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    • By Jay Bonggolto
      Apple extends deadline for online group event in-app purchase requirement to June 2021
      by Jay Bonggolto

      Apple is giving developers more time to incorporate in-app purchase systems into their apps that offer paid online events, a requirement that was initially set to take effect by the end of this year. That deadline has now been extended to June 30, 2021.

      In September, Apple temporarily eased its policy that required an in-app purchase system for apps offering paid online group experiences. The reprieve lifted the 30% App Store fee for those events until December 31, allowing businesses to hold paid events and get all of the earnings after tax.

      The change was made after Facebook complained about that requirement following the launch of its paid online events, which was meant to help Page owners monetize their live streams. The social networking giant then asked Apple and Google to waive the 30% fees from revenues generated through these events in support of small businesses and creators. The Cupertino-based company initially declined Facebook's request.

      In announcing the extension, Apple cited the COVID-19 pandemic: “As the world fights COVID-19, we recognize that adapting experiences from in-person to digital continues to be a top priority.” That means small businesses and creators can now continue to conduct paid group events online through their iOS apps without paying Apple's standard App Store fees until mid 2021.

    • By Asher Madan
      Xbox Black Friday Sale features Battlefield, Dead Space, and more
      by Asher Madan



      Every week, Microsoft and select publishers discount a number of titles for weekly Deals with Gold, Spotlight, and Publisher sales. This week, games from the Battlefield, Dead Space, and other franchises are available for substantially less. There's also a Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale going on.

      Below, you'll find the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 games with their respective discounts. Xbox Live Gold members receive additional discounts on a number of titles through the paid subscription which is denoted with an asterisk.

      Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One
      Xbox 360
      Many of the Xbox 360 games appear to be backward compatible so you'll be able to play them on your Xbox One and the Xbox Series X|S. Currently, Microsoft isn't adding any more backward compatible titles to the program, but that should change in 2021.

      Which titles are you interested in? Did you pick any up? Let us know in the comments below.

    • By Sszecret
      Microsoft Weekly: Halo 4 finally on PC, more Fluent icons, and optional updates
      by Florin Bodnarescu



      The last week brought Halo 4 for the first time to PC players the world over, a Fluent Design upgrade for Edge icons showed up – as well as multiple new features -, plus some security fixes for a range of Windows 10 versions. You can find info about that, as well as much more below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of November 15 - 21.

      Halo 4 finally on PC


      After much anticipation, the final title in the Master Chief Collection, aka Halo 4, has finally arrived on PC. Bringing cross-play support and a bunch of new enhancements, the game is now live on Steam, the Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass for PC. If you’re curious as to what exactly the title has to offer, do take a peek at the review that’s currently up, in which our very own Pulasthi Ariyasinghe calls the FPS a “satisfying conclusion to the Master Chief Collection”.

      Continuing with the first-party news, Sea of Thieves has received its November update, complete with a range of bug fixes, upgrades to Treasure Vault voyages, performance improvements, and much, much more. The update comes in at 6GB on Windows 10, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X, with the One S and Series S owners receiving a slightly smaller 5GB update. Steam owners are the luckiest with a measly 3.6GB required to download.

      And since we mentioned it, before we get back to the game news, it’s worth interjecting with the fact that new Xbox Series S orders may arrive after the holidays. This is because, unsurprisingly, the Series S is out of stock.

      Returning to first-party games, Minecraft has just gotten a new Star Wars-themed DLC, and if that’s not quite what you want to be playing this week, there’s always a bunch of Deals with Gold to browse, including ones for Code Vein, Dark Souls, Ace Combat 7, and much more.

      Ending this section is a bit of gameplay from both the Xbox One X and Series X for CD Projekt RED’s upcoming open-world RPG, Cyberpunk 2077. Switching between the two consoles frequently, the video highlights interiors, exteriors, combat, and other NPC interactions.

      More Fluent icons


      Regardless of your opinion of the new Edge, one major change in comparison to the Legacy version is that the browser gets updated more frequently than before.

      As such, everybody in the Dev and Canary channels can now start using the text comments in PDFs feature. If you haven’t gotten it yet, the Dev build is 88.0.702, in case you want to try out this capability.

      There are also new features added to Edge this month, like an improved copy-paste experience, better integration with Bing rewards, new shopping features, and much more.

      Staying on the subject of improvements, now when you open history, it will show a pop-up window which allows you to more easily navigate through your previously opened links. Furthermore, you’re now able to pin a history icon next to the address bar for easy access.

      Microsoft was also eager to share the fact that Edge WebView2 is now available for .NET. This, for folks not aware, is the Chromium Edge equivalent of Project Spartan’s (old Edge) EdgeHTML-based WebView. Additionally, the Redmond firm also aims to stop Chromium browsers from launching with elevated privileges.

      Finally, for those of you who wish the company would just stop for a second and update everything to its (for now) unified Fluent Design system, there’s good news. Chromium Edge is going to be getting a new set icons to bring the entire experience more in line with the company’s design aesthetic du jour. The first phase is currently being rolled out.

      Optional updates


      If you’ve been running Windows 10 for a while, you’ll be aware that Microsoft also releases optional updates from time to time, beyond its Patch Tuesday patches.

      If you’re on 1809, or the October 2018 Update, you’ll get KB4594442, which bumps up the build number to 17763.1579 and addresses a security bug with Kerberos authentication and ticket renewal. If you’re running the Anniversary Update (1607), that same fix will come through for you as KB4594441, bumping the build number up to 14393.4048, while folks on the May 2019 Update (1903) and November 2019 Update (1909) will be getting KB4594443, with builds 18362.1199 and 18363.1199, respectively.

      Finally, those on either the May 2020 Update (2004) or October 2020 Update (20H2) will receive KB4594440, with builds 19041.631 and 19042.631.

      Microsoft was busy releasing even more builds however, so here’s what else you need to be on the lookout for:

      May 2019 Update / November 2019 Update (1903/1909): KB4586819, builds 18362.1237 / 18363.1237 – fixes a bug that causes Edge to open in the background when the device is in tablet mode, as well as bugs with USB 3.0 hubs, Narrator, and WMR headsets running in lower resolution modes. October 2018 Update (1809) Enterprise, Education: KB4586839, build 17763.1613 – fixes the same bugs for the version above, as well as the issue which may cause the HDD to fill up in certain error situations. The known issues for all updates above remain the same ones outlined in the Patch Tuesday wave of updates.

      In other news, Microsoft will not release any optional Windows 10 cumulative updates in December. This applies to preview updates (so basically A, C, and D wave updates, rather the B wave ones which come with Patch Tuesday every month). This is due to “minimal operations during the holidays and the upcoming Western new year”.

      Over in the Insider Dev channel, the company unleashed build 20262 with a number of fixes, as well as 20262.1010, the of which was simply a Cumulative Update to test out the servicing pipeline.

      Dev channel
      Polls in Teams meetings have now started rolling out. New Power Apps and Dataverse are now generally available for Teams. Photoshop Beta is now available for ARM-based Windows 10 and macOS devices. WinUI 3 Preview 3 is now out, featuring ARM64 support. Dynamics 365 Project Operations has been announced, aimed at service-based businesses in India. Microsoft 365 is now available from datacenters in Brazil. The November updates for Microsoft 365 include new Teams apps, among other features. Teams personal features are now rolling out on desktop and the web. The Surface Studio 2 has gotten new firmware updates to fix audio performance and stability, with the Go 2 and Book 3 now available for purchase in India. Logging off
      We cap things off with a new security chip that Microsoft intends to introduce for Windows-based devices.



      In what the firm will be dubbing Pluton going forward, Microsoft has announced essentially the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip equivalent, but integrated on the SoC.

      Seen in other solutions like the Xbox consoles or Azure Sphere, this is basically an intersection of software and hardware to provide the benefits of TPM chips in terms of security, but (currently) none of the drawbacks. Specifically, since TPM is separate from the CPU, perpetrators are able to target the channel between the CPU and TPM chip with their attacks.

      Working with AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm on the solution – with AMD being the first to use it -, Microsoft says that the Pluton chip will work with BitLocker and System Guard, and that information can’t be removed from the chip via malware or any other way.

      Integrated with Windows Update in the same way Azure Sphere Security Service integrates with IoT devices, the chip will make sure that firmware updates come directly from Microsoft.

      There’s currently no word as to when we’ll be seeing the chip’s debut in PCs.

      Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.

    • By Usama Jawad96
      Looking back at Android games which were all the rage back in the day
      by Usama Jawad

      Fame is a fickle food, and this is especially true when it comes to the tech landscape. It's not surprising to see pieces of tech, whether it be hardware, software, or even companies being heralded as the next big thing, only to be forgotten in a relatively short amount of time.

      In this piece, we will take a look at a specific niche with the respect to the above, and that is the world of Android games. Over the past few years, we have seen tons of titles which were being played by millions around the globe but now do not command a strong user base. Before we begin, it is important to remember that this is by no means an exhaustive list and neither is it in any particular order. Popularity of games differ region to region and it's possible that even though you may have heard of most of these games in the past decade or so, they might not be big names in your circle. With that out of the way, let's begin!

      Angry Birds
      Image via ryancustard13 This 2010 blockbuster from Rovio Entertainment was all the rage back in the day. The title had a simple and silly premise: launch the titular Angry Birds at pigs who have stolen your eggs and are now hiding in destructible structures. Coupled with an addictive theme song, there was a weird satisfaction in killing pigs with birds - many of which had special powers - and it offered great replay value.

      With over 100 million installs on Android alone, Angry Birds was popular among all age groups. Seeing its popularity, Rovio was able to partner with various franchises such as Star Wars, Rio, and Transformers, among others and release various sequels and spinoffs. None reached the heights of the original but managed to find their dedicated audiences nonetheless. Unfortunately, Angry Birds as well as most of its spinoffs are not available to download any more because Rovio has decided to shift focus to its newer titles.

      Temple Run and Subway Surfers
      Image via 91Mushrooms Even though I have coupled these two titles together because they are extremely similar in premise, this should not diminish their respective popularity. Both these games are endless runners, which simply mean that you control a character that's running on an endless path and you have to swipe to dodge obstacles and change directions while picking up power-ups and coins along the way.

      While Temple Run had you being chased by demonic monkeys in a temple in a jungle, Subway Surfers had you on the run from an inspector who has seen you spray graffiti on a trains on the subway. Even though the two games were extremely similar, both enjoyed immense popularity at their peak, and it was not surprising to see both installed on someone's Android device. The two games are still updated from time to time with new content and bug fixes.

      Clash of Clans


      This freemium strategy game landed on Android back in 2013, tasking players with building up their clans, attacking other players to loot their resources, and defending against attacks your their own bases. Clash of Clans was extremely popular among players who liked city-building games due to the diverse content it offered, coupled with its focus on playing with your friends. The title received its latest update just this month and is still available on Google Play with a smaller, but dedicated, player base.

      Asphalt 8: Airborne
      Image via AndroidSpin Back in the early 2010s, Gameloft was commanding the wave of "console quality" games on smartphones with games like Six Guns, Modern Combat, Real Football. But perhaps nothing from its portfolio stood out more than Asphalt 8: Airborne. This arcade racer offered amazing graphics for the time, addictive gameplay, fun race tracks, a huge roster of cars, and a respectable playlist. It also featured seasonal content to keep the game fresh and keep pulling in players back for more. Up until 2015, it was almost impossible to find someone who hadn't given the game a go at least once.

      While the Asphalt series has several other spinoffs and sequels, none have been able to match Asphalt 8: Airborne in popularity. The title is still updated with new content from time to time.

      Candy Crush Saga


      Love it or hate it, there's no denying that Candy Crush Saga was a huge hit on Android. While there are people who hate the game primarily because of the pesky Facebook notifications they kept receiving from their friends, the freemium title raked in truckloads of money via in-app purchases for its developers, publishers and any platform who hosted it.

      While it didn't bring anything new to the match-3 genre, it was successful in reeling in millions of players due to its color visuals, fantastic sound design, and thousands upon thousands of levels. It's impossible to not have heard of the game in the past decade, unless you've been living under a rock. It's still updated with new levels to this day, and people just can't seem to get enough of it.

      Plants vs. Zombies
      Image via Android Games Originally planned to be released as Lawn of the Dead, this PopCap-developed game was released under the Plants vs. Zombies moniker on PC platforms back in 2009. It was later ported to consoles and smartphone devices, with the release on the latter platform published by Electronic Arts.

      The premise of this game was quite silly. Waves of zombies are heading towards your home via your front lawn, and it is your job to "catch" sunlight and grow plants that will launch different attacks to kill the undead. Due to the range of plants that you could grow, different gameplay strategies that you could try out, various game modes, and an impressive variety of zombies, this title packed great replay value. A few sequels of the game have come out in the past few years but the original can still be downloaded from Google Play.

      Fruit Ninja


      Perhaps the most simple title in terms of gameplay in this list. The concept of Fruit Ninja was quite straightforward: Swipe your finger across the fruit flying across your screen to slice it. Depending upon the game mode you were engaged in, there were various objectives you had to achieve within the given time limit.

      Despite its simple premise, this 2010 game managed to garner hundreds of millions of users due to its addictive nature, and you can still find it on Google Play here.

      Jetpack Joyride
      Also from the developers of Fruit Ninja, this is yet another endless runner game of sorts. However, what sets it apart from the likes of Temple Runner and Subway Surfers is that it is a 2D sidescroller instead of a 3D game. You control the character of Barry Steakfries as he uses his jetpacks and other power-ups along the way to dodge various obstacles and reach the end of the science lab before the other scientists.

      Despite stiff competition of seemingly visually superior endless runner, this 2012 game managed to hold its own and has nearly a billion players. It was updated on Google Play just a couple of days ago.

      Flappy Bird


      This is a bit of an odd one. Made by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen, this simple-on-paper game tasked you to tap on the screen to make a bird fly between Mario-like green pipes. If the bird even slightly touches a pipe, it's game over. With very simple 2D graphics, this game became notorious for its throw-your-phone-at-the-wall difficulty and was downloaded en masse several months after its release.

      But that's not what's strange about it. What's weird is that despite its meteoric success and the title bringing in thousands of dollars to the developer, Nguyen decided to remove the game from storefronts in early 2014, claiming that he felt guilty for exposing the public to its addictive nature. Following its mysterious and abrupt removal, devices which already had the official game installed were soon up for sale for insane prices, and clones began to appear left and right. While Nguyen later released Flappy Bird Family on Amazon Fire TVs in August 2014, it was not able to re-capture the charm of the original.

      We would like to know: What Android (or any smartphone OS, for that matter) game was popular in your circles back in the day? Let us know in the comments section below!

    • By Rich Woods
      iPhone 12 Pro Max review: Do not buy this phone
      by Rich Woods

      Last year when I reviewed the iPhone 11 Pro, I titled it "an actual, meaningful upgrade". I called it that for two reasons. The first is that coming out of the gate, it was severely underestimated, using the same design for the third year in a row, and it's tough to get over the hump of the idea that it's not new if it doesn't look new. The other reason was that it actually was a significant upgrade. Apple produced a smartphone camera that was competitive for the first time in years, and battery life was phenomenal.

      This year's iPhone 12 Pro series is what you'd expect in a follow-up. The design has been overhauled using flat edges in a throwback to the iPhone 4, the OLED screen looks even better, and the camera is improved, especially on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's a lovely device.

      But you shouldn't buy it. Apple and Google both went all-in on facial recognition last year, ditching fingerprint sensors. Obviously, they couldn't predict a pandemic that was on the way that would render facial recognition useless when wearing a mask. Google adapted, adding a fingerprint sensor to this year's Pixel 5. Apple did not, opting to release the entire iPhone 12 series with Face ID only.

      For that reason, I simply won't be able to recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max, or any iPhone 12 for that matter. As long as we're wearing masks in public, you're better off using something with a fingerprint sensor, and if you're more comfortable in the Apple ecosystem, all sign point to just waiting until next year.

      Specs
      CPU A14 Bionic, dual 3.1GHz, quad 1.8GHz, Apple GPU (quad-core), next-gen Neural Engine Display 6.7 inches, 2778x1284, 458ppi, OLED, 19.5:9 Body 160.8x78.1x7.4mm (6.33x3.07x0.29in), 228g (8.03oz) Memory 6GB RAM, 128GB / 256GB / 512GB storage Camera 12MP f/1.6 + 12MP f/2.4 ultra-wide + 12MP f/2.2 2.5x telephoto, Front - 12MP f/2.2 Video capture 4K - 60fps Battery 3,687mAh, 20W fast charging Colors Graphite, Gold, Silver, Pacific Blue Price $1,099 / $1,199 / $1,399
      Day one
      Notably, there's no power adapter in the box, just a USB Type-C to Lightning cable. If any other manufacturer did this, I wouldn't care. After all, we do all have power adapters, and a lot of the stuff that comes with modern devices is wasteful. The only problem is that most people still have 5W Apple power adapters, which is what Apple has been shipping forever, even when fast charging was supported.

      So not only will you not have a fast charger if you use one that you already have, but you won't even be able to use the cable that came in the box. Your adapter uses USB Type-A, and this is USB Type-C. Just the iPhone 11 Pro series came with an 18W USB Type-C adapter.

      Also, there are no more Lightning headphones in the box, which is totally fine by me. I haven't used one of those in quite a long time, and I suspect that Apple has some telemetry on how many people use them.

      Design
      Apple's entire iPhone 12 series offers the first full redesign since the iPhone X was introduced three years ago. In fact, as far as the chassis goes, you could probably make the case that Apple has been using the same design since the iPhone 6. Of course, you could also say that this is a recycled iPhone 4 design. Maybe it's best not to overthink it and just say that we have something that looks completely new.



      The iPhone 12 Pro series comes in four colors: Graphite, Silver, Gold, and the new Pacific Blue. Graphite is basically Space Gray rebranded for the new design. When I purchased this phone, I initially picked Pacific Blue. After all, I do usually get the new color, which would make sense to replace my Midnight Green iPhone 11 Pro. But a few hours after pre-orders began, I canceled my order and switched to Gold, because this new Gold color really pops.

      You see, being that the iPhone 12 Pro Max shipped a few weeks after the iPhone 12 Pro, I was able to go to an Apple Store to actually see the colors in person, something that you usually can't do when pre-ordering an iPhone. Personally, I think the Silver and Gold models look the best, Pacific Blue is the one for those that want the new color, and Graphite is for those that just always buy Space Gray.



      The back of the phone is still made out of frosted glass, and on the Gold model, it's still a sort of beige. You'll still get a gray back with Graphite, white with Silver, and so on. It's got gold accents all over though, which is what really makes it stand out. The three rear cameras are surrounded by transparent glass, but each lens has a gold border around them.

      The stainless steel frame is flat, a throwback to the iPhone 4-style design that I mentioned earlier. And the frame is wider than the glass back or front, so if you look at it directly from either side, you can see the accent around the entire border. It's quite nice.



      Unfortunately for some, you'll still find the Lightning port on the bottom of the device. Now that the iPhone 12 series has been announced for over a month, that means that we're well on the way with rumors about the iPhone 13 having USB Type-C, just like every year.



      The rest is the same too. On the left side, there's a volume rocker and above that, a switch to control notifications. Personally, I love that switch and it's one of my favorite features of iPhones. OnePlus is the only Android OEM I know of that does this, and it's just so useful. Also on the left side is the nano-SIM slot, so that's the one thing that's been moved. The power button is still on the right side.



      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is surprisingly comfortable to use, and perhaps I feel that way because I had such low expectations for this device. I've always criticized Apple for having big, flat backs that just aren't as comfortable to hold as curved backs. I will note that if you're moving from something smaller, you'll definitely notice it. I came from the 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro.

      MagSafe
      One of the new features that caught a lot of attention is MagSafe. MagSafe was a popular MacBook feature which was all about a magnetic charger. The idea was that if you went and tripped over the charging cable, the cable would fall out of your MacBook rather than pulling your MacBook crashing to the floor.



      It's been replaced with USB Type-C on the laptop side of things, but now MagSafe is here for iPhone in the form of wireless charging. Like a good reviewer, I purchased a $39 MagSafe charger alongside my iPhone 12 Pro Max, and no, it does not come with a power adapter. It's just a USB Type-C cable with a magnetic disc on the other end.

      The disc attaches to the back of the iPhone and charges it. Yes, it seems simple, and perhaps that's the beauty of it. Personally, I think that the MagSafe charger is also pointless. After all, it's just a cable with a wireless charger on the end; why not just use a wired charger?



      But of course, MagSafe has other applications. For example, Apple's cases support MagSafe too, and you can add other accessories on the back like a magnetic wallet. Belkin makes a MagSafe car mount, letting you mount your phone on your dashboard without a clip. That Belkin product is the only MagSafe item that actually got me excited, but sadly, it's not out yet.

      MagSafe is a cool idea, and frankly, its potential relies on the ecosystem of products that are released around it.

      Display
      Despite not being a high refresh rate display like virtually all of Apple's competitors, this screen is amazing. If you want proof, check out DisplayMate's analysis of the display, which gives it top-notch results. Yes, I will always make notch puns, because why not?



      Ever since the iPhone X, Apple has had its big notch at the top of the display which includes sensors for Face ID and a front-facing camera. But also, the bezels are black, something that wasn't the case previously. Before the iPhone X, you had to get a Space Gray iPhone to get black bezels on the screen. I know; dark times.

      The bezels are a bit smaller this year, as the display is a bit bigger at 6.7 inches. Given the new design, it looks amazing. The true blacks on the OLED display blend right into the black bezels, and it really makes you feel like you're just holding a big screen. It has a 2778x1284 resolution for a 458ppi pixel density, and Apple is calling it Super Retina XDR.



      But as I said from the beginning, the down side is that it doesn't have a high refresh rate. Apple is sticking with a 60Hz screen for now, while companies like Huawei and Motorola are making 90Hz screens, and companies like Samsung and OnePlus are releasing phones with 120Hz screens. The higher refresh rates make for smoother motions.

      Still, this screen just looks so good. And of course, refresh rate rumors for the iPhone 13 should be right up there with the USB Type-C rumors.

      Camera
      The camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is awesome. Let me explain something about my use case as a reviewer. I always get excited for the annual iPhone release because it's annual. I'll use this device for about six months, and I'll inevitably move back to Android in the spring since most OEMs have spring and fall releases. What I'm getting at is that I've been using a variety of Android phones for about six months.

      And it feels good to be using the iPhone 12 Pro Max. There are definitely some great cameras on Android phones, such as those from Google and Huawei, but Apple provides a more complete experience. Google's Pixel 5 is great, but it's certainly not premium in the way that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is. Huawei's P40 Pro+ is awesome too, but you really can't buy it in the U.S. And in this reviewer's opinion, you should never buy a Samsung phone if you care about what your pictures will look like.

      So let's talk about the new camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It's a larger sensor for better low-light performance, and all three cameras are still 12MP. However, this year, the Pro Max doesn't have the same camera as the Pro as it has in years past. The iPhone 12 Pro Max actually has a better telephoto lens that gets you 2.5x zoom instead of 2x zoom.

      The bad news is that lossless zoom is something that Apple still isn't taking seriously. You have companies like Huawei that are putting both a 3x and a 10x zoom lens on a phone to do some crazy stuff with hybrid zoom, and Apple is boasting 2.5x. Well, actually, it's boasting 5x zoom because it counts it from the ultra-wide sensor.

      Video recording is improved as well. You can now record HDR video with Dolby Vision, and it looks beautiful. Indeed, Apple has long been the king of video capture, so just hearing that it's getting even better is great news. Unfortunately, you do have to switch to "high efficiency" video to get Dolby Vision HDR, just like if you want to record in 4K 60fps.

      Gallery: iPhone 12 Pro Max samples
      There are a few things to note here. If you're using the main sensor, it seems like you actually have to try to take a bad picture, like by shutting off night mode. And yes, night mode kicks on automatically. That's one of the nice things about Apple's camera features. While night mode has been a thing for a long time (Huawei was the first), Apple takes the thought out of it.

      Night mode works with all three lenses, but you'll still notice that both ultra-wide and 2.5x zoom images struggle at night. In fact, when you switch to another lens, you'll almost always see the night mode indicator change the amount of time for exposure in an effort to compensate.

      But here's the best part, or at least my favorite part. I really didn't have to throw out any images for this review. With almost every other phone, I throw out a ton of low-light images that are out of focus, blurry from movement, and so on. So many phones take too long to focus, especially in low light. And they can also take forever to take a picture, and if you're not paying attention, you might move the phone before it actually takes the shot, leaving you with a blurry mess.

      I didn't have those issues with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, and frankly, it was kind of refreshing. This is a big issue that I've seen with devices from LG and OnePlus particularly.

      Apple's camera on the iPhone 12 Pro Max is among the best around. The one area where it doesn't keep up is lossless zoom. While the ultra-wide and telephoto lenses can struggle in low-light, this isn't uncommon due to the nature of these types of sensors, and I do think that Apple does a better job than most of its competitors. But things like image processing, video capture, general low-light performance, ease-of-use, and more are really the best around.

      Performance and battery life
      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is probably the most powerful smartphone in the world. Apple's custom processors regularly beat out what Qualcomm has to offer, and if Qualcomm does come out on top, it's the following spring. You see, Apple releases new iPhones with brand new processors in the fall, and Qualcomm releases its new Snapdragon chipsets in the spring, so sometimes we see a back and forth.

      Apple's A14 Bionic chipset is impressive, to say the least. It's the first 5nm SoC to be used in a smartphone, and we're also seeing it in the new iPad Air. With Dolby Vision video recording, Apple billed this as the first device that can record, edit, and compile Dolby Vision video, so it's got some power.



      Battery life is fantastic as well. In many (if not most cases), the iPhone 12 Pro Max still had 50% battery life left when I went to sleep. Obviously, the battery is much bigger than the one that I had in my iPhone 11 Pro, although it is smaller than the battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which had a 3,969mAh battery.

      The entire iPhone 12 series supports 20W fast charging, even if you do have to buy the adapter separately. And of course, it supports 15W wireless charging, along with the new MagSafe technology.

      For benchmarks, I used Geekbench 5, AnTuTu, and GFXBench. First up is Geekbench 5, which tests the CPU.



      For one thing, you'll notice that the A14 has the best single-core score of any A-series chip yet, but it's still beaten in multi-core by both the A12Z and A12X that's found in Apple's iPad Pro. But you can also see that it beats the A13 in both categories by quite a bit.

      We can compare this to Samsung's Galaxy S20+, which uses Qualcomm's latest processor, the Snapdragon 865, and got 909 on single-core and 3,160 on multi-core. Lenovo's Legion Phone Duel, which has a Snapdragon 865+, got 979 and 3,409, respectively. Next up is AnTuTu, which tests everything.



      In this case, the Legion Phone Duel scores 612,768. The OnePlus 8 Pro scored 576,696, but somehow they both beat the iPhone in the CPU category. Perhaps AnTuTu changed how it does scoring at some point. Finally, GFXBench tests the GPU.



      5G
      MagSafe got its own section in this review because it was something that people got excited about during the event. 5G gets its own section because, well, Apple got excited about it. Yes, Apple spent a great deal of time talking up 5G, and for some reason, Verizon's 5G specifically.

      So let's break down 5G, including why you need it in a smartphone, and why you really have nothing to be excited about. First of all, here's why you need it: you're spending a thousand dollars on a pocket computer and you should be future-proofed. Seriously, I wouldn't recommend a 4G phone to anyone right now unless you're spending under $400. But you're not spending under $400; you're buying an iPhone.



      The bad news is that you will probably never notice any meaningful change over 4G LTE. Perhaps the experience will evolve over time, but there's nothing right now. I know what you're thinking, didn't Apple and Verizon talk about crazy gigabit speeds? Yes, and that's what every company is doing to talk up 5G right now, but it's also meaningless.

      5G is a combination of sub6 bands and mmWave bands. Millimeter wave (mmWave) bands are high frequency waves that offer super-fast, multi-gigabit speeds. The only problem is that they can't penetrate, well, anything. For mmWave to work, you need to be in line-of-sight with an antenna. Even a window will block it. Companies will hype up the ability to download a whole season of a show while waiting in line to board a plane. Just be careful not to put your phone in your pocket while it's downloading, or the speeds will drop drastically.

      Here's something that you can actually try with a mmWave smartphone. Go find a mmWave antenna. You'll have to go to a major city for this. Run a speed test and watch the super-fast data flow in. In the middle of the test, just put your hand in-between your phone and the 5G base station, and watch how quickly the speed drops.



      In other words, mmWave is pretty useless. That's where sub6 comes in. Sub6 covers frequencies below 6GHz, and they consist of low-band and mid-band frequencies. T-Mobile is doing the best here because it actually has its own 600MHz spectrum, and the 2.5GHz band that it picked up from Sprint.

      The idea is the lower the frequency, the better it is at penetrating buildings. Also, it's easier for your phone to send a signal back to the base station. Remember, the base station is much more powerful for sending a signal to your phone than your phone is at sending the signal back.

      I use T-Mobile, and I was happy to finally see the 5G signal light up on an iPhone. I did run into some connectivity issues, but I later found out that that was due to a single app using 45GB of cellular data over the course of just 48 hours, so now I'm throttled for a while. That app was The Weather Channel by the way, and if anyone has a weather app that they really love, feel free to let me know.

      Conclusion
      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is an absolutely delightful device, and I love it. After using Android for about six months, it felt good to use this phone, and it got me thinking about what a comparable Android smartphone would be.

      I couldn't think of one. I'm a fan of OnePlus devices like the 8 Pro, which has a beautiful QHD 120Hz OLED display and it's blazing-fast, but the camera doesn't even come close to what Apple is offering. Google's Pixels are always among my favorites, and while the camera is fantastic, it just doesn't feel premium. Like OnePlus, Samsung makes great hardware, but its image processing is so bad that I'd never carry it anywhere if I'm planning to capture an actual memory with a smartphone camera. Huawei phones are great, but they aren't sold in the U.S. and don't have Google services.



      The iPhone 12 Pro Max is perfect in almost every way. It's got the fastest internals, a stunning design, a nearly perfect display, and one of the best cameras around. It would be the complete package, if there wasn't a pandemic going on.

      But there is a pandemic going on, and most of us have to wear masks when we go out. If I'm at the supermarket and I open OneNote for my shopping list, I have to type a PIN, like a barbarian. Seriously, for a company that champions itself as one that cares about the issues, releasing a smartphone without a fingerprint sensor was incredibly tone-deaf, and for that reason, I simply can't recommend buying one.

      If this pandemic ends and we go back to a world where being limited to facial recognition makes sense, then by all means, I recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max. But until that happens, this device has to stay on the do not buy list. And the longer it takes, the better off you are just waiting for the iPhone 13.