The EU Wants All Phones to Work With Interoperable Chargers, Here’s What That Means for Apple's Lightning Port

Despite pushback from Apple, the European Parliament in January voted overwhelmingly for new rules to establish a common charging standard for mobile device makers across the European Union. This article explores what form the EU laws might ultimately take and how they could affect Apple device users in Europe and elsewhere.


What Exactly is the EU Calling For?


To reduce cost, electronic waste and make consumers' lives easier, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want "binding measures" that ensure chargers fit all smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices.

According to a 2019 impact assessment study on common chargers of portable devices conducted by the EU, almost a fifth of people surveyed reported having faced "significant issues" because of non-standard chargers. Such issues included incompatible chargers between devices, variable charging speeds between different chargers, and having to have several chargers available to cover all needs.

In addition, the EU claims that by agreeing on a common charger standard, it will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tons of electronic waste annually.

The recent 582-40 parliamentary vote in favor of a common charging standard came about because the European Commission's previous approach of merely "encouraging" tech companies to develop a standardized solution "fell short of the co-legislators' objectives," according to a briefing on the European Parliament website.


How Did the EC's Earlier Approach Play Out?


The European Commission's efforts to establish a common charging standard for smartphones span more than a decade. In 2009, the EC estimated that 500 million mobile phones were in use in all EU countries. It found that the chargers used often varied according to the manufacturer and model, and that more than 30 different types of chargers were on the market.

In a bid to harmonize standards, the EC negotiated a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by 14 tech companies including Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and other prominent smartphone manufacturers.

According to the MoU, phone makers agreed to adopt a micro-USB connector standard for smartphone chargers in the European Union that would allow full charging compatibility with mobile phones to be placed on the market.

The plan was for new phones to be sold with micro-USB chargers for a period of time, after which phones and chargers would be sold separately in order to allow customers who already owned chargers to continue using their existing ones.

There was considerable speculation about whether Apple would be able to meet the requirements of the micro-USB standard. At the time, Apple used a proprietary 30-pin dock connector compatible with both the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.

However, the wording of the MoU offered Apple a loophole: For those phones that did not have a USB micro-B interface, an adapter was allowed under the agreed terms. And that's exactly what Apple did. In 2012, Apple introduced the ‌iPhone‌ 5 with a new Lightning proprietary connector to replace its 30-pin connector, and additionally offered a separate Lightning to micro USB adapter to comply with the 2009 EU agreement.

Apple's micro-USB to Lightning adapter

Consequently, Apple ultimately wasn't required to abandon its proprietary connector or include a separate micro-USB interface directly on the device for charging purposes.

Why Was the 2009 MoU Considered a Failure?


A progress report provided by the MoU signatories in February 2013 indicated that 90 percent of the new devices placed on the market by the signatories and other manufacturers by the end of 2012 supported the common charging capability. But that statistic was so high only because it took into account the fact that Apple offered a Lightning to micro-USB adapter.

One member of the Commission would note: "The perception among the citizens and the European Parliament is that the common charger does not really exist, and looking at what we find among the most popular smartphones, we have to agree with them. The future MoU must be clear in its outcome, we cannot afford to admit adaptors."

The lack of progress frustrated the Commission, and in 2014, the European parliament passed the Radio Equipment Directive, which called for a "renewed effort to develop a common charger." The directive gave the commission the power to directly set technical standards by means of a delegated act – in this case, a legislative act implementing EU rules.

By 2016, the Commission acknowledged that micro-USB had become dated and that USB-C had become the de facto standard across most devices. The Commission was advised by MoU facilitators that all manufacturers were ready to sign a new agreement in line with different approaches but keeping the solution of using solely USB-C connectors – except Apple.


Why is Apple Against the Idea of a Common Charger?


In 2016, Apple supported the adoption of USB-C as a standardized interface at the power source (i.e. the charging plug), but remained against conforming to a standard on devices themselves. The company argued that conforming to a device-side standard would cost it up to €2 billion and hamper innovation, largely based on the claim that iPhones were too thin to house a USB-C port.

Apple even commissioned a study by Copenhagen Economics outlining the potential consumer harm from a mandatory move towards a common charger.

The study concluded that it would cost consumers €1.5 billion if common charger rules became law, outweighing the €13 million associated with environmental benefits. The study also claimed that 49 percent of EU households rely on different types of chargers, but only 0.4 percent of those households experience any significant issues.

Apple's stance on the issue left the Commission deadlocked, but in 2018 the Commission agreed to continue working with manufacturers in order to achieve a suitable voluntary agreement. However, a year later the Commission concluded that its previous voluntary approach and the new MoU still allowed manufacturers to use adaptors with proprietary solutions and would not result in full charger harmonization.


Where Does the EU Go From Here?


In response to the Commission's 2019 impact assessment on common chargers, Apple said regulations that would force all smartphones to have the same charging port would "freeze innovation," be "bad for the environment," and be "unnecessarily disruptive for customers."
More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. We want to ensure that any new legislation will not result in the shipment of any unnecessary cables or external adaptors with every device, or render obsolete the devices and accessories used by many millions of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Apple customers worldwide. This would result in an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconvenience users. To be forced to disrupt this huge market of customers will have consequences far beyond the stated aims of the Commission.
The EU parliament's January 2020 vote on the matter was overwhelmingly in favor of bringing in rules to standardize chargers, but the manner in which it plans to enforce them is anything but clear. The Commission's impact assessment laid out several possible options for the proposed legislation:

  • Option 0: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end, and adapters continue to be available for purchase (the current status quo).
  • Option 1: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end (effectively outlawing Apple's Lightning connector).
  • Option 2: Cables must have a USB-C port at the device end, or any manufacturers that wish to use a proprietary port on their device must include an adapter from USB-C to the proprietary connector (in Apple's case, a USB-C to Lightning adapter) plus a USB-C AC power plug.
  • Option 3: Cables can have either a USB-C or a proprietary connector at the device end. Manufacturers that choose to use a proprietary connector must include a USB-C AC power plug in the box (Apple provides a USB-C AC power plug, but the ‌iPhone‌ can continue to have a Lightning connector).
  • Option 4: All connectors at both the device-end and on the AC power plug must have USB-C interoperability (Apple must make USB-C chargers).
  • Option 5: All connectors at the device-end must be USB-C and manufacturers must include a new fast-charging 15W+ AC power plug (Apple must make a USB-PD-compliant power plug).
In considering wireless charging as a potential solution, the Commission concluded that it was an "incipient technology" with around 60 percent energy efficiency, whereas wired technologies are close to 100 percent efficiency.


Overall, the Commission's impact assessment suggests the most effective approach would be to pursue option 1 (common connectors) in combination with option 4 (interoperable external power supply). If the Commission were to go with this recommendation, Apple would no longer be able to make new mobile devices that use its proprietary Lightning connector. But whether the Commission accepts the recommendation of its impact assessment and enshrines it in EU law remains to be seen.

Can the Initiative Work?


The EU initiative aims to limit fragmentation of the charging solutions on the market without hampering future technological innovation. By standardizing chargers, it hopes to lower prices and increase quality, therefore reducing the presence of counterfeit chargers and increasing user safety.

It also expects a reduction/minimization of e-waste, by reducing the necessity to purchase different types of chargers and by giving the possibility to reuse already owned ones. This would also increase consumer convenience, argues the impact assessment, since users would be able to charge not only mobile phones "but potentially also other portable devices with a common cable (and charger), as well as being offered the option of retaining existing chargers and purchasing mobile phones without chargers for a lower price."


It is unknown whether any changes Apple might have to make to comply with the European regulations will also be made in other markets around the world, for financial or practical reasons. Regardless, however the proposed legislation plays out, all the signs are that Apple's stance will remain firm and it will continue to lobby against the EU's intention to regulate the market.

"We do not believe there is a case for regulation given the industry is already moving to the use of USB Type-C through a connector or cable assembly," said Apple following the recent parliamentary vote. "This includes Apple's USB-C power adapter which is compatible with all ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ devices. This approach is more affordable and convenient for consumers, enables charging for a wide range of portable electronic products, encourages people to re-use their charger and allows for innovation."

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Make Your AirPods Case Look Like a Game Boy With This New Cover

Elago has released a new cover for the AirPods charging case with a retro design inspired by Nintendo's iconic Game Boy.

Available in Light Gray or Black, the cover is made of flexible, impact-resistant silicone material with an anti-slip coating, giving the AirPods charging case some added protection. It is also equipped with a carabiner, allowing it to be attached to a keychain or a backpack or so forth when on the go.


The cover is compatible with both the first- and second-generation AirPods charging case, but not the AirPods Pro case. Elago says the cover does not interfere with wireless charging functionality.

The cover is available for $10.99 to $12.99 on Amazon and Elago.com.

Note: 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.

Related Roundup: AirPods 2
Buyer's Guide: AirPods (Neutral)
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Apple Maps Expands 3D Street View Feature to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

As noted in the MacRumors forums, the new Look Around feature in Apple Maps recently went live in three more cities in the United States, including Boston, Philadelphia, and the Washington, D.C. area.

Introduced in iOS 13, Look Around is an interactive way to visually explore a city with 3D street-level imagery, similar to Google Street View. The feature is also available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, Houston, and the Hawaiian island of Oahu, with many more places to come.


In an area where Look Around is available, a binoculars icon will appear in the top-right corner of Apple Maps. Tapping that icon opens a street-level view in a card overlay at the top of the screen. Look Around also appears in the search results for a supported city, below the Flyover and Directions buttons.

When you're in Look Around mode, tapping on the display lets you move through the area, while tapping in a far off spot in the distance zooms in quickly in a smoother and more immersive way than Google Street View.

To help orient you in Look Around mode, points of interest such as bars, restaurants, parks and the like are identified by floating icons at street level. Note, however, that you can only zoom into areas that can be accessed by vehicles since the Look Around data is captured by cars fitted with 360-degree cameras.

Related: How to Use Look Around in Apple Maps

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Google Testing New Double-Tap Gesture on Back of Pixel Phones for Launching Camera, Assistant, and More

Google is reportedly testing an interesting new gesture for its Pixel smartphones that lets users double-tap the back of the handset to control various functions.


XDA-Developers discovered the new gesture system, codenamed "Columbus," in the Android 11 developer preview for Pixel phones. According to the site, the double-tap gesture can be used to perform the following actions:
  • Dismiss timers
  • Snooze alarms
  • Launch the camera
  • Invoke Google Assistant
  • Play or pause media
  • Collapse the status bar
  • Silence incoming calls
  • Unpin notifications
  • Other "user-selected action"

The double-tap gesture apparently doesn't require any special hardware, as it relies on the phone's gyroscope and accelerometer. XDA-Developers managed to get the gesture working on a Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 4 XL, both running Android 11 Developer Preview 1. You can see the gesture being used to launch the Camera app in the clip below.


GIF via XDA-Developers

To prevent the gesture being activated unintentionally, Google has also added so-called "gates" to stop the double tap actions from taking effect. Some of the currently implemented gates are said to include camera visibility, charging status, keyguard, and more. XDA believes the Settings app will also contain gesture training activities for the user to perform in order to refine its responsiveness.

Google's own-branded Android phones have included innovative interactive gestures before, such as fingerprint gestures, Active Edge, and Motion Sense on the Pixel 4 series. Active Edge lets users squeeze the sides of the device to quickly activate Google Assistant, while Motion Sense allows users to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls by waving a hand in front of the phone.

Apple has also experimented with new ways of interacting with iPhones, including the use of touch and touchless gestures. A 2018 rumor from Bloomberg suggested Apple is working on iPhones that will use touchless gesture controls, allowing users to hover over the iPhone to navigate through the iOS operating system using a finger, but without having to touch the display.

If Apple moved forward with that rumored gesture technology, it could show up in iPhones as early as 2020, according to Bloomberg's two-year timeline for the feature. It's not yet clear if Apple is continuing to experiment with gestures, though, as we haven't heard any information on such a feature coming to the 2020 ‌‌iPhone‌‌ lineup.

What do you think of Google's rear double-tap gesture? Is it something you'd like to see in a new-generation ‌‌iPhone‌‌, or are touch-less gestures the future? Let us know in the comments.

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T-Mobile and Sprint Aiming to Close Merger as Early as April 1

T-Mobile and Sprint are aiming to finish their merger by April 1 now that all legal issues have been resolved and regulatory approval has been granted, the two companies announced today.


In a press release, Sprint and T-Mobile announced an amended business combination agreement that has been approved by the Boards of Directors of T-Mobile and Sprint. Under the terms of the amendment, T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom will get a slightly higher ownership stake in the new company.
A separate arrangement entered into by SoftBank Group Corp. in connection with the amendment will result in an effective exchange ratio of approximately 11.00 Sprint shares for each T-Mobile share immediately following the closing of the merger, an increase from the originally agreed 9.75 shares. This is a result of SoftBank agreeing to surrender approximately 48.8 million T-Mobile shares acquired in the merger to New T-Mobile immediately following the closing of the transaction, making SoftBank's effective ratio 11.31 Sprint shares per T-Mobile share. Sprint shareholders other than SoftBank will continue to receive the original fixed exchange ratio of 0.10256 T-Mobile shares for each Sprint share, or the equivalent of approximately 9.75 Sprint shares for each T-Mobile share.

Immediately following the closing, and after the surrender of shares by SoftBank, Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank are expected to hold approximately 43% and 24%, respectively, of the fully diluted New T-Mobile shares, with the remaining approximately 33% held by public shareholders.
Mike Sievert, T-Mobile COO and President (who will be CEO of the new company as of May), said that with the new agreement in place, the focus is on closing the transaction and creating the new T-Mobile company "as early as April 1, 2020."
"We are on the verge of being able to do what we've set out to do from day one - reshape a broken wireless industry and create the new standard for consumers when it comes to value, speed, quality and service. The New T-Mobile is literally going to change wireless for good and now we're almost ready to get to the fun part: bringing our teams together, building this supercharged Un-carrier and becoming the envy of the wireless industry and beyond!"
The merger between Sprint and T-Mobile was able to proceed after a judge in early February ruled that the deal could go on despite an antitrust lawsuit filed by attorneys general from 13 states and the District of Columbia.

The states argued that combining T-Mobile and Sprint was not in the public's interest as it would reduce competition and lead to higher smartphone bills, but T-Mobile's pro-consumer efforts that spurred changes in the smartphone industry weighed in the merger's favor.

The combined company will be known as "New T-Mobile" and it will be the third largest carrier in the United States after Verizon and AT&T.

T-Mobile and Sprint have committed to building a nationwide 5G network covering 97 percent of the U.S. population in three years and 99 percent within six years. T-Mobile has promised not to raise prices for three years following the merger's completion, and plans to offer the same or better rate plans even when 5G connectivity is available.

To gain regulatory approval from the FCC, T-Mobile and Sprint were required to sell some of their assets to Dish, as the FCC wants to see Dish become the fourth nationwide facilities-based wireless carrier in the United States.

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Upcoming 13-Inch MacBook Pro Models to Use Intel's 10th-Generation Ice Lake Chips

Apple is rumored to be working on a refreshed version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro following the launch of the new 16-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ in October, and the new 13-inch machines could adopt Intel's 10th-generation Ice Lake chips.


Over the weekend, a Twitter leaker shared a 3D Mark Time Spy benchmark of a machine said to be an upcoming 13-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ equipped with Intel's 10th-generation i7-1068NG7 Ice Lake 2.3GHz chip with 4.1GHz turbo boost capabilities (via Wccftech).


The benchmarks compare the new 10th-generation chip to the 8th-generation 2.4GHz Core i5 chip in the high-end 13-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ from 2019 and suggest the new 13-inch machine Pro will be approximately 12 percent faster than the current 13-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ when it comes to CPU speeds, and close to 30 percent faster when it comes to GPU performance.


If Apple does release a 13-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ with the aforementioned Ice Lake chip, it will be the first Apple notebook equipped with a 10th-generation chip. Though not included in the leak, a 16-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ refresh in 2020 could also feature 10th-generation chips, though 16-inch machines are expected to use Comet Lake chips built on the 14++nm architecture as there are no 10-nanometer Ice Lake chips appropriate for them.

Rumors suggest Apple will release an updated 13-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ in the first half of 2020, perhaps at its March event, though WWDC is also a possibility. Along with 10th-generation Intel chips, the new machines are expected to feature the improved scissor keyboard that was first introduced in the 16-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌, along with the option to upgrade to 32GB RAM.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Buyer's Guide: MacBook Pro (Caution)
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Apple Seeds Second Public Betas of iOS and iPadOS 13.4 With New Mail Toolbar, iCloud Folder Sharing and More

Apple today seeded the second public betas of upcoming iOS and iPadOS 13.4 updates to its public beta testing group, two weeks after seeding the first public betas and a day after releasing the second updates for developers.

Beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing program will be able to download the iOS/‌iPadOS‌ 13.4 beta update over-the-air after installing the proper certificate on an iOS device.


iOS and ‌iPadOS‌ 13.4 bring useful and notable new features and changes. There's an updated Mail toolbar that separates the reply button from the delete button to make it harder to accidentally delete emails, there's a new "Shazam It" shortcut in the Shortcuts app for identifying songs, and some tweaks have been made to CarPlay controls for calls and third-party navigation apps.


The update includes support for iCloud Folder Sharing, a long-awaited iOS 13 feature. ‌iCloud‌ Folder Sharing allows iCloud Drive files to be shared with other people, making the folders accessible to multiple users.

There are a total of nine new Memoji/Animoji stickers that can be used wherever emoji can be used, there are new Settings options for the TV app, and Apple has made minor changes to Location Services to appease app developers who want to encourage customers to turn on the "Always" option for Location Services for apps that need it.


Apple has added support for universal app purchases, which means developers can sell a single app across iOS, tvOS, and macOS. For apps that enable this feature, customers will be able to make one purchase and then download an app across all applicable platforms.

There are hints of a new "CarKey" API, which is designed to allow the iPhone or the Apple Watch to be used in lieu of a traditional car key in vehicles that support NFC, complete with options for sharing digital car keys with friends and family.

For the iPad, Apple has introduced new keyboard shortcuts for the Photos app for navigating between tabs, search, creating albums, deleting photos, and entering Edit mode, plus there's a new feature for hardware key remapping in ‌iPadOS‌.

For a rundown of everything that's new in iOS and ‌iPadOS‌ 13.4, make sure to check out our complete feature list.

Apple has also released a new public beta of tvOS 13.4, which is identical to the tvOS 13.4 beta provided to developers yesterday.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS
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DigiTimes Continues to Suggest New Version of AirPods Pro Are Forthcoming

Taiwanese publication DigiTimes provides its paying subscribers with a daily preview of stories that it plans to publish, and in today's edition, it continues to suggest that Apple is planning a new version of AirPods Pro.

The story preview reads as follows:
USI likely to enter supply chain of AirPods Pro, sources say
Taiwan-based Universal Scientific Industrial (USI), a unit of ASE Technology, is likely to obtain system-in-package (SiP) orders for the upcoming AirPods Pro, according to industry sources.
Presumably, these "upcoming" AirPods Pro are the same model as the "AirPods Pro Lite" that the publication referred to earlier this month.


The earlier report claimed that "AirPods Pro Lite" will be an "entry-level version" of the AirPods Pro, but no features or specifications have been shared. The report added that production is unlikely to begin until at least the end of the second quarter of 2020 due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in China.

All in all, details are slim right now. "AirPods Pro Lite" is somewhat of an oxymoron, as "Pro Lite" just sounds like regular AirPods, but it has been speculated that perhaps Apple will release a less expensive version of the AirPods Pro with the same design and sound quality but without noise cancellation.

Of course, it is worth noting that DigiTimes has a rather infamous reputation. While the industry publication has connections within Apple's supply chain, it has a mixed track record in relation to the company's exact plans and timing. For this reason, it is possible that the "AirPods Pro Lite" will simply be a third generation of regular AirPods or that the report is entirely inaccurate.

We'll update this post if there are any additional details shared in the full report, which should be published by tomorrow.

Related Roundups: AirPods 2, AirPods Pro
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Spotify May Be Allowed to Stream Directly on HomePod and Set as Default Music App in iOS 14

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman today reported that Apple is working to allow third-party music services like Spotify and Pandora to be streamed directly on the HomePod with Siri in a future software update, as is possible with Apple Music. Spotify currently can only be streamed on the HomePod via AirPlay.


The report adds that Apple is also considering allowing third-party music services to be set as default in iOS 14, which would let users ask Siri to stream music from the likes of Spotify without specifying "with Spotify" at the end of the command. Siri currently defaults to Apple Music for these requests.

In early 2019, Spotify announced that it had filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the European Commission over unfair ‌App Store‌ practices. At the time, Spotify took issue with Siri's lack of Spotify support on both iOS devices — which has since changed to a limited extent — and the HomePod.

An excerpt from its "Time to Play Fair" website — the wording has since been tweaked:
Apple ignores users' preferred choice of music service and instead steers them to use Apple Music exclusively. So can you ask Siri to play your favorite playlist from Spotify? No, not even if you actively want Spotify to be your default streaming service. Or can you listen to Spotify through your Apple HomePod? Sorry, no luck with that either. And by the way, Spotify is available on pretty much every other speaker device out there.
Apple has faced increasing scrutiny as of late over the way it runs its ‌App Store‌, beyond Spotify's complaint. Allowing third-party apps to be set as default would certainly help alleviate some of those concerns.

More Coverage: Bloomberg: Apple May Let iOS Users Set Third-Party Web Browser and Mail Apps as Defaults Over Stock Apps

Related Roundups: HomePod, iOS 14
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)
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Bloomberg: Apple May Let iOS Users Set Third-Party Web Browser and Mail Apps as Defaults Over Stock Apps

Apple is considering whether to let iPhone and iPad users set third-party mail and browser apps as defaults instead of the mobile operating system's preference for its own Safari and Mail stock apps. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman:

The technology giant is discussing whether to let users choose third-party web browser and mail applications as their default options on Apple’s mobile devices, replacing the company’s Safari browser and Mail app, according to people familiar with the matter.
The potential move comes after criticism that the tech giant gives its in-house apps an unfair advantage and undue prominence on the App Store. As it stands, Apple doesn't allow users to replace pre-installed apps like Safari and Mail with third-party services, opening it up to scrutiny from lawmakers investigating possible antitrust violations.

The report also claims that Apple is considering opening its HomePod speaker to third-party music services like Spotify.
The Cupertino, California-based company also is considering loosening restrictions on third-party music apps, including its top streaming rival Spotify Technology SA, on HomePods, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal company deliberations.
Currently, Spotify and other third-party music services can be streamed from ‌iPhone‌ or ‌iPad‌ to ‌HomePod‌ using Apple's AirPlay technology, but it's an ungainly alternative solution than just allowing users to stream third-party music services from the speaker directly.

As Gurman notes, opening the ‌HomePod‌ to additional music services could benefit the product's sales. The speaker has lagged behind rivals like the Amazon Echo in functionality since being introduced in 2018 and owns less than 5 percent of the smart-speaker market, according to an estimate last week from Strategy Analytics.

Whether the discussions include opening the ‌HomePod‌'s integrated Bluetooth technology to Bluetooth streaming devices is unknown. Currently, Bluetooth is used during the ‌HomePod‌'s setup process, but is otherwise rendered dormant in the speaker, which means only Apple devices can stream audio to ‌HomePod‌ using the ‌AirPlay‌ protocol.

Related Roundups: HomePod, iOS 14
Buyer's Guide: HomePod (Neutral)
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Testing Samsung's New $1,380 Galaxy Z Flip Foldable Smartphone

Samsung last week unveiled the Galaxy Z Flip, which began shipping out over the weekend. We managed to get our hands on one of the new foldable smartphones, and thought we'd check it out to see how it compares to the Galaxy Fold and how foldable smartphone technology is progressing.

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The Galaxy Z Flip is the followup to Samsung's original Galaxy Fold, which did not receive stellar reviews because it felt more like a prototype than an actual smartphone worth purchasing. The Galaxy Fold was a smartphone that unfolded into a tablet, but the Galaxy Z Flip is a smartphone that folds down to become more compact.


Like the flip phones of yore, the Galaxy Z Flip folds in half top over bottom, compressing down into a little pocketable square. It's thick, like two smartphones stacked on top of each other, in fact, but some people are going to prefer that as it is still more easily pocketable than a large-screened smartphone that does not fold.

When opened up, the Galaxy Z Flip features a 6.7-inch display, which is made from a flexible glass for the first time, a departure from the plastic of the Galaxy Fold. Over the glass, there's still a laminate layer, which scratches easily and has been the source of some complaints.


We haven't seen scratches, even after accidentally dropping the Z Flip four feet onto the floor, but it does feel a little bit delicate. When unlocking the display with a finger, the nail kind of presses down a bit, and if it was longer or sharper, we wouldn't be surprised to see minor screen damage.

One Galaxy Z Flip owner has also had an issue with the display cracking at the fold in the cold, but that seems to be an isolated incident. Our model wasn't taken out into the cold, but it was fine when using it day to day briefly in cold Ohio weather when going from the car to the house.

When it comes to the hinge, the Z Flip's opening and closing mechanism feels a lot smoother and we're not as worried about dust or debris getting into the hinge and mucking things up.


All in all, the Galaxy Z Flip isn't experiencing the same kind of issues that were seen with the Galaxy Fold, and in the hand, it feels more durable and has a better build quality, but make no mistake, this is still a device that needs to be treated delicately.

When it comes to the internal components, the Z Flip is lacking. It runs well, but when it comes down to it, these are components that were introduced last year. It only has a 1080p display, plus an older processor and camera technology that's inferior to the upgraded cameras used in the Galaxy S20 series.


We're going to do an in-depth camera look in a future video with the S20 Ultra and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, but the Z Flip's cameras are basically the same cameras used in last year's Galaxy S10.

One of the main new features in the Z Flip aside from the foldable design is the little mini display that's visible on the outside of the phone when it's closed. The display can show notifications (tap them and open the phone to get to the relevant app), display the time and date, offer up media controls, and provide details on battery percentage. Most notably, it serves as a mini viewfinder when taking selfies.


Display quality is fine with the 1080p display, but the crease down the middle is definitely visible at times. In usage, though, it kind of fades away much like the notch on the iPhone.

Samsung has added a "Flex Mode" to the Z Flip, which allows it to be used for certain tasks when half folded, kind of like a little tiny MacBook. Flex Mode isn't particularly fleshed out and doesn't work with many apps right now, but when functional, it uses the top as a display and the bottom for controls.


So with the camera app, you can see yourself in the viewfinder at the top of the display and then the settings and the camera modes can be accessed on the bottom of the display. Since it sits upright like a notebook, it's available for hands-free selfies and video calls.

Foldable smartphones are an interesting concept and there's definitely promise of better things to come, but the Galaxy Z Flip is just not a phone the average person should go out and buy.


It's incredibly pricy at $1,380, it needs to be handled with the utmost care, the specs are mediocre for such an expensive device, and we ultimately have no idea how it's going to hold up to a few years of usage.

Foldable smartphones are fun to play with, but most people should stick with traditional designs at the current time to get the most bang for their buck. If you're going to be shelling out $1,300 for an Android smartphone, the Galaxy S20 series, especially the S20 Ultra, is a much better buy.


‌iPhone‌ users, of course, likely aren't going to be lured away from the ‌iPhone‌ in favor of the Galaxy Z Flip simply because it runs Android, but it's useful to see what Apple's competitors are doing as devices like the Z Flip could hint at ideas that Apple might want to explore or stay away from in future devices.

What do you think of Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip? Let us know in the comments.

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Everything New in iOS and iPadOS 13.4 Beta 2: New TV App Settings, Updated Mail Toolbar and More

Apple today released the second iOS and iPadOS 13.4 betas for developers, introducing additional changes and tweaks to the operating system that are worth noting.

In the first beta, Apple added a new Mail toolbar, iCloud File Sharing, new Memoji stickers, and announced upcoming support for universal purchases for iOS and Mac apps. In this beta there's a revamped settings section for the TV app, a tweak to the toolbar, and new info on the CarKey feature Apple has in the works.

We've rounded up all of the changes that we've found in iOS and iPadOS 13.4 beta 2 so far, and we'll be adding to this list if and when new features are discovered.

TV App


Apple has updated the settings for the TV app on iPhone and iPad, adding a number of new options for controlling data downloads and streaming.


There are options to use cellular data for streaming or downloads, with those options toggled off by default. Those with an unlimited data plan may want to tweak those settings to be able to watch content in the TV app on their iPhones when using an LTE network.

There are also options to stream "Data Saver" video or "High Quality" video over WiFi or cellular, with Data Saver limiting data usage to a maximum of 600MB per hour.

For downloads, there are options for Fast Downloads that are lower quality so they download faster, or High Quality for slower downloads that look better but also use more storage. Apple says that High Quality downloaded videos include HDR when available.

Below these new settings, the standard Siri & Search and Notifications options are available, along with toggles for Show Sports Scores, Use Play History, and Video Definition, all of which existed before.

Mail Toolbar


Apple updated the Mail toolbar in the first beta to move the delete button away from the reply button to prevent accidental email deletion, and in beta 2, Apple has tweaked the toolbar once again. The updated toolbar does away with the flag icon from the prior beta and adds a compose button on the far right, moving the reply button over one spot to the middle. The folder and delete icons have remained the same.


CarKey


Apple is working on a new "CarKey" feature designed to allow an ‌iPhone‌ or an Apple Watch to unlock, start, and lock NFC-compatible vehicles.

As was found in the first beta, CarKey digital keys can be shared by others, but the second beta adds new information confirming the keys will be able to be sent to people in iMessage conversations, much like Apple Cash payments.

People who are sent a CarKey will be able to use that digital key to access the owner's CarKey-enabled vehicle.

Other Features


See a feature we missed? Let us know in the comments and we'll add it to the list.

Related Roundups: iOS 13, iPadOS
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