iPad Air 3 and iPhone 5se to Be Available on March 18 Following March 15 Introduction

Apple is planning to begin selling the upcoming iPad Air 3 and the 4-inch iPhone 5se starting on March 18, reports 9to5Mac. The two devices will be offered in stores and online starting on Friday following their introduction at an event to be held on Tuesday, March 15.

Apple is not expected to accept pre-orders for the two devices, and the short period between announcement and launch suggests Apple expects supplies of the iPad Air 3 and iPhone 5se to be plentiful. It is unusual for Apple to offer an iPhone directly after an announcement, but this is the first time the company has launched a standalone non-flagship device.

Launching the new iPhone and iPad models so soon after introduction and not offering pre-orders would be a new strategy for Apple. Apple typically releases new iPhone models one or two weeks following the introduction events and an online pre-order period.

Rumors have suggested the iPhone 5se will be similar in appearance to the iPhone 5s, but with the curved cover glass used in the iPhone 6s. It is also expected to include an upgraded A9 processor and an 8-megapixel camera similar to the camera used in the iPhone 6.

The iPad Air 3 is rumored to take on design elements from the iPad Pro, offering a four-speaker layout and a Smart Connector that would work with iPad Air accessories. Size wise, it is expected to be nearly identical to the iPad Air 2, and i may also include a rear-facing flash.

Apple’s March event is also expected to see the debut of new bands for the Apple Watch, including a Black Milanese Loop that was spotted on the Czech Republic Apple Store website in January. Software currently in testing, including iOS 9.3, watchOS 2.2, OS X 10.11.4, and tvOS 9.2 could be unveiled shortly after the event.

Related Roundups: iPad Air 3, iPhone 5se, iPhone 6c
Buyer’s Guide: iPad Air (Don’t Buy)
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Microsoft Offering Up to $250 Off Band 2 With Apple Watch Trade-In

A new program from Microsoft is encouraging Apple Watch users to switch over to the Microsoft Band 2 with a few tiers of trade-in initiatives (via Cult of Mac). The company is offering „as much as“ $150 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport, $200 for the stainless steel Apple Watch with a Sport band, and $250 for the Apple Watch with Milanese Loop.

The Microsoft Band 2 itself costs $250, so the Milanese Loop trade-in offer is the only one available that would fully pay off the price of the wearable band. Microsoft is also accepting other wearables for users to trade for a new Band 2, including a FitBit Flex ($10), Sony SmartWatch 3 ($25), and Pebble Time Steel ($25). For any successful trade-in, a device must abide by a few stipulations listed by Microsoft:

• Device’s housing and band are completely intact without cracks or missing parts.

• Device is completely functional, including:

-All keys work.

-Device powers on.

-Device screen is not cracked or broken.

-Device screen responds to touch

-No security codes or PIN codes are required to operate the device.

The program runs for a few more weeks, ending on February 7, and is available only to users on the Microsoft Online Store in the United States and Canada. Microsoft unveiled the Band 2 at an event back in October, and launched it the same month, introducing a new curved screen with durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and an improved touch display on the wearable smartwatch.

Response to the new generation of the Microsoft Band wasn’t entirely positive, so the company’s new trade-in program could be an attempt to generate some sales for the device in the months leading up to the Apple Watch 2’s rumored launch in April.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tags: Microsoft, Microsoft Band 2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Apple Watch Now Available From B&H Photo

B&H Photo is now offering several different models of the Apple Watch, both online and in its retail store located in New York. Like other third party retailers that sell the Apple Watch, B&H Photo is only offering select Apple Watch stainless steel and Apple Watch Sport models.

With the Apple Watch in retail stores like Target, Best Buy, and B&H Photo, we may soon start seeing small discounts on the device. Each of these sites offers several other Apple products and they often have sales and deals available. With Black Friday approaching, it’s possible there could be Apple Watch models available at lower prices.

The site is selling four different varieties of the stainless steel Apple Watch, offering the Black Stainless Steel model with a Black Sport Band in 38 and 42mm configurations and the Silver Stainless Steel model in 38 and 42mm configurations with a Product (RED) Sport Band, the Milanese Loop, and the White Sport Band.

Several varieties of the Apple Watch Sport are available, including Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold models with recent Apple Watch Sport Bands in colors like Midnight Blue, Antique White, Stone, Blue, and Lavender. B&H Photo is also selling Apple Watch charging cables and offering standalone Apple Watch bands.

Since August, Apple Watch availability has expanded to Best Buy, Target, and Sprint and T-Mobile locations.



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Nomad Review: The Pod is an Apple Watch Stand Made for Off-the-Grid Travel With its Built-In Battery

The Nomad Pod, with its built-in battery, is one of a small selection of Apple Watch stands able to offer functionality beyond simply holding the Apple Watch charger in a more accessible position. Priced at $60, the Pod is a compact, modern-looking Apple Watch stand that’s small enough to fit in a backpack or bag and able to keep the Apple Watch’s battery full when traveling away from the grid for a few days.

I’ve been testing the Pod for several weeks now to see how it stacks up against other Apple Watch docking options on the market, both as a travel companion and as a stand at home on my desk.

Setup and Design

The circular Pod is made up of two pieces: a plastic and aluminum base that holds the Apple Watch charger and cord in place, and an aluminum faceplate that snaps on over the base to hide the cord from view. The Pod is made from brushed aluminum in Silver or Space Gray that matches Apple’s MacBook, iPhone, and iPad lineups, and its minimal design will let it fit into almost any decor.

Size wise, the Pod fits into the palm of a hand and is quite similar to a hockey puck both in diameter and thickness. It can potentially fit in a generously sized pants pocket or a jacket pocket, but its thickness and round shape makes that less than comfortable. At one side, there’s a micro-USB port to charge the Pod itself, a button that activates the Pod’s charging function, and a 4-LED indicator for displaying battery life. It also ships with a Nomad-branded micro-USB cable.

The Pod’s setup instructions are overly simple, but setting up the Pod isn’t difficult. You can start by placing the Apple Watch charger in the cutout in the Pod, or by plugging the USB end into the Pod’s USB port. I recommend starting from the back, plugging the USB side in first. It’s a little tricky to get it lined up right, but it didn’t take me more than a few seconds to get it plugged in.

Once the USB side of the Apple Watch charging cable is in place, the next step is to wrap the cord around the outside of the Pod until there’s little enough cord left that the Apple Watch charger can be put in place through one of nine grooves. The Pod ships with a foam insert, which needs to be used with the stainless steel Apple Watch charger because it’s slightly thinner than the plastic charger the Apple Watch Sport ships with. That will make sure the Apple Watch charger sits flush with the Pod when the aluminum cover is in place.

With a 1m Apple Watch charger, winding up the cable around the base is no problem, but things are tricker with the longer 2m cord. With the longer cord, it needs to be wound very tightly or the aluminum cover won’t fit properly. For that reason, I’d recommend using this with a 1m Apple Watch charger. With either variety, 1m or 2m, setting up the Pod is a lot easier than the other battery-equipped Apple Watch dock I reviewed, the Boostcase Bloc. Since set up is relatively easy, it’s also not that much of a hassle to take the Apple Watch charger out when necessary.

Once the cord is wound up, the aluminum top piece of the Pod fits over the bottom part, hiding the cord from view for a neat, clean look. The cover snaps into place magnetically with two magnets, so it’s not going to come apart in a backpack, and at the bottom, there’s a rubber pad to hold it in place on a desk.

Due to the shape of the Pod, it’s only going to work well with open-loop bands like the Apple Watch Sport. It’s possible to use it with closed-loop bands like the Milanese Loop, but why spend the money on a stand that’s going to require it to be opened flat when there are so many others on the market? For most users, the hassle of having to fully open a closed-loop band to use with the Pod isn’t going to be worth it.

The Pod is not compatible with Nightstand Mode in iOS 9 because the Apple Watch needs to be flat to charge. That’s going to be a deal breaker for some users, but not everyone is going to want to use Nightstand Mode.

For charging, the Apple Watch sits atop the Pod, with the bottom lined up with the embedded Apple Watch charger. It’s simple to put the Apple Watch in the right position, and with the foam insert, my stainless steel Apple Watch had no problems charging on the Pod.

Battery Life

The Pod has an 1,800 mAh battery built in, which Nomad advertises as long enough to „get through a long weekend.“ That seemed about right in my testing. With the 38mm Apple Watch with a 205mAh battery, I got just over three full charges both times that I tested the Pod with a fully-charged Pod and an Apple Watch that had its battery drained.

The 42mm Apple Watch has a larger battery so the Pod may not give that device a full three charges, but most of us probably aren’t draining our Apple Watches entirely on a day-by-day basis.

With passthrough charging, both the Pod dock and the Apple Watch can be charged simultaneously using the aforementioned mini Nomad micro-USB dongle. The micro-USB dongle is somewhat useful when traveling to charge through a MacBook, but for home use, a longer micro-USB cable would have been preferable.

Without a longer micro-USB cable, there’s no way to charge the Pod while it’s placed on a desk or a nightstand. It needs to be removed from the desktop and charged via MacBook or a USB charger plugged into an outlet, a task that I found to be a hassle. I used a self-supplied micro-USB cable so it could sit on my desk and I unplugged it and moved it around as necessary for charging on the go.

The Pod’s wind-up design is nice because it hides the Apple Watch cable, but you’re still going to have to deal with a micro-USB cord or fuss with charging it through the included micro-USB dongle.

When charging an Apple Watch with the Pod when it isn’t plugged in, it’s important to make sure to press the button on the side of the Pod to activate it. Without the button press, it’s not going to charge the Apple Watch, something that I discovered after waking up to a dead device.

Bottom Line

The ultimate portable travel charger for the Apple Watch is the Apple Watch charging cable all on its own. It’s light, takes up little space, and when most of us travel, we have access to something to plug it into. That said, for someone who often goes camping or takes short trips where there is no access to power, the Nomad Pod’s built-in battery will keep the Apple Watch at full power.

For a lot of users, the Nomad Pod is not going to be a better solution than the Apple Watch charger paired with a higher-capacity standalone battery pack, because such a setup is a lot more versatile since it can be used to charge other devices. But for someone who wants portability, a built-in battery, and doesn’t want to hassle with a loose 1m or 2m cable, the Pod is a good solution.

Having the Apple Watch cord out of sight is a plus, but the Pod itself still needs to be charged, so you’re just exchanging one cable for another. The Pod’s micro-USB dongle is arguably less convenient to use than the Apple Watch cord plugged directly into a wall, but someone who likes the look of a cordless desktop might not mind charging the Pod every couple of days.

I would not recommend the Pod for Apple Watch owners who use it primarily with a closed-loop band like the Milanese Loop, because having to open up the band each night and close it again in the morning is an extra, unnecessary step when there are other stands and other portable charging options available. I would also not recommend it to anyone looking to use Apple’s Nightstand Mode, because it’s incompatible.

Pros:

Built-in battery
Clean, cordless look
Solid construction
Simple set up
Portable

Cons:

Micro-USB dongle is too short
Micro-USB dongle is easy to lose
No Nightstand Mode
Not easily compatible with closed-loop bands
1,800 mAh battery only works for 3 charges

How to Buy

The Pod can be purchased from the Nomad website for $59.95. It’s also available in Best Buy retail stores, but it’s better to buy from Nomad directly as the Pod is priced at $70 from Best Buy.



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Review: The Twelve South HiRise is an Ideal Stand for Apple Watch [iOS Blog]

Twelve South is an accessory company that’s known for its high-quality stands for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, so it’s no surprise that it was one of the first to announce a dock for the Apple Watch.

The Twelve South HiRise for Apple Watch follows in the footsteps of the company’s other HiRise docks, offering an Apple Watch storage and charging solution that’s attractive, well-designed, and suitable for use in a wide range of locations, from a desk in an office to a nightstand in a bedroom.

I’ve been using the HiRise for Apple Watch for over a week now, as have a few of my colleagues both at MacRumors and TouchArcade, and the universal consensus is that it’s a great stand, albeit with a premium price tag.

HiRise for Apple Watch is made from brushed metal and is available in black or silver to match the finishes of the Apple Watch Sport and standard Apple Watch. It also matches the company’s HiRise products for other devices, if you happen to own any of those.

There’s a circular cutout for the Apple Watch charger (you will need to supply your own) and a rectangular cutout for the band, allowing it to work with all Apple Watch bands, from the open Sport-style to the closed-loop Milanese. Cutouts are lined in soft silicone, so at no point does the Apple Watch come in contact with metal.

As I’ve learned first hand, the Apple Watch in stainless steel is extremely prone to scratching. When looking for a dock for the Apple Watch, it’s advisable to make sure all surfaces on the dock that touch the watch are covered with something that doesn’t have the potential to cause damage.

The HiRise’s base measures in at 3.9 inches by 4.76 inches, giving it enough surface area to sit on a desk or table without wobbling or shifting when an Apple Watch is placed on it. The bottom of the base is also coated in rubber for additional grip.

Twelve South ships the HiRise for Apple Watch in several pieces, so some assembly is required. There’s the base, the portion of the stand that holds the Apple Watch, and a cable cover, coated in leather. Twelve South calls the cable cover a „landing pad,“ with the leather in place to prevent the buckle of a band from being scratched should it come in contact with the base of the dock.

The stand fits into the base and is then held in place with the cable cover. Twelve South includes a screw in the package to secure the stand to the base, and while the instructions suggest this is optional, I’d recommend using it (even though installing it is a bit frustrating). Without the screw in place, the stand can be pushed backwards when a small amount of force is supplied, making the setup feel unstable. If you plan to travel with the dock, you may not want to use the screw, as it prevents it from being easily disassembled.

An Apple Watch charger fits into the circular cutout at the top of the HiRise, while the cord is routed down the back and under the cable cover, where it can then be plugged into the adapter for charging. The charger fits perfectly into the cutout and is held in place by the aforementioned silicone.

I never had an issue with the magnetic charging plate coming loose from the stand, but if it does get knocked out of place, it can be re-secured by pushing it back in. If you need to remove the Apple Watch Charging Cable from the HiRise, it takes only seconds to pop it out and release the cord.

Because of the cutout for the band, the Apple Watch can be placed on the HiRise with the band fastened or unfastened. Some bands, like the Milanese Loop, are closed-band designs, while others, like the Sport, are open designs. An open-band Apple Watch can charge with the band flat and open or with it closed, and in either orientation, the Apple Watch stays firmly in place.

Most of us probably don’t use our Apple Watches while they’re charging, but the HiRise puts the Apple Watch at a tilted angle that makes it easy to check the time during the night or snooze an alarm in the morning.

Bottom Line

Overall, I had no complaints about the Apple Watch HiRise from Twelve South. It does everything I’d expect an Apple Watch dock to do, which consists of looking nice on my desk, holding my watch and making it easy to place the watch on the charger.

It is a superior solution to a bare charging cable that requires the watch to be placed flat on a desk, as it keeps the Apple Watch elevated and out of harms way. It’s also quicker to stick the Apple Watch on the HiRise than it is to fiddle with picking up a cable and making sure it’s aligned properly.

No one who purchases the HiRise for Apple Watch is going to be disappointed with how it performs, but it is worth noting that $50 is a lot to pay for an accessory that does little more than give you an attractive place to put your watch.

Our previous Apple Watch stand reviews:

Mophie Watch Dock
Duet Two-in-One Apple Watch Stand

How to Buy

HiRise for Apple Watch can be purchased from the Twelve South website for $49.99.





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Mophie Watch Dock Review: Charge Your Apple Watch on a Simple $60 Aluminum and Leather Stand [iOS Blog]

Alongside the start of pre-orders for the Apple Watch last month, Mophie announced the Watch Dock, a $60 aluminum stand for the Apple Watch with leather accents and hideaway cable storage. It took a bit longer than the original estimate of April 24 for the Watch Dock to launch, but it’s now shipping out to the first batch of pre-order customers and Mophie has provided us with one for testing purposes.

The Watch Dock is very straightforward, with the box containing only the stand and a quick start guide illustrating how to route your existing Apple Watch charging cable through the stand. A circular cutout at the top of the stand holds the inductive charger, with the cable being fed through a rubber-enclosed channel along the inside of the stand’s arm, disappearing into the base and out the back.

The cable management system offers a clean look for the stand and the design makes it easy to mount an Apple Watch with either a looped or a traditional band for charging. The angled design of the stand makes it ideal for placement on a nightstand or desk where an occasional glance might be necessary.

Leather accent pads around the charger and at the base of the stand offer a unique look, with the upper one around the charger helping keep the watch from scratching against the aluminum of the stand. The leather pad on the base is interrupted by a rubber plug that allows the USB portion of the cable to be fed through the base. The plug detracts a bit from the overall look, but not terribly so, as it is close to the stand arm.

At under four ounces, Mophie’s Watch Dock is by no means heavy. The relatively broad stand base and the fairly light weight of the Apple Watch means it’s not prone to tipping, but the weight of a long charging cable can tend to pull on the stand a bit depending on how the cable is draped. The bottom of the Watch Stand is covered with smooth rubber to protect against scratches, but it won’t do much to hold the stand in place.

The Watch Dock measures just over 4.5 inches tall on its own, which matches the announced dimensions but looks shorter in reality than it did in marketing images. Some users had complained that the stand looked too tall based on the promotional images, but the stand actually seems just about right, with a loosened Milanese Loop band hanging down and resting only slightly on the base of the stand. Firmer bands such as the Sport Band will obviously be held higher on the stand.

At $60, the Mophie Watch Dock isn’t cheap, with other options such as Griffin’s WatchStand and ElevationLab’s NightStand coming in at around half the price. But the aluminum design and leather accents of the Watch Dock make for a nice combination that will appeal to some users. And it’s by no means the most expensive option on the market, with several notable wood stands coming in at up to $100 or even more.





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First Impressions of Apple Watch: Incredibly Comfortable, Unique and Easy Setup

While the first Apple Watch reviews published over two weeks ago, the devices are now making their way onto customers’ wrists, allowing us to see broader first impressions of Apple’s first new product since 2010’s iPad.

Image via MacRumors forum user SallyG
Several posters in our forums have pointed out an unboxing experience fairly unique to new Apple products as it appears that the traditional Apple stickers are not included with the packaging. Additionally, several posters have reported receiving emails notifying them that they can schedule an online Personal Setup where Apple will, through a video session, walk a user through setting up the Apple Watch and pairing it with their iPhone.

Another aspect of the Watch that users are noticing is how comfortable it is to wear. One user on Whirlpool pointed out that while he was originally going to use the sport band for exercise, he thinks its nice enough to wear regularly. One MacRumors reader told us that the Watch is indeed comfortable to wear with the build quality being „perfect“, but that he found the sports band slightly awkward to put on at first.

I have a 42mm Apple Watch Sports in Space Grey. Watch is incredibly comfy. However the [black sports band] feels backwards to me, the holes and the pin make it slightly awkward to do up. I’m sure I’ll get used to this. Setup was simple and intuitive, asked me if I wanted to transfer all my current apple watch apps across during the process.

Other bands that have seen favorable impressions include the Milanese Loop, which also has a post dedicated to its unboxing in the MacRumors forums. Other early impressions include users finding certain less advertised features of the Apple Watch, such as the „Ping“ feature that allows users to ping their iPhone from their Watch, to be very useful.

Finally, while most users are reporting easy setup and pairing processes, some are having difficulty pairing their iPhone and Apple Watch, with the Watch not displaying the needed pairing code (Update: Restarting appears to fix the problem). Others are noting that syncing a 1 GB music playlist is taking longer than desired.

For ongoing coverage of photos and first impressions, readers are welcome to follow our Apple Watch impressions threads in our Apple Watch forum.




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‘Click’ Aims to Introduce Apple Watch Band Adapter in Upcoming Crowdfunding Campaign

Ahead of the Apple Watch’s launch, accessory makers are already hoping to create solutions that will allow the device to be used with a wide array of existing watch bands. Click, for example, is an upcoming watchband adapter that will slide into the band slots of the Apple Watch, allowing the Apple Watch casing to be used with any existing 24mm watchband.

According to Click’s creators, the adapter is a spring bar that will attach to a watchband, which will then fit into the Apple Watch’s grooves, much like one of Apple’s own watch bands. It appears to use the pin that comes with an existing watchband rather than shipping with one of its own.

Click takes advantage of the sliding and locking mechanism on both sides of the watch to hold the adapter in place just like one of Apple’s watchbands. Click allows customers to truly personalize the Apple Watch to match their style and at a fraction of the cost of Apple’s Watchbands.

Click is currently in the prototype stage with only 3D printed versions of the adapter available to show off, but the team behind Click is planning to introduce it via a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in the next two weeks.

It’s possible, however, that Click will never make it out of the prototype phase and into the hands of consumers. Click is not the first Apple Watch watchband adapter as it claims to be, but the second. Earlier this year, a designer introduced a crowdfunding campaign for another strap adapter designed for the Apple Watch. The campaign was shut down shortly after it launched, presumably by Apple, in an effort to prevent people from circumventing the specific design aesthetic the company has in mind for the Apple Watch.

Apple’s distaste for adapters that will allow the Apple Watch to be used with any watch band is not surprising given the amount of work that went into developing the six custom bands for the Apple Watch: the Link Bracelet, the Sport Band, the Leather Loop, the Modern Buckle, the Classic Buckle, and the Milanese Loop. Jony Ive has called the Apple Watch „one of the most difficult projects“ he’s ever worked on, and in multiple interviews, he’s detailed the extensive amount of time that the company put into design of the Apple Watch.

It’s possible Apple will relax its stance on third-party Apple Watch bands and adapters in the future, and it’s even likely that the company will form partnerships or design guidelines for those wishing to create bands for the device, but at this early stage, Apple likely wants to keep a tight rein on the bands the watch is worn with given its position as the company’s first fashion accessory.




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