Xbox Game Pass is by far the best deal in gaming.
Hidden within Microsoft’s reveal that it’s purchasing ZeniMax, the parent company of developers Bethesda, id Software and Arkane Studios, for roughly $7.5 billion USD (about $9.9 billion CAD), the tech giant confirmed that Xbox Game Pass now has more than 15 million subscribers.
In April, Game Pass was confirmed to have reached 10 million subscribers. This means that over the last five months of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Xbox Game Pass managed to add roughly five million new subscribers.
While Game Pass was already a great deal, given how it offers access to all Microsoft’s first-party developed games plus numerous third-party titles, the company recently bolstered the subscription service’s offerings. EA Play titles will soon be coming to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate at no additional charge, and Xbox game streaming (formerly called xCloud) is also now available on Android through the highest tier of the service at no extra cost.
Now, Microsoft is set to add Bethesda titles to the mix, including, presumably, games like Fallout 3, Doom Eternal and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Even future titles from Bethesda like Starfield are slated to come to the subscription service day and date on Xbox or PC as well. Bethesda titles Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 76 are currently on Game Pass.
Microsoft recently confirmed that Xbox All Access, its financing option for the $379 Xbox Series S and $499 Xbox Series X that also includes a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, is coming to Canada. Pricing for the service remains unclear, though in the U.S., it costs $24.99 USD (roughly $32.99 CAD) per month for 24 months for the Series S, or $34.99 USD (about $46 CAD) per month for 24 months for the Series X.
On its own, Game Pass Ultimate costs $16.99 per month. The base-level Game Pass service costs $11.99 per month on both Xbox One and PC.
Apple should switch the iPhone to USB-C if it really wants to help the environment – The Verge
If you buy an iPhone in the future, you’re not getting an included charging brick or earbuds. Apple says the reasons are environmental. Giving out fewer “free” accessories with every phone means using less materials, the company claims, and also makes for smaller boxes that can be shipped more efficiently. So going forward, those boxes will just come with a phone and a Lightning to USB-C cable.
I think Apple’s approach is generally a good thing, but it should have gone further by switching away from its proprietary Lightning port entirely and fully embracing USB-C. Right away, that Lightning to USB-C cable would turn into a much more useful USB-C to USB-C cable that could charge basically all of your electronics. Or better still, Apple could remove the cable entirely and just ship the phone by itself, eliminating even more duplicitous waste.
It’s a relatively small change for each person buying an iPhone, but it’s massive when you consider the fact that Apple shipped almost 200 million iPhones over the past year, according to IDC. Chargers might make up a relatively small proportion of total e-waste, as Wired notes, but on a global basis, that’s still tens of thousands of metric tons annually. And as the lack of headphone jacks on 2020’s flagship smartphones shows, Apple’s decisions also have a huge influence on the rest of the industry.
USB-C is already becoming the standard
I’ll be the first to admit that USB-C isn’t a perfect standard. Its naming scheme has been a mess (the current USB standard is called USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 for chrissake), and there are so many bad USB-C cables in the wild that some people have made it their mission to root out the worst of them. To borrow a famous turn of phrase, USB-C is the worst connection standard… except for all the others. But it’s also the best one yet created.
In 2020, USB-C is about as universal as wired connection standards come. It’s used by over-ear headphones, true wireless earbuds, VR headsets, tablets (including some of Apple’s), laptops (including all of Apple’s) and laptop accessories. It’s used by game consoles like the Nintendo Switch, and it’ll be used with both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X’s controllers when those consoles ship next month. USB-C batteries are becoming commonplace and chargers are getting tiny and extremely capable — with up to 100 watts, a powerful battery or a charger the size of a deck of playing cards can sometimes power a laptop, tablet, and phone all at once.
Not only is USB-C used almost everywhere, it’s also hard to name something that Lightning actually does better. Longtime Apple blogger John Gruber has argued in the past that it’s a more elegant and slightly thinner port which… sure, maybe? But is that enough reason to maintain the status quo if Apple cares as much about the environment as it claims?
You probably already have a USB-C charger
Apple’s core argument for taking the charger out of the box is that it avoids piling on accessories that a lot of people already own. During its presentation, Apple estimated that there are 2 billion of its power adapters out in the world, and “billions” of third-party chargers.
But let’s put that into perspective. According to IDC, Apple commanded just 13.9 percent of the global smartphone market in 2019, shipping close to 200 million phones last year. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry combined shipped over a billion phones over the course of just a single year, and most of those devices used USB-C. That’s a lot of people who already have everything they need to charge a hypothetical USB-C iPhone, including both charging bricks and USB-C cables. And it doesn’t include all the people who bought other USB-C devices like headphones, laptops, and tablets, including recent MacBook and iPad Pro devices.
All of that means that if you really want to, you can absolutely sell a USB-C smartphone without any charging accessories at all. That’s what ethical smartphone manufacturer Fairphone does. Inside the box for its most recent phone, the Fairphone 3 Plus, you’ll find no headphones, no USB-C charging cable, and no USB-C charging brick. Instead there’s a small screwdriver, so that when the time comes, you’ll be theoretically able to repair the phone for yourself rather than having to throw it out.
A slightly weird halfway house
There are serious questions to be asked about how positive an environmental impact Apple’s existing plan is actually going to have. A big part of Apple’s pitch is that there are already billions of power adapters out there, but it’s likely that a significant portion of them use the USB-A standard, which is incompatible with the Lightning to USB-C cable Apple now packs into the box for faster charging speeds. Apple only started putting USB-C power adapters in the box last year, and even then it was limited to the Pro models, meaning the vast majority of iPhones sold came with a USB-A brick bundled in.
I’m not saying there’ll be no environmental impact. With the iPhone 12, a lot of people will still be able to reuse their existing USB-A to Lightning charging cables and USB-A power bricks, regardless of the new cable they get in the box. But then what’s the point of that Lightning to USB-C cable, particularly if you wind up switching to Apple’s MagSafe wireless chargers instead? If it were a USB-C to USB-C cable, at least you could use it with other gadgets. Apple could have a much bigger environmental impact in the long run by eliminating its proprietary Lightning port entirely.
We already know what Apple thinks about potentially switching to USB-C connectors, because it put out a statement on this very topic earlier this year. The statement came in response to EU efforts to mandate a common charger for all smartphones, and Apple argued that a switch to USB-C would actually be worse for the environment overall, by rendering hundreds of millions of Lightning accessories obsolete. Here’s the relevant part of the statement it issued in January (emphasis added):
“More than 1 billion Apple devices have shipped using a Lightning connector in addition to an entire ecosystem of accessory and device manufacturers who use Lightning to serve our collective customers. Legislation would have a direct negative impact by disrupting the hundreds of millions of active devices and accessories used by our European customers and even more Apple customers worldwide, creating an unprecedented volume of electronic waste and greatly inconveniencing users.”
There absolutely are a lot of Lightning accessories out there. But the argument rings hollow given Apple’s own history of obviating all those 30-pin iPod docks and early iPhone peripherals when it switched to Lightning in 2012. Instead of sending them straight to the dump, Apple and others sold 30-pin to Lightning adapters to extend the usefulness of those legacy accessories for years. Apple and its partners can surely now do the same in order to preserve all those Lightning devices. Yes, it would create a one-time glut of adapters that would eventually end up in landfills, but it’s the short-term price to pay for the long-term benefits of convergence.
Same pain, more gain
As someone who has a whole drawer filled with spare power adapters I never use, I’m sympathetic to what Apple is trying to achieve with the iPhone 12. Giving out duplicate accessories with every new phone really isn’t sustainable if we want to try and cut down on the estimated 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste we threw out last year.
But I also have some sympathy for those who say Apple is nickel-and-diming its customers with the move. When a phone costs hundreds of dollars, it’s hard not to feel a little cheated by a smaller box with fewer accessories, particularly if the remaining ones are still half-proprietary.
By using the environment to justify the removal of wasteful iPhone charging accessories, Apple has now argued itself into a corner. If its environmental concerns are important enough to influence what gets included with a new phone, then they should also be important enough to influence its design directly.
Last year my colleague Dieter argued that the iPhone 11 should have been the last with Lightning. He’s still right.
Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Charger for iPhone 12 – MacRumors
Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out.
Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.
MagSafe isn’t a new word for Apple — it’s what the magnetic MacBook chargers used to be called before Apple swapped over to USB-C. MagSafe in its current incarnation is totally different from the original MagSafe chargers, but the common theme is the magnetic connection.
The puck-shaped MagSafe charger looks like a larger Apple watch charging puck, featuring a circular design with a cord at one end that plugs into a power adapter. The charger is designed to snap on to a ring of magnets built into the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, for a perfect alignment without any hassle.
When you order a MagSafe charger from Apple for $39, you get just the charger, which has a cord with a USB-C connector at the end. It needs to be paired with a USB-C power adapter, and Apple recommends its $19 20W USB-C option. The cord attached to the MagSafe charger is non-removable, and the charger itself is made from aluminum, but the front middle section has a grippy, rubber-like feel to it.
Apple’s MagSafe chargers line up right with the charging coil inside the iPhone 12 models, and can provide up to 15W of power. That’s double the charging speed you’re able to get with the 7.5W Qi wireless chargers, which makes this a much more appealing wireless charging option.
If you’re wondering if the MagSafe charger works with older iPhones, the answer is yes. It is compatible with all iPhones that support wireless charging, which includes the iPhone 8 and later. When used with an iPhone 12, the charger snaps onto the back of the device with what appears to be a strong magnetic connection, but the older iPhones don’t have that same magnetic ring so it the MagSafe charger can’t connect in the same way.
We don’t have an iPhone 12 model on hand yet to see the actual difference between the magnetic connection of one of the new models and an existing iPhone, but just based on the marketing materials Apple has released, that magnetic ring in the iPhone is an important factor when it comes to the strength of the connection.
Even using a MagSafe-compatible iPhone 12 case from OtterBox results in a connection that’s not super strong, and it appears that OtterBox, at least, has just stuck a couple of magnets in a little insert in the case to add MagSafe functionality. Presumably, the MagSafe ring built into the iPhone 12 models makes the connection between MagSafe charger and iPhone much stronger, and Apple’s own cases may also be more magnetic.
While the iPhone 12 models can charge at 15W using the MagSafe charger, it’s not yet quite clear how fast it can charge older iPhones, so there may be some speed limitations involved when using it with non-iPhone 12 models. As mentioned before, there’s no strong magnetic adhesion, so the non-iPhone 12 models just rest on the charger like your basic Qi charger.
The MagSafe charger is also able to charge Qi-based Android phones as well as the AirPods, but unsurprisingly, it is not compatible with the Apple Watch.
We’ll have an iPhone 12 and 12 Pro on Friday to test out with the MagSafe charger, so make sure to tune in to MacRumors later in the week to see our iPhone 12 hands-on with more detail on using the MagSafe charger with an iPhone that has the built-in magnetic ring.
First unboxing videos offer closer look at blue iPhone 12 and graphite iPhone 12 Pro
The first iPhone 12 unboxing videos have started to hit the web today. These videos come from various sources who have access to iPhone 12 shipments ahead of Friday’s public release, and they offer a real-world look at new color options and more.
The first video was initially shared on Twitter by Duan Rui, and it shows the graphite iPhone 12 Pro being unboxed. In the video, you can see the stainless steel design of the device alongside a new paper screen protector, as opposed to plastic screen protectors that Apple has used for many years.
Here is a YouTube version of the video, uploaded by Ben Geskin:
Meanwhile, a separate video has also emerged showing our first real-world look at the blue iPhone 12 model. This video shows an interesting look at the aluminum sides alongside the smaller box that Apple is using now that there are no EarPods or charging brick included.
The first iPhone 12 orders have started shipping out to pre-order customers, but none of those orders are likely to arrive before Friday, October 23. These videos likely originate from people inside retailers and other outlets that have early access to iPhone 12 shipments. We expect reviews from the press to hit at some point this week.
What do you think of these videos? What are your thoughts on the new graphite iPhone 12 Pro and the blue iPhone 12? Let us know down in the comments!
Apple should switch the iPhone to USB-C if it really wants to help the environment – The Verge
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