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ICYMI: The Beats Fit Pro are an intriguing AirPods Pro alternative – Engadget

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All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Engadget’s product reviews this week run the gamut from earbuds to e-readers. Billy Steele checked out the Beats Fit Pro and liked them for their improved fit and deeper sound. Next, a few items of note for photography enthusiasts: Steve Dent reviewed the Panasonic GH5 II to see the difference an all-new processor can make, while Mat Smith used the Sony Xperia 1 III and reported that the oblong smartphone has a slew of intriguing camera features to offer. Finally, Nathan Ingraham reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which left him suitably impressed.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Billy Steele likes the more traditional fit of the new Beat Fits Pro earbuds. These are the newest true wireless buds in the company’s lineup and they have a slight design update with flexible wingtips, which bend to fit more ear shapes. Billy says this element helped keep the buds in place and he hardly noticed them in his ears. In addition to the hardware refresh, the earbuds also feature active noise-cancellation (ANC), adaptive EQ and spatial audio, plus other features integrated with iOS that make them an attractive option for iPhone users.

The $200 Beat Fits Pro also have an IPX4 rating, and their wingtips make them more secure during workouts. The upgrades the company made to the sound profile were immediately noticeable according to Billy, who reported a punchier bass with more depth, more room for vocals and other elements and more low-end tone. The buds have the same H1 chip found in the AirPods Pro, allowing them to access features like one-touch pairing and hands-free Siri. But the Beats Fit Pro weren’t without issue: Billy experienced a lot of accidental button presses and they don’t support wireless charging. But they still offer a good blend of features, sound and performance, making them a solid alternative to the AirPods Pro.

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is better than ever

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Nathan Ingraham knows that an e-reader isn’t a gadget that most people upgrade often. However, a larger 6.8-inch screen, smaller bezels, 17 LED backlights, USB-C charging and 32GB of storage make for quite an update, and because of all that, Nathan calls the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition the best e-reader he’s ever used. Those extra LEDs emit an adjustable warm light that should reduce eye strain at night, and Nathan says this was his favorite new feature on the device. He also said the hardware changes to the bezels and screen helped to make this feel like a more premium device.

The latest Kindle can also automatically adjust the backlight to reduce nighttime eye strain, plus it has wireless charging and won’t display ads on the lock screen. Like previous versions, the Signature Edition is waterproof, can play audiobooks using Bluetooth and has a battery life that lasts weeks. But it comes in at $190, which is $50 more than the standard Kindle Paperwhite. Nathan says that for most people, the extra storage isn’t worth the extra money — unless you plan on downloading a lot of Audible titles on your e-reader.

Panasonic GH5 II

Steve Dent/Engadget

Steve Dent found a lot to like about the Panasonic GH5 II. The refreshed design still has the same 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, as well as the same 3.68 million dot resolution and .76x magnification. The body hardware is nearly identical with an excellent grip, logical control positions and a smaller but brighter rear display. However, the new version of the camera has a faster processor and double the refresh rate at 120Hz. The chip helps improve the AI autofocus, which can now double the face- and eye-tracking speeds as well as pick up focus on a face tilted away from the camera.

Steve also liked the menus better on the GH5 II, which are color coded and tabbed to help you find what you’re looking for. Panasonic also kept the info panel, which shows important settings at a glance. Another upgrade comes in the image stabilization system, which now delivers up to 6.5 EV of shake protection. Thanks to this, Steve said the GH5 II does a better job than competitors at smoothing out walking or running. But there’s still no external RAW video, and low-light shooting remains a weak point.

Sony Xperia 1 II

Mat Smith/Engadget

Sony’s Xperia 1 III closely resembles last year’s smartphone with an unusual 21:9 screen ratio and an elongated design. Mat Smith says the addition of a matte finish helps to make it feel like a premium handset. The updated 4K 120Hz screen also helps make everything look quite crisp, and it runs smoothly thanks to a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Though Mat says the phone’s 6.5-inch OLED screen is gorgeous, the Xperia can’t dynamically change refresh rates to maximize battery life — and that results in barely a full day of use, even with a 4,500mAh battery, if you keep the panel at 120Hz. He was pleased with the sound from the front-facing stereo speakers, which continues support for audio formats like 360 Reality Audio, Hi-Resolution audio and Dolby Atmos. And — shocker — the Xperia 1 III still includes a 3.5mm audio jack.

But the phone’s camera shines, courtesy of the three 12-megapixel shooters with varying focal lengths. The Xperia 1 III can track moving subjects and catch crisp shots in busy scenes because it’s capable of capturing 20 frames per second and has dual-phase-detection-autofocus pixels. Mat says it’s a more technical approach and it has a learning curve, but it makes the smartphone an intriguing prospect for photography enthusiasts.

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DAZN named Apple TV App of the Year in 2021 App Store Awards – DAZN News US

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DAZN has been named the Apple TV App of the Year in the tech giant’s 2021 App Store Awards, which recognises the 15 best apps and games across Apple’s various devices this year.

This year’s best apps and games offered extraordinary experiences across Apple devices, and DAZN joins apps such as Craft, LumaFusion and Toca Life World in receiving distinction in this year’s awards.

“The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year — sparking the creativity and passion of millions of users around the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. 

“From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year.”

For more than a decade, Apple has honored the best apps and games at the end of each year. To acknowledge the impact of the winning developer teams, last year, Apple designers began a tradition of celebration through meticulous craftsmanship with physical App Store awards for each winner. 

Inspired by the signature blue App Store icon, each award reveals the App Store logo set into the 100 percent recycled aluminium used to make Apple products, with the name of the winner engraved on the other side.

“To have been selected as the best app in the world in a year where so many of the world’s leading media and technology companies have been launching their OTT video services and apps for the first time is an incredible testament to the innovation and skill of our product, technology, operations and partnership teams,” said Ben King, DAZN’s Chief Subscription Officer.

Apple 2021 App Store awards – winners

Apps

  • Apple TV App of the Year: DAZN, from DAZN Group
  • iPhone App of the Year: Toca Life World, from Toca Boca
  • iPad App of the Year: LumaFusion, from LumaTouch
  • Mac App of the Year: Craft, from Luki Labs Limited
  • Apple Watch App of the Year: Carrot Weather, from Grailr

Games

  • iPhone Game of the Year: “League of Legends: Wild Rift,” from Riot Games
  • iPad Game of the Year: “MARVEL Future Revolution,” from Netmarble Corporation
  • Mac Game of the Year: “Myst,” from Cyan
  • Apple TV Game of the Year: “Space Marshals 3,” from Pixelbite
  • Apple Arcade Game of the Year: “Fantasian,” from Mistwalker
  • Trend of the Year: Connection (Among Us!” From Innersloth; Bumble, from Bumble Inc.; Canva, from Canva; EatOkra, from Anthony Edwards Jr. and Janique Edwards; Peanut, from Peanut App Limited)

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Saving the dinosaurs: Startups drive to electrify fossil-fuel cars

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You can save your prized Aston Martin DB6, Porsche 911 or Mustang from the museum of combustion engine history. Or your Fiat 500 and Renault Clio, for that matter.

That’s the message from a growing cohort of European and American startups seeking to carve out roles in the auto transition by converting the roaring dinosaurs of the fossil-fuel age into clean electric vehicles (EVs).

At the high end, companies like Britain’s Lunaz sell a “remanufactured” Aston Martin DB6 for 1 million pounds ($1.3 million), or Dutch firm Voitures Extravert, which sells a reengineered 1960s Porsche 911 for 300,000 euros ($337,000).

At the lower end, startups like France’s Transition-One have developed no-frills kits designed to electrify mass-market models like the Fiat 500 and Renault Clio in a few hours for about 8,000 euros. They are betting they can provide drivers with a cheaper and greener road to zero emissions than scrapping their car and buying a new one.

EV conversion is a cottage industry that’s emerged over the past five years, and been turbo-charged by advances in battery technology and electric motors in the past two. The market is largely untested, and several industry players interviewed by Reuters described an exciting, if precarious, scene.

“It’s pretty revolutionary at the moment,” said Mark Roberts, a 30-year McLaren veteran who is now chief creative officer at British startup Charge Cars. “Almost every month there are new companies popping up and you don’t know who’ll fade away after a year or so or who’ll be there for the duration.”

Next year Charge Cars will launch production of 499 electric versions of 1960s Mustangs, built from the ground up using car bodies produced under license from Ford and starting at 300,000 pounds apiece. The company, which initially set out to convert classic cars, has spent five years developing an electric replica model instead.

“Traditional manufacturers like Porsche can afford to screw up,” says CEO Vadim Shageleev. “We’re a startup, so we can’t.”

Established startups like his have attracted attention from traditional auto suppliers and manufacturers seeking technical input as they transition to electric – Michelin, for instance, has partnered with Charge Cars to test new technologies.

But there may be little room for error as a host of new EV conversion startups strive for scale to help them weather the increasing regulatory standards and costs that have begun to be introduced in countries like France.

“New regulations will wipe out a lot of smaller players because they won’t be in position to meet the standards,” said Chris Hazell, founder of Britain’s Zero EV, another startup working on mass-producing conversion kits for Porsche 964s and other classic models. His company will expand to the United States next year.

CLASSIC TO GARBAGE

There are various proposed routes to scale.

Lunaz, for example, sees classic cars like the Aston Martin DB6 as a good start.

The three-year-old company and its competitors at this end of the EV conversion industry aim to capitalise on the world’s large population of classic vehicles, with an estimated 5 million in the United States alone.

Lunaz typically buys a classic car on the open market or takes a customer’s existing vehicle, strips it down to the bare metal, rebuilds it, gives it a fresh paint job, new interior and an electric drive system and software with a range of about 250 miles.

But Lunaz sees its future in commercial vehicles, and is building a new factory at Silverstone in central England, home to the British Grand Prix, to convert more than 1,000 diesel garbage trucks a year into upgraded electric models.

“Classic cars were the lightning rod to get us to market,” founder David Lorenz said. “But if you want to have a real impact, you’ve got to have scale.”

Lorenz told Reuters the company was scoping out sites for a U.S. plant and one in continental Europe, and was considering going public within a few years.

‘THROW THESE CARS AWAY?’

In France, by comparison, the race is heating up among mass-market converters who spy an opportunity in the country’s anti-road pollution plans, which outpace much of Europe.

All diesels older than 2011 will be banned in large cities from the start of 2025, affecting millions of car owners. Paris wants to go faster and implement the ban from 2024.

New vehicle retrofitting laws introduced in the country last year, which startups say require government testing of about 100,000 euros per generic model to be converted, have intensified the need for scale.

Orleans-based converter Transition-One plans to start selling conversion kits for six models including the popular Fiat 500 and Renault Clio for those diesel owners who cannot afford a new EV. The kits consist of battery, electric motor, power electronics, and new instrument cluster, and typically have a range of about 140 km.

The cost to customers could be close to 5,000 euros including government subsidies, said CEO Aymeric Libeau, who said he aimed to produce kits “at scale” next year, having waited for the retrofitting laws to materialise, with the gear to be installed by independent mechanics certified by Transition-One.

Arnaud Pigounides, CEO of Paris-based REV Mobilities, estimates converting a car to electric cuts emissions 60% versus scrapping an old vehicle and producing a new one, in a country home to around 40 million passenger cars.

Pigounides said his company, which offers to convert a range of cars and commercial vans for around half the price of a new vehicle, has orders to convert 370 cars and 1,500 vans.

“The big question is: do we throw all those cars away or do we convert them?” he added.

‘HOW DO WE DO 10,000?’

Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of British vehicle charging company Connected Kerb, said only “mass market” options in the EV conversion industry could make a real difference to the environment, rather than classic cars.

“The cost of producing a new car is huge, so if you can reuse what’s there it’s a fantastic idea,” he said. “But the challenge is doing it at sufficient scale to actually have a meaningful impact.”

For four-year-old startup Electrogenic, based down the road from Lunaz, the plan to reach significant size is to tap into rural Britain’s four-wheel drive market, specifically the Land Rover Defenders popular among farmers.

Co-founder Steve Drummond said the company was developing a kit for old Land Rover Defenders for 20,000 pounds that local mechanics can install. He added that Britain’s 36,000 farms need four-wheel drive EVs but there are no equivalent new models on the market.

Across the world in California, meanwhile, Zero Labs is aware of the limits of its current business performing electric “restomods” to rebuild classic Ford Broncos and Land Rovers.

The company’s vehicles start at $350,000, but it can only convert around 50 a year – so it is developing electric platforms that licensed auto shops can use to convert classic cars.

“We asked ourselves how do we do 10,000 a year?” CEO Adam Roe said. “Our platforms are going to be our scale product.”

 

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Editing by Pravin Char)

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Apple tells suppliers demand for iPhone 13 lineup has weakened – Bloomberg News

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Apple Inc has told its component suppliers that demand for the iPhone 13 lineup has slowed, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter, signaling that some consumers have decided against trying to get the hard-to-find item.

 

(Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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