Posts with «handheld & connected devices» label

The 2020 iPad Air is on sale for $539 right now

If you missed the sale earlier this month, you have another chance to get $60 off Apple's 2020 iPad Air. At the time of writing this, the green, silver and blue models are down to $539, which is 10 percent off and one of the best prices we've seen in months. We considered this to be the best iPad for most people when it first came out and it remains a great option for those that want a powerful, versatile tablet that won't break the bank.

Buy iPad Air at Amazon - $539

Yes, there are newer iPads available now — even the base 10.2-inch iPad Air received an update last year — but the Air still sits in the middle of Apple's lineup. It runs on the A14 Bionic chipset with a six-core CPU and a four-core GPU, and these discounted models have WiFi 6 support, 64GB of storage and a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display with True Tone. The updated, flat-edged design has a USB-C port for charging and a power button with a built-in fingerprint reader for extra security. The iPad Air also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, so artists and those who prefer to take hand-written notes could use it as their main digital notebook.

While we suggest considering the M1 iPad Pros if you want a true laptop replacement, the iPad Air can act as one, too. It has speedy performance, a 12.5-hour battery life and it can connect to Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio and the Magic Keyboard, so you have a number of ways to turn it into a 2-in-1 machine. There are plenty of perks to the M1 iPad Pros when it comes to productivity, but you'll pay at least $200 more for one of those. So despite the fact that it is almost two years old, the iPad Air remains a good option if you want a tablet that can keep up with you on your busiest days.

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An 'Unpacking' clone topped the App Store charts before it was pulled

Unpacking is a lovely, relaxing puzzle game made by a small team. It's beautifully designed and manages to tell a compelling story with very little text. Unfortunately, its core mechanic — unpacking boxes and placing items in a new home — isn't exactly difficult to copy. One clone quickly found an audience on iOS and Android before it was removed.

If you've happened to catch an ad for a suspiciously similar-looking game to Unpacking📦 on mobile recently, please know that this is not our game.

They sure seem to want to give the impression that it is, though! 🧵

— Unpacking 📦 Out NOW! (@UnpackingALife) January 25, 2022

Unpacking Master, which was published by a company called SayGames, was said to be a near-identical copy of Witch Beam Games' title. It adopted a freemium model (users could pay a one-time fee to remove ads) and it briefly topped App Store charts less than a week after it was released. As Game Developer notes, Unpacking Master is no longer available on Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store.

Earlier this month, a spate of Wordle clones barged onto the App Store with copycat developers looking to cash in on the success of the viral hit word game. Those apps were removed as well. These incidents highlight a long-running problem that studios behind popular games (particularly indies) have grappled with.

Knockoff games have plagued mobile app stores for years. For instance, the developers of 2048 made some minor changes to the formula of puzzle game Threes and became a hit. In 2018, publisher Voodoo adopted the central idea of the quirky Donut County (players move around a hole in the ground and swallow up objects) with, which soared to the top of App Store and Google Play charts.

In the case of Unpacking, Witch Beam suggested SayGames' clone used almost identical items and very similar level layouts. It said that while other clones failed to find much success, Unpacking Master took off in the wake of an ad campaign on TikTok and Instagram.

"It's demoralizing for a small team like ours to see content we spent literally years planning, refining and handcrafting be hastily reproduced in an opportunistic ad-riddled app a mere 3 months after our launch," the team wrote on Twitter. "We're a tiny indie team and even with the success we have achieved, we still don't have the resources to pursue companies trying to use our game's distinct look and feel to make a quick buck. We have to rely on storefronts like the App Store to better curate their content."

At least for now, the original Unpacking isn't available via mobile app stores, though you can pick it up on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch and Xbox. It's on Game Pass as well, so you can play over the cloud if you're eager to check it out on a phone or tablet.

Huawei is releasing the P50 Pro and Pocket outside China, but not in the US

Huawei is set to start selling the P50 Pro and foldable P50 Pocket smartphones it announced last year outside of China. The flagship Pro device costs €1,199 and the P50 Pocket starts at €1,299. Those convert to around $1,353 and $1,466 respectively, but don’t expect to get your hands on these in the US.

Along with preventing Huawei devices from easily being sold in the US, sanctions imposed by the country mean that the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket don’t ship with Google apps and services, such as Gmail, Chrome, Maps and the Play Store. That’s despite Huawei basing its HarmonyOS on an open source version of Android

Sanctions also inhibit Huawei from sourcing 5G components, so the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket are 4G handsets. Those are significant tradeoffs that might make the P50 Pro and P50 Pocket hard sells, given that they'll likely be more expensive than flagship Apple, Samsung and Google devices in many markets. The next Galaxy S devices are right around the corner too.


The P50 Pro has a 6.6-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2700 x 1228 and a 120Hz refresh rate, as well as support for 1.07 billion colors. There are four cameras on the rear: a 50MP True-Chroma main camera, 40MP mono camera, 64MP telephoto and 13MP ultrawide. There's also a 13MP selfie camera.

The 4,369 mAh battery supports up to 66W wired fast charging and 50W wireless charging. The P50 Pro comes with 8 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage.

The P50 Pocket, meanwhile, has a clamshell foldable design akin to Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip devices. When unfolded, users can access the 6.9-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2700 x 1228 and a 120Hz refresh rate, along with support for 1.07 billion colors and P3 wide color gamut.


There's a 10.7MP selfie camera and a triple-camera array on the rear. Along with the main 40MP True-Chroma sensor, there's a 32MP ultra spectrum camera and 13MP ultra-wide lens. One interesting feature in the Mirror app enables users to visualize their sunscreen application and check for spots they may not have covered up. 

There's a small, circular display positioned below the camera array, which can display things like notifications and the weather. It allows control over features like music playback and the cameras. The foldable also comes with up to 12 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage. The 4000 mAh battery supports 40W charging.

The two handsets both run on the Snapdragon 888 4G chipset. They'll go on sale in "key markets" in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America as part of phase one of an international rollout. Huawei didn't disclose the specific markets or when exactly the phones will be available to purchase.

What we bought: How the Kobo Libra 2 got me out of a reading slump

From time to time Engadget editors take time out to talk about what they've been buying for themselves, with their own money. This week, Commerce Editor Valentina Palladino gives her take on the Kobo Libra 2 e-reader.

I’ll be honest, the pandemic took a toll on my reading habits. A lot of the time I previously spent reading was now spent doom- and hate-scrolling on my iPhone. I didn’t want to drag that habit into 2022, so I deleted the biggest scroll-hole culprits from my phone (Instagram, Twitter) and decided to upgrade to the Kobo Libra 2 as a gift to myself.

The Libra 2 isn’t my first e-reader – an old Kindle Paperwhite still languishes in my drawer – but I wanted a change that would both get me out of a physical reading slump while also lessening my dependence on the juggernaut that is Amazon’s Kindle store. I came to this decision late last year after pulling out my old 2018 Paperwhite and reading a book on it. The experience was noticeably laggy, taking several minutes to properly sync my books and fetch titles I had borrowed from my local library. It was also apparent to me how annoying the Kindle was to hold. I primarily read with the device in my right hand, and because the Paperwhite’s size bezels are quite thin, that meant I was often accidentally turning the page when my fingers brushed the screen’s edge.

Enter the Libra 2, one of the company’s latest e-readers whose larger chin is home to physical page buttons. I knew I wanted one with this design, and if I had wanted to go the Amazon route, I would have been left with only the Kindle Oasis to consider. On top of the fact that Amazon’s devices support a limited number of file types, I just didn’t want to drop $250 on an e-reader. Kobo, on the other hand, has four devices with this design, with the Libra 2 being the most affordable of that bunch at $180.

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

The practicality of the larger chin and page-turn buttons can’t be overstated; they’re some of my favorite things about the Libra 2. My hand doesn’t cramp anymore when I read because I can easily switch from one hand to the other depending on if I’m at my desk, curled up on the couch, or peeking an eye out from under the covers in bed. Landscape reading mode has become a favorite, too, and I also like the tactical feel of the page-turn buttons so much that I rarely, if ever, tap the screen to progress in my current read.

The screen on the Libra 2 is also noticeably sharper than that of my old Kindle Paperwhite. It’s a seven-inch E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen with what Kobo calls “ComfortLight Pro,” which just means you can adjust the brightness and color temperature. I keep the temperature adjustment on the “auto” setting so the screen’s lighting becomes less blue and more yellow as the day goes on, making it my most comfortable screen to stare at right before bedtime. Plus, the numerous font, font sizes, line spacing and margin options let me customize text to my liking, making the entire reading experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

The Libra 2 is also waterproof, but it’s one of those features I don’t actually use every day and I’ll only fully appreciate it if the e-reader gets an unexpected dunking in a hotel pool. Same goes for the audiobook feature: I listen to books primarily through Overdrive's Libby app, so I haven’t tested the Libra 2 as an audiobook machine yet. However, the USB-C charging port is something I can appreciate in my day-to-day as it charges the device from nearly zero to full in a couple of hours. So far, the Libra 2 has lived up to its promise of having a weeks-long battery life as I’ve only had to charge it once in the month or so that I’ve had it.

So the Libra 2’s hardware has proven to be just as good in practice as it was on paper. But in addition to hardware, Kobo’s Overdrive and Pocket integrations were two big things that made me seriously consider making the switch from Kindle. Having all of my reading material in one place – specifically a place that’s not my phone – would surely stop me from falling down a scroll hole every night, right?

The answer is yes – mostly. (I still scroll sometimes, I’m but a mere mortal.) Saving articles to Pocket throughout the day is super easy and I can turn to them at night when I have more time to read. But the kicker for me is Overdrive, which I can browse directly on the Libra 2 and borrow titles from my library with just a few taps. I also use the Libby app in conjunction with this – when Libby and my Libra 2 are signed in with the same library card, any e-book I borrow via Libby automatically shows up on my Libra 2 like magic. Holds also show up on the e-reader with the amount of time I have left to wait; once it’s my turn, a cute little “borrow” button pops up, allowing me to get reading almost immediately. While Amazon’s Send-to-Kindle feature is also an easy way to get library books from Libby to a Kindle, I find this direct integration more convenient.

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Where this becomes a bit cumbersome is if you have multiple library cards attached to your Overdrive account (which I do). You’ll have to sign out on the e-reader and sign in again with the specific library you’re trying to access. Most people will probably never have to do this, but just be aware if you’re like me and frequently check out multiple libraries’ catalogs with the hopes of getting the shortest wait time possible for your next read.

I try to use my library as much as possible, but it’s also worth noting that buying books on the Libra 2 is also convenient. You can purchase titles directly on the device from the Kobo store and I’ve yet to find a book that I want to purchase that Kobo doesn’t have. I frequently dump titles that none of my libraries have into my Kobo wishlist, and I was surprised to find that it had lesser-known books like This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik along with anticipated upcoming titles like How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix. 

If you live in the US, you’ve probably been fed the idea that Amazon’s Kindle book store is the most formidable on the web – and while that may be true, it’s not the only option available. Same goes for Kindles themselves: they may be the most ubiquitous e-readers, but if you’re even remotely interested in loosening the vice-grip Amazon has on your reading life, a Kobo device could do the trick.

Microsoft finally updates the original Surface Duo to Android 11

Microsoft is finally bringing the original Surface Duo up to date... relatively speaking. As 9to5Googlenotes, the company has finally released its long-promised (and late) Android 11 upgrade for the dual-screen smartphone. The newer operating system is the main draw, of course, but you'll also find a host of Surface Duo-specific improvements.

You can now play Xbox Game Pass cloud titles using an on-screen controller, for a start. OneDrive also has an "enhanced" dual-screen interface for viewing and editing photos. There are revised app drawer and folder designs with better drag-and-drop support, while the Microsoft feed and Start widgets have received updates. You can have the Surface Duo automatically span particular apps across both screens, and set preferences for answering phone calls when the device is folded. And if you prefer handwritten memos, you can click the top button on a paired Slim Pen 2 to open OneNote.

The upgrade will likely be welcome if you've been tired of living with Android 10 for more than a year. At the same time, we'll understand if it still stings. Android 12 has already been available on other phones for weeks, and in some cases months — you're still behind, even if the gap has narrowed. While it's understandable that updates for such a unique phone would take longer, that won't be much consolation if you were hoping to keep reasonably current. 

Leak offers a glimpse at Microsoft's canceled Andromeda OS for dual-screen devices

Before Microsoft announced the Surface Duo in 2019, the company spent several years working on an operating system codenamed Andromeda. It was envisioned as a reboot of Windows Phone with an emphasis on inking. The company worked on the software until it eventually decided to instead include Android on the Surface Duo. Until now, we’ve only seen glimpses of Andromeda in things like patent filing. But Windows Central recently obtained an internal build of the operating system and installed it on a Lumia 950.

Outside of a rare look at an unfinished project, what’s interesting about seeing Andromeda after all these years is how many of the ideas Microsoft was working on then either made their way to the Surface Duo or apps the company has released since. On the lock screen, for instance, you can see an early version of the Surface Duo’s peek functionality. Meanwhile, a lot of the features you see on the “Journal” home screen eventually made their way to the company’s Whiteboard app, and that’s something you can download from the Microsoft Store.

At the same time, it’s an interesting look at what could have been. Even in the software’s unfinished state, there’s a lot we see in the video that’s genuinely different from anything Android and iOS offer, even to this day. The fact Andromeda allowed you to jot down notes directly on the lock screen, and that they would still be there the next time you unlocked the phone, is something that looks genuinely useful.

Of course, there are probably many good reasons Microsoft ultimately decided not to pursue Andromeda. Launching a device that does something different, let alone a completely new operating system, is no easy task in a mature marketplace. Unless a device does nearly everything right, it’s difficult to overcome the fact most people tend to stick with products they know and are comfortable with.

The Backbone One made cloud gaming on the iPhone feel natural

Whether it’s Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, PlayStation Remote Play or just a very severe addiction to Apple Arcade, gamepads are a better way to play many games on your smartphone of choice. Normally that means using some kind of smartphone clip to attach your phone to your existing controller, propping up your phone and hoping for the best, or choosing from an increasing selection of controllers that snap directly onto your phone. Instead of demanding compatible phone cases or separate pieces that connect either side of the phone, the $100 Backbone One is a single-piece controller that extends to fit it.

Unlike the Razer Kishi, which we tested in detail here, the One is a single device with a telescopic backplate that fits around any iPhone. (With some help: the One isn’t compatible with the iPhone 13 Pro. Backbone has, however, started providing a soft rubberized adapter that slides into the controller, ensuring the latest, bigger iPhones fit snugly and securely.)

Engadget/Mat Smith

So why invest in another controller for your phone when most mainstream console gamepads you probably already own already do the job? There are a few reasons. Backbone One, with its direct Lightning connection, sidesteps the extra jeopardy that comes with Bluetooth-connected controllers, which introduce another latency bump in the road. The company has wisely included a charger pass-through (gaming can burn through your battery) so you can keep your phone plugged in as you play.

The device has a subtle matte black finish, with two collar buttons on each side, a four-button layout on the right side (X, Y, A, B), a slightly-too-spongy d-pad on the left and an analog stick on each side. The sticks feel a little looser than others I’ve used, but they’re accurate and comfortable.

Backbone struck a deal with Microsoft, offering a one-month trial of Xbox’s Game Pass Ultimate for new Backbone owners. It said so on the box, it says it in the app, and it’ll say it in an email if you register the controller. You will get the hint.

The button layout does lean more towards Xbox gamers, but my PlayStation muscle memory meant I didn’t have too many issues using the One to play my PS5 remotely – just the usual drawbacks of playing with a controller that isn’t a DualSense, with its unique tricks and features. Using the touchpad will mean reaching for a section of the iPhone screen, while you’re not going to get any haptic feedback from the triggers or controller itself.

There are a handful of buttons in addition to the stable gaming ones. The orange button launches Backbone’s own game portal (part of the BackBone iOS app), while others offer screen and video sharing shortcuts or what you’d expect when pressing start or menu on console controllers.

The controller’s namesake, the spring-loaded backplate, ensures that once your phone is in place, it all feels solid and unified. The controls aren’t going to pull away, nor is there a chance of your phone slipping out. The more I spent playing through Alan Wake, then Deathloop, as well as Apple Arcade titles like Fallen Knight and Fantasian, the more it started to blur into a handheld – one with a high-resolution OLED screen. Unfortunately, you will have to remove any cases to ensure it fits inside the controller chassis.

The companion app has a few useful tricks. It can capture, edit and upload gaming content, and it’s pretty intuitive. I don’t usually capture gameplay unless it’s for work, but I’ve already used Backbone’s implementation to send short clips to friends. The company has also announced a Backbone+ subscription service that integrates Twitch streaming and even enables cable connections for keyboards and more. (You’ll get a free year of the service when buying the controller.) There’s also the ability to join chat groups and lobbies, populated with other Backbone gamers, but it’s not particularly vibrant in comparison to Discord, Reddit or other existing gamer spaces.

The app also serves as a games library, of sorts, of all the games you can play with the Backbone One, across Xbox, Stadia, Apple Arcade and individual games in Apple’s App Store. Unfortunately, it’s literally all the compatible games, including unremarkable game clones, and Xbox and Stadia titles you might not even have a subscription for. It’s a shame the app couldn’t interface with which games I’d already installed – which would be impossible for PlayStation Remote Play, admittedly. Tapping the Backbone button during a game will log the title into the library for more convenient access next time, at least. There’s deeper functionality here, but your mileage may vary. It will show recommendations of popular titles, but it’s the incredibly familiar sights of Among Us, Genshin Impact and Minecraft.

Engadget/Mat Smith

The Backbone One is a capable iPhone gamepad, so much in fact that sometimes I actively choose to play Stadia and even remote-play PlayStation when I’m in another room. It is, however, an expensive one. $100 can buy a couple of PS5 controllers, or an entire box of third-party Bluetooth gamepads and smartphone clips.

But for that price, you get a slick experience that marries well with your iPhone. Over the holidays, when I visited my family, I was able to effortlessly (aside from reading the tiny text) play Deathloop while being hundreds of miles away from my console. Like several existing split gamer pads for smartphones, it’s like a tiny Switch. The app also tries to pool together all your iOS gaming experiences in a single place, which is a nice idea, even if Backbone doesn’t quite nail the execution.

Lenovo made a $329 Snapdragon-powered Windows 11 tablet for students

Lenovo has revealed its latest batch of devices geared toward students. Perhaps the most eye-catching offering is a Snapdragon 7c-powered Windows 11 tablet. The company suggests the 10w Tablet might be a great fit for younger students, since the device has a rugged design with a rubber bumper and Corning Gorilla Glass on the Full HD, 10.1-inch display. The screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 400 nits of brightness. There are 2MP front-facing and 8MP rear-facing cameras too.


The tablet comes with a detachable keyboard and there's an optional pen. The 10w Tablet has a 30Whr battery and comes with up to 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM and up to 128GB of eMMC storage. Unfortunately, there's only one USB-C port, but there is a headphone jack, which should help students avoid having to fiddle with the Windows Bluetooth settings. The tablet weighs 573g (1.26 lbs) and 1.1kg (2.42 lbs) with the keyboard.

Lenovo suggests the Snapdragon platform will help deliver responsive performance, dependable WiFi connectivity and an extended battery life. The ARM-based Windows experience hasn't historically beengreat, but we haven't seen Windows 11 running on Snapdragon 7c chipsets as yet. Microsoft has seemingly improved the Windows-on-ARM experience, however. 

The 10w Tablet and keyboard bundle starts at $239 and it's expected to ship in the US in April.

For (perhaps older) students who need extra power, Lenovo is also planning to ship the 13w Yoga convertible laptop in April. The system is powered by an AMD Ryzen 5000 U-series processor with on-chip graphics.

The laptop has a 13.3-inch, Full HD display with 300 nits of brightness. The front-facing 1080p camera has a privacy shutter and you'll find a 5MP camera on the rear. There's an optional fingerprint reader on the power button too.


The 13w Yoga includes up to 16GB of 3200Mhz DDR4 RAM (which users can upgrade) and up to a 512GB SSD. Lenovo says it has Dolby Audio and a 51Whr battery.

The connectivity options are far more generous than on the 10w Tablet. Along with an audio jack, there are two USB-C 3.2 ports, one USB-A 3.2 port, a full SD card reader and HDMI 2.0. There's WiFi 6 and optional 4G LTE support as well. The 13w Yoga will start at $749.

In addition, Lenovo announced a partnership with VictoryXR to offer educational experiences in virtual reality. Students will be able to access more than 60 VR titles from VictoryXR, centered around science, history and career and technical education. They'll be able to virtually visit the likes of The Great Wall of China and see California Redwoods.

Amazon sale slashes Fire tablets by up to 50 percent

If you've been waiting for a sale to buy one of Amazon's Fire HD tablets, today might be the day. You can currently pick up some key products on sale, with the best deals on the Fire HD 8 and Fire HD 8 Plus, available at all-time low discounts of 50 percent. The Fire 7 is also back to its Black Friday pricing, and kids tablets have big discounts as well. 

Buy Fire 7 tablet at Amazon - $35Buy Fire 8 HD tablet at Amazon - $45Buy Fire HD 8 Plus at Amazon - $55

We gave the 2020 Fire HD 8 a decent 81 score in our Engadget review, thanks to the new design, switch to USB-C charging, long battery life and solid performance. The Fire HD 8 Plus, however, offers a bit more RAM (3GB instead of 2GB), along with a faster processor and wireless charging support. Both models have 32GB of storage that's expandable via microSD.

The Fire 7 is more of a budget option that comes with a 7-inch IPS display, 2MP front- and rear-cameras and hands-free Alexa controls. It also offers roughly seven hours of battery life, depending on what you're doing. The biggest drawback is the lack of Google apps, but at $35, it's great as a couch device for reading, checking social media and browsing the web. 

If you're shopping for the younger set, meanwhile, the Fire 7 Kids Pro tablet is on sale for $50, or half off the regular $100 price. That price makes it an excellent budget kids option, thanks to the decent specs (a quad-core processor, dual cameras and expandable storage), along with the Kids+ content that includes educational content from National Geographic, Rabbids Coding, LEGO and others.

Buy Fire 7 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $50Buy Fire HD 8 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $80Buy Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet at Amazon - $140

Finally, the Fire HD 8 Kids Pro Tablet, with similar features to the Fire HD 7 Kids Pro but a slightly larger screen, is available for $80, for a savings of 43 percent from the regular $140 price. Finally, the Fire HD 10 Kids Pro tablet comes with a 10.1-inch 1080p display, dual cameras, USB-C and 3GB of RAM. That model is available for $140 instead of $200, a discount of $60 or 30 percent. 

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Apple may have dropped built-in noise cancellation on the iPhone 13

Apple's "Noise Cancellation" accessibility feature has been a staple on past iPhones, but may have been permanently removed from the iPhone 13 series, 9to5Mac has reported. The feature is designed to "reduce ambient noise on phone calls when you are holding the receiver to your ear," a feature that can help make calls easier to hear. 

"Phone Noise Cancellation is not available on iPhone 13 models, which is why you do not see this option in [the Accessibility] settings," Apple support told one of 9to5Mac's readers. When the reader asked for clarification, the support team confirmed that the feature is "not supported."

Questions about noise cancellation came up on Reddit and Apple support pages shortly after the phone went on sale, with readers noticing that it was no longer available on the Accessibility page. The feature is still available with iOS 15 on past iPhone models, but is nowhere to be found on the iPhone 13. 

"Noise Cancellation" normally uses an iPhone's camera microphone to detect and remove ambient noise around you, so you can more easily hear the other person on a phone or FaceTime call — something that can be valuable for the hard of hearing. The issue only applies if you use the handset by itself without, say, Apple's AirPods noise-cancelling earphones. (It does not affect what others hear; for that, Apple introduced the Voice Isolation feature with iOS 15.)  

Apple has yet to officially confirm that the feature has been permanently removed on iPhone 13 devices; so far, the only word about it has come indirectly from Apple Support. As such, Engadget has reached out to Apple for further clarification.