Apple offers customised iMacs, MacBooks in India – here’s why

Apple is giving its Indian customers the capability to order customised versions of its entire range of computing devices. The configure-to-order and build-to-order options would be available for the MacBook Air (click to buy), Mac Mini, iMac and other computers. 

Under the scheme customers from India would be able to request custom needs such as enhanced memory and storage or inclusion of more powerful graphics cards when they purchase a machine from Apple. 

This is the first time that Apple would be offering customisation of their products in the Indian market, in spite of the fact that users in India had been requesting the CTO and BTO features that have been part of the company’s package in several countries. Apple has never offered its entire bouquet of computing devices in the country and most upgrades were sought once the customers got their hands on the machines. 

Has it come too late though?

MacBook Air (2020)

An official working for one of Apple’s service delivery across the south of India believes that this move by the Cupertino-based tech giant should have come much earlier. “Take a look at the grey market operations and how much the company tends to lose because customers usually go to upgrade their Macs to these shops located in major cities such as Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad,” the official says requesting anonymity. 

For Apple, India has shifted from being on the periphery in the first decade of the new millennium to being a key market. Tim Cook had said during an investor call late in 2019 that emerging markets led by India, Brazil, Thailand, Turkey and Mainland China had seen double-digit growth during the December quarter. 

What do the users get?

A notice on the Apple India website says customers interested to get upgrades or want to customise their purchases could get in touch with local Apple authorised resellers various options and calculate what they would have to pay for enhancing a graphics card or simply adding some memory to their preferred machine. 

The company is promising delivery within four to five weeks after orders are placed and payments made. In the past, customers had no choice but to go with base models of the computing devices, which means a MacBook Pro would only have 8GB of RAM. 

Would it really change things?

However, it remains to be seen whether the stiff pricing that Apple is quoting for such upgrades could still prove a dampener for many users. For example, the company is charging $400 for an extra 16 GB of RAM, but a trip to Bangalore’s grey market could result in savings of up to 30-50% on such a deal. Of course, there is no warranty once you get the device opened by uncertified hands. 

How Tim Cook’s Apple sees it differently

From the company’s perspective, this only shows that Apple and its CEO Tim Cook are serious about India as a market. Cook had waxed eloquent about how customers in the country were boosting sales of both iPhones and iPads over most of 2019. 

That growth might have been driven by the multiple price cuts that Apple brought in for the iPhone XR, but the fact remains that Apple as a brand has matured enough for Cook to consider shifting production to India and also committing to open its own online stores in the country. 

The iPhone 11 series (click to buy) also saw good traction amongst the Indian customers, given that the device was priced aggressively and Apple followed a sound channel strategy to drive its sales. Immediately after this success, Apple announced that it would be bringing the HomePod smart speaker to India to compete with Google Home and the Amazon Echo. 

Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic may have stymied sales but the fact remains that Apple is bullish nonetheless and the next twelve months could see the company bringing more of its products and services to India. Who knows, Apple TV Plus could soon join the Bollywood bandwagon and take on Netflix and Amazon Prime. 

Via: MacRumors 

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Oppo Find X2 range gets two cheaper variants that are still 5G phones

The Oppo Find X2 and X2 Pro, launched in earlier this year, are two of the most premium phones available from Oppo, but they’re definitely not affordable phones – and that’s likely why the company just announced two new entries to the line, with reduced specs and lower price tags.

These phones are the Oppo Find X2 Neo and Find X2 Lite, and they’ve been announced for the UK – it’s unlikely they’ll come to the US, as previous Oppo phones haven’t been sold there, but they may come to Australia, as certain phones from the company are released in the country. 

Examining the 5G phones

The Oppo Find X2 Neo, available for £599 (roughly $735, AU$1,110), looks like a specced-down Find X2. It has a 6.55-inch AMOLED screen with 90Hz refresh rate, and like the Find X2 and X2 Pro the screen is curved at the sides, with a punch-hole for the front-facing camera. It runs the Snapdragon 765G chipset, which delivers the phone’s 5G capability, and it’s also packing 12GB RAM and 256GB storage.

The camera array here consists of a 48MP main, 8MP ultra-wide, 13MP telephoto and 2MP black-and-white snappers; Oppo hasn’t specified the specs of the selfie camera. Finally, the battery capacity is 4,055mAh, with 30W fast charging.

The Oppo Find X2 Lite is more affordable again at £399 (around $490, AU$740), although the Huawei P40 Lite 5G is a touch cheaper, denying the Find X2 Lite the title of ‘cheapest 5G phone’, at least in the UK.

The Find X2 Lite has the same battery, charging speed and chipset as the Neo, and three of the same cameras – the difference is the telephoto snapper makes way for a ‘retro-effects camera’ which we’re certainly intrigued to test out, not least to find out what that actually means.

The Find X2 Lite’s screen is the main feature that differentiates is from the other three phones, as unlike those it doesn’t have a curved screen – the display is flat, and broken up by a notch at the top. It’s a 6.5-inch AMOLED panel, though one with the ‘standard’ 60Hz refresh rate rather than the fast 90Hz.

The Oppo Find X2 Neo and Lite are available to pre-order in the UK and Europe now from Oppo’s website, ahead of a wider release on June 10. We’ll make sure to review both phones to see if they’re worth your money.

The Oppo Find X2 Pro is also available to pre-order now too, though its £1,099 (about $1,350, AU$2,040) price tag seems daunting compared to the Lite and Neo; the Oppo Find X2 is more affordable, but still a good deal pricier than the new handsets, at £899 (about $1,150, AU$1,750).

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This is the world’s cheapest Core i5 PC, but we’re not sure it’s a good deal

Necessity, they say, is the mother of all invention. Perhaps the need to get rid of excess stock was the reason Chuwi, one of the most innovative Chinese PC vendors out there, has decided to merge the designs of two of its existing mini PCs (the GT Box and the HiGame) into a brand new workstation, the Corebox.

At the heart of this new product is an Intel Core i5-5257U from 2016, which has been used as a base for a number of products, along with the Core i3-5005U (also a Broadwell-based processor).

It’s just like Intel’s current 14nm processors, but doesn’t feature the sort of refinements found in 10th generation Core CPUs.

At $349 (roughly £285/AU$530), the Corebox will be the most affordable Core i5 CPU on the market when it launches on Amazon later this month. The device will come with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, two HDMI ports, four USB 3.0 connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet port and two audio connectors.

All this is crammed into an all-metal chassis that’s just under 2000cc, providing just enough space for an extra hard disk drive and cooling. Add in handles on either side and you’ve got a rather attractive and versatile workstation.

However, while the Chuwi Corebox looks an exciting machine, there could well be better alternatives on the market at a similar price point.

Dell’s Inspiron 3471, for example, is an equally small PC priced at $330. It might only have 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk drive, but its Core i3-9100 CPU is twice as fast as the Core i5-5257U. It also comes with a mouse, DVD writer, keyboard, card reader and even a VGA port.

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SpaceX launch canceled – how to watch Saturday’s liftoff live stream

The SpaceX launch was cancelled on Wednesday, with weather liftoff live stream to Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm EDT. We’ll be carrying the SpaceX live stream here over the weekend.

“The weather got us,” admitted NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a 30-second Twitter video. “I know there was a lot of disappointment today.”

The SpaceX launch was officially scrubbed just 17 minutes inside the launch window, with NASA hanging on until the last few minutes in an effort to save their efforts. The weather had other plans.

NASA has strict weather rules for clearing spacecraft launches and noted that three weather violations existed, including the chance of triggering ‘natural lightning’. If they would have been able to wait ten minutes beyond the countdown, they could have cleared those violations, according to SpaceX and NASA officials.

The interesting thing is that this was what is known as an ‘instantaneous launch’, meaning due orbital mechanics, a delay just wasn’t possible if the crew wanted to get to the International Space Station (ISS) on time and lock in accurately. Blame Newtown’s law of universal gravity.

The good news is that everything technical with the craft and crew was ‘go for liftoff’ on Wednesday, so as long as this weekend’s weather cooperates and doesn’t trigger NASA’s risk calculations, the mission will happen on Saturday. Weather was the only concern, according to NASA.

It’s the birth of commercially-backed human space travel.

This delayed week’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission remains historic, as it’s happening at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s the first such launch on American soil in nearly a decade – since NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011. It’s also the first time that a SpaceX reusable spacecraft will be sending NASA astronauts into space. It’s the birth of commercially-backed human space travel.

The destination of this SpaceX launch is the International Space Station (ISS) for a one- to four-month duration for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, according to our friends over at Space.com.

You, of course, may have more questions. What time is the SpaceX live streaming starting in your region of the world on Saturday now that it’s been cancelled for today? What happened during the whole prep process (and will likely happen again on Saturday)? And who are the astronauts? 

We have all of those answers below, as we wait for the SpaceX countdown – again.

SpaceX launch weather concerns delay liftoff

Even with all of the exceptional planning ahead of this SpaceX launch, NASA and SpaceX can’t control the weather (not yet anyway). Florida, while normally sunny, does have frequent quick-moving thunderstorms (anyone who has visited nearby Disney World knows that), and that’s what the crew faced Wednesday.

The SpaceX launch live stream had constant chatter from operators discussing rain conditions. They waited until a few minutes before the countdown expired to scrub the mission, hoping to pull it off. Saturday, May 30 will be the next launch date for the SpaceX launch.

Another weather variable is the fact that the weather conditions need to be good everywhere this spacecraft might be. For example, if the crew had to abort anywhere along its ascent and come down, recovery crews would need to access the capsule, so it’s more than just the immediate Florida launchpad that needs ideal weather.

SpaceX launch time live stream

SpaceX launch time set for Saturday, March 30

The official Demo-2 SpaceX launch time is set for Saturday, May 30 at 3:22pm EDT, so the times across the continental US will be 2:22pm CDT / 1:22pm MDT / 12:22pm PDT. You may want to show up a couple of minutes ahead of time to take in the rocket while it’s grounded and steam is coming off of it.

The UK SpaceX launch time will be 20:22 BST. In addition to tuning into the video live stream, you should go outside and see if you can catch a glimpse of the SpaceX-built spacecraft in the sky at around 20:40 BST – if that remains true on Saturday (that was the case for the Wednesday launch at least [we’ve adjusted the time due to the slight change in launch time]).

In Australia, it’ll already be Sunday morning, with the launch time occurring at 5:22am ACT. You’ll have to wake up a bit earlier to catch this weekend’s rescheduled SpaceX launch.

SpaceX launch time live stream

How to watch the SpaceX launch on Saturday

The official NASA and SpaceX YouTube accounts will be offering a live stream of the preparations, which they noted will feel like deja vu if you had already tuned in for the Wednesday launch.

We’ll have one of the YouTube videos embedded at the top of this page when it goes live. You won’t have to travel far. And don’t worry, you don’t have to tune into both the NASA and SpaceX live stream videos – they’re offering the same content across the two live streams,

On Wednesday, we saw SpaceX founder Elon Musk visit suited-up astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken and exchange a few words before liftoff time. Sadly, there was no audio during this portion of the live stream.

Musk then greeted US Vice President Mike Pence, who is there to watch the launch, while President Donald Trump joined soon after. Hurley and Behnken traveled to the launch site in a Tesla Model X (Tesla being another company Musk founded).

NASA continued to monitor the weather via data sensors around the launch site in an effort to get everything into ‘the green position’ on their maps. At the time, NASA said, “the weather is trending in the right direction,” but as the countdown got to T-minus 17 minutes, favorability went the other direction.

This meant that the crew was seated in the capsule after crossing the crew access arm, and the crew arm had already retracted. Steam started to come off of the rocket before the launch was called off. It was that close to liftoff.

SpaceX spacecraft, SpaceX suits and NASA astronauts

On Saturday, astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will be back inside the small Dragon capsule, which sits atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It’s situated on a launch pad at legendary Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral. 

LC-39A was originally built for the Apollo missions and remodeled for the Space Shuttle program. Now it’s home to the first space flight to send astronauts into space using a private aerospace company.

Hurley (the spacecraft commander) and Behnken (the joint operations commander) are NASA astronauts, engineers and both former members of US military (Hurley is a former marine, while Behnken was in the US Air Force).

The two-man NASA crew will not only be flying in a SpaceX-built spacecraft, but also outfitted in SpaceX pressurized suits, first shown off in 2017. They’ll back suited up again on Saturday.

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Trump to ‘sign executive order about social media’

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on social media firms on Thursday, the White House has said.

It comes after he threatened to shut down social media platforms he accused of stifling conservative voices.

The latest dispute flared on Tuesday after Twitter added fact-check links to his tweets for the first time.

The order’s details have not been shared and it is unclear what regulatory steps the president can take without new laws passed by Congress.

The White House officials gave no further information when questioned by reporters who were travelling with Mr Trump on Air Force One on Wednesday.

Before leaving Washington for Florida to watch a space launch that was postponed due to bad weather, Mr Trump again accused Twitter and other social media of bias, without offering evidence.

Mr Trump also continued his criticism of social media platforms on Twitter, ending a tweet with: “Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!”

The long-running dispute between Mr Trump and social media companies flared up again on Tuesday when one of his posts was given a fact-check label by Twitter for the first time.

He had tweeted, without providing evidence: “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.”

Twitter added a warning label to the post and linked to a page that described the claims as “unsubstantiated”.

On Wednesday Mr Trump threatened to “strongly regulate” or even “close down” social media platforms.

He tweeted to his more than 80 million followers that Republicans felt the platforms “totally silence conservatives” and that he would not allow this to happen. In an earlier tweet, he said that Twitter was “completely stifling free speech”.

Mr Trump wrote a similar post on Facebook post about mail-in ballots on Tuesday, and no such warnings were applied.

Twitter has tightened its policies in recent years as it faced criticism that its hands-off approach was helping fake accounts and misinformation to thrive.

Some of America’s biggest technology companies have also been accused of anti-competitive practices and violating their user’s privacy. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon face antitrust probes by federal and state authorities and a US congressional panel.

Shares in both Twitter and Facebook fell in Wednesday’s trading session in New York.

Facebook, Twitter and Google did not immediately reply to requests from the BBC for comment.

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Canon’s free webcam software now available for both Windows and Mac users

UPDATE: Canon has announced that its EOS Webcam Utility Beta software is now available for macOS as well, allowing more customers to use their Canon camera as a webcam. We’ve updated our original article to reflect these changes.

In April, Canon USA released a new software to help some users overcome the global webcam shortage caused by an increase in demand due to Covid-19. Our dependency on video calls for work or personal reasons made us realise that not all webcams are made equal, with video quality not always being up to scratch, particularly when the lighting is poor.

While it’s possible to set up a camera you own to double as a webcam, it does require additional hardware and, in some cases, third-party software that you’ll need to pay for.

However, if you’re a Canon user, you may be in luck as the camera maker’s new EOS Webcam Utility Beta may be an easy-to-use, plug-and-play, free alternative.

As the name suggests, the software is still in beta and, at launch in April, would only work on PCs running the 64-bit version of Windows 10. Now, though, Canon has released the macOS version as well, also in beta.

EOS Webcam Utility Beta is also only able to convert some Canon cameras – DSLRs, mirrorless and PowerShot compacts – into webcams for video conferencing. 

While the software was only available to Canon users in the US a month ago, it’s now possible to install it no matter where you are. The software is still only available on Canon USA’s site but there doesn’t seem to be any geoblocking. We were able to download and install the package on a MacBook Pro in Australia (although we are yet to test it).

List of supported Canon cameras

How to get Canon’s EOS Webcam Utility Beta

Downloading the software is easy: plug your camera into a Windows PC with a USB cable, then head to the dedicated page on Canon USA’s website. Scroll down to the list of supported cameras on that page and select the model you own. Then head to the Drivers & Downloads tab.

Your operating system will likely be detected automatically and you will be presented with a list of available software and drivers for the model you’ve selected, with EOS Webcam Utility sitting right on top. If your OS isn’t detected, then select ‘Software’, followed by the operating system you are currently running. Then click on the ‘select’ button beside EOS Webcam Utility Beta and your download will start automatically.

Follow the prompts to install and that’s it: it will be business as usual with high quality video (be sure to change your camera settings to suit your needs, though, in case you’re livestreaming in low-light conditions).

Since the software is still in beta, Canon is asking users for feedback and has set up dedicated community forums for Mac users and one for Windows for just that purpose.

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Video streaming: Lockdown sees fifth of UK homes sign deals

One in five households in Britain – six million – signed up to an online video subscription service during the Covid-19 lockdown, data suggests.

The majority of those sign-ups, 52%, are going to Disney+, according to market research firm Kantar.

The most-enjoyed piece of content, though, was Netflix’s exclusive documentary series Tiger King.

AppleTV+ struggled to engage TV viewers, however, according to the research.

Kantar’s data shows the tech giant’s TV service was popular on smartphone and tablet devices, but lagged behind competitors in terms of TV screen viewing.

“It’s been a huge quarter for streaming in the UK. We can certainly associate a good deal of that with the current lockdown situation,” Dominic Sunnebo, senior vice president at Kantar, told the BBC.

Mr Sunnebo also noted the instant popularity of Disney+, which only launched in the UK on 24 March.

“Of people who are in the video streaming sector already, one in five now have a Disney+ streaming subscription,” he said. “It’s unheard of.”

There are now, on average, 2.3 online video subscriptions per household in the UK.

New to streaming

Although comparable data is not available for previous years, Mr Sunnebo said that because of the launch of new services such as Disney+, it was safe to assume that the average number of online video subscriptions had risen comfortably in the last couple of years.

He added that 36% of new subscriptions between February and April – 2.2 million – were made by people who had never previously signed up to a streaming service.

Kantar’s data is gathered from a panel of 15,000 consumers and interviews with 2,500 new streaming service subscribers each quarter.

Apple struggled to make the same impact with TV viewers, however.

Mr Sunnebo argued that this was probably because that easiest way to access AppleTV+ on a TV screen was through purchasing a separate device, the Apple TV media player.

Apple’s strategy, he said, was to rely on slowly building an audience of viewers happy to pay for this hardware.

“By trying to drive Apple TV sales in the meantime, they’re continuing to generate revenue and biding time to broaden their catalogue of content,” he added.

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