Although 2020 has been a difficult year for many businesses, it seemed barely an inconvenience for Apple. While some supply chain delays were briefly experienced at the start of the year, the company overcame them swiftly to release a series of new iPhones, watches and updates to its other devices.
However, that doesn’t mean the year has been all that sparkles for Apple. It was named in a sweeping 16-month investigation by the US House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust that included Google, Amazon and Facebook, in addition to an ongoing investigation by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ probe is focused on Google, but highlights the billions Google must pay Apple each year to be featured as the default search engine on its devices.
A quick guide to everything you need to know about Apple and its ecosystem is provided below.
The US House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust completed a 16-month investigation of monopolistic practices among the largest tech companies, including Apple. The final report suggests Congress apply existing antitrust laws to break up parts of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon to encourage more competition.
Apple has continued to assert it is not a monopoly, and argued the app ecosystem it created benefits millions of independent developers around the world. It added that its control of the App Store ensures each app meets user expectations while also safeguarding their security and privacy.
The report also argued that Apple’s total control over iOS software distribution has reduced choices for consumers, increased prices and hurt competitors. Among the examples cited is the game Fortnite by Epic Games, which was banned from the App Store after it attempted to circumvent paying fees to Apple. These fees are sometimes called the “Apple Tax” and account for 30% of the revenue each app generates. Many developers have come forward to argue these rates are excessively high and make competition with apps created directly by Apple impossible.
The new device offers a new A14 Bionic Chip that is said to be more than 50% faster than anything else on the market. It also includes 5G wireless capabilities, with speeds that allow for a gaming experience that can rival desktop computers. The iPhone 12 Pro model adds LiDAR functionality, which allows the iPhone to create a 3D map of a room, with accurate measurements of objects and their depths. This is useful for AR applications.
Another big change that is happening across multiple devices, including the iPhone 12, is that mobile devices will no longer include a charging block or headphones.
Apple Watch 6 And 6 SE
The biggest updates for Apple Watch 6 are a blood oxygen sensor, an always-on display and new watch face options. For the 40mm model, prices start at $399 for the GPS-only option and $499 for the GPS+Cellular version. The 44mm model starts at $429. There’s also a new solo loop band that doesn’t feature a clasp. It’s stretchy, so buyers need to select which size fits them best.
In addition to the flagship watch model, Apple released a budget-friendly 6SE version that doesn’t include the blood oxygen sensor. Prices for it start at $279 for the 40mm model.
Apple Watch OS7
The new OS7 software update includes a sleep tracking app that helps users set sleep goals and monitor how well they meet them. It also allows you to browse the Apple Store directly from the watch for the first time. A new Family Setup function was added as well, and it allows multiple users to have their Watches paired to—and managed by—one iPhone. This allows children who don’t have an iPhone to get all the benefits of an Apple Watch.
Lower Prices For Homepod and iPad
Apple recently released an entry-level HomePod mini for $99. The new device can be used as an intercom when connected to an iPhone and allows users to save voice memos and play music.
Starting at $329, the new 8th generation iPad ships with an A12 Bionic chip that adds Neural Engine to this entry-level device. The new chip increases CPU speeds by 40%, which allows for more immersive gaming and AR experiences.
Software Update: iOS14
The iOS 14 update is compatible with all devices able to run iOS 13. The biggest change for users has been the new home screen capability to display widgets. Instead of every app being the same size on the home screen, widgets for the calendar, weather and other apps can be scaled to take up much larger spaces and display more information. Apple has also included a predictive widget that attempts to guess what app you want to use next.
Beyond widgets, Apple has added an App Library to the home screen as well. This allows a user to search all of their apps in one window and offers the option to only see them there. This helps reduce clutter on the home screen by allowing apps to be deleted from it, but still available to use.
Another feature new to iOS14 is App Clips, which allow users to instantly install fast mini-versions of apps for one-time use. For example, if you need a special app to check out in a store, you can scan a QR code to load it instantly without a sign-up process. This will make transactions more fluid and offer users more options for unique experiences from apps they don’t currently use.
In addition to more privacy protections, the new OS has a translate app, cycling route app and now displays incoming calls like a notification instead of obstructing the entire screen.
Apple One Subscription
Apple released a new subscription option called Apple One that combines Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and iCloud in one plan. Here’s how the pricing tiers are structured:
Individual ($14.95/month): includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage.
Family ($19.95/month): all of the above, plus it can be shared among up to six family members.
Premier ($29.95/month): all of the above, but adds Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, and 2TB of iCloud storage for up to six family members.
MacOS 11 Big Sur
The look of the iOS interface is starting to merge with Apple’s laptops and desktops with MacOS 11. The sidebars, notification center, dock and even Safari have been updated to a more modern look. Other highlights include more privacy features, improvements to Messages and a better Maps experience. The MacOS 11 Big Sur update will be available starting November 12.
One More Thing: Apple Silicon
During a special “One More Thing Event” November 10, Apple released details about its new M1 processors for the Mac lineup. They are the first commercial 5 nanometer chips to be released by any manufacturer. But if that isn’t impressive enough, they integrate multiple chips into one, including a GPU. The result is a chip that is more than 2x faster than current laptop chips on the market.
The M1 chip is being released within the new MacBook Air, which Apple claims will be 98% faster than all laptops sold in the last 12 months, in addition to a new Mac Mini and a 13-inch MacBook Pro.
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