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Apple Watch styles drop to $169 (record low prices); AirPods fall to $139 at Amazon

 

Fresh early Black Friday markdowns have been issued at Amazon, with Apple Watch devices dropping to new record low prices thanks to discounts of up to $350 off. Meanwhile, Apple AirPods have received another price cut, knocking the earphones down to $139 while supplies last.

Apple Watch and AirPod deals at Amazon

New Apple deals

Kicking off the pre-Black Friday sale, Amazon has dropped prices on several Apple Watch devices, with Series 3 models as low as $169.99 and Apple Watch Series 4 styles up to $350 off.

According to our Apple Watch Price Guide, these the best deals available on the devices found below.

The AppleInsider Price Guide also picked up a new discount on 2019 Apple AirPods with Charging Case. Now $139 after an additional $5 price drop, this is the the lowest price on record at Amazon for the handy earphones. At press time, the AirPods are in stock and ready to ship, without an extended wait like the one to two month delay found on Apple AirPods Pro.

For the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers, stay tuned to AppleInsider for exclusive savings and the lowest prices on Apple hardware and accessories. Looking for deals on Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro? Check out our savings guide for discounts of up to $438 off.

Apple Watch Series 3 for $169

Apple Watch Series 4 up to $350 off

Apple Watch Series 5 up to $80 off

2019 AirPods on sale

Additional Apple deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running additional exclusive savings 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 more. These deals are as follows:

  1. Save up to $438 on Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro
  2. Best early Black Friday deals on everything Apple
  3. Apple AirPods Pro are on sale
  4. Pick up a 2018 13″ MacBook Pro for $1,399
  5. 2019 15″ MacBook Pros drop to $1,999

Interested in additional Apple hardware? See if there is a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch deal that will save you $100s by checking out prices.appleinsider.com.

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Ex-Apple executives take aim at datacenter processor market

 

A trio of former Apple executives who worked on the iPhone maker’s mobile chips have launched their own startup to design processors destined for use in data centers, with the company Nuvia recently raising $53 million in funding.

From left to right: John Bruno, Gerard Williams III, and Manu Gulati

From left to right: John Bruno, Gerard Williams III, and Manu Gulati

The three founders of Nuvia are Gerard Williams III, Manu Gulati, and John Bruno, who all worked for Apple for multiple years. Williams left Apple earlier this year after spending nine years at the company, leaving his position as senior director of platform architecture, and having helped architect Apple’s CPU and Systems-on-Chip development for Apple’s self-designed A-series processors.

According to Williams’ LinkedIn, he was the “Chief Architect for all Apple CPU and SOC development,” including leading work on the Cyclone, Typhoon, Twister, Hurricane, Monsoon, and Vortex architectures.

Gulati worked on mobile SoC development for eight years at Apple, before being hired away by Google in 2017. Bruno worked on Apple’s platform architecture group for five years after spending time at AMD, before making a similar exit to Google.

Reuters reports the trio are using their backgrounds in mobile chip development and the creation of power-efficient but powerful processors for the iPhone and other Apple products in Nuvia, but for data center usage. By targeting a processor market that typically uses power-hungry chips, the team are hoping their self-designed chip codenamed “Phoenix” will offer performance gains and lower energy usage, as well as more security than current server processors.

“We want to bring all these aspects that we have developed over time through our careers to this new market and really exploit them in this market, because it’s an area ripe for innovation and advancement,” Williams advised.

The effort puts them against industry giants like AMD and Intel who already make up the majority of server processors used today. A similar concept is also being made like other chip producers, such as Qualcomm and Marvell, who are keen to pivot their knowledge of mobile chip design towards server usage.

So far, the project has caught the attention of major server vendor Dell, who among with a number of other investors has put $53 million in funding into the startup. Dell is a major customer of Intel, so investing in potential alternatives offering power savings could be worth investigating, but the company advised it could not comment on whether Dell would use Nuvia’s chips in its servers.

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Here’s what the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard sounds like

Apple has released the 16-inch MacBook Pro to the world, after almost a year of rumors. The most obvious changes are how the keyboard feels, and what the machine sounds like in use.

Comparing the 2019 16-Inch MacBook Pro (right) keybaord against the Mid-2019 15-Inch MacBook Pro keybaord

Comparing the 2019 16-Inch MacBook Pro (right) keybaord against the Mid-2019 15-Inch MacBook Pro keybaord

Apple’s new MacBook Pro Keyboard

Keyboards are highly subjective. So highly subjective, that computer manufacturers have produced hundreds if not thousands of different key switches, all with different performance characteristics.

So, a little context is important. We’re not giant fans of typing on glass, like the iPad. We didn’t have a problem with the keyboard that was introduced with the 2016 MacBook Pro —but it wasn’t a favorite of ours.

We get that the 2016 design, and iterations, are polarizing. Where the 2012 through 2015 design had the entire expression of keyboard like and hate, the 2016 through 2019 MacBook Pro weighed more heavily on the “it’ll do” to “this is terrible” range.

In regards to reliability, across the entire staff, exactly one unit had to be replaced. We had the same failure rate with the 2012 through 2015 keyboard. And, the data we’ve been collecting on the 2018 model and the mid-2019 refresh suggests that whatever Apple did for reliability is working, with it having an equivalent failure rate in the first year to the 2012 through 2015 design.

The new 16-Inch MacBook Pro has slightly more key travel than the previous generation

The new 16-Inch MacBook Pro has slightly more key travel than the previous generation

Looking forward, the key actuation on the 16-inch MacBook Pro is punctuated by a soft click, most similar to the mid-2019 noise versus any other, if a bit quieter. Where the 2015 design noise was more from the key bottoming out the switch, if you press slowly, you can feel where the click is on the new computer, before hitting the bottom of the chamber. Gone is the clackety-clack of the original 2016 MacBook Pro keyboard, and you’ll never mistake this keyboard for a desktop mechanical model.

There is more sensory data on the keys in the video that accompanies this piece. But, here are the numbers —the key travel on the 16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard is one millimeter. This is in comparison to between 0.6 millimeters and 0.7 millimeters on the 2016-style keyboard, and between 1.2 millimeters and 1.5 millimeters on the 2012 through 2015 style.

Typing on the updated 16-Inch MacBook Pro keyboard

Typing on the updated 16-Inch MacBook Pro keyboard

In our testing, we had a baseline of 38 DBa of ambient noise measured with a Kanomax model 4431 meter, with the test gear at head height and distance. Typing on the 2016 MacBook Pro with no other CPU load brought that up to about 43 DBa. The highest we could manage on the 16-inch MacBook Pro with a particularly angry bout of random key-mashing was 40 DBa. Quieter indeed.

With that 2016 redesign, Apple made a big deal about key stability being an underpinning of the design. In short, the new keyboard is more key travel than the 2016, but less than the 2012. Whatever Apple did for key stability in the 2016 was moved to the 16-inch MacBook Pro —and this is a good thing.

And, Apple tells us that individual keys can be replaced. We didn’t get any information on what this entails, but at this juncture, it still looks like a complete disassembly is required to do so.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a new cooling system, and it sounds different

Apple says that the new MacBook Pro has a completely redesigned cooling system, with different fan blades and more surface area in heat exchanging surfaces. This means that the computer sounds different under load.

Strictly from a noise standpoint, in the same 38 DBA room, the 2016 MacBook Pro under heavy load is about 45 DBa at the same range that we did the keyboard testing. The 16-inch MacBook Pro hit a maximum of 44 DBa, with equivalent fan speeds to the 2016 model.

The MacBook Pro for the last seven years has sounded about the same. It’s hard to describe how it sounds now, but there is a lower pitch and a different warble to the fans now, likely because of the new blade shape. You’ll notice the difference if you’re a long-time user, but it isn’t distracting, and you’ll forget the old sound pretty quickly.

The updated keyboard includes a physical escape key

The updated keyboard includes a physical escape key

We’ve only just started testing thermal performance. Our initial testing suggests that the 16-inch MacBook Pro can maintain a higher clock speed for longer —which isn’t well-reflected in benchmark testing to date.

The fans on the new MacBook Pro start to get audible in that 38 DBa office environment at about 83C processor temperature. Based on observation, they start to pick up speed at about a 75C CPU temperature. a bit earlier than the 80C that the 2016 through 2019 MacBook Pro start to ramp up. We’ll be testing this more in the future.

The efficacy of this thermal re-design in regards to your workflow will vary very much depending on your individual workload. But —using a utility that turns off the boost feature on the processor essentially guarantees a silent machine with next to no fan noise, at a cost of taking about one and a half times longer to complete your job. We’ll be talking about this in the future too.

Save hundreds on the 16-inch MacBook Pro

Apple resellers are accepting orders for the new 16-inch MacBook Pro with a variety of incentives. Expercom is knocking up to $438 off select new configurations with coupon code appleinsider, while Adorama is taking up to $250 off retail models with promo code APINSIDER (prices start at just $2,199 with code). Details can be found in this 16-inch MacBook Pro deal roundup.

Meanwhile, at B&H, shoppers can save $100 on the retail systems and select between no interest financing when paid in full within 12 months with the B&H Financing Card or a sales tax refund in eligible states with its Payboo Credit Card. The latter can save many shoppers anywhere from $200 to $500 on average.

Amazon is also offering instant discounts on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, matching B&H with prices as low as $2,299.

Be sure to check out the AppleInsider 16-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide for the latest deals and product availability on Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro hardware.

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Apple News+ fails to bring in new subscribers despite impressive launch

 

Apple’s Apple News+ launched earlier this year with impressive initial subscriber counts, but the company has failed to bring in significant numbers since then.

Apple News+

When it launched in March, Apple News+ had wrangled more than 200,000 subscriptions in its first two days. Since then, the company has struggled to gain new subscribers, according to those familiar with the subject.

Apple News+ costs customers $9.99 a month, the same cost as Apple Music, and gives customers access to over 300 curated publications. Publications included are People, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and paywalled versions of popular online news sites.

However, the subscribers don’t seem to be rolling in, according to CNBC. One publisher had told them his company received somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 per month in revenue, a number that was far lower than initially expected.

Interestingly enough, another publisher disclosed that while subscription revenue was lower than expected, it had brought in a different demographic of readers that skewed younger and more female. The same publisher had also said that advertising revenue from Apple News, a free news service from Apple, has consistently trended upwards.

Publisher revenue is an issue Apple is reportedly attempting to improve, with one June report indicating it is seeking input from participating publishers to tweak the service. At that time, publishers who were allegedly advised by Apple they would see ten times the revenue of Apple acquisition Texture in its first year of operation, one publishing executive claimed “it’s one-twentieth of what they said. It isn’t coming true.”

Apple News is, however, starting to pay off for some European publishers, despite the relatively small number of countries offering Apple News+. An August report revealed publishers were seeing increased revenues from being on the basic Apple News service, including some where ad impressions had tripled while revenue doubled.

A report on Thursday had claimed that Apple is including a section in deals signed, telling publishers that it reserves the right to bundle services in the future. Sources familiar with the matter say that Apple may roll out these bundles in 2020, in an attempt to get more people to subscribe. This would likely give users the option to subscribe to Apple TV+, Apple Music, and Apple News+ for one lower monthly rate.

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Deals: Save up to $438 on Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro; 15-inch MacBook Pro falls to $1,999

 

For a limited time, grab triple-digit discounts on Apple’s brand new 16-inch MacBook Pro. Announced today, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is now up to $438 off, plus $50 off AppleCare at time of purchase, setting the bar for the lowest prices on the stunning devices. Meanwhile, B&H has slashed the price of Apple’s 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro to just $1,999 while supplies last.

Apple 16 inch MacBook Pro deals

Hundreds off 16-inch MacBook Pros

The 16-inch MacBook Pro deals are courtesy of Expercom, a well-known Apple Premier Partner. With prices starting at just $2,227, shoppers can snag the robust Late 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro with a gorgeous display and new keyboard for a record low price at launch.

Looking to purchase AppleCare? The extended protection plan is also $50 off when purchased with a 16-inch MacBook Pro.

16-inch MacBook Pro deals

New 15-inch MacBook Pro closeout deals

Apple 15 inch MacBook Pro deal


Price drops are in effect on Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops

Grab ’em while you can! B&H has just cut the price of Apple’s standard 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro to $1,999. This $400 cash markdown is valid while supplies last, with limited quantities available at the reduced price. Premium configurations are also now $450 to $500 off, with a full list of the deals available in our 15-inch MacBook Pro Price Guide.

15-inch MacBook Pro price drops

Additional Apple deals

AppleInsider and Apple authorized resellers are also running additional exclusive savings 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 more. These deals are as follows:

Interested in additional Apple hardware? See if there is a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch deal that will save you $100s by checking out prices.appleinsider.com.

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Apple predicted to launch 16-inch MacBook Pro this week

 

Apple is again predicted to launch the 16-inch MacBook Pro very soon, possibly Wednesday, with reports claiming the company has started to brief members of the media.

Rendering of Apple's rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Rendering of Apple’s rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro has been rumored to make an appearance soon for some time. As with other rumors for unreleased products, predictions about the device’s launch are starting to circulate once again, buttressed by reports of media briefings being held in New York City, and other locations.

According to a tweet from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman on Monday, the release of the 16-inch MacBook Pro will take place “this week.” A later tweet suggested multiple people mentioned the existence of briefings on Tuesday, and the lifting of review embargoes on Wednesday, with people questioning when Apple will officially launch the model.

Meanwhile, a report from 9to5Mac on Monday corroborated the claim of Apple’s closed-door media briefings on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, including providing hands-on demonstration time and presentations to members of the press.

While the reports of an imminent launch are seemingly promising, this is the latest in a number of rumored announcement timings for the model. Earlier rumors put the production of the 16-inch MacBook Pro in September and October, with insinuations a launch of the model would take place in the same months, but to no avail.

Given Apple’s history of not launching major hardware changes so close to the end of the year, so as to not interfere with holiday season sales, it seems extremely unusual for Apple to go through with the launch, if the rumors turn out to be right this time.

According to sources of IDC in a report for Forbes, production is underway with “early signs” from the supply chain for an announcement, but the timing “is still uncertain.” The firm also anticipated an announcement in October, but “it didn’t come to fruition.”

Current rumors propose the 16-inch MacBook Pro will use a refresh of Intel’s Coffee Lake-H mobile processor series, continuing from the line used in the 15-inch MacBook Pro. A new scissor-switch mechanism is believed to be in use for the keyboard.

The screen will feature a new “ultra-thin bezel design” to keep the physical dimensions of the notebook down despite the girthier display size. The resolution has also been tipped be in the ballpark of 3,072 by 1,920, up from the 2,880-by-1,800 used in the 15-inch model.

One image leak from the second beta of macOS 10.15.1 Catalina seemed to indicate the model will have a discrete Touch ID sensor next to the Touch Bar strip above the keyboard.

It is believed the model will also be equipped with a 96-watt USB-C power adapter, which would be a step up from the 87W version but remain the same size. The wattage is coincidentally the amount of power delivery offered by the Pro Display XDR via its Thunderbolt 3 port.

One analyst anticipates the 16-inch MacBook Pro will cost over $3,000 when it ships.

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Review: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max one month later

Apple’s iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max were released just over a month ago. Here’s what all three of Apple’s newest iPhones are really like after intensive, daily, real-world use.

iPhone 11 Pro & iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone 11 Pro & iPhone 11 Pro Max

If you go by the specifications, or by what Apple championed at the launch of the new iPhones, you’ll know one of the biggest internal changes to the new phones is meant to be their performance. Running on the A13 Bionic, it is true that on paper there are serious performance gains from the iPhone XS line of 2018 to the 2019 iPhone 11 line. All three of the new phones come with the A13 Bionic and so have the same level of performance.

For now, however, the benefits are largely unnoticeable. The iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max never really felt slow, so after spending a month with the new iPhones, we truly did not see much of a difference in our day-to-day use.

We were, though, working with the beta of iOS 13 on our iPhone XS Max so we were used to the features, and the speed, of that operating system. So our perception is that the move to the 11 line wasn’t that big a jump in performance but you may notice more depending on which phone or iOS you’re coming from.

It would have been great to visibly see tremendous performance improvements, but we’re not disappointed that we haven’t. The performance of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max is very good right now —and we will see the differences later.

That’s because Apple designs iPhones to have long lifespans. What is shipping now with an A13 Bionic processor isn’t supposed to be an overnight improvement on the last model. Instead, it’s meant to be an improvement that we feel several years down the line when features and apps get more power-intensive and exploit the A13 Bionic more.

If we can’t say that the new 2019 iPhones are dramatically faster than the 2018 ones, we can certainly say that they are going to last longer as viable, up to date phones because of this new internal improvement.

The display and Haptic Touch

All of the 2019 iPhones have dropped support for 3D Touch in favor of Haptic Touch. We talked about this a while ago, but as heavy users of the old feature, the change is still on our mind.

If you had an iPhone XR then you already know what Haptic Touch feels like, but for those coming from an iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, it’s gong to feel limited in comparison. It causes us plenty of frustration each day but we know that we must get used to it as it won’t be going back.

It’s true, though, that if everyone had loved and used 3D Touch, we might still have it. So, again, you may not feel the omission quite as strongly as we do.

Haptic Touch replaces 3D Touch on the new iPhones

All
Haptic Touch replaces 3D Touch on the new iPhones

We were much more pleased with the new Super Retina XDR OLED displays found on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max though.

They looked absolutely great and as we watched movies —and Apple TV+ —we saw a big improvement on HDR or Dolby Vision content. It is bright, vivid, and at times amazingly bright. For movie and TV lovers, this is huge.

Watching John Wick in Dolby Vision on an iPhone 11 Pro

Watching John Wick in Dolby Vision on an iPhone 11 Pro

Outside of watching movies and TV, though, we otherwise didn’t notice too much of a difference in the display. It felt and looked just like it did on the iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max.

The cameras

We seem to have spent the month qualifying our first impressions. The OLED displays are great, but only when you’re watching video. The performance improvement is true, but not noticeable in regular use.

Where we were blown away —and, crucially, continue to be —was with the cameras. These new shooters were better than we expected, and we have not become inured to them with use.

An example of an ultra-wide shot on the iPhone 11 Pro

An example of an ultra-wide shot on the iPhone 11 Pro

First, that ultra-wide lens. Intellectually, we understood what it could do as soon as Apple announced it, but that’s just not the same thing as having it in your hands and using it every day.

The ultra-wide lens is incredibly useful, far more than we had expected. That is greatly to do with how well the lens works, but Apple also nailed it with how they implemented using the feature in iOS 13’s Camera app. That app gives you the ability to see what was going on outside the frame when shooting with the standard wide lens.

Consequently, we’d be going to take a picture, see the Camera app’s display of what’s outside the frame, and realise that the wider view was what we needed for this particular epic shot like the one above.

You won’t use ultra-wide for every photo you take. These shots of ours are well stylized and simply aren’t right for every situation, but enough to be regularly used by us since getting the new phones.

An example of a night mode shot from the iPhone 11 Pro

An example of a night mode shot from the iPhone 11 Pro

Night mode was also handy, and again there is a huge difference between being told what it does and getting to see it in action yourself.

We’d take pictures in low-light situations expecting a certain outcome based on our previous iPhone usage. But we’d notice the iPhone 11 taking a few moments to capture and we’d see the night mode icon. When checking the image, it would be sharp, bright, and a departure from our old iPhone XS Max.

The shots are genuinely good and quite impressive. The above shot was taken with just a small amount of hallway light and yet the dogs —even the black one —came out with a lot of detail. More images have been hitting our camera roll since the addition of night mode.

We just have to train ourselves to try to get shots that we used to assume wouldn’t be possible.

A month in

Upgrading to a new iPhone is not a casual decision, not when they are expensive devices to buy. Nonetheless, we haven’t had one second where we regretted or even questioned updating to the iPhone 11 line.

That could have been true solely for the big elements like the ultra-wide lens and the Night Mode, because those were what we noticed and kept on noticing over and over again during the past month. Yet we did also appreciate many other small details.

Placing the phone on a wireless charger is faster, for instance, which means we don’t have to stare at the plate for a few seconds to ensure it’s working.

Then the 3D audio is impressive-sounding when using iPhone’s speakers. And the feel of the matte backs on the Pro and Pro Max feels and looks much better than the glossy ones of before.

Apple says that the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are the best iPhones yet. A month in, we don’t disagree at all.

Pros:
Super Retina XDR display (on iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max) is superb for watching video
The ultra-wide lens is not a gimmick or an occasionally useful extra, it’s a boon to photography
Night Mode works tremendously and changes when we can take photos

Cons:
While the performance specifications are better, we don’t see the difference in regular use yet. That’s going to take some time but they do mean that these iPhones will last longer than last year’s.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

How to save on Apple’s iPhone 11

iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max

iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max

Wireless carriers are offering a variety of incentives, from trade-in bonuses to deals when you switch providers. Here’s a sampling of the current iPhone 11 promotions:

iPhone 11 deals

  • eBay: iPhone 11 devices starting at $669.
  • AT&T Wireless: Get up to $700 in bill credits with trade-in on a qualifying smartphone. Port-in and new line required. $500 in bill credits when you add a line without a port-in. Unlimited plan required.
  • Verizon Wireless: Switch to Verizon Wireless and get up to $700 with trade on Unlimited plan, plus free Echo Dot and Amazon Smart Plug.
  • Sprint: Lease the new iPhone 11 for just $11 per month. Or Lease an iPhone 11, 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max and get a second iPhone 11 on Sprint via bill credits. See site for T&C.
  • T-Mobile: Get $580 off Apple’s iPhone 11 when you switch and trade in an eligible iPhone.
  • Walmart: Save up to $100 on the iPhone 11. Offer valid only on purchase with installment plan.
  • Visible: Get up to a $200 Prepaid Mastercard Virtual Account when you buy an iPhone 11 and bring your phone number to Visible. Plus get 0% financing, no money down, no upgrade fees, and free overnight shipping for well-qualified customers.
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How Steve Jobs saved Apple with the online Apple Store

Alongside the return of Steve Jobs and advent of the iMac and iPod, Apple’s first online store officially opened for business on November 10, 1997 and went on to play a crucial role in the company’s survival and resurgence.

Detail from an early appearance of the Apple Store online

Detail from an early appearance of the Apple Store online

It wasn’t enough that Steve Jobs came back to Apple and stripped its messy range down to a few core products. The iMac wasn’t enough to turn the company around either —not by itself. While it may not have seemed it at the time, the launch of the online Apple Store on November 10, 1997 turned out to be crucial component of the company’s survival.

There’s an argument that it was born of irritation rather than anyone seeing how useful it would be. But while there is truth in that, the full story is that Apple badly needed its own online store.

Back in the 1990s, there were no bricks-and-mortar Apple Stores. You had to buy Macs through specialist dealers or through big chain stores. The chains famously employed whatever the opposite of Geniuses is, and they all pushed whichever box they got the most commission on.

Given that Apple was rarely, if ever, the most profitable sale for someone in a store, what Macs were there tended to be ignored. And you don’t run a retail store by taking up space with inventory that isn’t selling, so Apple was being stocked by fewer places.

Shortly before the launch of its own online store, Apple announced a deal with CompUSA to create what it called a store-within-a-store. It meant a higher profile for Apple than before, but it was still under someone else’s control.

A Sears store selling a Macintosh Performa back in the day. Are those washing machines behind them?

A Sears store selling a Macintosh Performa back in the day. Those are washing machines behind them.

“All that the salesman cared about was a $50 spiff,” Steve Jobs later told Walter Isaacson. “Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed.”

Whereas apple.com/store was owned and run by no one but Apple itself.

There were few online stores for computers in the late 1990s, but what there was proved to drive Apple down this road though a combination of irritation and insight.

Dell

There was really only one online store for computers at the time, and that was Dell’s. The company didn’t design computers in the sense that Apple did, it really just packaged them, but at the time, it packaged them extremely successfully.

Dell had also circumvented the need for resellers and chain stores, by chiefly selling over the phone. Not only did it cut out the need and the cost of these other companies, it meant Dell could ask customers what they wanted and then give it to them.

Just as Apple was starting to do, Dell had got its stock of completed computers down to a minimum. “If I’ve got 11 days of inventory and my competitor has 80,” said Michael Dell at the time, “and Intel comes out with a new 450 megahertz chip, that means I’m going to get to market 69 days sooner.”

While few or no other sellers were doing much online, in 1995 Dell began to create its web store. It launched in July 1996 and by that December was earning $1 million per day.

Apple had to be aware of this success and had to see that it was a way that it too could go around resellers and get Macs in front of people. However, this was also Dell. This was the company whose owner Michael Dell famously wrote off Apple’s chances. “I’d shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders,” he said in October 1997.

And it is also the company who originally built this extremely successful online store using WebObjects —software tools created by Steve Jobs’s NeXT firm.

How Dell's hugely successful online store looked around the time Apple launched its own

How Dell’s hugely successful online store looked around the time Apple launched its own

So Apple, having bought NeXT and brought back Steve Jobs, had the talent to make a store but it also had the need if it were to make its machines as easy to buy as they were intended to use. Michael Dell’s comment came after Apple had started to develop its online store, but it definitely smarted —as you can see in video of Steve Jobs launching the Apple online store.

You can see it, but you can’t really hear it. Video survives of the presentation, but it is close to inaudible.

What Jobs says in it, though, is directed both at potential buyers —and at Michael Dell.

“In 1996, Dell pioneered the online store and Dell’s online store has become, up till now, the standard of ecommerce sites,” said Jobs. “We’re basically setting a new standard for online ecommerce with this store. [And] I guess what we want to tell you, Michael, is that with our new products and our new store and our new build-to-order manufacturing, we’re coming after you, buddy.”

Instant success

The new online Apple Store brought in $12 million of revenue in its first 30 days, for an average of $730,000 per day. That’s three-quarters of where Dell’s daily revenue had reached after its first six months. ‘

It’s not possible to compare Apple’s online sales then with how the online store does today. Apple doesn’t release figures that would help, and the company itself is radically different today. Back in 1997, there were no services, for instance, it was all hardware sales. And while there were physical stores you could Macs in —in October 1998, Apple announced a deal with Best Buy —there were no Apple Stores.

However, there surely wouldn’t be physical Apple Stores today if the online one hadn’t succeeded and if it hadn’t helped Apple survive. Similarly, resellers were declining, so even if Apple had managed to get through the 1990s, it’s likely that there would be few physical places to buy Apple gear.

Back in the day, this was considered high resolution. A typical opening screen from the online Apple Store in its earliest days.

Back in the day, this was considered high resolution. A typical opening screen from the online Apple Store in its earliest days.

So while it can only give a taste of how Apple has changed, it is possible to take the company’s latest financial announcements and break them down to give some slight basis for comparison.

From the last financial earnings call, if you focus solely on hardware sales alone and ignore businesses like Services which didn’t exist in 1997, Apple sold $570 million worth of devices each day in the last quarter.

Changing fortunes

The online Apple Store was key to getting Apple back up on its feet, but it’s also proved to be instrumental since the company became a born-again success.

It’s now a promotional tool as well, as Apple makes a big deal of taking down the entire store for hours when it is about to announce a new product.

While any other company would long for the world to notice when its online store is down, Apple has also used it to pull off something that surely no other company would dream of.

We no longer see the huge lines around the block as people queue up and camp out to be first to buy a new device. You can question why anyone would ever do that —though trust us, it is remarkably fun —but the optics were fantastic. News coverage never seemed to tire of showing us these lines of people, and that was free advertising that kept reminding the world that Apple was this popular.

And yet during Angela Ahrendts’ time as head of retail, Apple worked to at least reduce those lines.

Maybe the company saw that the furore was dying down by itself, but Apple took steps to instead have us waiting in front of our computers or iOS devices for the launches.

It’s done that by opening pre-orders ahead of the release date, and opening them at a specific time.

Nobody else gets worldwide headlines for taking their web store offline.

Nobody else gets worldwide headlines for taking their web store offline.

Now instead of the lines around the block, the news is always that devices have sold out in a very short time.

Apple’s online store is an incredible operation that usually manages to look simple. It’s hard to grasp just how many transactions go through it. But what’s easy to comprehend is that Apple owns and runs the whole process without any retailer or big chain reseller in the middle.

As it does with its hardware and software, Apple owns the whole stack in its online store and it absolutely maximises every benefit that brings.

Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.

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Amazon drops 2018 iPad with Cellular to $299, lowest price ever

 

Shoppers looking for a budget-friendly iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular support can snap up a sixth generation model for just $299, a discount of $160 off — and the lowest price we’ve seen on Amazon — while supplies last.

On the heels of the company’s iPad Pro markdowns, Amazon has issued another early Black Friday deal on Apple products by knocking $160 off the 32GB 2018 9.7-inch iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular.

Now $299 for the sixth-generation iPad in Gold and $399 for the spacious 128GB model, these deals deliver the lowest prices we’ve seen for the LTE tablets.

With Apple’s latest 2019 iPad with Cellular selling for $130 more, this 2018 iPad discount offers significant savings while still supporting the first-generation Apple Pencil, making it a great holiday gift for students looking to take notes during the upcoming spring semester, as well as kids wanting a device in which to play educational games.

For deals on nearly every iPad model, be sure to check out the AppleInsider iPad Price Guide.

Alternative deals: 2019 10.2-inch iPads also on sale

Apple Pencil savings

Additional Apple Deals

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

Interested in additional Apple hardware? See if there is a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch deal that will save you $100s by checking out prices.appleinsider.com.

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Review: BentoStack PowerHub combines a Qi battery, USB-C hub, & storage

Function101’s BentoStack PowerHub attempts to be a one-stop shop for portable power, docking, and storage needs, but while it has its limitations, the stackable system still shows considerable promise for those who work on the go.

The new BentoStack PowerHub

The new BentoStack PowerHub

You don’t see products like BentoStack PowerHub all that often. Products that try to integrate multiple individual products together into a single gadget — and do it successfully. Though that seems what Function101 has pulled off.

A lot of what we see with BentoStack isn’t new. We’ve seen wireless chargers, wireless chargers integrated into battery packs, battery packs that integrate USB hubs. However, we haven’t seen a wireless charger on top of a battery that also has as a USB-C hub and additional storage all packed together.

BentoStack Powerhub is an evolution of the original BentoStack that modified a traditional bento box into a storage container for daily accessories, followed by the BentoStack Charge which packed in the battery. Now the BentoStack PoweHub has evolved once more to integrate the USB-C hub and other thoughtful features.

BentoStack PowerHub being used as a battery pack as well as a USB-C hub

BentoStack PowerHub being used as a battery pack as well as a USB-C hub

What you get — and what you can get

The basic model of the BentoStack PowerHub includes three separate pieces that stack together and are secured via a simple silicone band.

An 8000mAh battery is built into the lid with a 10W Qi charger, USB-C PD, and USB-A outputs

An 8000mAh battery is built into the lid with a 10W Qi charger, USB-C PD, and USB-A outputs

On top, there is an 8000mAh battery pack that has a USB-C PD input/output, a USB-A output, and a 10W Qi wireless charger on top. The Type-C port is capable of taking or outputting up to 18W of power, and the Qi charger can output up to 10W (or 7.5W for iPhones).

A headphone jack, a USB-C port, and two USB-A 3.0 ports on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

A headphone jack, a USB-C port, and two USB-A 3.0 ports on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

Below the battery lid is the eight-port USB-C hub which has two USB-C 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a micro SD card reader, HDMI output, a 3.5mm audio jack, and two USB-A ports. All of this is powered by a USB-C input.

An SD card reader, micro SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, and another USB-C port on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

An SD card reader, micro SD card reader, HDMI 2.0, and another USB-C port on the BentoStack PowerHub USB-C hub

Lastly, the base section has two movable separators for three compartments. These can hold the usual nicknacks that one carries around such as charging cables, SD cards, or wall adapters.

Using the USB-C hub on a MacBook

Using the USB-C hub on a MacBook

Function101 has made the set expandable and modular as well, by allowing other components to be added to the stack, such as an Apple Watch band lid or extra storage.

Daily use

We’ve been using the BentoStack PowerHub for a bit now and it has some real perks, though still a few notable downsides.

A magnetic holder for Apple Pencil 2 hidden above the USB-C hub

A magnetic holder for Apple Pencil 2 hidden above the USB-C hub

First, the drawbacks. The USB-C hub must be removed from the bottom before it can be used, which means it takes a bit more space on our desk. We also find the top of the hub somewhat wasted — it has a magnet to hold our Apple Pencil 2 but that isn’t a situation we run into often. As a “valet” for our AirPods earbuds, it is also not all that realistic.

The one way we can see it being used is if you store your Apple Pencil in there for travel for the original iPad Pro or recent iPads that use the first-generation stylus, rather than on the side of your iPad Pro. By the way —this hub works great for iPad Pro.

Adjustable storage in the bottom of the BentoStack PowerHub

Adjustable storage in the bottom of the BentoStack PowerHub

While it provides storage, we found ourselves always needing more than it offers. For a few items, BentoStack is great but for larger gear like a portable drive or card reader, it didn’t always fit with our other priority items.

Those issues aside, we enjoyed using BentoStack PowerHub. It simplified our workflow and was an easy way to carry the necessities with us.

Throwing the BentoStack PowerHub in my gear bag

Throwing the BentoStack PowerHub in my gear bag

In our workflow, we used the bottom storage for a USB-C cable, an Apple Watch charger, and our AirPods, sometimes a battery or some extra memory cards, but it didn’t hold everything. For daily use, it is probably good for most people, but for longer trips, a bag with pockets is probably more practical.

Should you buy the BentoStack PowerHub?

If you find yourself needing the individual components that make up BentoStack PowerHub, there’s no reason anyone wouldn’t be interested in picking one up. It is a very compact design when put together and reduces the need for so many individual pieces.

We have seen smaller batteries, we have seen smaller USB-C hubs, but joining them together is an appealing proposition.

I initially was very against the battery pack as it added weight, but after using it, I started to appreciate it. With the PowerHub, I don’t have to bring a Lightning cable along for my iPhone and I can charge it up from my Mac or whatever power cable I bring with me.

Plus, while I first started using this with my Mac, I found far more use for it with my iPad Pro instead which made an external charger even more useful.

Pros

  • Sleek design
  • Multiple outputs on battery including USB-C PD and Qi
  • All-in-one device
  • USB-C hub is useful for Mac or iPad Pro
  • Storage keeps cables and small parts organized
  • Expandable

Cons

  • Apple Pencil magnet isn’t all that useful
  • Can still be a lot of clutter on a desk when all out
  • Storage won’t hold all necessities
  • Battery pack is too big to carry around by itself

Rating: 4 out of 5

Where to buy

The BentoStack PowerHub is now available for preorder from Indiegogo. Exclusive to AppleInsider readers, you can grab it for $95 by hitting this link to get a price less than the publicly available ones.