Apple’s tiny, totally wireless AirPods get meticulously torn down

After having been delayed for months — for reasons never publicly confirmed, no less — Apple’s AirPods are finally here. And really, what better to way to celebrate one of the most curious delays in Apple history than by tearing those things apart? The folks at iFixit have done just that (as always), and the end result is a fascinating look at $ 160 worth of meticulously crafted silicon and audio parts. Spoiler alert: there’s more glue in them than you’d think.

As you might imagine, the tiny scale of Apple’s work and all the glue sealing everything in place make the AirPods a nightmare where repairs are concerned. In fact, all the components are so tightly packed in there that the idea of replacing parts or fixing them in general is downright laughable. Still, this kind of surgery does a great job illustrating the insane, compact origami that goes into modern consumer gadgets. And if nothing else, iFixit’s strangely gorgeous imagery more thoroughly explains the importance of the AirPods’ most questionable design choice: those stems that dangle out of your ear.

People stare, but they probably don’t realize that those stems are mostly all battery — their charge capacity works out to 1 percent of the iPhone 7’s — with long antennas glued to them to maintain a strong connection between the Pods themselves and the phone. (For what it’s worth, we’ve had a pair of AirPods for months and the multiple wireless connections were more-or-less rock-solid the entire time.)

Knowing that doesn’t make the stems look any better, though, as evidenced by all the shade thrown at me by coworkers whenever I wear these things. Also nestled deep within there is what makes the AirPods really tick: the minuscule W1 chip. It’s responsible for the Pods’ dead-simple pairing and power-sipping tendencies, which so far have been the big reasons our review units have seen such consistent use. The level of tension subsides when attention is turned to the AirPods’ charging case, but make no mistake: if you’re a fan of lilliputian tech, this is one teardown you have to see.

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The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Letter from the Editor

Christmas is right around the corner, but Santa’s not the only one dropping from the sky with presents this holiday season. Amazon’s Prime Air officially began service this week, when a drone made the service’s first delivery in Cambridge, England. So the future of shipping has arrived … for a handful of people in the English countryside.

Many, many more Amazonians will be getting served, however, by Prime Video, now that the company has spun it out into a standalone service. At an introductory rate that’s a third the cost of Netflix, the move creates serious competition for viewing dollars around the world — though it only brings Amazon’s original programming. Still, if critical acclaim is any indicator, you’re getting good value: Both of the two streaming services have shows up for multiple Golden Globes.

One competitor Amazon isn’t (and shouldn’t be) preoccupied with is a new virtual assistant from Japan. It’s a female anime character in a jar. It costs $ 2,500. It will not lift the crushing weight of loneliness that pervades your every waking hour. Oh, and if you’re thinking it’d make a swell Christmas gift, think 2017 — the company’s taking preorders now, but it won’t arrive for a year.


Elon Musk: Supercharger spots are meant for charging, not parkingTesla will tax owners who idle at the Supercharger

More Teslas on the road also means there might be long lines at the local Supercharger. After complaints about owners who leave their car hooked up beyond the time needed for a full charge, Elon Musk & Co. have a fix: idle fees. If you don’t collect your EV within five minutes of it reaching full charge (you’ll get a notification on your phone), then expect a 40 cent per minute charge to sit in that spot.


Here’s what it will cost when you lose oneApple’s AirPods are now on sale

Online pre-orders are now stretching into 2017, but you can order a pair of Apple’s new EarBuds. The wireless buds go perfectly with a headphone jack-deficient iPhone 7, whose owners are most likely to lay down $ 160 for the pair + charger. A side effect of the AirPods’ tangle free lifestyle is that you might end up losing one, however, and if you do, the replacement will cost $ 69.


Not to be confused with “The O.C.”Netflix’s weird surprise show ‘The OA’ is now streaming

Last weekend Netflix surprised us by teasing a new miniseries about a mysterious young woman. The trailer left much to the imagination, but the main plot centers on a young woman who was blind before being abducted, and returns to her family seven years later able to see. Its eight-episode length had some hoping for another “Stranger Things” experience. We don’t know if it’s that good, but it’s a perfect choice if you can’t make it out to “Rogue One” this weekend.


League of $ $ $ $ “League of Legends” developer signs a $ 300 million streaming deal

eSports looks poised to make a big leap, and BAMTech, a streaming company part-owned by the MLB, the NHL and Disney (read: ESPN) is ready to buy in. It struck a deal with “League of Legends” maker Riot Games that’s worth over $ 300 million, and it will build an app next year to stream competitions on phones, PCs and other devices.


Looks like someone read “Ender’s Game”DARPA’s OFFSET program will use gamers to playtest drone swarm control

Stop us if this sounds familiar: A government agency is trying to help the military control groups of flying robots, and one of the ways it will learn is by offering a “physics-based, swarm tactics game.” The idea is to let playtesters swap strategies on how to best control a swarm of drone robots, then apply that knowledge to the real thing.


The final stops are at PAX and SXSWNintendo’s Switch console is going on tour

Can’t wait until March to see the Switch? No problem, because Nintendo just announced it’s taking the console on a “Preview Tour” of major cities starting in January.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Meet Waymo: Google’s new (old) self-driving car business
  • Nokia returns with a dumb phone from its new owner
  • The Engadget Podcast Episode 18: In which Terrence drops F-bombs while talking about Yahoo
  • Review: HP Spectre x360 (2016)
  • Dwarf planet Ceres is ‘oozing’ with water

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How I learned to love Electric Objects’ digital art display

“The last thing I need is another screen in my apartment.” That was my first thought when I heard about Electric Objects, a company that makes digital art displays. Between my 55-inch OLED TV, 34-inch ultra-widescreen PC monitor, MacBook Air, multiple tablets and iPhone 6S, what use would I have for more screens? But after spending some time with the $ 299 EO2, the company’s latest product, and its accompanying $ 10-a-month “Art Club” subscription, it wasn’t long before I saw the appeal of a cloud-connected display on my wall.

You could call me an aspirational art owner. I’d love to fill my apartment’s walls with unique pieces, but the process of finding and framing things is just too tedious. (Heck, I have a closet full of posters that still need to be properly mounted and framed.) The EO2 promised to bring a bit of culture to my home without much fuss. How could I say no to that?

The EO2 is basically just a 23-inch 1080p display with an internet connection. Its screen has a matte finish, which helps it avoid reflecting light sources and keeps it from looking like a glossy TV screen hanging on your wall. While its aluminum black case looks pretty basic, you can also snap on a $ 99 hardwood frame (available in maple, walnut, white wood and black wood) to make it match your decor.

You have a variety of options for setting it up: Simply lean it against something (there are two rubber feet in the box to prevent it from slipping) or hang it up on your wall with the included wall mount. Since my wife and I live in a Brooklyn apartment and want to preserve our walls, we chose to hang it with a single nail, like a typical picture frame, instead of using the two nails required for Electric Objects’ mount. The power cord that juts out of the bottom of the EO2 wasn’t much of a problem for us, but there are plenty of cable-hiding products on the market if that’s the sort of thing that bugs you.

Once the display is mounted, you just need to download the company’s app and step through the setup process to get it online. I initially ran into some trouble getting it connected, but that turned out to be a separate issue with my T-Mobile-issued ASUS router — I’ve moved over to a Netgear Nitehawk and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Next, it was time to get my art on. From the EO app, you can sift through the free content available from the Electric Objects community. There’s some good stuff there, but if you really want to get fancy, you can shell out for the $ 10 monthly “Art Club” subscription, which gives you full access to a plethora of classic and modern pieces from museums and well-known artists. Pushing a static image to the EO2 takes anywhere from two to five seconds on my 802.11AC 5GHz wireless network, while video pieces could take several minutes, depending on the size of the piece.

It wasn’t long before my wife and I really got into the EO2. We built a cat-themed playlist as a quick mood booster, and the new “Space is the Place” gallery, featuring work by the digital artist Adam Ferriss, ended up being a meditative way to evoke the immensity of the cosmos. The possibilities feel endless. Want to show off fine pieces of art? Go ahead! Want a playlist full of memes and pop culture references? You’re covered there too. You can even throw in your own photos and movie clips, which is perfect for when family comes over.

Just about everything I threw on the EO2 looked good, no matter if they relied on big, bold colors or fine lines and detail. Of course, it’s not something you’ll be staring at for hours on end like a TV or computer monitor; it just needs to make a good impression whenever you glance at it. Given the EO2’s price, I wasn’t expecting a world-class display, so I was surprised there wasn’t even much to complain about. Settings-wise, there’s not much to tweak. You can choose various levels of “auto brightness” support, which changes the screen’s brightness throughout the day, as well as set up a sleep timer. There aren’t any intricate image settings to deal with. (Colors looked decently calibrated to my untrained eyes.)

The EO2 isn’t exactly a revolutionary product. It didn’t completely change my life like my first smartphone, but it’s a nice way to quickly change up the mood in your home. After setting up several Philips Hue lightbulbs in my living room, I was surprised by how much slight lighting changes could influence the way I felt. Sending art to the EO2 had a similar effect; it’s hard not to feel contemplative when you run into a classic painting in your living room.

It’s also hard to compare the display to an actual framed print. There’s something about a physical piece of art, even if it’s a cheap reprint, that feels different than something projected on a screen. Choosing to frame a work of art and mount it on your wall has a feeling of permanence and commitment that a mere connected display, which can be changed in seconds, can’t replicate.

The key to appreciating the EO2? Don’t expect it to replace your framed art. Instead, think of it as a quick way to aesthetically remix a space. It’s also expensive at $ 299, and to truly enjoy it you have to subscribe to a service that costs as much as a Netflix subscription. If both of those prices end up dropping (hardware typically does, after all), Electric Objects might actually succeed at bringing fine art to the masses.

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Sony’s Xperia Ear is not the hands-free assistant I wanted

In theory, Sony’s newest wearable sounds promising. The Xperia Ear is a single Bluetooth earbud that lets you dictate messages, get weather updates and smartphone notifications, and carry out other little tasks just by talking to it. It’s like having an Amazon Echo in your ear, except with far fewer skills and third-party integrations. Sony also promises a long-lasting battery that can endure a full workday of talk time with the included charging case, so you can have the assistant ready for your commands all day. Unfortunately, the Xperia Ear simply doesn’t do enough to justify its $ 200 asking price.

Hardware

The Xperia Ear is a single black wireless earbud. The thumb-size, round-rectangular device has a slightly protruding speaker to help it latch onto your ear. There’s also a semicircular hook-like extrusion above the speaker that doesn’t appear to serve a purpose (other than perhaps helping it maintain a firmer grip on your ear). On its gray outer surface is a physical button that you can press to trigger the assistant, as well as a blue indicator light.

Inside, the earpiece houses a host of sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, Bluetooth radio, NFC transmitter and proximity sensor. It also meets the IPX2 standard for water-resistance, meaning it can survive light splashes or rain. I did not encounter wet weather during my testing period, but the Ear did survive the drops of water I splashed on it.

Importantly, the device comes in a sturdy, pager-size holder that charges the core unit when you stow the latter in there. This case was small enough to carry in even my tiniest of purses, which I appreciated.

In use

Getting started with the Ear is simple. But first, know that it’s compatible only with Android, so if you’re an iPhone user, you should probably stop reading this review. Sony says it is “currently focused on creating the Xperia Ear host app for Android as it’s powered by Sony Agent Technology, which is specifically designed and currently only available for Android.” The company declined to comment on whether iOS compatibility is on the way, so don’t hold your breath.

On your Android device, your first step is to download the Xperia Ear app and then pair the Ear with your phone over Bluetooth. You can also smush your phone together with the earbud if you have an NFC-enabled handset, which makes connecting them a cinch. I paired the Ear with the Huawei Mate 9, and the NFC handshake between both devices was indeed quick.

Once I was all set up, I put the earpiece on and went about my business. The Ear felt surprisingly secure and didn’t fall out even when I shook my head vigorously to test just how well it would stay put. Wearing the Ear was comfortable until an hour later, when I started feeling a dull ache on the side of my head. It wasn’t superpainful, but I didn’t always feel like putting up with it, either. Taking off the earbud made the discomfort go away, and I ended up having to periodically remove the device during my review.

Most of your interactions with the Ear are going to involve you pressing the device’s button, waiting for it to say it’s listening and waiting for its three-tone chime (like the beep after a voicemail greeting). Only then can you ask your question. If that sounds tedious, it’s because it is. Sony could remove two steps from this process by getting rid of the redundant chime and the button push; the resulting speed gained would make the Ear feel much more responsive.

I really want the Xperia Ear to always be listening for a trigger phrase, because pushing a button against my ear repeatedly makes the side of my head feel slightly sore over time. Plus, it’s not really a hands-free experience if you have to use your hands to get some help. But that function would come at the expense of battery life, so this is a tradeoff I’m willing to accept.

You can set up the Ear so that a long press of the button activates OK Google, allowing you to use an assistant you’re probably already familiar with. But by default, you’ll be working with Sony’s unnamed helper, which is very new compared with existing offerings. And with that youth come some quirks that, together with its one-sided, Bluetooth-headset-inspired design, make the Xperia Ear feel dated.

Talking to Sony’s assistant feels like I’m interacting with a “futuristic” machine from Demolition Man. Its voice sounds artificial, robotic and disjointed, especially compared to Siri, the Google Assistant and Alexa, which have human voices with more natural inflections. Ear pronounced my name the same way Engadget’s Southern-bred Editor-in-Chief Michael Gorman does — as in, “Churl-lynn,” with a hard “ch.” Thanks a lot, Sony.

That’s an understandable mistake, considering my name is quite uncommon, but the Ear made the same error when reading a news piece about actress Charlize Theron. It took me a few seconds to realize who the assistant was describing. It also mispronounced the word “cleanses,” saying “clean-suhs” instead of “clen-suhs.” For the most part, though, the Ear is easy enough to understand if you’re paying attention.

The reason I was talking about Charlize Theron, by the way, is because whenever you stick the device in your ear, it greets you and starts rattling off the time, your agenda for the day and news headlines since you last put it on. The actress was the subject in one of several headlines that Sony pulled together. You don’t get to pick the news sources you prefer; instead, you can decide in the app settings only whether or not you want to hear headlines at all.

You can also choose to get voice alerts from apps such as Calendar, Email, Gmail, Hangouts, SMS, Twitter and Facebook. This causes the Ear to recite your incoming notifications as they arrive on your phone, which can be distracting. I happen to be excellent at tuning out noise, though, so this didn’t bother me. You can also dismiss each alert at any time by pressing the button on the earbud. I actually appreciated having someone read out my new emails to me because it means I can multitask even more effectively.

Instead of having to go to my inbox whenever I saw a new message, I could simply listen to the Ear narrate the entire email and decide if it was worth an immediate response. It was also adorable when the Ear read Managing Editor Dana Wollman’s email that opened, “Good news, bad news (mostly good news, I think),” but slightly less funny when it read out every last detail of each sender’s email signature, down to their ZIP codes. Still, with some software tuning, this feature could become truly useful for hardcore multitaskers like myself.

There are a few other things Ear can do, including setting timers, reporting the weather, answering calls, streaming music from your phone and sending text messages. The earpiece’s dual microphone, noise suppression and echo cancellation worked well, and people I spoke with using the Ear heard me clearly despite my loud Netflix video in the background. Because it’s a one-sided earbud, the Ear isn’t a good option for listening to music, but it works in a pinch. Just don’t expect great audio quality here; songs generally lack bass, with vocals sounding the clearest against tinny background instruments.

One of the niftiest things you can do with the Ear is to use voice dictation to compose messages. In general, the device accurately relayed what I said, but it spelled my name wrong. Again, given that I have a unique name, this isn’t a big deal, especially since most other words were spelled correctly.

Now, talking out loud is a rather conspicuous way to interact with any device, especially if you’re in an open office or walking outside. For those who want to be more stealthy, Sony built in an effective way to communicate nonverbally with the Ear: You can nod or shake your head in response to yes or no questions. This is a limited application, yes, but useful nonetheless for quick, discreet reactions. The device correctly interpreted my gestures (acknowledging them with a satisfying chime) when I answered its questions about whether the message it transcribed was correct and if I wanted to send my text.

That’s impressive for a first-generation device, but the Ear has its glitches. For instance, the earpiece would start reading out its greeting and list of headlines any time it got moved or bumped, even when I wasn’t wearing it. It was also inconsistent in delivering my alerts — I randomly received alerts about two really old unread Hangouts messages on my first day wearing the Ear.

Another gripe I have with the Ear is its inability to reconnect seamlessly with the synced phone after I leave and re-enter Bluetooth range. That means, when I go to the bathroom or leave the phone in a different room, the Ear stops working, only saying, “Device not connected.” When I get back to the phone, I have to press the button on the earbud to re-sync the devices. This should happen without any action on my part.

Like any other wireless earbud, the Xperia Ear’s battery life varies wildly depending on how much you use it. On my first day testing the device, which included a lot of email alerts and nearly an hour of song streaming, the Ear conked out (from a 60 percent charge) after a full day’s work. Another time, on a full charge, the Ear dropped just 60 percent of its energy after two days of testing, which included five to 10 minutes of music playback and multiple phone calls, text-message dictation and other small tasks. You can extend that runtime by activating Sony’s Battery Care mode via the companion app.

Speaking of the sort, recharging the Ear is easy — just put it back in its carrying case. The holder has two indicator lights: The top shows you by flashing red, yellow or green how full the earbud’s battery is. Another LED on the bottom indicates the amount of power left in the case, which you can plug in via micro-USB. It took about a week for the container’s charge to go from green to red, after it recharged the earbud a handful of times.

The competition

The Xperia Ear is a unique device — nothing else on the market claims to do exactly what it does. The thing is, though, you can get a similar experience with some of today’s wireless earbuds that let you tap your phone’s digital assistant. Case in point: The $ 250 Bragi Dash lets you tap your cheek to talk to Siri. You can also activate Siri with your existing Apple earphones with a long press on your remote control. Android owners don’t have a similar wireless option, though.

Compared to other wireless earbuds, such as the $ 200 Samsung Gear IconX and the $ 250 Jabra Elite Sport, the Xperia Ear is expensive, especially since it only covers one side. Plus, the Samsung and Jabra devices are geared toward fitness users and offer more features (and two earbuds instead of one) for less than twice the price of the Xperia Ear. They also deliver better audio quality than the Xperia, although Sony’s device offers longer battery life. Still, neither of these let you control an assistant yet, and the Ear retains that advantage over the competition, at least until its rivals add that feature (which, let’s be real, is inevitable).

Wrap-up

I was excited about the Xperia Ear and what it promised until I realized that, as it stands, the device does nothing different from Siri or Google over wired earbuds. In particular, the fact that it requires you to use your hand and press a button to use it makes me question the device’s existence in the first place. What’s the point of getting a whole new gadget for an assistant in your ear if not for the convenience when your arms are full? It’s not like this is a cheap purchase, either.

Still, this is a first-generation device that has the potential to become truly useful if Sony tweaks its software. That’s an easy enough fix. The trouble is, makers of other wireless earbuds could almost as easily offer the same features, by tapping into Siri or the Google Assistant. If, or when, they do, the Xperia Ear risks becoming a completely forgettable device.

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Apple will replace a lost AirPod for $69

Following a slightly delay, Apple’s wireless AirPods are ready to order. They’re small and sleek, but the lack of cords has put a nagging thought in the back of my mind: I am guaranteed to lose one, if not both within a few weeks. If you’re equally forgetful, or happen to commute in jam-packed subway carriages, you’ll be happy to hear that Apple will replace a single AirPod for $ 69 (£65). Given a fresh pair costs $ 159 (£159), that seems like a reasonable fee. Similarly, a new AirPod charging case will set you back $ 69 (£65), for the inevitable “I threw it out thinking it was floss” stories.

To Apple’s credit, your music will stop as soon as one AirPod leaves your earhole. It serves two purposes: so you don’t have to press pause when someone starts talking to you, and to give you a heads-up whenever one AirPod drops out of your ear. If you’re somewhere busy, like a crowded train platform, that immediate notification could be vital to retrieving it. Otherwise, the allure of Apple’s AirPods is a tangle-free lifestyle, convenient pairing and charging. It’s doubly useful if you have the iPhone 7 with its non-existent 3.55mm jack. (Yeah, I’m still annoyed about it.)

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Apple (US), (UK)

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‘Super Mario Run’ is now available

Finally, there’s a Mario game on smartphones. As promised, Nintendo has released Super Mario Run today, giving iPhone and iPad users a new way to run, leap and spin through the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s an auto-runner, meaning the portly plumber will jog, hop and vault over obstacles automatically. You tap the screen to jump, leaping across gaps and goombas to collect colorful coins. It sounds simple, but there’s a surprising amount of complexity to the platforming. Like Rayman Jungle Run, timing is essential to unlock contextual moves, such as rolls and wall jumps.

The game has a one-time fee of $ 9.99. Nintendo is keen to avoid the free-to-play mechanics that plague so many smartphone games, focusing instead on quality and traditional replayability. The levels are challenging enough, tasking players to collect coins of increasing difficulty. With plenty of stages and worlds to explore, they should keep you preoccupied for hours. There’s also Kingdom Builder, a basic village design mini-game, and Toad Rally, an aysnchronous multiplayer mode that emphasises style over brute-force level completion. The three modes feed into one another too, unlocking one-time “rally tickets,” enemy score multipliers and more.

It’s not all rosy, however. Nintendo has been criticised for demanding an always active internet connection. (The company says it’s to stop piracy.) If you’re the type of person that likes to game on their morning commute, or has to ration a modest data cap each month, this could be a deal-breaker. Regardless, it’s a landmark moment for the company and it’s beloved mustachioed mascot. Miitomo was an interesting experiment, sure, but it pales in comparison to the potential of Super Mario Run. This is a true platformer, albeit one with limited controls, that could make a ton of money and improve Nintendo’s standing in the public conscience.

Source: Super Mario Run (iOS)

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Florida court rules police can demand your phone’s passcode

A Florida man arrested for third-degree voyeurism using his iPhone 5 initially gave police verbal consent to search the smartphone, but later rescinded permission before divulging his 4-digit passcode. Even with a warrant, they couldn’t access the phone without the combination. A trial judge denied the state’s motion to force the man to give up the code, considering it equal to compelling him to testify against himself, which would violate the Fifth Amendment. But the Florida Court of Appeals’ Second District reversed that decision today, deciding that the passcode is not related to criminal photos or videos that may or may not exist on his iPhone.

Obviously, this has implications for Constitutional protections of a civilian’s data contained behind a smartphone’s multi-digit passcode. Previously, a 2014 decision by the Virginia Beach Circuit Court found that individuals can’t be compelled to give up their phone’s code, but they could be forced to unlock it with a fingerprint, should that option be available.

The distinction? A passcode requires a person to divulge actual knowledge, while a fingerprint is considered physical evidence, like a handwriting sample or DNA. This interpretation sources back to the Supreme Court’s 1988 Doe v. U.S. decision, in which it ruled that a person may be compelled to give up a key to a strongbox, say, but not a combination to a wall safe.

The three-judge Appeals Court panel in Florida disagreed with this distinction. They also found the comparison out of step with the current state of technology, such that providing the passcode would not be as similarly self-incriminating as directly giving the authorities evidential documents. Further, the police were beyond probable cause of searching suspect Aaron Stahl’s code-locked phone, as Judge Anthony Black wrote for his fellows in the court’s decision:

“Moreover, although the passcode would allow the State access to the phone, and therefore to a source of potential evidence, the State has a warrant to search the phone—the source of evidence had already been uncovered … Providing the passcode does not “betray any knowledge [Stahl] may have about the circumstances of the offenses” for which he is charged.”

Black clarified what kind of foreknowledge authorities would need to possess to compel someone to divulge their phone’s passcode:

“In order for the foregone conclusion doctrine to apply, the State must show with reasonable particularity that, at the time it sought the act of production, it already knew the evidence sought existed, the evidence was in the possession of the accused, and the evidence was authentic … Although the State need not have “perfect knowledge” of the requested evidence, it “must know, and not merely infer,” that the evidence exists, is under the control of defendant, and is authentic.”

Via: The Daily Dot

Source: Courthouse News

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Engadget giveaway: Win an iPhone 7 courtesy of Mint!

The holidays are usually pretty tough on your wallet and there’s enough distraction that bills may go unpaid past their due date. Smart money and account management apps like Intuit’s Mint are essential tools in keeping you on budget and paid up on time. Mint has recently added bill management to its long list features, aggregating them so you can make payments quickly, while keeping an eye on available cash. The free app also provides bill reminders, money management tips, free credit score reports and helps you craft a budget that will work for you. This week, Mint has provided us with an Apple iPhone 7 for one lucky reader, so they can keep track of their cash flow in style during the holiday season and beyond. All you need to do is head to the Rafflecopter widget below for up to three chances at winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  • Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
  • Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Canada (excluding Quebec), 18 or older! Sorry, we don’t make this rule (we hate excluding anyone), so direct your anger at our lawyers and contest laws if you have to be mad.
  • Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive one (1) Apple iPhone 7 (MN8Q2LL/A, jet black, 128GB).
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a contact email. We do not track any of this information for marketing or third-party purposes.
  • This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Engadget and AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
  • The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
  • Entries can be submitted until Dec. 14th at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!

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Apple’s AirPods won’t be ready for the holidays

Apple announced the AirPods during September’s “See You” event with a scheduled launch at the end of October. But late that month, the company delayed shipments without setting a release date in the future. Well, the tech titan’s wireless headphones still haven’t come out and it’s unclear when they’ll finally be ready for the public. For a company that places enormous emphasis on the pageantry of dramatically unveiling and releasing its products to a ravenous public, this is an unusual and humbling letdown.

It’s the first product postponement since the white iPhone 4 back in 2010, which Apple claims was delayed due to manufacturing challenges. But the company has kept mum about why they’re withholding the AirPods from store shelves. It’s likely caused by their added complexity, a source familiar with their development told The Wall Street Journal. Unlike normal wireless headphones, which receive signal over Bluetooth in only one earpiece, both AirPod pieces do. That means Apple’s product must reconcile any delays and sync audio between them, while also addressing what happens if one of the pair’s battery dies or is lost.

Apple’s silence is tough luck for folks hoping to snag a pair for a Christmas gift. But as we noted when the AirPods were first delayed, their iPhone 7-interfacing W1 chip is present in two models of Beats headphones, the Solo3 and Powerbeats 3. Otherwise, Apple’s loss is their competitors’ gain: Wireless headphones finally outsold wired in the first half of 2016. Technically, people are still buying more pairs of wired ones, but Bluetooth headphones’ high prices mean the money has finally tipped into that camp. Just how much Apple lost out by failing to make its $ 160-per-unit AirPods available this holiday season is anyone’s guess.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Mixed reality comes to your iPhone thanks to the Bridge headset

There’s something more than a little magical about seeing the world in front of you being devastated by dragons or augmented with arrows pointing you to your next meeting. Alas, while mixing realities like that with our smartphones is already possible, the tech still is a long way off from reaching its potential — just look at early, disappointing efforts like Lenovo’s enormous Tango phone. Luckily, startups are chasing the mixed reality dream too, including one — Occipital — that has a solid track record of solving the tricky problems that pop up when blurring boundaries between worlds. That’s why the team’s new mixed reality, the Bridge, seems so impressive right out of the gate.

Oh, and another thing: it’s specifically for iPhones. For years now, most mobile virtual reality fun has been confined to Android, with cheap Gear VRs and Daydream Views making it easy to see what all the hype was about. While some VR games and apps exist for iPhones, Apple hardware historically hasn’t gotten the same kind of developer love as Android has. To Occipital, that smelled like an opportunity. The Bridge will go one sale to the masses for $ 399 starting in March, but developers and the adventurous can snag their Explorer Editions as soon as next week. To understand what you’ll actually get for your money, we’ll have to rewind a bit.

Three years ago, the company released the Structure sensor, a fascinating bit of depth-sensing tech that was originally meant to bring augmented reality experiences to the iPad. Mixed reality still seemed like a hard sell back then, but there no denying the sensor’s ability to measure the world around it was the real deal. To hear Occipital marketing chief Adam Rodnitzky tell it, the sensor eventually started being used by real estate agents, interior decorators and doctors, and after three years, the Structure was still excellent at its job.

So, with headsets being hawked alongside smartphones all over the place, Occipital decided to make their own — they took a Structure sensor, slapped a five-element wide-angle lens in front of it, and built a sturdy, balanced frame around it. Turning an existing product like the Structure into headset might seem like opportunism at its finest, but the end result has so much potential it almost doesn’t matter.

I played with one of the Explorer Editions recently, and it was more impressive — and elaborate — than I expected. You can pop an iPhone 6 (or newer, but no SEs) into the frame and a magnetically latched door keeps it in place. From there, you place the Bridge on your head as you would a crown, and use a dial in the back to tighten it. Yes, it sounds like a sort of torture device, but the system actually works like a charm. The only real problem I came across was that the lenses sit closer to your eyes than in most other mobile VR headsets — that meant they pushed right up against my glasses most of the time. It could’ve been worse, but Rodnitzky assured me future models wouldn’t smash my frames so noticeably.

Actually using Bridge was a much smoother experience. Occipital doesn’t have any launch titles planned for the Bridge’s debut, but it does come with a demo app that stars at adorable robot pet of sorts named Bridget. With the help of a Wiimote-like Bluetooth controller, I spent a good ten minutes tossing a virtual ball around the office and watching Bridget loop around coffee tables to retrieve it. Her understanding of the world around her was fueled by a depth-scanning session that only lasted a few seconds — once that was done, I had a mapped out a corner of our office with a level of precision that Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro wasn’t able to match.

That might not be the fairest comparison to make, though: for now, the Structure sensor’s software is only tuned to capture spaces of about 10 ft. by 10 ft., while Tango software usually tries to record whole swaths of a room at once. Structure’s scope might be more limited, but it does a much better job within those constraints.

After dropping that ball one time too many, Bridget was tired and needed to charge. The answer? To grab her power cord and connect it to something that lit up, like a lamp. This is what I so sorely missed when I played with Tango — I wanted to badly for someone standing next to a virtual dinosaur to be able to interact with it or to pluck a virtual domino off the ground. This was a pretty basic example, but the sort of object recognition the Structure can pull off was unexpectedly good for a headset.

Don’t think the Bridge is only capable of the usual augmented reality tricks, either: at one point, I was directed to drop a portal on the ground in front of me. Once I stepped into it, I found myself walking around inside a space station with a planet hanging lazily in the dark outside a hatch. A red mesh enveloped real-world obstacles, allowing me to dodge coffee tables and loungers as I (all too briefly) explored the station. After a few more moments of stumbling, that was that — demo over. I was just a little crushed.

With any luck, Occipital gets the sort of support from developers it’s been gunning for. The Bridge system isn’t perfect for a whole host of reasons, like the iPhone’s non-AMOLED display and the potentially big hit on the phone’s battery, but even the unfinished demo software was almost enough to make me toss the Phab 2 Pro in a desk drawer. The right kind of love could turn the Bridge into a must-have down the road — for now, I’ll just have to wait and hope.

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