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iPhone 12 lineup’s pricing and release dates detailed in new leak

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A new leak has provided extensive details about what Apple could announce at its October 13th event. In line with previous rumors, the leaker Kang predicts we’ll see Apple announce four new iPhone models at its event, but says we’ll also see a new HomePod mini smart speaker. They also provide a host of extra details and release information for the iPhone 12 lineup. According to AppleTrack, Kang has a reliable track record, and accurately predicted several of Apple’s WWDC and September event announcements this year.

Kang says Apple will announce four new iPhones next week: an iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. All four will reportedly feature 5G support, including mmWave in the US. The Super Retina XDR display which was previously exclusive to the iPhone 11’s Pro models will apparently be available across the whole lineup this time, and the handsets are said to have screen protection that’s more resistant to drops. All four will reportedly be able to film in the Dolby Vision HDR standard.

Here’s what Kang has to say about the differences between the models:

  • The iPhone 12 mini will reportedly have a 5.4-inch display and a starting price of $699. It’s said to be available in black, white, red, blue, and green, and storage options will range from 64GB to 256GB. Kang claims it’ll come with dual cameras — a wide-angle and an ultrawide — and will be available to preorder on November 6th or 7th, with a release date of November 13th or 14th.
  • Next, the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 could have a starting price of $799. It’ll apparently be available in black, white, red, blue, and green, with storage options ranging from 64GB to 256GB. It reportedly comes with the same dual cameras as the 12 mini, and will be available to preorder on October 16th or 17th, with a release date on October 23rd or 24th.
  • He predicts a $999 starting price for the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro. It’ll reportedly come in gold, silver, graphite, and blue, and storage will range from 128GB to 512GB. Alongside its wide-angle and ultrawide cameras, Kang says the Pro will have a telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom and a LIDAR sensor for augmented reality. They claim preorders will start on October 16th or 17th, with a release date on October 23rd or 24th.
  • Finally, the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max will apparently have a starting price of $1,099. Kang says it’ll ship in gold, silver, graphite, and blue, with storage ranging from 128GB to 512GB. Like the 12 Pro it has three cameras and a LIDAR sensor, but its telephoto lens will reportedly offer 5x optical zoom. Preorders are said to start on November 13th or 14th, with a release date on November 20th or 21st.
An alleged dummy version of the 5.8-inch iPhone 12 mini between the two different iPhone SEs.
Image: MacRumors

Kang also predicts we’ll see Apple announce new wireless “MagSafe” chargers at the event. These could work with a new wireless charger-compatible iPhone case, according to MacRumors, which uses magnets to help it align correctly. Apple previously used MagSafe branding for its range of MacBook power cables that magnetically attach to the laptops. Kang adds that we won’t see chargers or headphones included with this year’s iPhones.

Finally, Kang also says we’ll see a $99 HomePod mini announced at the event. The smart speaker, which would be Apple’s second after the original HomePod, has been rumored to be on the way for a little while, and other reports have indicated it could be close to release. Kang claims the smart speaker will be powered by the same S5 processor we saw in last year’s Apple Watch Series 5 and this year’s Apple Watch SE, and that it could ship on November 16th or 17th.

It’s always best to take rumors like these with a pinch of salt, and Kang themselves warns that what they’ve written could be “nonsense” (via Google Translate). However, they’ve included similar caveats on otherwise accurate posts before, and generally appear to have a good track record with Apple leaks. AppleTrack notes that Kang previously predicted the iPhone SE’s pricing, WWDC announcements like the Apple Watch’s hand-washing feature, and details from last month’s event like the new iPad Air’s pricing and features.

For a complete roundup of everything we’re expecting from Apple’s upcoming iPhones, check out our roundup here.

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Corsair’s HS75 XB Wireless sounds better than most $150 gaming headsets

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I mentioned in a recent review of the HyperX Cloud II Wireless that my ideal low-cost headset has to be comfortable, have great sound quality, and support for USB-C charging. Apparently, I need to raise the bar a little, as more headsets other than the HyperX can satisfy those requirements. The latest to do that is Corsair’s HS75 XB Wireless, a $150 gaming headset made to work on the Xbox Series X / S and Xbox One without the need for a USB dongle. It also works on PCs via Microsoft’s wireless Xbox USB adapter, which is how I tested this model.

The HS75 XB Wireless has open-back ear cups with 50mm drivers that push out a lovely, warm sound, with bass and highs coming through without stepping on each other. Compared to closed-back designs, this open-back design results in a fuller, more lifelike sound that doesn’t seem as compressed. Trying out songs like “Jewelry” by Blood Orange shows off the range nicely, providing twinkles of instrumentation to test its highs and a big beat coming through in the second half of the song to test out the bass.

Of course, this headset is made primarily for gaming, and its audio chops are put to good use there, too. I tested it for a few hours with Hades, my latest addiction. All of the action came through just as intensely as I wanted, making each run all the more gripping. The sound quality was great, and the free Dolby Atmos app helps to fill it out with virtual surround sound.

An inside view of the plush ear cups.

In Hades, positional audio isn’t necessary to do better or get more enjoyment. But where positional audio comes into play is with a VR game like Half-Life: Alyx, which I’ve been spending more time with since the Oculus Quest 2 released. Using the HS75 XB Wireless with Atmos enabled, the experience is more engrossing (and downright terrifying since I last left off in a headcrab-infested area). It actually got a little too intense at some point — so I’d consider that a success for this headset.

Sound aside, the HS75 XB Wireless looks and sounds more like a high-end set of headphones than gaming headsets I’m accustomed to testing. This wireless headset has solid build quality and doesn’t feel too heavy or tight on my head. The size adjusters on each side of the headband click rigidly into place, and it supports head sizes far larger than my own rather large head. A metal grille covers each of the cups, surrounded at the edges with grippy plastic. Unfortunately, the ear cups on this model don’t swivel to lay flat. I always like that for portability, though it’s rare to find in a gaming headset.

Corsair covers the inside of each ear cup in a leather-like material, and they don’t feel too toasty because of the open-back design that lets some air in. However, this will be more of a con than a pro for some gamers, as that design also lets a good amount of sound in and out. It seems a little contradictory that Corsair’s focus on positional audio comes in a headset that can’t effectively keep out the noise. On the other hand, as long as you don’t need pin-drop silence, it shouldn’t be much of a bother.

The button layout looks the same on each side, but the left features a volume dial and mute, while the right side features a game / chat dial and the power button.

Using the HS75 XB Wireless’ controls is simpler than with most headsets. Corsair opted for a symmetrical layout for each ear cup. Visually, both sides mirror each other, but on the left, a dial controls the volume, with a button beneath it to mute or unmute the adjustable (and removable) microphone. On the right, Corsair put in a chat and game audio mix dial, residing above a power button. This isn’t the first headset to feature an intuitive way to adjust the chat / game audio mix, but it’s always appreciated.

As I touched on earlier, this model supports USB-C charging, improving over the Micro USB port used with Corsair’s HS70 headset. More and more headsets are making the jump to USB-C, and while it might seem like a small shift, it’s easier to plug in than Micro USB and usually results in faster recharge times. Corsair claims 20 hours of battery life per charge, and I haven’t yet been able to drain it fully. This isn’t best-in-class longevity, but it should last for a few sessions without needing to be topped up.

There isn’t an overwhelming number of wireless gaming headsets that work with Xbox consoles. But compared to some of the newer options, like the $150 SteelSeries Arctis 7X and the $120 Astro A20 Gen 2, the HS75 XB Wireless is a better option when it comes to sound quality, ease of use, and comfort. Not that any of those models are bad, but if you’re particular about attention to fine detail, Corsair’s $150 headset stands out just a bit beyond what’s currently out there.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

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Amazon Echo (2020) review: music of the sphere

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The smart speaker competition this year is the hottest it’s ever been. Google has finally refreshed its midrange smart speaker with the impressively good Nest Audio. Apple has seen the error of its HomePod ways and is coming out with the much more accessible HomePod mini.

And Amazon, naturally, is not standing still. It has a brand-new Echo with the biggest overhaul in design and sound quality since the first Echo surprised the world back in 2014. And it’s all for the same $99.99 price as last year’s 3rd Gen Echo, the Nest Audio, and the HomePod mini.

Amazon also has a brand-new Echo Dot lineup that, well, echoes the design of the larger model, shrinking it down and bringing it to an even lower price point. I’ll be covering the Echo Dot in a separate piece, but if it’s anything like the larger Echo, it’s going to be impressive.

Because the new 4th-Gen Echo sounds incredible.

The Echo’s design has been completely overhauled — the cylindrical shape is out, everything is about spheres now. The new Echo is essentially a 5-inch ball with a flat side on the bottom, so it doesn’t roll off the table. It’s vaguely melon-like in appearance, though I also can’t deny the Death Star vibes it projects.

According to Amazon, the ball shape is meant to improve the speaker’s acoustic properties and allows for more flexibility with the placement of the drivers inside. It also offers a fuller cavity behind the woofer for better bass response.

And sure enough, the Echo is physically deeper than the Nest Audio, which is a little bit taller. That depth allows Amazon to use two tweeters (each 0.8-inch) compared to the Nest’s single one, while still fitting in a 3-inch woofer and enough space for it to radiate bass.

The net effect is the Echo has a greater sound stage than the Nest and fills larger rooms better with sound. It also has noticeably better bass — you can feel it in the floor as well as just hearing it. That’s something I haven’t experienced from a $100 smart speaker before.

The top half of the sphere is covered in fabric. It’s definitely got some Death Star vibes.

From the side, you can see how much deeper the Echo is compared to the Nest Audio

The top half of the ball is covered in fabric, and you can get it in dark gray, light gray, or a new light blue. At the very apex are four buttons: volume up, volume down, microphone mute, and the “action” button, which puts the speaker into listening mode without you having to say “Alexa”. Around back you’ll find the power port and the same 3.5mm jack that’s on all of the other Echo speakers for hooking it up to a larger sound system. There’s also a built-in Bluetooth radio for connecting directly to a device and playing whatever audio source you want.

This new shape necessitates moving the signature LED light ring that lets you know when Alexa is listening for a voice command, when it’s muted, when you have a notification, or the volume level of the speaker. It’s now on the bottom, which might be harder to see from a distance. But in my experience that was a non-issue: the light ring’s glow reflects off the surface of whatever you put the Echo on and it’s bright enough to see from across the room.

Lastly, the design is also much more directional than the prior models. Instead of trying to splash sound in all directions, the Echo’s woofer is pointed towards the front at a 45-degree upwards angle, while the two tweeters are below it, facing slightly left and slightly right. It’s clear that you are meant to face the speaker when listening to it, and it isn’t expected to be placed in the center of a room.

In all, the design is a radical departure for both Amazon and what we’ve collectively come to expect a smart speaker to look like. I like it.

On top are buttons for controlling volume and Alexa’s responses

I also really like the sound that comes out of the new Echo. As mentioned, it sounds better than the Nest Audio thanks to its larger physical size and unique shape. It also utilizes the same kind of active room tuning that is typically found on more expensive speakers from Sonos, Apple, Google, and even Amazon itself.

The new Echo will use the mics built into it to listen to the room and continuously gauge its size and shape. It will then adjust its audio output accordingly. This isn’t a feature that’s been available on speakers at this price before — neither the Nest Audio nor the HomePod mini have it.

It’s hard to quantify the difference this room tuning makes, especially since I can’t turn it on or off at will. But in combination with the three drivers and larger size, the Echo produces an impressively full sound. It appears that Amazon designed it for slightly larger rooms — the company recommends sitting ten feet away (and no closer than six feet) from it for the best experience. If you’re in a smaller space, the Echo Dot’s more compact, yet similar, design is likely a better fit.

Amazon also claims that the Echo benefits from Dolby Audio tuning, but it stops short of supporting the 3D Atmos audio that the larger and more expensive Echo Studio is capable of (no big loss there).

In general, the Echo has a wide soundstage, deeper bass than typically found on speakers at this price, and some stereo separation thanks to those two tweeters. It also gets loud — when I compared it side by side with the Sonos One, a speaker that’s twice as expensive, the Echo was able to go toe-to-toe with the Sonos in terms of output.

The Echo isn’t quite able to match the Sonos on sound quality, and I do prefer the sound of the Sonos overall. But the differences are small: the Echo can sound more “processed” at times and it lacks the warmth in the midrange that the Sonos is so good at.

Those differences did not stop me from enjoying the music coming out of the Echo, however, whether that was the acoustic home recordings on the recent rerelease of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers; the driving, harmonized guitar riffs on Spirit Adrift’s Enlightened In Eternity; or the ambient Tycho beats I typically listen to while working. (I used Spotify for my testing, but the Echo supports all of the major music services, save for YouTube Music.) The Echo is good at allowing each instrument in the mix to shine, something prior models were horribly poor at, without drowning out vocals or mids with too much bass. I wouldn’t call the trebles “sparkly”, but they are pleasant and never grating, even at high volumes.

I’ve come to not expect much bass from smart speakers, especially at this price, so the fact that I could feel the bass drum in the floor was a nice surprise. It’s not going to replace a subwoofer at a house party, but it’s definitely more bass than the Nest Audio provides, even though both it and the Echo have the same size woofer.

It’s possible to pair two Echo speakers into a stereo configuration, and doing so produces a wall of sound that you’d expect to come from much larger or more expensive speakers. It also provides a much more obvious stereo separation than the two tweeters in a single Echo are able to manage on their own.

But I don’t think most people will find it necessary to buy two and use them in stereo — a single Echo gets plenty loud enough on its own, even in my open-concept living room with a high, sloped ceiling. (Two Echo speakers in stereo definitely makes more sense if you pair them with a FireTV for a home theater setup.)

The Echo also sounds good for spoken word audio, whether that’s a podcast playing through Pocket Casts or an Audible audio book. It remains a versatile speaker for a wide variety of uses.

From left to right: Sonos One, Google Nest Audio, Amazon Echo 4th Gen, Amazon Echo Dot 4th Gen

As a smart speaker, the new Echo is capable of all the things that Echo speakers have been doing for years. You can ask Alexa to control smart home gadgets, set timers, give weather reports, add things to a shopping list, and so on. The list of things that Alexa can do continues to grow by the day, but most people still use smart speakers for the basics — music, alarms, timers, etc — and the Echo is very good at all of those.

It’s also very good at picking up the “Alexa” wake word, and I don’t have to raise my voice for it to hear me even when music is playing. That’s not something I can say about the Nest Audio, where I have to consciously speak over the music to skip a track or adjust volumes. We’ll have to see how the HomePod mini fares in this regard when we’re able to test it.

Amazon is using its new AZ1 Neural Edge processor in the new Echo, which is designed to speed up voice recognition. Unfortunately, that won’t be enabled until later this year, so I haven’t been able to test it. In general, Alexa on the Echo responds relatively quickly and faster than Google tends to on the Nest Audio. Siri has traditionally responded quicker than either Alexa or the Google Assistant on the original HomePod — again, we’ll have to see how the HomePod mini does when we get a chance to test it.

As if Amazon didn’t stack enough into the new Echo to make it a compelling option against the competition, it’s also included a full smart home hub inside of it. You can connect Zigbee devices such as lightbulbs, door sensors, and more right to the Echo without the need for a secondary hub, and then manage and control them through voice commands or via the Alexa smartphone app. There’s even a temperature sensor in the Echo, which can be used to trigger Alexa routines such as turning on a fan or air conditioner.

The Echo also supports Amazon’s new Sidewalk network, but until that actually launches, it’s hard to say what it will mean or how important it will be.

The glowing LED light ring is on the bottom now, but it’s still easy to see from afar

The progression of Amazon’s mainstream Echo speaker has been a long journey, from an odd, Pringles-can shape with admittedly terrible sound, to better-looking and sounding cylinders, to what we have now, a spherical speaker that legitimately sounds good. For a long time, if you wanted a smart speaker but cared even a little about sound quality, your choices have been to pay more for a Sonos One, a HomePod, or Amazon’s larger Echo Studio.

But now Amazon has brought excellent sound quality and a ton of features to a price that’s much more accessible. That price is likely to get better once Amazon’s frequent and aggressive discounts are available for the new Echo. If you already have Alexa speakers in your home, whether that’s a cheap Echo Dot or an older Echo model, the new Echo is a noticeable upgrade to throw into the mix.

And if you have been eyeing the smart speaker world for the past half-decade but haven’t jumped in yet, the new Echo is an excellent place to start. It’s a great-sounding speaker that also happens to do a million other things.

Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge

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HBO Max has 28.7 million subscribers, but not all of them are actually watching yet

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HBO Max, the new premium streaming channel from AT&T’s Warner Media, said in its earnings report on Thursday that 8.6 million customers have activated their subscriptions to the service in the third quarter, bringing the total number of HBO and HBO Max subscribers in the US to 38 million — ahead of the company’s target of 37 million for the end of 2020 — and 57 million globally.

AT&T counts “activations” as well as subscribers, as many customers who already pay for HBO have access to HBO Max as part of their package, but haven’t yet activated that subscription and started watching. According to the earnings report, 28.7 million customers were eligible to get HBO Max at the end of the third quarter, but activations of HBO Max to date number 12.7 million, meaning about half of the existing HBO subscribers who could get HBO Max for free haven’t yet watched Max content (and may not be aware it’s available to them). And HBO Max still isn’t on major platforms like Roku, which likely has had an impact on subscriber growth.

The rest of AT&T’s third quarter results were mixed. Its cable division, which includes DirecTV, lost 627,000 customers in the quarter. but broadband subscribers were up by 158,000, including more than 100,000 subscribers on one of its Keep Americans Connected plans. Its wireless division saw an increase of 645,000 postpaid phone subscribers.

AT&T saw a profit of $2.8 billion in the third quarter, down from $3.7 billion a year ago. Revenue was also lower, coming in at $42.3 billion compared to $44.6 billion in the year-ago quarter. Its Warner Bros. division saw revenue drop 28 percent to $2.5 billion, taking a hit from closed theaters and movie releases delayed until next year. HBO’s third quarter revenue was down 2.1 percent to $1.8 billion.

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