How to get the most out of Siri on your Apple TV

Use the power of your voice to watch TV. That’s not just something out of Star Trek, but the promise of Siri on the fourth-generation Apple TV. Beyond the basic commands to find your favorite TV show, you might not know how much Siri can actually do for you. But using Siri Apple TV voice […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


Original article – 

How to get the most out of Siri on your Apple TV

Pagaré Smartstrap Plans to Bring Contactless Payments to Pebble Time

Financial tech startup Fit Pay recently launched a new Kickstarter for its third-party Pebble Time „smartstrap“ called the Pagaré. The new accessory will bring NFC payment capabilities to the smartwatch, using the power of the Pebble’s smart accessory port, giving Pebble Time the same mobile wallet opportunities allowed to Apple Watch customers thanks to Apple Pay.

The Pagaré smartstrap will come in all of the same colors and finishes that Pebble creates for the Pebble Time, so that „you won’t have to sacrifice your style to receive the benefits of Pagaré,“ according to Fit Pay co-founder and CEO Mike Orlando. The strap runs on its own battery, so with a small USB connector on one end, users will be able to charge the Pagaré smartstrap and the Pebble Time simultaneously.

Fit Pay said that its new smartstrap will be able to be used „at over 9 million point of sale terminals worldwide,“ including places like GameStop, Panera Bread, and Whole Foods. Similar to the Apple Watch, when the Pagaré is removed from a user’s wrist it locks access to any of the payment features of the band. A four-digit passcode reactivates those features when the Pebble Time is reattached.

Pagaré has multiple layers of security to protect sensitive data. In addition to secure hardware, we leverage the same card network service as Apple Pay to replace your card number with a surrogate value called a token. This means we never need to store your credit card.

Notably, once the Pagaré app is installed on a user’s phone and credit cards are scanned in, the new accessory is „a completely phone-free solution.“ Users will be able to pay at compatible NFC terminals using Pagaré without having their smartphone nearby. The company is looking to the future, as well, with plans to introduce transit and entertainment ticket options into the Pagaré suite of tools if the Kickstarter gets funded.

As of writing, the campaign sits at just over a $26,000 funded level with a goal of $120,000 over the next 29 days. Users interested can get in on an early bird discount of the Pagaré for $49, and once those are gone the band will cost $69 at retail price. Higher early bird reward tiers bundle in the Pebble Time ($199), Pebble Time Steel ($249), and Pebble Time Round ($249) alongside a Pagaré smartstrap.

Tags: Pebble Time, Pagaré
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Pagaré Smartstrap Plans to Bring Contactless Payments to Pebble Time

Apple Developing iPhone With Extended Range Wireless Charging for as Soon as 2017

Apple is reportedly developing a wirelessly-charged iPhone for as soon as 2017, according to Bloomberg. The company is working with its partners in both the U.S. and Asia to create the technology.

Apple is exploring cutting-edge technologies that would allow iPhones and iPads to be powered from further away than the charging mats used with current smartphones, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details are private. The iPhone maker is looking to overcome technical barriers including loss of power over distance with a decision on implementing the technology still being assessed, they said.

Current wirelessly-charged devices require users to place their phones or other devices on charging mats. In September 2012, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said that the company wasn’t sure of how convenient wireless charging is as most wireless charging systems still have to be plugged into a wall.

In early January, it was reported that Apple was working on wireless charging for the iPhone 7. However, that report warned that the feature could be pulled from the iPhone 7 for a future iteration of the device as Apple is working on the technology currently.

Apple has held an interest in wireless charging since the first iPhone, gaining patents for wireless charging stations and wireless charging through a near field magnetic resonance, which wirelessly charges a device within a certain region. The Cupertino company has also shown an interest in WiTricity’s wireless charging technology, which uses „hidden charging“ technology that allows magnetic fields to wrap around barriers. This allows users to place their charging pads wherever they want.

Last November it was reported that the iPhone 7 would see the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack for an all-in-one Lightning connector that allows users to both power their device and plug in headphones. While the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack would mean that Apple would be able to make the iPhone thinner, it would not allow users to listen to headphones and charge their phone at the same time. A proprietary wireless charging solution from Apple in future iPhones with all-in-one Lightning connectors would likely allow for that.

Related Roundup: iPhone 6s
Tags: wireless charging, bloomberg.com
Buyer’s Guide: iPhone (Neutral)
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Apple Developing iPhone With Extended Range Wireless Charging for as Soon as 2017

How to Reset Apple’s Thunderbolt Display

Apple’s Thunderbolt Display, for myriad reasons, may not display an image from your Mac, recognize USB peripherals, connect to Ethernet, or power on whatsoever.

In many cases, the display is not broken. Before contacting Apple, follow these troubleshooting steps to see if you can reset your Thunderbolt Display.

Update OS X

As a preliminary measure, it is recommended that you update your Mac to the latest version of OS X.

  1. Click on the Apple logo in the top-left menu bar.
  2. Click on About This Mac in the dropdown menu.
  3. Click on the Software Update… button.
  4. Click on the Update button next to the latest OS X version in the Mac App Store.

Power Cycle for 30 Seconds

Shut down and disconnect both your Mac and Thunderbolt Display from AC power for at least 30 seconds.

  1. Disconnect the Thunderbolt Display’s MagSafe cable from your Mac.
  2. Disconnect the Thunderbolt Display from AC power by unplugging the cord.
  3. Disconnect all USB peripherals and any cables plugged into the Thunderbolt Display.
  4. Wait at least 30 seconds before powering on your Mac and Thunderbolt Display.

Reset Your Mac’s SMC

Intel-based Macs have a System Management Controller (SMC) that can be reset as a possible fix for Thunderbolt Display issues.

These instructions are for Mac notebooks with non-removable batteries.

  1. Shut down the Mac.
  2. Plug in a MagSafe or USB-C power adapter to a power source and to your computer.
  3. On the Mac’s built-in keyboard, press the left side Shift-Control-Option keys and the power button simultaneously.
  4. Release all the keys and the power button at the same time.
  5. Press the power button to turn on the Mac.

Apple provides steps for Macs with removable batteries, and the Mac Pro, iMac and Mac mini, on its support website.

On Macs with MagSafe power adapters, the cable’s LED might change states or temporarily turn off when you reset the SMC.

Reset Your Mac’s NVRAM or PRAM

NVRAM, short for „non-volatile random-access memory,“ stores certain settings even when your Intel-based Mac is turned off. On older Macs, it is known as PRAM.

  1. Shut down the Mac.
  2. Turn on the Mac.
  3. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys immediately after you hear the startup sound.
  4. Hold these keys until the Mac restarts and you hear the startup sound for a second time.
  5. Release the keys.

After resetting NVRAM, you may need to reconfigure the Mac’s settings for speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, and time zone information.

Use a Standalone Thunderbolt Cable

Try connecting a standalone Thunderbolt cable between your Mac and Thunderbolt Display. If this resolves the issue, then possibly your Thunderbolt Display’s dual MagSafe-Thunderbolt cable is damaged.

Contact Apple

If none of the troubleshooting methods worked above, it is recommended that you contact Apple Support by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE, scheduling a Genius Bar appointment or choosing another option. You may also consider visiting an Apple Authorized Service Provider if your Thunderbolt Display requires repair.

Tags: Thunderbolt Display, NVRAM, SMC
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Apple Seeds First watchOS 2.2 Beta to Developers

Apple today seeded the first version of an upcoming watchOS 2.2 update to developers, just over a month after releasing the first major update (watchOS 2.1) to watchOS 2, the operating system that runs on the Apple Watch.

The 2.2 beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on an iPhone running the iOS 9.3 beta by going to General –> Software update. To install the update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the Apple Watch charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone.

It is not yet clear what is included in watchOS 2.2, but it’s likely to include bug fixes and performance improvements for issues discovered since the release of watchOS 2.1. It may also include new features to enhance the performance of the Apple Watch.

The first major update to watchOS 2, watchOS 2.1, included a range of bug fixes to address problems with Calendar, Power Reserve mode, third-party apps, and more. It also included support for several new languages.

What’s new in watchOS 2.2:

Apple Watch – With watchOS 2.2 and iOS 9.3, the iPhone is able to pair with more than one Apple Watch. Both updates are required, with each watch running watchOS 2.2 and the iPhone running iOS 9.3.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 2
Tag: watchOS 2.2
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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Apple Seeds First watchOS 2.2 Beta to Developers

App Store Holiday Sales: Final Fantasy VII, Lara Croft GO, Notability and More

In time for the holiday season, a number of paid apps and games for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch have been discounted on the App Store this week, including Alto’s Adventure, Final Fantasy VII, Lara Croft GO, Launch Center Pro, PDF Expert 5, Scanner Pro, This War of Mine, Thomas Was Alone and more.

Apple’s annual iTunes Connect winter shutdown takes place between December 22 and December 29, during which time the following features are unavailable: new app submissions, app updates, in-app purchase submissions and TestFlight submissions for external testing. All other features, and access to iTunes Connect, remain available.

Apps on Sale

Agent A ($2.99 → 99¢)

Alto’s Adventure ($2.99 → 99¢)

Aqueduct 101 ($1.99 → Free)

Bastion ($4.99 → 99¢)

Blek ($2.99 → 99¢)

Broken Age ($4.99 → $2.99)

Civilization Revolution 2 ($9.99 → $4.99)

Clear ($4.99 → $1.99)

Day One ($4.99 → 99¢)

Deliveries ($4.99 → $2.99)

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition ($4.99 → $2.99)

Drafts 4 ($9.99 → $4.99)

DuckTales: Remastered ($9.99 → 99¢)

Fantastical 2 ($4.99 → $2.99)

FlightTrack 5 ($4.99 → 99¢)

FINAL FANTASY VI ($15.99 → $7.99)

FINAL FANTASY VII ($15.99 → $10.99)

Grim Fandango Remastered ($4.99 → $2.99)

Heroes of Might & Magic III ($9.99 → $4.99)

Hitman GO ($4.99 → 99¢)

Hitman: Sniper ($2.99 → 99¢)

I Am Bread ($4.99 → 99¢)

Infinity Blade III ($6.99 → 99¢)

Lara Croft GO ($4.99 → $1.99)

Launch Center Pro ($4.99 → $1.99)

Leo’s Fortune ($4.99 → 99¢)

Mines of Mars ($4.99 → $1.99)

NBA 2K16 ($7.99 → $3.99)

Notability ($5.99 → 99¢)

Oceanhorn ($8.99 → $4.99)

PDF Expert 5 ($9.99 → $4.99)

Power Hover ($3.99 → $1.99)

Procreate Pocket ($2.99 → 99¢)

Rogue Star ($4.99 → 99¢)

Scanner Pro ($2.99 → 99¢)

Ski Safari 2 ($1.99 → 99¢)

Splendor ($6.99 → 99¢)

Tetrobot and Co. ($2.99 → 99¢)

Tiny Guardians ($3.99 → 99¢)

This War of Mine ($14.99 → $4.99)

Thomas Was Alone ($4.99 → 99¢)

Transistor ($9.99 → $2.99)

Trick Shot ($1.99 → 99¢)

Wizards and Wagons ($4.99 → $1.99)

XCOM: Enemy Within ($9.99 → $4.99)

Xenowerk ($1.99 → 99¢)

There are dozens of other iOS apps discounted for the holidays beyond those listed above. Keep track on our sister website AppShopper.

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App Store Holiday Sales: Final Fantasy VII, Lara Croft GO, Notability and More

MacRumors Gift Guide by Eric: SteelSeries Nimbus Controller, Apple Watch Dock, BB-8, and More

Following in the footsteps of Juli, Joe, Mitchel, Marianne, and even MacRumors readers, I’m now adding my suggestions to the parade of holiday gift guides we’ve been publishing over the past week. Below you’ll find a varied list of accessories that I, Eric Slivka, use on a daily basis. and hopefully there’s something here for just about everyone with accessories for Macs, iOS devices, the Apple Watch, and the Apple TV all represented here.

SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller ($49.99)

SteelSeries has offered Apple-approved game controllers for some time now, but with the launch of the new Apple TV roughly six weeks ago, interest in such controllers is surging. Fortunately for Apple fans, the SteelSeries Nimbus is a solid option that notably relies on a Lightning port for charging, making it easy to use existing cables and even Apple’s iPhone dock to recharge the controller.

Apple has heavily featured the Nimbus alongside the Apple TV, and has equipped demo Apple TV units in its retail stores with the controller. The Nimbus is also included in a Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack for Apple TV.

Gaming on the Apple TV is still in its early days, but the benefits of a controller over the included Siri Remote are already clear, enabling more precise and varied controls in a package that feels more natural in the hands when gaming. Beyond Apple TV, the Nimbus can also pair with iOS devices, enabling controller functionality for a number of games including Real Racing 3, Oceanhorn, and several titles in the LEGO series.

Make sure to check out our full review of the SteelSeries Nimbus for more details on the controller.

Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock ($79.00)

I was skeptical of this one when it first leaked and even once it officially launched, but once I got it in my hands, I was hooked. Yes, it seems expensive, but keep in mind that it includes a 2-meter Lightning cable in the box, an accessory that Apple charges $29 for on its own.

Third-party Apple charging stands with the exception of the $130 combination Apple Watch and iPhone dock from Belkin do not include a charging cable of any sort, requiring users to supply their own Apple Watch charging cables at an additional cost unless they want to commit the sole cable that comes with the watch to that effort.

Unsurprisingly, Apple’s dock has a premium feel, with a soft top and a microfiber bottom to prevent scratching. The center charging puck can lay flat or be swung up into a vertical position to charge the Apple Watch on its side, and the mechanism feels smooth and solid. The vertical orientation makes it great for Nightstand mode and for closed-loop bands. And while the disc shape takes up a bit more room than some other Apple Watch stands and docks, it’s incredibly stable and with the charging puck folded flat the dock can be easily stored in a drawer or slipped into a bag.

The use of a Lightning cable for powering the dock is also a major advantage over third-party docks reliant on actual Apple Watch cables. I’ve got Lightning cables all over my house, so it’s easy to move this Apple Watch dock anywhere in the house as needed and just plug a Lightning cable into it.

Anker PowerPort 4 ($26.99)

Anker is an extremely popular accessory company due to its low prices, high-quality products, and good customer service, so their products are making several appearances in our gift guides. My choice is the PowerPort 4 USB wall charger, a compact charger that lets you charge up to four USB devices simultaneously from a single power outlet.

Introduced earlier this year, the PowerPort 4 includes a number of improvements over Anker’s previous 4-port charger, including foldable prongs that make it great for travel and an increase to 40 watts from the previous 36-watt design. With 40 watts of charging power available, you can charge up to three iPads or two iPads and two iPhones simultaneously at high speed. A status light on the adapter tells you whether it’s charging your connected devices at high speed (green) or normal speed (blue), making it easy to tell how much load you’ve got on the charger.

All of this comes in a package that’s not a whole lot bigger and just a few bucks more than Apple’s 12-watt iPad charger that only includes one USB port. With so many iOS devices, battery packs, and more sitting around my office and competing for outlet space with all of my other equipment, the PowerPort 4 is a must for keeping everything topped off.

BB-8 App-Enabled Droid ($149.95)

Sphero’s been involved with app-controlled toys for a few years now, but this holiday season sees the perfect tie-in to the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens debut in the form of a BB-8 droid. This one’s mostly going to appeal to kids (I’ve got two of my own who are in love with it) and it’s definitely expensive, but it’s a clever and fun toy for Star Wars fans if you’re looking to splurge.

At its heart, BB-8 is very much like a standard Sphero, a gyroscope-equipped ball controlled via app from a paired iOS device. Unlike normal Sphero balls, however, BB-8 has an extra magnetically attached head to match the droid from the film. The magnets allow BB-8’s head to stay upright (most of the time) even as its body is rolling around underneath.

Aside from simple steering controls on the app, BB-8 can also respond to voice controls and even go on „patrol mode“ by itself to explore its environment, keeping track of obstacles and sounding alerts for „enemies“ it encounters.

For more on BB-8, make sure to check out our full review.

elago L3 Stand for Notebooks ($32.99)

I’ve been using elago’s L3 Stand for a little over a year to elevate my Retina MacBook Pro a bit on my desk. It’s a simple aluminum design that gives just right amount of elevation to the rear of the machine, improving air flow to help keep things cool. That’s a plus when I’m driving one and sometimes two external monitors from it. My desk setup has my MacBook Pro sitting underneath a hutch, so I needed something that didn’t add too much height, and the L3 Stand fits the bill perfectly.

It’s a fairly cheap investment as stands go, looks nice, has scratch-resistant silicone pads to protect the bottom and front edge of my MacBook Pro, and includes a pair of cable management holes in the rear. It’s also available in silver, gray, and gold to match Apple’s various notebook finishes.

For those who want to raise their machines a little higher and have some room to slide papers, a keyboard, or other desk items out of the way underneath, elago offers an alternative design with the L4 Stand.

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 2 ($196.99)

Yes, Thunderbolt 3 is right around the corner, but there are plenty of people who already have Thunderbolt 2 machines and might be looking for something to help make it easy to manage their peripherals. Thunderbolt docks have been notoriously slow to surface, but CalDigit’s Thunderbolt Station 2 was one of the earlier ones out of the gate when it debuted early this year.

I’ve used a couple of different Thunderbolt docks, and CalDigit’s has been the best fit for my needs. It’s compact and sturdy, with good heft due to its ribbed metal enclosure that help dissipate heat. It can also be oriented either vertically or horizontally to fit various desk setups. The default orientation is vertical, with black cushioning covering the entire „bottom“ of the device when standing up. If you wish to use the dock horizontally, CalDigit includes a pair of white rubber strips that easily slip onto the case’s ridged casing for cushioning.

Most Thunderbolt docks come with a fairly standard set of ports of various types, and the Thunderbolt Station 2 covers those bases and then some, offering a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports to allow for passthrough to daisy-chain additional Thunderbolt devices, an HDMI port, dual eSATA 6G ports for speedy data connections, and three USB 3.0 ports. As is also true of most docks, the majority of the Thunderbolt Station 2’s ports are located on the back of the dock to keep cables out of the way, but the audio in/out ports and one USB port are located on the front for easy access. In addition to its easy accessibility, the front USB port also provides power even when the computer is turned off or disconnected, a convenient feature. The front of the dock looks clean with a brushed appearance, the three ports, a CalDigit logo, and a single blue light to show when the dock is connected to a computer. The light can be a bit bright if you have it on a desk in a bedroom for example, so those sensitive to light while sleeping may want to be mindful of the dock’s placement.

With many hard drive peripherals needing to be ejected before disconnection, CalDigit also provides a downloadable menu bar utility to make it easy to see connected devices and eject all of them at once prior to disconnecting the Thunderbolt dock from your machine.

The eSATA ports on the Thunderbolt Station 2 are a nice addition for power users, even if performance can be degraded under certain circumstances as they have to share the available bandwidth with other peripherals, but the ports will likely go unused by most consumers who have little need for the interface. Part of the compromise of including eSATA ports are the omission of extra USB ports or a Firewire port as seen on some competing docking stations, so that’s something to keep in mind.

The Thunderbolt Station 2 carries a list price of $200, which is quite competitive in the docking station market, although Belkin and Kanex docks can sometimes be found at lower prices. Unlike some competitors, CalDigit’s dock does not include a Thunderbolt cable, so if you don’t already have one you’ll need to pick one up separately. Fortunately, accessory vendors have slowly ramped up availability of Thunderbolt cables, so pricing has come down a bit on those over the past couple of years.

Kenu Airframe+ Smartphone Car Mount ($29.75)

I reviewed this one nearly a year and a half ago before the larger iPhones even came out, and it’s still my go-to solution for mounting my iPhone in the car. Available in black or white, the Airframe+ is a simple spring-loaded clamp that fits a variety of air vent sizes and styles, making it easy to put your phone wherever you need it. And its compact size means it’s easy to slip it into a pocket or a bag.

Kenu has also just released a new Dualtrip car charging solution with a pair of high-speed USB ports for charging multiple devices simultaneously. I haven’t used the Dualtrip yet, as I have an existing dual-port car charger that works well, but it looks like a nice option that even fits inside an Airframe+ for storage and transport, and Kenu sells the two accessories together in an Airframe+ Car Kit bundle for a discounted price of $39.99.

Stay tuned as MacRumors staff members continue sharing their favorite products in the form of these gift guides over the next few days, and be sure to weigh in our Reader Picks guide to voice your own opinion on the best accessories out there.

Tag: gift guide
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MacRumors Gift Guide by Eric: SteelSeries Nimbus Controller, Apple Watch Dock, BB-8, and More

MacRumors Gift Guide by Eric: SteelSeries Nimbus Controller, Apple Watch Dock, BB-8, and More

Following in the footsteps of Juli, Joe, Mitchel, Marianne, and even MacRumors readers, I’m now adding my suggestions to the parade of holiday gift guides we’ve been publishing over the past week. Below you’ll find a varied list of accessories that I, Eric Slivka, use on a daily basis. and hopefully there’s something here for just about everyone with accessories for Macs, iOS devices, the Apple Watch, and the Apple TV all represented here.

SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller ($49.99)

SteelSeries has offered Apple-approved game controllers for some time now, but with the launch of the new Apple TV roughly six weeks ago, interest in such controllers is surging. Fortunately for Apple fans, the SteelSeries Nimbus is a solid option that notably relies on a Lightning port for charging, making it easy to use existing cables and even Apple’s iPhone dock to recharge the controller.

Apple has heavily featured the Nimbus alongside the Apple TV, and has equipped demo Apple TV units in its retail stores with the controller. The Nimbus is also included in a Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack for Apple TV.

Gaming on the Apple TV is still in its early days, but the benefits of a controller over the included Siri Remote are already clear, enabling more precise and varied controls in a package that feels more natural in the hands when gaming. Beyond Apple TV, the Nimbus can also pair with iOS devices, enabling controller functionality for a number of games including Real Racing 3, Oceanhorn, and several titles in the LEGO series.

Make sure to check out our full review of the SteelSeries Nimbus for more details on the controller.

Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Dock ($79.00)

I was skeptical of this one when it first leaked and even once it officially launched, but once I got it in my hands, I was hooked. Yes, it seems expensive, but keep in mind that it includes a 2-meter Lightning cable in the box, an accessory that Apple charges $29 for on its own.

Third-party Apple charging stands with the exception of the $130 combination Apple Watch and iPhone dock from Belkin do not include a charging cable of any sort, requiring users to supply their own Apple Watch charging cables at an additional cost unless they want to commit the sole cable that comes with the watch to that effort.

Unsurprisingly, Apple’s dock has a premium feel, with a soft top and a microfiber bottom to prevent scratching. The center charging puck can lay flat or be swung up into a vertical position to charge the Apple Watch on its side, and the mechanism feels smooth and solid. The vertical orientation makes it great for Nightstand mode and for closed-loop bands. And while the disc shape takes up a bit more room than some other Apple Watch stands and docks, it’s incredibly stable and with the charging puck folded flat the dock can be easily stored in a drawer or slipped into a bag.

The use of a Lightning cable for powering the dock is also a major advantage over third-party docks reliant on actual Apple Watch cables. I’ve got Lightning cables all over my house, so it’s easy to move this Apple Watch dock anywhere in the house as needed and just plug a Lightning cable into it.

Anker PowerPort 4 ($26.99)

Anker is an extremely popular accessory company due to its low prices, high-quality products, and good customer service, so their products are making several appearances in our gift guides. My choice is the PowerPort 4 USB wall charger, a compact charger that lets you charge up to four USB devices simultaneously from a single power outlet.

Introduced earlier this year, the PowerPort 4 includes a number of improvements over Anker’s previous 4-port charger, including foldable prongs that make it great for travel and an increase to 40 watts from the previous 36-watt design. With 40 watts of charging power available, you can charge up to three iPads or two iPads and two iPhones simultaneously at high speed. A status light on the adapter tells you whether it’s charging your connected devices at high speed (green) or normal speed (blue), making it easy to tell how much load you’ve got on the charger.

All of this comes in a package that’s not a whole lot bigger and just a few bucks more than Apple’s 12-watt iPad charger that only includes one USB port. With so many iOS devices, battery packs, and more sitting around my office and competing for outlet space with all of my other equipment, the PowerPort 4 is a must for keeping everything topped off.

BB-8 App-Enabled Droid ($149.95)

Sphero’s been involved with app-controlled toys for a few years now, but this holiday season sees the perfect tie-in to the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens debut in the form of a BB-8 droid. This one’s mostly going to appeal to kids (I’ve got two of my own who are in love with it) and it’s definitely expensive, but it’s a clever and fun toy for Star Wars fans if you’re looking to splurge.

At its heart, BB-8 is very much like a standard Sphero, a gyroscope-equipped ball controlled via app from a paired iOS device. Unlike normal Sphero balls, however, BB-8 has an extra magnetically attached head to match the droid from the film. The magnets allow BB-8’s head to stay upright (most of the time) even as its body is rolling around underneath.

Aside from simple steering controls on the app, BB-8 can also respond to voice controls and even go on „patrol mode“ by itself to explore its environment, keeping track of obstacles and sounding alerts for „enemies“ it encounters.

For more on BB-8, make sure to check out our full review.

elago L3 Stand for Notebooks ($32.99)

I’ve been using elago’s L3 Stand for a little over a year to elevate my Retina MacBook Pro a bit on my desk. It’s a simple aluminum design that gives just right amount of elevation to the rear of the machine, improving air flow to help keep things cool. That’s a plus when I’m driving one and sometimes two external monitors from it. My desk setup has my MacBook Pro sitting underneath a hutch, so I needed something that didn’t add too much height, and the L3 Stand fits the bill perfectly.

It’s a fairly cheap investment as stands go, looks nice, has scratch-resistant silicone pads to protect the bottom and front edge of my MacBook Pro, and includes a pair of cable management holes in the rear. It’s also available in silver, gray, and gold to match Apple’s various notebook finishes.

For those who want to raise their machines a little higher and have some room to slide papers, a keyboard, or other desk items out of the way underneath, elago offers an alternative design with the L4 Stand.

CalDigit Thunderbolt Station 2 ($196.99)

Yes, Thunderbolt 3 is right around the corner, but there are plenty of people who already have Thunderbolt 2 machines and might be looking for something to help make it easy to manage their peripherals. Thunderbolt docks have been notoriously slow to surface, but CalDigit’s Thunderbolt Station 2 was one of the earlier ones out of the gate when it debuted early this year.

I’ve used a couple of different Thunderbolt docks, and CalDigit’s has been the best fit for my needs. It’s compact and sturdy, with good heft due to its ribbed metal enclosure that help dissipate heat. It can also be oriented either vertically or horizontally to fit various desk setups. The default orientation is vertical, with black cushioning covering the entire „bottom“ of the device when standing up. If you wish to use the dock horizontally, CalDigit includes a pair of white rubber strips that easily slip onto the case’s ridged casing for cushioning.

Most Thunderbolt docks come with a fairly standard set of ports of various types, and the Thunderbolt Station 2 covers those bases and then some, offering a pair of Thunderbolt 2 ports to allow for passthrough to daisy-chain additional Thunderbolt devices, an HDMI port, dual eSATA 6G ports for speedy data connections, and three USB 3.0 ports. As is also true of most docks, the majority of the Thunderbolt Station 2’s ports are located on the back of the dock to keep cables out of the way, but the audio in/out ports and one USB port are located on the front for easy access. In addition to its easy accessibility, the front USB port also provides power even when the computer is turned off or disconnected, a convenient feature. The front of the dock looks clean with a brushed appearance, the three ports, a CalDigit logo, and a single blue light to show when the dock is connected to a computer. The light can be a bit bright if you have it on a desk in a bedroom for example, so those sensitive to light while sleeping may want to be mindful of the dock’s placement.

With many hard drive peripherals needing to be ejected before disconnection, CalDigit also provides a downloadable menu bar utility to make it easy to see connected devices and eject all of them at once prior to disconnecting the Thunderbolt dock from your machine.

The eSATA ports on the Thunderbolt Station 2 are a nice addition for power users, even if performance can be degraded under certain circumstances as they have to share the available bandwidth with other peripherals, but the ports will likely go unused by most consumers who have little need for the interface. Part of the compromise of including eSATA ports are the omission of extra USB ports or a Firewire port as seen on some competing docking stations, so that’s something to keep in mind.

The Thunderbolt Station 2 carries a list price of $200, which is quite competitive in the docking station market, although Belkin and Kanex docks can sometimes be found at lower prices. Unlike some competitors, CalDigit’s dock does not include a Thunderbolt cable, so if you don’t already have one you’ll need to pick one up separately. Fortunately, accessory vendors have slowly ramped up availability of Thunderbolt cables, so pricing has come down a bit on those over the past couple of years.

Kenu Airframe+ Smartphone Car Mount ($29.75)

I reviewed this one nearly a year and a half ago before the larger iPhones even came out, and it’s still my go-to solution for mounting my iPhone in the car. Available in black or white, the Airframe+ is a simple spring-loaded clamp that fits a variety of air vent sizes and styles, making it easy to put your phone wherever you need it. And its compact size means it’s easy to slip it into a pocket or a bag.

Kenu has also just released a new Dualtrip car charging solution with a pair of high-speed USB ports for charging multiple devices simultaneously. I haven’t used the Dualtrip yet, as I have an existing dual-port car charger that works well, but it looks like a nice option that even fits inside an Airframe+ for storage and transport, and Kenu sells the two accessories together in an Airframe+ Car Kit bundle for a discounted price of $39.99.

Stay tuned as MacRumors staff members continue sharing their favorite products in the form of these gift guides over the next few days, and be sure to weigh in our Reader Picks guide to voice your own opinion on the best accessories out there.

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MacRumors Gift Guide by Eric: SteelSeries Nimbus Controller, Apple Watch Dock, BB-8, and More

Want USB on your iPhone? There’s an adapter for that

Apple’s Lightning to USB connector has ostensibly been about connecting your iPad to a camera to import images directly to your iPad. Now, with iOS 9.2, it looks like the same adapter can be used on your iPhone to get photos onto your smaller-screened device. There’s even some evidence that the Lightning to USB adapter […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)


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Want USB on your iPhone? There’s an adapter for that