Beats Powerbeats Pro may beat out new AirPods

Apple subsidiary Beats has just announced its debut true wireless earbuds, the Beats Powerbeats Pro. The earbuds sport an in-ear, hooked design that Beats fans will recognize from the Powerbeats 3. Just like it’s traditional wired counterpart, the Powerbeats Pro earbuds are intended for athletes and are sweat-resistant.

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As with the new AirPods, these earbuds use a Class 1 Bluetooth technology alongside the new H1 chip. They also boast nine hours of standalone playback time and support quick charging via the included Lightning cable. Beats posits that five minutes of charging affords 1.5 hours of playback. A slight 10-minute bump in charging time brings the earbuds to 4.5 hours of playback.

Physical controls are accessible from either earbud, meaning ambidextrous listeners will feel at home with the identical layout. Beats went a step ahead to deck out the earbuds with optical sensors which allow for the earbuds to automatically play or pause music when they’re inserted or removed.

The company also improved call performance with a speech-detecting accelerometer and two beamforming microphones housed within each earbud. The Beats Powerbeats Pro microphone array helps to lessen background noise, promoting greater voice clarity.

Beats Powerbeats Pro physical controls screenshot from Beats website.

Beats The earbuds feature identical controls for playback and volume.

The angled nozzles and cogent seal formed by the earbuds should result in better sound quality than the new AirPods, but our sister site SoundGuys.com will be sure to test that out as well as other metrics like real-world battery life and frequency response.

In the meantime, the Powerbeats Pro will be available in May via Apple’s online and brick and mortar stores. Listeners have four colorways to choose from, black, ivory, moss, and navy.

Affiliate disclosure: We may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. The compensation received will never influence the content, topics or posts made in this blog. See our disclosure policy for more details.

Apple News Plus launch means Texture app shuts down on May 28 for Android

Apple

When Apple purchased digital magazine service Texture back in March 2018, it was only a matter of time until Apple would spawn a new service. Lo and behold, Apple announced Apple News Plus earlier this week during its services-focused event.

Unfortunately for Android users and others without Apple devices, Texture announced earlier today that the service will shut down May 28, 2019. Texture users can presumably still use the service in full until then, with existing customers offered a one-month free trial to Apple News Plus.

However, the news must sting for existing Texture users who don’t own a Mac or iOS device. Apple News Plus is only available for Apple devices, which means Android users can’t even try out the new service unless they visit the Apple Store.

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Also keep in mind that the one-month free Apple News Plus trial offered to current Texture users is the same deal that all new Apple News Plus subscribers get. Lastly, it’s a bit surprising that there isn’t an Android version of Apple’s new service when the company published and continually updates its Apple Music app on the Google Play Store.

The only silver lining we can see is that Apple News Plus expands on what Texture offers. Apart from magazines, Apple News Plus also provides access to newspapers like The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Toronto Star. It also provides access to online publications like theSkimm, The Highlight by Vox, New York Magazine’s Vulture, and more.

NEXT: Apple unplugs long-delayed AirPower wireless charger

Apple unplugs long-delayed AirPower wireless charger

Apple AirPower

Apple today said it has cancelled plans to release a wireless charger for its iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods. The company first revealed AirPower in September 2017 and suggested it would arrive by early 2018. More than 18 months later, the product still hasn’t reached store shelves. Apple has scrapped it.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. “We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward.”

The charging pad’s absence had become a running joke for the last few months as people have begun to question the product’s legitimacy. A handful of Apple events came and went with no further mention of AirPower.

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When first revealed, Apple said the pad would be able to charge two devices simultaneously and deliver the proper charge to each device. The company envisioned that people might charge their iPhone and AirPods on the pad at the same time. The iPhone would also be able to supply real-time information about the charging status of each device.

This isn’t the first time Apple products have failed to launch, or failed to launch on time. The original AirPods were delayed and even once they began shipping initial quantities were strictly limited.

Apple did not provide a specific reason for cancelling AirPower other than its inability to “achieve our high standards.” That’s marketing speak for “we just couldn’t get the darned thing to work.”

Speculation about engineering challenges has run rampant, mostly pertaining to thermal issues. Managing heat is important when imparting electricity to lithium-ion batteries. AirPower was shown alongside the first iPhones to support wireless charging, the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

“Apple cancels products before shipping them all the time — but it keeps its entire product development process secret,” noted Avi Greengart, lead analyst at Techsponential to Android Authority. “It is unusual, though not unprecedented, for Apple to announce products long before they ship. It is downright rare for Apple to cancel products that it has announced. So this is definitely not normal operating procedure for Apple. Of course, it is just an accessory, and there are plenty of alternatives that do essentially the same thing, if not as elegantly.”

Other companies have been able to bring similar wireless chargers to market successfully. In August 2018, for example, Samsung released the Wireless Charger Duo, which can handle two phones, or a phone and Galaxy watch at the same time. The Wireless Charger Duo is available online for about $65.

Samsung.com

New report highlights just how much Chinese consumers are ditching Apple

  • A new report highlights Apple’s shrinking smartphone market share in China.
  • Huawei, Xiaomi, and other Chinese manufacturers are growing, gobbling up Apple’s share of the world’s largest market.
  • Apple will need to release cheaper phones with more innovative features if it wants to earn its share back.

There have been plenty of reports over the past year about how Apple’s smartphone ambitions in China aren’t going so well. The Cupertino-based company faces stiff competition from Chinese manufacturers including Huawei and Xiaomi.

However, a new report from Reuters highlights just how much Chinese consumers are moving away from buying iPhones.

According to the report, Apple’s Chinese market share dropped from 81.2 percent to 54.6 percent over the past year in the $500 – $800 pricing category. Meanwhile, Huawei’s market share in that same category jumped from 8.8 percent to 26.6 percent, giving a clear indication of where Apple’s market share is going.

“Most Chinese smartphone buyers are not ready to shell out beyond $1,000 for a phone,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, referring to the iPhone X line which starts at $1,000 and goes up from there. “This left a gap in the below-$800 segment which Chinese vendors grabbed with both hands.”

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It’s not just pricing, though (although even Apple admits that’s a part of it). According to members of the Chinese retail industry, iPhones don’t have the features Chinese consumers want, specifically when it comes to the camera. Even the highest-end iPhone only has two lenses on the rear, for example, and Chinese citizens are flocking to phones with three or more lenses, such as the Huawei P20 Pro and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

He Fan, CEO of Huishoubao, which buys and resells used phones, said, “Huawei’s cameras have become noticeably better than Apple’s in that they suit the tastes of Chinese consumers more.” Fan said that he has seen a shift in the retail market from Apple to Huawei over the past year.

With Apple’s iPhone sales dropping not just in China but worldwide, industry players are starting to feel the heat. A separate Reuters report highlights how Japan Display — one of the world’s top vendors of LCD displays — has factories running at half-capacity due to the low sales of LCD-powered iPhones, such as the iPhone XR.

In order to turn the tide, Apple will need to embrace the Chinese market’s two main focuses: aggressively-priced devices that offer new and innovative features, especially when related to the camera. Otherwise, Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers will eventually boot Apple out of the world’s largest smartphone market.

NEXT: Jury says Apple violated three Qualcomm patents, should pay $31 million

No Intel 5G modems until 2020, so iPhone might be a year behind Android

According to a new report from Reuters, chipmaker Intel will not release a 5G smartphone modem in a consumer-level device until 2020. This information comes directly from Intel, via a recent media event in California.

Apple uses Intel modems exclusively in the most recent crop of iPhones — the iPhone XS, XS Max, and iPhone XR. If Apple is planning to use an Intel modem in its eventual 5G iPhone, that means we won’t see that device until 2020.

This would put Apple at least a year behind Android when it comes to 5G smartphones. If the 5G iPhone launches in September next year — the usual month of new iPhone launches — it would be close to 18 months behind.

Granted, there are multiple ways Apple could avoid this. The most obvious is for the company to not use an Intel modem in a 5G iPhone. However, since Qualcomm refused to provide chips for the latest round of iPhones due to the ongoing legal battles between the two companies, that doesn’t leave Apple many viable options of where to turn.

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There is also the possibility that Apple could create its own 5G modem. However, that seems unlikely because we only just recently heard rumors about Apple taking in-house modem development more seriously.

Whatever the case, 5G Android phones are going to start coming at a relentless pace, starting in only a few days at Mobile World Congress. By the middle of this year, almost every major device manufacturer will have released or revealed its 5G smartphone.

It would be very strange if Apple didn’t release its own 5G iPhone until a year after this Android deluge.

Intel did clarify that it will have commercial-grade 5G products deployed before the end of this year, but no consumer-level products.

NEXT: Want an Apple laptop? These are the best and cheapest you can buy

Want an Apple laptop? Here are the best and cheapest you can buy

If you’re looking for the best Apple laptop, the company currently offers three kinds: MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro. For now, the cheapest one is the older 2017 MacBook Air, which starts at $999. The newer overhauled version packs an integrated Touch ID sensor and a starting price of $1,199.

If you need additional meat in an Apple laptop, the 15-inch MacBook Pro includes discrete AMD graphics and options for six-core Intel Core i7 and Core i9 processors. The smaller 13-inch model doesn’t have discrete graphics, but you’ll find Apple’s innovative Touch Bar on both. If you’re feeling cash-strapped, Apple sells a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar too for an even happier wallet.

Okay, let’s jump in and look at the best Apple laptops you can buy right now. 

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch)

Apple laptop

Apple’s largest MacBook Pro to date features a 15.4-inch IPS screen with a 2,880 x 1,800 resolution. From here the configurations are somewhat tricky to read, since Apple throws three different processors, four separate discrete graphics chips, and two starting points into the MacBook Pro menu.

The first configuration starts at $2,399 with the eighth-generation Core i7-8750H six-core processor, which is upgradable to the Core i9-8950HK for a higher price. The base configuration also includes AMD’s Radeon Pro 555X discrete graphics processor you can swap for the pricier Radeon Pro 560X. It ships with 256GB of storage but can be configured with larger a 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, or 4TB SSD. Memory starts at 16GB (DDR4 at 2,400MHz) with an option for 32GB.

The maximum price you can pay for this model, just in hardware alone (no extra software) is $6,299.

The second configuration has a $2,799 starting price. It includes the Core i7-8850H six-core chip with the same Core i9-8950HK upgrade option. For graphics, the base configuration includes the Radeon Pro 560X discrete chip with upgrade options for the meatier Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Radeon Pro Vega GPUs at a higher cost. You have the same memory and storage options as the $2,399 version, though this configuration doesn’t offer the 256GB SSD.

The maximum price you can pay for this model, just in hardware alone is $7,049.

Outside those four major differences, the overall design is the same. Both include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, the coveted Touch Bar with Touch ID, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a 720p camera. Powering this MacBook Pro is an 83.6WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web surfing.

Finally, Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro measures 0.61 inches thick and weighs 4.02 pounds. You can configure this Apple laptop in the typical silver or Space Gray.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch)

Apple laptop

Here we jump down to Apple’s MacBook Pro sporting a 13.3-inch IPS screen and a 2,560 x 1,800 resolution. It’s powered by Intel’s Core i5-8259U four-core processor and integrated graphics with an upgrade option for the Core i7-8559U at a higher price. The base model also includes 8GB of system memory (LPDDR3 at 2,133MHz) and a 256GB SSD for a starting price of $1,799. You can upgrade the memory to 16GB while storage options include 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB.

In addition to the Touch Bar, you’ll find four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 3.5mm audio jack, a 720p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, and a 58WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web browsing. It measures 0.59 inches thick, weighs 3.02 pounds, and ships in silver or Space Gray.

Unlike the 15-inch version, this model does not provide options for discrete Radeon graphics or Intel’s six-core processors. Note that the $1,999 price point starts you off with a 512GB SSD.

MacBook Pro without Touch Bar (13-inch)

Apple laptop

The hardware is slightly different inside the 13-inch model without Apple’s Touch Bar. This version has the same IPS screen with the 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. By default it is powered by an older seventh-generation Core i5-7360U two-core processor, with a Core i7-7660U upgrade option. The storage options are also slightly different: the base configuration relies on a 128GB SSD and removes the 2TB model, providing only the 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB SSD.

This model only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 3.5mm audio jack, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, 8GB of system memory upgradable to 16GB before checkout, a 720p webcam, and a 54.5WHr battery promising up to 10 hours of video playback or web browsing. It measures 0.59 inches thick, weighs 3.02 pounds, and ships in silver or Space Gray.

Prices start at $1,299 for 128GB of storage and $1,499 with 256GB of storage.

MacBook Air “Retina” 2018 (13-inch)

Apple laptop

This is Apple’s latest MacBook Air refreshed with a newer processor. Currently it relies on a single eighth-generation Core i5-8210Y two-core CPU option and integrated graphics powering a 13.3-inch IPS screen with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution. The starting configuration includes 128GB of storage and 8GB of system memory (LPDDR3 at 1,866MHz) for $1,199 while the second starting point includes a 256GB SSD and 8GB of memory for $1,399.

In both cases, you can upgrade to 16GB of memory before checkout and ramp up the storage to 512GB or 1.5TB. Meanwhile, the set specifications include two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one 3.5mm audio jack, a 720p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, and a 50.3WHr battery promising up to 13 hours of video playback and up to 12 hours of web surfing.

This updated model comes in gold, silver, and Space Gray, along with an integrated Touch ID sensor. It measures 0.61 inches thin and weighs 2.75 pounds.

MacBook Air 2017 (13-inch)

Apple laptop

This Apple laptop arrived in mid-2017 packing fifth-generation Intel CPUs. The $999 default configuration relies on an Intel Core i5-5350U two-core processor with an upgrade option for Intel’s Core i7-5650U chip. This unit remains locked in memory at 8GB (LPDDR3 at 1,600MHz) while storage includes 128GB by default with 256GB and 512GB SSD upgrade options.

This model pack a 13.3-inch TN display with a 1,440 x 900 resolution. It’s complemented by two USB-A ports at 5Gbps each, one Thunderbolt 2 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and an SD card reader. Other ingredients include Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, a 720p camera, a 54WHr battery promising up to 12 hours of video playback or web browsing, and a silver exterior. It measures 0.68 inches thick and weighs 2.96 pounds.

MacBook (12-inch)

Apple laptop

Finally, we have Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, which sports an IPS screen with a 2,304 x 1,440 resolution. You can get this notebook with Intel’s seventh-generation Core m3-7Y32 two-core processor, 8GB of system memory, and 256GB of storage for a starting price of $1,299. You can also start with the $1,599 price point offering Intel’s Core i5-7Y54 two-core chip, 8GB of memory and 512GB of storage. In both cases, you can upgrade to the Core i7-7Y75 two-core processor and 16GB of system memory prior to shipping.

The latest 12-inch MacBook includes a 480p webcam, Wireless AC and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, one USB-C port at 5Gbps, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a 41.1WHr battery promising up to 12 hours of video playback and up to 10 hours of web browsing, It measures 0.52 inches thin, weighs 2.03 pounds, and ships in gold, silver, and Space Gray.

 
So that’s it for our look at the best Apple laptops. While the Pro may technically be the very best Apple laptop, really all comes down to your needs. 

Apple might make its own modems, cutting reliance on Intel (and Qualcomm)

  • Apple could be making big moves to start creating its own mobile modems.
  • If true, this would mean the company is looking to end its reliance on Intel.
  • Apple creating its own modems will cost the company a lot up front, but likely save it money overall.

A new report from Reuters suggests that Apple might be making serious moves to develop its own in-house smartphone modems. If this is true, it would be bad news for Intel, which currently makes iPhone modems.

The sources of the report are two anonymous people familiar with the inner workings of Apple.

According to the sources, Apple has shifted engineering staff who currently work on modem technology in the supply chain division to the in-house hardware technology division. While this isn’t the largest of changes, it does represent that Apple is being proactive about creating its own modems.

Additionally, Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, took over the company’s modem design efforts in January. This wasn’t previously reported.

The modem is one of the most important parts of the inner workings of a smartphone, as it establishes connections with wireless network towers. For years, Apple used Qualcomm modems in the iPhone but then shifted to using Intel modems when Apple’s relationship with Qualcomm started to sour.

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Apple already creates its own processor chipsets for the iPhone and iPad, so creating its own modems makes perfect sense.

However, this would be bad news for Intel. Rumor has it that when Apple shifted to using Intel modems it was dissatisfied with the company’s output. There are even allegations that Apple stole technology secrets from Qualcomm in order to help get Intel closer to being a real competitor.

If Apple is serious about making its own modems, that would mean that Intel still isn’t measuring up. It would also mean a large financial loss for the company when Apple stops buying its chips.

It’s likely that Apple would have to invest millions into the research and development of these modems. However, that upfront cost would likely pay off in the long run, as developing modems in-house would eventually save the company money. It would also save space inside the iPhone as Apple would likely combine the modem with its own chipset, which is how most Android devices work.

Apple’s most current mobile chipset — the A12 Bionic — was the first to market featuring 7nm technology and handily beats most other mobile chipsets in multiple tests. If Apple can achieve such heights with modems, it could give the iPhone a big edge over many Android devices.

NEXT: Apple’s next iPhones tipped to embrace triple cameras, 3D sensors

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch Series 4: Which smartwatch is right for you?

Two of the most popular smartwatches on the market are the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa. While Apple has been making smartwatches for years, Fitbit is still relatively new to the space. Even so, the Fitbit Versa was one of the sleeper hits of 2018.

Can Fitbit really compete with the new Series 4 Apple Watch? Which is best for you? Find out in our Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch comparison.

About this comparison: I’ve been using the Fitbit Versa on and off since it launched in 2018, and it’s recently been paired with my Google Pixel 3. It’s also running the latest Fitbit OS 3.0 (version 32.33.1.30) software. I’ve been using the Apple Watch Series 4, paired with an iPhone X, for roughly two weeks. My Apple Watch has been running watchOS version 5.1.3 (16S535).

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Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Design and hardware

Both the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa have very approachable designs that will appeal to a lot of people. 

The Apple Watch features a more rectangular case with rounded corners, with a digital crown and a single physical button on the right side. The Versa has more of a squircle-shaped case, with a square display and three physical buttons.

They don’t exactly look like each other, but it’s hard not to notice a few Apple Watch-esque design cues in the Versa. It wouldn’t be too farfetched to call the Versa sort of an Apple Watch Lite.

The Apple Watch comes in two sizes — 40 and 44mm — and comes with the appropriate sized strap to fit your wrist. The Versa has one sizing option, but ships with both small and large bands in the box. The Versa is a bit thinner than the latest Apple Watch, though — it’s just 11.2mm. Apple claims the Series 4’s thickness is 10.7mm, but I don’t think it includes the heart rate sensor in that measurement. My Versa is overall thinner than my Apple Watch, despite Apple claiming otherwise.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

As mentioned, both support interchangeable straps, though both implementations are proprietary. Apple has a slew of different styles of watch bands, including silicone, nylon, stainless steel, and more. Fitbit has many of these options too, but not nearly as many color or material choices as Apple.

Also, it’s a small thing, but changing Apple Watch straps is a breeze — the company’s proprietary locking mechanism is really well thought out. Changing straps on the Versa is actually really frustrating. Have fun getting the leather straps attached without throwing it across the room.

Fitbit Versa step counter

Now is as good a time as ever to mention overall build quality. While both watches have their similarities, the Apple Watch feels extremely well built compared to the Versa. It might cost a few hundred dollars ($400 to be exact), but Apple clearly does something with that money. Literally every part of the watch — the aluminum case, the OLED display, the rotating crown, and especially the haptics — feels great.

The Fitbit Versa feels great, as long as you don’t compare it side by side, which is understandable. This is about half the price as the Apple Watch after all. One can’t expect the same build quality. It’s not bad, just not in the same league.

Apple Watch notifications

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That level of quality extends to the displays as well. The OLED Retina screen on the Apple Watch is fantastic. You’ll get deep blacks and vibrant colors, and the panel also supports Force Touch. The large and small screens also have a higher resolution — 368 x 448 or 324 x 394 — than the Fitbit’s 300 x 300 screen. Again, the 1.34-inch LCD screen on the Versa isn’t bad, but you’ll notice a big difference between the two if you put them side by side.

Despite the battery-saving properties OLED has over LCD, battery life is where things take a turn. The Apple Watch lasts around a day on a single charge, maybe a day and a half. You might even have to top it up sometime during the day if you want it for sleep tracking. That’s probably why Apple doesn’t even bother with developing sleep tracking tech — the Apple Watch won’t track sleep out of the box, but some third-party apps will do the trick.

The Versa lasts a bit over four days on a single charge, and that’s with activity tracking, sleep tracking, and the heart rate sensor activated at all times. I can’t wait until all smartwatches last this long.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Smartwatch features

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch

Apple’s and Fitbit’s approaches to software are entirely different. Again, that has a lot to do with how much experience company has in the smartwatch space.

The Apple Watch’s software is clean and fast, though it’s nearly too complex (more on that later). One press on the digital crown will bring you to the honeycomb (all apps) screen, while a long press will activate Siri. For as much as people like to hate on Siri, it’s way faster than Google Assistant on any Wear OS watch I’ve tried.

Apple Watch siri

Apple’s voice assistant has come a long way over the years. It’s definitely good enough to answer questions and perform simple requests with smart home devices, though its ecosystem notably lacks the breadth of smart home device support of Google and Amazon. It’s more than what the Versa offers, though. There’s no voice assistant baked into the Fitbit smartwatch, so you’ll have to do everything the old-fashioned way: by swiping and tapping.

To a point, that’s to be expected. Fitbit OS is only a few years old. While it has vastly improved from the version that launched on the Ionic in 2017, it’s not perfect. Even the latest Fitbit OS 3 lags while swiping through menus and pulling down the notification shade. It is an overall simpler OS though, so if you don’t need everything available to you right on your wrist, the Versa should fulfill your smartwatch needs just fine.

One good example of Apple going a bit overboard with this is the much-criticized honeycomb screen, its confusing version of an all-apps page. It displays all your apps in a honeycomb-style grid. You’re supposed to scroll around and tap the app icon you’d like. It’s not nearly as fast at finding apps in a list view, but luckily you can switch to list view pretty easily.

If your smartwatch use revolves around third-party applications and services, the Apple Watch is by far your best option. Popular apps like Audible and Runkeeper, as well as third-party weather apps like Dark Sky are all available on watchOS, but not on Fitbit OS. Fitbit’s app ecosystem is growing, but it’s still far behind what Apple offers now. Hopefully that will change soon — Fitbit recently gave developers access to two new APIs, which should allow them to more easily create higher quality applications.

Also read: Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: What’s the best Fitbit smartwatch?

Both smartwatches have music storage built in, as well as support for a handful of music streaming apps. The Apple Watch has about 2GB of space for local music storage, and you can also listen to Apple Music and Apple Podcasts from the watch.

The Versa has about 2.5GB of local music storage, as well as support for Pandora and Deezer playlists. There’s no streaming option though — you’ll have to download the playlists before you go out for your workout. That’s about it for music options, but Fitbit of course says more music partners will be added in the future.

fitbit versa quick replies

Google Allo Smart Replies on the Versa

Both smartwatches allow you to receive and respond to messages from your smartphone, but there are some limitations. While the Fitbit Versa is compatible with both iOS and Android, you can only respond to messages when paired with an Android phone. The Apple Watch has the advantage of a built-in microphone, so you can respond to messages with your voice, which is handy sometimes.

Read more: How to use quick replies on the Fitbit Versa and Ionic

Both smartwatches connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and both support Wi-Fi. The Apple Watch is also available in a cellular variant, which is great news for those who want to leave their phone at home and still receive calls and messages.

Finally, we have mobile payments. Each company has its own contactless payment service. Apple Pay is obviously available on the Apple Watch, while Fitbit Pay is, you know, on the Fitbit. Apple Pay has been around for a long time now, and it shows — a ton of banks and card companies support it. Fitbit Pay’s list of supported banks and card companies is growing by the week, but as I mentioned previously, it’s a work in progress.

Fitbit Pay is only available on the special edition model here in the U.S., which costs $30 more than the standard model. I’m really hoping there’s just one all-encompassing model with the Versa 2, because it sort of feels like a cash grab to make people spend extra for this feature. The special edition Versa is still $170 less than the cheapest Series 4 Apple Watch, so I suppose that’s a win for Fitbit!

Fitbit Versa

It shouldn’t be surprising Apple still doesn’t allow third-party watch faces, so you get what Apple gives you. That’s not horrible though — especially with the Series 4, Apple includes plenty of great, customizable watch faces. My favorites are the Infograph Modular and Fire/Water faces. It’s also super easy to switch between watch faces. Just swipe left or right to select your favorites, or you can customize your own on the watch or in the Apple Watch app.

Fitbit offers a small set of its own watch faces, which are okay. They’re certainly not as well thought out or frankly as cool as anything on the Apple Watch. However, Fitbit lets third-party developers make their own watch faces, so the options are seemingly endless.

The only downside here is the Versa can’t load more than one watch face at a time, so you have to select a new one in the app and wait for it to transfer to your watch (which can take a long time). Even worse, you can’t choose from a “favorites” or “recents” section, so you actually have to go hunting for a watch face and customize it all over again if you want to go back to a previous watch face. As someone who changes watch faces all the time, this is a big headache.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Fitness tracking

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch - displays

Fitbit is one of the biggest names in fitness tracking devices, so it’s no surprise the Versa is a perfectly capable fitness tracker. Apple has also made strides in fitness and health tracking over the last few years, and it shows with the Series 4 Apple Watch.

Both devices will track your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and active minutes. Both can also track your sleep, but you’ll have to download a third-party app for the Apple Watch for sleep tracking.. Alternatively, the Versa is one of the best sleep trackers out there. Feel free to read about the specifics in our full review.

Both watches will also track a wide variety of different sport profiles. There are some differences, but both at least track basics like running, biking, treadmill, yoga, elliptical, and walking. They both track pool swimming too (thanks to their 5ATM water resistance ratings), but the Apple Watch can also track open-water swims. There are far too many sport profiles to list here, so you can check out the full list of Versa sport profiles here and Apple Watch sport profiles here.

I tested both smartwatches during a 48-minute cardio exercise (an Insanity video that was way too difficult), which you can see below. I also tested the watches against my Polar H10 heart rate strap as a control for the heart rate readings.

fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots
fitbit versa vs apple watch vs polar h10 heart rate screenshots

Overall, the Versa and Apple Watch’s heart rate sensors picked up on most of the big trends throughout the workout. A few minutes in, my heart rate shot up quite a bit — the H10 reported this spike at a max of 160bpm. The Apple Watch recorded it to be ~175bpm, while the Versa recorded it as a high 189bpm (my max is 193). Later on, the watches showed another heart rate peak topping out at around 170bpm, even though the H10 recorded it at 163bpm. The smartwatches were much more accurate when my heart rate wasn’t nearing peak. The H10 reported my average heart rate to be 133bpm, while the Apple Watch’s was 137 and the Versa’s was 136.

As we’ve reported previously, wrist-based heart rate sensors aren’t going to be as accurate as chest heart rate sensors. Too many factors can throw the numbers off, whether that be skin tone, body hair, or how tight the device is around your wrist. The important thing is they both picked up on the major trends.

For those wondering, calorie burn was also in the same ballpark for each device. I burned 549 calories according to the Apple Watch, 534 according to the Versa, and 571 according to the Polar H10.

If you’re unsatisfied with those heart rate numbers, you can pair a third-party heart rate sensor with the Apple Watch to get more accurate readings. The Fitbit unfortunately doesn’t have this feature.

Related

The Apple Watch is probably the better option for runners, as all models (after Series 1) come with a built-in GPS. The Fitbit Versa only has Connected GPS, so you’ll have to bring your phone on a run if you want accurate distance and pace metrics.

If you need to keep an eye on your heart health, the Apple Watch is, again, probably your best option. It has an FDA-approved electrocardiogram, and it’s one of the few consumer devices to have one built-in. ECGs can help users detect serious heart problems like atrial fibrillation (AFib), and warn you when you’re experiencing heart palpitations. Traditionally, ECGs are quite expensive at the doctor’s office, which of course makes it harder for people without insurance to get. By no means should this be a replacement for attending regular doctor visits if you do have heart problems, but it is still a nice feature to help keep an eye on things.

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch: Which is the better buy?

Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch side by side

Buying one smartwatch over the other, at least for this comparison, depends on one major factor: what smartphone you own. If you have an Android phone and aren’t keen on buying anything powered by Wear OS or the latest Samsung watch, buy the Fitbit Versa, or the Fitbit Ionic if you need something more powerful. The Apple Watch won’t work with your phone, so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

There’s no question: The Apple Watch is the clear winner. But at what cost?

Things become more difficult if you own an iPhone. Buy the Apple Watch if you want the best of the best. If your budget is $200 and not a penny more, the Versa is an incredible option. Just remember iOS users can’t respond to notifications from the Versa.

I can’t say which is the better smartwatch. Both are really great in their respective areas. The Fitbit Versa is a fantastic value for around $200, and the Apple Watch Series 4 is a fantastic all-around smartwatch if you don’t mind the cost. For you phone nerds, this is like comparing the Pocophone F1 against the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 — you can do it, but there are a lot of things you need to consider before claiming one is better than the other.

That’s it for our Fitbit Versa vs Apple Watch comparison. Do you own either of these smartwatches? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Pixel 3 Night Sight compared to iPhone XS: it’s not really close (Update: Video)

 

Update, February 4, 2019 (5:32 PM ET): Google just published a brief behind-the-scenes video detailing its method for obtaining the low-light photographs discussed in the article below.

The video is reposted above if you want to check it out.

The video shows how Google mounted the Google Pixel 3 next to an iPhone XS so the camera lenses of each device were as close together as possible. It then shows how the photographers took every photo at the exact same time. The video also displays text that promises “no retouching, no filters,” which seems legit when you look at the screenshot below:

Google’s Night Sight — and the Pixel 3’s camera in general — continues to be one of the biggest selling points of the company’s latest smartphone.


Original Article, January 28, 2019 (01:28 AM ET): Night modes are all the rage in the smartphone industry, with Huawei, Google, OnePlus, and Xiaomi offering the option on their devices. Now, Google has compared the Pixel 3’s Night Sight mode to the iPhone XS in a low-light situation (seen above), and there’s a stark difference between the two.

Google’s Night Sight

Google marketing executive Marvin Chow posted the comparison on Twitter, showing “Phone X” on the left, and the Google Pixel 3 with Night Sight on the right. The tiny text on the left tells us that “Phone X” is actually the iPhone XS.

The scene, which shows a model standing in front of a neon-lit scene at night, seems ideal for the Night Sight mode. The Pixel 3 managed to deliver a brighter overall scene, clearly showing the woman’s face, clothing, and other elements. But the buildings in the background were also brighter and more detailed in Google’s photo, save for some blown-out lighting. Heck, you can even see a brighter (but not too noisy) sky in the Pixel 3 snap.

How did the iPhone fare?

Meanwhile, Apple’s phone was much darker overall, as the model seems silhouetted against the neon environment. The woman’s face is almost completely dark, and her clothing doesn’t retain the same rich color as Google’s effort.  The iPhone XS photo managed to tame the lighting in the background though, while Google prioritized the model instead. But based on the fact that we have an obvious subject in the viewfinder, I’d say Google’s phone certainly made the right decision.

Editor’s Pick

Still, I wonder whether the iPhone XS truly is that bad, almost as if the photographer adjusted exposure on the background instead (or simply didn’t tap on the subject’s face). But if there’s no foul play here, then it’s clearly a big win for Google.

Night mode is becoming one of the most important weapons in a smartphone camera’s arsenal these days, combining multiple exposures with smart algorithms. Apple’s iPhones lack this feature right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a future version of iOS offers this functionality. This could be a boon for older iPhones too, giving Apple’s legacy devices a welcome boost in low-light situations. But until then, the Pixel 3 seems to reign supreme when the sun goes down.

NEXT: Why Google bans ad-blockers, but is actually fine with ad-blocking browsers

Portless phones: Dumb gimmick or inevitable future?

Meizu

Meizu and Vivo, both of which recently announced phones with no ports, are seeking the answer to an age-old question: do people prefer function or form? The answer, as always, is “it depends,” but in this case Meizu and Vivo are asking consumers to vote with their wallets. Should they?

In September 2016, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone and the internet lost its mind. A number of scathing editorials burned red hot across the web, with the move called “user-hostile and stupid.”

The trusty headphone jack has been a staple in consumer electronics since it was designed in the 1950s. The standard 3.5mm jack got its start with transistor radios, and it later showed up in nearly every type of media device over a six-decade span, including WalkMan radios, cassette and CD players, laptops and PCs, mobile phones and tablets, gaming consoles, and much more. The jack is functional across devices and form factors, making it a must-have. Apple disagrees.

“Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analog, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium,” said Phil Schiller, Apple COO, at the iPhone 7’s launch. Schiller claimed Apple needed to lose the headphone jack in order to waterproof the iPhone 7, and even said it took “courage” to be among the first phone makers to take this step. The company continues to sell lots of iPhones.

USB-C, headphone jack: Samsung S9 lilac and Google Pixel 3 with bases showing to reveal headphone jack and lack thereof.

Any port in a storm

Like it or not, Apple set a precedent and other phone makers followed. Google ditched the headphone jack in favor of USB-C audio, as did Motorola, Huawei, and OnePlus, among others. In each case, the phone maker provided a pair of USB-C headphones or a 3.5mm-to-USB-C adapter. The trend is slowly catching on, but that doesn’t mean people are happy about it.

What Meizu and Vivo are doing is next-level user hostility.

The front and back of the Meizu Zero. Meizu

The Meizu Zero has absolutely no ports. None. It drops the headphone jack, the USB-C port, the SIM card slot, the memory card slot. Need to power up your phone? The Zero sports wireless charging. Want to listen to music? Bluetooth, my friend. What about transferring files? Use the cloud! Need wireless service? An eSIM is inside. While Meizu has an answer to all these nagging everyday needs, you shouldn’t be convinced of Meizu’s logic. At least, not yet.

“Designers dream of clean, port-free lines, but smartphones need to live in the real world, where consumers cannot always expect wireless connections,” quipped Avi Greengart, research director, consumer platforms & devices at GlobalData, to Android Authority. “The loss of the headphone jack at least can be countered by dongles, but until wireless charging spots are ubiquitous, asking consumers to go without a charging cable — which is also used for data transfer and other purposes — simply is not practical.”

Mainstream, here we come?

Charging pads may be available at some Starbucks locations and in some cars, but wireless power is still a niche technology that has yet to be widely adopted. Until every phone ships with a wireless charger by default, consumers will continue to expect to plug their phones in for charging purposes. Moreover, wired charging is still faster than wireless charging.

The idea of phones without physical SIM cards is also problematic. The promise of eSIM, wherein an electronic SIM card can be programmed for network access, has yet to be fully realized. It should be easy, but apparently it’s not.

Apple’s rollout of eSIM in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, for example, was slow to be adopted by carriers in the U.S. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless added support for the tech months after the phones reached store shelves. Sprint still doesn’t support Apple’s eSIM. Multiply this by hundreds of carriers around the world and you see where this is going.

Then there’s the Meizu Zero’s lack of physical buttons. The Zero features pressure-sensitive edges that are used to manage functions such as adjusting the volume. HTC’s U12 flagship phone was largely panned by reviewers due to its incredibly frustrating pressure-sensitive buttons. Can Meizu succeed where HTC failed? Hard to say.

Like it or not, phone makers are headed in this direction.

“Apple designers eventually hope to remove most of the external ports and buttons on the iPhone, including the charger,” reported Bloomberg last year. Apple weighed making this radical move while developing the 2017 iPhone X. It later scaled back those ambitions due to the cost of wireless charging. That means we’ll see an iPhone with no ports or buttons at some point, and we can expect the same from Apple’s competitors.

Meizu and Vivo are clearly way ahead of the curve, dancing on the bleeding edge for the spectacle alone. Will people buy these portless phones? Sure. Should they? Probably not yet, but we all will at some point down the road.

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