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Today — September 19th 2019Your RSS feeds

Shipper, a platform for e-commerce logistics in Indonesia, raises $5 million

By Catherine Shu

Indonesia has one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world, but the logistics industry there is still very fragmented, creating headaches for both vendors and customers. Shipper is a startup with the ambitious goal of giving online sellers access to “Amazon-level logistics.” The company has raised $5 million in seed funding from Lightspeed Ventures, Floodgate Ventures, Insignia Ventures Partners and Y Combinator (Shipper is part of the accelerator’s winter 2019 batch), which will be used for hiring and customer acquisition.

Shipper was launched in 2017 by co-founders Phil Opamuratawongse and Budi Handoko, and is now used by more than 25,000 online sellers. Indonesia’s e-commerce market is growing rapidly, but online sellers still face many logistical hurdles.

The country is large (Indonesia has more than 17,500 islands, of which 600 are inhabited) and unlike the United States, where Amazon dominates, e-commerce sellers often use multiple platforms, like Tokopedia, Shopee, Bukalapak and Lazada. Smaller vendors also sell through Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media. Once an order has been placed, the challenge of making sure it gets to customers starts. There are more than 2,500 logistics providers in Indonesia, many of whom only cover a small area.

“It is really hard for any one provider to do nationwide themselves, so the big ones usually use local partners to fulfill locations where they don’t have infrastructure,” says Opamuratawongse.

The startup’s mission is to create a platform that makes the process of fulfilling and tracking orders much more efficient. In addition to a package pick-up service and fulfillment centers, Shipper also has a technology stack to help logistics providers manage shipments. It is used to predict the best shipping routes and consolidate packages headed in the same direction and also provides a multi-carrier API that allows sellers to manage orders, print shipping labels and get tracking information from multiple providers on their phones.

When it launched three years ago, Shipper began by focusing on the last-mile for smaller vendors, who Opamuratawongse says typically keep inventory in their homes and fulfill about five to 10 orders per day. Since many give customers a choice of several logistics providers, that meant they needed to visit multiple drop-off locations every morning.

Shipper offers pick-up service performed by couriers (who Opamuratawongse says are people like stay-at-home parents who want flexible, part-time work) who collect packages from several vendors in the same neighborhood and distribute them to different logistics providers, serving as micro-fulfillment hubs. Shipper signs up about 10 to 30 new couriers each week, keeping them at least 2.5 kilometers apart so they don’t compete against each other.

The company began setting up fulfillment centers to keep up with vendors whose businesses were growing and were turning to third-party warehouse services. Shipper has established 10 fulfillment centers so far across Indonesia, including Jakarta, with plans to open a new one about every two weeks until it covers all of Indonesia.

Opamuratawongse says he expects the logistics industry in Indonesia to remain fragmented for the next decade at least, and perhaps longer because of Indonesia’s size and geography. Shipper will focus on expanding in Indonesia first, with the goal of having 1,000 microhubs within the next year and 15 to 20 fulfillment centers. Then the company plans to tackle other Southeast Asian countries with rapidly-growing e-commerce markets, including Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro Review: It's All About the Camera

By Lauren Goode
This year's highest-priced iPhone models use premium materials and have a brighter screen. But the real benefit is that three-lens camera.

Apple iPhone 11 Review: The iPhone for Nearly Everybody

By Lauren Goode
It’s not the best iPhone you can buy, but it’s an excellent phone for the price.

6 Best Smartphones That Still Have a Headphone Jack (2019)

By Brian Barrett
3.5-mm audio jacks are endangered, but they're not extinct yet. Some of our favorite smartphones still have them.
Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Space is the next economic frontier… hear more about it at Disrupt SF

By Devin Coldewey

For decades space has been the play place for world powers, but the advent of (relatively) cheap and frequent rocket launches has opened it up for new business opportunities. But it’s still hard as hell, as early adopters of this orbital economy Tess Hatch of Bessemer Ventures, Swarm’s Sara Spangelo and OneWeb’s Adrian Steckel can attest. They’ll be on the Extra Crunch stage at Disrupt SF 2019 on October 3rd at 1:40 PM.

Spangelo and Steckel are in the midst of launching what have been termed “mega-constellations,” collections of hundreds or thousands of satellites offering a coordinated service (in their cases, global connectivity). These efforts are only possible with the new launch economy, and came hot on its heels, showing there’s no reason to wait to put new plans in action.

But such constellations bring their own challenges. Just from an orbital logistics point of view, launching a single satellite so that it enters a unique and predictable trajectory is hard enough; launching a dozen or a hundred at once is more difficult by far. And after launch, how will those satellites be tracked? How will they communicate to the surface and each other? What about the growing risk of collisions?

On top of that are more terrestrial, but no less crucial, questions: What services can be made available from orbit? What’s a reasonable amount to spend on them? How will they compete with and accommodate one another? Whose regulations will they follow?

These latter questions are among those that must also be answered by investors like Hatch, who is familiar with both the technical and capital side of the burgeoning space industry (and of course the technical side of the capital side). Space ventures can be extremely expensive and high-risk, but to get your foot in the door at this stage could be the start of a billion-dollar advantage a couple of years down the line.

If you’re planning on getting involved with the new space economy, or are just curious about it, join us for an extended discussion and Q&A on the 3rd.

Disrupt SF runs October 2 to October 4 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Tickets are available here, and they just happen to be available at a discount today only.

UK police arrest a number of climate activists planning Heathrow drone protest

By Natasha Lomas

U.K. police have arrested a number of environmental activists affiliated with a group which announced  last month that it would use drones to try to ground flights at the country’s busiest airport.

The group, which calls itself Heathrow Pause, is protesting against the government decision to green-light a third runway at the airport.

In a press release published today about an operation at Heathrow Airport, London’s Met Police said it has arrested nine people since yesterday in relation to the planned drone protest, which had been due to commence early this morning.

Heathrow Pause suggested it had up to 200 people willing to volunteer to fly toy drones a few feet off the ground within a 5km drone “no fly” zone around the airport — an act that would technically be in breach of U.K. laws on drone flights, although the group said it would only use small drones, flown at head height and not within flight paths. It also clearly communicated its intentions to the police and airport well in advance of the protest.

“Three women and six men aged between their 20s and the 60s have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance,” the Met Police said today.

“Four of the men and the three women were arrested yesterday, Thursday, 12 September, in Bethnal Green, Haringey and Wandsworth, in response to proposed plans for illegal drone use near Heathrow Airport.

“They were taken into custody at a London police station.”

The statement says a further two men were arrested this morning within the perimeter of Heathrow Airport on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance — though it’s not clear whether they are affiliated with Heathrow Pause.

Videos of confirmed members of the group being arrested by police prior to the planned Heathrow Pause action have been circulating on social media.

Roger Hallem , our brave drone pilot being arrested preemptively . We will not give up and we urge all right minded people to rise up with us . Don't sleep walk into oblivion . Protect your children as if their lives depended on it . It does @ExtinctionR @GretaThunberg pic.twitter.com/10gpVtVVEF

— Heathrow Pause (@HeathrowPause) September 12, 2019

In an update on its Twitter feed this morning Heathrow Pause says there have been 10 arrests so far.

It also claims to have made one successful flight, and says two earlier drone flight attempts were thwarted by signal jamming technology.

More flights are planned today, it adds.

UPDATE: 3 attempted flights, at least one successful. 10 arrests so far. More flights planned today.

James, having completed his flight, is about to hand himself into police. Currently in Heathrow Terminal 2 Departures for interviews/photos.

— Heathrow Pause (@HeathrowPause) September 13, 2019

Heathrow using signal jamming to frustrate early flights 💚🌲🌍🌲💚#HeathrowPause #ClimateBreakdown #ActNow https://t.co/F4b8NvcLj1

— Heathrow Pause (@HeathrowPause) September 13, 2019

Thank you James Brown for your courage. @HeathrowAirport when will you adhere by your own rules and close the airport? https://t.co/fJFlLx2dGb

— Heathrow Pause (@HeathrowPause) September 13, 2019

A spokeswoman for Heathrow told us there has been no disruption to flights so far today.

In a statement the airport said: “Heathrow’s runways and taxiways remain open and fully operational despite attempts to disrupt the airport through the illegal use of drones in protest nearby. We will continue to work with the authorities to carry out dynamic risk assessment programmes and keep our passengers flying safely on their journeys today.”

“We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people, is not the answer. The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do,” it added.

We’ve asked the airport to confirm whether signal jamming counter-drone technology is being used to try to prevent the protest.

The Met Police said a dispersal order under Section 34 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been implemented in the area surrounding Heathrow Airport today.

“It will be in place for approximately 48 hours, commencing at 04:30hrs on Friday, 13 September,” it writes. “The order has been implemented to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport.”

Accel and Sequoia seed Middesk with $4M to background check businesses

By Kate Clark

For those of you that diligently follow the hot startups to graduate from Y Combinator’s accelerator program, you might recall Middesk.

The company was amongst an exclusive subset of startups in YC’s winter 2019 batch to walk into demo day term sheet in hand. Top VCs, like Accel and Sequoia Capital, couldn’t wait until the team’s public pitch was complete to seed the company.

Middesk performs background checks, but not of people; rather, the startup helps companies identify business and regulatory risk in their customer base. Today, it’s announcing its first round of capital, a $4 million financing led by Accel’s Rich Wong, with participation from Sequoia. Founded by two early employees of another YC graduate, Checkr, which automates the pre-employment background check process for companies, Middesk chief executive officer Kyle Mack and chief technology officer Kurt Ruppel wanted to apply their learnings to a business identity product.

“What we’ve built from the ground up is a product to help companies understand who their customers are and what those customers do for their business,” Mack explains.

Selling a product in a traditional and heavily regulated industry, Mack says having top-tier, established venture funds Accel and Sequoia on board has made a big difference for the company. This is particularly interesting, given the round comes at a time in which competition for early-stage deals is greater than ever. More and more billion-dollar funds, Accel and Sequoia included, are moving downstream to purchase stakes in promising companies as early as possible, beating out seed funds by providing better terms and brand recognition.

Accel was also an early investor in Checkr, which most recently raised a $100 million Series C at a $900 million valuation, and was familiar with the Middesk team prior to the company’s formation: “One of the nice things about this job is if you have a chance to do it right, you can build relationships with people and work with them across multiple companies,” Accel’s Wong tells TechCrunch.

San Francisco-based Middesk is working with customers, including Checkr and Plaid, a well-financed leader in fintech, as well as smaller entrants to the B2B market, like the even more recent YC-grad Vouch, which sells business insurance to startups. Mack says they are particularly focused on payments, lending, payroll, expenses and credit businesses, or those with regulatory risk requirements.

“Effectively anyone that’s touching money that’s a B2B business has regulatory requirements to do what we do,” Mack said. “There is a whole new wave of companies applying consumer-style experiences to business products, but the risks they deal with, they aren’t designed to manage those risks at scale.”

With the infusion of capital, Middesk has grown its team from two to seven, creating engineering and operations teams in the process. In the long term, Mack cites Plaid and its proven ability to rapidly become the go-to tool for connecting applications to consumer bank accounts, as inspiration.

“We talk about this idea of becoming a single source for all the external signals you might want to have about a business,” he said. “Plaid has built a single place to get a host of transaction data of people and businesses. We think about Middesk as a single place to find high-quality and trusted information for a single business.”

Apple hid a secret message in its latest YouTube video

By Greg Kumparak

Shortly after Apple’s iPhone 11 event yesterday, the company posted a drastically condensed “supercut” of everything they announced. Taking the two hour event and boiling it down to a little over two minutes, they still manage to cover just about everything — from new iPads, to new Watches, to new iPhones. And they tucked a little Easter egg in there, while they were at it!

Here’s the video:

First spotted by Gcarsk on the r/apple subreddit, it’s very much a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kinda thing. Hell, you might miss it even if you don’t blink, as it’s only on screen for a few tenths of a second. I had to rapid-fire hammer the space bar to pause the video long enough to grab the screenshot below. The frames flash on screen riiiight after the narrator says “the best-selling PC” at around the 1:23 mark.

The frames jab at the classic Blue Screen of Death that you might see when something goes real wrong on a Windows computer, announcing that “Error 09102019” (a nod to the event’s September 10th, 2019 date) has occurred:

apple message

See all the numbers at the bottom? If you recognize that as binary, you probably see where this is going. A hidden message within the hidden message!

Pop those into a binary-to-ascii converter, and a new bit of text is revealed. Don’t feel like typing out all those ones and zeroes? Here’s the full text of the message:

Error 09102019

This is just a thought. But it might be nice to have some sort of easter egg message in here for the hard core Apple fans that will stop the video.

01010011 01101111 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01110100 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01110100 01110010 01100001 01101110 01110011 01101100 01100001 01110100 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00111111 00100000

01010111 01100101 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00101110″

And — spoiler alert — the translated/decrypted text:

“So you took the time to translate this? We love you.”

AirDrop gets an upgrade in iPhone 11

By Sarah Perez

AirDrop, Apple’s proximity-based, built-in file sharing feature and home to teen meme exchanges, is getting an upgrade with the new iPhones. At Apple’s iPhone press event on Tuesday, the company introduced the iPhone 11 line of devices, which include a new Apple -designed U1 chip that uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness. This will offer a number of improvements to the iPhone’s capability, but Apple is starting with upgraded AirDrop functionality as a more practical use case.

With the U1 chip and iOS 13, you’ll be able to point your iPhone towards someone else’s and AirDrop will prioritize that device in the list of possible AirDrop recipients. This will help to speed up the AirDrop process, which today can still be uncumbersome at times — especially at places where there are a lot of people gathered, like a concert or business convention, for example.

Screen Shot 2019 09 11 at 11.22.22 AM

The additional capability was first spotted by MacRumors in the updates to Apple’s website that rolled out after the iPhone event.

What’s particularly interesting about the U1’s ultra wideband technology is that it’s also what’s rumored to power the forthcoming Apple Tag devices, which were not announced at yesterday’s event.

Apple Tag, it’s been reported, will be a competitor to the lost item tracker Tile which allows you to attach a small tag to items you need to keep up with — like your keys, wallet or bag, for example. Tile leverages Bluetooth and a crowdsourced network of Tile owners running its app on their device to help find missing items. Apple Tag is said to work similarly, via Apple’s Find My app, but will also feature ultra wideband tech.

More recently, references to Apple’s Tile competitor were also spotted in iOS 13 code by MacRumors.

Though Apple didn’t make any announcements about the product, it does seem to hint on the website that AirDrop upgrades are only the first of many enhancements that will come about thanks to the U1 chip, by saying: “And that’s just the beginning.” 

Presumably, whatever that statement is actually referring to will be released further down the road, perhaps as soon as its next big press event.

 

iFixit gives Fairphone 3 a perfect 10 for repairability

By Natasha Lomas

Here’s something the hermetically sealed iPhone can’t do: Score a perfect 10 for repairability.

Smartphone startup and social enterprise Fairphone’s latest repairable-by-design smartphone has done just that, getting 10/10 in an iFixit Teardown vs scores of just 6/10 for recent iPhone models.

The Fairphone 3, which was released in Europe last week with an RRP of €450, gets thumbs up across the board in iFixit’s hardware Teardown. It found all the internal modules to be easily accessible and replaceable — with only basic tools required to get at them (Fairphone includes a teeny screwdriver in the box). iFixit also lauds visual cues that help with disassembly and reassembly, and notes that repair guides and spare parts are available on Fairphone’s website.

iFixit’s sole quibble is that while most of the components inside the Fairphone 3’s modules are individually replaceable “some” are soldered on. A tiny blip that doesn’t detract from the 10/10 repairability score

Safe to say, such a score is the smartphone exception. The industry continues to encourage buyers to replace an entire device, via yearly upgrade, instead of enabling them to carry out minor repairs themselves — so they can extend the lifespan of their device and thereby shrink environmental impact.

Dutch startup Fairphone was set up to respond to the abject lack of sustainability in the electronics industry. The tiny company has been pioneering modularity for repairability for several years now, flying in the face of smartphone giants that are still routinely pumping out sealed tablets of metal and glass which often don’t even let buyers get at the battery to replace it themselves.

To wit: An iFixit Teardown of the Google Pixel rates battery replacement as “difficult” with a full 20 steps and between 1-2 hours required. (Whereas the Fairphone 3 battery can be accessed in seconds, by putting a fingernail under the plastic back plate to pop it off and lifting the battery out.)

The Fairphone 3 goes much further than offering a removable backplate for getting at the battery, though. The entire device has been designed so that its components are accessible and repairable.

So it’s not surprising to see it score a perfect 10 (the startup’s first modular device, Fairphone 2, was also scored 10/10 by iFixit). But it is strong, continued external validation for the Fairphone’s designed-for-repairability claim.

It’s an odd situation in many respects. In years past replacement batteries were the norm for smartphones, before the cult of slimming touchscreen slabs arrived to glue phone innards together. Largely a consequence of hardware business models geared towards profiting from pushing for clockwork yearly upgrades cycle — and slimmer hardware is one way to get buyers coveting your next device.

But it’s getting harder and harder to flog the same old hardware horse because smartphones have got so similarly powerful and capable there’s precious little room for substantial annual enhancements.

Hence iPhone maker Apple’s increasing focus on services. A shift that’s sadly not been accompanied by a rethink of Cupertino’s baked in hostility towards hardware repairability. (It still prefers, for example, to encourage iPhone owners to trade in their device for a full upgrade.)

At Apple’s 2019 new product announcement event yesterday — where the company took the wraps off another clutch of user-sealed smartphones (aka: iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro) — there was even a new financing offer to encourage iPhone users to trade in their old models and grab the new ones. ‘Look, we’re making it more affordable to upgrade!’ was the message.

Meanwhile, the only attention paid to sustainability — during some 1.5 hours of keynotes — was a slide which passed briefly behind marketing chief Phil Schiller towards the end of his turn on stage puffing up the iPhone updates, encouraging him to pause for thought.

Apple 2019 event

“iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 are made to be designed free from these harmful materials and of course to reduce their impact on the environment,” he said in front of a list of some toxic materials that are definitely not in the iPhones.

Stuck at the bottom of this list were a couple of detail-free claims that the iPhones are produced via a “low-carbon process” and are “highly recyclable”. (The latter presumably a reference to how Apple handles full device trade-ins. But as anyone who knows about sustainability will tell you, sustained use is far preferable to premature recycling…)

“This is so important to us. That’s why I bring it up every time. I want to keep pushing the boundaries of this,” Schiller added, before pressing the clicker to move on to the next piece of marketing fodder. Blink and you’d have missed it.

If Apple truly wants to push the boundaries on sustainability — and not just pay glossy lip-service to reducing environmental impact for marketing purposes while simultaneously encouraging annual upgrades — it has a very long way to go indeed.

As for repairability, the latest and greatest iPhones clearly won’t hold a candle to the Fairphone.

Audi’s off-roading electric concept would be perfect for Tatooine

By Kirsten Korosec

Concept vehicles are a staple of the auto show circuit. And while most will never end up as a production vehicle, they can provide insight into an automaker and clues to where it’s headed.

Over at Audi, designers and engineers might have had a distant planet in mind. Or at least an expanse of wilderness.

The German automaker unveiled Tuesday at the Frankfurt Motor Show the Audi AI: TRAIL quattro, a concept electric vehicle designed for the “future of off roading.” The “Trail” off roader is one of four concept vehicles that Audi has presented at various auto shows since 2017. Other concepts included a sports car, luxury vehicle and one designed for megacities.

Audi argues that these concepts aren’t efforts of futility. Instead, the company says it these four vehicles show how Audi vehicles in the future will be designed for specific use cases.

“In the future, customers will be able to order any of these specialist Audi models from an Audi on-demand vehicle pool to suit their personal preferences and requirements and to lease them for a limited period,” the company said in its announcement.

Audi takes this idea of the on-demand subscription further by noting that vehicles will be configured to suit individual preferences of customers who use this still non-existent and totally conceptual on-demand product. All the essential customer information would be stored in the myAudi system and accompanying app, the company said.

In the video below, Audi’s head of design Marc Lichte explains the thinking behind these concepts.

 

In the case of the Audi AI: TRAIL, designers put an emphasis on exploration and seeing the surrounding environment. It even comes with five drones, which aside from replacing the headlights, can provide other tasks such as lighting up your camping area or picnic spot.

The all-electric concept, which has a range of up to 310 miles, is about 13.5 feet long and 7 feet wide and is outfitted with beefy 22-inch wheels. And because it’s a vehicle meant to off road, designers gave it ground clearance of 13.4 inches. This concept, if it really existed beyond the showroom floor, can ford through water more than half a meter deep. The range of the vehicle does drop on rough roads to about 155 miles, which would theoretically (if this vehicle actually existed) make wilderness travel more difficult.

[gallery ids="1880216,1880211,1880220,1880215,1880212,1880213,1880210,1880221,1880214,1880207"]

The battery unit is integrated into the floor providing a spacious interior that sits four people. Glass surrounds the cabin to provide unrivaled views of the environment, whether it’s an earthly vista or the binary sunset over the fictional Tatooine desert.

The remaining exterior body is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber, giving it a total weight of 3,858 pounds.

The concept vehicle is equipped with four electric motors, systems for assisted and automated driving and all-wheel drive. What you won’t find are any screens for streaming video. This concept was designed for viewing the outside world.

The interior, which uses recycled materials, is scant. There are pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control center for vehicle functions and navigation.

The second row features seats that are designed to function like hammocks — and can be removed and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

Drones as headlights!

Perhaps the most interesting feature is the inclusion of five rotorless electrically operated drones, which serve a variety of purposes. The drones, which have matrix LED lighting, can dock on the roof to get more power with the inductive charging elements.

Audi calls these drones Audi Light Pathfinders because of their ability to fly and illuminate the path ahead. These drones, Audi says replace headlights altogether. When the vehicle is parked, the drones can be used ti light up the surrounding area.

Occupants control the drones through their smartphones in this theoretical use case. The on-board cameras can generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into “eyes in the sky,” Audi says.

Razer made a case for cooling iPhones while gaming

By Brian Heater

Razer’s efforts to build a game-centric smartphone haven’t exactly caught the world on fire just yet. Still, mobile gaming is a huge business poised to get even bigger, with services from big names like Apple and Google waiting in the wings.

Seeing as how accessories have long been the company’s bread and butter, products like Arctech are probably an easier way for the company to ensure it’s got a horse in that race. The product is a phone case specifically designed to help stop phones from overheating during resource-intensive activities like gaming.

Thermaphene

The product uses Razer’s proprietary Thermaphene technology sandwiched between a microfiber lining and an outer casing with perforations to help let the heat out. Per Razer:

Thermaphene is a thermally – conductive material that dissipates heat. In independent testing against similar style cases, the Razer Arctech case maintained temperatures up to 6° Celsius (42.8 Fahrenheit) lower than the comparison case.

There are two versions of the case, Slim and Pro, the latter of which offers added protection for up to a 10-foot drop. As for why the company’s launching today, in addition to the Razer Phone 2, the Arctech will be available for all of Apple’s new iPhones. The Slim runs $30 and the Pro is $40. They’re both available starting today.

What the iPhone 11 says about Apple’s present — and future

By Brian Heater

No matter how much polish and Apple magic the company put on today’s big event, there was one unshakable truth that colored the event: phones just aren’t selling like they used to. And unlike other industry-wide trends, Apple isn’t immune. The large scale slow down of smartphone sales has had an undeniable impact on the company’s bottom line.

Casual observers may not have noticed, but that harsh truth impacted nearly every mobile announcement on stage today at the Steve Jobs theater. Two elements in particular really stood out, however:

  1. Content and services taking center stage
  2. Apple rethinking how the iPhone is positioned.

iPhone 11 Pro hands-on

By Brian Heater

More than any other iPhone event in recent memory, today’s big launch was content-first. Apple began the show with several gaming demos from Arcade, before moving along to TV+ premieres. The new iPhone didn’t necessarily take a backseat, but there’s little question that this event was a key piece in shifting messaging for the company.

The big announcement also saw a shift in iPhone positioning against a backdrop of declining smartphone sales. There are a number of reasons why device sales are down across the board, of course — I along with everyone else in the industry have written about them dozens if not hundreds of times. Price creep is a big one, and the iPhone 11 finds the company readjusting accordingly.

The device takes the spot of the R line — a big seller for Apple. This time the entry-level “flagship” is $699, while the Pro and Pro Max step in for the premium-tier devices, priced at $999 and $1,099, respectively. Apple set those prices with the iPhone X two years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Apple has also really settled into a style. The 11s are virtually indistinguishable from their predecessors, head on. The screens have been souped-up to “Super Retina XDR” on the Pros. Both are 458 PPI, at 5.8 and 6.5 inches, respectively.

Apple iPhone 11

The notch remains, even as companies like Samsung push into a subtler cut-out model (not to mention all of those companies currently experimenting with pop-up cameras). Ditto, unfortunately, for the Lightning port. Apple’s ditched it for USB-C on the iPad Pro and, honestly, I can’t wait for it to follow suit on the iPhone. I go through what feels like a Lightning cable a month, due to wear and tear on the connection.

That will have to wait until 2020 (fingers crossed). So, too, will 5G, though the company did allude to “faster cellular” in a quick rundown of all the features it didn’t have time to announce onstage. Ditto for the rumored improved FaceTime camera. That should work faster and from more angles, so you’ll (theoretically) be able to check messages while the phone is laying flush on a table. Huge, if true.

Apple iPhone 11 8245 4CCE AEA3 A3CC65F5E188

Speaker of cameras, that’s the biggie here, of course. It continues to be the last vestige for smartphone innovation. Again, hardware is just kind of good on smartphones. There doesn’t appear to be a ton of room for innovation, but for the camera. The iPhone 11 ditches telephoto, for wide and ultra-wide-angle lenses. The Pros, meanwhile, add telephoto it back in.

The three cameras on the Pros are as follows:

12MP wide angle camera (26mm f/1.8), a 12MP ultra wide (13mm f/2.4), plus a 12MP telephoto camera (52mm f/2.0). All are capable of shooting 4K video at 60FPS.

They’re in an odd square array (versus, say, the three down vertical on Samsung’s latest). In fact, all versions of the iPhone 11 have a camera box bump on the rear, for the sake, one imagines, of aesthetic uniformity. As we’ve noted before, most of the innovation in smartphone cameras is happening on the software side, and that appears to be the case here. The big feature is Deep Fusion.

iPhone 11 Apple

It works similarly to HDR photos, creating a massive composite. Here it uses nine photos, with the optimal pixels chosen by on-board machine learning for super-fancy photos that should greatly reduce image noise.

The devices are the first to sport Apple’s new A13 chip, which promises much faster processing — the “fastest ever on a smartphone,” according to the company. That, naturally, means more and better gaming, bringing us right back around to the content play we were discussing at the top of this story.

[gallery ids="1880064,1880063,1880061,1880060,1880006,1880000,1880005,1879991,1879992"]

Understandably, what you can do with the phone has become a much larger selling point for Apple than the phone itself. You’ll be able to get your hands on the device starting September 20. 

Why does the new iPhone 11 Pro have 3 cameras?

By Devin Coldewey

On the back of the iPhone 11 Pro can be found three cameras. Why? Because the more light you collect, the better your picture can be. And we pretty much reached the limit of what one camera can do a little while back. Two, three, even a dozen cameras can be put to work creating a single photo — the only limitation is the code that makes them work.

Earlier in today’s announcements, Apple showed the base-level iPhone 11 with two cameras, but it ditched the telephoto for an ultrawide lens. But the iPhone Pro has the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto, its optical options covering an approximate 35mm equivalents of 13mm to 52mm, and 26mm.

threecams

“With these three cameras you have incredible creative control,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller during the stage presentation. “It is so pro, you’re going to love using it.”

Previously the telephoto lens worked with the wide-angle camera to produce portrait mode effects or take over when the user zooms in a lot. By combining the info from both those cameras, which have a slightly different perspective, the device can determine depth data, allowing it to blur the background past a certain point, among other things.

The ultra-wide lens provides even more information, which should improve the accuracy of portrait mode and other features. One nice thing about a wide angle on a dedicated sensor and camera system is the creators can build in lots of corrections so you don’t get crazy distortion at the corners or center. Fundamentally you’ll still want to back off a bit, because using an ultrawide lens on a face gives it a weird look.

While we’re all used to the pinch-to-zoom-in gesture, what you’re usually doing when you do that is a digital zoom, just looking closer at the pixels you already have. With an optical zoom, however, you’re switching between different pieces of glass and, in this case, different sensors, getting you closer to the action without degrading the image.

One nice thing about these three lenses is that they’ve been carefully chosen to work together well. You may have noticed that the ultra-wide is 13mm, the wide is twice that at 26mm, and the telephoto is twice that at 52mm.

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The simple 2x factor makes it easy for users to understand, sure, but it also makes the image-processing math of switching between these lenses easier. And as Schiller mentioned on stage, “we actually pair the three cameras right at the factory calibrating for focus and color.”

Not only that, but when you’re shooting with the wide camera, it’s sharing information with the other two cameras, so when you switch to them, they’re already focused on the same point, shooting at the same speed and exposure, white balance, and so on. That makes switching between them mostly seamless even while shooting video (just be aware that you will shake the device when you tap it).

Apple’s improvements to the iPhone camera system this year are nowhere near as crazy as the switch from one to two cameras made by much of the industry a couple years back. But a wide, tele, and ultra-wide setup is a common one for photographers and no doubt will prove a useful one for everyone who buys into this rather expensive single-device solution.

iOS 13 will be available on September 19

By Romain Dillet

Apple announced in a press release that iOS 13 will be available on September 19. Even if you don’t plan on buying a new iPhone, you’ll be able to get a bunch of new features.

But that’s not all. iOS 13.1 will be available on September 30. Apple had to remove some features of iOS 13.0 at the last minute as they weren’t stable enough, such as Shortcuts automations and the ability to share your ETA in Apple Maps. That’s why iOS 13.1 will be released shortly after iOS 13.

As always, iOS 13 will be available as a free download. If you have an iPhone 6s or later, an iPhone SE or a 7th-generation iPod touch, your device supports iOS 13.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 13. This year, in addition to dark mode, it feels like every single app has been improved with some quality-of-life updates. The Photos app features a brand new gallery view with autoplaying live photos and videos, smart curation and a more immersive design.

This version has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign in with Apple” and a bunch of privacy popups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consent, background location tracking. Apple Maps now features an impressive Google Street View-like feature called Look Around. It’s only available in a handful of cities, but I recommend… looking around as everything is in 3D.

Many apps have been updated, such as Reminders with a brand new version, Messages with the ability to set a profile picture shared with your contacts, Mail with better text formatting options, Health with menstrual cycle tracking, Files with desktop-like features, Safari with a new website settings menu, etc. Read more on iOS 13 in my separate preview.

On the iPad front, for the first time Apple is calling iOS for the iPad under a new name — iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved, the Apple Pencil should feel snappier, Safari is now as powerful as Safari on macOS and more.

Here’s everything Apple announced today at the iPhone 11 event

By Greg Kumparak

Like clockwork, Apple has used its annual September event to announce a new generation of iPhones.

But they also crammed a bunch of other stuff in there for good measure. New iPads! New Apple Watches! Launch dates for Apple Arcade and Apple TV+!

Didn’t have time to watch the event as it happened, but still want to know what went down? We can help. We’ve got all the news, condensed down to just the bullet points.

Apple Arcade

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Apple Arcade, the company’s take on an all-you-can-eat, Netflix-for-games-type service, will launch on September 19th in 150 countries. It’ll cost $4.99 per month for a family subscription, and offer a 1 month free trial.

Apple TV+

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Earlier this year Apple announced that it was working on an on-demand video service, complete with original programming from folks like Reese Witherspoon, Oprah, Jason Momoa and many others. They didn’t get too specific about the launch date, though.

The company now says that Apple TV+ will start rolling out on November 1st — and, like Apple Arcade, will cost $4.99 per month for a family subscription.

Oh! And a bit of an added surprise: all new iPhones, iPads, Macs and AppleTVs will come with one year of AppleTV+, free.

The new 10.2″ iPad

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As the iPad moves into its seventh generation, the 9.7″ model is being bumped up to 10.2″.

It’ll have a Retina display, a smart connector on its edge to connect it with a full-size keyboard accessory and work with the first-gen Apple Pencil. And for the TouchID fans out there, fret not: they’re keeping the home button.

It’ll cost $329 (or $299 for students); pre-orders start today, shipping on September 30th.

Apple Watch Series 5

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Always on display! Whereas previous Apple Watches turned off the display when you lowered your wrist, Series 5’s display will stay on unless you deliberately turn it off.

When you lower your arm, the brightness drops and the screen’s refresh rate dips down to one refresh per second, but your complications and watch faces stay visible. It’s getting a built-in compass, and an “international emergency calling” feature that lets you call emergency services in 150 countries by pressing and holding the side button.

Apple says the battery should last about 18 hours per charge.

Apple Watch Series 5 will start at $399, or $499 for the cell-enabled models. Shipping will start on September 20th. There will be aluminum models (silver, gold and space grey), stainless steel models (gold, space black and polished), titanium (brushed metal, brushed space black) and ceramic.

Series 3, meanwhile, is getting a bit of a price drop, with the base price for the two-year-old model going from $279 to $199.

The new iPhones

You can’t have an Apple event in September without a new iPhone or three, right?

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First up was the iPhone 11. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 6.1″ display, with the “toughest glass” ever in an iPhone
  • A new dual camera system on the back — one 12MP wide-angle camera (26mm f/1.8) and one 12 MP ultra-wide camera (13mm f/2.4)
  • The flash is 36% brighter
  • A new night mode that uses adaptive bracketing for better low-light shots
  • The front camera — now 12MP, up from 7MP — can do 60 FPS 4K and slow-motion video
  • Running on Apple’s new A13 chipset, which they proclaim to be the fastest CPU/GPU ever in a smartphone

It’ll come in black, green, yellow, purple, red and white, and start at $699.

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Next up was the iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max:

  • The Pro line has three cameras, rather than two: a 12MP wide-angle camera (26mm f/1.8), a 12MP ultra-wide (13mm f/2.4), plus a 12MP telephoto camera (52mm f/2.0). All three cameras can shoot 4K at 60FPS.
  • Pro has a 5.8″ display, while Pro Max comes in at 6.5″
  • Also running on A13
  • While they didn’t give a specific battery life estimate, Apple says the Pro will get four more hours of life per charge when compared to the iPhone Xs Max, while the Pro Max will get five more hours
  • Both come with 18w fast chargers in the box
  • A new “Deep Fusion” feature uses machine learning for dramatically improved low-light shots. Before you press the shutter button, the camera is taking a series of short exposure shots. Press the button, and it takes one long exposure shot. Apple then uses neural networks to analyze the photos “pixel by pixel,” combining them into one high-detail, low-noise photo.

Pro will start at $999, while Pro Max will start at $1,099. Both will start shipping on September 20th.

Apple debuts the triple-camera iPhone 11 Pro

By Lucas Matney

Apple’s triple-camera iPhone is real and it’s the first phone the company has dubbed “Pro.”

The iPhone 11 Pro comes in two flavors, with 5.8″ and 6.5″ varieties at $999 and $1,099, respectively.

The bizarre-looking camera is the real star of the release. There are three 12-megapixel lenses with varying fields-of-view — a telephoto, a wide and an ultra-wide lens. The variety of lenses makes for a very strange nodule on the rear of the phone, but the shots Apple detailed in its keynote highlighted the level of detail that the new combination camera can bring when you switch between the lenses.

There wasn’t much said about the front-facing camera system, but Apple did detail that Face ID will now detect your face at wider angles. The phones will continue to shoot 4K HDR footage.

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Apple has shifted to a three-year redesign cycle, and in its third year, not much has changed with the iPhone 11 Pro looks-wise (beyond the camera square). In terms of looks, there’s a new “midnight green” textured matte finish, which actually looks quite nice among the more classic hues.

The new Pro devices ship with the company’s new A13 bionic chip, which has been optimized for high-intensity, low-power computing. The gains mean more usage between charges; the iPhone 11 Pro gets four more hours of usage per charge than the iPhone XS and the iPhone 11 Pro Max (what a mouthful) gets five hours more. The new phones ship with an 18-watt charger so that you can replenish your battery quickly… you’re probably going to want to dump those 5W charger blocks.

The new naming scheme doesn’t seem to denote a widening gap between the new phones Apple has released. The differences between the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 seem similar to the iPhone XR/XS relationship, the emphasis seems to be on boosting sales of the cheaper LCD iPhone while not making people feel like they’re buying the bargain iPhone.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 11 Pro go live this Friday and the phones ship on September 20.

Apple introduces the A13 Bionic for the iPhone 11

By Romain Dillet

Apple is announcing new iPhone models today. The iPhone 11 uses an Apple A13 Bionic system-on-a-chip. It is a nice improvement over the A12 Bionic in the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max.

But how much faster exactly? Apple first said it is making the fastest GPU and CPU for a smartphone. It then showed two charts with no X-axis — those charts weren’t helpful. But later in the conference, Apple shared some details about A13 Bionic performance.

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VP of Silicon Engineering Sri Santhanam shared some details about the A13 Bionic. Everything has been optimized for machine learning. The CPU can do 1 trillion operations per second. The CPU, GPU and Neural Engine should work better together when it comes to performing machine learning tasks.

“The iPhone 11 Pro is the best machine learning platform in any smartphone” Santhanam said.

When it comes to architecture, Apple is using 7nm transistors (like on the A12 Bionic), and there are now 8.5 billion transistors — that’s a huge update compared to the A12 Bionic, which had 6.9 billion transistors. The A13 Bionic still has four high-efficiency cores and two high-performance cores.

The two high-performance cores are 20% faster than previous high-performance cores and consume 30% less battery. The four high-efficiency cores are 20% faster and consume 40% less power.

The GPU has been optimized for Metal. It is 20% faster and consumes 40% less power. And, finally, the neural engine has eight cores and is 20% faster while consuming 15% less power.

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The article has been updated with performance details about the A13 Bionic.

Here are the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro

By Jordan Crook

Today, Apple has unveiled a new set of phones, including the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. These new devices are powered by a new chip, sport new cameras and are available in a variety of finishes and sizes.

So without any further ado, let’s get into some of the details.

iPhone 11

Design

The iPhone 11 sports an anondized aluminum and glass design, which Apple claims is the toughest ever smartphone glass. Surprisingly, it comes in a handful of colors: white, green, yellow, purple, black and red. This next-gen iPhone also has a 6.1-inch liquid Retina display, with the expected tap-to-wake functionality and haptic feedback.

Camera

Apple clearly put a lot of energy into the iPhone 11 camera, which has a dual-camera set up: one 12mp wide lens, 26mm f/1.8 and an ultra wide 12mp f/2.4 sensor. The wide-angle dual-camera set up actually lets users snap a pic and zoom out to see what’s beyond the frame, which should be helpful for those expansive landscape shots.

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On the software side, Apple has introduced a new image pipeline that does over a trillion operations for every photo. The company has added ‘semantic rendering’, which adjusts the lighting on photos retroactively based on the subjects. This helps to isolate and enhance facial features so tone mapping can be applied more accurately in portraits. Plus, portrait mode effects can now be applied to subjects other than humans, like pets.

iPhone 11 also features a new Night Mode to compete with the likes of Samsung and Google, which uses image fusion and adaptive bracketing — shorter and longer exposures — melded together to reduce motion and blur make for better low light images.

Video

On the video end, iPhone 11 shoots 4K video at 60fps, complete with Slo-mo, time-lapse, cinematic video stabilization, and extended dynamic range up to 4K across both cameras. The UI for video has some slight changes, including a new Instagram-style tap-and-hold to record video.

On the front-facing camera, Apple decided to go big with a wider angle sensor and the ability to capture 4K video at 30/60fps and the ability to shoot slo-mo.

Specs

As is usual with a new generation of iPhone, the iPhone 11 is powered by a brand new processor, the A13 Bionic chip. Apple says it’s the fastest GPU and CPU ever in a smartphone. Where battery life is concerned, Apple declined to share the actual mAh but did say that it has 1 hour longer battery life than the iPhone XR.

Pricing and Availability

The iPhone 11 will start at $699.

iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max

Design

The 11 Pro and Pro Max sport a three-camera system and a design featuring surgical grade stainless steel with a single sheet of matte glass on the back. It comes in midnight green, space grey, silver/white, and gold.

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Display

The Pro comes with a 5.8-inch display, while the Pro Max comes with a 6.5-inch display. And speaking of displays, the Pro and Pro Max have a Super Retina display with a new OLED panel with 2M:1 contrast, 1200 nits and True Tone technology. They’re calling it the Super Retina XDR display.

Specs

Alongside the iPhone 11, the Pro and Pro Max will run on the A13 Bionic chip.

Battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro lasts four hours longer than the iPhone Xs, while the 11 Pro Max offers five hours more than the iPhone XS Max. Both phones will get 18W fast charging capabilities.

Camera

But the real show-stopper on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max is the camera system.

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The iPhone Pro has three 12-megapixel cameras, covering the standard wide-angle view at 26mm equivalent, a 52mm telephoto lens, and a new ultra-wide 13mm that gives you a broader view, with 120-degree field of vision.

The camera system also has a new feature called Deep Fusion. Here’s how it works:

Deep Fusion shoots 9 images, pre-shooting four long- and four short-exposure images into a buffer. Then when you press the shutter button it takes a longer exposure. Then the neural engine and ISP combine these on a pixel-by pixel-basis into your image, harnessing the power of the A13 Bionic chip.

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Apple says the cameras are paired right at the factory for calibration, color, etc. Other cameras are primed while you shoot video on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max so you can swap between lenses without fluctuations in exposure, focus or color temperature.

Pricing and Availability

The iPhone 11 Pro will start at $999 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max will start at $1099, with sales starting on Friday at 5am PDT. Units will start shipping September 20.

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