September 23

AAPL: 151.89

-1.50

In this week’s top stories: The iPhone 8, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K are now available and we go hands-on with it all, Apple officially release iOS 11, the iPhone X launch looms, and much more. Read on for it all… expand full story

Having been impressed with Apple’s investment in renewable energy over the recent years, this summer I decided to see if I could follow their example and power my Apple devices entirely from solar power. Considering the 1 billion+ iOS devices in usage around the world and how much energy is required to recharge them every day, charging my four iOS devices from renewable energy may only be a drop in the ocean but I suppose every journey starts with a single step.

Below is a list of the Apple devices I own and planned to charge this way:

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • AirPods
  • iPad mini 2
  • 12.9” 2017 iPad Pro

As with any device that charges via USB, all of these can easily be charged by solar power just as quickly as if you plugged them into the power brick included in the box.

One of the main concerns I had with changing to this method was if I would be able to generate enough power for all of my devices. Living in the U.K. the weather is known more for its rainy days than sunny skies. Fortunately my house has an un-obscured south-facing flat roof, so this is an ideal spot for locating my solar panels.

I’ve been using two different systems to generate and store the energy required for this project; a 20Watt off the shelf small commercial system and another 100Watt custom built setup. These figures relate to the size of the solar panel used, not the exact amount of power available, I’ll leave the details of the actual products at the bottom of the page. Essentially they both work the same way; a solar panel captures sunlight and converts this to electrical energy, which is then stored in a battery for later usage. Think of the system like a mini Tesla Powerwall.

100W and 20W solar panels

This allows me to charge my devices using two different methods; directly from the sun while plugged into these systems and the most convenient method for everyday use was to pre-charge several portable USB power banks, which allows me the flexibility to replenish my iPhone, AirPods and iPads whenever and wherever I like. I keep some of these USB power banks around the house for re-charging at home and others come out and about with me while I’m at work.

Think of this system in the same way an AirPod case works with the AirPods – you have a larger battery, ready to top-up a smaller battery. Ideally the bigger battery has the capacity to charge your device several times. This gives some leeway when it comes to charging, so you don’t use the battery once and then find, if you forgot to recharge it, there is nothing left for subsequent charges and you’re stuck with no power. You can top up small amounts throughout the day, or just do a bulk charge at your convenience. Whatever your circumstances, there is a method which should work for however you spend your day. As long as you don’t forget to bring a USB powerbank!

I’ve found the easiest way to keep these USB batteries charged and ready to go, is to either put them on charge overnight from the solar system battery before I go to bed, or first thing in the morning before I head out for the day. That way when you wake up in the morning or get home from work, you should find a fully charged battery ready and waiting to recharge your devices. The cost of lithium batteries has dropped considerably in the last few years, so stocking up on a few USB powerbanks to suit your needs should not be an extravagant cost, especially compared with the cost of an iPhone or iPad.

Using larger USB powerbanks, in the range from 10,000mAh to 26,800mAh allows me to charge my devices several times. For comparison the battery in an iPhone 7 Plus is rated at 2900mAh and the 12.9” iPad Pro is rated at 10,307mAh. There are losses in the conversion process between all these batteries and devices, so you cannot expect to get 100% efficiency.

When it comes to usage and living with this method of recharging I have found that it is actually more convenient than using the standard power brick provided, as I can plug my iPhone into a USB powerbank to begin charging and still have the freedom to pick it up and walk around the house without being tethered by a cable plugged into the wall. Also when I’ve been in a rush and had to leave in a hurry but my phone battery is low, it’s not a problem, I just grab a battery and cable and charge on the go.

For safety and reliability I stick to using either Apple’s original lightning cables, or ones certified by the MFi program, along with brand name USB powerbanks. I would hate to destroy one of my devices simply by using a bad cable or battery.

HUBi 10K 20W solar system box

Thankfully when it comes to the actual process of charging from the solar systems, there is abundant array of devices to choose from. This is because all of these systems revolve around one thing: standard 12V car outlets. You can use a single, double or even 4-port car USB charger which can directly charge your Apple devices or USB powerbanks. I just plug the car USB adapters into the 12V socket in my solar system and use the appropriate lightning or micro USB cable.

Most devices rely on a standard 5V USB connection for charging. This varies from a basic 1Amp 5Watt brick that comes with your iPhone to a 2.4amp 12Watt brick for iPads. Recently however, a new faster method has begun to be implemented. The iPad Pro (10.5”, 12.9” 1st & 2nd gen) and latest iPhones (8, 8+ & X) allows for a new fast charging standard which relies on USB-C Power Delivery (PD). This can charge at higher voltages up to 29Watts of power, which means charging times are much quicker than that of the standard 12Watt charger which comes in the box. The new iPhones quote a 50% charge in 30 minutes.

Using this method substantially reduces the amount of time required to charge not only the iPad Pro but also the 29,000mAh USB-C power bank I own. Using the normal USB method would approximately take a whole day to charge either my iPad Pro or the large USB-C powerbank but with the USB-C PD method, this is reduced to around 4-6hrs. The latest iPhones and USB-C based MacBooks can also be charged this way, but for the purposes of this article I’ll mainly be concentrating on the devices I own, as listed above. Please be aware the 13” and 15” MacBook Pro laptops require more than 29W of power to recharge and would not be able to fully powered using the methods I describe here.

Due to the early nature of USB-C PD charging, the range of devices to choose from at the moment is fairly limited but as things progress this will resolve itself over time, especially as the new iPhones now support this standard, which I believe will speed up this process.

Thankfully this will also work with the new wireless Qi charging built into the new iPhones, as all you need to do is plug the Qi pad into a USB powerbank instead of a standard USB power brick.

I setup both solar panels on a flat roof on my house and ran the cables in through a window to the battery charging stations. This is ok for the summer when the weather is warm, but I may have to think of something more permanent when it comes to winter time and the temperature begins to drop. For those of you concerned about security, my window can lock with a gap which allows enough space for the cables, while still being secure so I don’t have to leave the house without unplugging everything which would defeat the purpose of the solar charging during the day.

12V car socket outlet used for custom 100W system

Overall I’ve been impressed with how well this system worked and the added convenience  portable charging. Regardless of how good or bad the weather has been I’ve always found there is enough power for all of my devices and even other USB accessories I use. One of the benefits of USB charging is that it is not tied into one system. Anything you can plug into a USB socket to charge, can be powered by this system. Of course your mileage may vary with this as the location of the solar panels, if they get obscured during the day and the size of the main battery pack used will all make a difference to how well this works. It will also depend on how many devices you need to charge and how often. Conveniently both of the setups I use can easily be expanded by adding additional battery packs and solar panels.

Ideally I’d love to have a grid-connected solar installation on my house, but I do not have a large enough roof, living in a small Victorian London terraced house. It may be small scale but it has been great to think I am running my own mini solar power station. Even my kids got in on the act and enjoyed charging their devices from the solar setup.

However, soon the real test is coming up. I live in the UK and Winter Is Coming!

Standard USB and USB-C PD car chargers

System details:

1 – Off the shelf system – HUBi 10K 20W solar system

2 – Custom system – consisting of: 1x 12V 100W Monocrystalline solar panel, 1x 12V 70Ah leisure battery, 1x Victron 75/15 solar charge controller, 1x Victron VE Direct Bluetooth dongle, 1x 12V car cup USB socket outlet

3 – Batteries, chargers – RAVPower USB-C PD 26800mAh powerbank12V 4-port USB car charger12V USB-C 36W PD car chargerApple USB-C lightning cable

The best 4K & 5K displays for Mac

September 22

AAPL: 151.89

-1.50

Bring on the 4K HDR movie binge watching. The new Apple TV 4K is out today and we’ve got our hands on Apple’s new streaming box.

The reviews call it the best TV box on the market, but note its premium price means it’s not for everyone. Apple still offers the two-year old 1080p version for its same $149 price, and $30 more gets you a faster processor with 4K HDR support.

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This week for 9to5Rewards, we’re giving away an Apple Park t-shirt, the same one that Apple will sell at its new Apple Park Visitor Center retail store when it officially opens in the coming months.

While you can’t get your hands on the exclusive Apple Park swag at the Visitor Center store just yet, the store was open for one day to press that attended the company’s iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X unveiling event earlier this month at Steve Jobs Theater located on the new campus.

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Apple touts 8 new iPhone 8 features in latest ad

Apple has released a new video highlighting some of the new features of the iPhone 8 on what is becoming the quietest launch day we’ve seen…

Today, the team behind Safari’s web browser engine, WebKit, have detailed how designers should be building sites for the iPhone X. The upcoming iPhone’s sensor housing, aka “notch,” has presented new challenges for designers and developers alike. This has left some implementing creative “solutions” for the problem. Having WebKit lay out some official guidelines for the iPhone X should help web developers around the globe.

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It’s iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus release day, and CNBC caught up with Apple CEO Tim Cook during his ritual Apple Store visit to check in on the launch. Despite the both new iPhones not selling out across the board like previous models (because the iPhone X is coming in November), Cook says ‘we really like what we’re seeing’ with today’s launch. He also acknowledged the reported LTE connectivity bug affecting some Apple Watch Series 3 models.

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While I’ve never seen myself as a key target for Apple’s fashion-oriented approach to the Apple Watch, I have been surprised. From initially wearing the black sport band full-time, I’ve actually come to enjoy having a variety of bands to change up the look.

I do have one of Apple’s woven nylon bands, as well as a third-party copy of the Space Black Link Bracelet (not available in the U.S. unfortunately), but mostly I like leather bands.

I do like Apple’s blend of the modern and traditional in its own range, but also appreciate more traditional craftsmanship in premium third-party bands. I previously reviewed one from Burkley, and this time I tried out a range of bands from German company BandWerk …

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Swedish furniture company Ikea has been building Qi wireless chargers into some of its furniture since 2015, but with the iPhone 8 and upcoming iPhone X creating a big new market, it has chosen a clever/cheeky way to make Apple fans take note …

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September 21

AAPL: 153.39

-2.68

Apple’s latest how-to videos highlight tips and tricks for setting up Apple Pay

Apple this evening has shared a pair of new videos to its YouTube channel as part of its ongoing how-to series. These videos focus on Apple Pay and the process of setting up a card and subsequently paying in store using your iPhone.

As the clock turns to Friday, September 22nd around the globe, people are slowly starting to receive their new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K devices. As is always the case with Apple preorders, customers in Australia and New Zealand are the first to receive their preordered devices…

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Tim Cook says Apple is donating $1 million to earthquake recovery efforts in Mexico

Following the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico City and surrounding areas on Tuesday, CEO Tim Cook has announced today that Apple will be contributing $1 million to recovery efforts in the country…

Apple Pay comes to grocery store chain ALDI’s almost 1700 locations

Apple regularly adds new banks and credit unions to support Apple Pay, but mobile payment adoption by major holdouts is a much slower process. Grocery store chain ALDI, however, announced today that it now accepts Apple Pay at its almost 1700 locations across the United States.

This week Benjamin and Zac discuss 9to5Mac’s iPhone 8 / 8 Plus and Apple Watch Series 3 reviews, favorite app updates for iOS 11, and best features in iOS 11 / watchOS 4 / tvOS 11.

9to5Mac’s Happy Hour podcast is available for download on iTunes and Apple’s Podcasts app, or through our dedicated RSS feed for Overcast and other podcast players.

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Apple’s retail head Angela Ahrendts continues climb in Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in Business list

Angela Ahrendts’ move from Burberry to Apple in 2014 saw her make Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ list for the first time, entering at #29. She’s been working her way up the list since, this year climbing to #13 …

Apple’s tactic of making advance review models available to selected publications, and setting an embargo on publication, means it’s able to control the flow of reviews so that they all get maximum attention.

On Tuesday, it was the iPhone 8 (including our review). Yesterday, the Apple Watch Series 3 (our review). And today it’s the turn of the Apple TV 4K.

The bottom-line of most reviews is that it’s an expensive device compared to alternatives like Chromecast, Fire TV and Roku, and only makes sense if two things are true …

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The new Apple TV embargo has lifted and The Verge’s Nilay Patel notes a couple of interesting tidbits about the new set-top box in his review.

Firstly, the surprising lack of Dolby Atmos will apparently be rectified in a future software update (although Apple didn’t share a timeline). Perhaps more shockingly, the native YouTube app for the Apple TV doesn’t support 4K or HDR playback …

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An augmented reality Sudoku-solving app that only works with completely empty puzzles might be kind of pointless, but it definitely serves as an impressive demonstration of just what can be done when you use the combined power of three Apple frameworks.

Magic Sudoku uses Apple’s image analysis software Vision to read the puzzles, the Core ML framework to solve them and ARKit to present the solution as an overlay on the puzzle itself …

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It’s happening. If you were early enough to get in on day-one delivery for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE, and the Apple TV 4K, then you’ve probably begun receiving shipment notifications from Apple. expand full story

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