Top Stories: AirPods Pro Firmware Changes, Mystery MacBook Filing, 5G iPad Pro?

It was a busy week of rumors as we hit the middle of January, with reports about updates to Face ID in the iPhone 12 lineup later this year, signs of a new Mac notebook coming soon, and word that Apple is working on an iPad Pro with 5G support.

Other big news this week included an analysis of changes to audio performance made in an AirPods Pro firmware update late last month.

New AirPods Pro Firmware: Worse Noise Canceling, Improved Frequency Response and Bass Accuracy


Last month, Apple released a new firmware update for the AirPods Pro bumping the version number from 2B588 to 2C54. After the update, there were several anecdotal reports that the AirPods Pro noise cancelation may have been adversely affected.


Impacted users asked tech review site RTINGS.com to reevaluate its previous testing of the AirPods Pro with the new firmware to confirm if there are any changes, and the website did find a fairly significant drop in isolation performance.

The news is not all bad, however. In other areas of testing, the 2C54 firmware appears to improve performance in frequency response and bass accuracy. Nevertheless, Apple pulled the new version only days after its release, so it is presumably working on the issues described.

iPhone 12 Models Said to Have 'Refreshed' Face ID System, Lightning Connector Could Be Dropped in 2021


iPhone 12 models will feature a "refreshed" front-facing TrueDepth system, according to Barclays analysts, hinting at Face ID improvements.


The biggest change of all could come next year, as the analysts see potential for Apple to remove the Lightning connector from at least one iPhone model in 2021, echoing a prediction shared by Ming-Chi Kuo last month. This could result in EarPods being removed from the box, they said.

Earlier this month, Kuo said four 5G-enabled iPhones are on track to launch simultaneously in the fall, including models with sub-6GHz-only and sub-6GHz-plus-mmWave compatibility.

Apple Files Unreleased Mac in Database, Possibly 13-Inch MacBook Pro With Scissor Keyboard


Apple this week filed an unreleased Mac with a model identifier of A2289 in the Eurasian Economic Commission database, as spotted by MacRumors. The computer is described as a portable Mac running macOS Catalina.


As pure speculation, it is certainly possible that this listing could correspond with the rumored 13-inch MacBook Pro with a scissor keyboard, following in the footsteps of the 16-inch MacBook Pro last October. There is some hope that the 13-inch model will become a 14-inch model, but that remains uncertain.

Eurasian Economic Commission filings like these have foreshadowed the release of new Apple products on numerous occasions. They are legally required for any encrypted devices sold in Russia and a few other countries.

Evidence of a "Pro Mode" that boosts performance and overrides fan speed limits has also been discovered in the macOS Catalina 10.15.3 beta.

Apple Rumored to Be Developing 5G iPad Pro With mmWave Support


A pair of supply chain reports this week claim Apple is developing 5G-enabled iPads with mmWave support for release as early as fall 2020.


With an iPad Pro refresh already rumored for March 2020, timing is the biggest question mark. Major new features often come to the iPhone before the iPad, but a notable exception was the third-generation iPad receiving LTE support in March 2012, prior to the iPhone 5 in September 2012.

mmWave or millimeter wave is a set of 5G frequencies that promise ultra-fast speeds at short distances, making it best suited for dense urban areas. By comparison, sub-6GHz 5G is generally slower than mmWave, but the signals travel further, better serving suburban and rural areas.

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Mac Catalyst App ‘Asphalt 9: Legends’ Now Available

Asphalt 9: Legends, a game that was ported to the Mac using Apple's Mac Catalyst tools, is now available for download from the Mac App Store.

The app was one of the titles that Apple promoted when macOS Catalina and Mac Catalyst technology were introduced at WWDC in June, but the app did not launch as expected when ‌macOS Catalina‌ became available.


At the time, Gameloft said that Asphalt 9: Legends had been slightly delayed in order to polish the experience, and after a wait of several months, the game has now launched.

Because this is a Mac Catalyst app, players who already have Asphalt 9: Legends on iPad or iPhone can pick up their game on the Mac and swap between devices when playing thanks to cross-platform saves.

The game supports Sign in with Apple for account creation (required to transfer between devices) and the content is the same as the content in Asphalt 9: Legends for iOS devices.

According to Gameloft, Asphalt 9: Legends will have content parity across devices going forward, so the Mac and iOS apps will be updated simultaneously.

Asphalt 9: Legends can be downloaded from the ‌Mac App Store‌ for free, though there are in-app purchases. [Direct Link]


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Apple Opening New Office in Munich, Germany

Apple is expanding its presence in Germany with plans to open a new office building in Munich, Germany, according to German news site Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Located in the "Karl" office building of the former Mahag site on Karlstrasse, the new office space is expected to house around 1,500 employees when it is completed in 2021.

A rendering of the Karl office building, designed by British architect David Chipperfield

Apple has rented the entire 30,000 square meter location, though declined to respond to questions about the upcoming office space.

Apple already operates the Bavarian Design Center in Munich, Germany, with 300 engineers that work on silicon chips and other technologies for Apple devices.


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Apple and Apple Employees Donated $100 Million to Various Charitable Causes in 2019

In a news story about an Apple employee who has started a barbershop for at-risk youth, Apple today said that between its own donations and employee donations, it donated more than $100 million to charitable causes in 2019.

Apple says that 21,000 Apple employees donated their time and donated $42 million to causes they care about. Combined with Apple's 1-for-1 donation match and $25 match per volunteer hour, the total amount donated climbed to over $100 million.


Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson said the company has a mission to "change the world for the better, and give back to the communities in which we live and work."
"Apple employees like Jaz embody this culture of giving every day, volunteering over a quarter of a million hours last year. We share a deep commitment to our local communities and doing what we can to cause more good."
Much of Apple's story focuses on Jaz Limos, an Apple Park Visitor Center manager in Cupertino who launched Saints of Steel, a nonprofit pop-up barber shop for at-risk youth and people looking for employment and housing.

Saints of Steel was largely funded by Apple. 80 percent of the donations for the first year came from Benevity, a corporate giving program used by Apple, and 74 percent of that donation was made by Apple.
In its first year, the organization was almost fully funded by volunteers and donations from Apple. "Our board, when we first started, was primarily made up of Apple employees who just jumped in and rolled up their sleeves," Limos says. "We saw the power of Benevity and the company match program, because it funded the majority of our ability to run this program."
More info on Saints of Steel and Apple's donations can be found in the full Apple Newsroom article on the topic.


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FBI Successfully Unlocks iPhone 11 Pro in Ohio, Casting Doubt on Claims it Needs Apple’s Help in Florida Mass Shooter Case

New questions have been raised about the FBI's latest request that Apple break its iPhone encryption, after Forbes uncovered a search warrant strongly indicating that federal agents already have tools that can access data on Apple's latest ‌iPhone‌ models.


The report says that FBI investigators in Ohio recently used the GrayKey hardware box to unlock an iPhone 11 Pro Max. The ‌iPhone‌ belonged to Baris Ali Koch, who was accused of helping his convicted brother flee the country by providing him with his own ID documents and lying to the police. He has now entered a plea agreement and is awaiting sentencing.

Koch's lawyer confirmed to Forbes that the ‌iPhone‌ was locked with a passcode when it got in the hands of the FBI and that the code was never revealed to law enforcement, nor was the defendant forced to use his face to unlock the phone via Face ID.

Created by a company named Grayshift, GrayKey is a portable gray box that has previously been used by law enforcement to crack the passcode on iPhones. Complete details on how the latest GrayKey works are not known, although Apple continually works to fix the kinds of exploits used by such devices.

Ohio FBI search warrant

Forbes has previously revealed a GrayKey brochure that showed it worked on older devices, and the two iPhones acquired by the FBI in the most recent Pensacola case are an ‌iPhone‌ 5 and an ‌iPhone‌ 7, which strongly suggests that investigators are already capable of unlocking them.

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have also weighed in on the latest ‌iPhone‌ encryption stalemate between Apple and the FBI, with both urging the tech giant to assist in unlocking the iPhones used by the Pensacola shooter.

Justice department officials claim to need access to the iPhones to see messages from encrypted apps like Signal or WhatsApp to find out if the shooter discussed his plans or had help. Apple says it has already provided law enforcement officials with information from Alshamrani's iCloud account, which amounts to all the data in its possession.

Statements by Apple suggest it is gearing up for a battle similar to the one it faced in 2016 in the San Bernardino shooter case, indicating the company has no plans to create a backdoor in its software, regardless of the U.S. government's motives. Apple has previously said that doing so would create "new and dangerous weaknesses" and that weakening security "makes no sense."

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.


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New Classicbot Plush Lets You Snuggle a Classic Mac

Designer Philip Lee, who makes a range of "Classicbot" toys based on classic Mac designs, this week unveiled a new huggable 12-inch Classicbot Plush.


The Classicbot Plush, priced at $67, is based on Apple's Macintosh Classic, which was sold in the early 90s. While expensive, the Classicbot Plush is highly detailed and has a few notable features worth pointing out.


All of the Classic Macintosh details are carefully embroidered, and the plush features articulated arms that can be put into different positions. The fabric the Classicbot Plush is made from has been chosen because it's "very soft" to the touch.


Along with articulated arms, the Classicbot Plush features interchangeable facial expressions thanks to velcro-backed pixel pieces that can be arranged in a multitude of ways.


The Classicbot Plush can be pre-ordered from the Classicbot website as of today, with orders set to ship out at the end of April 2019.


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CloudApp for Mac Expands to iPhone With New App

CloudApp, a Mac app designed for visual collaboration and content sharing, today launched a new iOS app that expands CloudApp's capabilities to the iPhone and the iPad. The app has been in testing with a soft launch since December, but is now being officially announced.

CloudApp for iOS mirrors what CloudApp for Mac is able to do, allowing customers to upload images, videos, and files from an ‌iPhone‌ or download CloudApp "drops" that include screenshots, videos, screen recordings, and GIFs to the ‌iPhone‌. Uploading to CloudApp can be done from other iOS apps, such as the Photos app.


The new iOS app supports screen recording of the ‌iPhone‌ for creating tutorials or collaborating regardless of location, and there are options for previewing and sharing files, screenshots, screen recordings, and more.

There's a customized thumbnail view for quickly scrolling through available files, and key content can be favorited for easy access. Collections can also be created, letting users sort their content into different folders for better organization.

CloudApp for ‌iPhone‌ can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]


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AirPods Pro 2C54 Firmware: Worse Noise Canceling, Improved Frequency Response and Bass Accuracy

On December 16th, Apple released a new firmware update for the AirPods Pro bumping the firmware from 2B588 to 2C54. After the updates, there were several anecdotal reports that the AirPods Pro noise cancelation may have been affected adversely by the update. Adding to the confusion is that Apple has since pulled the 2C54 update, so not everyone with AirPods Pro may have the latest update.

Users asked tech review site RTINGS.com to reevaluate their previous testing of the AirPods Pro with the new firmware to confirm any changes in the new firmware.


RTINGS published its findings today and does confirm that the 2C54 firmware objectively worsens the AirPods Pro active noise canceling feature:
Update 01/10/2020: After updating to Firmware 2C45, we retested the headphones and our results showed a fairly significant drop in isolation performance, primarily in the bass-range. This means that with ANC turned on, these headphones won't do nearly as good a job blocking out the low engine rumbles of planes or buses as they did before this update. This review reflects these changes.
The news is not all bad, however. In other areas of testing, the 2C54 Firmware appears to improve performance in frequency response and bass accuracy. Note: RTINGS incorrectly refers to the firmware as version 2C45, not 2C54.

Apple pulled the 2C54 firmware only days after its release, so it is presumably working on the issues described. You can tell what firmware version you have by going to Settings -> General -> About -> AirPods Pro.


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Upcoming Fall 2020 5.4-Inch iPhone Will Be Similar in Size to iPhone 8

Japanese site Mac Otakara today shared a somewhat confusing rumor about Apple's 2020 iPhone lineup, suggesting the 5.4-inch ‌iPhone‌ that Apple is working on will be sized similarly to the iPhone 8.

Citing Apple suppliers exhibiting at CES, Mac Otakara says that Apple "might be developing Face ID models beside Touch ID models as an updated version of ‌iPhone 8‌."


This confusingly seems to refer to the low-cost "iPhone SE 2" or ‌iPhone 8‌ successor Apple has in development, but a further mention of the 5.4-inch ‌iPhone‌ with Face ID suggests that it actually refers to the higher-end 5.4-inch device rumored for the fall of 2020.
The body size returns to ‌iPhone‌ 7, and the receiver size is in between the iPhone 11 series and the iPhone XS series. The rear camera is much bigger compared to ‌iPhone 8‌, and the LED True Tone flash size returns to ‌iPhone‌ 7.

By employing TrueDepth camera, the verticle width of the active area size for the display expands and thus becomes 5.4-inch size, and the possibility of it being the model buzzed about increases.
Prior rumors have indicated that Apple is working on devices in multiple sizes for its flagship 2020 ‌iPhone‌ lineup, including a 5.4-inch ‌iPhone‌, a 6.1-inch ‌iPhone‌ (or two devices in this size, based on one rumor), and a 6.7-inch ‌iPhone‌.

Mac Otakara says that the 5.4-inch ‌iPhone‌ will have an ‌iPhone‌ 7 body size and a rear camera that's "much bigger compared to ‌iPhone 8‌." By using the TrueDepth camera system and eliminating the Home button, the display's active area measures in at 5.4 inches, though the device's size will be similar to the ‌iPhone 8‌.

The ‌iPhone 8‌ (and the ‌iPhone‌ 7) features a 4.7-inch display along with thick top and bottom bezels that provide room for the front-facing camera and the Home button. By eliminating the bezels, Apple can offer a larger display in a smaller body. The 5.4-inch ‌iPhone‌ will be the smallest ‌iPhone‌ Apple has offered since the 2017 ‌iPhone 8‌.

There are mixed ‌iPhone‌ rumors right now, but in a nutshell, it seems that Apple will release four to five new iPhones in 2020. The first will come in the spring of 2020 and will be an "‌iPhone SE 2‌" or ‌iPhone 8‌ successor is meant to be a low-cost ‌iPhone‌ with ‌Touch ID‌ and a single-lens camera. This ‌iPhone‌ won't have Face ID and will continue to have thick top and bottom bezels.

In the fall, Apple will introduce three or four new flagship iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and 6.7-inch size options, and these iPhones will feature edge-to-edge displays, 5G connectivity, multi-lens cameras, and more. Most rumors have suggested we can expect three iPhones in the fall of 2020, but a JPMorgan analyst recently said there could potentially be two 6.1-inch iPhones, though this has yet to be confirmed by another source.

Apple's 2020 fall lineup will be similar to the 2019 ‌iPhone‌ lineup, with iPhones available at multiple price points starting at around $700, while the rumored early 2020 ‌iPhone 8‌ successor could be priced as low as $399.


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Top Stories: CES 2020 News, iPhone Battery Case Replacement Program, iPhone 9 Renders

Early January always sees a flurry of news coming out of CES, but that wasn't all that was on the docket this week. Additional topics of interest in this week included new emoji personalization options for AirPods charging cases, "iPhone 9" rumors, and an upcoming change to Apple's serial number format.

CES 2020: New HomeKit Accessories, Wireless Chargers, and Other Cool Tech From the Show


CES week has wrapped up in Las Vegas, where thousands of tech companies both small and large unveiled their latest products and concepts. As usual, Apple did not have a booth at the trade show, but a wide range of HomeKit-compatible smart home products and accessories for products like the iPhone and Apple Watch were unveiled over the past week.


Here are some of the most popular CES stories on MacRumors this week, plus three videos with cool tech from the show:

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Aura Smart Strap for Apple Watch to Launch in March


Last year, startup Aura introduced a "smart strap" for the Apple Watch, designed to measure weight, water, fat, and muscle via electrodes built into the band. At CES this week, Aura said the strap is set to launch in March, with pre-orders available now for $99.


Body composition and hydration is not something the ‌Apple Watch‌ can track on its own, though testing will need to be done to see how accurate the Aura strap is in practice.

Apple Launches Replacement Program for Smart Battery Cases Designed for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR


Numerous customers have run into issues with Apple's Smart Battery Cases for the company's 2018 iPhone lineup, experiencing issues with the cases failing to charge or the cases failing to charge the iPhones.


Addressing the situation, Apple this week launched a replacement program that allows iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR users who have run into these problems to receive a free replacement case. Customers will need to visit an Apple retail store or authorized service provider to have their cases inspected and ensure they qualify for the program.

Apple TV App Coming to Select LG, Sony, and Vizio Smart TVs Later This Year


Apple this week announced that its Apple TV app will be available on select LG, Sony, and Vizio smart TVs later this year. Apple shared the news in a press release highlighting the success of its various services.


When available, the Apple TV app will allow owners of newer LG, Sony, and Vizio smart TVs to stream Apple TV+ shows and movies, use the à-la-carte Apple TV Channels feature, access their iTunes libraries of movies and TV shows, and buy or rent more than 100,000 shows and movies from the iTunes Store.

TiVo, meanwhile, has said that the Apple TV app that it promised back at CES 2019 is no longer something it is focusing on right now.

iPhone 9 May Be Slightly Thicker Than iPhone 8


OnLeaks, a well-known leaker who shared accurate renders of the iPhone 11 Pro over nine months before the device was unveiled, has returned with new concept art for the so-called "iPhone 9" or "iPhone SE 2."


In line with earlier predictions from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, OnLeaks expects the iPhone 9 to resemble the iPhone 8, including a 4.7-inch LCD display with thick bezels, Touch ID home button, and single-lens rear camera, but with a faster A13 chip, 3GB of RAM, and no hardware-based 3D Touch.

OnLeaks also expects the iPhone 9 to be 7.8mm thick, which would be 0.5mm thicker than the iPhone 8. The device will launch by the end of March, starting at around $399, according to Ming-Chi Kuo.

Apple Plans to Switch to Randomized Serial Numbers for Future Products Starting in Late 2020


In an internal memo obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that it plans to update its serial number format to a randomized alphanumeric string for future products starting in late 2020.


Apple says all serial numbers that exist before the change is made will remain the same.

Apple already uses alphanumeric serial numbers, but it has long been possible to determine the date and location that a product was manufactured based on the current format. Readers would often use serial numbers to glean more information about their devices, like the iPhone or MacBook Pro.

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Each week, we publish an email newsletter like this highlighting the top Apple stories, making it a great way to get a bite-sized recap of the week hitting all of the major topics we've covered and tying together related stories for a big-picture view.

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