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AirTag could give a nice bump to Apple's growing lineup of smaller stuff

Now AirTag could be its next big accessory win. An AirTag is a Tile-like Bluetooth locator that attaches to and helps you find items such as keys, wallets, laptops or even your car. The small, flat, circular disc with a powerful built-in chip will allow someone to locate items when connected to Apple’s Find My app and also work with Siri.The stainless steel devices, which are water and dust resistant, feature a built-in speaker that plays sounds to better locate an AirTag. It’s packed with the Apple-designed U1 chip, which uses Ultra Wideband technology — the same chip used in the iPhone 12. While location trackers are hardly new — there are similar products from Samsung, Sony and Tile — the U1 chip will allow it to more accurately determine the distance and direction to a lost item. It also works with augmented reality, showing an animation on the screen of the user’s iPhone or iPad when nearby. AirTag has been reportedly in the works as far back as 2019, when pictures hidden within iOS 13 were discovered.AirTag costs $29 for each or $99 for four, starting April 30. Users can also splurge for leather accessories, such as key rings, luggage tags and a bag charm from Hermès. Similar to Apple Watch, it’s possible to add free engraving to the device.”Apple accessories are very important from a business perspective because they tend to be high-margin products,” said Ben Stanton, senior analyst at tech market research firm Canalys. “So while accessories may not make headlines from a revenue perspective, they do have a particularly positive impact on profitability.”The arrival of AirTag will allow the company to expand its offerings and lock users deeper into its ecosystem as it looks for more ways to take on an expected decline in its hardware revenues. The iPhone continued to dominate Apple’s revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020, accounting for 59% of sales, compared to 12% for its accessories category, which also includes wearables and its Home line. However, the accessories category amounts to more revenue than its Mac line.Still, Apple accessories remain a massive opportunity for upselling. Because Apple no longer includes a charger and cable in iPhone boxes upon purchase, demand for these items has surged in the past year. “Apple itself has seen supply shortages of charging accessories in some parts of the world, causing many customers and retailers to lean heavily on third-party alternatives,” said Stanton, citing anecdotes he’s heard from several distributors. In addition, the company’s smart Magic Keyboard and the Apple Pencil opens up new revenue streams as lower-cost iPad users look for more functionality. “Although AirTags are probably going to be fairly low priced, they may help to grow revenue, and users may buy multiple tags for different scenarios, such as for a bag, bike or car keys,” said David McQueen, director at tech market advisory firm, ABI Research. “It may also spark a rise in the manufacture of accessories to house the tags, such as a key fob, keychain or wrist strap.”Customers who are delaying costly smartphone and tablet upgrades may be willing to spend more on lower cost items such as these. It’s a smart time for their launch as customers are finally emerging from over a year of lockdown — ready, perhaps, to find things people invariably lose when outside the house.

Apple unveils a new iPad Pro, colorful iMacs, AirTag and more

From a new IPad Pro and redesigned, colorful iMacs to a purple iPhone, the long-awaited AirTag location tracker, and an updated Apple TV and remote, here’s a closer look at everything Apple announced on Tuesday.As expected, Apple unveiled an updated iPad Pro with a faster processor, 5G support, a Thunderbolt port so it can connect to more external monitors, and a Mini-LED display.The display will reportedly increase brightness, offer a higher contrast ratio, and improve power efficiencies for a longer battery life.Apple is also adding its powerful M1 chip to its iPad Pro line, enabling several software updates including better graphics, enhanced video effects and augmented reality features.An updated camera allows enhanced depth and better quality video, and a feature called Center Stage that automatically zooms out during video calls or meetings, depending on the number of people in the frame.The new iPad Pro starts at $799 and is available for order starting April 30.iMac with M1Apple announced a redesigned iMac featuring the company’s new in-house M1 chip.The new chip allowed Apple to shrink the internal hardware — building in a smaller logic board and replacing the thermal system that keeps the machine cool with two small fans. The new iMac is just 11.5 millimeters deep.The M1 chip will also make iMac apps run faster, improve the speed of machine learning and enable the use of iPhone apps such as Zillow and Headspace from the iMac screen, Apple execs said Tuesday.iMac will now have a 24-inch, 4.5 K display with 11.3 million pixels. And it comes in seven colors, including peach, mint and lavender.For users still working from home, Apple also improved the iMac’s camera. The 1080p camera’s features include auto white balance, noise reduction and tone mapping to make you look better. The computer also has a new mic designed to reduce feedback noise so you sound better, too.The new iMac starts at $1,299 for four colors, and $1,499 for the other three colors plus additional features. It will be available in the second half of May.Meanwhile, Apple is adding a touch ID button to the iMac’s external keyboard for the first time. The Touch ID button will be placed in the top right corner of the keyboard, like it is on the latest MacBooks, and will similarly let users unlock their computer, switch users or make payments through their fingerprints.Both the keyboard and Apple’s Magic Mouse will be available in a variety of colors to match with the new range of colors on the iMac.In what was Apple’s worst kept secret in recent history, the company finally unveiled AirTag, a Tile-like Bluetooth locator that attaches to and helps you find items such as keys, wallets, laptops or even your car.The small, flat, circular discs with built-in chips allow someone to locate items when connected to Apple’s Find My app. It also works with Siri.The stainless steel devices, which are water and dust resistant, feature a built-in speaker that plays sounds to help locate it. The AirTag is packed with the Apple-designed U1 chip, which uses Ultra Wideband technology — the same chip used in the iPhone 12.While location trackers are hardly new — there are similar products from Samsung, Sony and Tile — the U1 chip will more accurately determine the distance and direction to a lost item, Apple says.Similar to Apple Watch, it’s possible to add free engraving to the device.An AirTag is $29 each or four for $99, starting April 30. Users can also splurge for leather accessories, such as key rings, luggage tags and a bag charm from Hermès.Apple TV 4K with a new Siri remoteApple is rolling out the next generation of its Apple TV 4K streaming device, along with a new Siri remote.The remote, made from what Apple says is 100% recycled aluminum, includes a new pad at the top that users can click or swipe through to navigate, as well as a dedicated Siri button on the side.The remote also has a dedicated power button to switch your TV on and off. The new Apple TV will be available starting April 30, with a 32 GB version for $179 and a 64 GB version for $199Apple also redesigned its podcast app, including a new section called channels that will curate shows.Apple card updates, a purple iPhone and moreThe company also made changes to its Apple Card offering for spouses and families who share their credit card accounts. Spouses can now merge and share their Apple Card credit lines, while having equal rights on the account and with each person building credit. For families, the company will now allow any member over the age of 13 to use the family Apple Card account. Apple Card is an Apple-branded credit card issued by Goldman Sachs that the company launched in 2019, available only to iPhone users. Apple also announced a paid service for podcasts called Apple Podcast Subscriptions. Among the perks of a podcast subscription will be ad-free listening, early access to new series and exclusive content. Some of the participating media brands include NPR, the Los Angeles Times and The Athletic. The paid service will be available in 170 regions and countries next month. Podcast creators set their own pricing. In a bit of a surprise, Apple dedicated some stage time to announce that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are now available in purple. This joins existing models available in blue, green, black, white and red. It starts at $799 and will go on sale April 30.

Amazon union election results should be set aside, union argues to labor board

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) filed formal objections with the National Labor Relations Board late Friday, alleging Amazon’s conduct in the lead up to and during the election prevented “a free and uncoerced exercise of choice by the employees” and calling for the board to “set the election aside.” The election, which took place by mail over a nearly two-month period due to the pandemic, resulted in 1,798 workers voting against the union and just 738 for it. Roughly 500 ballots are being challenged; however, the vote lead held by Amazon is greater than the total number of challenged ballots. Some 5,800 workers were eligible to vote.In a statement to CNN Business regarding the objections filed by the union, Amazon said, “rather than accepting these employees’ choice, the union seems determined to continue misrepresenting the facts in order to drive its own agenda. We look forward to the next steps in the legal process.”Several of the 23 objections listed in the filing center on the mailbox that Amazon installed earlier this year in the parking lot and urged employees to use to mail their ballots. While union elections are typically done in-person with NLRB officials present, due to the pandemic the NLRB allowed for voting by mail, over Amazon’s strenuous objections. ​The ballots, which were mailed to the homes of eligible employees, could be cast in any USPS mailbox. The union had cried foul over Amazon’s new mailbox ahead of the results.The company covered its mailbox with a tent, creating “the impression that the collection box was a polling location” and “thereby interfered with the NLRB’s exclusive control over the election,” according to the filing, which the union made public on Monday. Moreover, Amazon “created the impression of surveillance” of the mailbox because it maintains security cameras in the parking lot, the filing states.​In a statement to CNN Business last month as the voting period came to a close, Amazon spokesperson Heather Knox said “the USPS recently installed a mailbox onsite for the convenience of our employees … This mailbox is enclosed in a tent making it convenient, safe, and private for our employees to vote on their way to and from work if they choose to, or use it for any of their other mailing needs. Only USPS can collect the outgoing mail from this box or put incoming mail into it.”Beyond the mailbox, the union alleged that prior to the start of the election, which began in early February, Amazon “agents” threatened that workers could lose benefits, including health insurance, or that the warehouse may even close if the union effort were successful. The company also allegedly emailed employees that it would have to cut thousands of workers because of the union. Amazon, which has previously fended off unions in the United States, waged an online and offline campaign to combat the drive, including posting signage in bathroom stalls and requiring workers to attend group meetings, known as “captive audience meetings,” before the start of the election to convey its anti-union stance. In its filing, the union also alleged that Amazon attempted to stifle some of its workers and union organizers through a variety of tactics, including selectively enforcing social distancing policies to crack down on employees discussing support for the union, and terminating a union-supporting worker for passing out union authorization cards in non-working areas. The union alleged this “had a chilling effect on support for the union.”Additionally, the company “pressured government officials into changing the timing on a traffic light so as to interfere with efforts by organizers to hand bill and/or communicate with employees as they left the facility,” the filing alleged. In a statement on the election results, which came Friday, April 9, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said it would file formal objections to the election process. “We won’t let Amazon’s lies, deception and illegal activities go unchallenged, which is why we are formally filing charges against all of the egregious and blatantly illegal actions taken by Amazon during the union vote,” the statement said.In a blog post following the results, Amazon said, “It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true. Our employees heard far more anti-Amazon messages from the union, policymakers, and media outlets than they heard from us. And Amazon didn’t win — our employees made the choice to vote against joining a union.”

Apple's iOS 14.5 update lands next week — including new emojis, big privacy changes

The company said in a press release that it will roll out its much-anticipated iOS 14.5 software but didn’t specify which day. It’ll feature the the ability to unlock your device without taking off a mask when using an Apple Watch, a major data privacy change and new emoji, including a less graphic syringe amid the global Covid-19 vaccine rollout. It’ll also include support for its new AirTag Bluetooth trackers.As expected, Apple (AAPL) is introducing a new requirement for users to give explicit permission for apps to track them across the internet, a move that has roiled Facebook, which relies on data collection to target ads. The company said the requirement could harm its ad revenue, but has framed its objections around potential harm to small businesses. In December, Facebook took out ads in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, saying the requirement could be “devastating” to millions of small businesses that advertise on its platform. It also held a press event to trot out small businesses opposed to the change and debuted a new hashtag to discuss it.In addition, iPhone users will soon be able to unlock their smartphones without needing to remove their face masks, but first they’ll need an Apple Watch. Face ID typically recognizes when someone is wearing a mask and triggers the passcode entry screen to appear. Now, an iPhone will be able to communicate with a synced Apple Watch when the phone is raised to use Face ID. The devices must be in close proximity, and when authentication is completed the iPhone will automatically unlock and the Apple Watch will vibrate. Apple quietly tested this feature in February.And it wouldn’t be a significant software update without the inclusion of more emoji. Among the new additions: a heart on fire, a face with swirly eyes, the ability for both women and men to have beards, and a syringe without drops of blood.iOS 14.5 will also allow users to report traffic accidents directly within Apple Maps, a crowdsourcing tool similar to Google’s popular Waze app. Users will also be able to select from additional voice options for Siri, which will no longer default to a female voice.The company also announced on Tuesday a new iPad Pro, AirTag, a revamped Apple TV, a purple iPhone and more.