Posts with «information technology» label

Moscow metro launches facial recognition payment system despite privacy concerns

More than 240 metro stations across Moscow now allow passengers to pay for a ride by looking at a camera. The Moscow metro has launched what authorities say is the first mass-scale deployment of a facial recognition payment system. According to The Guardian, passengers can access the payment option called FacePay by linking their photo, bank card and metro card to the system via the Mosmetro app. "Now all passengers will be able to pay for travel without taking out their phone, Troika or bank card," Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin tweeted.

Теперь все пассажиры #мосметро смогут платить за проезд, не доставая телефон, "Тройку" или банковскую карту. Система Face Pay завтра заработает на более чем 240 станциях. pic.twitter.com/8x4xeFkbqW

— Сергей Собянин (@MosSobyanin) October 14, 2021

In the official Moscow website's announcement, the country's Department of Transport said all Face Pay information will be encrypted. The cameras at the designated turnstyles will read a passenger's biometric key only, and authorities said information collected for the system will be stored in data centers that can only be accessed by interior ministry staff. Moscow's Department of Information Technology has also assured users that photographs submitted to the system won't be handed over to the cops.

Still, privacy advocates are concerned over the growing use of facial recognition in the city. Back in 2017, officials added facial recognition tech to the city's 170,000 security cameras as part of its efforts to ID criminals on the street. Activists filed a case against Moscow's Department of Technology a few years later in hopes of convincing the courts to ban the use of the technology. However, a court in Moscow sided with the city, deciding that its use of facial recognition does not violate the privacy of citizens. Reuters reported earlier this year, though, that those cameras were also used to identify protesters who attended rallies.

Stanislav Shakirov, the founder of Roskomsvoboda, a group that aims to protect Russians' digital rights, said in a statement:

"We are moving closer to authoritarian countries like China that have mastered facial technology. The Moscow metro is a government institution and all the data can end up in the hands of the security services."

Meanwhile, the European Parliament called on lawmakers in the EU earlier this month to ban automated facial recognition in public spaces. It cited evidence that facial recognition AI can still misidentify PoCs, members of the LGBTI+ community, seniors and women at higher rates. In the US, local governments are banning the use of the technology inpublic spaces, including statewide bans by Massachusetts and Maine. Four Democratic lawmakers also proposed a bill to ban the federal government from using facial recognition. 

Apple hires a new HomePod software lead amid speaker market struggles

Amid struggles to make headway in the smart speaker market, Apple has hired a new HomePod software head, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The company has reportedly brought onboard Afrooz Family, who co-founded the high-end audio startup Syng with former Apple designer Christopher Stringer.

Apple's $349 HomePod arrived in 2018 to very mixed reviews, and was discontinued early this year. The company has noticeably failed to compete with smart speaker rivals, particularly Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices and Google's Assistant speaker family. 

Family worked for Apple between 2012 and 2016 and was on the original HomePod team before starting Syng. That company aimed to develop a "revolutionary" speaker to produce immersive audio, but eventually developed a rather niche, $1,800 speaker. The previous HomePod software head, Jason Harrison, left Apple for Airbnb last year. 

Apple's latest speaker product is the $99 HomePod mini, which we described in our Engadget review as an "acceptable Echo alternative." That device has reportedly helped sales a bit, but hasn't put much of a dent in a market dominated by Amazon and Google, according to Bloomberg.

The biggest problem with Apple's smart speakers may be Siri and HomeKit, which aren't as widely supported as Alexa and Google Assistant. The original HomePod was also pretty expensive at launch. To make inroads, Apple may need to change its approach and continue to improve integration — as it recently did with a HomePod mini update that made it work with Apple TV. Apple's primary goal is to merge its HomePod and Apple TV hardware, according to Gurman. 

Apple is holding its Unleashed event on Monday, where it's expected to launch new MacBooks and possibly AirPods, but there's no rumors of a new HomePod product coming any time soon. 

The Apple TV 4K drops to $160, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

Yes, we know it's October, but the holiday shopping season (apparently) knows no bounds. We're already starting to see early Black Friday deals pop up across the web, so it's not too early to start crossing things off your gift list. The Apple TV 4K remains on sale for $160 while the AirPods Pro and a couple of MacBooks are also discounted. A pair of our favorite Bose earbuds are down to a record low while the Echo Show 8 is still on sale for $100. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

Apple TV 4K

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The latest Apple TV 4K is down to $160 on Amazon, which is close to an all-time-low price. It's the best high-end streaming device you can get and we gave it a score of 90 for its speedy performance, Dolby Vision and Atmos support and much improved Siri remote.

Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon - $160

AirPods Pro

Billy Steele / Engadget

The AirPods Pro, Apple's best sounding wireless earbuds, are back down to $179. That's $70 off their normal price and close to a record low. These buds earned a score of 87 from us for their IPX4 design, improved audio and solid ANC.

Buy AirPods Pro at Amazon - $179

AirPods Max

Billy Steele/Engadget

Apple's AirPods Max are on sale for $449, or $100 off their normal price. We gave these expensive headphones a score of 84 for their stellar sound quality, good ANC and solid onboard controls.

Buy AirPods Max at Amazon - $449

11-inch iPad Pro

Apple

Amazon knocked $100 off most 11-inch iPad Pro models, bringing the 256GB WiFi version down to an all-time low of $800. We gave the larger version of the tablet a score of 87 for its powerful performance, lovely display and new Center Stage feature.

Buy 11-inch iPad Pro (256GB) at Amazon - $800

MacBook Air M1

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The 512GB MacBook Air M1 has been discounted to $1,099. This is arguably the best Apple laptop for most people and it earned a score of 94 from us for its impressive performance, excellent battery life, lack of fan noise and good keyboard and trackpad.

Buy MacBook Air M1 (512GB) at Amazon - $1,099

Mac Mini M1

Engadget

Apple's Mac Mini M1 is on sale for as low as $600 right now thanks to a few automatically applied coupons. The best deal is arguably on the 512GB version, which is $150 off and down to $750. The design of the small desktop hasn't changed much, but the big improvements come from the M1 chipset inside.

Buy Mac Mini M1 (256GB) at Amazon - $600Buy Mac Mini M1 (512GB) at Amazon - $750

Bose QuietComfort earbuds

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Bose QuietComfort earbuds are down to an all-time low fo $199 right now. We gave these buds a score of 87 for their stellar noise cancellation, great sound quality and good battery life.

Buy QuietComfort earbuds at Amazon - $199

Echo Show 8

Engadget

The mid-sized Echo Show 8 smart display is down to $100, which is close to the record-low price that we saw during Prime Day in June. We gave it a score of 87 for its minimalist design, lovely display and good sound quality.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $100

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova

Anova's entry-level sous vide machine, the Nano, is down to $95 on Amazon right now. That's the best price we've seen on the kitchen gadget that would make a great gift for the serious home cook in your life. This model uses 750 watts of power to heat up water and it'll run for up to 3,000 hours before it needs to be recharged.

Buy Precision Cooker Nano at Amazon - $95

New tech deals

GOG.com Activision + Blizzard sale

You can save up to 67 percent on a bunch of games from Activision and Blizzard at GOG.com for the next couple of days. The sale includes Caesar, Pharaoh + Cleopatra, Singularity and others.

Shop Activison + Blizzard sale at GOG.com

Razer Book

Amazon has a high-powered configuration of the Razer Book on sale for $1,200, or $400 off its normal price. It runs on an 11th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 13.4-inch FHD+ touchscreen.

Buy Razer Book at Amazon - $1,200

Sonos Arc (refurbished)

If you're willing to get a refurbished model, Sonos has its Arc soundbar for $80 off right now, and only the white model is on sale and in stock at the moment. We gave the Arc a score of 85 for its excellent sound quality, Dolby Atmos support and slick design.

Buy Arc (refurbished) at Sonos - $719

NordVPN

NordVPN, one of our favorite VPNs, is running a sale on a two-year subscription. You can sign up and pay $99 for two years, plus you'll get an extra three months free. We like NordVPN for its speed, its no-logs policy, the thousands of servers it has to choose from and that one account supports up to six connected devices.

Buy NordVPN (2 years) - $99

Tunnelbear

Another one of our top VPN services, Tunnelbear, is offering a two-year subscription for $100. You'll save 58 percent if you sign up with this deal, and we think Tunnelbear is one of the easiest VPNs to use, especially for those that don't want to go crazy configuring their connections.

Buy Tunnelbear (2 years) - $100

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

'Genshin Impact' now supports 120fps on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro

The popular iOS game Genshin Impact is taking advantage of the iPhone 13 Pro's higher-refresh ProMotion display with a new 120fps mode, 9to5Mac has reported. On top of the higher framerates, developer miHoYo introduced new areas, events, missions, character banners and more. 

Apple previously wrote that all iOS developers must release updates to their apps or games to "unlock" the 120Hz mode by adding .plist file key. As with Android devices, use of the mode will drain your battery quicker, but allow for smoother gaming. 2nd-gen or higher iPad Pros don't necessarily need an update to support 120Hz refresh rates, but any game would likely require one anyway.

At the WWDC 2021 Apple Design Awards, Genshin Impact won the best game in the visual category, thanks to graphics and artwork that "push the frontier for mobile gaming," Apple wrote. While the game is also available on Android, PC and Playstation 5, iOS appears to be the first platform to support the higher framerates, according to the Brazilian site Technoblog

Microsoft to shut down LinkedIn in China over 'challenging operating environment'

LinkedIn will shut down the Chinese version of its service later this year. The company cited "a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China" as the reasons for closing the local edition of its social network for professionals.

"While we’ve found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed," LinkedIn said in a statement. As such, the company isn't abandoning China completely. It's working on a standalone job board app called InJobs, which won't have a social feed or any way to share posts or articles.

LinkedIn agreed to adhere to state restrictions and block certain content when it launched in China in February 2014. However, some signs of trouble bubbled up this year. In March, the company prevented new Chinese users from signing up for a spell while it made sure it was abiding by the countries' laws. A couple of months later, China said 105 apps were violating data collection laws, including LinkedIn.

The Microsoft-owned service was the last major US social network that was still officially operating in China. The country banned Signal and Clubhouse earlier this year. Facebook and Twitter have been blocked there since 2009, and China barred Instagram in 2014.

What to expect from Apple’s October 18th ‘Unleashed’ event

On October 18th, Apple will hold its second event of the fall and likely last event of the year. The invite the company sent out this time doesn’t provide any hints on what announcements we should expect, but thanks to a variety of leaks and reports, we have some good ideas about what it will show off.

MacBook Pro

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

All signs point to new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models headlining the event. Apple will reportedly turn back the clock on its flagship laptop, undoing many of the design features that have defined the line since late 2016. MagSafe may be back on the table, as well as an HDMI port and SD card slot. Oh, and the Touch Bar will apparently get the axe, with a standard set of function keys set to replace the OLED strip.

Beyond those changes, the new MacBook Pro is expected to feature thinner bezels. According to display analyst Ross Young, it could even come with a mini-LED panel capable of refreshing its screen at 120Hz. Ross suggests that’s a feature both models could include, but knowing Apple, it may be something that’s only available on the top-tier 16-inch model or an add-on that costs extra. Additionally, there have been reports of the 14- and 16-inch models supporting maximum resolutions of 3,024 x 1,964 and 3,456 x 2,224, which would be a major upgrade over the current 13- and 16-inch MacBook Pros.

Yes, new 14" and 16" MacBook Pro's will have miniLEDs and we believe they will also be 120Hz refresh.

— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) October 12, 2021

Internally, the MacBook Pro will reportedly include Apple’s latest system-on-a-chip, possibly called the M1X. According to a recent report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, there will be two variants of the M1X, with the main difference between the two coming down to the number of graphics cores they have at their disposal. In addition to delivering faster performance than the M1, the new chip could come with support for up to 32GB of RAM, making it a much better fit for work like coding and video editing.

Speaking of the M1X, it could tie into the other announcements Apple has planned for October 18th. In August, Gurman said Apple was working on a redesigned Mac mini that will include the new processor and add additional ports. At the time, he noted the desktop would launch sometime within the “next several months.” Recent reports suggest that a new Mac mini isn’t a guarantee for next week, but Apple could still surprise us. We know from Gurman and analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that Apple is also working on a redesigned MacBook Air, but the company reportedly won’t announce that device until sometime next year.

macOS Monterey

Apple

Given the timing of the event and the likely focus on Mac hardware, Apple will almost certainly announce a release date for macOS Monterey. The company previewed the next version of its desktop operating system at WWDC 2021, showing how features like SharePlay and Universal Control will build on the enhancements it introduced with Big Sur in 2020. We got a chance to preview the update this past summer and found it was a mostly subtle upgrade to Apple’s desktop OS. Still, we wager Mac fans will be excited to find out when they can download the software.

Everything else

We could also see the company announce a new set of AirPods to replace the current second-generation model. Apple hasn’t updated its original wireless earbuds since 2019 when it released a minor update that added support for inductive charging. Taking a page from the AirPods Pro, the new model is expected to feature an updated design with shorter stems, but they won’t include more premium features like ANC. In the lead-up to next week’s event, we’ve seen leaked images of the third-generation AirPods with both silicone ear tips and without. So it’s not clear just how heavily Apple plans to lean into the AirPods Pro design.

We’ll note here AirPods haven’t been a frequent feature of Apple’s hardware events. Outside of when it unveiled the earbuds back in 2016, Apple has announced all subsequent models, including the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, through press releases. We can see the company doing the same here with the new “basic” model. One last thing the company could mention at the event is that Apple Music is coming to the PlayStation 4 and PS5. Given that you can already access Apple TV from Sony’s consoles, it’s not a jump for the streaming service to become available there as well.

So there you have it, that’s everything we see Apple potentially sharing on October 18th. As always, the company could surprise us, so you’ll want to visit Engadget on the day of the event. We’ll have comprehensive coverage of the company’s latest announcements.

Facebook is using first-person videos to train future AIs

One of the obvious goals of almost every computer vision project is to enable a machine to see, and perceive, the world as a human does. Today, Facebook has started talkingabout Ego4D, its own effort in this space, for which it has created a vast new data set to train future models. In a statement, the company said that it had recruited 13 universities across nine countries, who had collected 2,200 hours of footage from 700 participants. This footage was taken from the perspective of the user, which can be used to train these future AI models. Kristen Grauman, Facebook’s lead research scientist, says that this is the largest collection of data explicitly created for this focus.

The footage was centered on a number of common experiences in human life, including social interaction, hand and object manipulation and predicting what’s going to happen. It’s, as far as the social network is concerned, a big step toward better computing experiences which, until now, have always focused on sourcing data from the bystander’s perspective. Facebook has said that the data sets will be released in November, “for researchers who sign Ego4D’s data use agreement.” And, next year, researchers from beyond this community will be challenged to better train machines to understand what exactly humans are doing in their lives.

Naturally, there is the angle that Facebook, which now has a camera glasses partnership with Ray Ban, is looking to improve its own capabilities in future. You probably already know about the perils of what this potential surveillance could entail, and why anyone might feel a little leery about the announcement.

Acer's new Chromebook Spin 514 features a fanless design and improved webcam

As part of its usual autumn laptop refresh, Acer is announcing a host of new Chromebook today that'll roll out in the coming months. There are four models being refreshed today: the Chromebook Spin 514, Chromebook 515, Chromebook 514, and Chromebook Spin 314. That's a lot of product names, but Spin devices can flip around with a 360-degree hinge, and the last two digits denote the screen size. That should hopefully ground you as we go through these new models.

Most interesting is probably the Spin 514 (pictured above), which combines a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen that has minimal bezels with Intel's 11th-generation Core i3, i5 or i7 processors. This laptop has no fans, which means these probably aren't the highest-powered versions of Intel's chips, but they should still provide solid performance for Chrome OS. Acer also put some focus on the webcam, a wise choice given how we're all still stuck on videos calls for the foreseeable future. It's a 1080p camera with a blue glass filter and new noise-reduction technology to remove things like light flares. We'll have to see how this works in practice, but given how many laptops have entirely mediocre webcams, any improvements here will be welcome.

Other specs include up to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage, Intel Iris X graphics and 10 hours of battery life. The Spin 514 weighs in at 3 pounds, so it's not going to be the lightest thing to use in tablet mode, but otherwise it sounds like it'll be a very good Chromebook — it also simply looks nice and well-built, at least as far as I can tell from these images. And Acer has a solid track record of making very good Chromebooks, so hopefully that'll continue here. The Spin 514 is expected to arrive in the US in January and starts at $700.

Acer's Chromebook 515 (which comes in consumer and enterprise editions) has similar specs to the Spin 514, though it has a larger 15.6-inch display. Given the large size, this laptop isn't a convertible, which is probably a smart move. For a 15-inch laptop, though, it's pretty light — only 3.75 pounds. It comes with the same 11th-generation processor options as the Spin 514, though it also has a budget Pentium Gold option (paired with Intel's UHD graphics rather than the Iris X). The Chromebook 515 will initially be available in Europe this month for €499; the Enterprise version will come to the US in January 2022 starting at $640.

Acer has a few less expensive Chromebooks coming out, as well. The Chromebook Spin 314 starts at $500 and arrives in the US in November. For that price, you'll get a 14-inch screen with an unfortunate 1,366 x 768 resolution, which is pretty unacceptable in the year 2021. It also features budget processors in the form of Intel's Pentium Gold or two Celeron options and has a 360-degree hinge, as the name implies. More intriguing is the Chromebook 514, which pairs a 14-inch, 1080p display with MediaTek's 8-core Kompanio 828 processor and 8GB of RAM. We haven't tested a MediaTek Chromebook in a while, so we can't say for sure how it'll perform yet. But Acer is promising 15 hours of battery life, and the laptop weighs less than 3 pounds, so it does have some potential as a budget Chromebook (the 514 will cost $400 when it is released in December). 

Apple Watch Series 7 review: It’s all about the screen

The main difference between Apple’s Watch Series 7 and the Series 6 is just a larger display, but it makes an outsized impact on a device as small as a watch. Apple also generally enlarged the UI, making things easier to read and navigate. To make better use of the bigger canvas, the company also added some new watch faces and a full QWERTY keyboard for replying to messages.

The other changes to the Series 7 are less obvious, like a new SiP (system-in-package), faster charging and overnight respiratory tracking. For those coming from the last generation, this might not feel like a significant upgrade. But the larger display does make a meaningful impact for anyone that’s upgrading from a Watch SE, Series 5 or older.

Design and hardware

Even though its screen is bigger, the Series 7 still manages to retain basically the same footprint as its predecessor. It’s a hair heavier than the Watch SE and Series 6, which makes sense since its case is slightly larger. Unlike previous generations, which came in 40 and 44mm sizes, this year you can choose between 41mm and 45mm. The difference is barely noticeable at first. 

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Once I turned the screen on, though, I was struck by its roominess. This was when this main design change became obvious. Apple used a refractive edge here to make it seem like the display curves slightly along the sides and it helps the face feel even more expansive. The bezels have been whittled down to just 1.7mm (0.07 inch) compared to last gen’s 3mm.

Oh, and a quick shout here to its durability: It’s the first Apple Watch to be certified IP6X for dust resistance. Since I’m in reviewer mode, I've been very careful to avoid situations where I might damage the device. But I’ll admit I’ve already dropped the Series 7 once and it survived without a scratch, thanks to Apple’s crystal covering that the company says is more crack resistant than on the Series 6.

Now, you’re probably not comparing an Apple Watch to Android or Wear OS, but in case you were curious, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is noticeably lighter than the Series 7. It also has a round face and thinner body. But really, if you’re an iPhone user, you’ve probably never even thought about a Galaxy watch.

A big screen difference

Depending on which Apple Watch you’d been using before, the jump in screen size may be less obvious. It’s increased more than 50 percent from the SE and 20 percent from the Series 6. Either way, the more spacious UI is helpful. Buttons for entering my passcode stretched out over the edges, and I didn't need to aim as carefully to strike the right keys. It's easier to hit the right settings in the control center, too, and I can see more of my friends’ messages at once. My heart rate and time passed during workouts are more readable as well. Those with visual impairments will also appreciate that there are new larger font size settings available.

Engadget

Though most buttons are between 12 and 27 percent larger, app icons are still squished together. That’s a problem for those of us who use the grid view for all apps, but not so much if you’re in list view.

The extra space also means Apple was able to introduce a full QWERTY keyboard for replying to messages by typing or swiping on the screen. Compared to handwriting, dictating or emojis, a keyboard offers a bit more flexibility, especially when the system correctly picks up your swipes. But because it’s so cramped, the accuracy rate is maybe 60 percent, and I still preferred using dictation. Plus, the new screen may be big, but it’s definitely not big enough to make tap typing possible. Still, it’s a good option to have.

In addition to enlarging most of the elements across the UI, Apple also added new faces that can display more information at once, like the Modular Duo. There’s also a Contour style that pushes the clock’s digits all the way to the edge where they warp and “melt” over the sides like in Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. The remaining two are a Portrait face that we already saw in the watchOS 8 beta, and World Time, which is helpful for interacting with people in other countries. I used Modular Duo the most, though it’s not very attractive, and when I wanted something prettier I just switched to one with my face as the wallpaper instead. (Just kidding: I use the “Artist” design or a cute animal background.)

The new Modular Duo screen is the most useful. It lets you place two expanded complications on top of each other, while still showing the time and an additional small complication at the top. You can choose to show the world clock with a timer or your favorite stock’s performance with Apple Music, for example. I went with a Spotify controller and the Weather forecast. Though the latter worked well, showing me hourly temperature and sunlight data on the screen, the Spotify complication was, in a word, trash. It just shows the words “Tap to play music,” and I’d have to waste a tap and a second to pull up playback controls.

A second doesn’t sound like much, but when I’m out running or juggling my groceries, I don’t want to waste that time holding up my arm and watching my screen for more than a fraction of a second. I’m not going to harp on this because this is more of a Spotify problem than an Apple Watch issue, but given how many people use the music app, it would do both companies good to make this complication work better. I’d love to see more useful complications from other apps too.

One last note on the Series 7’s screen: Though its actual peak brightness hasn’t changed, Apple has tweaked the system so that the Always On display is up to 70 percent brighter when you’re indoors. This way, it’s easier to read if you have your hand hidden below a table while you’re at a meeting.

Battery life, charging and performance

That pretty much sums up all the screen-related updates on the Series 7. But there are a few other noteworthy upgrades. The most significant of these is that it charges faster, and in about 10 minutes, I got close to 10 percent capacity. It reached almost 100 percent in under an hour with the new cable that Apple includes in the box. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch SE only got to about 60 percent in an hour.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

You’ll need both the new charger and the Series 7 to get these faster charging speeds, by the way. It’s the coils on both the watch and the wireless disc that enable the higher rate, so this isn’t something you can get just by running out and buying a new accessory. As someone who’s constantly forgetting to charge my watch until I'm about to run out the door, I appreciate the faster speeds. That said, I still wish smartwatches in general lasted longer and took less time to charge.

Speaking of the battery, the Series 7 promises the same runtime as its predecessor, which is to say, about 18 hours. I generally found myself getting about half a day more from the new watch than the SE, despite the lack of an Always On display on the SE. The Series 7 usually stuck around for a day and a half, almost two, with the screen set to Always On, and tracking between three and five workouts. I also used the device to send plenty of messages and map my walks while I ran errands with the GPS on. That endurance is impressive given the larger screen, but it’s worth noting that I haven’t used the watch for sleep tracking yet.

The battery efficiency can be partly attributed to Apple’s new S7 system-in-package (SIP), which is based on the same processor as the S6. In general, I didn’t feel much of a difference between the Series 7 and the SE when launching workouts or getting Siri to text my friends. The Apple Watch has been and continues to be a responsive device that feels as fast as, if not faster than, its Android counterparts.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Sleep tracking, watchOS 8 and other updates

One area where Apple continues to lag the competition is sleep tracking. While companies like Fitbit and Samsung can use their wearables’ heart rate monitors to detect what sleep zone you’re in, Apple still doesn’t offer that. And you’ll need to make sure you have the Sleep Focus mode on (either manually or by setting a schedule) before the Watch will log your slumber. The others are all able to automatically tell when you’ve gone to sleep and don’t need you to set a schedule. In fact, Fitbit has been doing it since 2015.

The Series 7 does usher in a new feature that logs your respiration rate while you sleep, and then tells you your breath-per-minute rate the next morning. Cool. Respiratory tracking is something that’s coming via watchOS 8 and isn’t exclusive to the Series 7, and the same is true of features like the new Mindfulness app, guided meditation sessions, redesigned Photos app, SharePlaying Fitness+ workouts and more. This means they’re less likely to sway your decision on whether to get the Series 7 if you already have an Apple Watch. The main things exclusive to the Series 7 are the Modular Duo and Contour watch faces, larger font sizes and buttons, and the QWERTY keyboard.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Wrap-up

Though the differences between the Series 6 and 7 seem minor, it's worth a reminder that most people who own last year’s model likely aren’t looking to upgrade yet anyway. For anyone else who’s looking for a new smartwatch, the Series 7 will be a satisfying purchase, especially if you’ve never used one before. WatchOS is a capable and comprehensive system that can help you track your workouts, automatically log your sessions, prompt you to be more active and mindful of your mental health all while being a great extension of your smartphone. It’s not the best at sleep-tracking, though, so if that’s a priority you might prefer a Fitbit. Despite its relatively high starting price of $400, what Apple offers is currently the best in the market, especially for the iOS ecosystem.

The 512GB Mac Mini M1 is down to $750 on Amazon

While it's very likely we'll hear about new Apple computers next week, Amazon's having a sale now on the Mac Mini M1. The base 256GB model is down to $600 thanks to an automatically applied coupon, but the upgraded model has an even rarer discount. Normally, we've seen it drop to $800 in the past — but now another automatically applied coupon has knocked the 512GB Mac Mini M1 down to $750.

Buy Mac Mini M1 (256GB) at Amazon - $600Buy Mac Mini M1 (512GB) at Amazon - $750

As with other M1 machines, this Mac Mini doesn't look different from its Intel counterpart but Apple upgraded the internals significantly with its M1 chipset. We haven't tested the machine ourselves, but we have tried out the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and both laptops impressed us with their powerful performance and speed. The Mac Mini M1 has an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU, plus a 16-core Neural Engine that handles machine learning tasks. Both the 256GB and 512GB models have 8GB of RAM and that should be enough for most people, but remember that you're basically stuck with that because you can't upgrade it yourself.

Those who prefer a desktop setup will gravitate to the Mac Mini for its sleek, compact profile. There's not much to the small box aside from an array of ports, which includes two Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A connectors, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

But we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Apple's event coming up next week where we could see new Mac laptops, desktops and even a new pair of AirPods. Nothing is confirmed yet, but rumors have been swirling for a while about a redesigned Mac Mini. But if you need a new desktop sooner rather than later, or you want to get one while you can save a bit of money, Amazon's latest sale on the Mac Mini M1 isn't one to overlook.

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