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Apple Had a Record-Breaking $111 Billion Q1 2021

Apple has announced its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2021---and they're pretty jaw-droppingly impressive.

During the three-month holiday period, Apple brought in a massive $111.4 billion in revenue, representing a 21% increase year-over-year. This is the first time in Apple history that it has recorded more than $100 billion in revenue in a single quarter.

It was driven by strong sales performance across the board---most notably including massive sales of the ultra-popular iPhone 12 series.

Massive Growth for Every Product Category

iPhone revenue for the quarter stood at $65.60 billion, an increase of 17% year-over-year. Meanwhile, Mac revenue increased 21% to $8.68 billion, iPad revenue was up 41% to $8.44 billion, and Services (which includes the likes of Apple Music, the App Store, and others) soared 24% to $15.76 billion. Other products, such as the AirPods and Apple Watch, rose 29% year-over-year to hit $12.97 billion in the quarter.

As CNBC notes, in every instance Apple's product categories increased by double figures' growth. They also consistently outperformed Wall Street expectations.

"Our December quarter business performance was fueled by double-digit growth in each product category, which drove all-time revenue records in each of our geographic segments and an all-time high for our installed base of active devices," said Luca Maestri, Apple's CFO, in an Apple press release. "These results helped us generate record operating cash flow of $38.8 billion. We also returned over $30 billion to shareholders during the quarter as we maintain our target of reaching a net cash neutral position over time."

Related: iPhone 12 Pro More Popular Than Apple Anticipated, iPhone 12 Mini Less

Apple CEO Tim Cook said that:

"This quarter for Apple wouldn't have been possible without the tireless and innovative work of every Apple team member worldwide. We're gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season."

If you're confused about why a quarter running October through December is classed as Q1 2021, it's because Apple starts its financial year with this all-important holiday season.

Apple Is Thriving Right Now

There are multiple reasons for Apple's success during the quarter. The most obvious is a very strong line of new product offerings, including the first Apple Silicon M1 Macs and the first 5G iPhones.

However, it also seems likely that areas like the App Store benefited enormously from customers being stuck home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This, in turn, led to more spending on services than ever.

Apple's current market cap stands at around $2.4 trillion. It only passed the $1 trillion milestone back in August 2018---and has continued to climb rapidly ever since.

Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash CC

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Apple Invites Developers to Virtual Event to Talk Widgets

App widgets were a big part of Apple's strategy across Mac, iOS, and iPadOS when it introduced its latest major updates at the end of 2020.

Widgets refer to small apps which update in the background, and can be used to provide at-a-glance information about everything from weather to device usage statistics to to-do lists.

But while Apple went full-tilt with widgets as part of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS Big Sur, it wants developers to help in improving them further.

Building Great Widget Experiences

According to 9to5Mac, Apple has sent out invitations to Apple developers to join a special online event taking place February 1, 2021. Entitled "Building Great Widget Experiences," the invite-only event will allow iOS, iPadOS, and macOS app devs to join with Apple's engineers and designers to hear more about developing insanely great widgets.

As with all Apple events since last year's WWDC, Building Great Widget Experiences will take place entirely online, rather than by inviting a select group of developers to visit Apple’s campus, as might have happened in the past. This is as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Related: How to Customize Your iPhone Home Screen With Widgets and App Icons

The invitation to the event reads, in part:

"We'd like you to join us for Building Great Widget Experiences on Monday, February 1, 2021. This event will be conducted online. Useful and delightful, widgets let you elevate key content from your app and display it where users can see it at a glance on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. They can also help users personalize their home screens in unique ways. Join us for an in-depth look at building great widget experiences."

The invite, which was sent to those with an Apple Developer account, notes that there will be the opportunity for devs to ask questions as part of the event. This makes it sound similar to the Q&A sessions that Apple offers as part of WWDC each year.

Widgets Are Here to Stay

As 9to5Mac notes, Apple has organized events such as this previously. Two that took place in 2020 focused on the transition to Apple Silicon with the first M1 Macs, and building accessibility features into apps.

It's highly unlikely that Apple will reveal any of its future plans for widgets during the February event. Nonetheless, this does suggest that widgets are likely to remain a big focus of Apple's going forwards.

Having been a long-demanded addition to Apple software, it seems that the Cupertino company has most certainly listened---and now it wants to listen to its developers as well.

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watchOS 7.3 Brings New Watch Face, Time to Walk Feature, and More

Apple has released the latest update of its Apple Watch operating system, watchOS.

The new watchOS 7.3 boasts an added Unity watch face as part of Apple's celebration of Black History Month, plus the debut of the Time to Walk motivational fitness feature, the arrival of the ECG heart rate-reading tech in new countries, and a bug fix.

What You Can Expect From watchOS 7.3

The Unity watch face was released as part of Apple's celebration of Black History Month, which kicks off February 1. The Unity watch face is inspired by the colors of the Pan-African flag, a political and cultural movement that celebrates the common unified interests of people of African descent. Apple notes that the shapes of this Unity watch face "change throughout the day as you move" in order to create a "face that's unique to you."

WatchOS 7.3 also introduces the new Time to Walk feature for people subscribed to Apple's $9.99 per month (or available as part of the Apple One subscription bundle) Fitness+ service. Time to Walk is an audio-based service, essentially a collection of short podcasts, offering inspirational stories from famous figures to listen to as you walk.

Some of the names included among the Time to Walk speakers, each offering 30-minute stories, are singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton, Golden State Warriors NBA basketball player Draymond Green, and Orange is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba. You must be a subscriber to Apple Fitness+ in order to make use of this feature.

Related: iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 Launch With a Host of New Features

In addition, there's the rollout of the ECG app in new markets Japan, Mayotte, Philippines, and Thailand. The ECG app is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and beyond. It can help alert users of irregular heart rhythms, potentially---in extreme cases---with life-saving results. The feature was first shown off in 2018 with the debut of the Apple Watch Series 4. However, it has taken a while to roll out around the world---likely because it requires medical clearances, which can differ from market to market.

Finally, the watchOS 7.3 update adds a fix for an issue whereby Control Center and Notification Center can become unresponsive when Zoom is enabled.

A Slew of Apple Updates

WatchOS 7.3 isn't the only operating system update Apple released today. It also released iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4, in addition to HomePod Software Version 14.4. All of these are free updates, requiring only that you have the necessary hardware to run them.

You can download watchOS 7.3 using the Apple Watch app on iPhone. To do this, go to General > Software Update. In order to update, your Apple Watch will need to have at least 50 percent battery in order to update. It will additionally need to be in close proximity to your iPhone.

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watchOS 7.3 Brings New Watch Face, Time to Walk Feature, and More

Apple has released the latest update of its Apple Watch operating system, watchOS.

The new watchOS 7.3 boasts an added Unity watch face as part of Apple's celebration of Black History Month, plus the debut of the Time to Walk motivational fitness feature, the arrival of the ECG heart rate-reading tech in new countries, and a bug fix.

What You Can Expect From watchOS 7.3

The Unity watch face was released as part of Apple's celebration of Black History Month, which kicks off February 1. The Unity watch face is inspired by the colors of the Pan-African flag, a political and cultural movement that celebrates the common unified interests of people of African descent. Apple notes that the shapes of this Unity watch face "change throughout the day as you move" in order to create a "face that's unique to you."

WatchOS 7.3 also introduces the new Time to Walk feature for people subscribed to Apple's $9.99 per month (or available as part of the Apple One subscription bundle) Fitness+ service. Time to Walk is an audio-based service, essentially a collection of short podcasts, offering inspirational stories from famous figures to listen to as you walk.

Some of the names included among the Time to Walk speakers, each offering 30-minute stories, are singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton, Golden State Warriors NBA basketball player Draymond Green, and Orange is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba. You must be a subscriber to Apple Fitness+ in order to make use of this feature.

Related: iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 Launch With a Host of New Features

In addition, there's the rollout of the ECG app in new markets Japan, Mayotte, Philippines, and Thailand. The ECG app is available on Apple Watch Series 4 and beyond. It can help alert users of irregular heart rhythms, potentially---in extreme cases---with life-saving results. The feature was first shown off in 2018 with the debut of the Apple Watch Series 4. However, it has taken a while to roll out around the world---likely because it requires medical clearances, which can differ from market to market.

Finally, the watchOS 7.3 update adds a fix for an issue whereby Control Center and Notification Center can become unresponsive when Zoom is enabled.

A Slew of Apple Updates

WatchOS 7.3 isn't the only operating system update Apple released today. It also released iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4, in addition to HomePod Software Version 14.4. All of these are free updates, requiring only that you have the necessary hardware to run them.

You can download watchOS 7.3 using the Apple Watch app on iPhone. To do this, go to General > Software Update. In order to update, your Apple Watch will need to have at least 50 percent battery in order to update. It will additionally need to be in close proximity to your iPhone.

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Apple Fitness+ Time to Walk Feature Could Offer Motivation on the Go

Apple is reportedly gearing up to launch a new feature for Apple Fitness+ subscribers and Apple Watch owners, which seeks to make taking a walk a bit more inspirational.

Called Time to Walk, the feature---which was discovered in the watchOS 7.3 release beta---sounds like a cross between a podcast and one of Apple's guided Fitness+ workouts. News of the upcoming feature was shared by MacRumors.

Inspiring Stories As You Walk

Time to Walk supposedly includes inspiring 30-minute stories from the likes of singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton, Golden State Warriors NBA player Draymond Green, and Orange is the New Black actor Uzo Aduba.

The release notes for the beta version notes it as an, "audio experience in the Workout app where guests share inspiring stories as you walk." Like new podcast episodes, your Apple device can be set to download new episodes as they become available.

From the sound of things, Time to Walk will combine multiple Apple interests in one. Apple has been pushing more into podcasts recently, with a rumored premium podcast service in the works.

Then there's the obvious exercise angle, which is a market Apple has been increasingly focused on since launching the Apple Watch and, more recently, its subscription Apple Fitness+ service.

Fitness+ offers a variety of workout videos for everything from strength training to indoor cycling to yoga. It costs $9.99 per month, or is available as part of the Apple One bundle.

Bite-Sized Motivation

Could bite-sized motivation sessions be the next thing Apple's got planned for its subscription fitness service? It certainly appears that way.

At a time when many people, stuck home for the best part of the last year, are sorely lacking in motivation, this could be a big winner for Apple.

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Apple Says iPhone 12 and MagSafe Accessories Could Interfere With Pacemakers

Be extra careful with medical devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators, if you own an iPhone 12 and use MagSafe accessories, Apple warns.

In an addition to its support document for the latest iPhones, Apple says that the iPhone and MagSafe accessories, including the MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger, should be kept away from implantable medical devices so as not to cause any potential issues. The support document addition was first noted by MacRumors.

Interfering With Medical Devices

Apple writes that: "iPhone contains magnets as well as components and radios that emit electromagnetic fields. All MagSafe accessories (each sold separately) also contain magnets---and MagSafe Charger and MagSafe Duo Charger contain radios. These magnets and electromagnetic fields might interfere with medical devices."

Apple recommends keeping them more than six inches apart at all times, and more than 12 inches when wirelessly charging. It continues that:

"Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain sensors that respond to magnets and radios when in close contact. To avoid any potential interactions with these devices, keep your iPhone and MagSafe accessories a safe distance away from your device … [C]onsult with your physician and your device manufacturer for specific guidelines."

Related: The Next MacBook Air Will Be Thinner, Lighter, and Revive MagSafe

Apple does, however, suggest that, while the MagSafe-equipped iPhone 12 models do feature more magnets than previous iPhones, they are "not expected to pose a greater risk of magnetic interference to medical devices than prior [iPhones.]"

That makes it sound as if it's the devices like Apple's MagSafe chargers that are the main potential risk factor---although, as Apple suggests, it might be worth seeking out some expert advice from your physician and the manufacturer of any medical device you happen to use, just to be on the safe side.

MagSafe on the iPhone

Recently, an article in the publication Heart Rhythm Journal claimed that the iPhone 12 could "potentially inhibit lifesaving therapy in a patient" as a result of its magnets interfering with implantable medical devices like cardioverter defibrillators.

"Medical device manufacturers and implanting physicians should remain vigilant in making patients aware of this significant interaction of the iPhone 12 and other smart wearables with their cardiac implantable electronic devices," the publication observed.

The MagSafe system was introduced to the iPhone with last year's iPhone 12 series. (It was previously the branding for a neat magnetic charging system for MacBooks, which may be making a return.) The MagSafe iPhone system can be used for charging, as with the two chargers mentioned above. But it can also support non-charger accessories like card holders.

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Apple Watch Helped Police Find a Kidnapping Victim

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Thanks to features like its in-built ECG electrical heart sensor, the Apple Watch can likely take credit for saving a few people's lives during its time on the market. A recent, terrifying incident showed one other way the Apple Watch has helped out its owner, however---by enabling a kidnap victim to call for help while trapped in the bed of a truck.

According to Fox San Antonio, a woman used her Apple Watch to call for help, revealing that she had been kidnapped, and that she was in trouble. Police in Selma, Alabama, were then able to use an "emergency cellular ping" to track the victim, and discover her location in a vehicle in a parking lot.

Apple Watch Played a Key Role in Rescue

The incident took place December 16. The alleged kidnapper, Adalberto Longoria, fled the scene on foot on that occasion. But while Longoria escaped, he was later arrested January 20, and faces charges of Aggravated Kidnapping.

The report notes that: "The victim told police she and Longoria were fighting, and Longoria had refused to give up the vehicle. He told her to get her things out of the bed of the truck. When she went to do this, Longoria allegedly got in the driver's seat and drove away with her still in the bed of the truck. The victim told police he was allegedly drunk at the time."

Related: The Best watchOS Features to Try on Your Apple Watch

This isn't the first time Apple tech has been used to help track people in dangerous situations. For example, in 2016, the Find My iPhone app on the iPhone helped a mother track down her kidnapped daughter. According to Business Insider, she had allegedly been taken against her will by an ex boyfriend. He was arrested on kidnapping charges.

Apple Watch for the Win

The Apple Watch has also helped identify people in precarious scenarios. In 2017, a kiteboarding filmmaker from California was stranded off the California coast in shark-infested waters. Fortunately, the Daily Mail reports that he was able to use his Apple Watch to call the coastguard, and then direct the rescue boat to his location.

Using the Apple Watch in this way isn't one of the primary features Apple advertises when listing the big selling points of its breakout wearable device. However, based on incidents like these, maybe it should be.

While the police, the quick-thinking victim, and others clearly deserve the bulk of credit in incidents like the recent kidnapping, without the Apple Watch there's a chance things could have turned out very differently. Good work all involved---Apple's engineers very much included!

Image Credit: Simon Daoudi/Unsplash CC

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Future Siri Could Recognize How Far Away Your Voice Is

Since Siri made its debut in 2011 with the iPhone 4s, your iPhone---and, subsequently, other Apple devices---has been able to recognize what you're saying. But future devices, such as the HomePod smart speaker, may also be able to work out where you're saying it, too.

That's according to a new patent application, spotted by Apple Insider. It describes how Apple has been exploring technology that could enable its devices to estimate how far away a user is when they speak, and potentially act accordingly.

New Smart Interactions

The patent application is titled "Learning-Based Distance Estimation." It notes how being able to estimate the distance from a device to a user could lead to some pretty useful interactions. "For example, the device may adjust the playback volume or the response from a smart assistance device based on the estimated distance of the user from the device," it observes.

This could mean that a device, such as a HomePod, might vary the volume of music playback or its Siri smart assistant so as to be heard by the user if they are at a distance, while not blasting their eardrums if they're up close.

It could also be used to decide which device should respond to a particular query, in settings where several possible devices might answer a request.

Related: HomePod Review: The Most Apple Thing Ever

This is achieved by using deep learning artificial intelligence. As Apple writes in the patent application:

"The deep learning system may estimate the direct speech component that contains information about the direct signal propagation from the speech source to the microphone array and the reverberant speech signal that contains the reverberation effect and noise. The deep learning system may [then] extract signal characteristics of the direct signal component and the reverberant signal component and estimate the distance based on the extracted signal characteristics using the learned mapping."

Artificial Intelligence to the Rescue

It's another example of how Apple is using AI in more and more of its work. For a long time, Apple lagged behind other tech giants like Facebook and Google/Alphabet in this domain.

Over approximately the past half decade, Apple has sought to catch up in this important area. While people can convincingly argue that Siri still lags behind Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant in terms of overall smarts, that gap is closing all the time.

Innovative technology like the one described in this patent application shows that Apple is doing its best to use cutting edge AI to make tech that, to quote previous Apple marketing materials, "just works."

As a patent application, there's no guarantee that this ever makes it into an Apple product that ships, of course. Nonetheless, it gives an indication of one of the possible approaches Apple could usefully incorporate into future technology.

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Report: These Are the iPhones iOS 15 Won’t Run On

Having only had its general release back in September, iOS 14 still has a long time as Apple's current mobile operating system before it's replaced by iOS 15. But which mobile devices are going to be capable of running iOS 15 when it makes its debut later this year?

A new report from iPhoneSoft offers what it claims to be a comprehensive list. The TL;DR (too long; didn't read) version? That you can wave goodbye to the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and first-gen iPhone SE when it comes to supporting Apple's next mobile OS.

End of the Road for the A9 Processor

Along with the devices listed above, the report claims that iPadOS 15---the special iOS 15 version designed for the iPad---is unlikely to run on the iPad mini 4, iPad Air 2, and iPad 5.

All of these devices, the newest of which is the fifth-gen iPad 5 from 2017, use some version of either Apple's A8 or A9 processor. That suggests that any device that's capable of running iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 may need to boast an A10 or greater chip.

Related: Hidden iOS 14 Features You Won't Want to Miss

Apple's 64-bit A10 Fusion system-on-a-chip made its debut in September 2016 with the iPhone 7 series of devices. It’s also found in the sixth-gen iPad, seventh-gen iPad, and seventh-gen iPod touch. It was the first ever Apple-designed quad-core system-on-a-chip, and reportedly featured a 40% CPU boost, and 50% better graphics performance, over the Apple A9 chips.

We Won't Know for Sure Until WWDC

This won't be revealed for definite until, most likely, WWDC in June. Apple usually shows off the first version of its new operating system builds at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, along with revealing the requirements for running them.

While it's never great news to hear that your trusty old Apple device may no longer run the latest software, this does mean that Apple's able to offer new features and graphical updates without having to worry how older devices will cope with them.

Image Credit: Shiwa ID/Unsplash CC

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iPhone 12 Pro More Popular Than Apple Anticipated, iPhone 12 Mini Less

The iPhone 12 mini appears to be the biggest disappointment of the otherwise enormously successful iPhone 12 series. By contrast, demand for the iPhone 12 Pro seems to be stronger than even Apple imagined.

That's based on a new Morgan Stanley investment note, shared by PED30. According to the report, Apple has switched planned production of two million units of its smallest iPhone 12 handset over to the iPhone 12 Pro---meaning that it will produce two million fewer iPhone 12 minis and two million more iPhone 12 Pros in the first quarter of 2021 than originally forecast.

iPhone 12 Mini vs. iPhone 12 Pro

On paper, the iPhone 12 mini was a (and is) a strong handset. Almost unanimously praised in reviews, it offers a premium iPhone flagship experience in a dainty, diminutive form factor. Users get the latest all-screen OLED display, Face ID, A14 Bionic processor, and 5G connectivity, all packed into an iPhone the size of the company's older iPhones. At a starting price of $699, it's Apple's most affordable new iPhone model.

But it seems that it hasn't necessarily struck a chord with customers---at least, not to the extent of its larger siblings. This isn't the first time something similar has been reported. In a list of the top smartphone activations on Christmas Day in the United States, nine out of the top 10 models were all iPhones.

The only iPhone out of the iPhone 12 series not to make the cut was the iPhone 12 mini---which was beaten out by older handsets including the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, among others.

Related: iPhones Ruled Christmas Day Smartphone Activations

Meanwhile, the iPhone 12 Pro in some ways seems to be punching above its weight in terms of success. While undoubtedly a top-end phone, there's less to distinguish the "Pro" iPhone models from the regular ones this year.

The iPhone 12 Pro, which starts at $999, most notably offers superior photographic capabilities. Even then, however, it lacks some of the features (namely the larger image sensor for low-light images, sensor-shift stabilization tech, and better telephoto camera) of the even pricier iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Still, it seems that this handset has won over enough customers that Apple's now having to make changes to supply to keep up with demand.

Possible Impact on Future iPhones

Apple doesn't break out the individual unit sales of its different iPhone models for competitive reasons. All of this third party analysis should therefore be taken to be rumor to some extent. Nonetheless, the more reports that seem to confirm similar findings, the more faith you can put in the fact that they are likely to be accurate.

It will be interesting to see whether next year's iPhone line-up makes any changes to reflect these findings. Only nine months to wait to find out!