Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.3, the fifth update to the ‌macOS Big Sur‌ operating system that launched in November. ‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2.3 comes two weeks after the release of macOS 11.2.2, a bug fix update.

macOS Big Sur Feature Orange
The new ‌‌‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌‌‌ 11.2.3 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences.

Apple says that ‌macOS Big Sur‌ 11.2.3 introduces important security updates and should be installed by all users, with an additional support document clarifying that the software addresses WebKit vulnerability that could allow maliciously crafted web content to execute code.

Apple has also released a new version of Safari (14.0.3) for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users.

Related Roundup: macOS Big Sur

Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.4.1, minor security updates that comes more than a month after the release of the iOS 14.4 update.

iOS 14
The iOS and iPadOS 14.4.1 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General > Software Update.

According to Apple's release notes, the update provides important security updates and is recommended for all users. Apple's security support document says that the updates fix a WebKit bug that could allow maliciously crafted web content to execute code.

Related Roundups: iOS 14, iPadOS 14

Apple today released watchOS 7.3.2, a minor update to the watchOS 7 operating system that was released in September. watchOS 7.3.s comes three weeks after the release of watchOS 7.3.1, a bug fix update.

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‌‌The watchOS 7.3.2 update‌‌ can be downloaded for free through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General > Software Update.

To install the new software, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it needs to be placed on a charger, and it needs to be in range of the ‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌iPhone‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌.

According to Apple's release notes, the software provides an important security fix to address a WebKit bug that could allow maliciously crafted web content to execute code.

Related Roundup: watchOS 7

Amazon today is offering a collection of Apple Watch Series 6 discounts, with up to $69 off original prices of the 2020 Apple Watch. The new sales include a few markdowns on the cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 6, in addition to the GPS sales we routinely track.

Apple Watch 6 Carrier Deals FeatureNote: 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.

For cellular models, prices start at $429.98, down from $499.00 for the 40mm GPS + cellular Apple Watch Series 6 in Product(RED). You can also get the Silver Aluminum/White Sport Band version of the Apple Watch Series 6 at this price.

We saw this model discounted to a lower price last November, but today's sale marks one of the lowest prices seen on the cellular Apple Watch Series 6 since the holidays. Similarly, the 44mm GPS + cellular model is seeing a slight discount at $484.00, down from $529.00.

In terms of GPS-only models, you can get the 44mm GPS Apple Watch Series 6 for $379.99, down from $429.00. Similar to past sales, only (PRODUCT)Red is being discounted at this time.

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

Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, conferences and events such as WWDC that are typically held in-person were transformed into digital-only events in 2020. Now, a year later, one of the biggest technology conferences plans to return to a sense of normalcy, hosting an in-person conference this June.

MWCBarcelona21 DiscoverMWC
As reported by Bloomberg, GSMA, the organizer of MWC Barcelona, says that it plans to hold the conference in-person between June 28 and July 1, with expectations of up to 50,000 attendees. In February, GSMA held a small-scale MWC in Shanghai with around 17,000 attendees and it was a success. There were no confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to the event, which ignited hope that a larger-scale conference in Barcelona could be conducted safely.

There will, however, be several strict measures in place for MWC Barcelona. Attendees will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test before entering the venue and have a test repeated every 72 hours. The venue will be equipped with improved air ventilation, contact tracing, on-site medical staff, and temperature checks across the conference. All attendees will also be required to wear a face mask and practice social distancing at all times.

While one of the largest technology conferences will go ahead with an in-person event, Apple is unlikely to follow suit. Apple opted for digital events for all of 2020, and WWDC 2021 expected to take place this June will likely also be fully digital. Already, many other major conferences have announced plans for digital events this year, including San Diego Comic-Con, Anime Expo, and E3.

Thanks to the online nature of WWDC 2020, Apple was able to offer online labs and sessions to anyone, anywhere around the world, for free. As for the WWDC keynote, Apple has already shown it can deliver that via a prerecorded presentation from Apple Park, and it will likely do the same for WWDC 2021 and potentially for a spring Apple event coming as soon as later this month. Last year, Apple announced details for WWDC in early May, so we could see a similar timeline this year.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Apple today announced it has reached a multiyear TV+ programming partnership with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai that will involve inspiring dramas, comedies, documentaries, animation, and children's series.

Apple Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai to bring empowering programming to Apple TVPlus 030821 big
"I believe in the power of stories to bring families together, forge friendships, build movements, and inspire children to dream," said Malala Yousafzai. "And I couldn't ask for a better partner than Apple to help bring these stories to life. I'm grateful for the opportunity to support women, young people, writers, and artists in reflecting the world as they see it."

Malala is a Pakistani activist known for her best-selling memoir, "I Am Malala," which she published at age 16. She also founded the Malala Fund to advocate for every girl's right to safe, free, and quality education around the world. In 2018, Apple became the Malala Fund's first Laureate partner, supporting the organization's work in eight countries where girls face significant education challenges.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Amazon today is discounting Apple's Magic Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro to $249.99, down from $349.00. You'll see this price reflected at the checkout screen on Amazon, following the automatic application of a $79.01 coupon.

magic keyboard sale feature yellowNote: 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.

Today's deal is the best price we've ever seen for this accessory, with the previous Amazon low price at around $315. The Magic Keyboard provides a full keyboard with a trackpad, backlit keys, and a floating cantilever design that lets you adjust the iPad Pro to find the best viewing angle.

Over the past few weeks, Amazon has been offering the 11-inch Magic Keyboard at $100 off as well. This version of the accessory is priced at $199.00, down from $299.00, and it's another lowest-ever price.

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. Our Deals Roundup also has more information on the latest Apple-related sales and bargains.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

Apple today announced it is launching a new Kids & Family experience in its Podcasts app, in partnership with Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization focused on age-appropriate content recommendations for families.

apple families website
The new Kids & Family experience will make it easier for parents to find podcasts suitable for kids of all ages, with recommendations by age group. Thematic collections of podcasts will be available from creators such as Tinkercast, American Public Media, Gen-Z Media, Pinna, Tumble, Highlights, WNYC Studios, Rebel Girls, and Nickelodeon. Each show is selected by Common Sense Media, in collaboration with Apple Podcasts.

At launch, the experience includes four collections, as described by Apple:

  • Common Sense Media Picks: All-time favorites that families are sure to find entertaining and informative.
  • One More!: Mysterious tales and action-packed dramas that kids of all ages won't want to stop listening to.
  • Kids Know Best: Popular shows for kids, selected by kids themselves.
  • Story Time: Story-driven shows that transport kids into a world of imagination.

The Kids & Family experience is available in the Podcasts app and on Apple's website (page not live yet) in the United States. It will be updated monthly with new and popular podcasts, as well as additional collections tied to important historical and cultural moments, including Women's History Month and the Back to School season, according to Apple.

WhatsApp is working on a way to secure users' chat backups in iCloud using password-protected encryption, according to a new report from forthcoming-feature specialist WABetaInfo.

Whatsapp Feature
The Facebook-owned chat platform began early work on the security feature back in March 2020. Currently, WhatsApp on iPhone lets users back up their chat history to ‌iCloud‌, but messages and media that users back up are not protected by WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption while in ‌‌iCloud‌.

Apple holds the encryption keys to ‌iCloud‌, and does provide backed-up data to authorities when lawfully requested, as outlined in its semiannual Transparency Reports. The new WhatsApp feature, should it see the light of day, would resolve that security hole by allowing users to encrypt and password-protect their chat history before uploading it to Apple's cloud-based platform.

In screenshots posted by WABetaInfo, WhatsApp describes the password-protection like so:

"To prevent unauthorized access to your iCloud Drive backup, you can set a password that will be used to encrypt future backups. This password will be required when you restore from the backup."

The user is then asked to confirm their phone number and select a password of at least eight characters in length. Another screenshot forewarns users that "WhatsApp will not be able to help recover forgotten passwords."


It's unclear when the security feature will go live, but after the recent exodus from WhatsApp prompted by the service's poorly explained privacy policy update, sooner would be better than later.

Rival encrypted messaging services Telegram and Signal have both experienced a surge in signups following the controversy, which led WhatsApp to delay the privacy policy update until May while it attempts to deal with the fallout and clarify to users that the changes won't affect the privacy of their conversations.

Apple will hold its first event of the year on March 23, according to information provided by a reputable Chinese leaker (via DuanRui). Apple is expected to launch AirTags, new iPads, and possibly updated AirPods at a spring event, and leaker "Kang" believes that date will be March 23.

Screen Shot 2021 03 08 at 1
Initial speculation pointed to an event happening on March 16; however, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman shot down the possibility, leaving the door open for an event later on in the month. Kang says that Apple's event will be held on the same date as the OnePlus 9 reveal, which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 23.

Due to the global health crisis, Apple's event is expected to be held digitally and live-streamed via its website and official YouTube channel. March 23 and March 30 are both reasonable guesses for when Apple is set to hold an event. Apple tends to hold events on Tuesday and is also expected to hold an event in the "early spring" to coincide with the launch of App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5.

Official details about Apple's event remain unknown. However, mounting evidence of the imminent release of ‌AirTags‌ suggests Apple's Tile-like tracker could debut at the rumored March 23 event. DigiTimes, and others, have also suggested Apple will release updated iPad models with mini-LED displays and faster processors in the first half of the year.

Shortly after Kang suggested the March 23 date, YouTube personality and hit-or-miss Apple leaker Jon Prosser tweeted "23," in an apparent show of support for Kang and his event date prediction.

Last year, Kang was first to accurately reveal that Apple planned to revive the MagSafe brand for iPhone 12, and also leaked accurate details and launch dates for the full ‌iPhone 12‌ lineup and the rumored HomePod mini before they were officially announced.

Related Roundups: iPad, AirPods

The hit Apple TV+ series "Ted Lasso" today won a Critics Choice Award for Best Comedy Series, beating out seven other nominated series.

ted lasso
BEST COMEDY SERIES

  • Better Things (FX)
  • The Flight Attendant (HBO Max)
  • Mom (CBS)
  • PEN15 (Hulu)
  • Ramy (Hulu)
  • Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
  • [✔] Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
  • What We Do in the Shadows (FX)

Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham also won individual Critics Choice Awards for their performances in Ted Lasso.

Ted Lasso stars Sudeikis as a small-time college football coach from Kansas hired to coach the professional soccer team AFC Richmond in England, despite having no experience coaching soccer. The series has received rave reviews for Lasso's unrelenting positivity, and Sudeikis also won a Golden Globe Award for his performance last week. Waddingham plays the role of Rebecca Welton, the owner of AFC Richmond.

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES

  • Hank Azaria – Brockmire (IFC)
  • Matt Berry – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
  • Nicholas Hoult – The Great (Hulu)
  • Eugene Levy – Schitt's Creek (Pop)
  • [✔] Jason Sudeikis – Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
  • Ramy Youssef – Ramy (Hulu)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES

  • Lecy Goranson – The Conners (ABC)
  • Rita Moreno – One Day at a Time (Pop TV)
  • Annie Murphy – Schitt's Creek (Pop TV)
  • Ashley Park – Emily in Paris (Netflix)
  • Jaime Pressly – Mom (CBS)
  • [✔] Hannah Waddingham – Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)

The annual Critics Choice Awards honor "the finest in cinematic and television achievement," as determined by The Critics Choice Association. The organization represents more than 400 television, radio, and online critics and entertainment reporters in the U.S. and Canada. It was established in 2019 with the merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

The cast of Ted Lasso will be participating in a virtual panel discussion at the PaleyFest television festival, with a video of the discussion to be released on April 1 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time. The series has been renewed for second and third seasons, with the second season expected to premiere at some point in summer 2021.

In a research note shared with MacRumors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo today predicted that Apple will release augmented reality "contact lenses" in the 2030s. Kuo said the lenses will bring electronics from the era of "visible computing" to "invisible computing."

smart contact lens

Mojo Vision smart contact lens

Kuo said the lenses are "unlikely to have independent computing power and storage," suggesting that they might rely on a connection to an iPhone or other device, but he did not offer any further details. Kuo said there is "no visibility" for this product currently, so this sounds more like a moonshot prediction rather than a guaranteed product.

Apple's contact lenses could provide a lightweight augmented reality experience without the need to wear glasses or a headset. In simple terms, augmented reality overlays digital information over a real-world view; for example, a person walking in an outdoor shopping plaza could easily view each store's hours of operation.

In the more immediate future, Kuo said Apple plans to release its long-rumored mixed reality headset "in mid-2022," followed by augmented reality glasses by 2025. For more details about these products, read our earlier coverage.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Apple plans to release its long-rumored mixed reality headset "in mid-2022," followed by augmented reality glasses by 2025, well-regarded analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note with TF International Securities, obtained by MacRumors.

apple mixed reality headset mockup feature
"We predict that Apple's MR/AR product roadmap includes three phases: helmet type by 2022, glasses type by 2025, and contact lens type by 2030–2040," wrote Kuo. "We foresee that the helmet product will provide AR and VR experiences, while glasses and contact lens types of products are more likely to focus on AR applications."

Kuo said several prototypes of Apple's mixed reality headset currently weigh 200–300 grams, but he said that the final weight will be reduced to 100–200 grams if Apple can solve technical problems, which would be significantly lighter than many existing VR devices. Due to a complex design, Kuo expects the headset to be priced around $1,000 in the United States, in line with the price of a "high-end iPhone."

In line with a previous rumor, Kuo said the headset will be equipped with Sony's Micro-OLED displays and several optical modules to provide a "see-through AR experience," adding that the headset can "also offer a VR experience."

Kuo said the headset will be "portable," with independent computing power and storage, but not truly "mobile" like an iPhone. "When the technology improves, we believe that the new helmet product can also enhance its mobility," he said.

Kuo believes Apple's headset has the potential to provide an "immersive experience that is significantly better than existing VR products."

Last month, The Information reported that the headset will be equipped with more than a dozen cameras for tracking hand movements, along with two ultra-high-resolution 8K displays and advanced eye-tracking technology. The cameras would be able to pass video of the real world through the visor and display it to the user.

"Although Apple has been focusing on AR, we think the hardware specifications of this product can provide an immersive experience that is significantly better than existing VR products. We believe that Apple may highly integrate this helmet with video-related applications (e.g., Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, etc.) as one of the key selling points."

As for Apple's augmented reality glasses, Kuo expects a launch in 2025 at the earliest, and he believes there is "no prototype yet."

Kuo said the glasses will provide an "optical see-through AR experience," and will be positioned as more of a "mobile" product than the mixed reality headset. "While the helmet provides a great immersive experience, the glasses focus more on providing a 'mobile + AR' experience," he said. Kuo is looking forward to the Apple Glasses integrating with the long-rumored Apple Car, which is likely several years away.

Last, Kuo looked far into the future and predicted that Apple will launch "contact lenses" at some point after 2030. He said this product will bring electronics from the era of "visible computing" to "invisible computing," but offered no further details.

Apple is highly committed to mixed reality/augmented reality technologies, according to Kuo, who has a "positive view" about Apple's future in the space. Kuo said primary supply chain beneficiaries of the headset include Sony (exclusive display supplier), Pegatron (exclusive EMS), and suppliers related to optical components.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Apple on late Friday evening added a "while supplies last" notice to its iMac Pro product page worldwide, and removed all upgrade options for the computer, leaving only the standard configuration available to order for now.

imac pro featured black
We've since confirmed with Apple that when supplies run out, the iMac Pro will no longer be available whatsoever. Apple says the latest 27-inch iMac introduced in August is the preferred choice for the vast majority of pro iMac users, and said customers who need even more performance and expandability can choose the Mac Pro.

The latest 27-inch iMac features a 5K display with True Tone and a nano-texture glass option, up to a 10-core 10th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, up to AMD Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet option, a higher-resolution 1080p camera, improved speakers and microphones, and more.

While the Intel-based 27-inch iMac is Apple's recommendation right now, rumors suggest that a redesigned iMac with a next-generation Apple silicon chip and a design inspired by Apple's high-end Pro Display XDR will be released later this year, so many customers may want to exercise patience. It's unclear if an Apple silicon version of the iMac Pro will ever be released, but it appears unlikely at this point.

Released in December 2017, the iMac Pro received no substantial hardware refreshes over its lifetime.

Related Roundups: iMac, iMac Pro

iPhone rumors are heating up, with noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week releasing a wide-ranging report outlining his expectations for the iPhone lineup over the next three years.

Top Stories 48
This week also saw rumors about OLED displays potentially coming to iPad and Mac starting next year, increasing signs of AirTags functionality in iOS 14.5 betas, and more, so check out all of the details below!

iPhone 13 Rumors: Smaller Notch and Larger Batteries, 120Hz Display for Pro Models, and More

Well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo this week shared a lengthy list of expectations for future iPhones over the next few years.

iPhone 13 Notch Feature2
Kuo said this year's iPhone 13 lineup will consist of the same four models as the iPhone 12 lineup, all with a smaller notch, larger batteries, Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 modem with 5G enhancements, upgraded cameras, a Lightning connector, and more. Exclusive to iPhone 13 Pro models will be a long-awaited 120Hz display and Ultra Wide lens improvements with a wider aperture and autofocus, he added.

After shrinking the notch this year, Apple may remove it entirely next year, with Kuo predicting that at least some 2022 iPhone models will switch to a hole-punch display design like many of Samsung's latest Galaxy smartphones, but he did not explain how this will work given that the notch currently houses the front camera and Face ID components. Some under-screen camera and facial recognition solutions do exist now.

Apple also plans to release a new iPhone SE with a similar design as the existing 4.7-inch model in the first half of 2022, with key new features to include a faster chip and 5G support, according to Kuo. And in 2023, a 7.5-8 inch foldable iPhone may become a reality.

iPhone Sticking With Lightning Port Over USB-C for 'Foreseeable Future'

As part of his wide-ranging research note about future iPhones this week, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo downplayed the possibility of a portless iPhone launching this year, noting that Apple will continue to use its proprietary Lightning connector for the "foreseeable future."

Apple Prefer Lightning Over USB C Feature
"We believe that USB-C is detrimental to the MFi [Made for iPhone] business's profitability, and its waterproof specification is lower than Lightning and MagSafe," wrote Kuo. "Therefore, if the iPhone abandons Lightning in the future, it may directly adopt the portless design with MagSafe support instead of using a USB-C port. At present, the MagSafe ecosystem is not mature enough, so the iPhone will continue to use the Lightning port in the foreseeable future."

It was Kuo himself who originally predicted that Apple would launch a high-end iPhone without a Lightning connector in 2021. He also expected a lower-end iPhone with a Touch ID power button to launch this year, but he now said timing is unclear for introduction of such a feature.

OLED 10.9-Inch iPad Rumored for Early 2022, 12.9-Inch iPad Pro and 16-Inch MacBook Pro Could Follow

Apple is rumored to be transitioning to mini-LED displays on some of its upcoming iPad and Mac models, but it looks like there may be another display technology coming to these devices: OLED.

Oled iPads and MackBook Pro
According to DigTimes, the first of Apple's larger portables 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.

iOS 14.5 Beta 3 Introduces 'Item Safety Feature' Ahead of AirTags Launch

Apple's long-awaited AirTags item trackers have been rumored for nearly two years now, and there are signs that an announcement may finally be nearing.

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In the third beta of iOS 14.5 seeded this week, a new "Items" tab has been enabled by default in the Find My app. This section will allow users to keep track of select non-Apple-branded products like Beats headphones and upcoming Belkin wireless earbuds, and it is expected that AirTags-equipped items like a backpack or luggage will also be managed from this tab.

There's also a new "Item Safety" toggle in the Find My app. When this feature is enabled, iPhone users will receive a notification when an unknown item is found moving with them, likely to help prevent a person from being stalked by another person with AirTags or similar.

March is a common month for Apple product announcements, so there is hope that AirTags will finally be unveiled this month, but a release date is still unclear. Apple previously said iOS 14.5 will be released in the "early spring," suggesting the update will be released the week of Monday, March 22 or later, and perhaps AirTags will be released around the same time.

HomeKit Essentials Worth Checking Out

HomeKit was slow to take off after its 2014 launch, but now that it's been around for seven years, there are hundreds of ‌HomeKit‌ products available, ranging from doorbells and speakers to TVs, lights, and cameras. In one of our latest YouTube videos, we rounded up some of our favorite ‌HomeKit‌ products that we find most useful.

homekit showdown
One example:

  • Logitech Circle View Doorbell ($199) - The Circle View replaces your existing doorbell with a version that offers video, so you can see who is at your door and keep an eye on package deliveries. It features HomeKit Secure Video, so the only plan you need is a 200GB or 1TB iCloud Storage plan to record video. It offers HD video, color night vision, and an unobtrusive design.

NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover Uses Same PowerPC Chipset Found in 1998 iMac G3

NASA's Perseverance rover that landed on Mars last month is equipped with a more durable variant of the PowerPC 750 processor, the same chip used in the colorful iMac G3 in 1998.

rover and imac feature
Designed by Jony Ive, the iMac G3 is widely considered to be the computer that saved Apple, which had flirted with bankruptcy in the late 1990s until Steve Jobs returned to the company. Following the iMac G3, Apple went on to introduce iconic products like the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010, which helped it become the world's most valuable company.

MacRumors Newsletter

Each week, we publish an email newsletter like this highlighting the top Apple stories, making it a great way to get a bite-sized recap of the week hitting all of the major topics we've covered and tying together related stories for a big-picture view.

So if you want to have top stories like the above recap delivered to your email inbox each week, subscribe to our newsletter!

Apple appears to be on the verge of discontinuing the iMac Pro, with the store page for the high-end all-in-one Mac including a "While supplies last" tagline and only the base model with no custom configurations available for purchase.

imac pro while supplies last
The ‌iMac Pro‌ launched in December 2017, and while there have been a few tweaks to the available configurations over the years, it has received no substantial hardware updates over its lifetime. As a result, we have been recommending for some time that users not purchase the ‌iMac Pro‌ as a high-end standard iMac currently offers a better value.

There have been a few rumors of an updated ‌iMac Pro‌ over the years, including from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo almost exactly one year ago.

It's unclear whether the ‌iMac Pro‌ is being discontinued entirely or if Apple is selling through existing stock in advance of an update, but the unusual note about dwindling supplies suggests that the machine may indeed be on the verge of complete discontinuation. If an updated version is coming, it appears it may not be ready to launch for some time yet and there may be a gap in availability once the current model sells out.

(Thanks, Ben!)

Related Roundup: iMac Pro
Buyer's Guide: iMac Pro (Don't Buy)

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 a 1TB 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 USB-C port with support for Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2.

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.