Apple Launches USB-C Charge Cable Replacement Program for Retina MacBook

Apple today launched a worldwide replacement program for the USB-C charge cables that were shipped with the 12-inch Retina MacBook through June of 2015, as these cables can fail „due to a design issue.“

According to Apple, affected cables may cause the MacBook to not charge or to charge intermittently when it is connected to a power adapter. Cables with the issue can be identified by their labeling, which reads „Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.“ Redesigned cables have the same text, but also include a serial number.

Apple is providing new, redesigned USB-C charge cables to MacBook owners with faulty cables at no cost. In addition to cables that shipped with the MacBook, the replacement program also includes faulty cables that were sold as standalone accessories.

Customers who supplied a valid mailing address when registering their product or purchasing it through the Apple Online Store will receive their new cables automatically, while other eligible MacBook owners can contact Apple Support, find an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or visit an Apple retail store to get their cables replaced. Affected USB-C charge cables can be replaced under this program until June 8, 2018.

The Retina MacBook first went on sale in April of 2015, so the problematic cables were sold for approximately two months before a redesigned version was released.

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CES 2016: Satechi Type-C USB Hub Updated With Pass-Through Charging for Retina MacBook

Today at CES accessory manufacturer Satechi announced a newly updated Type-C Hub for Apple’s Retina MacBook lineup, which replaces one of the traditional USB 3.0 ports with a new USB-C alternative to allow users to charge the MacBook while using the dongle. Otherwise, the hub still includes an SD card slot and Micro SD card slot in addition to two USB 3.0 ports.

In terms of new products, the company announced the Type-C Card Reader, which will let users access SD and Micro SD cards at the same time using the USB-C dongle. As a cheaper alternative, the Card Reader is smaller than the hub and lacks the USB 3.0 ports of the bigger accessory.

Both products are available in space grey, silver, and gold colors to complement Apple’s chosen colorways on the 12-inch MacBook line. Satechi hasn’t given the Type-C Card Reader any specific launch date besides „early January,“ but confirmed the accessory will run for $19.99 in its press release, although the site mentions a $24.99 price point. Starting today, those interested can purchase the new Hub for $39.99 from the company’s site.

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CES 2016: Satechi Type-C USB Hub Updated With Pass-Through Charging for Retina MacBook

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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Smart Battery Case Teardown Reveals Battery is Difficult to Replace

iFixit has completed a Smart Battery Case teardown, providing a closer look at the case’s brushed aluminum inner shell, rechargeable lithium-ion battery and tiny logic board housing two Lightning connectors.

The inner aluminum plate serves as a door for the battery compartment, which houses a 1,877 mAh battery (7.13 Whr) that more than doubles the iPhone 6s battery capacity of 1,715 mAh. iFixit says the battery is „very strongly adhered in place“ with a connector rather than soldering.

Much of what makes Apple’s Smart Battery Case „smart“ is powered by the iPhone, as the case only has a few other components, including a NXP NX20P3 load switch, also found in Lightning to USB cables, and a NXP 1608A1 charging chip.

iFixit awarded the Smart Battery Case a repairability score of 2 out of 10, with ten being the easiest to repair. While the battery pack can technically be replaced, the case has a strong adhesive lining, and all other repairs would destroy the accessory.

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Smart Battery Case Teardown Reveals Battery is Difficult to Replace

Apple makes a splash with new waterproof iPhone patent

Apple today published an intriguing patent application with a unique method for waterproofing future devices — by covering ports, like those for USB or headphones, with self-healing seals. Described as an, “electronic device with hidden connector,” the invention describes how self-healing elastomeric material could seal each of the ports, which would then be opened by puncturing […]

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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 […]

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

Review: MiPow’s Power Tube 3000 Battery Pack is Compact and Cute, but App Needs Improvement

There are hundreds of external battery packs available for the iPhone, but only a small subset of those are given the Apple seal of approval and offered in Apple retail stores and the Apple online store. MiPow’s 3,000 mAh Smart Power Tube is one of the newest portable batteries Apple offers, with a lot of perks like built-in charging cables and an accompanying app.

Design and Features

MiPow’s Smart Power Tube is, as the name suggests, tube shaped. While it’s small enough to fit comfortably in a bag or a purse at just over four inches long and an inch thick, it’s an odd shape for a pocket and it isn’t as convenient to use while charging an iPhone like the flatter Mophie-style battery packs. It comes with a little matching carrying pouch so it can be dropped in a bag without worrying about scratches and scuffs.

The Smart Power Tube is available in black, white, gray, and a handful of bright candy colors: turquoise, green, and pink. A smooth, soft-touch material covers the outside of the Smart Power Tube and a metal band separates the body from the cap of the device. On the metal band there are three LEDs that display the power level and a button that activates the Tube when it’s plugged into an iPhone.

Underneath the cap, there’s a USB connector for charging the internal battery and a cleverly placed Lightning cable that connects the Power Tube to an iPhone and also holds the cap of the device in place. On the whole, the Smart Power Tube feels like a premium product with coordinated colors, clean lines, and quality materials.

While I like that the Smart Power Tube has built-in cables, the USB connector that’s included is limiting. I normally charge my external battery packs using a dedicated micro-USB cable on my desk, but with the MiPow Smart Power Tube, I need to plug it directly into my computer to charge or stick it in a USB power adapter. This may not matter to most users who will appreciate being able to plug the Power Tube right into a computer to charge.

Given the size of the Smart Power Tube and the short Lightning cable, it was awkward using my iPhone while it was charging with the battery pack. With the Mophie battery pack I regularly use, it can be positioned out of the way behind the phone, but that was difficult with the Smart Power Tube because of the cap connected to the cable.

With the cap in place, the Lightning cable built into the Smart Power Tube serves as a little handle for carrying it, which is a nice touch. It’s the perfect size to fit around a finger. Speaking of the cap, I should mention that it needs to be removed in a specific way. According to MiPow, it should be removed using an upward swipe with a thumb rather than pulled with the hand to prevent damage to the Lightning cable.

A thumb swipe where the Lightning cable is located pops the cap right off, whereas pulling from the top takes a lot more force, so I can see how the Lightning cable could accidentally be damaged from being opened the wrong way. I am concerned about the long term viability of the Power Tube given the potential for damage to the cable, but I gave it a good stress test (I yanked on it really hard several times) and the cable remained securely in place.

I tested the Power Tube with my iPhone 6s Plus. I drained the battery completely to the point where the iPhone turned off, and then plugged in a fully charged Smart Tube. I plugged my iPhone in at 6:30 p.m., and by 10:00 p.m., I had exhausted the Smart Tube’s battery. For an iPhone 6s Plus with a 2,750 mAh battery, the Smart Tube charged it to 77 percent. Repeated charging sessions offered similar results.

The Smart Power Tube is not going to charge an iPhone 6s Plus to full, but it is going to provide enough power for a full charge for the smaller capacity iPhone 6s, which has a 1,715 mAh battery. It’ll also provide enough power for earlier iPhones like the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s.

As for charging, I plugged it into my Retina MacBook Pro in at 9:30 a.m. and it reached a full charge at approximately 12:30 p.m., which is in line with the estimated four hour charging time that MiPow lists for the device. It does not offer passthrough charging, so it’s not possible to charge the MiPow and the iPhone at the same time through its Lightning cable.

App

The Smart Power Tube is able to connect to an iPhone via Bluetooth to allow iPhone users to monitor its power level via an accompanying MiPow JuiceSync2 app. While this seems like a cool idea on the surface, it felt like a gimmick to me.

The app displays the power levels of the iPhone and the Power Tube, along with details on how much standby, talk time, and Internet usage that power equates to. The design of the app is outdated and it can be difficult to interpret the information at a glance. iPhone battery level is at left, and Power Tube battery is at the right. At the top, there’s a number that is the combined battery level between the two.

MiPow’s app will send alerts when the Power Tube battery is low, when the iPhone gets too far away from the Power Tube, and when the Power Tube temperature gets too high. None of these features were useful to me during my time testing the device, nor was a dedicated feature that’s meant to allow users to find a lost Power Tube.

„Find Me“ turns on the LED lights of the device, but since there’s no sound, if it’s hidden away in a drawer or in a bright room, there’s no way to see the light. It has a radar that seems like it’s meant to determine distance, but it didn’t work for me, fluctuating between full bars and two bars even when right next to the Power Tube.

There were a few other app functions I wasn’t able to get working or that didn’t work well. A tracking feature is supposed to record the point at which an iPhone and the Power Tube lose connection, but I couldn’t get it to record my location, despite having location services and all alerts turned on. A „Ring Me“ feature is supposed to cause the iPhone to ring, but it didn’t. Interestingly enough, the button on the Power Tube did control the volume on my iPhone when connected via Bluetooth, allowing it to be used as a remote to snap photos.

Getting an alert when the iPhone is moved out of range from the Power Tube is the only semi-useful feature because it can remind users not to forget the Power Tube (or the iPhone, if the Power Tube is in a bag and the phone itself is left behind), but that feature alone didn’t seem worth the battery drain I experienced from the iPhone’s Bluetooth connection to the Smart Tube. It also didn’t seem to trigger reliably in my testing, waiting until I was far out of Bluetooth range before sending a notification.

For reference, the battery monitoring app that accompanies the Power Tube was responsible for approximately 12 percent of the overall battery drain of my phone over the last several days, and on par with background usage of social media apps like Twitter. I used the app with its full capabilities enabled for testing purposes, but disabling its ability to use location services may cut back on that battery usage.

The Smart Power Tube can be used entirely without the app, which would be my preferred use case. The three LEDs on the side display enough information about its battery level, and since it always takes the same time to charge and discharge its battery into an iPhone, there’s little need to get details on its power level in the app. I didn’t feel like connection features were worth the loss of battery life, but people who want a closer look at battery life or reminders not to forget their Power Tube might have a different opinion on the app.

Bottom Line

Since this is a 3,000 mAh battery, it’s best for iPhone 6s users and those with earlier iPhone models. It’s not going to charge an iPhone 6s Plus to full, and it doesn’t offer enough capacity to be suitable for an iPad. For an iPhone 6s Plus or iPad user, I’d recommend a significantly more powerful external battery pack.

At $49.95, the Smart Power Tube is priced on the higher side, but it comes in a cute, compact package and it has a built-in Lightning cable and USB connector for charging. It’s something a lot of people might pick up on a whim when visiting the Apple Store.

The included features aren’t going to be worth the extra money for most users when simple battery packs can be purchased for half the cost on Amazon, but some may appreciate the convenience, the design, and the accompanying app that gives a clear picture of the charge level.

Buyers should be aware of potential downsides to the Power Tube, including its odd shape that prevents the iPhone from being used comfortably while charging, the need to be careful with the Lightning cable, and the battery drain the Bluetooth connection and app cause.

Pros:

Cute design with fun colors

Portable

Integrated Lightning cable

Integrated USB connector

Button on Power Tube serves as iPhone camera shutter (via Bluetooth)

Cons:

3,000mAh battery is only suitable for smaller devices

Shape is somewhat awkward

Integrated USB connector limits recharging methods

App isn’t very useful

App drains battery

How to Buy

The MiPow Smart Power Tube can be purchased from the online Apple Store for $49.95.

Note: MacRumors received no compensation for this review.
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Review: MiPow’s Power Tube 3000 Battery Pack is Compact and Cute, but App Needs Improvement

Stylish, portable Pod keeps Apple Watch (and iPhone) ready to go

Lust List: Pod for Apple Watch by Nomad The tricky thing about the Apple Watch is keeping it charged when traveling. Sure, you can carry your super-long Apple Watch charging cable, but it’s kind of a tangled mess once you get to your destination, and you’ll need to bring along a wall plug, too. Nomad’s […]

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Stylish, portable Pod keeps Apple Watch (and iPhone) ready to go