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iPad Air review: cheaper iPad Pro for the rest of us gets M1 power upgrade | iPad

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Apple’s latest tablet is an iPad Air upgraded with the M1 chip from the newest Macs and iPad Pro – turning it into a compact powerhouse that’s just as happy manipulating images in Photoshop as it is binge-watching the latest series of Star Trek: Picard.

This new fifth-generation model is £10 cheaper than the outgoing model, costing £569 ($599/A$929). While certainly premium-priced, it undercuts Apple’s other M1-equipped 11in tablet, the iPad Pro, by £180.

the back of the iPad Air 2022 in blue
The iPad Air is thin, light, made of recycled aluminium and available in five different colours, shown here in its attractive blue. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The design of the new tablet is identical to the 2020 iPad Air, which still looks top-class in 2022. It generally feels solid and well-made, though a device this thin will need to be treated with care and kept in a case for transport. Oddly two small spots next to the Apple logo on the aluminium back creaked slightly when pressed with a finger.

The power button doubles as a Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which works well but isn’t quite as effortless to use as Face ID on the iPhone or iPad Pro.

The iPad Air has a great 10.9in screen. It is crisp, clear and bright, but lacks the firm’s ProMotion 120Hz technology, which makes it less smooth and leaves it suffering from a bit of so-called “jelly scroll” when scrolling in landscape, similar to the iPad mini.

the Guardian website shown in Safari on the iPad Air
The 10.9in screen is a good size, nicely balanced between being big enough for reading or watching video, and not too big to easily carry, hold or throw in a bag. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

M1 power and iPadOS 15.4

The M1 chip and 8GB of RAM give the small tablet desktop computer-level processing power. It’ll fly through all the usual tablet tasks such as browsing, email, updating your Premier League team or watching TV. But, as with the latest iPad Pro, it also has unrivalled performance to handle complex image manipulation in Affinity Photo, the drawing and rendering of 3D worlds in SketchUp, or the creation of a cinematic masterpiece in LumaFusion.

Outside of gaming, most will not need that much power on a regular basis, but having a more powerful chip hasn’t hurt battery life. The iPad Air still gets a reliable 10 hours of browsing, light app use or offline video.

The iPad ships with Apple’s latest iPadOS 15.4, which introduces a major new feature called Universal Control that allows you to use a Mac’s keyboard and mouse to control the iPad or visa versa, including dragging and dropping files between the two. The long-awaited feature is quite something, extending the usefulness of the tablet as a second screen or input device, but only if you also have a modern Mac computer running macOS Monterey.

Centre Stage

an image of the webcam of the iPad Air
The Centre Stage webcam works very well, keeping you in frame whether you’re on your own, in a group or moving around, taking some of the hassle out of video calls. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The webcam has been upgraded over its predecessor with Apple’s game-changing 12-megapixel automatic panning and zooming video call camera that was introduced first to the iPad Pro, but is now available on all current iPads.

Specifications

  • Screen: 10.9in 2360×1640 Liquid Retina display (264ppi)

  • Processor: Apple M1

  • RAM: 8GB

  • Storage: 64 or 256GB

  • Operating system: iPadOS 15.4

  • Camera: 12MP rear, 12MP selfie

  • Connectivity: Wifi 6 (5G optional), Bluetooth 5, USB-C, Touch ID, Smart Connecter

  • Dimensions: 247.6 x 178.5 x 6.1mm

  • Weight: 461g (5G version: 462g)

Sustainability

the iPad Air laying flat on a table showing its USB-C port
It takes about two and a half hours to fully charge the tablet with the included 20W USB-C power adaptor, or faster with something more powerful. You can connect a large range of peripherals via USB-C too, including storage drives and external displays. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Apple does not provide an estimated lifespan for the iPad Air’s battery, but it can be replaced for £99. Batteries in similar devices maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for at least 500 full charge cycles. The tablet is generally repairable, with the out-of-warranty service cost being £396.44, which includes the screen.

The tablet has a 100% recycled aluminium body, 100% recycled tin in the solder of its main board, 96% recycled rare earth elements, and at least 35% recycled plastic used in multiple components. Apple breaks down the tablet’s environmental impact in its report and offers trade-in and free recycling schemes, including for non-Apple products.

Price

The fifth-generation Apple iPad Air costs from £569 ($599/A$929) with 64GB of storage, or £719 ($749/A$1,159) with 5G, and ships on 18 March.

For comparison, the 10.2in iPad costs £319, the iPad mini costs £479 and the iPad Pro costs from £749, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 costs £90, the Fire HD 10 costs £150, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8 costs £649.

Verdict

The 2022 iPad Air is one of the best premium tablets you can buy, now with enough power to be as good at content creation as general-purpose browsing and TV-watching.

The slim design and 10.9in screen strike an excellent balance between usability and portability, slotting nicely in between the small iPad mini and giant 12.9in iPad Pro. With the right accessories it can be a laptop replacement, too, or the new Universal Control feature helps it be a seamless second screen for a Mac.

Centre Stage is brilliant for video calls, Touch ID works great, the speakers are really good, and you’ll get 10 hours of useful battery life out of it. You can expect at least seven years of software updates from release, meaning you can keep using it for longer than any Android competitor. Then there’s the unrivalled library of apps from desktop-class software to almost every media consumption service.

As brilliant as the iPad Air is, its biggest problem is being undercut to the tune of £250 by Apple’s basic 10.2in iPad, which offers many of these benefits without as much raw performance and in a much older design. If all you want to do is watch TV on it, the basic model is the better buy.

Pros: modern design, unrivalled M1 performance, good battery life, great screen, USB-C, iPadOS with long software support life, huge range of apps, great speakers, great mics, best-in-class Centre Stage video-call camera, recycled aluminium.

Cons: expensive, no multi-user support, relatively small storage on the starting model with no way to add more, no Face ID, slight “jelly scroll” effect, must be treated with more care than cheaper rivals.

the rear camera of the iPad Air protruding from the back of the tablet
The rear camera is very good for a tablet, outpacing many cheaper phones, but is no match for a good camera phone. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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Singapore pulls plug on COVID tracking program • The Register

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Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Thursday that it was finally pulling the plug on its COVID tracking program.

On February 13, the city-state’s TraceTogether (TT) program, which uses the Bluetooth radios in mobile phones to track movements, and its business check-in system SafeEntry (SE) will come to a halt.

According to the ministry’s announcement, the government had already begun stepping down TT and SE, and would no longer require infected persons to submit TraceTogether data.

“SE data is no longer being collected, and MOH has deleted all identifiable TT and SE data from its servers and databases,” said the department.

The exception is data that was controversially used off-label in a murder investigation.

The systems will remain intact – as well as registration details including name, business registration, and mobile phone number – in case there is a need for reactivation. One example given is if a more dangerous COVID-19 variant were to spread. Apps will also remain available.

The ministry told members of the public, who haven’t been required to have them since last year, that they may “uninstall their TT App, and enterprises may do the same for the SE (Business) App.”

Furthermore, those with a physical TT token, which came in handy for the non-tech savvy as a device that exchanges anonymized identifiers, were asked to return the dongle for recycling.

Singapore began developing the open source TraceTogether at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The app constantly sought out other Bluetooth-enabled devices that ran the app and logged when they were in close proximity. The country required users to register and inform authorities if they contracted COVID-19 and used the app to draw up lists of contacts who were then isolated.

Other countries, including Australia, based their apps on the technology. While many nations seemed to flop at COVID tracking, Singapore fared somewhat better, even with similar technology. That success has been attributed to a culture willing to comply, combined with a government that modified behavior through other strict rules to keep the virus from spreading.

One example of the additional measures was tracking devices issued to travelers during a required one-week isolation after arriving.

In April, TT and SE became largely superfluous as their use was no longer mandatory except for select events. The efficacy of such systems relied on mass compliance so if some people weren’t using them, they were less effective anyway.

However, job postings for positions related to the program near that time sparked speculation that the system would remain in some form in the island nation, unlike in most other countries. Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) told The Register in late March 2022 the job listings were merely for replacing existing employees.

Australia quit its app in August after it was deemed a massive failure. Japan followed in September, and China discontinued use of its tracking app in December. ®

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Irish biotech Ovagen raises €1.1m for germ-free egg production

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Based in Co Mayo, Ovagen now plans to add 65 jobs over the next five years and hopes to see its revenue reach €42m by the end of 2027.

Irish biotech start-up Ovagen has raised €1.1m in an oversubscribed funding round led by the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) for its germ-free egg production business.

Ovagen, based in Ballina, Co Mayo, is a biotech company that has developed a process of producing germ-free chicken eggs intended for use in the pharmaceutical industry for products such as vaccines.

According to Ovagen, up to 20pc – or one in five – egg-based vaccine batches are destroyed because of contamination.

Overall, more than 1bn eggs are used every year as ‘bio reactors’ to develop vaccines. Viruses are injected into the eggs to propagate the virus, which vaccine manufacturers can then use to develop vaccines for diseases including the flu, yellow fever, mumps and measles.

Dr Catherine Caulfield, CEO and co-founder of Ovagen, said that current vaccines are developed using specific pathogen free eggs, which are free of many bacteria and viruses, but they are not germ-free and a significant portion become contaminated.

“Our funders have been instrumental in supporting us on our long journey to make a concept a reality,” she said.

“At critical stages in our development, our angel investors have not only provided us with their financial backing, but they have also introduced us to other potential investors, as well as their highly influential industry contacts.”

Ovagen now aims to go to market with the “world’s first germ-free egg” in what is potentially a multimillion euro industry.

“The global potential of the company’s technology is vast and that is why this is the second time HBAN syndicates have backed Ovagen,” said Declan MacFadden, an HBAN spokesperson.

“Ovagen is now in prime position to launch its product and we are excited to see the impact that this ground-breaking development has in a highly lucrative global market.”

Following the latest investment, in which the Western Development Commission and an existing shareholder also participated, the company expects to add 65 jobs (it currently has 12 staff) over the next five years, with revenues reaching €42m by the end of 2027.

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Republicans grill ex-Twitter executives over handling of Hunter Biden story | House of Representatives

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US lawmakers held a combative hearing on Wednesday with former senior staffers at Twitter over the social media platform’s handling of reporting on Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

The proceedings set the stage for the agenda of a newly Republican-controlled House, underscoring its intention to hone in on longstanding and unsubstantiated allegations that big tech platforms have an anti-conservative bias.

The House oversight committee called for questioning recently departed Twitter employees including Vijaya Gadde, the social network’s former chief legal officer, former deputy general counsel James Baker, former head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth and former safety leader Anika Collier Navaroli.

The hearing centered on a question that has long dogged Republicans – why Twitter decided to temporarily restrict the sharing of a story about Hunter Biden in the New York Post, released in October 2020, the month before the US presidential election. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle used the opportunity to interrogate moderation practices at Twitter and other tech firms.

“The government doesn’t have any role in suppressing speech,” said Republican committee chairman James Comer, hammering the former employees for censoring the Post story.

people sit at table in congressional chamber
James Baker, former deputy general counsel at Twitter; Vijaya Gadde; former chief legal officer at Twitter; Yoel Roth, former global head of trust and safety; and the former employee Anika Collier Navaroli attend the hearing. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

In that report, the Post said it received a copy of a laptop hard drive from Donald Trump’s then-personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved. Twitter initially blocked people from sharing links to the article for several days, citing concerns over misinformation and spreading a report containing potentially hacked materials.

In opening statements on Wednesday, the former Twitter staffers described the process by which the story was blocked. While the company explicitly allowed “reporting on a hack, or sharing press coverage of hacking”, it blocked stories that shared “personal and private information – like email addresses and phone numbers” – which the Post story appeared to include. The platform amended these rules following the Biden controversy, and the then CEO, Jack Dorsey, later called the company’s communications about the Post article “not great”.

Roth, the former head of safety and integrity, said on Wednesday that Twitter acknowledged that censoring the story was a mistake.

“Defending free expression and maintaining the health of the platform required difficult judgment calls,” he said. “There is no easy way to run a global communications platform that satisfies business and revenue goals, individual customer expectations, local laws and cultural norms and get it right every time.”

men in congressional chamber
Yoel Roth prepares to testify. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Elon Musk, who purchased the company last year, has since shared a series of internal records, known as the Twitter Files, showing how the company initially stopped the story being shared, citing concerns from the Biden campaign, among other factors.

Republican theories that Democrats are colluding with big tech to suppress conservative speech have become a hot button issue in Washington, with congress members using various tech hearings to grill executives. But experts say claims of anti-conservative bias have been disproven by independent researchers.

“What we’ve seen time and again is that companies are de-platforming people who are spreading racism and conspiracy theories in violation of the company’s rule,” said Jessica J González, co-chief executive officer of the civil rights group Free Press.

“The fact that those people are disproportionately Republicans has nothing to do with it,” she added. “This is about right or wrong, not left or right.”

Musk’s decision to release information about the laptop story comes after he allowed the return of high-profile figures banned for spreading misinformation and engaging in hate speech, including the former president. The executive has shared and engaged with conspiracy theories on his personal account.

Republican lawmakers seem to have found an ally in Musk, and repeatedly praised him during Wednesday’s proceedings. The rightwing congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene used her time on the floor to personally attack the former Twitter employees and complain about her own account, which was suspended for violating the platform’s policies on coronavirus misinformation.

“I’m so glad you’ve lost your jobs,” she said. “I am so glad Elon Musk bought Twitter.”

man in front of image of new york post with headline 'biden secret emails'
The oversight committee chairman, James Comer, a Republican, makes opening remarks. Photograph: Jemal Countess/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

But Democrats on Wednesday used their time in the House to explore how the Trump administration engaged with Twitter, revealing that the former president himself tried to interfere with content decisions.

In response to questioning from the new representative Maxwell Frost of Florida, the former Twitter content moderation executive Navaroli confirmed that in 2019 Trump tried to have an insulting tweet from internet personality Chrissy Teigen removed from the platform. In the tweet, which was read for the record, Teigen referred to Trump as a “pussy ass bitch”. Twitter denied the White House’s request, and it remains online today.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez further sought to disprove bias against conservative speech on Twitter when she asked about an instance in 2019, when a tweet from Trump including hate speech was kept online despite violating platform policies.

The former president told Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their countries, a clear violation of Twitter’s policies regarding abuse against immigrants, but was not penalized, Navaroli confirmed, and the rules were changed.

“So Twitter changed their own policy after Trump violated it to accommodate his tweets?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So much for bias against the rightwing on Twitter.”

The White House has sought to discredit the Republican investigation into Hunter Biden, calling them “divorced-from-reality political stunts”. Nonetheless, Republicans now hold subpoena power in the House, giving them the authority to compel testimony and conduct an aggressive investigation.

In opening statements at Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland expressed frustration that the first tech-focused panel of the session is focused on the Hunter Biden story, which he called a “faux scandal”. He said private companies under the first amendment are free to decide what is allowed on their platforms.

“Silly does not even begin to capture this obsession,” he said of the laptop story. “What’s more, Twitter’s editorial decision has been analyzed and debated ad nauseam. Some people think it was the right decision. Some people think it was the wrong decision. But the key point here is that it was Twitter’s decision.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting



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