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Killexams : Apple Certification exam Questions - BingNews Search results Killexams : Apple Certification exam Questions - BingNews Killexams : The Best Computer Hardware Certifications
  • The right computer hardware certification can help you score one of thousands of potential IT jobs.
  • Computer hardware certifications that focus on a specific brand or industry will help you advance in those ecosystems.
  • Computer hardware certifications that focus on neutral equipment or tools will deliver you the possibility of working for a variety of small and big businesses.
  • This article is for job seekers interested in the IT industry and computer hardware certifications

With a significant increase in remote and computer-based work in exact years, the need for businesses and individuals to maintain computer performance is key. While software work and coding are usually at the center of the conversation when it comes to potential computer-related jobs, becoming a computer technician is a great point of entry into the IT field. Breaking into this industry is easier for those who obtain computer hardware certifications. These certifications can help demonstrate your knowledge and competency in maintaining computers, mobile devices, printers and more. 

Best computer hardware certifications

As you can imagine, there’s a wide variety of computer hardware certifications available, so finding the best option can be overwhelming. We did a little digging and put together some of our favorite certifications for an easy way to begin your research. Below, you’ll find our picks for the top computer hardware certifications to help get your IT career off the ground. The list is in alphabetical order.

Apple Certified Support Professional

Given the popularity of Apple products and platforms, and the widespread use of Macintosh computers in homes and businesses of all sizes, there’s demand galore for Mac-savvy computer technicians.

As Apple products are dynamic and expand the Apple ecosystem, the company’s certification program has changed to stay up to date. The latest Apple certification available to qualify someone to work with their products is the Apple Certified Support Professional certificate. This credential acknowledges that the holder has expertise in the Apple tools, services and best practices an organization would need to use. A person with the Apple Certified Support Professional certification can help troubleshoot everything used by a help desk professional, technical coordinator or service provider that supports Mac, iPhone and iPad users; manages networks; or provides technical support for Apple devices. 

Obtaining the Apple Certified Support Professional certificate requires passing the Apple Device Support exam, which gives passing students the company’s digital badge proving certification. Users are allotted four attempts (each must be purchased) to pass the exam, with a two-week buffer period between each attempt. Skills that are covered under this certificate include Apple Device Setup and Security, Apple Hardware, Backup, Help Desk Support, and iPhone, iPad and Mac Support. 

The Apple Certified Support Professional is a permanent credential and doesn’t require annual recertification. However, Apple has changed and updated its certifications over the years, with its popular AppleCare Mac Technician certificate in 2017 no longer available. That certificate itself was an updated certificate. Keeping up with Apple’s offered certifications will help you stay current with industry expectations and get the best salary ranges. Furthermore, if Apple is where you want your career to go, obtaining this certificate will allow you to later pursue the Apple Certified IT Professional credential.

BICSI Technician (TECH) Certification

BICSI is a professional association that supports the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, mainly in the areas of voice, data, audio and video, electronic safety and security, and project management. BICSI offers training, certification and education to its more than 26,000 members, many of whom are designers, installers and technicians.

BICSI facilitates several certifications aimed at ICT professionals, who mainly deal with cabling and related technologies. Two credentials, the BICSI Technician (TECH) and the BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD), are pertinent (and popular) for those interested in computer hardware.

The BICSI Technician certification recognizes individuals who lead an installation group or team, perform advanced testing and troubleshooting of cable installations, evaluate cabling requirements, recommend solutions based on standards and best practices, and roll out new and retrofit projects. Technicians must be well versed in both copper and fiber cabling, which calls for candidates who have a good deal of knowledge about the hardware, networking devices and communications equipment to which they connect cables.

Did you know?Did you know?: The impact of the BICSI Technician (TECH) certification on people interested in computer networking is so significant that we also feature it in our roundup of the best certifications to advance your networking career.

To earn the BICSI Technician credential, candidates must pass a two-part exam consisting of a hands-on practical evaluation and a written test. To be eligible for the exam, interested candidates must meet one of four requirements (see breakdown in chart below). 

Interested candidates should also check out other BICSI certifications, such as the Installer 1 (INST1), Installer 2 Copper (INSTC) and Installer 2 Optical Fiber (INSTF). Credentials are valid for three years. Certification holders must earn 18 hours of continuing education credits (CECs) in each three-year credentialing cycle and pay the current renewal fees to maintain this credential.

Certification name

BICSI Technician

Prerequisites and required courses

Meet one of four options to be eligible for the exam

Option 1 

Have both: 

a.) One year of verifiable full-time-equivalent structured cabling systems (SCS) field experience, which may be obtained on the job, in a trade school or an apprenticeship program


b.) A certificate of course completion for BICSI’s instructor-led hands-on training in copper and fiber SCS

Option 2

Have both:

a.) Two years of verifiable full-time-equivalent SCS field experience, which may be obtained on the job, in a trade school or an apprenticeship program


b.) A certificate of course completion for the BICSI’s instructor-led hands-on technician training in SCS training

Option 3

Have both:

a.) Three years of verifiable full-time-equivalent SCS field experience, which may be obtained on the job, in a trade school or an apprenticeship program 


b.) Completed a minimum of 35 hours of documented continuing education in copper and fiber SCS, which may include training provided by BICSI, manufacturer training, college courses, industry training and/or vendor training 

Option 4

Have either: 

a.) The BICSI Installer 2 credential 


b.) Both the BICSI Installer 2 Copper and Installer 2 Optical Fiber credentials

Number of exams

One two-part exam, including a written exam (100 multiple-choice questions to be done in 2 hours) and a hands-on, performance-based exam (consists of completing 14 tasks, to industry standards, within a 20-minute-per-task time limit)

Cost per exam

$335 (nonrefundable application fee must be received by BICSI at least 7 days prior to the hands-on exam), plus $50 for the Hands-on Walk-in exam fee


Self-study materials

BICSTI recommended prerequisites:

100 hours review of BICSI Information Technology Systems Installation Methods Manual (ITSIMM)

Training in safety and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Training in firestopping

Training in optical fiber splicing and termination

Training in copper splicing and termination


TE350: BICSI Technician Training course

IN101: Installer 1 Training course

IN225: Installer 2 Copper Training course

IN250: Installer 2 Optical Fiber Training course

50 to 100 hours review of BICSI Information Technology Systems Installation Methods Manual (ITSIMM)

Training in safety and personal protective equipment (PPE)

Training in firestopping

Training in optical fiber splicing and termination

Training in copper splicing and termination

BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) Certification

An advanced BICSI credential, the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) certification is so well respected that the Department of Defense Unified Facilities requires it for several telecom-related design projects. 

RCDD candidates should be able to create and prepare system design specifications and plans, as well as recommended best practices for security design requirements for business automation systems. Those certificated are also well versed in data centers, cabling systems, and design for wireless, network and electronic security systems.

TipTip: If working with data seems more appealing to you, here are our recommendations for the best big data certifications.

To earn this credential, candidates must meet the experience requirements, submit the application (plus credentialing fees and a current resume) and pass the exam. In addition, candidates’ experience must be verified, and BICSI may require additional resources as proof of experience. The RCDD test requires individuals to meet one of three eligibility requirements, as outlined in the chart below.

Certification name

BICSI Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD)

Prerequisites and required courses

Meet one of four options to be eligible for the exam:

Option 1 

Have both: 

a.) Two years of verifiable full-time work experience in ICT design


b.) A current BICSI certification (BICSI TECH, RTPM, DCDC® or OSP)

Option 2 

Have both: 

a.) Two years of verifiable full-time equivalent work experience in ICT design


b.) Two years of higher education coursework in ICT, which may include:

• STEM or trade school

• Two-year degree

• ICT and industry-related programs, apprenticeships or certifications

• Military-training-equivalent evidence of completion of higher education coursework (certificates, diplomas, registrar’s documentation and other bona fide documents) 

Option 3 

Five years of verifiable ICT experience

Number of exams

One exam (100 questions, 2.5 hours)

Cost per exam

$510 for BICSI members / $725 for nonmembers for application fee


Self-study materials

BICSTI recommended prerequisites:

MID-CAREER (Two to five years of experience)

DD101 (or the pre-assessment): Best Practices for Telecommunications Distribution Design (BICSI CONNECT online course)

DD102: Applied Best Practices for Telecommunications Distribution Design

150+ TDMM study hours

BICSI TDMM flashcards

BICSI RCDD Test Preparation Course

(BICSI CONNECT online course)

ADVANCED CAREER (5+ years of experience)

• DD101 (or the pre-assessment): Best Practices for Telecommunications Distribution Design (BICSI CONNECT online course)

• DD102: Applied Best Practices for Telecommunications Distribution Design

• 125+ TDMM study hours

• BICSI TDMM flashcards

• BICSI RCDD Test Preparation Course (BICSI CONNECT online course)

CCT Routing & Switching: Cisco Certified Technician Routing & Switching

Cisco certifications are valued throughout the tech industry. The Cisco Certified Technician (CCT) certification is an entry-level credential that demonstrates a person’s ability to support and maintain Cisco networking devices at a customer site. The CCT Routing & Switching credential best fits our list of the top computer hardware certifications, and it serves as an essential foundation for supporting Cisco devices and systems in general.

Obtaining the CCT requires passing a single exam. subjects include identification of Cisco equipment and related hardware, such as switches and routers, general networking and service knowledge, working with the Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC), and describing Cisco IOS software operating modes. Candidates should also have a working knowledge of Cisco command-line interface (CLI) commands for connecting to and remotely servicing Cisco products. [Learn more in our detailed Cisco Certification guide.]

CompTIA A+

The CompTIA A+ certification is the granddaddy and best known of all hardware credentials. For anyone serious about working with PCs, laptops, mobile devices, printers or operating systems, the A+ should at least be on your radar, if not in your game plan.

Since the first A+ credential was awarded in 1993, the program continues to draw active interest and participation. With more than 1 million IT professionals now possessing this certificate, it’s something of a checkbox item for PC technicians and support professionals. It also appears in many job postings and advertisements, as you’ll notice in our job board search results further down.

A+ is also ISO 17024 compliant and accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). As a result, this credential must be renewed every three years in keeping with concomitant requirements for continuing education or regular examinations to maintain certification currency. Some 20 continuing education units (CEUs) are required for renewal.

The A+ certification encompasses broad coverage of PC hardware and software, networking and security in its overall technical scope. Earning an A+ from CompTIA involves passing two exams: 220-1101 and 220-1102. exam 220-1101 covers mobile devices, networking technology, hardware, virtualization and cloud computing. exam 220-1102 draws on knowledge of installing and configuring common operating systems (Windows, Linux, OS X, Android and iOS) and covers security, software and operational procedures. Candidates will find a variety of question formats, including standard multiple-choice, drag-and-drop and performance-based questions, on these exams.

Candidates who earn the A+ often find themselves in roles such as system support specialist, field service technician, desktop support specialist, help desk technician, associate network engineer and junior system administrator. The A+ is recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense (in DoD Directive 8140/8570.01-M). Also, technology companies like Ricoh, Nissan, Dell, HP and Intel require staff to earn the A+ certification to fill certain positions.

Certification name 

CompTIA A+

Prerequisites and required courses

9-12 months of hands-on experience in the lab or field recommended

Number of exams 

Two exams (each has a maximum of 90 questions and runs 90 minutes): 220-1101 and 220-1102 (CompTIA Academy Partners use the same numbers)

Cost per exam 

$246 per exam. Exams are administered by Pearson VUE. exam vouchers are available through CompTIA.


Self-study materials

CompTIA offers several self-study materials, including exam prep, study guides and classroom and e-learning training opportunities. Prices vary, with lower options around $400 (including a voucher for one of the exams).

Credential seekers may also want to check out the CertMaster online learning tool. Links to CompTIA training materials may be found on the certification web page.

Recommended books:

CompTIA A+ Core 1 (220-1101) and Core 2 (220-1102) exam Cram, by David L. Prowse, published July 2, 2022, Pearson IT Certification, ISBN-10: 0-13-763754-3, ISBN-13: 978-0-13-763754-6

CompTIA A+ Complete Study Guide: Core 1 exam 220-1101 and Core 2 exam 220-1102, 5th Edition, by Quentin Docter and Jon Buhagiar, published May 3, 2022, Syybex, ISBN-10: 1119862914, ISBN-13: 978-1119862918

CompTIA Server+

CompTIA also offers a server-related certification, which goes beyond covering basic PC hardware, software and networking subjects to the more demanding, powerful and expensive capabilities in the same vein usually associated with server systems.

The Server+ credential tackles the essential hardware and software technologies of on-premises and hybrid server environments, including high availability, cloud computing and scripting. Obtaining the Server+ certificate also demonstrates multistep knowledge to securely deploy, administer and troubleshoot servers, including coverage of more advanced storage systems, IT environments, virtualization and disaster recovery, and business continuity topics. It also puts a strong emphasis on best practices and procedures for server problem diagnosis and troubleshooting. 

Earning the Server+ certificate from CompTIA involves passing one exam: SK0-005. The test assesses the hands-on skills of IT professionals who install, manage and troubleshoot servers in data centers, as well as in on-premises and hybrid environments. Candidates will find a variety of question formats, including standard multiple-choice and performance-based questions.

TipTip: If the Server+ certificate’s focus on data centers is attractive, you may also want to consider other data center certifications.

Candidates who earn the Server+ credential often find themselves in roles such as system administrator, server administrator, data center technician or engineer, field service technician or engineer, network administrator, and IT technician. It can also be a stepping stone into vendor-specific server technician training programs at a wide variety of blue-chip companies or with their authorized resellers and support partners. Although Server+ is vendor-neutral in coverage, organizations such as HP, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Xerox, Lenovo and HP use Server+ credentialed technicians. 

Get more information on CompTIA credentials in our CompTIA certification guide.

Certification name 

CompTIA Server+

Prerequisites and required courses 

No prerequisites

Recommended to be CompTIA A+ certified or have equivalent knowledge and have two years of hands-on experience working in a server environment  

Number of exams 

One: SK0-005 (90 questions, 90 minutes, 750 out of 900 passing score)

Cost per exam

$358. exam is administered by Pearson VUE. exam vouchers are available through CompTIA.


Self-study materials

CompTIA provides exam prep and study guides, as well as classroom and e-learning training opportunities. Lower-cost options are around $400 (including a voucher for one of the exams).

Credential seekers may also want to check out the CertMaster online learning tool. Links to CompTIA training materials may be found on the certification webpage.

Recommended book:

CompTIA Server+ Certification All-in-One exam Guide, Second Edition (Exam SK0-005) 2nd Edition, by Daniel Lachance, published Aug. 3, 2021, McGraw Hill, ISBN-10: 1260469913, ISBN-13: 978-1260469912

Beyond the top 6: More hardware certifications

There are many more hardware-oriented certifications available that you might want to consider. As you get into IT and start to develop a sense of your own interests and observe the hardware systems and solutions around, you’ll be able to dig deeper into this arena.

You can investigate all the major system vendors (including HP, Dell, IBM, and other PC and server makers) as well as networking and infrastructure companies (such as Juniper and Fortinet) to find hardware-related training and certifications to occupy you throughout a long and successful career.

Although ExpertRating offers many credentials, we excluded it from our list after viewing several complaints regarding the general quality of the courses. Obviously, such complaints are from disgruntled customers, but they were enough to make us proceed with caution.

Did you know?Did you know?: Business News Daily has compiled all of the best IT certifications for easy access.

Job board search results

During a exact search of popular job boards, we found a plethora of businesses seeking candidates with computer hardware certifications for open roles. 







Apple Certified Support Professional






BICSI Technician


















CompTIA A+ 






CompTIA Server+






Various factors, such as the specific job role, locality and experience level, may impact salary potential. Indeed lists the average base pay for an IT technician as $66,013, while other sites share an average that lies closer to $55,000. The average national salary for computer hardware technicians ranges from about $31,000 to more than $53,000. However, some certifications command higher salaries. For example, Certification Magazine’s 2022 Annual Salary Survey found that the average salary for someone with a CompTIA A+ credential is $100,660.

Computer hardware certifications and your future

As technology is ever-changing and its dynamic nature is constant in our society, the need for qualified individuals to help Excellerate and maintain the computer hardware contributing to our technological growth will grow itself. You can help meet that need. However, in an area where continuous change in tools and technology is the norm, a course of lifelong learning will be essential to help you stay current on what’s relevant in the field today and will likely show up on the job soon.

Ed Tittel and Mary Kyle contributed to the writing and research in this article. 

Sun, 22 Jan 2023 10:00:00 -0600 en text/html
Killexams : MFi certification may gimp USB-C on Apple devices

The long journey to USB-C on the iPhone seemed to end with the iPhone 15 all but confirmed to have the charging port installed. Apple has resisted the request for USB-C on the iPhone, often citing that it would affect the integrity and performance of its device. With new laws passed in the EU, Apple can no longer ignore USB-C, but that doesn’t mean they’re going down easily. exact reports have surfaced that Apple may slap MFi certification on USB-C cables used with iPhones and iPad.

Estimated practicing time: 2 minutes

MFi certification is an Apple program that they put in place to “vet” the accessories used with their devices. Power accessories used with the MFi certification blessing tend to cost much more than those without the Fruit Blessing. Here, you can read more about the program in a piece we wrote in early 2018.

According to GizmoChina, the technical staff at FiiO (an audio and accessory maker) has confirmed that the latest iOS version has encrypted the USB-C port of their devices, which has caused restrictions on non-certified accessories.

According to NotebookCheck, a Weibo account known for leaking Apple news says, Apple will implement the MFi requirement by installing custom “lightning interface” integrated circuits into new iPhones in the future. None of this is confirmed, but Apple rumors tend to see the light of day eventually, and it will be a frustrating turn of events if true. We’ll know more once the new iPhone 15 is announced; I’m sure Apple will address the move to USB-C in its Keynote.

What do you think of the possibility of MFi certification being used on USB-C cables for Apple devices? Please share your thoughts on any of the social media pages listed below. You can also comment on our MeWe page by joining the MeWe social network. Be sure to subscribe to our RUMBLE channel as well!

Apple MFi certification
Mon, 13 Feb 2023 07:17:00 -0600 Alex Hernandez en-us text/html
Killexams : Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

Same superb display as last year

The Galaxy S23 Ultra has the same display as last year's model, going by the specs and promised numbers. Theoretically, it's likely a different SKU, if for no other reason than the changed edge curvature. But don't take the lack of change as something bad, because the S22 Ultra's display was already superb.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

What we have here is a 6.8-inch QHD+ panel with a 19.3:9 aspect ratio and a 1440x3088px resolution which works out to a pixel density of 501ppi. It's a Dynamic AMOLED 2X display and that alludes to its 120Hz maximum refresh rate (which is also very adaptive) and its HDR10+ certification. There's also the S Pen support which is indeed more a functionality of the display, rather than the stylus itself.

Samsung promises 1200nits of maximum brightness in high brightness mode (HBM) and 1750nits of peak brightness. Those are the same figures we read on last year's specsheet and the S22 Ultra did deliver them.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

So does the S23 Ultra - we got 1274nits with adaptive brightness enabled for our standard 75% lit up area, but also 1747nits with a small patch of white that takes up only 10% of the screen. A minor bump in the manually available nits sees the S23 Ultra value go up to 517, and the Extra (manual) brightness toggle will get you up to 831nits - even with no sun in sight.

Now, while we wouldn't for a second think that 1274nits is not enough, between the S22 Ultra's release and this new model Apple introduced the iPhone 14 family. And on the 14 Pro Max we measured a good 1760nits of max brightness - and that's for the standard swatch size where the Galaxy is some 500nits below. Is it that Samsung's making brighter screens for Apple than it is for its own models, or is it that Apple has just uncapped the brightness on the iPhones for outdoor conditions and Samsung is just being more conservative here? We can only guess.

Display test 100% brightness
Black,cd/m2 White,cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 0 517
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (Extra Brightness) 0 831
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (Max Auto) 0 1274
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 0 494
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Extra Brightness) 0 829
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Max Auto) 0 1266
Samsung Galaxy S23+ 0 471
Samsung Galaxy S23+ (Extra Brightness) 0 768
Samsung Galaxy S23+ (Max Auto) 0 1205
Samsung Galaxy Fold 0.002 370 185000:1
Samsung Galaxy Fold (Max Auto) 0.006 557 92833:1
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max 0 828
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (Max Auto) 0 1760
Google Pixel 7 Pro 0 588
Google Pixel 7 Pro (Max Auto) 0 1090
Xiaomi 12S Ultra 0 512
Xiaomi 12S Ultra (Max Auto) 0 1065
OnePlus 11 0 487
OnePlus 11 (Max Auto) 0 767
iQOO 11 0 488
iQOO 11 (Max Auto) 0 1174

A new development this year can be found in the Vision booster feature introduced with the S22 generation, which analyzes the images being displayed and, based on the amount of light hitting the display, it applies different tone mapping to boost shadows and color. Well, on the S23s it's now a three-level implementation, according to the keynote presentation.

In practice, Vision booster does Excellerate legibility in bright conditions, but it tends to skew colors dramatically, so any color-critical applications will suffer. Then again, color-critical applications aren't best viewed in the mid-day summer sun to begin with.

Color accuracy

Speaking of color, it's the same two-mode implementation we're used to seeing from Samsungs. The default Vivid mode supports a wide color gamut and delivers a pleasingly lively output. It wasn't super accurate for our DCI-P3 test swatches, but it was accurate enough. Bumping the five-position temperature slider a notch to warm improves things and gets rid of the cold shift in the whites. You can also play around with RGB sliders if you want to adjust colors in this mode.

The Natural mode, on the other hand, is spot-on for sRGB content and it comes with no further tweaking possibilities.

Refresh rate

The Motion smoothness menu on the S23 Ultra gives you two options - Adaptive and Standard. The names don't mean much, because there will be adaptive behavior in both modes, and Standard won't be 60Hz all the time. Effectively, you can treat the modes as different ceilings - up to 120Hz and up to 60Hz - whichever one you prefer.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

Within those boundaries, we observed very predictable and logical adaptive behavior. If you're touching the phone, you get the ceiling, if not - you get 24Hz. Unless there's moving content on the screen, in which case the phone will maintain whatever refresh rate is most appropriate - up to 60Hz for browsers or to match a video's frame rate in video playback (24, 30, 48, 60 fps/Hz are supported).

Mind you, some previous implementations wouldn't drop the refresh rate from the maximum, if the screen brightness is itself below certain levels (or would drop it, but not below a specific higher threshold). That didn't appear to be the case on the S23 Ultra and it would go to 24Hz even with minimum brightness set on the slider.

Now, we didn't observe values below 24Hz, but that could very well be another case of our observing the phenomenon actually altering the phenomenon. Then there's the matter of frame rate vs. refresh rate and the phone could be rendering at a lower rate than the screen is refreshing at, as was the case on the S22 Ultra. The thing is, Samsung proudly advertises that he screen can go as low as 10Hz, but there is no way for us to verify that claim.

There's also the matter that while a lot of games do run at high frame and refresh rates, there were instances where the screen would switch down to 60Hz for titles that we know for a fact support high frame rates (Alto's Odyssey, Dead Trigger 2).

HDR and streaming

As expected, the S23 Ultra's HDR10+ capability is recognized by popular streaming apps and they serve the appropriate files. Naturally, the Widevine L1 support means FullHD streams from DRM-dependent apps like Netflix.

Somewhat of a blemish on the S23 Ultra's otherwise stellar display specsheet is that the panel is an 8-bit one, meaning just 16 million colors. That 'just' might read like a joke and for some this may be an academic argument, but a 10-bit panel with its 1 billion color gradations will be better at displaying smooth color gradients without introducing banding. How many people will notice it and how many will care are questions we can't answer, though. We're just here to point out this shortcoming, as there are phones out there with 1B color displays.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra battery life

While the non-Ultra S23s come with battery capacity upgrades over the previous generation, the S23 Ultra maintains the same 5,000mAh number of last year's model. With the more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 inside it, however, and few obvious changes elsewhere, we were expecting better longevity than what the 2022 model could muster.

And that's what we got. In our testing, the S23 Ultra was good for over 39h of voice calls, which is pretty great. More impressive still were the results in the onscreen tests where we clocked over 21h of Wi-Fi web browsing and over 23h of offline video playback. Throw in the very reasonable standby efficiency, and the Ultra's overall Endurance rating worked out to 126h.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

Our battery tests were automated thanks to SmartViser, using its viSerDevice app. The endurance rating denotes how long the battery charge will last you if you use the device for an hour of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. More details can be found here.

With all that said, the iPhone 14 Pro Max still has an advantage in onscreen tests, but it traditionally suffers in the voice call and standby sections of our routine. The Pixel 7 Pro, meanwhile, is significantly behind the other two. As a side note, the Galaxy S22 Ultra results shown here for comparison are for the Exynos variant.

Video test carried out in 60Hz refresh rate mode whenever possible. Web browsing is carried out at the display's highest refresh rate whenever possible. Refer to the respective reviews for specifics. To adjust the endurance rating formula to match your own usage - check out our all-time battery test results chart.

Charging speed

Charging speed on Samsung's flagships has been a hotly debated subject in the office. While we'd be quick to point out that Galaxies typically charge noticeably quicker than their Pixel or iPhone counterparts, it's also true that much faster charging solutions have been available on high-end phones from the Chinese brands, phones sold internationally too.

There was also some miscommunication in previous years about the 45W charging capability on some of Samsung's models - the 45W adapter made next to no difference against the 25W in our testing. All of this is why we approached our charging test with a hefty dose of skepticism.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

As it turned out, it wasn't all that warranted. We tested with the Samsung 45W adapter and that got us to 100% in just under an hour, but more importantly, the battery indicator was showing a healthy 68% at the half-hour mark. It may not be a substantial improvement over the S22 Ultra, but it's some improvement. Also, S23 Ultra posted significantly better numbers than we recorded on either the iPhone 14 Pro Max or the Pixel 7 Pro, in both disciplines, but especially in the time it takes for a full charge.

We'd also like to point out that we did observe an advantage when charging with the more powerful third-party adapter, compared to the Samsung first-party 25W - and by a bigger margin than we measured last year.

30min charging test (from 0%)

Higher is better

OnePlus 11


Motorola Edge 30 Ultra


ZTE Axon 40 Ultra


Xiaomi 12S Ultra


Galaxy S23 Ultra (45W)


Galaxy S22 Ultra (25W)


Galaxy S22 Ultra (45W)


Galaxy S23 Ultra (25W)


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max


Google Pixel 7 Pro


* Tap/hover over the device names for more info

Time to full charge (from 0%)

Lower is better

OnePlus 11


Motorola Edge 30 Ultra


ZTE Axon 40 Ultra


Xiaomi 12S Ultra


Galaxy S23 Ultra (45W)


Galaxy S22 Ultra (45W)


Galaxy S22 Ultra (25W)


Galaxy S23 Ultra (25W)


Google Pixel 7 Pro


Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max


* Tap/hover over the device names for more info

There's also a side note here. We happened to test with a good third-party 65W USB PowerDelivery brick we had handy. That got us to 100% in an hour and one minute (so slower than the Samsung 45W unit), but the S23 Ultra was showing 74% at the half-hour mark (6% more than the Samsung adapter). Both the Samsung and the third-party adapter maintained 43W until the phone got to a 23% state of charge at which point both dropped to 35W of power output.

With all that said, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is still not the phone you can charge in the amount of time it takes to have a quick shower and get dressed, should you realize in the morning that you've forgotten to put it on the charger overnight and you've woken up to a dead battery.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review

The Galaxy S23 Ultra supports wireless charging, both in and out. The certification listing at the WPC states that the phone complies to the Basic Power Profiler for power transfer up to 4.4W. As is normally the case with Samsungs, that's not really-really the maximum power it can take - the Ultra's specs insist it can do up to 15W with compatible pads.

Somewhat related to charging is the option to bypass the battery when you're gaming and you have the phone plugged in. The Ultra will then draw just enough power to keep going without charging the battery, which will minimize heat buildup and reduce battery wear in those heated game sessions. The setting is enabled by a toggle in the Game Booster menu in the Game launcher utility, called Pause USB Power Delivery. The setting was, however, missing on our unit at the time of reviewing so we're expecting it to arrive with an update later on.

Speaker test

The speaker system on the Galaxy S23 Ultra is your conventional hybrid arrangement where the earpiece joins the 'main' bottom speaker to make up a stereo pair. There's no outsourcing of frequencies from one to the other, so each only plays its respective channel, and in fact the earpiece does not sound underpowered in comparison to the bottom unit. The channels are switched on the fly to correspond to the phone's orientation in space, while the earpiece gets the left channel in vertical orientation.

Bottom speaker - Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review Earpiece/top speaker (the thinnest of slits between the glass and the frame) - Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review
Bottom speaker • Earpiece/top speaker (the thinnest of slits between the glass and the frame)

The S23 Ultra earned a 'Very Good' rating for loudness in our test, a notch above last year's model and on par with the iPhone 14 Pro Max and the Pixel 7 Pro. Alongside the increase in decibels, there's a marked generational improvement in sound quality - where the S22 Ultra was merely okay and had a distinct 'small speaker' output, the S23 Ultra has 'bigger' presence and delivers rich, full sound with low-end rumble, clear vocals and nice treble response. We'd rank it on par with the iPhone, both better than the Pixel.

The phone also supports Dolby Atmos enhancement - it can be turned on from Settings. There you can choose between Auto, Movie, Music, or Game sound mode. We did our test with Dolby Atmos OFF and ON (Auto) and we found the output to be mostly identical. The posted samples here are with Dolby Atmos turned off.

Use the Playback controls to listen to the phone demo recordings (best use headphones). We measure the average loudness of the speakers in LUFS. A lower absolute value means a louder sound. A look at the frequency response chart will tell you how far off the ideal "0db" flat line is the reproduction of the bass, treble, and mid frequencies. You can add more phones to compare how they differ. The scores and ratings are not comparable with our older loudspeaker test. Learn more about how we test here.

Sat, 11 Feb 2023 06:25:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : Best Places to Buy Refurbished MacBook or Mac [2023]

A refurbished MacBook is a great way to get a powerful computer at a fraction of the cost of a brand-new one. Refurbished MacBooks are inspected, tested, and certified by Apple or a trusted third-party vendor to ensure they are in good condition.

buy refurbished macbook

buy refurbished macbook

Since there are many ways to buy a refurbished Mac, it cannot be easy to decide where to buy it. Not all sellers are trustworthy. Truth be told, the Internet is full of low-quality affiliate sellers. You need to be careful when choosing a seller or platform. This guide will introduce you to some of the best addresses for buying a refurbished MacBook.

There are various options when it comes to finding the perfect place to buy a refurbished Apple product, such as a MacBook or Mac. We are giving you a rundown of our favorite places to purchase these devices at prices well worth your wallet – no matter what budget you have. From reliable retailers specializing in second-hand goods to industry experts sharing their knowledge, here’s where you should go in search of the right used Apple device for you!

Why Should You Buy a Refurbished MacBook

Buying a refurbished MacBook is becoming more and more popular. Not only do you get the same high-quality product that Apple offers, but you save money in the process. Refurbished products can be up to 50% cheaper than new products, and given the extensive, rigorous refurbishment process, it’s easy to see why people would choose one.

There are many reasons to buy a refurbished MacBook. The deciding factors are:

  • Cost-effective: a refurbished Mac costs a fraction of the price of a new Mac. When you buy from a trusted seller, you get a powerful computer that performs better because of the quality checks done before the sale.
  • Environmental impact: Buying refurbished computers reduces electronic waste and helps reduce the need for newly manufactured electronics.
  • Warranty and return policy: most trusted MacBook vendors offer a limited-time warranty and return policy. This gives you time to get an idea of the performance of the Mac you are buying. If you are not satisfied or find any defects, you can exchange them or get a refund.
  • Availability: Popular models (and certain variants) of MacBooks often sell out quickly, but refurbished models may still be available.
  • Upgrade opportunities: Refurbished MacBooks may offer the opportunity to upgrade to a newer model that would have been prohibitively expensive at full retail price.

What to Look for When Buying a Refurbished Mac

These are the things you should look for when buying a refurbished MacBook:

  • Know the model and specifications: Before placing an order or buying a refurbished Mac, it is better to know the model and its configuration. This will help you choose the best possible Mac for your needs. If you want to run extensive programs such as professional video editing programs, you need a better configuration to run them smoothly.
  • Check for damage: When you buy a used MacBook, you need to check for damage to the machine. There might be damages that are usually not visible but can be discovered upon close inspection. A damaged MacBook is good for nothing while you line your pockets with the purchase.
  • Check the battery health: There is no guarantee that refurbished MacBooks come with a brand new battery, but the condition of the battery must be close to 100%.
  • Check the charging adapter: Not only the battery but also the physical condition of the charging adapter should be checked. Buying a new charging adapter is a costly affair. Choose a Mac that comes with a working charging adapter.
  • Run Apple Diagnostics: Running Apple Diagnostics may take some time. But it can detect some basic problems with the logic board and memory. When buying a refurbished MacBook, this is a smart thing to do. Disconnect all devices from the Mac, turn it back on, and hold down the D key on the keyboard after the startup chime. Select the language and run the test.
  • Compare Prices: Compare refurbished Macbook prices from different vendors to get the best deal.
  • Check seller reputation: Consider buying from a reputable seller with a good reputation and positive customer reviews to reduce the risk of buying a defective or counterfeit device.

Difference Between Refurbished, Used, and Resold

Refurbished Macs are used devices that have been inspected, cleaned, and repaired by Apple or an authorized service provider before being resold at a discounted price. Used Macs or resold Macs are second-hand devices that don’t carry a manufacturer’s warranty.

The advantage of buying a refurbished MacBook is quality assurance. They go through several tests to ensure that they meet the strict standards set by Apple to ensure optimal performance. Plus, most refurbished models, especially sold directly by Apple, come with the same warranty as brand-new models, so you can buy your device with confidence that it’ll last just as long without having to pay the full retail price.

With this knowledge, it’s now time to take a look at the best places selling refurbished MacBooks.

Best Places to Buy Refurbished MacBook

Some of the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook are:

  1. Apple Certified Refurbished
  2. Amazon Renewed
  3. Mac of All Trades
  4. OWC
  5. Best Buy

Apple Certified Refurbished Store

apple certified refurbished

apple certified refurbished

What’s better than buying a refurbished product from the manufacturer itself? Apple replaces the damaged parts with the original products in all refurbished Macs. Apple Certified Refurbished offers MacBooks obtained through exchange programs in its online and offline stores.

Apple carefully inspects each product and restores it to the best possible condition before offering it for sale. When you buy a refurbished MacBook from Apple, you save yourself a lot of hassle that you normally have with third-party sellers. Plus, every purchase is covered by Apple’s standard one-year warranty, giving you added peace of mind.

Besides, the selection of products available at Apple Certified Refurbished is huge and is constantly changing, so shoppers should check back regularly to discover new products. The store also carries some of the latest models, including MacBook Pro and Air, as well as iMac computers. In addition, customers have access to technical support should any issues arise during the purchase or setup process.

Buy Refurbished MacBook on Apple Store

Amazon Renewed

amazon refurbished macbooks

amazon refurbished macbooks

Amazon Renewed is an excellent option when it comes to getting a good deal on a refurbished Macbook. Although third-party sellers sell the products, Amazon does a thorough vetting before allowing the seller on the platform. Often, prices here are lower than in the Apple Refurbished Store.

Amazon offers a return window where you can check the device and its performance. If you are unsatisfied, you can return the product and get your money back. Amazon’s great customer service makes it one of the best places to buy a refurbished MacBook.

When you store at Amazon Renewed, you’ll also enjoy additional benefits like access to customer service that’s available 24/7 in case any issues arise. You can even choose between different warranty options depending on your budget and needs. Plus, shipping is free, so you will not incur any additional costs!

Buy Refurbished MacBooks on Amazon Renewed

Mac of All Trades

mac of all trades

mac of all trades

For shoppers looking for the best deals on refurbished Macbooks, Mac of All Trades is an ideal destination. This online store carries a wide selection of Apple products, including 13-inch, 14-inch, 15-inch, and 16-inch MacBook Pros with Retina Display. And it’s not just about finding discounted prices. This website offers certified pre-owned devices that have been tested to ensure they work like new ones.

The selection at Mac of All Trades includes all possible configurations from different years and models. All Macs are tested and refurbished by certified technicians before being offered for sale. Every product you buy at Mac of All Trades comes with a free hardware warranty and a hassle-free return policy.

Mac of All Trades also makes shopping easy and convenient. You can quickly narrow down your search with filters such as color, OS version, memory size, processor type, hard drive capacity, and more to find exactly what you’re looking for. With competitive prices and top-notch customer service, this website gives customers plenty of reasons to keep coming back in their search for the perfect MacBook!

Buy Refurbished Macs on Mac Of All Trades


owc for refurbished mac

owc for refurbished mac

Other World Computing (OWC) has been in the business for many years. You can trust OWC when you buy a refurbished MacBook. Every refurbished Mac from OWC is fully inspected and tested by Apple-certified technicians. They ensure that a Mac passes all tests with good performance results before it is offered for sale.

OWC has a special program or offer called OWC Upgrade Service. You can upgrade a MacBook purchased there to a more powerful version. One of OWC’s professionals will come to your home or office and install the processor and memory upgrades you want.

Every product you buy from OWC comes with a warranty and support from OWC’s expert support team. You can also add two years of extended protection to your purchase. In general, OWC offers a 14-day 100% money-back guarantee.

In addition to the online marketplace, OWC has several retail stores in the U.S. where customers can get advice on choosing the best product that suits their needs. This ensures that every customer receives exactly what they are looking for without having to worry about compatibility issues or other concerns. With such great service on both fronts, this store stands out as the perfect place to buy a refurbished Macbook.

Buy Refurbished MacBook on OWC Store

Best Buy

refurbished mac on best buy

refurbished mac on best buy

If you want to buy refurbished MacBook, Best Buy is one of the best places to go. Here, you’ll find a wide selection of Apple products at lower prices than at the Apple Store. Whether you’re looking for an iMac or a Mac mini, there are plenty of options that don’t cost as much as buying new from the Apple Store.

If you buy a refurbished Mac from Best Buy and are unhappy with it, you can return it within 15 days for a refund. You get six free months of security software and a subscription to Apple products like Apple TV+, Apple Music, and Apple News for three months.

You can even subscribe to the in-house technical service package “Best Buy totaltech” and get the product delivered within two days. The package includes free Geek Squad tech support, available 24/7 throughout the year. It also has up to 24 months of product protection.

Buy Refurbished MacBooks on Best Buy

Buying Refurbished MacBooks can be Stress-Free

In summary, buying a refurbished MacBook can be a great way to get the latest technology for less. It’s important to do your research and make sure you’re getting a reliable product with a decent warranty. Apple Care isn’t always available for refurbished products (except when buying directly from Apple Refurbished store), so it’s best to do your research before you buy.

When shopping, look for sellers that offer some return policy in case something goes wrong after purchase. Also, try to buy from reputable sellers that we have curated above. This way, you can be sure you’re getting the quality you want at the right price.

As long as you take all the necessary precautions, there’s no reason why buying a refurbished MacBook can’t be safe and rewarding.

FAQs about Best Places to Buy Refurbished Mac

Buying an old Mac might be worth it, but not buying a Mac that is too old to run programs that use a lot of resources. You can read about what to look for when buying a refurbished Mac in the guide above.

Yes, Apple Refurbished is reputable because the damaged parts are replaced with genuine parts before being offered for sale. Each unit is thoroughly inspected and you will get the same warranty as Apple offers for new MacBooks.

When it comes to buying refurbished MacBooks, one of the most common questions is: how much cheaper are they? The answer depends on where you buy and what kind of product listing or extended warranty is available. But in general, you can save quite a bit when buying a refurbished model - sometimes up to 50% off the full retail price.

Yes, refurbished MacBooks are eligible for Apple Care if they were purchased from the Apple Certified Refurbished Store. If you buy a refurbished MacBook elsewhere, you are out of luck and will have to use the third-party warranty instead.

The short answer is yes, refurbished MacBooks from Best Buy are a great option if you're looking for a high-quality laptop at a great price. Best Buy offers a selection of used and refurbished Macs, as well as open-box deals at great prices with free shipping.

And if you decide to visit the store, you can see the device in person, power it up, and decide whether or not you want to keep it. Another benefit: If you want to return the device, you can return it to the Best Buy store near you.

The refurbs sold at Walmart are sold by third-party sellers and not Walmart itself. Although many users have had good experiences buying refurbished MacBooks from Walmart, this should not be your first choice. Look for better options like Apple Refurbished, Best Buy, and Amazon Renewed.

Refurbished Grade B means the device has been used or it is in "good" condition. Most likely, the screen has been replaced. It is possible that the case has slight cosmetic damage, such as scratches and scuffs. There are usually only minor cosmetic imperfections with Grade A devices. The laptops and phones in Grade B are thoroughly tested and are in perfect working condition.

When you buy a refurbished MacBook or Mac from Apple, you can expect to receive all the necessary accessories that go with a new Mac. These include the power adapter, power cord, and the original operating system or a newer version. You'll also get a brand new box with all the cables, a thorough cleaning, replacement of genuine Apple parts (if necessary), and a full functional test.

If you have a problem with a refurbished Mac, you should first check if it is still under warranty. If so, contact the company you bought the Mac from directly. Depending on the company and warranty plan, repair services or a replacement unit may be offered.

If you purchased the Mac from the Apple Refurbished Store, you might be eligible for the one-year warranty (or three years with AppleCare protection). In this case, you should contact Apple Support for assistance. Support may be able to repair or replace the Mac if a problem occurs.

You should contact their customer support if you purchased the Mac from a third-party vendor. Depending on the warranty terms, they may offer repairs, replacements, or refunds.
Regardless of who you bought the refurbished Mac from, you should register it as soon as possible.

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Thu, 02 Feb 2023 22:36:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : iPhone 15 USB-C port may have some features limited to Apple certified cables and accessories

In compliance with EU law, Apple is widely expected to add a USB-C port to this year’s iPhone 15 lineup, replacing the proprietary Lightning port.

However, just because the iPhone has the same connector as other products, it does not necessarily mean that all features of the port will be available to every accessory or charger you plug into it …

According to a somewhat-sketchy claim from a user on Weibo, Apple has developed a Lightning-compatible integrated circuit board that will be used in tandem with the USB-C port on the iPhone 15.

This suggests that firmware will limit exactly how the USB-C port interacts with what is plugged into it. This could possibly mean that Apple retains a fully proprietary Made-for-iPhone Lightning ecosystem, even though the physical connector shape has changed.

But, Apple has earned the benefit of the doubt here. The USB-C port on the iPad, Apple TV remote, or Thunderbolt ports on Apple’s various Macs are not restricted to Apple-certified accessories only.

If the rumor is accurate at all, what is more likely is that the iPhone’s port will support basic features like normal speed charging with any standard USB-C cable. But some additional features, like high-speed data transfer or high-wattage fast charging, are only available to certified cables and peripherals.

The purpose may even be more benign. The Lightning circuit board could play a role in backwards compatibility, allowing the millions of existing Lightning accessories to still work with the iPhone 15, via the use of an adapter.

The iPhone 15 will be officially announced by Apple in the fall, probably at a media event in September. According to latest rumors, the cheaper iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will have a standard USB-C port with USB-2 data transfer speeds. The higher-end iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will support Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C, enabling fast data transfer and 4K display-out capabilities.

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Thu, 09 Feb 2023 10:00:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : USB-C on iPhone 15 might still require MFi certified cables

AppleInsider may earn an affiliate commission on purchases made through links on our site.

The EU's new law about USB-C is intended to make all charging cables interchangeable, but an iffy rumor about the iPhone 15 says Apple will put its own spin on what that means.

New regulations requiring a common charging standard, specifically USB-C, were finalized by the European Union in October 2022. The date the law comes into affect, plus what devices it applies to, means that the iPhone 15 may have USB-C, but the iPhone 17 will definitely have to have it.

Now an unverifiable rumor posted on Chinese social media site Weibo says that Apple may stick to the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it.

"Apple has made its own type C, lightning interface IC which will be used on this year's new iPhone and MFI-certified peripherals," posted a user calling himself or herself Mobile Phone Chip Expert.

"MFI" in this case, stand for Apple's "Made for iPhone" certification program. In the program, Apple approves accessories, sells parts like connectors, and provides a chip for authentication purposes. As long ago as 2014, Apple cut the fees it charged for this licensing system, and it's now little known — but still in force.

"The program gives you access to the technical specifications and resources needed to create accessories that communicate with Apple devices using MFi technologies and components," says the current version of Apple's "Made for iPhone" page.

If the Weibo poster is correct, it's possible that Apple will require USB-C cables that have been certified through the MFI program. When a user tries to connect a USB-C cable that is not certified, they may be told that it's not certified, and be limited in power delivery, data speed, or both.

But, there is already USB-C charging on the iPad lineup. There is no sign of any similar limitation on which cables can be used for that.

AppleInsider has previously criticized EU lawmakers for how this new rule is drafted, and Apple has argued that it will create more e-waste. But the aim is to make a common standard, not to have manufacturers work around it.

The leaker in question has no history, and the claims that they make about experience in the industry are impossible to confirm. Apple's MFi program has shrunk in earnings importance over the years, and as previously mentioned, there's nothing enforcing it for chargers and USB-C cables on the iPad lineup.

Tue, 14 Feb 2023 02:43:00 -0600 en text/html
Killexams : Taking Ultrahuman’s sleep & fitness tracking Ring for a spin

Indian startup Ultrahuman has made a name for itself since 2019 by building out a subscription fitness platform which offers a range of workout and wellness-related content, integrating with third party wearables like the Apple Watch. In 2021 it expanded into offering medical grade sensing hardware which monitors real-time blood glucose — spinning up a program focused on encouraging users to track their metabolic health as a fitness intervention. This was followed, last summer, by a teaser of more hardware incoming: A smart ring of its own design — to complement the existing CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) sensor program but which it also offers as a standalone health-tracking wearable to compete with the likes of Oura’s smart ring.

TechCrunch tried a beta version of Ultrahuman’s Ring (or R1), as its plainly called — testing it in combination with its CGM-based metabolic tracking program (M1) over a month’s use and for several weeks on its own when it did not also have access to real-time glucose data. So there are actually two review scenarios here: The Ring + CGM; and just the Ring. (We’ve previously tested Ultrahuman’s CGM-based program on its own — click here to read our report on the M1 from last year.)

For those not already familiar with CGMs, these are partially invasive sensors which are worn directly on the body — containing a filament that’s inserted under the skin to allow the hardware to sense changes in blood glucose via the wearer’s interstitial fluid.

It’s a different story with the Ultrahuman Ring: All the sensors are fully contained in the body of the smart ring and only non-invasive techniques, such as optical sensing, are used to track the user’s biomarkers. Absolutely no skin puncturing required.

However, if you’re up for wearing both the Ring and the M1, Ultrahuman’s its pitch is you’ll get a deeper level of health tracking as it’s platform is able to link more biomarkers and draw a more detailed picture of how your lifestyle impacts your metabolic health. 

While tracking blood glucose is most commonly associated with people who have diabetes or prediabetes, in exact years a wave of startups has been commericializing CGM technology for a more general health-tracking and/or fitness purpose — creating a new category of “biowearables”. The focus here is on trying to Excellerate understanding of how lifestyle factors like diet, sleep and exercise impact longer term health outcomes. And since metabolic responses to different foods and activities vary from person-to-person the promise for this type of tracking is about giving the user a tool to see how their own metabolism copes with whatever they’re throwing at it — to help them go beyond generalist health advice protocols and really live their best (healthiest) life.


As a standalone wearable, Ultrahuman’s claim for the Ring is it provides “deep” metabolic insights — drawing on data from the embedded temperature sensor, PPG sensor and motion sensing IMU plus its own algorithmic processing to track three factors which can affect metabolism — namely: Sleep, stress and movement (or, more specifically, activity distribution; so essentially it’s monitoring how sedentary or otherwise you are).

Ultrahuman says the Ring’s battery is good for 4-6 days on a single charge — but caveats that this is “heavily” dependent on factors such as the ambient temperature, frequency of usage and battery lifespan. In testing I found battery life tended toward the lower end of the range. The smart ring ships with a charging dock that plugs into a USB port. Fully charging the battery takes around 1.5-2 hours, per Ultrahuman. I found charging from flat took about 2 hours.

When both bits of Ultrahuman’s sensing hardware are worn in combination (i.e. Ring + CGM), the startup dials up its pitch — saying the wearer can expect “truly personalized” insights. What this means in practice is it’s able to make correlations between blood sugar fluctuations and the biomarkers the Ring is tracking. For example, it says it can spot if a poor night’s sleep led to a worse glucose response. And then if it notices the user isn’t course-correcting their sleep over time, the app can send them nudges to encourage behavioral changes to prioritize getting quality sleep.

The app is thus really central to the experience, working alongside the hardware to present the wearer’s biomarker data and bolt on these algorithmically correlated “insights” and suggestions. It displays a real-time graph plot of changing glucose levels along with a daily metabolic score (in the case of the CGM); and/or a set of aggregated scores for Movement, Recovery and Sleep (in the case of the Ring).

Drilling down a bit more, the latter trio of indexes are fed by a series of “score contributors” — or biomarker data-points — such as “sleep efficiency”, “movement index”, “resting heart rate” and “restoration time”, to name a few. In the case of the Recovery and Sleep indexes, these score contributors are each themselves individually scored within the app; displayed as a line bar that’s either green & full (“optimal”); orange & middling (“good”); or red & low (“needs attention”). You can tap on each to get a quick précis of what they mean and why the measure matters for your metabolic health. You can also track back in each index to see how all your daily scores have changed over time.

Ultrahuman Ring © Provided by TechCrunch Ultrahuman Ring

Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

There are more data-points too: The Recovery index displays your lowest heart rate and average (in BPM) charted across the day; along with a chart showing heart rate variability (HRV), with an average & a max broken out as individual data-points. While the Movement index breaks out number of steps (as well as charting when they happened across the day); activity in METs (aka, metabolic equivalents), which is a measure of your rate of energy expenditure (again charted over time); active hours (& when they happened); total calories (estimated energy usage for the day); and your workout frequency.

The Sleep index is even more data-point heavy: Breaking out metrics for time in bed; total sleep; efficiency; average heart rate; average HRV (in addition to breaking out six individual score contributors as scored visual bar graphs). It also shows (still a feature in beta at the time of writing) Average Oxygen Saturation (or SPO2) as a percentage out of 100% (higher is better); sleep stages (awake; REM sleep; light sleep; deep sleep) — as well as breaking out the proportion you spent in each stage and displaying these across a graph so you can see when each of the various stages occurred as you slept.

Additionally, the Sleep index counts and maps movements (so it tracks how much tossing and turning you do); displays your lowest heart rate during sleep & the average HR, along with a line graph showing the fluctuations over the course of the night; HRV (average, max and a chart mapping the changes); and your temperature (also as an average and as a line graph).

The Ring tab also foregrounds your current HRV (+/- how many points off your average) and your skin temperature at the top level, i.e. without the user needing to drill down into specific indexes to get eyes on those metrics. Elsewhere, there’s a button for sharing an index overview, in a social media-friendly visual card form, if you’re inclined to want to quantify your metabolic health in public.

If all that sounds like quite the dump of data it absolutely is. But the app’s presentation of the tracking does at least foreground the three (proprietary) aggregate scores (Movement, Recovery and Sleep) — giving you an at-a-glance overview of how you’re doing in your quest for better metabolic health.

It also provides brief, text-based summaries, displayed directly under these index scores, to draw your attention to notable data-points and offer suggestions for actions you might take to try to boost your scores. So you don’t have to do the work of drilling down to look over all the contributor data-points if you can’t be bothered to get that geeky.

For example, if you have lower Recovery scores that day the app might suggest it’s “a good day to go for those long walks and try a non-sleep deep rest session”. Or if your Sleep scores are a bit off it might nudge you to “try sleeping a little more to Excellerate your recovery and performance”. (More sleep? If only!) Or if you’ve been diligent about not being too sedentary it might reward you by observing your movement index “indicates consistency” — and “consistency is the key to good health!”. So go you!

But more granular data is definitely down there in the app if you go looking — so the product has been designed with committed biohackers in mind too.

Form factor & design: The ring’s the thing…

As anyone familiar with the plot of The Lord of the Rings could tell you, rings can be tricky things — with a habit of slipping around, and even sliding off, the finger.

Ultrahuman’s Ring is no different. A highly polished internal surface means it fits (ha!) in this somewhat slippy category despite having a chunky form. The startup does ship out a sizing kit before sending the product itself, so you can test different size options to try to find a snug-but-comfortable fit. However these dull plastic dummies clung rather more tightly than the real Ring does. So I found the size I’d picked ended up being a bit looser on the intended finger when it was the real-deal in place.

The sizing kit recommended testing the dummies on the index finger. However I’ve actually ended up wearing the Ring on my thumb quite a lot of the time as the natural bump of the knuckle helps keep it on and it kind of gets in the way less of whatever I’m doing. It looks (and feels) fine here so this hasn’t been an issue aesthetically. But I was concerned it might affect data capture.

I asked Ultrahuman about wearing the Ring on a thumb vs a finger and it told me this digit isn’t the optimal choice: Rather the index, middle or ring fingers are best. But it did also say they’ve seen “many users” wear it “without inaccuracy” on their pinky fingers or thumbs. “When switching between fingers, there will only be data quality issues if the ring is loose on the fingers and isn’t fitting the way it is supposed to; a snug fit is recommended for accurate data capture,” it added.

Fingers themselves can be tricky things too, of course — swelling or shrinking depending on how warm or cold it is. There’s extra challenge because humans hands are frequently exposed to a variety of other conditions. So, naturally, these environmental shifts can affect the Ring’s fit. The upshot is some ongoing flux — whereby the Ring is either feeling snugger or looser depending on what’s going on around it that day or moment. I’ve therefore got used to needing to swap it between fingers in search of the best fit (or to avoid it getting in the way of whatever I’m doing).

For stuff like household chores (cleaning, chopping and washing veg to cook etc) and some forms of exercise (e.g. lifting weights) it seems least intrusive worn on the thumb (even if that’s not the most optimal placing for data capture). For a specialist activity like climbing I’ve actually had to remove it entirely — since you just don’t want anything getting between your skin and the climbing wall (and certainly not a chunky, scratch-able ring). So it’s not always possible to sustain the tracking, depending on your lifestyle.

Ultrahuman Ring © Provided by TechCrunch Ultrahuman Ring

Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

A more practical concern if you feel you must sometimes remove the ring entirely, is not only is there no data being recorded while you’re not wearing it but you might end up forgetting where you put it when you took it off — with the risk of losing it if you misplace it. I’ve definitely had a few scares over where I put it after taking it off. (And, I mean, just ask Gollum about that precious problem… )

So, on balance, I feel a wrist-mounted form factor (i.e. a band or watch) may have more advantages than a smart ring — being less intrusive for the user (even while physically larger); less exposed environmentally (to regular hand washing, moisturising etc); and at lower risk of being lost (since there’s less need to remove it entirely during the day). Wrist bands are also — IMO, as an owner of an Apple Watch — better suited for exercise-tracking since they’re less likely to get in the way of whatever activity you’re doing (throwing, lifting, pulling, swimming etc) since they naturally sit more securely on the body.

They also seem less likely to get damaged as a result of vigorous exercise as wrists tend to be more shielded from activity than hands.

It seems no accident that fitness trackers started as bands and took over the smart watch category. So a ring form factor does seem a bit of a left-field choice for a fitness-focused health tracker. After all, rings have — traditionally — had a largely decorative purpose. Or, well, exist to signify a certain type of relationship. And smart hardware isn’t typically prized for its aesthetic qualities. So unless you’re after a more decorative look step/sleep tracker a smart ring doesn’t seem the obvious pick for such a purpose.

Commercially speaking, of course, you can see why a startup would not be keen to go toe-to-toe for wrist real-estate with heavy hitters like the Apple Watch. Smart ring hardware thus offers the chance for startups to carve out a fitness tracking niche that can at least supplement (if not entirely supplant) more mainstream wearables. (And more newcomers are making smart ring moves — see, for e.g., Movano Health’s plan for a female-focused twist on finger-mounted tracking.)

Form-factor reservations aside, Ultrahuman’s Ring does look pretty nice, as this sort of chunky-look jewellery goes.

The gold version of the Ring I was testing looked and felt fine (slippy-ness aside). It was a bit bulky but I have small hands so your bandwidth on that may vary.

There’s a choice of colors and finishes — including some attractive-looking black and silver options — and a subtle geometric pattern to distinguish a ‘top’ from the rest of the band without making it fussy or overtly gendered. The startup says the Ring is made of Titanium with a “scratch resistant” Tungsten Carbide coating. This external metallic coating wasn’t immune to scratching — and, over several weeks of wear, the kind of patina you’d expect to develop on a piece of metal jewellery duly appeared. But, to my eye, this didn’t detract from the overall look.

The hardware design also seemed solid and robust, dealing ably with the shifting demands thrown at human hands — and throwing up minimal connectivity issues (but expect a short lag in the morning as it reconnects and offloads data). So I didn’t have any big quibbles with reliability or the hardware’s look and feel. Rather it’s the smart ring as a form-factor that raises questions for me around relative functional utility for this sort of fitness-focused use-case.

For some very active people a wrist-mounted tracker is likely to be a more practical choice most of the time. (It’s no surprise that athlete-focused plays like Whoop have gone for the wrist, for example.) That said, being as a ring is smaller than a wrist band or watch, it may be more comfortable for some people to sleep in. And for those looking for a wearable for sleep tracking, especially, Ultrahuman’s Ring might fit the bill better than a more bulky type of band. (That’s not my own experience with wearing an Apple Watch overnight, but, well, these are subjective kinds of considerations so what works or doesn’t may depend on the person.)

I was a little concerned the ring might pinch my fingers at night — given how body temperature (especially for women) can vary and may mean fingers sometimes swell a little during sleep. I did notice it seemed to fit a bit more snugly in the morning. But, again, I felt I could get around this concern by choosing a bit of a thinner digit overnight. So, again, provided this doesn’t cause a hit to data consistency there are ways to work around this sort of fit concern.

One more thing on form-factor: Ultrahuman has suggested its Ring can record biomarkers such as heart rate more accurately than an Apple Watch given its sensors are taking measures more often. The accuracy of the biometric data being captured by wearables is device specific and an ongoing area of debate — so more research is likely needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn — but as it also notes accuracy may depend on how well fitted the Ring is then, given changeable real world conditions, the ‘quality’ of the data capture seems likely to vary too. Which adds complexity to these kind of comparisons.

Performance & user experience

Ring + CGM

Having road-tested Ultrahuman’s CGM-based metabolic fitness tracking program back in 2021, an experience I wrote up in my January 2022 review (for those after a deep-dive into health tracking with a CGM), I had high hopes for what the combination of the Ring + CGM would mean for the metabolic insights the platform could provide. An issue I flagged in that earlier review was how the app wasn’t able to automatically distinguish between blood glucose spikes caused by exercise (which, on manually logging your workout, the app will inform you are “good” spikes) and those related to food (the bad spikes).

The issue is that while manually logging exercise — or integrating with another wearable, like the Apple Watch, to sync your tracked workouts — provides the app with a signal that activity is happening it can still deliver a low score to a meal you ate in close proximity to a workout because of how long you spent over the target optimal glucose range (even if the spike was due to an intense workout, not because of what you ate).

Given the Ring can sense movement I was expecting the tracking to have got smarter about distinguishing workout-triggered spikes from food-related spikes. In the event, it still seemed to struggle with this. I found, for example, that meals eaten close to intense workouts would typically still result in a lower score than they might otherwise have done because glucose elevation after the workout contributed to “time over target” (a negative metric) regardless of the quality of the food choices.

Exercise is not the only other potential trigger for a glucose spike, of course. Poor sleep and stress can elevate blood sugar (neither of which are good, obviously). But during testing I even noticed blood sugar could shoot up as a result of a simple ambient temperature variation. Changing clothes in a cold room, for instance, could cause a large enough rise in glucose for the app to warn me about the need to “get movin'” as the critical metric shot over 120 — whereas optimal glucose, which it nudges you to try to maintain, is between 70-110 mg/dL.

Asked about the challenge of making sense of good vs bad spikes, Ultrahuman co-founder Mohit Kumar agrees it’s a “tricky” area — describing it as “a bit of a heuristic problem to be solved”. “Personally, I also get unimpressed by our ability to not distinguish between these two things,” he told TechCrunch. “So we have to take a shot at it and see — how do people react?”

One approach Kumar suggested the team may explore is to adapt the metabolic scoring around these types of events — but with a warning that scores will only be accurate if the user is accurately logging their food intake. Or else only offer this kind of adaption to those who are thoroughly logging their food to avoid the risk of reducing the overall accuracy of the platform for the average user.

On the food logging front, it’s fair to say most users are unlikely to be doing this entirely accurately. Firstly because logging everything you consume is just tedious. But, beyond that, it’s also not always possible to be entirely accurate about what you’re eating — either because the exact thing you ate isn’t listed in the app’s inventory (and custom food entries won’t be structured data that the app can automatically interpret); or you don’t know the exact quantity of each of the ingredients consumed. (The app has a section displaying “total macros” — which counts cumulative calories, protein, fat, carbs and fiber as you log your meals over the day — but the figures it displayed for me were never accurate since I wasn’t weighing and inputting every single ingredient I ate individually.)

Beyond that, you might not even know all the ingredients in what you’re eating. Meals you didn’t prepare can come larded with all sorts of unexpected additions — so if you’re eating out a lot, getting takeaway or eating pre-prepared/packaged meals then food logging can be extra challenging. (And if testing a CGM has taught me anything it’s that sauces are often a minefield of hidden, sugary ingredients.)

The upshot is meals you might not expect to be bad for glucose stability can still surprise you with a spike. Which is also why figuring out what’s a good vs bad increase in blood glucose remains tricky algorithmically, even with access to more data than ever — in the M1 + R1 scenario. Hence why this remains a work in progress for Ultrahuman.

What did the Ring add to the M1 blood glucose tracking experience? In addition to getting a whole new tab chock-full of Ring biomarker data to geek out on, the app blends additional notifications into the main metabolic tracking timeline.

For example, it might drop in with an affirmative clap on the back for being “pretty active today” — or an even bigger plaudit for “achieving your steps goal of 10,000 steps”. Or it might inform you your “heart rate dropped early” (during sleep) — observing that “helps Excellerate sleep quality and recovery”. Or, if you went for a walk after a meal and being active helped manage down the food spike, it might pop up to offer a thumbs-up for the “great job keeping the metabolic score in the target zone”. Or, on the flip side, if you’re slaving away at your desk for hours being sedentary, it might ping over the suggestion: “Time to move?”, along with a nudge that “moving frequently helps with better blood circulation and energy balance”.

Some of these nudges feel pretty similar to stuff you’ll find on a mainstream wearable like the Apple Watch — which, for example, has a feature that can literally tap you on the wrist to encourage you to stand up and walk around a bit every hour. So how useful some of the app’s more basic ‘activity needling’ notification are is likely to depend on whether or not you already own a smart watch as there may be some duplication in functionality.

However, Ultrahuman’s app also sent some more interesting compound notifications — such as the one above in which it links going for a walk after a meal to positively managing down a blood glucose spike — which are clearly distinct vs mainstream wearables. And this is where there’s added value to be (data)-mined — if it can join more dots and make accurate and actionable correlations between the user’s lifestyle and improved blood glucose regulation.

A wearable that’s able to do the smart lifting of connecting lifestyle factors with metabolic outcomes seems more likely to be successful at motivating users to make behavioral changes that can add up to big health positives over time. Because, as we know, just telling someone to do something doesn’t tend to get a great response. But if you’re nudging them in a way that shows them what happened as a result of something they did it it could lead to a eureka moment where the person is inspired to own the change for themselves. That’s the really big promise glimpsed here.

I say promise because it’s still early for the Ring + CGM. Ultrahuman’s approach to notifications and nudges is clearly still a development work in progress (the product roadmap shows a pipeline of features upcoming and even some new and as yet undisclosed biomarkers).

But if they can roll on, crunching the data and more tightly correlating lifestyle choices and blood glucose fluctuations — and use those insights to design more of these smarter nudges that help people understand the impacts (good and bad) of how they’re living on their health — the potential for the program to deliver a  transformative step-change in the power of this type of health tracking looks big. 

They’re not there yet, though. For now, a lot of the Ring’s pings can seem more abstract than joined up and it’s often not clear how the user should respond.

For example, the one above about heart rate dropping early during sleep sounded good but I didn’t know what I might have been doing right for that to happen. Or how, therefore, I should response to that bit of positive feedback — aside from, well, just carrying on? The user experience can therefore sometimes feel quite passive — in an ‘oh that’s nice (or not so nice) to know but now what?’ kind of a way.

It seems clear that the most effective behavioral nudges are going to be those that actively engage people by showing them the agency they have to influence their own outcomes. At the same time, there’s no doubt what a complex endeavour that entails since so many factors can feed into (or take away from) being healthy. 

Limits also remain on how much we know about the interplay between bodily inflammation and long term health. Even interpreting individual metabolic biomarkers can be challenging — such as HRV, a sensitive measure based on tracking the time between heartbeats which aim to quantify the performance of the automatic nervous system and act as a biomarker for bodily stress and rest and recovery but which can also be impacted by chronic inflammation and disease, so knowing how to read a ‘low’ HRV score isn’t simple).

Metabolic health certainly its own particular set of considerations and challenges. And it’s important to note there is still some scepticism of the value for a general consumer, with no specific medical need, to be tracking their daily blood glucose swings. So a product that’s predicated on nudging all sorts of people toward potentially beneficial lifestyle changes — which might, over time, stack up into a meaningful positive for their overall health (or “longevity”) — is necessarily on a journey to design the best approach to achieve optical outcomes for all types of users.

That journey is, evidently, a bit of a balancing act too. (Or even a juggling act when you throw in life’s other typically less health-promoting demands on users’ time and mind.) So iterations and adaptations are to be expected as part of the push to “decode” metabolic health, as the pitch goes.

A quick shout out for the (human) “performance coaches” that Ultrahuman’s app also puts at your disposal via text chat.

These sports scientists and exercise physiologists — which it touts as being “NSCA-CSCS certified with years of diverse experience in training elite athletes and designing performance and rehab training programs” — are there to take questions as you navigate the highs and lows of blood glucose tracking. And, if you deliver your consent, they can analyze your CGM + Ring data to suggest some personalized lifestyle biohacks.

One example: I had a great experience with a coach called Mugdha who smartly identified the reason why I was regularly getting glucose spikes after lunch and dinner — meals I had thought were balanced and healthy (made of whole foods, with plenty of fiber from veggies plus a good source of protein) so should have meant I stayed within the optimal range. The problem was I was eating a piece of fruit after each meal which was pushing me outside the target range and triggering a bunch of glucoses crashes later on.

We’re endlessly told fruit is healthy for us so it was not something I’d even thought might be a problem. Turns out how you eat fruit is important: The simple biohack the coach suggested was not to eat fruit with main meals; instead try having it as a snack between meals. This tiny change doesn’t make a material difference to my lifestyle but it made a quantifiable difference to how many of my meals spiked — and, therefore, fed into improving my overall metabolic score. Which is pretty nuts — or, er, bananas! — when you think about it.

It’s also interesting that it took a trained human (rather than AI) to spot that issue in my data and provide this super simple fix.

Another couple of fun observations: While wearing the M1 I took the opportunity to road-test a few foodstuffs that are billed as healthy to see what my own metabolism made of them. Namely: Beyond Meat sausages (a vegan alternative to meat). Huel‘s hot & savory “instant meals” (a UK-based Soylent competitor). And the breakfast and dinner recipes of (in)famous biohacker, Bryan Johnson — who open sources all his data as part of his multi-million dollar quest for longevity via epigenetic age reversal (or, well, as close as I could get to recreating his Nutty Pudding and Super Veggie — shrinking the latter to a more realistic portion size for a normal person’s lunch, so like 3x less).

I had a decent metabolic response to the Beyond Meat sausage, eating one of these (mostly pea protein-based) vegan sausages accompanied by steamed and stir fried fresh vegetables. Although the app combined this meal with an intense workout I did before that had elevated my glucose levels — meaning the combination only scored 5/10 (as a result of a 31 mg/dL rise in glucose that kept me out of range for 36 minutes+). Less good: Huel’s Mexican Chilli — eaten alone as it’s billed as a complete meal if you have 2x scoops — which caused a 41 mg/dL rise in glucose that kept me out of range for at least 70 minutes, earning the dish a 3/10 score in the app. I imagine the high cereal-based carb content is what triggered me there. Still, it was not as bad as real Mexican food: One takeaway meal I ate, consisting of guacamole & tortilla chips plus a veggie taco, scored a big fat ‘0’ on a 68 mg/dL rise after causing 96 minutes+ out of range. So, er, eat tortilla chips at your peril!

Bryan’s Nutty Pudding was given two scores in the app since it initially evaluated it on its own (6/10, on a 40 mg/dL rise that kept me out of range for 10mins+). It then revised the score after I drank a cup of green tea shortly afterwards — scoring that combo a 10/10 because of “minimal glucose change”. But, again, that illustrates the complexities of trying to link even something as relatively straightforward as a change in blood glucose to a specific meal. On balance I think the more accurate score there is the lower one — whereas my own chia pudding breakfast concoction reliably scored higher than 6/10 (so feel free to ping me for the recipe Bryan!). The Super Veggie dish was, perhaps surprisingly, a low scorer (4/10 on a 46 mg/dL rise that kept me out of range for 38 minutes+). But I have found that lentils do seem to spike for me. I would probably have a better response if I dialled back the proportion of lentils and ate more of the other veg… All of which is to underline how insanely personal all this stuff is! Or: What’s good for Bryan won’t necessarily be optimally metabolised by someone else.

It’s also important to remember that a meal is not just food; it’s fuel. So if you’re going to be active after eating you might want to load up on carbs to ensure you are properly energized for your workout. Whereas for desk workers stuck in a chair it’s the opposite scenario. And in the former case Huel, for example, might be a great choice for an energetic pre-workout meal. Basically, you can’t just look at meals in isolation. It depends what you’re going to be doing throughout the day. Hence why tracking and quantifying lifestyle for health and fitness needs to span a variety of factors.

One future scenario for Ultrahuman’s platform might be that it gets smart enough to be able to make increasingly contextual suggestions and do so more pre-emptively than it can now — so, for example, not just nudging you to “get movin'” as your glucose shoots out of range but maybe even popping up at the point where you’re logging your food to say: ‘Hey, this dish looks like it’s going to deliver you an real burst of energy — so think about pairing it with a workout!’.

As it stands, you do still have to do a lot of the leg work of navigating how to respond to the data yourself if you want to get the most out of the CGM experience.

Ultrahuman Ring © Provided by TechCrunch Ultrahuman Ring

Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

Just the Ring

You don’t need to be wearing a CGM to make use of Ultrahuman’s Ring; it can also function as a standalone health tracker. But in this scenario it’s a lot more vanilla — since there’s no on-board glucose tracking. The focus for the smart ring is on tracking rest and recovery, as well as keeping tabs on how sedentary you are — so the functionality may be of interest if you’re either A) not very active (and have low energy levels) and want help to Excellerate that. Or B) if you’re active and are looking for a device to monitor how well rested you are and also to help with programming your training.

Clearly, there’s plenty of competition for both these scenarios — from the Apple Watch to rival smart rings like Oura’s — so Ultrahuman’s Ring alone definitely loses a differentiating edge. And, personally, in the case of the activity tracking use-case, I’m not sold on a smart ring form factor vs using a wrist band or watch, as discussed above. But others may prefer a smart ring — which lacks a distracting screen of its own. 

On the activity tracking side, you get Fitbit-like movement tracking features (steps, activity and workout mapping etc) plus some Apple Watch-esque nudges (via in-app pings) which are designed to work against being too sedentary.

The Ring’s Recovery feature is intended to function as a daily guide to training — offering a summary for how hard to push in your workouts based on how well rested and recovered it reckons you are. Although more athletic users are likely to prefer something more granular and powerful for workout tracking — such as a more athlete-focused tracker service, like Whoop.

I’m not entirely convinced of the usefulness of a ‘digital coach’ feature. Especially as, in the Ring’s case, it seems super light touch — offering very broad-brush advice — to push harder that day, or “proceed as planned”, or take it a bit easier — rather than serving up more tailored and specific training or recovery recommendations. And being as it’s so general, most of the time, you’re surely going to be able to go with your gut feeling, vis-a-vis how much energy and pep you have on a given day or how tired you feel — so I question why you need an app to tell you how your body already feels?

So my sense here is the average user may struggle to find a great deal of standalone utility in the Recovery Score feature — unless they value the personalized notification as a motivator for exercising more. Or they’re taking the time to drill down and monitor changes to Recovery score contributors in a way that helps them diagnose why they’re feeling less up for it than usual on the running track etc (and use the data-points to course correct, by getting more sleep etc).

Although, again, a simple hack we all know for improving our recovery is to just get more sleep. And you don’t need a tracker to do that.

The area that seems to be the biggest focus (currently) for Ultrahuman with the Ring is sleep tracking. As noted above, this section of the app is very data heavy. During the testing period it also added an additional biomarker: SPO2 — for overnight blood oxygen tracking — so it’s evidently keen to keep expanding what it’s offering here.

The goal may be to put some clear blue water between the Ring and other mainstream wearables like the Apple Watch, which offers a far more basic sleep-tracking experience. So if you’re really focused on quantifying how well rested you are (or are not) — and on trying to figure out exactly what’s getting between you and the good Zzzs — Ultrahuman’s data-heavy approach may be a lure.

It does make sense for the startup to want to hone in on sleep for the other part of its hardware play (the CGM-based tracking) given the key role sleep plays in glucose regulation (and indeed in Recovery) — and therefore to overall metabolic health. However I do have a bit of a reservation over the granularity of the sleep tracking if you’re just using the Ring.

Firstly, for the average user, it might just feel a bit much — and even a bit stressful. And that could end up being counterproductive to the overall health mission.

Secondly, it’s not necessary in our gift to get more sleep than we already do. So receiving regular nudges about the need to get more (and better) shut eye are not necessarily very useful. Most of us probably know we should get more sleep and would surely love to be able to spend more time resting in bed if we could. But the demands of work and life do tend to get in the way. Which is why we end up burning (at least) one end of the candle more often than we’d like.

Sadly, it would require a lot more than the odd in-app nudge to fix society’s chronic sleep deficit problem. (A wealthy patron who could fund our lifestyle without the need for us to work, say. Or children (and pets) who sleep soundly through the night — and/or a partner who never snores. Or a city that actually sleeps. And so on… )

So, well, do we really need an app nagging us about something we likely know but can’t necessary change? And, well, waking up to a daily sleep score that’s not optimal can just feel bad and stressful. So is this kind of granular tracking really the ideal way to encourage better quality rest and recovery? I’m not 100% convinced.

That said, I suspect it this depends on the person. Some people may thrive from being able to analyze all sorts of sleep metrics — and on trying to self-diagnose and remove particular barriers standing between them and better rest. While others may just feel overwhelmed.

Ultrahuman’s philosophy, generally, is geared toward arming users with ample data (those aforementioned Sleep Index score contributors in this case) to encourage them to do the work of trying to connect biomarkers to lifestyle choices and so figure out how to edit their life to try to optimize their scores. But of course not everyone is going to engage with such a data-driven approach. And, clearly, a data-loving biohacking community is more likely to want to dig it and geek out than a general interest consumer — who wants and expects a lot more hand-holding (and even heavy lifting) from their products.

Another issue with the Sleep Index is it can feel especially abstract — in that it can be difficult to know exactly what’s been referred to, let alone how you might go about correcting any poor scores you’re getting. (Beyond the obvious fix of just getting more sleep.)

So, for example, if the app suggests your “sleep efficiency” or “timing” is a problem that “needs attention”, presumably that refers to A) how long you spent actually sleeping while in bed vs time in bed; and B) when you went to bed vs the optimal window based on circadian rhythm. But, well, 1) it’s probably not immediately clear to an average user what those labels mean; and 2) as noted above, even if you drill down into the explainer to try and figure it out few users might feel they have heaps of human agency to fix either of those types of sleep disruption issues. (Not in this hectic life anyway… as the saying goes: ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’)

Another example is temperature which also feeds the overall Sleep Index score. The app regularly informed me my temperature was elevated but it was impossible to know what to do with this information. I didn’t feel ill or have a fever so I was left wondering if the hardware and algorithms were properly calibrated for women (as women tend to have more body temperature fluctuations than men).

Ultrahuman told me they have done “a small adaptation” for women — to account for this greater temperature variation factor. So I even got to wondering whether something environmental, like extra layers of winter bedclothes, might be contributing to these elevated temperature scores. I never figured out exactly what was going on. The app’s vague suggestions for possible caused never seemed to fit. So it remained a bit of a mystery.

The startup told me the Ring actually takes two temperature measures: Ambient temperature and skin temperature, which it uses to try to deduce core body temperature — which it’s tracking so it can offer features like fever detection but also because it says temperature can be an important marker for health in terms of inflammation related to recovery.

It told me elevated temperature can be a signal of over-training. Or it could be linked to a thermodynamic effect of food (or alcohol, although I wasn’t drinking at all during the testing phase so could discount that). Or to lack of sleep… So, in short, it’s complicated!

Ultrahuman recommended the metric is used in conjunction with other biomarkers the app tracks to try to narrow down whether there’s an “actionable” insight to be had off-of a “needs attention” practicing on it or not… But, again, I wasn’t able to figure out what it might be linked to in my case. And the example underlines the challenge of intelligently interpreting so much data. (Temperature is just one of some ten or so biomarkers feeding the three Indexes — so there’s a lot of potential linkages and amplifications to consider).

The upshot, for an average (most likely under-rested) Ring user, is the Sleep index can be a frustrating part of the app. And frustration can generate stress which can negatively impact metabolic health and sleep itself… So there could be a risk of over-tracking itself being counterproductive to the healthy-purpose the product is shooting for.

The same can be true for food tracking, via the M1, too of course. But at least when it comes to food there’s more bandwidth for making small tweaks (even just to the timing of meals, as with the fruit example discussed above). Plus Ultrahuman’s in-app coaches are on hand to analyze your food logs with an expert eye and offer intervention suggestions that don’t necessarily require major behavioral changes.

But biohacking your way to better sleep? It’s a notion that’s far more experimental — and seems even more socioeconomic-class dependent — than other types of lifestyle interventions. (And of course very few of us have the wealth of a Bryan Johnson to dedicate to implementing optimal shut-eye schedules.)

Despite this, Ultrahuman is leaning into biohacking sleep. Discussing the exact addition to the Sleep Index — SPO2 — Kumar suggested users could act on a low score for overnight blood oxygen by experimenting with mouth taping, a non-scientifically Verified practice than involves taping the mouth during sleep to encourage the body to breathe through the nose instead.

The experimental ‘sleep hack’ went viral in exact years, reportedly after being promoted by TikTok influencers. The claim is it helps retrain the body to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth — promoting deeper and more restorative breathing and oxygenation during the night. However there have been only limited scientific studies into the practice and there’s not enough evidence to confirm whether the technique is really helpful or even entirely safe. (And plenty of doctors have warned against trying it out.)

So while having the SPO2 data-point in the app might be a useful signal for a user to initiate a conversation with their doctor — if they are concerned they might have sleep apnea — it’s not a metric you can necessarily do much with, practically speaking, day-to-day (not unless you’re willing to test out a viral TikTok trend on yourself). So there may be limited value in showing the user a daily percentage score if they can’t really do much to Excellerate it. Tracking trends (up or down) for them is where the app will want to get to.

Zooming out, a more general niggle I had with the Ring’s UX is I often found its messaging contradictory vs the data-points it was reporting — and/or out of step with the real-time reality of what I was doing. The Index scores especially often felt out of sync with how I felt (i.e. well rested/recovered or not) — or how much I’d recently moved.

For example, drilling down into the Recovery Index one day I was met with a notification that “your resting heart rate is on the lower side today. This indicates better rest and recovery”. However the positive-sounding feedback was displayed directly above a bank of “recovery score contributors” almost all of which were in the red, including “resting heart rate”, specifically — which was listed as “needs attention”. The overall Recovery Score at that moment was also 64 (out of 100) — which in pure numerical terms doesn’t look worth celebrating.

In another visually contradictory instance, the app displayed a score of 100 for the Movement Index one morning (presumably as I’d got a late night walk in). Yet the text below this read: “Your exact movement index trends indicate you’ve been moving lesser than usual. Today’s a new day to get back on track.” (The word “trends” here suggests it’s looking at more than the most exact movement data but the presentation of the two so close together is disjointed and risks being confusing.)

Another example followed a sleep-related notification which informed me of “optimal recovery detected” — along with text that read: “Your HRV is trending higher than the previous night. This is a marker of improved rest and recovery”. Great, you’d think. However the Sleep Index contributors displayed directly below this showed HRV in the red (“needs attention”). So, er…

The challenge here — aside from the headline one for any health/fitness wearable of intelligently interpreting what the tracked biomarkers actually signify for the user (and suggesting useful lifestyle tweaks or behavioral changes without turning them off) — seems to hinge on balancing how much/granular data to show while also pulling from the data on their behalf to distill and display trends in a way that makes sense based on what the user is experiencing and any other data-points being made available to them in the app.

At times, the Ring tab felt pretty baffling in this regard.

More clearly separating trends-based observations from real-time data-points might help. Even just by putting more visual emphasis on trends vs individual data-points — since, ultimately, trends and smart notifications is where the average user should be directly most of their attention.

But, as discussed, the Ring is still a beta product. So let’s see how this element evolves. (A exact addition by Ultrahuman in this area is emailed “weekly insights” — which it says it hopes will help users “understand their metrics in a longer trend line”.)

Ultrahuman Ring © Provided by TechCrunch Ultrahuman Ring

Image credits: Natasha Lomas/TechCrunch

Bottom line

Health tracking and biohacking is not new in consumer tech terms but in some ways the field still feels like it’s just getting started as the challenge of decoding all the biometric data that sensing wearables are picking up just keeps stepping up. 

CGM technology, with its near real-time window onto blood glucose levels, provides an especially fascinating — and relatively exact — addition to the mix. One which holds the promise of powering truly personalized interventions that could move the needle for all sorts of people — in a way that general healthy lifestyle advice, about the benefits of eating well and getting enough exercise, all too often won’t. But it’s also clear that cutting-edge products in the category are still grappling with how best to interpret and present the information they’re tracking. So, at times, the user experience can feel experimental and immature.

Ultrahuman’s platform is no exception — perhaps especially as it took a ‘reverso’ approach which started with CGM hardware and has only now bolted on general fitness tracker, adding a set of more familiar biomarkers to the blood glucose-driven metabolic scoring it started with.

Adding the Ring to its hardware mix may not only serve to widen the appeal of its platform by attracting a more general consumer (who would never be fine firing a CGM into their arm), but could help the startup dial up critical differentiation in the category — by providing it with more data to identify correlations between blood glucose-related inflammation and lifestyle factors. The key will be figuring out how best to package insights into actionable and effective behavioral nudges — interventions that might even be applied more broadly if (or when) blood glucose tracking doesn’t require a semi-invasive CGM… So Ultrahuman’s team has got plenty to keep them busy. 

For now, the combo of the Ring plus CGM shows clear flashes of potential for unlocking smarter interventions as we get a tighter understanding of how a person’s lifestyle impacts their metabolism. New features were being introduced over the period I spent with the beta product, with lots more slated to come, so the experience continues to evolve at pace. But in the not too distant future it looks a pretty safe bet that some of the cutting-edge tracking being pioneered by startups like this one will bleed out into the mainstream.

Taking Ultrahuman’s sleep & fitness tracking Ring for a spin by Natasha Lomas originally published on TechCrunch

Fri, 17 Feb 2023 05:20:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : Apple iPhone 15 USB-C Port Will Support Limited Accessories

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Fri, 10 Feb 2023 19:53:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : Apple HomePod (2023) review

Welcome to the dark night of the smart speaker. A few years back, the category felt inevitable — and, frankly, why not? We’ve smartened our phones and watches. Why shouldn’t our homes be the next step? For decades, many looked longingly at home automation. Smart blinds that opened with your alarm clock might as well have been magic — or, at the very least, the domain of those with money to burn.

Suddenly, however, a new generation of the technology arrived with the promise of a (relatively) affordable entry point into home control. Smart lights, smart smoke detectors, smart locks, smart doorbells — and at the center, the smart speaker, the consummate hub and portal into this brave new world.

But the best laid plans are still beholden to market forces (among others). The looming recession of the last 12 or so months hasn’t been especially kind to the smart speaker. As is now well documented, a disproportionate number of Amazon’s exact layoffs were targeted at the Echo division, as it stared a $10 billion annual loss in the face.

We don’t have exact numbers for Google’s Nest division, though the company appeared to freeze hiring ahead of its own massive culling. None of that factors in all of the quick reversals (Microsoft Cortana) and aborted starts (Samsung Bixby) from a few years back. The cadence of hardware releases generally appears to have slowed across big corporations, owing to economic headwinds and supply chain shortages.

It’s all a very strange way of setting the scene for a rare Apple reversal. Just shy of two years after officially killing the HomePod, the original premium smart speaker has arisen from the ashes. But why? And why now? The official line from Apple seems to be, simply, because the people asked for it.

As far as that explanation goes, I will say this: The most exact Apple iteration is a company that is, in fact, more responsive to users’ needs and desires. We’ve seen the clearest manifestation of that in the MacBook line, reversing previous foot dragging by improving some features (keyboard, webcam), dropping unwanted ones (Touch Bar) and bringing back old favorites (MagSafe, SD card slot).

Even so, this move is odd on the face of it. In March 2021, the company told the press that it was discontinuing the original HomePod to “[focus] our efforts on HomePod Mini.” It seemed Apple had lost faith in the notion of a premium smart speaker. And it wasn’t alone. The Google Home Max has been MIA for six years, and while the Echo Studio got a software upgrade last year, the device certainly hasn’t been a focus for Amazon. It seemed that, in a world of Nest Minis and Echo Dots, Apple was putting its eggs in the $99 Mini basket.

Apple HomePod device

Image Credits: Brian Heater

If the “All-New HomePod,” as the company is calling it, had arrived in its current form after its predecessor, I doubt anyone would have blinked an eye. Nothing about the product’s presentation screams “radical departure.” In fact, the speaker looks remarkably like the model that debuted in 2018. As it is, you might need to consult a spec sheet to pick out the key differences between the two Apple devices, which are separated by roughly half a decade. The 2023 Apple HomePod is 0.2 inches shorter than its predecessor, with a height of 6.6 inches (the radius is the same, at 5.6 inches).

It’s also lighter, dropping from 5.5 pounds to 5.16. That’s not an insignificant difference, and certainly if we were talking laptops, it would be a big deal. Although the HomePod is designed for one to pick it up and move it around the house, my sneaking suspicion is a great majority of users will clean off a spot on a table top or shelf and rarely — if ever — move it. After all, there’s no battery power on board. If there were, it would be a distinctly different product. As it stands, it needs a constant power source.

In fact, the cable is another key physical difference. The 2018 model had what one might deem a technically detachable cable, but it fell firmly into the standard corporate-speak that recommended users visit a licensed Apple certified repair specialist. That also currently appears to be the standard line with regard to repairability, meaning that, in spite of the exact availability of user repair kits for the iPhone and MacBook, I wouldn’t attempt to crack it open at home if you’re worried about potentially voiding the warranty.

This time, mercifully, the cord is designed to be detached by the user. In fact, it ships unconnected, in its own little box. Once connected, you can pull it off with one, firm yank. The cables maintain the same woven design you’ll find across most of the latest Apple products. Unlike the HomePod Mini, however, it ends in a standard wall plug (three-pronged here in the U.S.), rather than USB-C. My biggest issue here from a cable perspective is that it’s too short. It’s five feet long — a full foot shorter than the Mini cable. I set up two HomePods as a stereo pair, currently flanking my desktop display.

The near one (right) reached just fine. The other required an extension cord. A minor complaint, but an easy potential fix for future products. The good news here is that, while Apple won’t be selling a longer version of the cable, it’s an industry-standard plug, so you’ll be able to buy a longer one to swap in. I suspect that, before long, third parties will be offering their own matching woven fabric versions that come in six-foot lengths.

Apple HomePod 2023 cable

Image Credits: Brian Heater

There are no other ports on the product. I’ve had a Google Home Max sitting on my desk since…well, since Google released the Home Max. It’s a fine workhorse of a smart speaker, with an auxiliary in port. It’s great for hard wiring to a PC or, in my case, a turntable. It’s not necessary, exactly, but it’s a great option to have when you want it.

Beyond these small things, you’d be hard pressed to tell the old and new HomePods apart by looks alone — the white one, at least. Apple swapped the first gen’s grey color for something it calls “midnight.” In this instance, at least, the company can be forgiven for what isn’t an especially clarifying name. It’s probably too wordy to call it “mostly black, but blueish in certain lighting.” It’s a nice color, though of the two, I’m still leaning toward the white. I might have gone with a more straightforward black or dark gray, but, to my eyes at least, it’s mostly black most of the time. The best thing about the new color, however, is that it’s made from entirely recycled fabric.

There isn’t the same variety you’ll find with the Mini. Nor is there anything that pops quite like that line’s orange and yellow options. That’s long been Apple’s M.O. — “fun” vibrant colors for the cheaper models and “serious” muted options for the high-end models. The latter makes sense here, as I’m sure most people are looking for something a bit more staid that fits in with its surroundings in the home. Though, again, more options are rarely a bad thing.

I’ve always liked the HomePod’s design. It’s the best-looking smart speaker. As such, it’s not especially surprising Apple didn’t fix what wasn’t broken, as tempting as it might have been to truly reinvent the thing ground up after five years. The mesh fabric remains, a crisscross diamond shape also found on the Mini that the company says is optimized for sound. Certainly, it’s distinct and, one might even suggest, iconic. It’s rigid but does have a slight deliver when a little pressure is applied. The white color is very prone to getting dirty. After sitting on my desk for a few days, the bottom has already become slightly discolored from dust. Predictably, Apple offers a cleaning guide for this reason.

The speaker’s cylindrical shape slowly tapers on the top and bottom. Below is a silicone pad that creates a bit of friction, while still allowing for the system to be nudged into position (a change from the 2018 model’s convex foot). There’s an internal suspension system connected to the woofer that allows the speaker to output loud, deep bass sounds without intentionally moving the rest of the speaker in the process. Up top is the familiar touch display — the most striking bit of the HomePod design language.

Apple HomePod 2023 side view

Image Credits: Apple

The illuminated touch surface up top has been expanded by 6x. That means the shiny touch display and its underlying lighting system effectively reach edge to edge. The glow for playback and the cloud of colors for Siri have always been a clever touch that’s nice to look at. Apple clearly wants Siri to serve as the primary interface here. It’s a smart speaker at the center of a smart home, so all of that logically tracks. There is limited touch control as well. A single tap will play or pause the music and a pair of fixed buttons turn the volume up and down.

There’s little doubt in my mind that, when Apple began discussing bringing HomePod back, they explored a lot of ideas, including fundamental changes to the system. I suspect during those conversations, the notion of a more full-fledged touchscreen was raised a few times, at least. After all, in spite of their stubborn refusal to bring one to the Mac, Apple (and its suppliers) has gotten quite good at touchscreens. Again, this is another one of those decisions that would have fundamentally altered the product. Suddenly your smart speaker is a smart screen — albeit one that is still a lot more speaker than screen.

I still really like the Nest Hub. It’s a great little piece of hardware, whose usage has evolved for me over the years. It makes sense as a control panel for smart home functionality and a visualizer for alarm features and voice functionality like weather and sports scores. These days, I probably use it most as a companion piece for Spotify. It’s a small thing, but I really like having the album art and song information on a screen that also lets me skip and repeat tracks. It’s easy to see how similar functionality would be nice on a HomePod, though its design choices (a 360 speaker that covers most of its surface area, but for a small display on top) severely limit such things.

I certainly won’t go so far as to see that Apple has created some platonic ideal speaker design, but I wholly understand why the team tasked with bringing HomePod back found it difficult — and in many respects unnecessary — to reinvent the wheel. From a pure marketing strategy standpoint, however, killing the HomePod, only to bring it back in a nearly identical form factor nearly three years later, is baffling. But we’re not here to dwell on marketing decisions.

Apple HomePod 2 white

Image Credits: Brian Heater

One nice thing about fast-forwarding three years is the HomePod has picked up some tricks from its fellow Apple products along the way. Those start with setup. The processor has been updated from the A8 (which debuted on the iPhone 6 in 2014) to the S7 (which powers the Apple Watch Series 7). Mind, Apple has since released the S8, but that chip has the same processing power as its predecessor, with the primary distinction being the accelerometer and gyroscope that enable crash detection — something that isn’t especially relevant to a smart speaker.

One unfortunate product of the S7’s inclusion is that the HomePod has Wi-Fi 4 on board. The latest hardware products support Wi-Fi 6e. The iPhone 14 supports Wi-Fi 6. Wi-Fi 7 is set to debut in 2024. WiFi 4 debuted the year Barack Obama was elected to his first term. The 2018 HomePod 1 supported Wi-Fi 5, which debuted four years prior.

If you’ve got an iOS, pairing is simple. In fact, it’s a lot like pairing an Apple Watch. Hold the device close to your new speaker, wait for confirmation and then hold the phone up so it captures the light pattern on top of the device inside a circle on your display. Pick up a second HomePod and the process of making a stereo will bring the entire setup process to around two minutes or so. Note, however, that you need an iPhone for setup, even if you expect to rely entirely on AirPlay. That’s a bit of a disappointment, but not entirely unexpected, given Apple’s general approach to hardware interoperability.

Apple S7 chip

Image Credits: Apple

A note on pairing: HomePods can only be paired with their same model. It seems perfectly reasonable that you can’t make a stereo pair between, say a HomePod and HomePod mini. Listen, I get it. The hardware, tuning and size of the two devices are so dramatically different, a balanced sound is a near impossibility. The inability to pair HomePod 1 and HomePod 2, on the other hand, remains something of a mystery as I write this (more later), but Apple’s statement on the matter boils down to the idea of “giving a user the best possible experience.” Here we are, once again, at the tricky crossroads of “best experience” and user control.

I would argue that the inability to pair the two product is — in itself — a less than best experience. Apple ran out of HomePod 1 stock. That means that if you have a single first-gen device and want a stereo pair, you’ll have to buy another first-gen, definitely not through Apple and likely refurbished. It’s not the end of the world, by any means, but it does put the customer in something of an awkward position.

One nice feature borrowed from the Mini is handoff. This utilizes the S7 chip and ultra-wide band (UWB). You’ll need to hop into settings to enable the feature, but it’s worth it. Start a song with Apple Music on your iPhone, hold it near the HomePod and it will start playing there, accompanied by a satisfying haptic fist bump. Move the phone near the speaker again and you can transfer it back. I really like this feature. It’s a good example of how nicely hardware can play together if you make your own devices, software and chips. It’s also surprisingly receptive. In fact, I found myself having to disable it while the HomePods are on my desk, otherwise it will accidentally trigger when I’m using the iPhone two feet from the speakers.

Apple TV+ in between two Apple HomePod 2 speakers

Image Credits: Apple

I’m a longtime Spotify subscriber who moved over to Apple Music for the purposes of this review (shout out to SongShift’s playlist transfer feature). You can use it through your Airplay-enabled device (also a good way of using a stereo pair as an entertainment system without Apple TV), but the experience just isn’t as good as it is with Apple’s software (though the company says the sound quality should be unaffected). Apple builds ecosystems. It’s worked this way for decades, and these days, any hardware maker with the necessary resources has more or less followed suit. As someone who writes about tech for a living, I think it’s important not to rely on a single company — though I understand why people do. It’s often a smoother experience. The biggest thing I miss about Spotify thus far (aside from being far more used to the UI) is the way it syncs song playback in real time across devices.

It’s a great feature and losing it is a bit annoying, as I’m not great at keeping track of what was playing where. Among other things, it’s great to be able to view what’s now playing on your computer and phone screen. There were also instances where I would wait too long after playing a song on my computer, tap the top of the HomePod to pick up where I left off and have Siri instead choose something from a playlist of songs it thinks I’d like.

Apple HomePod 2023 with Apple Music sync

Image Credits: Apple

Point in favor of Apple Music after a few days back on the platform: Lossless audio, spatial audio (still a bit on the fence about its usefulness here — more below) and a few of the folks who jumped ship from the competition as fallout from the whole Joe Rogan/vaccine misinformation situation — Joni Mitchell and Neil Young in particular. Also, Apple Music pays artists a lot more (relatively speaking) per stream than Spotify (though still not enough, in my humble opinion).

While the exterior of the product remains largely unchanged, the internals have received a significant overhaul, beyond the inclusion of a new chip. I asked Apple for a rough percentage of how much the insides have changed, but didn’t get a straight figure, beyond that the changes were “significant.” The woofer and tweeter arrays have both been updated. Interestingly the tweeter figures have dropped from seven to five.

It’s worth remembering that music has always been a major driver for Apple. It was something Steve Jobs was famously passionate about, and it’s something that has remained an essential part of the company’s DNA. The original HomePod was, arguably, the first smart speaker to prioritize the speaker over the smart. That’s likely partially due to the fact that Siri wasn’t built with the smart home first, like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Even more pertinent, however, is that Apple is all about a premium experience, and that continues to set HomePod apart from most.

Give me a sec, I’m gonna quote Apple directly here:

HomePod delivers incredible audio quality, with rich, deep bass and stunning high frequencies. A custom-engineered high-excursion woofer, powerful motor that drives the diaphragm a remarkable 20mm, built-in bass-EQ mic, and beamforming array of five tweeters around the base all work together to achieve a powerful acoustic experience. The S7 chip is combined with software and system-sensing technology to offer even more advanced computational audio that maximizes the full potential of its acoustic system for a groundbreaking listening experience.

“Groundbreaking” is, perhaps, a bit hyperbolic. But yeah, in spite of its relatively compact size, the HomePod 2 sounds great. It’s big, bold and dynamic. It fills a room easily and without distortion. It gets loud — like real loud. Like, I didn’t push it to the limit because I live in a New York City apartment surrounded by neighbors who (thankfully) don’t test speakers for a living. Really, in my current living situation, two HomePods is probably overkill, but I can’t argue with the value add of a stereo pair.

If you made me choose a single word to describe the sound here, I would probably go with “full.” The highs are high, the lows are low, the mids are…you get the picture. This is, of course, best experienced with songs available in high bit-rates or a lossless format. This, of course, is one of the places where Apple Music shines relative to Spotify. I’ve long believed that years of listening to compressed music has made it difficult for the average listener to pick out the difference between, say, lossless and a high-bit rate. But paired with the new HomePod, digital streaming starts to sing.

The separation is great, especially with a stereo pair, which lends a sense of space to the music. Drums, in particular, sound clean and clear, though the low end can overwhelm, and, if you’re like me and placed your speakers on the desktop in front of you, you can really feel elements like the kick drum. That’s sometimes nice and sometimes too much. Apple’s position favors its own in-house tuning. It’s a delicate balance, but I tend to favor more control and would love the ability to fiddle around with EQ sliders in the home app.

For an out of the box experience, however, it’s hard (if not impossible) to beat HomePod. You’re up and running within seconds, and the sound is rich and full. I’ve picked up details I’ve missed in familiar songs and, listening to things like podcasts, even noted some things (like mic movement), which probably weren’t intended to be heard. The company notes that while the focus of the press material has (understandably) primarily been about music, that it’s also tuned things for the human voice.

In fact, an upgrade that recently dropped via iOS 16.3 will Excellerate the quality of voice on the system. The feature has also rolled out to the first gen HomePod, which bodes well for Apple’s continued support for the product five years after its initial release. Other features will be arriving down the road via new software, including the ability to hear and alert you when a smoke or fire alarm goes off (unfortunately, unlike Amazon’s offering, broken glass detection will not be available at launch), which is coming in the spring, and “remastering” of ambient sounds like waves and other white noise. The latter will also be available for home routines, so you can have it automatically trigger before bed.

graphic showing the spatial audio traveling from Apple's HomePod 2023

Image Credits: Apple

I’m still not wholly sold on Spatial Audio being much more than a fun gimmick. I understand how it will eventually be important for augmented reality (that Apple headset is due any day now, right?), but I’ve yet to be sold on its broader import. Until now, I’ve largely thought of it as being tied to headphone head tracking, providing the user with a sense of fixed orientation for different sound elements.

With the HomePod, Apple extends the concept to apply to fixed speakers. It effectively builds on stereo sound, offering more precise location and a feeling of space. The number of albums that have been mastered — or remastered — for the feature is lacking at the moment, but Apple Music curates them all into one handy spot. Contemporary pop is well represented — unsurprising, as that seems to be an ongoing focus for the company. There are some older albums in there, too. I’ve been listening to Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson and McCoy Tyner. I’d say overall, it sounds like a slightly elevated stereo separation.

“Room sensing technology” is a concept that’s probably familiar if you’ve set up any of the higher-end smart speakers, but here’s a refresher, again, from Apple:

With room sensing technology, HomePod recognizes sound reflections from nearby surfaces to determine if it is against a wall or freestanding, and then adapts sound in real time. Precise directional control of its beamforming array of five tweeters separates and beams direct and ambient audio, immersing listeners in crystal-clear vocals and rich instrumentation.

The system has a built-in accelerometer that detects when it’s being moved. The next time you play music, it will effectively use on-board mics to detect whether that sound is being reflected back and then extrapolate its position relative to a wall. This uses the four-mic far-field array designed for trigger ‘hey Siri’ (which it does quite well, even when the music is bumping). From there, it will adjust the tuning accordingly, determining whether to incorporate those reflections into the sound. The 360-degree design means that you can also place it free-standing in the middle of a room and get good sound on all sides.

Line up of both Apple HomePod 1 and 2, as well as the Apple Mini smart speakers

Image Credits: Brian Heater

At $299, the HomePod 2 $50 cheaper than the first generation’s starting price (though it, too, had dropped to $299 before it went gently into that good night). That’s certainly not cheap. At $600, a stereo pair is very much an investment and one that makes the most sense if your situation ticks off the following boxes:

  • You have an iPhone
  • You subscribe to Apple Music
  • You want to set up a system in a few minutes and don’t want to think about it much beyond that
  • You’re building a smart home

Remember that spiel about the long, dark night a few thousand words back? I firmly stand by it. It’s a weird moment for the smart home and a strange time to be launching (or relaunching) a smart speaker. On the other hand, maybe it’s a great time. After all, neither Google nor Amazon seem to have a clear strategy at the moment — unfortunately, given that late-last-year’s arrival of Matter is set to bust things wide open, particularly when coupled with Thread (which, for the record, was available on HomePod 1).

I’m not going to dive too deep into Matter. The long and short of it is it’s a protocol jointly developed by some of the industry’s biggest names, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Samsung. It effectively serves as a universal standard, meaning that companies that make smart home accessories don’t have to choose between HomeKit and the rest. You can develop for everything, everywhere, all at once.

I did a bit of a deep dive into the subject at CES, centered around an interview with Jon Harros, the CSA’s (Matter’s governing organization) director of Certification and Testing Programs. He told me, “The IoT started reaching a point where it became obvious to have that reality of the billions of sensors and connected devices that we all know is possible. They all have a major slice of the pie. They’re all doing very well, but the size of the pie could grow orders of magnitude. You’re now not talking about shipping millions of products, you’re talking about shipping billions.”

It’s a nice bit of harmony from vicious competitors, and it’s a boon to the end user. Many existing accessories are backward compatible and will be receiving over the air updates in the coming year or so (waiting with bated breath here for my favorite smart home accessory, the Nest Protect smoke detector). Meanwhile, plenty of new products that support the standard are already shipping.

Home, the same app that lets you control HomePod, is also the central control center for connected devices. To add one, open the app, scan the product’s QR code and wait for the system to connect the two. Once everything is loaded in Home, you can start building scenes and routines, tied to things like your morning alarm or coming home from work. The HomePod also now features built-in temperature and humidity sensors (another trick borrowed from the Mini), which can be used to, say, trigger your smart air conditioner if it gets too hot or cold (I also like being able to ask Siri how warm it is in my apartment versus the outside).

Apple HomePod smart speakers in black and white

Image Credits: Apple

Strategically speaking, this feels like the perfect time for the HomePod to strike back. Amazon and Google’s defenses are down, and focusing on Matter support specifically and the smart home broadly should help Apple gain some traction. Apple is always focused on that “just works” experience, and the new standards bring the connected home a heck of a lot closer to that goal. The long-rumored HomeOS continues to be long rumored, even as the company continues to drop hints as to its existence. If/when it does finally materialize, it’s a pretty safe bet the HomePod experience will be foundational.

Ditching the original HomePod to the focus on the Mini was — and remains — a weird move. It’s nice to see the big speaker back and better than before — if not radically changed in the way it might have been had the company continued to issue regular updates. A permanent price drop to $299 is certainly nice, though the system still feels a bit aspirational compared to the competition — and doubly so for a stereo pair.

I have quibbles with the HomePod 2: Apple Music has its shortcomings, Wi-Fi 4 is ancient and the lack of backward stereo compatibility with the first-gen sticks out like a sore thumb. But the HomePod 2 works well, looks nice and sounds great. It’s going to fit perfectly for a select cross-section of consumers. It continues to not be for everyone, and there’s a part of me that strongly suspects that Apple wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tue, 31 Jan 2023 00:02:00 -0600 en-US text/html
Killexams : 9to5Mac Happy Hour 421: iPhone 15 USB-C, 15-inch MacBook Air coming soon, Apple headset delayed again

Benjamin and Zac explore the rumors swirling about a 15-inch MacBook Air supposedly coming soon, and how it would fit into the current MacBook lineup. They also discuss the latest news that the AR/VR headset has once again been delayed, and ponder whether Apple would limit the capabilities of the iPhone 15 USB-C port on purpose.

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Thu, 16 Feb 2023 04:56:00 -0600 en-US text/html
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