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By Rich Woods
Apple reportedly planning a thinner, redesigned MacBook Air
by Rich Woods
Back at WWDC this year, Apple announced its intentions to move its whole Mac lineup to ARM processors. One of the first PCs to use its new M1 chipset was the MacBook Air, but interestingly, Apple didn't redesign it, something you might have expected from the new chip architecture that champions power efficiency. But according to a new report from Bloomberg, that redesign is on the way.
The new model is going to be thinner and lighter than the current 2.8-pound model. It might even have a smaller footprint thanks to smaller bezels. Aside from that, Apple is apparently bringing back MagSafe charging, or at least a variant of it. This was removed back in 2018 when the product line got a lone-overdue refresh. In fact, across Apple's entire MacBook lineup, MagSafe charging has been replaced with Thunderbolt.
It's no surprise that Apple is reengineering its MacBook Air to make it thinner and lighter, given the nature of ARM processors. Previously, Apple was using a 7W Intel Y-series processor for the Air, so it didn't actually need a fan. Still, an ARM processor is more efficient when it comes to thermals. In short, the previous models were designed for Intel chips. It's time to design for ARM chips now.
The report also mentioned that the MacBook Pro is getting the SD card slot back, so perhaps Apple is actually listening to its customers' complaints. It's also planning to get rid of the Touch Bar.
According to the report, this new MacBook Air will be a higher-end SKU. Like we've seen numerous times with other redesigns, Apple is set to leave the old design on the market as a base model.
By Rich Woods
Apple seeds release candidates for iOS 14.4, watchOS 7.3, and more
by Rich Woods
Today, Apple is seeding release candidates for iOS 14.4, iPadOS 14.4, watchOS 7.3, tvOS 14.4, and macOS 11.2 Big Sur to developers. They're the next minor updates for each of Apple's platforms. In fact, these are actually even more minor than the previous ones, which were more along the lines of mid-stream feature updates.
For iOS 14.4, you can now scan smaller QR codes with the camera, and you can also now classify Bluetooth device types for headphones and such. Also, and this might be an issue for some, but you'll get a notification if your iPhone's camera isn't considered genuine if you're using a device from the iPhone 12 series. There are also fixes for image artifacts in HDR photos, the Fitness widget, and more.
Next up is watchOS 7.3, which includes a new Unity watch face. It's inspired by the Pan-African flag and changed throughout the day as you move, so the face is supposed to be unique to the user. There's a Time to Walk feature for Fitness+ users, which shares stories as you walk. ECG is and irregular heart rhythm notification notifications are now open to more regions including Japan, Mayotte, Phillippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. And of course, there are fixes.
There's not much going on with tvOS 14.4, but macOS 11.2 Big Sur has a few minor changes. It improves Bluetooth reliability, and has fixes for external displays, edits in Apple's ProRAW format, and more.
These are meant to be final builds unless there are any major issues found. They'll likely roll out to the general public next week.
Apple is reportedly working on an expensive "niche" VR headset
by João Carrasqueira
Facebook's Oculus Quest 2 For years, Apple has been rumored to be working on virtual reality or augmented reality headsets, but we have yet to see any of those reports materialize. If you were hoping for even more reports without official confirmation from Apple, today is your lucky day.
According to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple is planning to launch a standalone VR-focused headset at some point in 2022, but it will be a high-end niche product, with Apple reportedly having "conservative" sales expectations. The virtual environment will include gaming, communication, and video content, and while AR support will exist in some capacity, the report claims it will be limited. While Apple has displayed more interest in augmented reality so far, the focus for this headset is on VR, and the goal is simply to get people ready for an eventual pair of AR glasses, which are also in development with the codename N421.
The VR headset, with the codename N301, is apparently going to be a premium piece of hardware in more than one way. The report claims Apple is using some of its most powerful processors in the device, with performance edging out the Apple M1 chipset in the latest Mac devices introduces in November. On top of that, the headset has a fan to keep running cool. Additionally, the displays will also have "much higher resolution" than existing VR headsets. However, that will go along with a price tag that's also significantly higher than that of rival products, with some insiders even claiming each Apple Store may only sell one device per day.
Interestingly, the inclusion of high-performance components and a fan made the headset too big and cumbersome, so Apple has seemingly removed the space that would allow users with glasses to actually wear the headset. Instead, the company has designed a way for prescription lenses to be inserted into the headset for users that need them. Apple is also using a fabric exterior to help the device be lighter considering the weight of its internals.
According to the report, the headset is in late prototyping stages, but it hasn't been finalized and could still change significantly or be canceled altogether before making it to market. Apple has been making investments in the VR space, though, so it wouldn't be surprising if something is afoot.
By Rich Woods
Alleged iPad Mini 6 leak shows a cut-out for Touch ID
by Rich Woods
It's been almost two years since Apple released a new iPad Mini, and rumors from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has already predicted a nine-inch model for this year. If a leak from xleaks7 and published by Pigtou is to be believed, Apple is set to make some strange design choices with it.
According to the report, the screen size will be 9.15 inches, and unsurprisingly, Apple is aiming to put it in a same-sized chassis; otherwise, it would be around the same size that the full-size iPad used to be. The size of the new chassis is 203.2x134.8x6.25mm. So yes, that means that the chassis's dimensions are identical, except it's just a bit thicker than the 6.1mm iPad Mini 5.
The images show hole-punch cut-outs for both the front camera and for Touch ID, which is apparently remaining while iPhone and iPad Pro have switched to Face ID. The text in the report is a bit more ambiguous though, saying that the fingerprint sensor is inside the display. It's possible that the dedicated sensor is only shown in the mock-up to demonstrate where an in-display sensor might be, and if you remove the cut-out, it looks a lot more like what we'd expect from an iPad Mini.
As for when it's coming, the report didn't say. It did speculate that Apple will use an A14 Bionic processor, and that adds up since the last one had an A12. Perhaps we'll hear more about this in the spring.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft Lists is now available for iOS
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced that its Lists app for iOS is now available. First announced at Build as a Trello competitor, it showed up as a web app in July with a promised iOS app coming later. Now, that app is here.
The Lists app, as you'd probably guess, lets you access and edit the lists that you own and have been shared with you; and of course, you can create new lists. The difference with the mobile app, however, is that it's really meant to be used more on the go than the web app is. Microsoft uses an example of creating an issue tracker list while you're drinking coffee, or sharing a list from the car. For more complex tasks, you're really meant to be using the web app.
Microsoft posted a demo of the app:
Here's a list of features that are included in the mobile app:
As you'd expect if you've been using the service, you can create new lists from scratch or from templates, and you can even use an Excel file to get started. The app also supports offline usage and dark mode.
Now for the fine print. You need an Office 365 commercial subscription that includes SharePoint to access Lists, so if you're on a consumer Microsoft 365 plan, you're out of luck here. Microsoft is working on an Android app, as it promised to produce back at Build, although it's not coming until later this year. Also, the company is promising iPad-specific features to be added to the iOS app at some point.