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Console Makers Now Have Bigger Game to Play – The Wall Street Journal

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Sony’s PlayStation 5, left, and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X will hit stores in November, each priced at $499.

Photo: Sony; Microsoft

Microsoft Corp.
and
Sony Corp.
have cooled their long-running price war over videogame consoles. But that is because a much bigger contest looms.

The two companies have dueled over price since 2006. That is when Sony launched its PlayStation 3 for $100 more than Microsoft was asking for its Xbox 360, which hit the market the year before. That cost Sony some valuable ground, as the PlayStation 3 ultimately sold a little over half the amount of the previous PlayStation model. Microsoft made the same mistake in the next cycle, initially charging $100 more for the Xbox One than the PlayStation 4 when both made their debut in 2013. The Xbox One likewise is estimated to have sold just a little over half the units of its predecessor—and less than half of what the competing PlayStation 4 has sold to date.

Both companies seem to have tired of this particular fight. The new flagship models of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 coming out this fall will carry the same price for the first time since 2001, when Microsoft’s first Xbox came on the scene to challenge Sony’s game business. The flagship version of each console will cost $499 when they go on sale in early November.

So who wins? Analysts still give an edge to Sony, given the company’s longer history in games, better-known brand and strength in markets such as Europe and Japan. The initial stock of PlayStation 5 units available for preorder sold out fast this week, and Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., noted Thursday that the console was already fetching a 50% premium over its sticker price on eBay. Microsoft, which opens preorders next week, will also lack the next version of its popular Halo game, which was delayed into next year.

However, Microsoft may appeal to some bargain hunters with a $299 version of the new Xbox that lacks an optical drive. But that device also carries a slower processor and less system memory than the flagship, while Sony’s $399 “digital edition” of the PlayStation 5 carries the same components as the main version. Still, Wedbush Securities Inc. analyst Michael Pachter notes that $299 for a next-gen console is a “pretty compelling entry point.”

But ultimately, a war over unit sales becomes less important as the game business evolves. Now entering their third decade of competition, both Sony and Microsoft have enormous bases of players with established game libraries—a growing portion of which is digital games run as a service. Such players are less likely to switch over, given their investment. In its last earnings call in July, Microsoft reported that its Xbox Live membership has hit nearly 100 million players. Notably, Xbox Live membership has more than tripled during the lifespan of the Xbox One, even given that console’s relatively poor performance.

The success of Xbox Live reflects Microsoft’s larger corporate goal of driving use of its software and cloud services. The company even sells PlayStation versions of Minecraft—the popular world-building game it spent $2.5 billion on in 2014. Sony, by contrast, is far more dependent on its games business, which made up more than a quarter of the company’s revenue for the trailing 12-month period ended in June, compared with about 8% for Microsoft for the same period.

Microsoft’s overall cloud strategy has garnered the company a market value of more than $1.5 trillion—up nearly fivefold since the start of the most recent console cycle in late 2013 and more than 16 times that of Sony’s. PlayStation may keep winning the console war, but Microsoft will be very hard to catch in the much bigger game.

Write to Dan Gallagher at dan.gallagher@wsj.com

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iPhone 12 charger: Apple's new phones still aren't eco-friendly enough – Android Authority

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Apple iPhone 12 whats in the boxApple iPhone 12 whats in the box

Credit: Apple

Opinion post by

C. Scott Brown

The launch of Apple’s iPhone 12 series confirmed something rumored for months prior: there will be no iPhone 12 charger in the box. When you buy an iPhone 12 in the US and most other countries, regardless of the model, it comes with what you see in the image above (and some additional paperwork). That’s it.

During the iPhone 12 launch event, Apple made a big to-do about this change. It put Lisa Jackson — the company’s VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives — on the roof of Apple HQ to talk about just how eco-friendly the company is. In her words, removing the charger, as well as the usually included wired EarPods, “reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials.” Additionally, she pointed out that removing those items enabled a “smaller, lighter iPhone box,” which allows the company to fit more products onto a single shipping pallet, further reducing its environmental impact.

Honestly, seeing Mrs. Jackson on the roof of Apple HQ surrounded by solar panels talking about how much Apple cares for the environment seems pretty convincing. However, Apple’s decision to remove the iPhone 12 charger and EarPods isn’t nearly as environmentally friendly as it makes it seem. It’s very possible that the change could allow Apple to earn more money in the end, making the motivation for these changes somewhat dubious.

First, let me explain why this big new change isn’t as great of a step in the battle against e-waste as Apple is cracking it up to be. Then, I’ll talk a bit about what Apple could have done instead.

Related: These are the best Android alternatives to the iPhone 12 series

No iPhone 12 charger: A PR distraction

Apple iPhone 12 Event Lisa JacksonApple iPhone 12 Event Lisa Jackson

Credit: Apple

Apple is pushing the narrative that its removal of in-box iPhone accessories is all about the environment. However, it is neglecting to mention a few other things related to that move:

  • It is still making the charger: The iPhone 12 charger still exists, it’s just not in the box. Apple is producing them and selling them for $19 each.
  • A lot of current iPhone chargers won’t work: The cable that comes in the box with your iPhone 12 is a Lightning-to-USB-C system. This is incompatible with every charger you previously received with another iPhone model. The sole exception is the iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max. In other words, unless you’re upgrading from an 11 Pro, you won’t be able to use the cable in the box unless — you guessed it — you buy a USB-C charger.
  • The iPhone 12 can charge quickly, but likely not with what you own: The iPhone 12 lineup is capable of charging at 20W with the proper cable and charger. Apple provides you the cable for this, but not the charger. If you use an older 5W charger/cable from every other iPhone (or even the 18W system from the 11 Pro/11 Pro Max), you won’t see those 20W speeds. Once again, you’ll need to buy a charger from Apple for this. If you want to buy a third-party charger to give Apple the cold shoulder, it will need to be “Made for iPhone” under the MFi program. Otherwise, your phone will yell at you for using uncertified hardware.

Those three aspects of Apple’s decision to remove the iPhone 12 charger won’t be highlighted by Lisa Jackson while she’s on the roof of Apple HQ. After all, it’s hard to argue that environmentalism is the reasoning while simultaneously asking for $19 for a charger that was previously included for free.

Related: The best wall chargers: A buyer’s guide

Ultimately, Apple simply didn’t go far enough on behalf of the environment. Removing the charger and the EarPods is a big step in the right direction, sure, but the effort is hollow without going all the way. Here are two ways Apple could have done this better.

Option #1: Transparent, but still not eco-friendly

One of the biggest issues I have with this situation is Apple’s attempts to capitalize on it financially. First, the company is saving money by not packaging the iPhone 12 charger or the Apple EarPods in the box. Then, it’s saving more money by making the box smaller and spending less on shipping fees. Finally, it stands to then earn additional revenue by selling the charger and EarPods separately for $19 each.

Don’t forget that the new MagSafe system can also charge your iPhone 12. There’s no MagSafe charger in the box, either, and buying one of those will set you back $39.

Related: How fast charging really works

This all makes it seem as if Apple’s motivations aren’t about the environment at all. The easiest way for Apple to avoid this would be to offer the charger and the EarPods for free via an aftermarket system. If the company made it so you could stop into an Apple Store with your iPhone 12 and get a free 20W charger and a set of EarPods, it would eliminate the implication that Apple stands to financially prosper from this decision. Invariably, not every iPhone 12 buyer would do this. This, in turn, would have the effect Apple says it wants: the creation of fewer chargers and headphones. At the same time, the move would seem more genuinely environmentally conscious, rather than a way to get an extra $40 from customers.

Of course, this still isn’t as environmentally friendly as it could be. The chargers are still being produced. They also require their own packaging and need to be shipped from China to the rest of the world. The environmental impact is still there.

For Apple to truly make a stand for the environment above its own bottom line, it would need to take more drastic measures. It would need to make iPhones compatible with everything else.

Option #2: Transparent and eco-friendly

OnePlus 8T vs OnePlus 8 vs OnePlus 8 Pro usb c portOnePlus 8T vs OnePlus 8 vs OnePlus 8 Pro usb c port

While the option posed above gets rid of the financial incentive for Apple’s removal of the iPhone 12 charger, it would only partially help the environment. The cables and chargers would still need to be created, and the compatibility issues with Lightning-to-USB-C would still exist. For the company to truly make the iPhone more environmentally friendly, it would need to do what environmentalists have long been asking for: eliminate the proprietary Lightning connector and go all-in on USB-C.

Yes, USB-C is still a mess of a system. However, USB-C is still better than Lightning in that every cable fits in every USB-C device and does the bare minimum: deliver power and transfer data.

Related: Hey Apple, now would be a great time to ditch Lightning and get with USB-C

The European Commission has long been fighting to create legislation that would prevent Apple (and any other company) from releasing products that require proprietary cabling. A one-cable solution is not only environmentally friendly but also user-friendly. If you had one cable that could charge your phone, laptop, tablet, and e-reader regardless of the brands of any of those devices, wouldn’t that be far better than what we have today?

With most of the electronics industry embracing USB-C at this point, Apple is the only major holdout with Lightning. If the company ditched Lightning on iPhones it would be a move towards sustainability that could never be mistaken for profit-motivated change. And hey, it already did it with iPads — what’s stopping it from doing it with iPhones?

iPhone 12 charger is gone, but what’s coming instead?

apple iphone 12 magsafe wireless chargingapple iphone 12 magsafe wireless charging

Credit: Apple

Let me close this out by making something perfectly clear: the core idea of Apple removing the in-box charger from the iPhone 12 lineup is, in itself, a good thing. Apple is right in saying that not producing more chargers than necessary is better for the environment. Android OEMs are making fun of Apple at the moment, but we (and you) know that it’s only a matter of time before they also remove the charger from their own phones. Apple and other OEMs might not do it because it’s the right thing to do, but at least they’re doing something. Apple should be commended for leading the way here.

However, there’s still so much that Apple (and every electronics manufacturer) could be doing. Getting rid of Lightning and other proprietary connectors would be a huge step in the right direction. Government mandates requiring electronic OEMs to only use one type of system would also be terrific. More ubiquitous recycling systems would also be great, as would better and cheaper access to repairs (something Apple has repeatedly blocked) and longer software upgrade cycles. There’s still a ton of work to do.

Related: To solve the smartphone e-waste problem we first need fewer disposable devices

My concern now, though, is with MagSafe. Apple’s next big move could be to simply remove the Lightning port from future iPhones altogether and use MagSafe as its charging/data transfer solution of the future. Of course, that would put us right back where we started: with Apple having a proprietary platform that no one else has. One that will need to be built and shipped for the basic functionality of the phone.

The bottom line is that it isn’t likely that Apple or any other electronic OEM will do right by the environment on its own. Apple had the option to make big steps here, and it didn’t for whatever reason. Despite its literal rooftop posturing, Apple’s profits appear to trump its care for the environment in the end.

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Are you going to wait for the iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 12 Pro Max? – MobileSyrup

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Apple unveiled its new iPhone 12 series just a little over a month ago.

Fast forward to now, and both the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 are available, but the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max are still on the way, with both devices releasing November 13th.

It’s odd Apple is dropping the 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini later this year, but it’s possible the company ran into COVID-19-related manufacturing issues. Apple also might have opted to release the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro first because they’re the tech giant’s best selling smartphones.

We’re curious if you’re waiting for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max, or if you plan to buy one of Apple’s more recently released handsets?

Let us know in the comments below.

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MagSafe on iPhone 12: I was wrong to doubt Apple's magnetic charger – CNET

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MagSafe is a snap-on charger, and it’s great. But it’s also proprietary, and iPhone 12-only for now.


Patrick Holland/CNET

The iPhone 12 has a new magnetic charger system called MagSafe. It’s a familiar name because MagSafe used to be on all the MacBooks, once upon a time. It auto-attached and easily popped off so that tripping over a wire wouldn’t knock your laptop off a table… and was generally appreciated.

I didn’t love the idea of MagSafe when Apple first announced it for the iPhone 12, because all I wanted was USB-C. I wanted a normal nonproprietary charger. Instead, Apple doubled down on its proprietary charge options. It seemed interesting but unnecessary.

I still want USB-C. But I was wrong about MagSafe.

magsafe-iphone12magsafe-iphone12

Strong magnets, and works with supported cases.


Scott Stein/CNET

New, and yet familiar

I’ve gotten to try out an iPhone 12 Pro and MagSafe charger for the last day or so, and it’s already won me over. The charger costs an extra $39, and doesn’t come with a charge adapter, so you also need one of those (any USB-C one will work, but here are some good charger adapter suggestions). But it feels very much like a giant Apple Watch charger for the iPhone. And that should have been my first hint that I’d appreciate the idea.

The Apple Watch has a snap-on proprietary magnetic charger too, and it works similarly. It pops on easily, the watch makes a little chime and I see the charge status. Same thing for the iPhone. It makes charging the iPhone a no-brainer, as long as I have the charge cable nearby. It seems to drift to rooms I’m not in, and other rooms don’t have the charger because, well, those other rooms have Lightning, or USB-C, or Qi chargers.

You have to remember to bring that MagSafe charge cable with you, and in that sense it’s like every specialized wearable tech charger I’ve seen for the last decade. Little ones, big ones, pronged ones. They work well for the wearable you’ve got, but don’t lose them.

magsafe-apple-watch-nopemagsafe-apple-watch-nope

Apple Watch and MagSafe: nope, this does not work.


Scott Stein/CNET

How many MagSafe variants will there be, and will they ever do data transfer?

My first thought is that Apple needs to put MagSafe on all its devices. But then I wondered, how will that happen? Will that large disc-based charger snap onto future iPads, or MacBooks? Will magnet-covered zones exist, ready for MagSafe? Or will different-size adapters emerge, made for particular devices? Much like the Apple Watch, as compared with the iPhone 12?

I also wonder whether MagSafe could combine with some sort of data, to allow accessories or also act as a dock. Suddenly I feel like I’m in Moto Mod territory. Apple expanding upon its smart-connected accessories feels like an idea long hinted at and somewhat overdue. Smart Connector keyboards have been around for years, but not much else.

The long-term questions about MagSafe are many, but right now I like it a lot more than I thought I would. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still want USB-C. I still hope Apple doesn’t skip USB-C on the next iPhone. I’d prefer MagSafe be a doorway to an additional landscape of accessories, and hope that Apple stays far away from replacing that one port left on the iPhone.


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