Independent tests show AirPods Max battery life meets Apple’s claims

A set of independent tests shows that the AirPods Max battery life lives up to Apple’s claims.

Apple makes two key claims about battery life. First, that the over-ear headphones last for “up to” 20 hours with both ANC and spatial audio in use, and they actually did somewhat better than this under test …


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Cowen upgrades iPhone 12 build forecasts over continuing high demand

High demand for the iPhone 12 has prompted Apple to increase its build orders for the March quarter, Cowen analysts claim, with sales in China said to be a highlight of the quarter’s finances.

In a smartphone build update report from Cowen seen by AppleInsider, analysts say they have upgraded their forecast for the March 21 quarter for the third month in a row. Cowen currently believes Apple intends to produce 55 million iPhone units, a 49% year-on-year increase for the quarter, and up from 51 million forecast by the firm one month ago.The increase in units is driven by higher demand for three of the four iPhone 12 models, with the iPhone 12 itself said to make up 2 million of the extra units, while the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max each added 1 million to the total. The iPhone 12 mini estimates are supposedly unchanged from Cowen’s previous forecast.

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Shortcuts 101, building a HomeKit-lit pantry, and listener questions on HomeKit Insider

On the latest episode of HomeKit Insider, we run down all the options for triggering and setting up Home automations in the iOS Shortcuts app, Andrew has a new project, we highlight the WristControl app, custom Home app wallpapers, and answer listener questions.

HomeKit Insider: a new AppleInsider podcastHomeKit Insider: A new AppleInsider podcast

Hue plans to support Thread on its Zigbee bridge, plus there’s a new in-wall hub launching — overseas — from Aqara. There’s also leaked news of an Eve device that adds Thread support too.

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Apple Watch Series 7 Rumored to Feature Blood Glucose Monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaked Sony Xperia Compact Images Confirm Android-Based iPhone 12 Mini Rival on the Way

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

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

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

The original ‌iPhone‌, circa 2007

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

Enter, Sony.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Roundup: iPhone 12
Tag: Sony
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone 12 (Buy Now)

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Huawei reportedly found a way to escape its US sales ban

  • A new report says that Huawei has been negotiating for months to sell the P and Mate premium phones to a consortium led by Shanghai government-backed investment firms.
  • Huawei is running out of key components that would allow it to continue making new flagship phones to compete against the latest iPhone and Galaxy S devices under the ongoing US ban.
  • Huawei denied that a sale of the two valuable brands is in the works. But the company sold Honor, its budget phone brand last year, to escape the ban.

In just a few years, Huawei became one of the biggest players in the mobile business. The company wanted to dethrone Samsung and become the world’s largest smartphone vendor and put out increasingly more exciting iPhone rivals. The P and Mate phones grew in popularity, with Huawei borrowing features from the iPhone and Galaxy S while taking bigger risks when it comes to innovation of its own. But those short glory years would turn out to be short-lived. The US government prevented Huawei from launching its flagships with US carriers and then banned the Chinese giant from doing business with US firms, including Google and Qualcomm. Since the restrictions on Huawei were placed on Huawei in May 2019, the company found itself unable to create smartphones that could really compete against the iPhone and Android in western markets. The ban forced Huawei to remove all Google apps from Android phones sold in western markets, including the Google Play store. This did not stop Huawei from launching new P and Mate series models in the past few years. But Huawei has reached a point where it is considering a sale of the two brands.

People familiar with the talks told Reuters that Huawei is negotiating with a consortium led by Shanghai government-backed investment firms. The talks have been ongoing for a few months, with Huawei exploring the possibility of selling the P and Mate brands as early as September 2020.

Huawei already pulled a similar move with its budget brand, Honor, which was also impacted by the US ban. Huawei sold Honor to a consortium backed by 30 dealers, with a Shenzen government-led company leading the group. Last week, Honor launched the first phone since the sale, a budget high-end device that might ship with Google services on board. Honor on Friday announced new deals with Intel and Qualcomm, an indication that the US ban no longer applies to the company.

Huawei denied to Reuters that it’s planning to sell the P and Mate business. “Huawei has learned there are unsubstantiated rumors circulating regarding the possible sale of our flagship smartphone brands,” a Huawei spokesman said. “There is no merit to these rumors whatsoever. Huawei has no such plan.” So did the Shanghai government.

According to data from Counterpoint, the P and Mate phones contributed nearly 40% to Huawei’s total sales in the third quarter of 2020. But P40 and Mate 40 sales are expected to continue to decline due to severe component shortages.

Huawei might continue making its own Google-less Android phones, as it certainly in a position to drive the adoption of a competing Play Store version that could ultimately become a decent alternative to the real thing. But Huawei is facing hardware issues as well, as the company might not have sufficient chip supplies to continue manufacturing high-end devices on its own, without dealing with US firms.

Huawei is expected to stop making Kirin chips this year, and the current stockpile will run out. The HiSilicon division needs software from US companies Cadence Design Systems and Synopsys. The production is outsourced to Taiwan-based TSMC, the same company that manufactures the iPhone, iPad, and Mac chips. But TSMC uses equipment from US companies.

Huawei’s decision to sell the premium phone business might be an indication that the company has little hope of seeing the Biden administration overturn the 2019 ban. According to the report, should the sale go through, Huawei will likely keep its P and Mate management team in place for the new entity.

Huawei’s P50 should launch in the first three months of the year, with the Mate 50 likely to be unveiled in the fall. It’s unclear whether Huawei will keep its schedule P and Mate launch schedules in place.

Poll: With the future of the Touch Bar in doubt, how about this compromise?

The future of the Touch Bar was thrown into doubt earlier this month thanks to separate reports from Ming-Chi Kuo and Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The former said that the touch-sensitive strip was definitely being removed, while the latter said Apple was considering it.

There doesn’t seem to be any real consensus view of the Touch Bar, making it a tough call for Apple, but one Apple patent does describe a possible compromise approach that takes the company some way toward a fully dynamic keyboard …


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WhatsApp is losing millions of users to these rival messaging apps

  • Millions of WhatsApp users are flocking to competing chat services like Signal and Telegram after the company announced changes to the privacy policy.
  • The privacy changes will allow WhatsApp to share more user data with Facebook to enable e-commerce features like instant messaging to businesses. WhatsApp will not lose end-to-end encryption, which is turned on by default for all chats and calls on the app.
  • A new report indicates that tens of millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram in the first three weeks of the year, in response to WhatsApp’s planned privacy changes.

WhatsApp unpleasantly surprised fans a few weeks ago with a prompt informing them that the app will only work if they agree to a new privacy policy. Come early February, WhatsApp would share more user data with Facebook, and the only option for users was to agree to the change. The only way to opt out of the functionality was to stop using the service. WhatsApp is the world’s most popular chat app, offering iMessage-like features on both iPhone and Android. It’s Facebook’s only chat app that supports end-to-end encryption, and that won’t change even after the privacy policy goes live.

The response to those prompts was immediate. Many people downloaded competing apps Signal and Telegram in response, forcing Facebook to react. The company released more information telling users that its core features, end-to-end encrypted calls, and texts aren’t going anywhere. Instead, Facebook wants to snag user data that can be used for WhatsApp e-commerce purposes. Facebook also delayed the privacy policy change by three months to give people more time to understand what’s changing, without really explaining why it’s not offering its customers the choice to opt out from data sharing. Facebook acknowledged that not all WhatsApp users are also engaged in e-commerce on the platform, which implies Facebook could make the data sharing feature voluntary rather than mandatory. A few weeks later, the tally is coming in, and it turns out Facebook might have lost millions of people to Signal and Telegram.

The two chat apps seem to be the big winners following the new WhatsApp privacy scandal. Both of them work on iPhone and Android and support the same set of messaging features as WhatsApp. Of the two, only Signal has end-to-end encryption enabled by default. Telegram offers end-to-end encryption just for Secret chat mode, which has to be turned on manually for each independent chat. iMessage has end-to-end encryption turned on by default, but it only works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Signal gained 7.5 million users globally in the first three weeks of January, according to The Guardian. The data comes from the UK parliament’s home affairs committee, who also said Telegram had gained 25 million users during the same time.

Data from mobile analytics firm App Annie shows that WhatsApp downloads dropped considerably in the UK. The app was the eighth most download app in the UK at the beginning of the month but dropped to the 23rd stop by January 12th. Signal wasn’t even in the top 1,000 on January 6th but shot to number one three days later.

WhatsApp’s director of public policy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Niamh Sweeney, told the home affairs committee that the exodus seems to have been caused by the WhatsApp privacy change. She explained the privacy policy update is meant to enable business messaging and “make clarifications and provide greater transparency” around the company’s pre-existing policies. She said the are “no changes” to WhatsApp’s sharing of data with Facebook.

According to App Annie’s director of market insights, privacy-focused messaging apps are gaining traction with users, Amir Ghodrati. “Messaging apps that provide privacy features saw the greatest engagement growth in [the first half of] 2020,” the exec told The Guardian. “These apps saw on average 30% more active users than the alternatives. Apps like Signal, Telegram, Wickr, and WhatsApp offer privacy features ranging from end-to-end encrypted data transfer to ‘self-destructing messages.’”

WhatsApp hit 2 billion users worldwide about a year ago, so the number of people flocking to Signal and WhatsApp seems insignificant. What happens in practice is that people use multiple chat services on the phone. Having millions of people download competing apps is one thing. It’s unclear how many of them have deleted WhatsApp or stopped using it after moving to Signal, Telegram, or a different service. Those WhatsApp users will need to convince their friends and family to ditch WhatsApp, too, before completely abandoning the service.

WhatsApp’s privacy policy change will go live on May 15th.