has suffered from lackluster sales, capturing just six percent of the total ‌‌iPhone 12‌‌ sales during the launch period.

The report also highlighted that the non-Pro ‌iPhone 12‌ models are believed to be performing better in China than in the United States. In China, the ‌iPhone 12‌ is believed to have gained a 20.3 percent market share, which is a new 18 month high. The device is also said to have achieved the largest install base of any ‌iPhone‌ launched in China over the past four years through the first full month after being launched.

Related Roundups: iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro

Last month, Zens announced a new modular wireless charging station, which lets you mix and match various pieces to create a charging set-up that fits your needs. In terms of Apple products, you can use the new accessory to charge iPhones, Apple Watch, and AirPods.

zens review 1
There are five total accessories in this line, three "Main Stations" that act as starting point for the modular system, and two "extensions." Zens sent us three pieces of the system to try out in this review.

This highlights one of the biggest drawbacks of the new Zens modular charging system: its price tag. The base entry-level price to get started is just about $72 (for the cheapest Main Station), and if you really want to get the full use of the modular system, you'll likely want to add at least one of the extensions at either $48 or $60.

zens modular 2
Zens sent us a Modular Dual Wireless Charger Main Station, Modular Single Wireless Charger Extension, and Modular Apple Watch Charger Extension, totaling just under $230. While most people won't need to spend this much and should be okay with only purchasing one or two pieces of the system, the fact that its best potential is locked behind such a steep price point is unfortunate.

That being said, like other Zens accessories that I've had a chance to review, the modular system is a reliable and well designed accessory. The Modular Dual Wireless Charger Main Station is far lighter than the Zens Liberty Wireless Charger, which was closer to being an AirPower alternative thanks to its ability to let you place Qi-supported devices anywhere on the surface to charge. This modular system does not support that feature.

zens review 4
The Modular Dual Wireless Charger Main Station functions like any other Qi mat, with two specific hotspots for an iPhone, ‌AirPods‌, or Android smartphone with Qi support. The surface is made from recycled plastics, but it almost has a rubbery feel to it, making it feel safe to place an ‌iPhone‌ on it without a case.

One notable downside of the Main Station for me was the placement of a small LED on the back of the mat, indicating a confirmed charging status. Like some of my personal least favorite Qi mats, this LED is bright enough to be annoying at night, lighting up the opposite wall of my bedroom and requiring a small piece of tape to cover it up.

zens review 2
To connect extensions to the Main Station, all you have to do is align the magnets on the side of each accessory until they click together. You have free reign to put an extension on either side of any Main Station accessory, and can even connect extensions onto other extensions (as long as it's all sourced to a Main Station, which is powered by a basic AC adapter).

There is a slight limit to this modular system, however, in that extensions can only be chained to the left or right of one another. There aren't any ports on the front or back of either the Main Stations or extensions. I have a somewhat small bedside table, so I couldn't fit the Main Station and two extensions in a row without having to move my lamp. It would have been nice to create an L-shaped pattern for even further customization options.

zens review 3
The Modular Single Wireless Charger Extension is the perfect size to charge the ‌AirPods‌ or AirPods Pro, but it can also charge up a smartphone. Zens also makes a Modular Stand Wireless Charger Main Station if you prefer your ‌iPhone‌ to sit vertically while charging, but we didn't have a chance to try this one out.

zens modular
If you own an iPhone 12 model and have been using MagSafe for wireless charging, it also may be difficult to return to traditional Qi mats. After just a few weeks of being able to use the magnets in my iPhone 12 Pro to find the ‌MagSafe‌ charger on my bedside table in the dark, having to fumble and repeatedly raise and lower my ‌iPhone‌ until I hit the hotspot on the Zens charger was quite a step back.

Bottom Line

If you're willing to pay a steep price, the Zens modular wireless charging station is a solid Qi charger with a range of add-ons that provide an organized space to charge all of your Apple products. You can purchase one of the Main Stations on the Zens website, as well as all of the extensions.

Note: Zens provided MacRumors with a Modular Dual Wireless Charger Main Station, Modular Single Wireless Charger Extension, and Modular Apple Watch Charger Extension for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: ZENS

The entire iPhone 13 lineup will feature sensor-shift optical image stabilization, compared to only the iPhone 12 Pro Max among current models, according to a brief story preview shared today by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes.

iPhone OIS Feature2
"Apple's next-generation iPhones slated for launch in the second half of 2021 will all come with sensor-shift stabilization technology, according to industry sources," the story preview reads. The full report should be published by tomorrow, and we'll update our coverage if there are any further details worth noting.

Korean publication ETNews shared a similar report earlier this week claiming that at least two iPhone 13 models will be equipped with sensor-shift stabilization, with LG Innotek expected to remain the supplier of the necessary components.

Apple first introduced sensor-shift stabilization on the Wide lens of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The technology stabilizes the camera's sensor instead of the lens for even greater image stabilization and improved photo quality. It's unclear if sensor-shift stabilization would remain limited to the Wide lens on all iPhone 13 models.

"Until now, sensor‑shift stabilization was only on DSLR cameras," says Apple's website. "This is the first time it's been adapted for iPhone. Whether you're shooting video of your kids as you chase them around the park or holding your iPhone out the window on a bumpy road, you'll get more precise stabilization than ever."

Earlier this month, DigiTimes reported that the LiDAR Scanner will also be expanded to the entire iPhone 13 lineup, while mmWave 5G is expected to become available on iPhone 13 models sold outside of the United States.

Related Roundup: iPhone 13

LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald).

lg wing

LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry:

Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice. The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business.

He added that regardless of any change, the company will retain its current employees from the smartphone division and reassign them elsewhere.

LG has seen rapidly declining smartphone shipments in recent years, and the company is now believed to hold a market share of just two percent. LG has posted major financial shortfalls in its smartphone segment for 23 consecutive quarters, reaching a total loss of $4.5 billion.

When taking office as CEO in January 2020, Kwon pledged to turn the company's smartphone business around. The CEO's latest comments therefore appear to be an admission of failure to make the segment profitable.

At the same time, LG is reportedly ending its production of LCD displays for the iPhone, according to The Elec. LG Display had previously attempted to supply LCDs for the second-generation iPhone SE, but failed to meet Apple's requirements, leading to Japan Display and Sharp being selected as suppliers instead. LG's factory that previously made the components will be repurposed to manufacture automobile display panels.

Earlier this month, LG unveiled one of the world's first rollable smartphones at CES, as the company has endeavored to explore unusual designs to lure in customers. The future of this device, and other LG smartphones such as the LG Velvet and LG Wing, are now highly uncertain.

Tags: LG, LG Display

Apple's inclusion of Ultra Wideband chips in its devices has driven growth in research into the technology and its potential applications, according to a new report by DigiTimes.

homepodhandoff
Ultra Wideband is a short-range, low-power radio technology that is able to provide more precise indoor positioning than Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi. The distance between two UWB devices can be measured precisely by calculating the time that it takes for a radio wave to pass between them.

Apple's iPhones have included it in the last two series via its custom U1 chip, with other Apple products also supporting UWB. According to today's report, Apple's promotion of Ultra Wideband has been the driving factor behind increased take-up of the technology:

Apple has adopted the UWB technology for iPhone 11 and 12 series, Apple Watch 6 and HomePod mini, while Samsung Electronics has launched UWB-enabled smartphones including the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy Flip 2 and China-based Xiaomi has also offered a UWB-enabled smartphone model, Digitimes Research indicated.

Apple's HomePod 14.4 beta is set to introduce new ‌HomePod mini‌ music handoff functionality that takes advantage of the U1 chip in the device: When an ‌iPhone‌ is near a ‌‌HomePod mini‌‌, it begins a soft haptic touch rhythm that gets faster and faster as the ‌‌iPhone‌‌ gets closer, until the interface to transfer a song between the ‌‌HomePod mini‌‌ and the ‌‌iPhone‌‌ opens.

This functionality will make handoff quicker and more reliable on a ‌‌HomePod mini‌‌ and an ‌iPhone 11‌ or iPhone 12, thanks to the U1 chips that let the devices better understand where they are in relation to one another.

Apple's rumored "AirTags" will also feature ultra wideband tech, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, while Tile is said to be planning to introduce an upgraded series of item trackers that include a UWB chip for more precise tracking.

Apple opened up its U1 chip to developers in iOS 14 with a "Nearby Interaction" framework, which can stream distance and relative direction between U1-equipped devices, paving the way for new spatial-related user experiences.

Just last week, BMW announced future plans to roll out Digital Key Plus, an enhanced version of Apple's Car Keys feature that incorporates Ultra Wideband technology, enabling drivers to unlock and start their vehicle without needing to take their ‌iPhone‌ out of their pocket or bag.

But with more and more products including the technology, there have been some notable (and surprising) exceptions: Apple's 2020 iPad Pro and new AirPods Max headphones don't include a U1 chip and therefore won't be compatible with future potential Ultra Wideband applications.

Netflix is planning to roll out a new "Shuffle Play" feature to users this year following a successful period of testing, the company announced Tuesday during its Q4 2020 earnings.

netflix shuffle play

Image via TechCrunch

Noting the feature briefly during the call, Netflix said it would give "members the ability to choose to instantly watch a title chosen just for them, versus browse."

According to TechCrunch, Shuffle Play places a big button on the Netflix home screen under the user's profile icon. When the button's selected, Netflix randomly plays content that the service's personalization algorithms think the user will like.

Content can include a movie that has recently been played, something saved to the user's watch list, or a title that is similar to something they've already watched, for example.

A variation of the feature has also been spotted in the TV app's sidebar navigation menu. When selected, the question "Not sure what to watch?" is displayed and the page goes on to explain how Shuffle Play works.

Shuffle Play is still only being tested on TVs right now, but the company said the feature, which may yet take another name, will reach all users worldwide sometime in the first half of 2021.

Shuffle Play is just the latest feature that Netflix has tested in search of a better way to connect users to something to watch. In April 2019 it began testing a feature on mobile that allowed users to "Play a Popular Episode" of certain TV shows, without having to scroll through and pick which one they want to watch.

Tag: Netflix

Back in October, Apple introduced Beats Flex wireless earphones, which offer improvements over the previous BeatsX earphones yet come with a much lower $49.99 price tag.

beats flex new colors
The wireless Bluetooth earphones have a cord between the two earpieces that drapes around the neck and provides access to some physical controls.

They were initially only available in Beats Black and Yuzu Yellow color options. However, as spotted by 9to5Mac, two additional colors – Smoke Gray and Flame Blue – are now available to order on the Apple online store.

Beats Flex include Apple's W1 chip that supports quick pairing with iOS devices, iCloud syncing for seamless switching between devices, Audio Sharing to allow two sets of compatible Beats or AirPods earphones to listen to connect to the same device, and more.

They offer up to 12 hours of listening time on a single charge, and they recharge using USB-C to help provide maximum compatibility for Apple and Android users. A 10-minute Fast Fuel charge when the battery level is low will provide up to 1.5 hours of playback.

Beats Flex are the cheapest way to get into Apple's wireless earphone ecosystem, which is especially important now that Apple is no longer including earphones in the box with its iPhones.