Apple’s AirPods have been amazingly successful. They have regularly been praised and consistently big sellers. Some surveys have claimed that AirPods owners have been ecstatic in their appreciation of the in-ear buds, with 98% or respondents either satisfied or very satisfied with them, as reported by Fortune.
There have been plenty of rumors recently suggesting that the second version of AirPods were almost with us. New features such as hands-free “Hey, Siri” were hinted at.
Improved electronics with biometrics and health monitoring were suggested to be on the cards.
And just a couple of days ago, it was rumored that the next AirPods would fix the current models’ problem: that they might slip out of your ears.
The new leak
But now, reliable leaker @OnLeaks has tweeted that we shouldn’t be getting excited about the new, upgraded earbuds just yet.
Now, @OnLeaks correctly predicted the design of the iPad Pro last year, when I was decidedly skeptical, so he has a record of accurate leaks. What he says today sounds promising, apart from one bit, which we’ll come to.
Here’s what he says.
Some #AirPods2 details I got from a new and yet unconfirmed but seemingly reliable source. Thus, I can’t vouch these at 100%… – New wireless charging #AirPods Case to be launched soon BUT shipped with current AirPods – Brand new AirPods + new color(s) likely unveiled this fall
He’s careful to stress this is not certain, but it’s certainly intriguing. I’m sure he’s right that the wireless charging case for AirPods is coming. Well, we know it is on its way because Apple told us about this case over a year ago when it announced the wireless charging pad, AirPower.
It makes perfect sense that the new case would be released when AirPower was – I believe both will be formally unveiled at an Apple special event in March.
As @OnLeaks points out, it would be weird if Apple announced a case for AirPods and then followed up with AirPods 2 shortly afterward.
It’s disappointing that we might have to wait until the Fall for the new version, but at least a new color or colors is something to look forward to.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. AirPods have been incredibly successful, with stock shortages common because of high demand. So, really, why would Apple update them when they’re doing so well?
The bit I don’t quite get – and the 2 cool features
The first cool feature is the wireless-chargeable case to go with AirPower.
The other feature is related to the bit of the rumors I haven’t quite squared.
There’s just one thing, which keeps me hoping the new rumor may be wrong. The latest iOS beta includes a set-up screen so you can use Siri on AirPods hands-free, that is, without touching the earbud to awaken the virtual personal assistant as you do now.
Now, why would that be there if Apple doesn’t believe it’s not going to be used soon?
Maybe the chip in the current AirPods is capable of hands-free, though in that case why hasn’t it surfaced before, if all it needed was a software upgrade?
Or maybe, just maybe, the wireless charging case will come with a gently updated chip inside – what shall we call these, AirPods 1.5?
Which would leave the way clear for a full update in the Fall as this rumor suggests.
To look at it another way, since wireless charging will be a step forward, anything else on top of that will be a proper treat.
I’m keeping my ear glued to every single new credible hint about AirPods 2, so please check back to find out the latest.
New Paid Apple News Service Said to Feature Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal plans to join a new paid subscription news service run by Apple, according to two people familiar with the plans, as other publishers chafe at the terms that the Silicon Valley company is demanding of its partners.
Other major publishers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have opted out of joining the subscription service, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans.
Apple and The Wall Street Journal plan to announce the deal Monday at a media event at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The event is intended to draw attention to the company’s bet on news and entertainment, including a streaming service that will put Apple in direct competition with Netflix, Amazon and HBO.
The service, described by some as a “Netflix for news,” will offer access to a new paid tier of the Apple News app. Through that tier, readers will be able to consume articles from hundreds of participating magazines and news outlets. The app’s free tier will still let people read a smattering of select articles from a wide variety of publishers.
To persuade publishers to join the paid service, Apple executives have said the scale of Apple News, which is installed on every iPhone sold to consumers, could introduce millions of new customers to their content.
But the most recent terms that Apple is offering to publishers ask for a cut of roughly half of the subscription revenue involved in the service, the people said. Apple has also asked publishers to give unlimited access to all their content, which has caused concern among potential partners, they said. A subscription is expected to cost $10 a month.
The deal’s terms have caused some publishers to recoil, as a 50 percent cut is higher than the 30 percent that Apple usually takes from apps and subscriptions sold through its App Store. Publishers are also concerned that they won’t have access to important data about the consumers — credit cards, email addresses and other subscriber information — as part of the deal.
Representatives from Apple, The Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post declined to comment. Some deal terms were previously reported by Recode and The Wall Street Journal.
As sales of Apple’s marquee product, the iPhone, start to slow, the company is expanding into different software-based businesses, which typically have higher profit margins and do not rely on supply chains and manufacturing.
Publishers have also been seeking to expand beyond their core subscriber bases, finding new audiences across nontraditional platforms and striking deals with tech companies. Apple has teamed up with news organizations on its Apple News product for years, offering select content to consumers for free.
But publishers have grown wary of some partnerships in recent years, as past relationships with companies like Facebook, Medium and others have soured. In the past, Facebook has inked deals with publishers to fund or support new initiatives, only to quickly change plans and yank support from one year to the next.
The Google Stadia game controller feels surprisingly great
Google today took the wraps off its Stadia cloud gaming platform, showing off a bold but largely untested vision of the future of gaming that involves distributing and playing software in real-time over the internet. We still don’t know a lot about how Stadia will work, how much it might cost, whether it will operate as a Netflix-style subscription service for consumers or use a different business model, or when exactly it will come out later this year. But we did get our hands on the custom controller Google built, the only physical piece of the Stadia package.
Surprisingly, the Stadia controller feels and looks great. Granted, we didn’t get to try it on a live Stadia demo, but we did get to go hands-on with the same white and orange model that was used onstage during the reveal. It has a heft and texture similar to recent Xbox One gamepads — specifically the one that released with the Xbox One S redesign — but with the thumbstick layout of Sony’s DualShock 4.
It features a USB-C port on top, a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom, and dedicated buttons to trigger Google Assistant-powered voice features and capture video of your gameplay. In a nice nod to gaming culture, images of the controller on Google’s website show it may have the Konami Code sequence as a barcode label on the bottom of the device, below the headphone jack. You can even type the requisite commands into the Stadia website to bring up a 3D model of the controller that you can inspect in your browser window. The controller we tried at GDC didn’t have the code on it, so it’s unclear whether the commercial version will feature it or if it’s just a fun Easter egg.
In one impressive demo shown onstage, Google showed off a feature that would let you use the Assistant button on the controller to pull a YouTube tutorial showing you how to overcome the specific hurdle or puzzle that’s giving you trouble in that exact moment in the game. The controller is also used to launch right into games that you may find on YouTube’s live streaming platform, so you can immediately start playing a title a favorite streamer of yours is playing at that moment.
According to Phil Harrison, former Sony and Xbox exec and current vice president at Google, the controller connects directly to Google’s data centers — rather than any specific screen you might be using — so you won’t need to re-sync it to, say, your laptop when you stop playing on the TV. In an interview with The Verge, Harrison says you’ll pair it with the Stadia network using a companion mobile app, which will connect the controller first to your local Wi-Fi network and from there to Google’s Stadia service.
We don’t know how much the controller will cost, or whether or it will come bundled with a Stadia plan. (Assuming there will be a subscription plan of some sort, which still isn’t clear.) But it doesn’t seem like Google skimped on this controller, which is a good sign for those who were worried it would be a cheaper, lower-quality gamepad compared with the devices that ship with Microsoft and Sony consoles.
And if you don’t want to use this controller, you won’t have to: According to Harrison, the service will support other gamepads, too. It sounds like the Google Assistant integration may be the only thing you’ll miss.
Elon Musk: Tesla Model Y Will Be Unveiled on March 14
Elon Musk announced on Twitter Sunday that Tesla would unveil its long-awaited Model Y on March 14. The event will take place at the company’s L.A. design studio.
According to Musk’s tweets, the Model Y is about 10% bigger than Tesla’s Model 3 but has slightly less battery range. In a January letter to Tesla shareholders, Musk said the Model Y would be cheaper to make because it shares 75% of its components with the Model 3. He also said high volume production of the car would begin at the end of 2020.
Musk first teased the Model Y in a 2015 tweet, which was quickly deleted. The Model Y will split the difference between the Model 3 and Tesla’s larger SUV, the Model X, giving the company a foothold in the crossover SUV business, which has proved lucrative throughout the industry.
Musk’s announcement of the Model Y unveiling comes amid increased scrutiny of his activity on Twitter from the Securities and Exchange Commission after he tweeted in February that Tesla would make 500,000 cars this year. That was at odds with the January shareholder letter, which said Tesla would produce 360,000 to 400,000 cars this year. According to the SEC, the tweet violated a settlement reached with Musk after he falsely claimed to have secured a deal to take Tesla private.
You may not be able to buy a Model Y yet, but you could ride in one: Musk said the March 14 launch would include test rides.
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