Top Stories: AirPods Max Announced, Apple Fitness+ Launch, Future Apple Silicon Chips

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The Apple product launches just keep on coming, with Apple this week introducing AirPods Max, the premium over-ear headphones that were rumored over the past few months under the “AirPods Studio” name.

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We also learned this week that Apple’s Fitness+ subscription service will be launching on Monday, December 14 alongside the release of iOS 14.3 and related operating system updates, while we heard a bit more about Apple’s ambitions for future Mac chips based on Apple silicon. Check out the details on those stories and more below!

Apple Announces AirPods Max Over-Ear Headphones With Noise Cancellation, Priced at $549

Last week, MacRumors obtained an AppleCare memo that hinted at a potential hardware announcement on December 8, and Apple delivered by introducing new wireless over-ear headphones called AirPods Max.

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Key features of the AirPods Max include high-fidelity audio powered by an Apple-designed H1 chip in each ear cup, spatial audio, active noise cancellation, and adaptive EQ. Design wise, the headphones have magnetically-attachable memory foam ear cushions, stainless steel telescoping arms, and a headband with a “breathable knit mesh” that distributes weight to reduce on-head pressure, according to Apple.

Similar to the Apple Watch, AirPods Max feature a Digital Crown on one ear cup for precise volume control and the ability to play or pause audio, skip tracks, answer or end phone calls, and activate Siri voice control. There’s also a noise control button for switching between active noise cancellation and transparency mode, which lets some outside sound in so you can interact naturally with your surroundings.

AirPods Max feature up to 20 hours of battery life with active noise cancellation and spatial audio enabled, and they come with a carrying case called the “Smart Case” that puts the headphones in an ultra-low power state that helps to preserve battery charge when not in use.

Priced at $549, the AirPods Max are significantly more expensive than some other popular over-ear headphones, including Sony’s WH-1000XM4, which are currently priced as low as $278. AirPods Max can be ordered now, with availability starting December 15, but the headphones are already backordered until March on Apple.com. There are five color options, including silver, space gray, green, sky blue, and pink.

AirPods Max Unboxing Videos: ‘More Than Good Enough to Compete With Other High-End Headphones’

Following the introduction of AirPods Max, Apple has provided select media outlets and YouTube channels with the headphones, and the first hands-on impressions and unboxing videos are now out.

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While more time is needed for in-depth reviews and comparisons, The Verge‘s Nilay Patel said AirPods Max sound “more than good enough to compete with other high-end headphones.” Likewise, CNET‘s David Carnoy believes AirPods Max “raise the noise-canceling bar,” edging out both Sony’s WH-1000XM4 and Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in his testing.

AirPods Max come with a magnetic carrying case called the “Smart Case,” which puts the headphones in an ultra-low power state to preserve battery charge when not in use, according to Apple. The case has already become the butt of a joke on social media, and many of the first impressions articles shared so far agreed that the case looks rather peculiar.

More detailed reviews of the AirPods Max will be available following their launch on December 15, so stay tuned for more coverage.

Apple Fitness+ to Launch December 14

In addition to introducing AirPods Max, Apple also announced this week that its new Apple Fitness+ workout service launches Monday, December 14 in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

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Apple Fitness+ will provide users with access to a library of workout videos related to strength, yoga, dance, running, walking, cycling, rowing, and more, with new content delivered each week from a team of trainers hired by Apple. Fitness+ integrates personal metrics such as heart rate from the Apple Watch to motivate users, animating them on the screen during key moments in the workout.

Fitness+ requires an Apple Watch Series 3 or later. The workout videos can be watched on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.

Priced at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, Fitness+ will automatically appear as a new tab in the Fitness app on iPhone, while iPad users will be able to download the Fitness app from the App Store. On the Apple TV, the Fitness app will automatically appear once users upgrade to tvOS 14.3.

Next-Generation Apple Silicon Chips for Macs Could Include 16- and 32-Core Options

Last month, Apple released its first Macs with its custom-designed M1 chip, including a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini.

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Apple promised that its transition away from Intel processors will take about two years to be completed, and a new report this week outlined what we could expect from future Apple Silicon Macs.

According to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman and Ian King, Apple is working on several successors to the M1 chip for new MacBook Pro and iMac models next year, including designs with as many as 16 power cores and four efficiency cores. And for a future Mac Pro planned for launch by 2022, Apple is said to be testing a chip design with as many as 32 high-performance cores.

Apple is also said to be working on ambitious graphics chips that will feature between 16 and 128 cores depending on the Mac model. These chips could be introduced in late 2021 or potentially 2022.

Useful macOS Big Sur Features You Might Not Know

macOS Big Sur has been out for about a month now, but macOS releases never get quite as much attention as iOS releases, so there may still be some features that you’re not aware of. In our latest YouTube video, we rounded up some useful but lesser known ‌macOS Big Sur‌ tips that are worth checking out on the Mac.

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One example is drag-and-drop menu bar icons. If you open up the Control Center on macOS Big Sur, you can click and drag on any of the options to add it to the menu bar. So if you want Do Not Disturb to have a one-click menu bar toggle, just drag it to the menu bar from Control Center. This works for music playback controls, AirDrop, Do Not Disturb, and more.

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Each week, we publish an email newsletter like this highlighting the top Apple stories, making it a great way to get a bite-sized recap of the week hitting all of the major topics we’ve covered and tying together related stories for a big-picture view.

So if you want to have top stories like the above recap delivered to your email inbox each week, subscribe to our newsletter!

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