Apple slaps new M2 processor into 13-inch MacBook Pro

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At WWDC today, Apple launched a brand new MacBook Pro, including its shiny new M2 processor. It’ll clock in at $1,299 and is available later this month.

The new computer includes up to 20 hours of battery time, alongside an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU and maxes out at 24 GB of memory and 2 TB of SSD storage space.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 processor becomes the baby brother to the 14- and 16-inch workhorse laptops with the M1 Max and Pro processors and is the second computer featuring the new processor — the first one being the MacBook Air M2, also announced today.

Starting at $1,299, the new MacBook Pro M2 is the most affordable performance laptop from Apple. The company claims it is three times faster than the non-Apple-Silicon high-end pro-grade laptop computers from days of yore. Apple claims that Pro Res video conversions can run nearly three times faster as well.

The most exciting thing about the upgrade, to me, is the max 24 GB of unified memory — that’s 50% more than in the previous generation laptops. With memory being the No. 1 way to speed up computers in general, being able to max out with more working memory is going to make a big difference for power users.

Image Credits: Apple

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Apple announces the M2

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Apple today announced the M2, the first of its next-gen Apple Silicon Chips. Back in late 2020, Apple announced its first M1 system on a chip (SoC), which integrates the company’s customized ARM-based CPUs with its GPUs, Neural Engine for AI applications, Apple’s Secure Enclave and various signal processors and I/O controllers. The chip made its debut in the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini. Since then, Apple launched the more powerful M1 Pro, Max and Ultra variants and the SoC can now be found across Apple’s line of laptops, as well as its desktops, including the new Mac Studio for professional users.

It’s maybe no surprise then that a year and a half after first announcing the M1, the company is now using its WWDC conference to highlight the next generation of its Apple Silicon. The M2 was already rumored to make an appearance at Apple’s last hardware event, but instead, we got the M1 Max and Ultra.

Image Credits: Apple

With the M2, Apple noted that it focused on power efficiency in designing the chip. The company is using a 5 nm technology to build the chip, which features an 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, for a total of 20 billion transistors. The memory controller offers 100GB/sec of unified memory bandwidth — 50% more than M1 — and can support up to 24 GB of memory.

Apple also compared the M2 chip’s performance and power usage to a 12-core PC chip. The company argues that for the same performance, the M2 only uses one-quarter of the power. The CPU is “only” 18% faster than the M1, but that’s still a big leap in the CPU business where performance improvements these days tend to be in the lower single digits.

Image Credits: Apple

On the GPU side, the M2 now features 10 cores, two more than the M1. This gives it 25% more performance at the same power level as the M1 and 35% more at peak performance.

Image Credits: Apple

Meanwhile, the M2’s neural engine promises to be 40% faster.

Like with the M1, the M2 will make its debut in the new Macbook Air and Macbook Pro. There’s no word yet on other M2 variants, but I don’t think anybody would be surprised if we saw an M2 Pro, Max or Ultra within the next year or so.

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Agrotools farming for M&A with new $21M funding round

Agrotools, a Brazilian-based technology and intelligence company for agribusiness, raised $21 million (BRL 100 million) to value the company at around $94 million, according to the company.

Investors in the round include Horácio Lafer Piva (Klabin), Pedro Paulo Campos (JP Morgan, Pátria and Arsenal), Fátima Marques (Hay Group/Korn Ferry), Paulo Hegler (Toledo), Olivier Murguet (Nissan-Renault), KPTL and FIP Inovabra and Ronaldo Galvani Jr.

Agrotools provides remote analyses to agriculture customers for the management of operational risks and opportunities, focused on rural territories. That includes analyzing over 1,300 layers of data from multiple sources to provide information on what is happening with suppliers and customers across a certain rural territory to bring about competition and environmental, social and governance factors compliance. Its offerings include granting financial resources and rural insurance to the purchase of raw materials and sale of inputs, capital markets and retail.

Brazil’s agriculture sector is a $24 billion industry and Agrotools said it has analyzed over 4.5 million rural territories to date and monitors over $3 billion in commodities through its platform. It also boasts over $10 billion in rural finance portfolios supported by at least one of its offerings and approximately $20 billion in monitored agribusiness operations.

Sergio Rocha, CEO of Agrotools, said via email the company grew 16 times in the last six years, including tripling in size during the pandemic. The funding will be deployed into areas including expanding its business in the U.S., Latin America and other regions and technology development like artificial intelligence, blockchain, gamification, technology democratization and satellite data sources.

It will also be utilized for strategic partnerships and acquisitions. The company has already partnered with geospatial services company ESRI, said Rafael Gomes, COO of Agrotools.

“My dream, since the beginning of Agrotools, is to change global agribusiness, bringing to it efficiency and true sustainability,” Rocha said. “In short, we want to meet the Earth’s needs to overcome the climate and food crises, using cutting-edge technology. Toward this vision, we just acquired a digital platform from Argentina to support the rural producer weather risk management and corporations risk assessment.”

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China to Conclude Didi Probe, Lift Ban on New Users

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Sony Aims for High-End EV That Bills Extra for Entertainment

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Google Is Liable for Defamatory Videos Targeting Lawmaker, Court Rules

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Apple iOS adds feature to sever ties with abusers, with Safety Check

Apple’s app and phone ecosystem make it really easy to use messages on your computer, to share your location with friends or keep an eye on where your kids are. That feature set has a shadow side, too — for phone users in abusive relationships, there’s literally and figuratively nowhere to hide; it’s unthinkable to leave your phone behind if you need to make a quick exit out of a dangerous situation, but that very same phone can prove to be dangerous if the person you’re trying to get away from has access to your location and messages.

Apple worked with NNEDV (the National Network to End Domestic Violence), NCVC (National Center for Victims of Crime) and Australia’s WESNET (Women’s Services Network) to develop a new suite of features to help people in abusive relationships who need to drop off the radar for their own safety.

Safety Check is a new section is settings where you can do a quick review of who sees what. Within the tool, there is a detailed, customizable set of sharing and access settings, but more importantly, there’s an emergency button that resets all access that anybody might have to your messages, app access, location tracking and other crucial info.

With emergency reset, you can hit one button and walk out of the door, untracked. Image Credits: Apple

The idea is to be able to yank access in an emergency, to make it easier to cut ties and get to safety.

It resets the system privacy permissions for all apps, automatically signs you out of iCloud on all your devices, and restricts messages and FaceTime to the device you have in your hand, to avoid text messages being readable on a logged-in computer somewhere.

The non-emergency-button helps manage safety and privacy settings by giving access to tools that help manage who has access to what. Users can audit which permissions they’ve granted to certain apps.

Sharing with people

The People and Information screens can analyze who has access to what. Image Credits: Apple

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WatchOS 9 adds new modes and watch faces

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During a keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, the company debuted the latest version of WatchOS, the operating system that runs on the Apple Watch.

Apple claims that it has improved the Apple Watch’s ability to detect arterial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. With the arrival of WatchOS 9, supported Apple Watch device models can now detect “burden,” or how often a person experiences AFib over a certain amount of time.

Apple was granted 501(k) approval from the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration this morning. As opposed to full approval, 501(k) approval doesn’t require companies to provide effectiveness data from clinical trials.

With WatchOS 9, supported Apple Watch models now show heart zones to get a sense of your intensity level. You can set up distance and time intervals, and there’s haptic and voice feedback to tell you when to switch modes while working out.

New complications and watch faces (including astronomy and lunar faces) and exercise modes are a part of the WatchOS 9 release, as well as “form metrics” for runners. There’s also a new workout type for triathletes that can auto-switch between cycling, swimming, and running. And for users who own a Meta Quest VR headset, Apple Watch can now show stats from Move, Meta’s fitness tracker for the Quest, on the Fitness mobile and Watch app.

Joining these are a new sleep-tracking feature: Sleep Stage. WatchOS 9 can detect REM, core, and deep sleep stages.

Rounding out the health features, WatchOS can now track medications and notify wearers when they need to take them. Most of the management is done via iOS in the Apple Health app, where you can scan a medication label to identify it.

Lastly, in WatchOS 9, apps can be pinned for quick access. And there’s a revamped, streamlined Siri UI.

It’s unclear as of yet whether all Apple Watch models are due for the upgrade to WatchOS 9. WatchOS 8 supported the Apple Watch Series 3 onward, but it’s not uncommon for Apple to exclude older models over time — owing to limitations in those models’ hardware. With a public beta of WatchOS 9 due out soon — possibly this week — it fortunately won’t be long before we know for sure.

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Apple makes it easier to use parental controls and Screen Time with iOS 16

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Apple is updating its set of features aimed at families with the release of iOS 16, due out later this year. The company says it will now make it easier for parents to set up Apple devices with age-appropriate parental controls and features, and it’s updating Screen Time with a handful of improvements, like the ability to respond to requests for additional time from messages, among other things.

The company today already offers parental controls that allow parents to configure what kids can and cannot do on their devices, what content they can view and when they can use their device’s apps and features. With Family Sharing, users can also share their purchases and subscriptions with up to five other family members.

Now, Apple is adding a new feature, Quickstart, that it says will make it easier to set age-appropriate restrictions for apps, movies, books and music along with quick setup option for configuring other important parental controls. The feature, which resembles a setup option available to iPhone users, will let you bring the child’s device near the parent’s device to have the child’s set up with all the parental controls you have already selected and adjusted.

In addition, Apple is making it easier for parents to respond to Screen Time requests from children. Previously, you’d have to navigate to the Settings to approve additional time. With the update, parents can respond directly from Messages, Apple says.

Another new feature is a Family Checklist that will include helpful tips like how to update the child’s settings when they get older, how to turn on location sharing and information about how to share your iCloud Plus subscription with everyone.

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Apple Maps to get multistop routing and more in iOS 16

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At its Worldwide Developers Conference today, Apple announced a number of new features for Maps that will roll out with iOS 16. The company is launching new “multistop routing” that will let you plan up to 15 stops in advance. The app will allow users to plan multistop routes on a Mac and then send them to your iPhone when you’re ready to go. While you’re driving, you can ask Siri to add additional stops to your route. Apple is also making it easy for riders to see fares that will show them how much their journey will cost. You can also now add transit cards to your Apple Wallet.

Apple is also bringing its redesigned map to 11 more countries, including France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Belgium, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands. The redesigned map includes several features like cycling, look around and more. The redesigned map is currently available in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Image Credits: Apple

For developers, Apple is making improvements to MapKit starting with its new city experience, which includes details for landmarks, roads and more. With this new option, companies like Bird can integrate these detailed maps so users can more easily locate bikes and scooters to get around an area.

Apple is also bringing its Look Around feature to MapKit to make it easy to integrate high resolution imagery from maps into apps like Zillow. The company says this will help users get an immersive ground level view while browsing homes. In addition, Apple plans to give developers access to faster and more flexible ways to build map experiences with new server-side APIs later this year.

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