Opinion: The secret Apple Watch port should probably stay hidden… for now

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photo credit: iFixit

This weekend, my colleague Jordan Kahn broke the news that “accessory makers plan to tap Apple Watch’s hidden port for battery straps and faster charging,” which is entirely true based on already-expressed developer interest. There is indeed a six-pin port nestled inside one of the watch band recesses, completely covered with a metal panel to obscure its functionality. Unfortunately, Jordan’s story has been picked up elsewhere to support the claim that the hidden port will be “a goldmine for accessory makers.” I hate to take issue with these reports, as the concept — exploiting a hidden port to make new accessories — is exciting, but I have one word for people who are planning to build or buy accessories reliant upon that port:

Stop.

Stop before you spend $250 to order an accessory that might never arrive or work properly. Stop before you spend $250,000 to build an accessory that might never ship, or might ship and then stop working.

The Apple Watch is not the first Apple product with an undocumented connector. There’s a very good reason the hidden port is there — and it’s not for accessories. I’ll explain below…

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Stationary Apple Watch charging dock shown in Apple Environment video

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Apple’s new video about its contributions to environmental protection appears to show a previously unseen and unannounced accessory for the Apple Watch. In a portion of the video detailing chargers for Apple devices ranging from the iPhone to the new MacBook, Apple shows a stainless steel Apple Watch being dropped on a stationary charging dock. This charging dock is noticeably different than the charger that’s included with the Apple Watch, and could be an official Apple alternative to the third-party Apple Watch stands and docks that are about to hit stores…

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The best Apple Watch stands and docks

Now that the Apple Watch is officially in the wild, it’s clear that stands and docks make sense for two reasons: they keep metal and metal-accented bands from getting scuffed up, and guarantee a stable charging connection all night long. Some stands also serve as beautiful displays for your Watch, as well. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best Apple Watch stands and docks to help you choose one that’s great for your needs. Every solution relies upon the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable includes in each Apple Watch box, so what you’re getting is a stand with the ability to manage the Watch and charger.

Inside, I’ll show you a large collection of stands that range in price from $20 to $129, with considerably different levels of sophistication. Some are just basic plastic holders for Apple’s charger, while others have really nice designs made from metal, leather, and wood. Updated on June 29, 2015!

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Opinion: Should Apple improve iPhone battery life, or just battery cases?

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As this photo of the original Mophie Juice Pack and Tylt’s Energi for iPhone 6 shows, iPhone battery cases haven’t changed much over the years. They’ve existed for almost as long as iPhones, and remained ubiquitous due to Apple’s continued focus on thinness over longevity. That hasn’t been great for consumers: as 9to5’s Seth Weintraub put it, people are more impacted by their phones’ battery life than an extra 2mm of thinness.

It took until 2014 for Apple to offer one iPhone model — the iPhone 6 Plus — with all-day battery life, though you have to be willing to accept a much larger footprint to get that. By comparison, the smaller and reportedly more popular iPhone 6 improved only around 7% upon the iPhone 5s in run time, so the typical iPhone user isn’t seeing much of an improvement over prior models.

With a variety of alternatives at Apple’s disposal, including some major chip improvements that are just around the corner, we wanted to pose two questions to our readership. Should Apple take a break from slimming down iPhones to focus on improving battery life? Or should it instead focus its efforts on making battery cases better? Read on for our thoughts, and share yours in the comments section below…

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CES 2015: Standzout Bandstand is an all-in-one charging dock for Apple Watch

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While the Apple Watch is still a few months away from release, a handful of accessory makers at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas have introduced new accessories for the upcoming smartwatch. Standzout is one of the frontrunners in the space with its new Bandstand charging dock for the Apple Watch. Read ahead for my first impressions of the prototype shown off at CES 2015 this week. Read more

9to5 Guide: The best iPad, iPhone + MacBook battery cases/packs

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Earlier this week, I walked through a great collection of iPad, iPhone, and Mac products that I’d strongly recommend. Today, I’m here to help you choose an excellent spare battery for any portable Apple device. You can trust me because I’ve been testing Apple batteries for over a decade, conducting hours-long tests to learn how each new Apple device consumes power, and how quickly each battery replenishes a given device. If you want to learn more about why I’m recommending the specific batteries below, I discuss key factors worth considering at the bottom of this guide.

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Apple Retail SVP Angela Ahrendts: Apple Watch launching in “Spring,” after Chinese New Year

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The Apple Watch’s launch is scheduled to occur in the “spring,” according to Apple Senior Vice President of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts, later in 2015 than some had originally anticipated. Ahrendts stated the timeframe to retail employees in a video message, a transcript of which was provided by a source. While explaining that employees need to conserve energy for upcoming shopping seasons, Ahrendts stated, “we’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring:”

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Review: uNu’s UltraPak portable batteries can be recharged up to 8X faster than the competition (Video)

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In my opinion, the worst part about having a portable battery pack to charge up your devices is making sure it actually has juice. I have a few battery packs around the house, but whenever I go to use them, they’re always dead. Sure, that’s my fault, but most of them take quite a while to charge. Thankfully, uNu has come up with a better solution…

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Review: Digital Treasures Powerflask — Is it better than booze?

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Most technologies have changed beyond all recognition in the last 10 to 20 years. Compare a smartphone from 10 years ago with the latest iPhone, and the difference is night and day. Laptops, TVs, cameras … pretty much any technology you can name has transformed almost beyond recognition. But there’s one technology whose pace of development seems truly glacial: batteries.

I’m not suggesting battery tech hasn’t improved at all, of course, but my smartphone 10 years ago got me through a typical day with a bit to spare, and my iPhone today does pretty much the same (albeit in a significantly smaller package). Those tiny fuel-cell batteries they keep promising us, with smartphone and laptop battery-life measured in weeks and not hours, seem as elusive as ever. Until that glorious day arrives, there will be times when our iPhone or iPad just isn’t going to have enough power to cope with an extra-long day, weekend camping trip, or similar.

There are a couple of different approaches to the problem. The first is a powered case. We previously reviewed the Morphies Juice and Air power sleeves. This is ideal when you know in advance that you’ll need the extra power and don’t mind a bit of extra bulk to achieve it. The second approach is an external battery pack you use to recharge your phone (and other USB-interfaced gadgets) when needed, or when you’re in one location for a while.

This is the approach taken by the Digital Treasures Powerflask, a cute-looking pack that can simultaneously charge an iPad and either one or two iPhones … Read more

Apple confirms that 12W adapter will charge iPads quicker than older 10W adapters

The morning of Apple’s iPad mini event earlier this week, we told you there was a handful of new accessories coming including four new Lightning adapters and a 12W USB power adapter. We didn’t hear much about them during the event, but the new cables and adapters have hit Apple’s online store now, including a Lightning Digital AV adapter and Lightning to VGA adapter, with most shipping in “2-3 weeks”.

On the product page for the new 12W USB charger, Apple confirmed it would indeed ship with Retina iPads. With the new fourth-gen replacing the third-gen iPad—that would essentially cover just the iPad 4. It is, however, selling the adapter by itself for $19 online and listing compatibility with iPad 2, iPhone 4S, and iPod touch fifth-gen and up. Many readers have wondered whether the adapter would allow for faster charging with the iPad 3 and fourth-gen iPad. A big complaint among third-gen iPad users is that the device took up several more hours to charge than previous generations due to its larger battery. Also, on Apple’s discussion forums, some users asked if a software update would be required for the iPad 3 to draw additional power.

When we asked Apple about the 12W adapters, we were told the following:

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As we suspected, new iPad takes longer to charge. Also gets warm inside

While we are waiting for iFixit to tear apart the new iPad so we can get a look at the device’s new 42.5-watt-hour rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, we received confirmation that the battery does take hours longer to charge than the iPad 2 (iPad 2 pictured above). We know battery life remains the same with the 70 percent larger battery going mostly toward powering the new Retina display, A5x chip, and LTE-capabilities, but we wondered last week whether the new battery could take up to 70 percent longer to charge. MG Siegler confirmed in his review on TechCrunch that charging the new iPad takes “several hours” longer compared to earlier generations:
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