Yesterday afternoon, the Twitter account for digital fitness company Peloton tweeted an emoji of a person rowing a boat. That’s it; that’s the tweet. If you wondered if that meant Peloton is sinking, you couldn’t be totally blamed—after all, Peloton’s third quarter earnings weren’t great, and its outlook for the next quarter isn’t stellar either. But a teaser video shared in a follow-up tweet revealed a Peloton-branded rowing machine. It was a quick glimpse at the product, and the company has yet to share any details on availability and price. (Trust me, we’ve asked.) The long-rumored rower was also Peloton’s “worst-kept secret on Earth,” as cofounder and chief product officer Tom Cortese described it in an interview with the Verge.
This upcoming rowing machine and the recently launched Peloton Guide are both niche hardware products, catering to people who want to do a specific kind of workout. What’s likely getting less attention right now is the fact that Peloton also just announced that it will soon allow people to track non-Peloton workouts, like walking and running, in its mobile app. This only underscores that Peloton is a subscription company that wants to keep people engaged in its apps as much as possible. New CEO Barry McCarthy has already piloted a program to lower the up-front cost of the hardware, while the price for access to the bike and treadmill apps just went up from $39 to $44 a month. So the rowing machine, whenever it ships, is much less significant as a stand-alone product and more a part of a broader ecosystem play.
Here’s some more news from the world of gadgets.
iPhones Might Finally Get USB-C ports
In a perfect society you wouldn’t need a different cord for every device. Fortunately, that utopian vision could be getting a step closer. According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, Apple has been testing new iPhones that have USB-C connectors instead of Apple’s proprietary lightning ports.
While the faster, simpler USB-C ports have become ubiquitous across device categories, Apple has long been the most prominent holdout. As Gurman suggests, Apple’s motivation may be adherence to a decision by the European Union to mandate that manufacturers like Apple use the USB-C standard across devices. It’s not the only decision the company seems to have made to get out ahead of legislation. Apple (begrudgingly) started providing repair parts and manuals for its devices after a device repairability law passed in France.
Gurman says Apple’s new USB-C ports won’t slot into iPhones until next year at the earliest. Still, it’s huge news for everyone who’s sick of accidentally jamming the wrong charger into their phone.
Foldables Could Go Both Ways
You may think of folding screens as fully flexible—that’s sort of their whole deal. But most foldables only bend in one direction, either inward or outward. Some new tech from LG aims to combine them into one screen that can fold along a full 360-degree axis.
This week, at an industry conference called Society for Information Display, LG showed off an 8-inch screen capable of doing this. The company says the screen is capable of withstanding 200,000 folds before showing signs of wear. LG hasn’t offered a timeline for when this will make its way into a mass-market product. Still, companies are barreling ahead with foldables, whether they’ll become the future of screens or not. Hopefully this gives them just a little bit more, ahem, flexibility.
There’s a New OP-1
The OP-1 synthesizer is Swedish developer Teenage Engineering’s flagship beat box. It’s a compact, feature-stuffed groove machine that’s popular with musical pros and hobbyists alike. (Those who are willing to plop down the $1,200 asking price, anyway.) This week, the company announced that the OP-1 has gotten its first major update since its launch in 2011.
Called the OP-1 Field, the new model is thinner and lighter, and it packs even more features into its slim keyboard frame, including a higher-resolution display, 32-bit audio, and 24 hours of battery life (up from eight to 10 hours on the original).
Teenage Engineering also codesigned the hugely anticipated retro-style gaming handheld Playdate. While that particular device isn’t shipping again until 2023, the new OP-1 Field is available now. Unfortunately, it’s also more expensive than its predecessor, retailing for a whopping $2,000. Good things may come in small packages, but they’re going to cost you.
Time to Shut the iPod Doors, Hal
A moment of silence for the iPod, please. This week, Apple announced that it has stopped producing the iPod Touch, the last remaining product in its iconic line of music players. The original iPod launched in October 2001, and now its run has come to an end.
WIRED’s Steven Levy—who literally wrote the book on the iPod—goes in depth on the device’s demise.
A Gaggle of Google Gadgets
And in case you somehow missed it, Google held its I/O developer conference this week. The company used its keynote event to show off a smorgasbord of software and hardware updates. There’s new Pixel phones, a more conversational Google Assistant, some changes to make Search more inclusive, and yes, even a real-life Pixel Watch.
If you want to dig in, here’s all the hardware Google announced this week. And here’s all the new software updates. Also listen to some of WIRED’s gadget geeks dive deep on the important announcements on this week’s Gadget Lab podcast.
I hope you’re ready for the Netflixification of all your stuff, because yet another device company is reportedly hatching plans to make that happen.
According to Bloomberg reporter and Apple soothsayer Mark Gurman, Apple is developing a service where customers would be able to rent iPhones (and possibly iPads) by paying a subscription fee. For Apple, it’s perhaps a natural move. The company has a robust slate of subscription plans already, it has offered trade-in plans for its phones for years, and its carrier partners have previously adopted this tactic by doling out new phones to some customers on an annual basis.
The iPhone-by-subscription idea aligns with Apple’s ongoing push to merge its every device and service into a unified Apple ecosystem. And it’s not the only company testing such a service; Peloton is also trying out hardware subscriptions for its bikes. Plans like these might be appealing if you scoff at the idea of paying $1,000 for a device that will have a newer, shiner replacement within a year. Of course, it also gives the manufacturer more control over its devices. If you’re just renting a gadget, you’re probably not going to want to tinker with it or repair it on your own.
Here’s some more gear news.
The GIF’s Creator Dies
If you’ve spent more than four seconds on the internet, you know what a GIF is. The ubiquitous file format has shaped how people communicate online since the dialup days. Stephen Wilhite, the man who created the GIF, died this week. He was 74.
Wilhite first developed the GIF in 1987 while working at the US online service company CompuServe. While he intended the GIF to be a simple static image format, its ability to contain animated loops within a small file size allowed the GIF to quickly become a de facto means of communication of its own.
And yeah, you’re probably pronouncing it wrong.
John Deere Cedes Ground in the Right-to-Repair Battle
On Monday, farm equipment company John Deere said it would soon start making some parts and software tools available to customers and third-party repair shops. It’s a surprising move for a company that has been notoriously averse to repairability in the past. Deere even went so far as to file an anti-piracy claim with the US government in 2015 to block farmers from altering the software on its machinery. Still, this week’s move is unlikely to appease right-to-repair advocates, who have called for the tractor maker to be much more open about allowing farmers to work directly on the machines they own.
John Deere says it plans to loosen more repair restrictions, but it didn’t give a specific timeframe.
LG’s Newest OLEDs Are Coming
We tend to like LG’s OLED televisions here at WIRED. The company’s OLED tech is an industry standard for picture quality, and we called the last edition of LG’s OLED the best TV for gamers in our Best Televisions buying guide.
From a new iPhone SE and iPad Air to a beefy M1 Ultra chipset, Apple’s spring hardware event brought refreshed versions of existing gadgets and processors. But the company also introduced a completely new piece of hardware on Tuesday called the Mac Studio—a small but mighty M1-powered desktop computer.
It’s safe to say the Mac Studio is like the Mac Mini on steroids, with a ton more features inside and out. At a glance, it looks similar to Apple’s headless desktop—with a cube-like shape that stands 3.7 inches tall and measures about 8 inches on each side. So it’s compact enough to place on your desk or under a display. It also packs a ton of ports, including two USB-C ports and an SD card slot on the front, along with four Thunderbolt ports, two USB-A slots, an HDMI port, a 10 GB Ethernet port, and a headphone jack on the back.
Under the hood, you can opt for one of Apple’s custom chips, either an M1 Max or the newest processor, the M1 Ultra, which was also unveiled today. When it’s powered by the M1 Max, Apple claims the Mac Studio has up to 50 percent faster CPU performance and over three times faster graphics than a Mac Pro with a 16-core Xeon processor. Meanwhile, the newer M1 Ultra is up to 90 percent faster in CPU performance than the same Mac Pro and 80 percent faster than the fastest Mac graphics card, according to claims Apple made during its presentation.
Regardless of the configuration, it shouldn’t run hot. During the unveiling, Apple touted the Mac Studio’s thermal design, which works to keep the internal components cool. This consists of double-sided blowers, airflow channels, and thousands of perforations on the back and bottom of the machine’s case. Since this design requires less fan-spinning action to keep things chill, the Mac Studio should stay quiet even when it’s handling more power-intensive tasks.
The Mac Studio can connect to any monitor of your choosing, but Apple has also designed a display to match the desktop. The new Studio Display is a 27-inch monitor with 5K resolution. It also features a 12-megapixel webcam (with Apple’s Center Stage feature that keeps you centered in the frame on video calls), a six-speaker sound system that supports spatial audio and Dolby Atmos playback, a three-microphone array, and four force-canceling woofers for the audio low end. The Studio Display also comes with three USB-C ports and a Thunderbolt port.
It looks like a Note, it acts like a Note. Just don’t call it a Note. That’s Samsung’s new Galaxy S22 Ultra, a massive, 6.8-inch Android phone that’s styled like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra from 2020. The similarity between the new S-series phone and the Note of yesteryear is more than skin deep. For the first time on a Galaxy S, a stylus—the one feature that made Note phones so unique—is embedded inside the device. That might mean the death of the Note branding Samsung has used for its large, S Pen-carrying mobiles since 2011.
This $1,200 phablet (are we still saying phablet?) was announced today at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked virtual event, alongside two other phones: the new Galaxy S22 ($800) and Galaxy S22+ ($1,000). Oh, and three new tablets too. Here’s a breakdown of all six Samsung devices.
I’m Feeling 22
Let’s start with the phones. There are minor changes over last year’s excellent Galaxy S21 range. The S22 and S22+, for example, are slightly smaller than their predecessors, with 6.1-inch and 6.6-inch screens, respectively. They don’t have the accented color on the rear camera module, which is a downgrade to me. It added a bit of fun to the S21 lineup, and things feel a bit one-note here (pardon the pun).
The S22 Ultra gets the biggest redesign. It takes many cues from the Galaxy Note, including the built-in S Pen you can pull out from its underside. Samsung says its stylus is more responsive than ever before, but it can do all the same tricks we last saw on the Note 20 Ultra, including serving as a Bluetooth controller for the camera, acting as a drawing utensil, or being used as a way to take notes so Samsung’s handwriting recognition software can convert your scribbles into regular text. There is no S Pen included with the S22 or S22+, and those phones don’t support the stylus either. You’ll have to pay for the Ultra if you prefer to use a stylus with your phone.
The other main difference between the Ultra and its smaller siblings is in the camera system. The S22 Ultra remains the only one of the lot with a 10X optical zoom camera—and it has no peer in the US with similar functionality. Its main camera uses the same 108-megapixel sensor as last year’s S21 Ultra, whereas the S22 and S22+ have a new 50-megapixel sensor that’s 23 percent larger than the sensor in their predecessors. Larger image sensors have more light-gathering capabilities, enabling them to produce brighter and sharper photos. The only cameras that are exactly the same across all the phone models are the 3X optical zoom telephoto, the 12-megapixel ultrawide, and the 40-megapixel selfie cam.
Despite different main cameras, Samsung says all three phones use a new image processing technique called Adaptive Pixel to produce brighter high-resolution photos. Weirdly, this process doesn’t occur by default. Let me explain. Just like last year, by default, the new devices capture 12-megapixel photos instead of photos that take full advantage of the sensor size—108- or 50-megapixel photos, depending on the phone. This is because it uses a process called pixel binning, where pixels merge and become larger but fewer in number so each one can absorb more light. That produces a photo that’s lower in resolution yet brighter. It’s an ideal method to use anytime there isn’t a ton of light in a scene.
While CES forged ahead with an in-person trade show this year, WIRED took its HQ virtual. The good news is, we’re plenty used to it by now! And online or in-person, CES is still one of the best opportunities to catch a glimpse of where consumer tech is headed. We held insightful conversations and panels on Wednesday from the inventors, executives, and thinkers shaping that future.
Yes, TV companies have rolled out their usual eye-popping displays. But this year’s show has so far been defined more by transportation and smart-home advances and, yes, the occasional NFT tie-in. At WIRED HQ, we dived into the future of autonomous driving, both on the street and on the farm. We explored the ongoing upheavals at the intersection of tech and democracy. And we capped things off with a special live edition of the Gadget Lab podcast, featuring WIRED’s trusty crew of consumer technology journalists.
Missed a session? Catch the replays below.
CES WIRED HQ
CES 2022: What to Expect Brian Barrett, WIRED; and Lauren Goode, WIRED
The Future of Autonomous Driving On- and Off-Road Aubrey Donnellan, Bear Flag Robotics; Jody Kelman, Lyft; and Aarian Marshall, WIRED
CTRL ALT DEL—Rebooting the Role of Technology in Geo-Politics Will Hurd, Former Congressman; and Brian Barrett, WIRED
Gadget Lab Live Michael Calore, WIRED; Julian Chokkattu, WIRED; Lauren Goode, WIRED; and Adrienne So, WIRED
Sponsored Conversation by Abbott Laboratories From Ideas to Market: The Next Generation of Medical Devices Lisa Earnhardt, Abbott Laboratories; and Brian Barrett, WIRED
Sponsored Conversation by Moen The Invisible Smart Home Mark-Hans Richer, Moen; and Brian Barrett, WIRED