Meryl Streep to Narrate Animated Short Film About Earth Day for Apple TV+

Acclaimed actress Meryl Streep is set to narrate a forthcoming animated short film about Earth Day for Apple TV+.

Getty Images

In celebration of Earth Day, which falls on April 22, the 36-minute short will follow a curious seven-year-old who learns about the planet from his parents and visits a mysterious exhibit at the "Museum of Everything," according to Variety. The film is based on The New York Times bestselling book from Jeffers.

"Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth" will also feature the voices of Chris O'Dowd, Ruth Negga, and Jacob Tremblay.


The short film will debut on Apple TV+ on April 17.

Apple Arcade's New Game This Week is 'Kings of the Castle'

Speed to the rescue in Kings of the Castle, this week's addition to Apple Arcade across iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. The colorful, family-friendly speed runner game by Frosty Pop supports one to four players.


The game's description on the App Store:
The dragon Zantorian locked Prince Rupert away in a castle tower on a dangerous and mysterious island. Lord Baldor dispatches the princess to investigate the hostile and unfamiliar territory and save the prince.

Playing as the princess, you must use your speed, courage, and savvy sense of direction to save the prince. Avoid traps, battle enemies, jump over obstacles, and collect gems along your journey to pay a ransom for the prince's safe return. But do it fast. The dragon is hungry!
Apple Arcade launched in September. The subscription-based gaming service provides iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac users with access to over 100 games with no in-app purchases or ads for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year.

In a recent press release, Apple promised that its Arcade service will receive new games and expansions every month.

Review: Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a Solid AirPower Alternative With Room for Two Qi Devices and Apple Watch

It's been nearly one year since Apple cancelled the AirPower wireless charging mat, which would have allowed you to place your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods anywhere on the mat to wirelessly charge each device. In the subsequent months, numerous third-party companies have stepped forward in an attempt to reproduce this product, and now Zens has released its own take on an AirPower-like device: the Zens Liberty 16 Coils Wireless Charger.


Zens' charger features 16 overlapping charging coils, letting you place any two Qi-enabled devices anywhere on the mat to charge them. It supports a total output of 30W, Apple Fast Charge, a USB-A port for wired charging of a third device (or attaching the ‌Apple Watch‌ USB stick accessory), and a USB-C power adapter.


Zens sent me both the Liberty Fabric Edition and the Liberty Glass Edition, which are the same product with different finishes on the Qi surface of the mat. The Fabric Edition sports a woolen upholstery textile that's made of 90 percent wool, ensuring the back of your devices won't be scratched, while the Glass Edition has a see-through surface that showcases the 16 charging coils.


In terms of their design, I preferred the subtlety of the Fabric Edition over the Glass Edition, which stands out far more. Both Liberty Wireless Chargers have a rubberized outer shell and sturdy bases with large footprints (8.8 inches long x 5.3 inches wide). The textile on top of the Fabric Edition lends the device a luxurious feel and look, which is good given that these are high-end chargers that exceed $140.

Charging times across the board aligned with typical Qi wireless charging estimates. My iPhone 11 Pro Max was topped off at 100% consistently every night I used the Zens Liberty charger, and I never faced any mysterious disconnects or interruptions in my time with the accessory.


As with any wireless charger, charging times are not as fast as using a Lightning or USB-C cable, but Zens' accessory is perfect for trickle charging at your desk or overnight near your bed. Similarly, the USB Stick performed as expected for an ‌Apple Watch‌ charger, with performance on par with Apple's own Magnetic Charging Dock.

After a few days, the Zens Liberty charger quickly replaced my previous Belkin Qi mat next to my bed. Zens' promise of "freedom of placement" on the mat turned out to be entirely accurate, allowing me to throw down my ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ in nearly any orientation without having to worry about landing on the Qi "sweet spot," which is something I constantly fussed with on the Belkin charger.


The nearly 9-inch mat is large enough to hold two Max-sized iPhones, but I mainly used mine to charge up my ‌iPhone 11 Pro Max‌ and AirPods Pro on the Qi base. While the Liberty charger doesn't quite meet the promise of AirPower's three-device Qi charging, what it provides for two devices is a reliable and frictionless wireless charging experience, with the added bonus of charging your ‌Apple Watch‌ with an accessory you can purchase separately.


This MFi certified ‌Apple Watch‌ USB Stick is a tiny dongle with an ‌Apple Watch‌ charging puck attached to the end, allowing you to charge your ‌Apple Watch‌ through any USB-A port. When connected to the Zens Liberty Wireless Charger on a special port at the back of the Qi mat area, the dongle turns into a little upright stand that can charge your ‌Apple Watch‌ in Nightstand Mode.

Bottom Line


The Zens Liberty Wireless Charger is a solid ‌AirPower‌ alternative that provides dependable wireless charging to any two Qi-compatible devices like the iPhone 11, ‌AirPods‌, and more.


Of course, the ability to freely place your devices anywhere on the mat and the high-quality design mean you'll pay a premium for the accessory.

How to Buy


The Liberty Fabric Edition costs $139.99 (€139.99), while the Glass Edition costs $179.99 (€179.99). Both models come with a three-year extended warranty. The Apple Watch USB Stick is available separately for $39.99 (€39.99).

Note: MacRumors received the Zens Liberty Fabric Edition, Zens Liberty Glass Edition, and Zens ‌Apple Watch‌ USB Stick for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Tag: ZENS

Facebook Shelves Controversial Plan to Insert Ads into WhatsApp

Facebook's controversial plan to sell ads in WhatsApp has been put on the back-burner, according to a new report today from The Wall Street Journal.

WhatsApp in recent months disbanded a team that had been established to find the best ways to integrate ads into the service, according to people familiar with the matter. The team's work was then deleted from WhatsApp's code, the people said.
Plans to monetize WhatsApp were floated no longer after Facebook acquired the messaging service in February 2014 for $22 billion. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum and Brian Acton continually pushed back against the plans, which were a factor that ultimately led both men to quit the company.

Prior to leaving, Koum and Acton changed WhatsApp's terms of service to explicitly forbid displaying ads in the app, which complicated Facebook's future efforts to do so, according to WSJ's sources.

Facebook has changed its platforms' terms of service in the past, but introducing ads on WhatsApp would have required a formal notification of users, creating a potential public-relations problem for Facebook.

Still, Facebook hasn't completely given up on inserting ads into WhatsApp, and reportedly plans to add them to the app's Status feature "at some point." Status allows users to create short-lived posts similar to Instagram's Stories.

However, for now the focus is said to be on developing money-making features that enable businesses to communicate with customers and better manage those interactions.

Before the acquisition, WhatsApp was initially a paid-for app and later transitioned to a $0.99 annual subscription service. Facebook made the service free after buying it and later unveiled its own revenue-generating plans for the platform, which has 1.5 billion users globally.

Apple Pay Promo Offers 50% Off Game Play at Dave & Buster's

Apple today sent out emails notifying iPhone, iPad, and Mac users about the latest Apple Pay promo, which provides a 50 percent discount on gameplay at Dave & Buster's when loading a Power Card in the Dave & Buster's app using ‌Apple Pay‌.

Dave & Buster's is a food and gaming venue that has multiple locations across the United States. Customers can get a 50 percent discount on card purchases and refills through January 30.


Customers who want to take advantage of the deal must sign up for a Dave & Buster's Rewards account in the Dave & Buster's app to quality. The offer will be automatically applied for first-time customers when using ‌Apple Pay‌ within the app, but existing customers can also take advantage of the deal when reloading a card with ‌Apple Pay‌.

Apple also promotes Apple Arcade in its latest ‌Apple Pay‌ email, suggesting customers who enjoy games sign up for the $4.99 per month service.

Apple Releasing 'The Banker' in Theaters in March Following Review of Abuse Accusations

Apple plans to release "The Banker," an original Apple TV+ movie starring Samuel L. Jackson, in theaters in March, reports Variety.

The movie was originally meant to premiere at the AFI Fest ahead of a December theatrical release, but Apple delayed its debut after "concerns" surrounding the film were brought to the company's attention.


Apple's hesitation came after a family member of one of the men represented in the film accused one of the film's executive producers (another family member) of abuse. Apple investigated the issue and has decided to release the movie. Apple's statement to Variety on the matter:
We created Apple TV Plus as a home for stories that matter and believe 'The Banker,' inspired by the brave actions of Bernard Garrett Sr. and Joe Morris, two African American businessmen who brought about positive social change, is one of those stories.

We wanted to take the time to understand the situation at hand -- and after reviewing the information available to us, including documentation of the filmmakers' research, we've decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers.
"The Banker" is based on the true story of Bernard Garrett Sr. and Joe Morris, who devised a plan to help African Americans get access to real estate deals and bank loans during the 1960s. Along with Samuel L. Jackson, "The Banker" stars Anthony Mackie, Nicholas Hoult, and Nia Long.

Following a theatrical debut on March 6, the film will be released on ‌Apple TV‌+ on March 20.

Apple Announces App Store Price Changes in Two Countries, Reminds Developers About New Tax in Singapore

Apple today announced that, in the next few days, prices of App Store apps and in-app purchases, excluding auto-renewable subscriptions, will decrease in Thailand and increase in Pakistan due to foreign exchange rate fluctuations.


Additionally, on January 1, 2020, a 7% sales tax for overseas digital services was introduced in Singapore. App Store developers based in Singapore who provide their GST number in App Store Connect will not have their proceeds affected, according to Apple. Otherwise, proceeds will be adjusted accordingly.

Apple Music and NBA Partner on New Playlist, Songs Will Be Featured in Game Highlights

Apple and the NBA today announced that they have partnered on a new Apple Music playlist, as noted by Bloomberg.


The report notes that the new Base:Line playlist will have about 40 songs with a hip-hop focus. The songs will also be available through the NBA's app and website, and will be featured in game highlights shared on social media.

Apple plans to refresh the playlist weekly, with the songs sourced from independent label UnitedMasters.

Deals: Best Buy's Latest Apple Sale Has Low Prices on Beats Headphones and iPad Pro

Best Buy's newest Apple Sale Event is discounting a trio of Beats by Dre wireless headphones, Mac notebooks, and the iPad Pro. This includes notable low prices on the Studio3 Wireless Headphones and Powerbeats Pro, as well as ongoing best deals on the iPad Pro in both 11-inch and 12.9-inch models.

Note: 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.

For the Powerbeats Pro, Best Buy's $199.99 price tag is a match for the lowest-ever price seen on these headphones (also available at Amazon). On sale, the Studio3 Wireless Headphones are typically around $200, so Best Buy's $189.99 is another notable discount going on this week.

We've also collected a few deals on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, old MacBook Air, and the iPad Pro. For the tablet, Best Buy is matching prices previously introduced on Amazon earlier this week, while also providing a few lowest-ever discounts not available anywhere else for high-end models with 1TB of storage and cellular support.

Best Buy Apple Sale Event


Beats
Macs
11-Inch iPad Pro
12.9-Inch iPad Pro
Be sure to visit our full Deals Roundup to shop for even more Apple-related products and accessories.

Related Roundup: Apple Deals

Apple's Acquisition of AI Company Leaves Wyze Cameras Without People Detection

Apple's recent purchase of Seattle startup Xnor.ai, which specializes in on-device artificial intelligence, appears to have had a knock-on effect on home security cameras made by Wyze, another Seattle-based company.


The Verge reports that the Wyze Cam V2 and Wyze Cam Pan rely on Xnor.ai's on-device people detection, but now that Apple owns the company, the support has been pulled in a beta firmware update currently rolling out to Wyze customers' devices.

As it happens, Wyze issued a statement in November 2019 saying that Xnor.ai had terminated their contract, and that a firmware update rolling out in mid-January 2020 would remove the feature from its cameras. Whether Xnor.ai planned to be acquired by Apple in January, or it already had been acquired, remains unknown.

Despite the apparent forewarning, Wyze says it is still working on an in-house people detection replacement feature, but it promises to launch it as a free update sometime this year.

Given Apple's deep interest in personal privacy, an acquisition of technology for handling AI on device shouldn't raise any eyebrows. Xnor.ai's work could potentially be incorporated into future iPhones, improving Siri and other AI and machine learning-based tasks that are done on device.

Tag: Wyze

Apple Shares Videos From Creators Using iPad Pro to Make Apple TV+ Show Posters

Apple today shared a pair of videos from content creators who designed posters for Apple TV+ shows "Dickinson" and "For All Mankind."

Janice Sung, an illustrator and digital painter, said she created a poster for Apple TV+ series "Dickinson" using an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, and she outlined some of her creative process.


Designer and illustrator duo Justin and Paige from Phantom City Creative in a separate video shared details on how they used an iPad Pro to create two new posters for Apple TV+ show "For All Mankind."


Apple has in the past shared behind the scenes details on content created on the iPad Pro, but this is the first time Apple has shared iPad Pro-focused videos from Apple TV+ content creators.

Apple TV+ Content 'Home,' 'Central Park,' and 'Beastie Boys' to Premiere at SXSW Film Festival

Apple today announced that several upcoming Apple TV+ projects are going to debut at the SXSW Film Festival, set to take place from March 13 to March 21.

Newly acquired documentary "Beastie Boys Story" will be shown at the festival ahead of its ‌Apple TV‌+ release on April 24, and Apple will also premiere upcoming TV shows "Central Park" and "Home."


Created by Loren Bouchard and Nora Smith, both known for popular TV series "Bob's Burgers," "Central Park" is an animated musical series that tells the story of a family of caretakers who live and work in Central Park and end up saving the world.

The animated show features voice work from Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci, Daveed Diggs, and Kathryn Hahn.

"Home," made by the creators of Netflix series "Chef's Table," is a docuseries that's designed to provide viewers with a never-before-seen look inside the "world's most innovative homes."

The episode debuting at SXSW will focus on the home of lawyer and science fiction writer Christopher Brown, with the house being described as a "modern interpretation of Native American pit houses," which are huts that were traditionally constructed with mud and grass.

There's no word on when these two shows are going to debut on ‌Apple TV‌+, but a launch could come not too long after their SXSW debut.