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Editorial: Manufacturers, it’s time to put more USB-C ports on chargers

USB-C has continued to become more ubiquitous as more users adopt the small, reversible port. While all of our accessories are supporting it, chargers are lagging behind. Manufacturers —it is time to finally create chargers with more than a single USB-C port.

Even if you don’t have all your devices switched to USB-C yet, you are surely familiar with the new specification. USB-C is the connector type replacing the aging USB-A port. It is reversible and smaller than type-A ports and it supports faster speeds. USB-C cables that use the USB 3.1 Gen 2 protocol can handle up to 10Gb per second at full duplex.

Apple saw the usefulness of USB-C and made all new portable Macs utilize the cable exclusively, ditching USB-A, DisplayPort, and MagSafe in the process. The new iPad Pro also uses type-C.

Kanex GoPower USB-C chargers

Kanex GoPower USB-C chargers

Other accessory makers in the past few years have started to release products using USB-C at a faster rate. Dashcams like Owl use USB-C, as do recent GoPros, the Nikon Z range of cameras, air purifiers like Wynd, and headphones such as the Master & Dynamic ANC over head cans.

The point is, with so much of our gear now relying on the updated port design, why are we limited to chargers that only support one or maybe two USB-C ports max?

When AppleInsider reached out to several accessory makers, the main hangup that we were quoted was that USB-C PD takes too much power for more than two ports to be included on a charger at once. However, that doesn’t need to be the case.

USB-C PD —the PD stands for Power Delivery —is a dynamic charging technology that can handle up to 100 watts with specific cables and chargers. This is the kind of charger need to power up Apple’s latest Macs that use 60W or up to 87W of power draw.

Satechi 75W Dual USB-C multi-charger

Satechi 75W Dual USB-C multi-charger

What manufacturers seem to be trying to do is keep things simple by making all USB-C ports on their chargers support Power Delivery. Take the Satechi 75W Dual USB-C multi-charger. It sports two USB-C ports, with the top handling 60W output and the second handling 18W. The 60W is great for a Mac while the latter for an iPad Pro.

Then there are two legacy USB-A ports that charge at much lower speeds, usually five or seven watts. These ports are the ones that we wish would be swapped for low-power USB-C ports.

The same can be said for the absolutely exceptional Zendure SuperTank and SuperPort battery and multi-charger we reviewed, though it can handle up to 100W over USB-C.

In our ideal world, we’d have a four-port multi-charger with all USB-C. Two that support USB-C PD at fast speeds for power hungry gear such as Macs or iPads, and two slower ports for headphones, fitness accessories, etc.

Take my standard setup for example. Admittedly, I often truck around with more gear than the average consumer, but I don’t think my setup is all that odd.

When I head out, I take my MacBook Pro (or my iPad Pro), my iPhone, my Apple Watch, and a pair of headphones. Both my Mac and iPad Pro use USB-C to charge and with the newfound prevalence of USB-C Lightning cables I also use that to quick charge my iPhone and even my AirPods.

If I’m not taking my AirPods, I take my Master & Dynamic ANC headphones which came with a USB-C cable. I also use a USB-C Apple Watch charger because it can plug into my iPad or Mac.

Other gear that I travel with from time-to-time include my Nikon Z 7, my GoPro Hero 7, or my DJI Osmo, all of which use USB-C. The current option is to grab a bunch of USB-C to USB-A cables which is frustrating to bring along or to just charge two devices at once.

None of this is ideal.

Manufacturers have the ability to create all USB-C chargers without worrying about heat or power by just including slower ports that still put out the same amount of power as current chargers with both type A and C.

It is time for them to stop holding on to the legacy ports and embrace USB-C to push the industry forward and to finally allow early adopters and those with newer devices the ability to actually charge their gear the way they should be able to.

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Review: WaterField’s Tech Rolltop Backpack is a durable if pricey status symbol

WaterField’s latest backpack is a durable and versatile option for carrying your MacBook, iPad or other tech gear, but the price is only worth it if you put style on the same pedestal as function.

Sometimes I feel as if there’s a separate, alien world of Apple accessories buyers out there. To an extent I can understand the people who plunk down $1,000 on a new iPhone or $3,000 on a new Mac — often you’re spending hours with these machines day-in and day-out. If an iPhone is your primary device, an XS Max doesn’t seem far-fetched.

But as Apple fans are probably aware, there are some absurdly expensive accessories out there. Leather-wrapped chargers, Swarovski iPhone cases, Hermes Apple Watch bands and so on, many of which cost a lot without adding tangible value. The makers of these products count on the fact that someone who can afford a $1,000 iPhone probably has cash to spare.

WaterField, I’d say, falls somewhere in between luxury and pure practicality. Just about all of their products made of materials like leather, suede and canvas, yet while that’s unnecessary, it does have value in the context of things like pouches and backpacks.

The Tech Rolltop Backpack is, if anything, probably the most utilitarian thing they’ve made. As its name implies, the backpack’s signature feature is a collapsible top. This lets you shrink down if space is at a premium, or stuff it to the gills when it counts.

The pack comes in waxed canvas or ballistic nylon, depending on the color you want, and in two sizes: “Compact,” holding up to 15 liters, and “Full,” storing up to 24 liters. We went with the Full option in brown waxed canvas.

The tech focus of the Rolltop is evident is several respects. Two outward-facing pockets include an unsealed one for quick access to things like cards, your iPhone or headphones. A mesh laptop/tablet compartment sits up against your back, and the interior has a padded sleeve compartment that can fit a 15-inch MacBook. Only the Full bag can hold 15-inch laptops within the mesh section.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

WaterField sees the bag as useful for more than just the office, and along those lines there are two exterior side pockets. They’re relatively spacious, so they should be handy for things like GoPros, water bottles, protein shakers or even Bluetooth speakers.

The Full model feels equally spacious when you open up the main compartment. By design it includes just two divisions: a sleeve for your MacBook or iPad, and a zippered pocket for cables, chargers, and other small items. Some people might want additional pockets, but I imagine most won’t complain.

The sleeve is plush and probably preferable for carrying a Mac or iPad versus the exterior mesh, which is less comfortable and leaves your device exposed to the elements. You may need to start with the the former when loading the bag though — I found that if I waited until clothes and other items were in, even a 9.7-inch iPad (in a rugged case mind) took some force.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

The Rolltop does indeed let you cram in extra versus regular bags, for the simple reason that the top is flexible and opens straight. I tested it under a few circumstances, including even using it as a grocery bag — I was able to fit three large boxes of protein bars and four packages of ground turkey with room to spare.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

If you’re planning to use the product for weekend or overnight trips however, you should absolutely buy the Full model. On a brief Houston trip, one night and one day, even that size was just barely enough.

The same goes if the bag is serving both work and fitness tasks. You should be okay if you don’t need to bring much to work beyond your tech gear, but it could be hard to stash things like lunch, books, shoes, clothing and electronics simultaneously.

All that said, the product is extremely well-made. Stitching is tight and materials are tough, especially the waxed canvas, which seems like it would take a Bowie knife to rip. Both the canvas and the interior lining are water-resistant, although you should only stuff the bag so far if you’re expecting rain or snow, since you otherwise won’t be able to roll it shut.

Other nice touches include an adjustable magnetic clasp, and a foam lining at the bottom that helps preserve the bag’s shape when you’re loading it.

WaterField's Tech Rolltop Backpack

My only remaining complaints begin with the potential awkwardness of a roll-top design. If you need to grab something from the bottom you’ll have to plunge most of your arm in, which is a minor inconvenience but might still nudge some people towards alternatives.

The other is price. The Compact Rolltop is $229, and the Full is $249, which is an awful lot to spend on a backpack. When you consider that a bigger, equally durable bag like 5.11’s AMP24 is about $190, that’s difficult to justify.

Which brings us full circle. This bag is really for people who want a status symbol as much as something useful — whereas a 5.11 product looks like you just got home from a tour in Afghanistan, WaterField’s lineup is meant to blend in with the business casual world. In any environment it’ll probably impress colleagues.

If you can afford it and fashion does matter that much to you, by all means buy the Tech Rolltop — you won’t be disappointed.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy

The Waterfield Tech Rolltop Backpack is available in three colors and retails for $229 for the compact version and $249 for the full size.

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Hands on: Pixelmator Photo is king of the iPad photo editing apps

Since Pixelmator Photo is now available for iPad, AppleInsider takes you on a deep dive of the features and performance you can expect from the latest tablet-bound image editor.

Pixelmator Photo

Pixelmator Photo on iPad App Store

We’ve spent quite a bit of time using the original Pixelmator on our Mac, as well as the more powerful Pixelmator Pro. On iOS, we’ve utilized the original Pixelmator app but wanted more dedicated to photos —and with Pixelmator Photo, that’s just what we got.

Pixelmator Photo is a fast, capable photo editor that could easily handle anything we threw at it. Compared to other editors we’re fond of —such as Darkroom —Pixelmator Photo didn’t go from the iPhone to the iPad. It was designed from the beginning for Apple’s tablets.

We first saw Pixelmator Photo at Apple’s iPad Pro event last fall and have been eagerly awaiting the release ever since. For the past month or so we’ve been editing our best shots using the beta of Pixelmator Photo and were overwhelmingly impressed with its abilities.

UI and layout

The app itself is very well arranged. Most controls appear on the right side, with occasional sliders and filters available along the bottom. This leaves the bulk of the display dedicated to content.

Pixelmator Photo

Pixelmator Photo

From the top left, you can head back to the file selector, undo, or revert. This is important because everything in Pixelmator Photo is non-destructive so no matter how much editing you do, you can always go back to the original.

On the top right, the auto button, repair control, crop function, adjustments, export, and more are placed.

As you open different controls, they elegantly slide over the image without being burdensome. They even make use of popover so multiple elements could be open at the same time such as the adjustments panel and the “more” menu. It all feels very natural and fluid.

Pixelmator Photo file picker

Pixelmator Photo iCoud-based file picker

When you launch the app, it will automatically have any recent images ready to go. That doesn’t necessarily mean recent images you’ve opened with Pixelmator, but rather any stored on iCloud Drive. As an example, as we prepared our iMac 5K review, we had screenshots and other images littered across our desktop. Those images were then instantly available the second we opened the Pixelmator Photo app. Saying this is handy is an understatement.

A proper image workflow has been a bit of a rough point for iOS users and Pixelmator has done a great job simplifying this. It is painless to manage images on our Mac, and as long as they are in iCloud, it is just as easy to edit them on our tablet. This has made our iPad Pro our preferred device for image editing. At least the bulk of the time.

Editing imagery

Pixelmator Photo supports over 500 RAW formats which means even our newer Nikon Z 7 was supported.

Pixelmator Photo

Pixelmator Photo

One of the biggest, flagship features of Pixelmator Photo is machine learning. Pixelmator has leaned on Core ML to automatically improve photos. In our time with Pixelmator Photo, this has been spot on more often than not. It really does an amazing job adjusting the image. Frequently we’d just hit that and be on our way. If there was a particular look or effect we were trying to achieve however, we went manual.

This even applies to crop, where ML will automatically crop it so the subject is perfectly framed.

As you dig into the manual adjustments, each section can be toggled on/off, adjusted, or automatically set with the Machine Learning button that does its best to make it look as it should. We appreciated the ability to not just automate the entire photo using ML, but each individual adjustment type.

All of the tools were designed for touch, rather than a desktop UI. A few of the most intuitive controls include the Color Balance, Selective Color, and the Curves. Color Balance has a color wheel you can drag the selector in as well as adjustments on either side to tint your image. Curves shows a live histogram as you move the line around and add inflection points.

When adjusting, there are several pre-designed filters along the bottom that were “inspired by pro photography” as well as your own that you create. The list is quite extensive, but it isn’t the most filters we’ve seen in an editing app. They all are pretty solid and of course, you can tweak them once applied to dial in your look.

Pixelmator Photo

Pixelmator Photo export interface

When you’re finished editing an image, you have three options —modify the original in the Photos app, save the image to photos, or export it via the Share Sheet. Using the first option is unavailable if you didn’t open the original from the Photos app, which was usually the case for us as we opened from iCloud Drive. When using the export option, you first get an export screen that allows you to choose the format (HEIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF) and the quality. It even gives you a prediction of file size before you proceed. Then the Share Sheet appears with all the common destinations.

Should you buy it?

Yes. That is the easy, simple answer here. We consider the app to be cheap at only $4.99. That is also a one-time purchase, unlike Photoshop that requires the monthly subscription.

We love the layout, the abilities, and the amazing performance for such a low price. Editing on our tablet is much more convenient than always sitting down at our computer. In iOS 12, Apple really improved the camera import flow which makes getting photos from your shooter to your tablet all the easier.

If you want to try out Pixelmator Photo for yourself it is available now on the App Store.

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Review: The third-generation 2019 iPad Air is pro enough

The 2019 iPad Air is Apple’s newest mid-to-high tier tablet, and falls just below the Pro line and just above the sixth-generation iPad, making it unexciting, but arguably the go-to tablet for the general consumer.

2019 iPad Air

2019 iPad Air

Apple in 2019 currently sells five different iPads, in five different price points. There’s the 9.7-inch iPad which sells for $329, the iPad mini which sells for $399, this new iPad Air at $499, and the two iPad Pros at $799 and $999 respectively. On the surface, that looks like a lot of iPad in Apple’s lineup, but in 2019 maintaining a business that is just as large as the Mac, Apple has an iPad for everyone.

The mini is aimed at those who prefer a smaller, more compact device. The 2018 9.7-inch iPad is the budget-friendly alternative that is aimed squarely at the education market. The iPad Pros are targeting those who want to get the most out of their tablet. Which leave the iPad Air —right in the middle.

This middle ground means at times it can feel underwhelming, and in certain areas, behind. That doesn’t make it any less a capable device, however. With solid specs, it will likely be —and should be —the tablet that most gravitate towards.

Specs

2019 iPad Air display

2019 iPad Air Retina Display

This iPad now features a 10.5-inch Retina Display with a P3 wide color gamut, it has an A12 Bionic processor inside —which is also inside Apple’s flagship smartphone the iPhone XS, and XS Max —and it also now supports the first generation Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard.

The A12 Processor on the 2019 iPad Air is ridiculously fast. It pairs well with iOS 12 —and soon iOS 13. For the past two weeks that we’ve had the device, we’ve never seen the iPad Air struggle one bit. Everything is so seamless and just works right out of the box.

2019 iPad Air playing Fortnite

2019 iPad Air playing Fortnite

Gaming, just as we saw with the new 2019 iPad mini, was great. Titles like ‘Fortnite’ played smooth, even at a quicker 60 FPS with seldom errant dropped frames.

The pair of speakers for stereo are decent. They’re nothing to brag about, but definitely are a lot louder than any other tablet we’ve used this year, apart from Apple’s own Pro lineup. There are only two of the speakers rather than four on the Pro line, which means when you hold the tablet it is fairly easy to accidentally cover the speaker while will limit the sound output.

The overall software experience on the new iPad Air has been really good, too. We haven’t run into any bugs or app crashes. It’s still an iPad running the same old iOS we’re used to over the past few years so we’re not really getting anything special here.

We’re hoping this coming WWDC we’ll see something amazing from Apple with iOS 13 that can visually overhaul this experience. It’s certainly due.

2019 iPad Air and Apple Pencil

2019 iPad Air with Apple Pencil

The Pencil support is a nice addition that a lot of people are going to appreciate. Unfortunately, the display doesn’t have Apple’s ProMotion technology which gives you a 120Hz refresh rate for a smoother experience. Slower refresh rates mean eagle-eyed artists will notice it to be slightly jumpy while using the Apple Pencil. Unless you are really particular about your drawing, you won’t notice this difference. Those who are that serious will likely prefer the iPad Pro and the second generation Apple Pencil instead, but for note taking and less demanding work, there are no problems to be found here.

The smart connector is new here as well, it’s meant to be used for Apple’s own smart keyboard which in our opinion is the best keyboard that you can buy for the iPad. The keyboard is a bit stiff, and mushy at the same time, but once you use it long enough, it’ll start to wear down and soften up to a point where every keystroke feels great. There are hundreds of Bluetooth keyboards out in the market already, but the smart keyboard is what we’d highly recommend.

2019 iPad Air Smart Keyboard

2019 iPad Air Smart Keyboard

It is unfortunate that we still don’t have additional accessories to use the Smart Connector. When Apple debuted it originally, third-parties were going to be able to take advantage of it. Years later, we’ve only seen two or three others actually test the waters, leaving the connector mostly for Apple’s utility.

Should you grab one?

2019 iPad Air

2019 iPad Air

The iPad Air exists because it gives Apple an option to serve a bunch of different people who use an iPad for a bunch of different reasons. Some may want a smaller iPad that they can easily pack in their bag or a small tablet to give to their kid so they pick up the iPad mini. Some people want the most basic, and most affordable iPad so they go for the 9.7-inch iPad.

This exists because it gives Apple that happy medium option between the low-end iPad to the high-end Pro models, and that’s why it’s here. The new iPad Air gives you a big 10.5-inch display that is bright, and color accurate. It supports Apple Pencil, Smart Keyboard, and it has the same fast A12 Bionic processor from its $1000 smartphone, and you’re getting all of that for just $499, the same price that the original iPad shipped for nine years ago, and that is pretty impressive.

Again, this is a case where the AppleInsider audience varies a great deal from the target market —no Promotion is a potential issue, as is the need for the original Apple Pencil, versus the new one on the newer iPad Pro line. But, even all that considered, overall, the new iPad Air is a solid 4/5, with it a bit higher for most of the iPad-using public, and a hair lower for the “prosumer” market.

Where to buy

Apple’s 2019 iPad Air can be ordered from Apple authorized resellers with cash discounts of up to $10 off. To find the lowest prices, check out our iPad Air Price Guide, which is updated throughout the day.

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Why you should pick up the 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro instead of the new iPad Air

A couple of weeks ago, Apple quietly announced a new iPad Air. This new third generation Air now features Apple’s latest A12 Bionic processor, a laminated Retina display and now supports the first generation Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. But should you buy this over the 2017 10.5″ iPad Pro?

2019 iPad Air in Space Gray


2019 iPad Air in Space Gray

The new 2019 iPad Air retails for $499 and goes all the way up to $779 for a 256GB, Wi-Fi and cellular model. We’ve been using this iPad as our daily tablet for the past few days to watch YouTube videos or catch up on some shows on Hulu, answer emails and doodle some artworks for fun. Before Apple announced this new Air we regularly used the 10.5-inch iPad Pro from 2017 which physically looks identical to this new iPad Air, minus an extra set of speakers at the top, and a camera flash on the back.

Fortnite on 2019 iPad Air

2019 iPad Air playing Fortnite

This new iPad Air, as we mentioned, has new internals. It’s using the A12 Bionic processor found in iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, and the new iPad mini 5 so it’s reliable, and fast. I didn’t notice any slowdowns whatsoever during my testing.

It also has a new display that’s more color accurate and one that looks way better than any of the previous models. It also now supports the first generation Apple Pencil.

The two speakers are powerful and loud, as they have always been on an iPad. But, like with most iPads, you’re likely going to cover at least one speaker with your hand, muffling the sound a bit.

The new Air also features a smart connector on the right hand side of the device to use Apple’s Smart Keyboard. We think it’s the best keyboard you can buy for the iPad, even though it feels a bit mushy at times, but for whatever reason, this feels right to us. There are hundreds of Bluetooth keyboards available on the market, but if you’re looking for the best, the Smart Keyboard is the one you should consider buying.

The new iPad Air is pretty great. You’re getting a really fast processor, amazing display, first party keyboard support.

Despite all this, right now, you should really look into getting a 2017 10.5-inch iPad Pro instead.

Apple Pencil and iPad Air

First gen Apple Pencil and 2019 iPad Air

With the iPad Pro, you’re getting ProMotion display which gives you a 120Hz refresh rate versus the 60Hz found on the Air. This makes the UI feel more responsive to your touch and has some other niceties when drawing with an Apple Pencil.

Two, you’re getting an extra pair of speakers which is notably better for consuming media or playing music —and if you cover one with a hand, you lose less than you are if you cover one of two speakers on the iPad Air. And, you’re also getting a slightly better rear camera with an LED flash if iPad photography is your thing.

Geekbench scores for 2017 iPad Pro and 2019 iPad Air

Geekbench scores for 2017 iPad Pro and 2019 iPad Air

The difference in processing power between the A10X Fusion and A12 Bionic is slight, but the A12 Bionic has a lead. Regardless, the A10X on the 10.5-inch iPad Pro is still a powerful processor that can handle anything you throw at it. From Pro apps to graphic intensive games, you’re not going to be disappointed with either model’s performance.

Both models support the first generation Apple Pencil, so this is a dead heat. Unless you use the half-inch Lightning adapter, you’ve still got to hang the Apple Pencil off the iPad like an expensive lollipop stick, instead of the magnetic wireless charging on the 2018 iPad Pro lineup.

Geekbench scores shows that the new iPad Air scored 4765 in single core and 11379 in multi core while the 10.5-inch iPad Pro scored 3916 in single core and 9346 in multi core. In the real world, the Pro model also has 4GB of RAM vs 3GB found on the 2019 Air, which means that more apps can be stored in RAM, and not dumped when things get tight.

The price between the two are really close and sometimes, you can even find the older 10.5-inch Pro model at a much lower price than the newly announced Air.

Apple Pencil and iPad Air

Apple Pencil and iPad Air

If you’re looking to purchase your first iPad and you don’t want the new iPad mini or the regular 9.7-inch iPad or just don’t have enough money to buy the new 11-inch or 12.9-inch Pro models, look into the 2017 iPad Pro. It’s almost the same price, if not a bit less expensive than the new 2019 iPad Air, plus you’re getting a much better display with ProMotion, four speakers, and a slightly better camera.

Where to buy

Apple authorized resellers are currently accepting orders for the new 2019 iPad Air and iPad mini 5 with discounts of up to $10 off. Meanwhile, Apple’s 2017 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros are up to $380 off instantly.

Updated throughout the day, the AppleInsider Price Guides feature the lowest prices and product availability from top Apple authorized resellers.

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Apple’s 2019 iPad Air, iPad mini support Logitech’s Crayon stylus

 

2019 iPad Air and mini models do support the Crayon, Logitech’s cheaper alternative to the Apple Pencil, according to Apple.

Logitech Crayon for iPad

A product page for the Crayon lists the stylus as working with the new iPads, as well as 2018’s “budget” iPad. It’s incompatible with 2018 iPad Pros, however.

The Crayon shares some features of the Pencil, such as automatic connection, palm rejection, and pressure sensitivity. Its main feature though is its price: $69.95, almost $30 less than the first-generation Pencil, and over $59 less than the second-gen model. The latter is intended for iPad Pros only.

Missing from the Crayon are tilt functions or the ability to tap its side for selecting different modes.

The Crayon was originally launched a year ago as an education-only product. It took several months for sales to open up to the public.

The updated Air and mini models are largely performance upgrades, with few feature or cosmetic changes. Enhancements include a larger 10.5-inch display on the Air, A12 processors, True Tone displays, up to 256 gigabytes of storage, and first-generation Apple Pencil support.

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Apple’s Swift Playgrounds 3.0 enters first public beta

 

Apple on Tuesday issued the first beta of Swift Playgrounds 3.0, the next version of its iPad-based teaching tool for the Swift programming language.

Swift Playgrounds

One new feature is the ability to give Playground Books “directories of Swift code and resources that can be imported for use by any page in that book,” Apple’s release notes say. To download the beta people must go through the TestFlight app.

Some known bugs include playgrounds getting stuck when live issues are present or after recording movies. Workarounds are available. Notes also mention that the app makes use of Swift 5, itself still in beta.

Apple’s last major update of Swift Playgrounds was 2.2 in November, which brought changes like new playgrounds and better discovery of third-party content.

Swift Playgrounds debuted in 2016 as an in-house effort to teach children and adults how to code using the company’s Swift programming language. The software relies on a 3D world, animations, and interactive tools to teach basic coding techniques, even to those who have no prior coding experience.

Swift can nominally be used on non-Apple platforms but is almost exclusively used by iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS apps.

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Today’s best deals: $279 iPads and HomePods, $1,199 MacBook Pros, $800 off loaded 2017 15″ MacBook Pro

 

New deals have arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day. Pick up an Apple iPad or HomePod for just $279 (up to $70 off). Meanwhile, current non-Touch Bar 13-inch MacBook Pros are marked down to $1,199 —and B&H has limited stock available of the 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro with 1TB of space and Radeon 560 graphics (now just $2,599 with a free sleeve).

Hot February deals

With discounts of up to $800 off, these deals offer shoppers the lowest prices available on iPads, HomePods and MacBook Pros in new, factory sealed condition. Many models also come with additional perks, such as free expedited shipping within the contiguous U.S. for fast delivery just in time for Valentine’s Day and no sales tax collected in multiple states. For a full list of markdowns, be sure to check out our Apple Price Guide.

2018 iPads for $279.99

HomePods for $279 (limited supply)

13″ MacBook Pros with function keys for $1,199

$800 off 2017 15″ MacBook Pros (limited supply)

Apple Watch Series 3 (Stainless Steel) from $369

Apple Watch Series 3 (Aluminum) from $289

Apple Watch Nike+ Series 3 as low as $269

Additional Apple Deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running a handful of additional exclusive promotions this month on Apple hardware that will not only deliver the lowest prices on many of the items, but also throw in discounts on AppleCare, software and accessories. These deals are as follows:

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Apple got tablets right, and created a whole new market with the iPad

The launch of the original iPad on January 27, 2010 saw pundits guaranteeing its failure, some Apple fans disappointed, and Steve Jobs turning out to be right. Again.

Steve Jobs unveils the original iPad

Steve Jobs unveils the original iPad

In the last few months before the much, much anticipated iPad was launched on January 27, 2010, competitors had been talking up their own tablets. Then suddenly it was rumored that Apple’s one was going to be called the iSlate and competitors such as Microsoft were calling everything they could ‘slate PCs.’

Three days before the iPad was announced, Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer even unveiled three such slate PCs. He did so in his typical hesitant, clunky style and launched a video that was over practically before he’d introduced it.

Given that and the way he belabored that all the slate PCs he showed were prototypes, it all felt a little desperate. Apple was coming, it seemed to say, and rivals were afraid.

Microsoft, for one, should really have been feeling chagrin. As far back as 1996, its founder Bill Gates wrote in his book The Road Ahead that “in the future lots of people will be taking handwritten notes on computer tablets rather than paper.”

True, by then we’d already seen the Apple Newton so Gates’s book wasn’t as visionary as it seemed to think. However, Microsoft had done more than talk about tablets, it had released Microsoft Windows for Pen Computing in 1992. Then by the early 2000s, companies were making Pocket PCs.

Microsoft had tablets long before Apple. Many, many companies had tablets. It was just that nobody was buying them.

So this is where we were in early 2010. The entire computing industry was waiting for an Apple tablet, the world’s press was going to cover its launch. And then, as now, Apple didn’t say a word about what was coming.

The earliest official indication of something, anything, happening came on January 18, 2010, when Apple issued a press invitation to the launch. It was less cryptic than usual as it blatantly said: “Come see our latest creation.”

Apple's invitation to what would be the launch of the iPad

Apple’s invitation to what would be the launch of the iPad

At 10am Pacific on Wednesday, 27 January, 2010, Steve Jobs stepped out onto the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. He didn’t pause the way he had with the iPhone three years before. He didn’t say that this was a day he’d been waiting for.

Yet he could have done because as we found out much later, the story of the iPad began much earlier. It began earlier even than the iPhone.

Origin story

You know that the Newton was Apple’s first tablet computer, albeit one that needed you to use a stylus instead of your fingers. It’s debatable whether there is really a line from the Newton MessagePad to the iPad but if this were a case of evolution, we’ve found the missing link.

That 2012 video is a demonstration of a pen-based Mac that was made around 1992 but never shipped as a commercial product in the US. It was called the Apple Penlite and the version shown here is a stylus-based tablet version of the Macintosh PowerBook Duo.

Reportedly, though, there was also a version that ran with what we would now call multi-touch gestures.

Apple dropped that and it dropped the Newton but in 2004 Steve Jobs revealed that Apple had continued looking at a PDA. “We got enormous pressure to bring back the Newton or do a PDA and we looked at it,” he said at the D2 All Things Digital Conference. “And we said, wait a minute, 90 percent of the people who use these things just want to get information out of them, they don’t necessarily want to put information into them on a regular basis. Cellphones are going to do that.”

At the time, he said this as if that were the end of it, that cellphones were a market that Apple could never compete in. Yet by this moment in 2004, Apple had produced a technology that would end up becoming the iPhone. It’s just that it wasn’t looking at a phone then, it was looking to do a tablet.

CAD drawings from 2004 of the iPad (Source: The Verge)

CAD drawings from 2004 of the iPad (Source: The Verge)

That image and others were later to be used as exhibits in an Apple vs Samsung court case where we also saw photographs of later prototype iPads.

It’s odd just how unclear and uncertain the origins of the iPad are given that it and the iPhone are so important to Apple and that none of this was so very long ago. Yet while the CAD drawings show a date of 2004, Walter Isaacson claims in his Steve Jobs biography that the idea for the iPad didn’t come until 2005.

Even then he recounts two different versions. One is that Jony Ive and his team had been working on improving the trackpads of the MacBook Pro when they developed multi-touch. Ive showed Jobs a version of their attempt to move multi-touch onto a screen. Isaacson reports that Jobs then said that “this is the future.”

Alternatively, Isaacson also recounts a version that sounds more colorful and apocryphal but which he backs up with quotes from Jobs and Bill Gates. Reportedly Gates and Jobs were at a dinner party for the birthday of a Microsoft engineer who, says Jobs, “badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software.”

Apparently this wasn’t a new topic for this unnamed Microsoft engineer —”this dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it” —but each time the conversation was about using a stylus. “But he was doing the device all wrong,” continued Jobs. “As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead… I was so sick of it that I came home and said ‘F*** this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.'”

What is clear that this work to make a tablet was changed into making a phone. We know this from how Jobs, Ive and others have said so, but also from the fact that it happened. The iPhone came out in 2007 and it wasn’t until 2010 that the tablet appeared.

It’s not as if the road from idea to tablet was easy but once the iPhone was done, and also was such an overwhelming success, the iPad was at least more assured.

Except that Apple was new to tablets and so many other companies had tried and failed. The iPad’s success was of course going to be down to its technology but also very much to how Apple positioned it.

And as much as unveiling the hardware on January 27, 2010, Jobs was really selling us on the idea of an iPad.

Showman

Steve Jobs got a standing ovation when he stepped out onto that Yerba Buena Center for the Arts stage and he got it before he even said “Good morning.” He got the welcome because this was his public return to Apple after having taken six months leave while recovering from a liver transplant.

The extent of applause did seem to surprise him and he did still look ill, but he was soon into a very astutely prepared presentation.

Steve Jobs on stage for the first time after his liver transplant operation

Steve Jobs on stage for the first time after his liver transplant operation

Twice he teased about being there to show us all something new and then instead said he wanted to tell us other things first. He gave a typical update on the state of Apple and of course the numbers were impressive, or at least they were at the time.

While they’ve now all been dwarfed by the company’s later success, in January 2010 Jobs was able to report that the company had sold its 250 millionth iPod. He was able to say that there were 284 Apple Stores and that they’d seen 50 million visitors in the last quarter. He could tell us that there were now over 140,000 applications in the App Store and that they’d been downloaded over 3 billion times.

It was all the regular stuff but in this presentation it was specifically laying the ground work for how Apple was the company to deliver a tablet. How it was the firm that would of course get this right.

After the numbers about the stores, Jobs showed an image of himself and Steve Wozniak from the earliest days of Apple and then paused. “We started Apple in 1976,” he said. “Thirty-four years later, we just ended our holiday quarter, our first fiscal quarter of 2010, with $15.6 billion dollars of revenue. That means Apple is an over-50 billion dollar company. Now, I like to forget that because that’s not how we think about Apple but it is pretty amazing.”

Steve Jobs recalls forming Apple with Steve Wozniak

Steve Jobs recalls forming Apple with Steve Wozniak

It was also the cue for him to expand on the revenue number, to talk to us about how Apple gets this from three product lines. Those were the iPod, iPhone and the Mac.

“Now what’s really interesting about this is that iPods are mobile devices,” he said. “iPhones are mobile devices. And most of the Macs that we ship now are laptops. They’re mobile devices. Apple is a mobile devices company, that’s what we do.”

Remember that competitors had been making tablets for at least a decade. Here was Steve Jobs saying that Apple was bigger and better than them all. “It turns out that by revenue, Apple is the largest mobile devices company in the world now.”

He belabored the point, driving home that Apple was larger than Sony —or at least that company’s mobile devices business —and the same with Samsung and Nokia.

With us all now fully briefed on Apple’s stature in the mobile devices market, he finally went into the iPad part of the presentation. Or appeared too.

Jobs quotes the Wall Street Journal on the hyped-up rumors of an Apple tablet

Jobs quotes the Wall Street Journal on the hyped-up rumors of an Apple tablet

“But before we get to that,” he said to laughter, “I want to go back to 1991 when Apple announced and shipped its first PowerBooks.”

Now he was underlining Apple’s hardware expertise and how it led the industry. He spoke of how the PowerBook made the laptop into what we now recognize as one. “It was the first laptop that had a TFT screen the first modern LCD screens. It was the first laptop that pushed the keyboard up, creating palm rests and had an integrated pointing tool, in this case a trackball.”

Amazingly, we’re only just over six minutes into this presentation but Jobs has primed us to think that Apple is the best mobile devices company in the world and also the best at making laptops.

And finally, it was here.

“A question has arisen lately,” said Jobs. “Is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone. The bar is pretty high. In order to really create a new category of devices, those devices are going to have to be far better at doing some key tasks. They’re going to have to be far better at doing some really important things. Better than the laptop. Better than the smartphone.”

He sketched out some tasks like browsing the web, doing email, reading.

“If there’s going to be a third category of device, it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone. Otherwise it has no reason for being. Now, some people have thought that that’s a netbook. The problem is that netbooks aren’t better at anything.”

He dismissed netbooks for their lack of speed, lack of quality and poor software. He said they’re “just cheap laptops and we don’t think that they’re a third category of device.”

And then he said “But we think we’ve got something that is and we’d like to show it to you today for the first time. And we call it the iPad.”

The first time we saw the word iPad

The first time we saw the word iPad

It’s as well that Jobs had done all this work positioning the iPad because just about the instant that slide appeared, so did the first criticisms of the device. The very first criticism, though, was valid. It was about the name iPad.

Among many references online to Maxi-Pad tampon and among Twitter references to #iTampon, there were criticisms that clearly no women work in Apple’s naming department. Fast Company‘s Alissa Walker or perhaps her headline writer said it best, though, in a piece called “Apple’s iPad Name Not the First Choice for Women. Period.”

Slated

If you got an original iPad when it actually went on sale in April that year, your first reaction was surprised at how small it was. Then after a few minutes of using it, you tended to forget that and even come to think the opposite. Seeing a full website page at a time did feel like, as Jobs said, “holding the internet in your hands.”

Look at the bezels on the original iPad

Look at the bezels on the original iPad

The majority of critics did not wait to get one, did not wait for it to go on sale, before they were pronouncing the iPad a certain flop.

Business Insider called it “a big yawn” and a disappointment, saying that Jobs “didn’t deliver.”

InfoWorld didn’t even wait for the announcement, let alone the product, before it went a bit crazy with the idea of a “coming Apple tablet-pocaplypse.” Written for IT professionals in corporations, it advised “an outright ban [on the iPad] is in order.” It even told them to make any excuse they liked but ban the iPad and “seek to contain the situation by offering up an alternative tablet solution running the IT-supported and IT-approved Windows 7 operating system.”

John C Dvorak was always more of a clickbait and shock-jock style of pundit but he at least waited until the announcement, even if he didn’t see an iPad himself. Still, he reckoned it was a serious misstep. “I’m of the opinion and hope that this device is only released as a market test and placeholder for something more spectacular in the future,” he wrote.

Spectacular future

If Dvorak’s notion of a market test was bizarre for a business writer, you could say that he was right that something more spectacular would be coming in the future.

Despite the critics, despite being late to the whole idea of tablets, Apple made the iPad and we bought it in our millions. It’s had some ups and downs since that 2010 launch but it’s also got progressively more spectacular.

You’ve seen how shockingly huge the bezels on the original model now seem to us. Here’s another way to see the difference between then and now.

Main image: 2018 11-inch iPad Pro home screen. Inset, to scale: original iPad home screen

Main image: 2018 11-inch iPad Pro home screen. Inset, to scale: original iPad home screen

The main image is a home screen from the current 11-inch iPad Pro. The two devices have slightly different dimensions. The original iPad was 9.56 inches by 7.47 inches and the 2018 model is 9.74 inches by 7.02 inches.

However, look at the inset image. That’s the home screen of an original iPad and it’s rendered here to scale. This is how far just the quality of the iPad screen has come since January 27, 2010, when Jony Ive said that the iPad was “magical”.

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New iPad and fifth-generation iPad mini on the way according to Russian regulatory filings

 

Filings with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) appear to indicate new models of iPad could be on the way, with six model numbers potentially covering both a refresh of the standard-sized iPad as well as the rumored fifth-generation iPad mini.

The fourth-generation iPad mini

The fourth-generation iPad mini

The new filings with the EEC reveals the six model numbers are “tablet computers” and are registered to Apple. Published today, the notification advises the tablets are certified for sale in Russia, due to the inclusion of encryption-related features.

The six model numbers are A2123, A2124, A2133, A2152, A2153, and A2154, reports MySmartPrice. The sequential nature of the model numbers, and the grouping, suggests there are at least two different types of device they apply to, with the A2123 and S2124 likely to be for a different model to the rest.

EEC filings showing new model numbers for Apple

EEC filings showing new model numbers for Apple “tablet computers”

The presence of the filing suggests there could be a launch of new iPad models in the relatively near future, but doesn’t advise of when exactly it could be. Considering the last iPad launch took place in March 2018, excluding the iPad Pro refresh, it is likely that whatever Apple has planned for the iPad product family will be unveiled at around the same time.

The iPad refresh is rumored to include elements borrowed from the design of the iPad Pro, potentially incorporating a larger display in a similar-sized body and a thinner construction. A 10-inch display has been touted, though a shift to Face ID from Touch ID has yet to be suggested.

Little has been speculated about the new iPad mini, except that it would be a new low-priced model compared to the more recent release. If launched, it would be the first update to the product line in over three years.