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Apple launches new iMac, iPad Pro, AirTags and Podcast subscriptions | Apple

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Apple launched a series of new iPads, Macs and tags on Tuesday at an event broadcast from California, as it continued its switch to processors of its own design.

During a recorded video, the firm’s chief executive, Tim Cook, unveiled the products that Apple hopes will continue the momentum with its computers and tablets driven by home working and schooling in 2020.

New 24in iMac

The redesigned 24in M1 iMac comes in a range of bold colours.
The redesigned 24in M1 iMac comes in a range of bold colours. Photograph: Apple Inc. Handout/EPA

The most significant of Apple’s new products is a redesigned version of the company’s iMac all-in-one computer with the M1 chip. The new machine is significantly thinner at just 11.5mm thick, and looks like a giant tablet from the side.

Apple said that with the M1 chip, previously used in the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini computers, the new iMac was up to twice as fast as the previous generation machine.

The iMac has a 24in 4.5k retina screen squeezed into a body only slightly larger than the previous machine with its 21.5in screen. The more powerful six-speaker system is capable of spatial audio when playing movies with Dolby Atmos soundtracks, while the 1080p FaceTime HD camera and beamforming mics are designed for better video calls.

The computer has a new power adaptor with magnetic cable and at least two Thunderbolt ports, with higher-end models having an additional two USB-C ports and an ethernet port in the power adaptor. Apple also added its Touch ID fingerprint scanner to a new Bluetooth keyboard, allowing biometric login and user switching similar to its laptops.

The new iMac – available in seven different colours, reminiscent of the original model from 1998 – will be available from £1,249 in the UK and $1,299 in the US, shipping in the second half of May. Apple did not update the larger 27in iMac, which still uses Intel chips.

Use of the new M1 chips in the iMac will be an important test for Apple’s custom processors; their introduction to the MacBook Air and low-end MacBook Pro laptop lines proved successful, but in machines not restricted by batteries the onus will be on raw performance to handle the more demanding tasks commonly asked of desktop computers.

Issues with software compatibility, particularly with the big, expensive and often dated packages used by businesses, will be tolerated less for volume purchasing by corporations – potentially making the Apple Silicon models a harder sell than “safer” Intel-based versions or competitors.

Paolo Pescatore, an analyst from PP Foresight, said the “star of the show” was the redesigned iMac “thanks to the power of Apple Silicon”, adding: “We are now seeing the fruits of Apple Silicon, by leveraging this system on a chip architecture across its portfolio. The M1 is transforming its products, form factors and capabilities far beyond what users can do today.”

New iPad Pro with M1

The new iPad Pro has the same powerful chip as Apple’s laptops and desktop computers.
The new iPad Pro has the same powerful chip as Apple’s laptops and desktop computers. Photograph: Apple Inc. Handout/EPA

Apple also announced an improved iPad Pro equipped with the same M1 chip as the firm’s computers and 5G connectivity. The use of a computer processor, rather than a version of its smartphone chips, was reported to offer a 50% faster performance and enable the addition of a full Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, rather than the slower USB-C port, allowing desktop-class connections to a range of docks, drives and external displays.

Apple also fitted a mini-LED display to the larger 12.9in iPad Pro, making it one of the first devices to use a significantly improved technology hitherto only available in high-end TVs. The Liquid Retina XDR is one of the brightest LCD screens available, matching Apple’s £4,599 professional computer display; the firm said it could show types of HDR video used by professional videographers.

The iPad Pro also comes with a new 12-megapixel TrueDepth camera that has an ultrawide lens and an automatic panning and zooming feature called Center Stage for improved video calls, similar to some smart displays and dedicated video-call screens.

The 11in iPad Pro starts at £749 in the UK, while the 12.9in version sells for £999.

The power upgrade for the iPad Pro follows a full redesign in 2018 and addition of new lidar and camera sensors in the 2020 iPad Pro, alongside new keyboard accessories and mouse support that further turned it into a laptop replacement.

Spurred by the demand for remote working tools during the Covid-19 pandemic, there was unprecedented demand for tablet sales in 2020, up 13.6% year-on-year, following several years of decline.

Apple’s various iPads took the lion’s share, accounting for 36.5% of the market and growing 19.5% during the fourth quarter of 2020, according to data from IDC, driven by refreshes of the iPad 10.2in and iPad Air models.

But Leo Gebbie, a senior analyst with CCS Insight, said: “The new iPad is a tough sell. Despite numerous updates, including the M1 chip, the previous generations of iPads are strong enough to make this is an iterative update when compared to the new iMac.”

AirTags, Apple TV 4K and Podcast subscriptions

Apple’s AirTag is a Tile-like tracker you can attach to objects enabling you to find them with your iPhone.
Apple’s AirTag is a Tile-like tracker you can attach to objects enabling you to find them with your iPhone. Photograph: Apple Inc./Reuters

Apple also announced its AirTag tracker device, which uses “Find My” software, operating in a similar manner to the Tile Bluetooth trackers and Samsung’s SmartTag.

The small disc-like AirTag can be personalised. When used with iPhones with the U1 chip, such as the iPhone 12, the system can also guide people directly to the AirTag using the ultra-wideband technology used for several years for Apple’s AirDrop filesharing system. AirTags cost £29 in the UK and will be shipped on 30 April.

The company’s smart TV streaming box, the Apple TV 4K, was also updated with a faster A12 Bionic chip as used in the iPhone XR from 2018 and enabling high-frame rate HDR. Apple also showed off a colour-calibration feature that uses an iPhone to automatically tune the colour on TVs, and a redesigned Siri remote, which ditches the touch-panel controller. The Apple TV 4K will cost from £169 in the UK.

Apple also announced that it was opening up paid-for subscriptions within its podcast app. The redesigned app and service will launch in 170 countries with new channels and recommendations. Subscriptions will provide ad-free listening, extra content and the ability to support favourite content creators.

Finally, Apple announced it was expanding its payments drive in the US with Apple Card Family, which allows two people to own an Apple credit card sharing the credit lines and building credit history together. Parents can also share the Apple credit card with children over 13 with access to parental controls.

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Virtual contact worse than no contact for over-60s in lockdown, says study | Coronavirus

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Virtual contact during the pandemic made many over-60s feel lonelier and more depressed than no contact at all, new research has found.

Many older people stayed in touch with family and friends during lockdown using the phone, video calls, and other forms of virtual contact. Zoom choirs, online book clubs and virtual bedtime stories with grandchildren helped many stave off isolation.

But the study, among the first to comparatively assess social interactions across households and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, found many older people experienced a greater increase in loneliness and long-term mental health disorders as a result of the switch to online socialising than those who spent the pandemic on their own.

“We were surprised by the finding that an older person who had only virtual contact during lockdown experienced greater loneliness and negative mental health impacts than an older person who had no contact with other people at all,” said Dr Yang Hu of Lancaster University, who co-wrote the report, published on Monday in Frontiers in Sociology.

“We were expecting that a virtual contact was better than total isolation but that doesn’t seem to have been the case for older people,” he added.

The problem, said Hu, was that older people unfamiliar with technology found it stressful to learn how to use it. But even those who were familiar with technology often found the extensive use of the medium over lockdown so stressful that it was more damaging to their mental health than simply coping with isolation and loneliness.

“Extensive exposure to digital means of communication can also cause burnout. The results are very consistent,” said Hu, who collected data from 5,148 people aged 60 or over in the UK and 1,391 in the US – both before and during the pandemic.

“It’s not only loneliness that was made worse by virtual contact, but general mental health: these people were more depressed, more isolated and felt more unhappy as a direct result of their use of virtual contact,” he said.

The report, Covid-19, Inter-household Contact and Mental Wellbeing Among Older Adults in the US and the UK, analysed national data from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council-funded Understanding Society Covid-19 survey and the US Health and Retirement Study.

Hu said more emphasis needed to be placed on safe ways to have face-to-face contact in future emergencies. There must also, he added, be a drive to bolster the digital capacity of the older age groups.

“We need to have disaster preparedness,” he said. “We need to equip older people with the digital capacity to be able to use technology for the next time a disaster like this comes around.”

The findings outlined the limitations of a digital-only future and the promise of a digitally enhanced future in response to population ageing in the longer term, added Hu.

“Policymakers and practitioners need to take measures to pre-empt and mitigate the potential unintended implications of household-centred pandemic responses for mental wellbeing,” he said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, welcomed the report. “We know the virtual environment can exacerbate those feelings of not actually being there with loved ones in person,” she said.

“It’s essential therefore that government makes preventing and tackling loneliness a top policy priority, backed up with adequate funding.

“It’s not over the top to point out that in the worst cases, loneliness can kill in the sense that it undermines resilience to health threats of many kinds, as well as leading to older people in the twilight of their lives losing all hope, so they lack a reason to carry on.”

Patrick Vernon, associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, said he saw many examples of older people using technology to stay connected in “really positive ways”.

But he was also doubtful: “We know that even for those who are online, lack of skills and confidence can prevent people from using the internet in the ways that they’d like to.”

Previous research by the Centre for Ageing Better found that since the pandemic, there had been significant increases in the use of digital technology among those aged 50-70 years who were already online.

But there are still 3 million people across the UK who are offline, with a significant digital divide affecting low-income households. Twenty-seven per cent of people aged 50-70 with an annual household income under £25,000 were offline before the pandemic.

Vernon said: “Our research has found that some people who were offline found it difficult to connect with family, friends and neighbours during the pandemic – and even those who were online said technology didn’t compensate for missing out on physical social interactions.”

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For a true display of wealth, dab printer ink behind your ears instead of Chanel No. 5 • The Register

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Printer ink continues to rank as one of the most expensive liquids around with a litre of the home office essential costing the same as a very high-end bottle of bubbly or an oak-aged Cognac.

Consumer advocate Which? has found that ink bought from printer manufactures can be up to 286 per cent more expensive than third-party alternatives.

Dipping its nib in one inkwell before delicately wiping off the excess on some blotting paper, Which? found that a multipack of colour ink (cyan, magenta, yellow) for the WorkForce WF-7210DTW printer costs £75.49 from Epson.

“This works out at an astonishing £2,410 a litre – or £1,369 for a pint,” said Which?.

The consumer outfit also reported that since the Epson printer also requires a separate Epson black cartridge for £31.99, it takes the combined cost of replacement inks for the Workforce printer to a wallet-busting £107.98.

On the other hand, if people ditched the brand and opted for a full set of black and colour inks from a reputable third-party supplier, it would cost just £10.99 – less than a tenth of the price.

Printing has become essential for plenty of workers holed up at home during the pandemic. The survey by Which? of 10,000 consumers found 54 per cent use their printer at least once a week. Which? said it estimates an inkjet cartridge would need to be replaced three times a year.

The report discovered tactics used by the big vendors to promote the use of “approved”, “original”, and “guaranteed” ink supplies.

It found Epson devices, for example, flagging up a “non-genuine ink detected” message on its LCD screen when using a non-Epson cartridge, and HP printers are actively blocking customers from using non-HP supplies.

Adam French, a consumer rights champion at Which?, reckons this situation is simply unacceptable.

“Printer ink shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of high-end Champagne or Chanel No. 5,” said French. “We’ve found that there are lots of third-party products that are outperforming their branded counterparts at a fraction of the cost.”

In a rallying call to consumers he said that third-party ink should be a personal choice and not “dictated by the make of your printer.”

“Which? will continue to make consumers aware of the staggering cost differences between own-brand and third-party inks and give people the information they need to buy the best ink for their printer,” he said.

Which is exactly what the Consumers Association said almost 20 years ago when it reported that printer ink cost around £1,700 a litre. Then – as now – the Consumer Association advised consumers to steer clear of brand-name printer cartridges and pick cheaper alternatives instead.

The survey by Which? found that 16 third party brands beat the big brands in terms of ink prices.

Epson wasn’t the only printer biz to be singled out for sky-high ink prices. Canon, and HP were fingered too.

For its part, Epson said customers “should be offered choice… to meet their printing needs” and listed a number of options including its EcoTank systems and a monthly Ink Subscription service.

And in a nod to anyone looking to save money by using a third party, Epson said: “Finally, as non-genuine inks are not designed or tested by Epson we cannot guarantee that these inks will not damage the printer. Whilst Epson does not prevent the use of non-Epson inks, we believe that it is reasonable, indeed responsible, that a warning is displayed as any damage caused by the use of the inks may invalidate the warranty.”

As part of its investigation, Which? found that some HP printers use a system called “dynamic security” which recognises cartridges that use non-HP chips and stops them from working.

HP has tried to battle against third party ink makers trying to capture supplies sales by overhauling the model of its printer business: by shifting to ink tanks printers that come pre-loaded with supplies for an estimated timeframe; or by selling the printer hardware for more upfront and allowing biz customers or consumers to buy the supplies they want.

In response to Which?, HP said it “offers quality, sustainable and secure print supplies with a range of options for customers to choose from, including HP Instant Ink – a convenient printing subscription service with over 9 million users that can save UK customers up to 70 per cent on ink costs, with ink plans starting at £0.99 per month.”

Reg readers may remember the kerfuffle around HP’s Instant Ink. The free plan was reinstated, sort of. For existing customers.

Over at Canon, a spokesperson said third-party ink products can work with its printers, but the “technology inside is designed to function correctly with our genuine inks which are formulated specifically to work with Canon technology.”

“Customers are encouraged to use genuine inks to ensure the longevity of their printer, and also to ensure that their final prints are of a standard we deem Canon quality. In addition, the use of third party inks invalidates the warranty of the printer.”

With almost four in ten (39 per cent) people saying that they do not use third-party cartridges because of fears that they might not work with their printer, it might go some way to explain why more than half (56 per cent) of the consumers quizzed said they persist with using potentially pricey original-branded cartridges despite cheaper alternatives being available. ®

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Repligen to create 130 new jobs in Waterford site expansion

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The project adds to the 74 people already employed at the Artesyn Biosolutions facility acquired by Repligen in 2020.

Repligen Corporation is undertaking an expansion of its Waterford site which will see 130 new jobs created, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, has announced.

The life sciences company is building a new 3,000 sq m facility which will be a centre of excellence for single-use consumable products used in bioprocessing applications. The site currently hosts a 1,000 sq m facility employing 74 people, which was established by Ireland’s Artesyn Biosolutions before that company was acquired by Repligen last November.

Repligen Corporation is a multinational that produces bioprocessing products for use in the pharmaceutical manufacturing process. Headquartered in Massachusetts, the company has sites across the United States and in Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as here in Ireland.

According to the company, the new building will be certified silver on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system from the US Green Building Council. The consumable products manufactured there will be used in filtration and chromatography systems during the production of vaccines and other biopharmaceutical products.

Commenting on the announcement, Varadkar said: “This is excellent news from Repligen with the creation of 130 new jobs in Waterford. It comes on foot of a major jobs announcement by Bausch and Lomb. Waterford is on the move as a centre for jobs and investment.

“I wish the team the very best with their expansion plans.”

James Bylund, senior vice-president at Repligen, added: “We are thrilled to continue the collaboration with the Irish Government and the IDA that was initiated by the Artesyn team. This build-out is an important step in expanding our capacity and establishing dual manufacturing sites for key single-use consumable products used in manufacture of biological drugs.

“With its LEED Silver designation, the facility is closely aligned with our commitment to responsible growth and sustainability.”

Dr Jonathan Downey, managing director at the Waterford facility, said: “Having delivered beyond our commitment in 2019 to bring new jobs to the region through our development of high-end manufacturing capabilities, we are energised and excited about our integration with Repligen and this next phase of growth.

“In addition to our expansion of Artesyn products, and the transfer of manufacturing of certain of Repligen’s current products to our Irish operations, we expect to be utilising the Irish sites to advance additional research, development and innovation programs.”

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