Apple Wants You to Smash That Subscribe Button

Apple’s September product events are usually noteworthy for their hardware announcements. But this year, like with just about everything else, was different. Apple did unveil new Watches and iPads, but the company’s most significant announcements came in the form of services. There’s a new set of subscription bundles that lumps all of Apple’s streaming services together, and a new service for connected home workouts (called Fitness+) aimed squarely at competitors like Peloton. These offerings are feature-packed, relatively affordable, and meant to draw you even deeper into the Apple ecosystem.

This week on Gadget Lab, WIRED senior associate editor Julian Chokkattu joins us to talk about Apple’s announcements and what they mean for the gadget buyers among us.

Show Notes

Read up on all of Apple’s announcements from this week. Also read our deeper look at the new Apple Watch Series 6, and our list of the standout features in iOS 14.

Recommendations

Julian recommends the Fluance RT80 turntable but also just getting any record player in general. Mike recommends the show 3% on Netflix. Lauren recommends WIRED’s list of best air purifiers.

Julian Chokkattu can be found on Twitter @JulianChokkattu. Lauren Goode is @LaurenGoode. Michael Calore is @snackfight. Bling the main hotline at @GadgetLab. The show is produced by Boone Ashworth (@booneashworth). Our executive producer is Alex Kapelman (@alexkapelman). Our theme music is by Solar Keys.

If you have feedback about the show, or just want to enter to win a $50 gift card, take our brief listener survey here.

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What’s in Wildfire Smoke, and How Dangerous Is It?

By the time it reaches the East Coast, a California smoke plume will have changed in a number of ways: Because it’s spent so much time aloft, the bigger particles have fallen out, but new particles will have formed. And because the cloud has spawned ozone, “it can be extremely impactful if you already have some health condition, let’s say asthma,” says Tarik Benmarhnia, a climate change epidemiologist at the UC San Diego’s Scripps institution of Oceanography and School of Medicine.

The solid stuff in wildfire smoke may also contain nasties. “Some particulate matter has more heavy metals than others,” says Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford University’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy Research. “Lead for example, or cadmium. There’s also other types of cancer-causing toxins. There’s things like PAHs—polyaromatic hydrocarbons,” which are found in fossil fuels. Keep in mind that when a wildfire tears through a residential neighborhood, it’s burning through the synthetic materials that make up homes, cars, and everything else in the built environment. “I think a lot of times we don’t know, when we’re talking about residential areas burning, how much more toxic it is to human health,” Prunicki adds.

With this handy map, you can actually see a forecast of where the smoke will end up. On the left side of the map, click “Vertically Integrated Smoke” to see what’s loading the East Coast atmosphere right now. (Red indicates high levels, blue means low.) The “Surface Smoke” option shows what you’d actually be breathing. As you can see, the latter is snaking a plume of bad air quality all the way to the Midwest, though at the moment not much of it is reaching the ground along the Eastern Seaboard. Which is not to say that it won’t—the weather could change and push the stuff down to ground level, at which point air quality will suffer.

Meanwhile, the West Coast has its own ozone problems because smoke has been recirculating through the region. “It’s staying in the same place, and you’re getting the same pollution from yesterday,” says Buchholz. The more time that goes by, “the more this ozone can be produced with sunlight.”

It’s not helping matters that the West Coast has been suffering extreme heat as these fires have burned—indeed, this and other consequences of climate change are supercharging blazes, because hotter temperatures and drier brush are making wildfires burn more intensely. That heat leads to the formation of yet more ozone at ground level. Hot air rises, so the fiercer the wildfire, the higher it propels smoke into the atmosphere to be carried across the US.

Wherever the smoke lands, we know it won’t be good for human health. “There’s a lot of literature in air pollution research showing associations with PM 2.5 and different types of diseases, in addition to shortened life expectancy, throughout the world,” Prunicki says. Her own research confirms that wildfire smoke specifically leads to inflammation in the lungs. She and her colleagues studied teenagers in Fresno, California, which suffers from bad air quality in general, but also endures blasts of wildfire smoke from forested areas to the east. “We looked at a group that was exposed to a wildfire versus not, and there was an increase in some of the systemic inflammatory biomarkers,” Prunicki says. “So we know that the smoke itself will cause systemic inflammation.” This is unhealthy for anyone, much more so for people with asthma or other respiratory issues.

Prunicki has also found that wildfire smoke causes an immune gene to be turned down, specifically one that produces what are known as T regulatory cells. “And T regulatory cells are needed to kind of have a healthy immune system,” Prunicki says. “It’s a good type of immune cell, not an inflammatory type of immune cell.”

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Rocket Lab Could Beat NASA Back to Venus in the Search for ET

But Venus is a particularly hostile destination. On the surface, temperatures are hot enough to melt lead, and the atmospheric pressures are intense. Things are a bit more tolerable high in the atmosphere where researchers recently detected phosphine. Here, temperatures hover around a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit, atmospheric pressures are slightly lower than those at sea level on Earth, and the sun is visible through the clouds. Sure, those clouds are made of a corrosive sulphuric acid, and the high-altitude winds whip around the planet at tornado-like speeds. Still, it’s paradise compared with the surface.

Many planetary scientists, including Carl Sagan, have long suspected that relatively clement conditions high above Venus’ surface could support microbial life. The recent detection of phosphine in the upper Venusian atmosphere is the best evidence yet that there might be something to that theory. But whether the phosphine points to life or is just the result of some weird high-temperature reaction we don’t yet understand requires sending an intrepid robot to find out. “No matter what you find, the amount of learning is going to be tremendous,” says Beck.

If Beck’s vision comes true, Rocket Lab would be the first company to launch a private interplanetary mission. But while its Venus probe could certainly yield some interesting data about the planet’s atmosphere, some experts aren’t sure the probe would be big enough to carry the kind of tech it would need to sniff out signs of phosphine, much less life itself.

“Small probes, like that proposed by Rocket Lab, are unlikely to have the mass to carry more sophisticated instruments such as mass spectrometers, which are exactly the kind of tools we need to really get to the heart of this phosphine detection,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at North Carolina State University. “Rocket Lab’s mission could give us key physical measurements of the region of the atmosphere where this gas was detected, but to really answer this question we need at least a dedicated orbiter to search for phosphine and then a mission to the clouds themselves—not a descent probe, but an aerial platform of some sort.”

Seager, who has collaborated with Rocket Lab on its probe, says it should be possible to identify complex molecules that wouldn’t exist without life. “A probe without a parachute could last up to an hour, and there are instruments that take one second to make measurements,” she says. Still, she agrees with Byrne that an aerial platform is the ideal way to search for life on Venus.

It’s not a new idea. In the 1980s, the Soviet Union launched a pair of Venus landers—Vega 1 and 2—that each released a balloon-borne probe during their descent to the surface. Those probes only transmitted for around a day before going dark, but they operated in the part of Venus’ atmosphere where researchers found phosphine. Ballooning on Venus has only grown more attractive since the Vega missions, after companies like Google demonstrated it’s possible to keep large balloon-borne payloads aloft at high altitudes for months at a time on Earth. In 2018, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory initiated a study of possible Venus balloon probe concepts, and the agency has also explored whether the Venusian clouds could support crewed missions in blimplike spacecraft. But so far none of these ideas has moved beyond a conceptual stage.

That doesn’t mean NASA is ignoring Earth’s fiery sister. Earlier this year the agency announced the finalists for its next round of Discovery missions, and two of the four missions selected for further study have Venus in their sights. One of the Discovery proposals, Davinci+, is similar to Rocket Lab’s envisioned Venus mission. The NASA researchers plan to drop a spherical probe from a Venus orbiter that would slowly descend to the surface under parachute. On its way down, it would use an onboard chemical laboratory to sniff out gases in the atmosphere. It would focus on rare inert gases like krypton and neon that could shed light on Venus’ history, but there is the possibility it could also look for gases like phosphine that are associated with living organisms. Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, says the Davinci+ scientists can’t speculate on the possible capabilities of the mission while the team competes for selection in the agency’s Discovery program.

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Companies Can Track Your Phone’s Movements to Target Ads

Google and Apple have taken steps this year they say will help users shield themselves from hundreds of companies that compile profiles based on online behavior. Meanwhile, other companies are devising new ways to probe more deeply into other aspects of our lives.

In January, Google said it would phase out third-party cookies on its Chrome browser, making it harder for advertisers to track our browsing habits. Publishers and advertisers use cookies to compile our shopping, browsing, and search data into extensive user profiles. These profiles reflect our political interests, health, shopping behavior, race, gender, and more. Tellingly, Google will still collect data from its own search engine, plus sites like YouTube or Gmail.

Apple, meanwhile, says it will require apps in a forthcoming version of iOS to ask users before tracking them across services, though it delayed the effective date until next year after complaints from Facebook. A poll from June showed as many as 80 percent of respondents would not opt in to such tracking.

Together, the moves are likely to squeeze the industry of middlemen that compile user profiles from our digital tracks. But “big companies with large repositories of first-party data about their consumers probably aren’t going to be terribly negatively impacted,” says Charles Manning, CEO of the analytics platform Kochava.

Companies looking for new ways to categorize users and tailor content are turning to a new tool: physical signals from the phone itself.

“We see Apple’s announcements, consumers getting more conscious of privacy, and the death of the cookie,” says Abhishek Sen, cofounder of NumberEight, a “contextual intelligence” startup in the UK that infers user behavior from sensors in their smartphone.

Sen describes NumberEight’s chief product as “context prediction software.” The tool helps apps infer user activity based on data from a smartphone’s sensors: whether they’re running or seated, near a park or museum, driving or riding a train.

Most smartphones have internal components that record data on their movements. If you’ve ever used the compass on your phone, it’s thanks to internal sensors like the accelerometer (which can tell the direction you’re facing) and magnetometer, which is drawn to magnetic poles. These and other sensors also power features like “raise to wake,” where your phone powers on when you pick it up, or rotating to horizontal orientation to watch a movie.

Sen knows a lot about the sensors in phones, having worked with them at Blackberry and Apple. An earlier iteration of NumberEight’s tech was built around travel, collecting sensor data as part of research on London commuters, whose bus and train fares are based on the distance traveled. Sen researched using sensor data to determine when someone had exited a train or bus, to charge their fare automatically. But, given the “incredibly long sales cycle” of public contracts, Sen says, the app pivoted to music and other commercial services.

Companies like NumberEight, or competitors Sentiance and Neura, use sensor data to categorize users. Instead of building a profile to target, say, women over 35, a service could target ads to “early risers” (as indicated by sensors noting when the phone is picked up after hours of rest) or adapt its user interface for after-work commuters (as indicated when sensors note riding a train after 5 pm). The feedback from the sensors provides “context” on the user’s physical behavior.

Man looking at his computer being surrounded by eyes that represent data snatchers

The WIRED Guide to Your Personal Data (and Who Is Using It)

Information about you, what you buy, where you go, even where you look is the oil that fuels the digital economy.

Sen says NumberEight restricts how clients can collect and combine user data. For example, a gaming app may already know which of its users makes the most in-app purchases. It can use NumberEight to determine if these people are, say, heavy runners or long-distance commuters. A music app may use the service to determine when users are most likely to skip certain songs, based on whether they are jogging or home. They can personalize the app based on real-time information on people’s activities.

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Science Journals Are Purging Racist, Sexist Work. Finally

One paper from 2012 linked darker skin to aggression and sexuality in humans. Another from that year claimed to show that women with endometriosis are more attractive. A third, published last December, lamented physicians who posted casual pictures of themselves online—including some in which they’re wearing bikinis—as being unprofessional.

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All three of these articles have recently been retracted after outraged readers took to social media. In the past three months, at least four other articles, too, have been called out for both their content and their lack of scientific rigor, and then either flagged or withdrawn by their science publishers.

It’s playing like a preview for “The Purge: Academia.” Just as politicians and entertainers are confronted with years-old tweets that aren’t quite in keeping with the image they want, journals have been faced with ugly papers from their archives—some old and long-ignored—that their readers find unsettling. These papers were deeply flawed, and removing them from the literature is a good thing. But the reactive nature of the moves raises questions. Publishers’ typical narratives would suggest that problems such as these would be caught by peer review, before a manuscript is accepted; rather than acknowledged only later, in the middle of a public backlash.

For some of these retracted papers, the question is not whether they’re offensive but rather how they managed to get published in the first place. Take, for example, the one that argued that Blacks and Hispanics lack the cultural fundamentals for success in the American economy; or the commentary in a leading chemistry journal that was hostile to efforts to increase diversity. Another argument against affirmative action, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, was taken down on account of its “many misconceptions and misquotes,” as well as “inaccuracies, misstatements, and selective misreading of source materials.”

That hasn’t stopped conservatives from decrying the “censorship” of cancel-culture mobs on social media, and dismissing the recent moves as an exercise in virtue-signaling. Indeed, the fact that journals waited nearly a decade after publication to issue some of these retractions—and then moved very quickly—hints at a sliver of truth in the conservative critique. If a paper from 2012 didn’t meet a journal’s standards for scholarship to begin with, what’s so different now?

The critics are right: journals do have a double-standard, and it is political. They move briskly to pull unworthy papers tinged by politics while ignoring hundreds, or likely thousands, of credible allegations of fraud or major error. Just ask Elisabeth Bik, who some five years ago carefully documented and reported evidence of image manipulations in around 800 academic papers, often to no avail. In many cases, the publishers of those articles are the same as those that hop to it when social-media-powered petitions make their way to their inboxes.

Of course, no one (that we know of, at least) is arguing that #AllPapersMatter, and not all bad articles are created equal. For example, a paper that advocates racist pseudoscience almost certainly would cause more harm than one that over-hypes the benefits of doing a Superman flex in the bathroom mirror before a job interview, or an uncited and entirely forgettable article with one or two duplicated figures. Papers claiming benefits of snake oil should also be prioritized for retraction. Journals should act quickly to pull these more dangerous studies, while a little less alacrity on the others is understandable—to a degree, as long as they do something at some point.

But journals often act as if they’re monuments to their own rectitude rather than repositories of valid scientific information. The Lancet took a dozen years to retract the bogus study linking autism to early childhood vaccinations. Science has yet to pull a 2011 article, which was almost immediately debunked, claiming to have found a bacterium that lives on arsenic. And the infamous “Study 329,” in which SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) downplayed the potential harms of its mood drug Paxil, remains in the pages of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, almost 20 years later.

To be fair, small publishers may not have the person-power to conduct a thorough review of their back catalog. Retractions aren’t always, or even generally, simple administrative matters. Clear-cut claims of plagiarism, for example, must still be vetted with software and the human eye to compare text and make sure that overlapping sections are indeed theft. Allegations of manipulated images require investigation of figures that even experts may find difficult to decipher. Questions about shoddy statistics and tortured methodology, which may blur the line between acceptable practice and bad science, often require adjudication by independent experts. Oh, and authors of papers on the chopping block don’t always agree that their work should be retracted. They can drag things out for months or years, or, in some cases, even sue journals in response.

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GoPro Hero 9 Black Review: Time to Upgrade

You can almost set your seasonal clock by the release of a new GoPro camera. This year is no different; pandemic notwithstanding, the Hero 9 arrives precisely as the weather starts to cool.

Last year’s Hero 8 brought a new cageless design with built-in mounting rings and a more compact front lens. This year takes that form and enlarges it slightly. The Hero 9 is larger in all dimensions, though not noticeably heavier. It also fixes one major flaw in the Hero 8’s design: The lens cover is now replaceable (should you scratch it).

GoPro didn’t stop there, though. It’s now possible to add alternative lenses. At the moment, that means you can attach GoPro’s $100 Max Lens mod (sold separately), which brings half of the field of view found in GoPro’s 360-degree Max camera. Pair that with a new sensor that captures 5K video, a full-color front screen, and the ability to pull 14-megapixel stills from video, and you have a compelling reason to upgrade if you haven’t done so in a few years.

Living Larger

The first standout feature in the Hero 9 is the 23.6-megapixel sensor. That’s quite a jump from the predecessor’s 12-megapixel sensor. More megapixels means the Hero 9 Black can shoot 5K video and snap 20-megapixel still images.

5K video on its own isn’t that useful for most of us, since very few devices or streaming services support anything over 4K, but the extra pixels mean you can crop your video and still end up with 4K footage. With the huge field of view in a GoPro, the ability to crop and zoom in on your subject after the fact is a tremendous advantage.

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Photograph: GoPro

The disadvantage is that you’re limited to 30 frames per second (fps) in 5K, whereas at 4K you can shoot 60 fps. That means for fast-paced action—think Hero 9 strapped to your head while snowboarding a narrow chute—you’re likely better off switching to the lower resolution and higher frame rate. For broader shots with less motion, the higher resolution at lower frame rates will be better, opening up cropping possibilities when you edit.

The other downside with shooting at 5K is that most mobile devices aren’t capable of playing it, so there’s no previewing in the mobile app. You’ll have to download the footage to your laptop or desktop.

The 20-MP still images are perhaps an even more noticeable step up from previous Hero sensors. RAW images are considerably sharper, and there’s less smearing of fine details. The physical limitations of small lenses aren’t gone—purple fringing is quite common but easy to remove with software.

The new sensor also brings the ability to grab a 14.7-MP still image from videos. That’s a high enough resolution to be perfectly usable not just on the web, but in print. The great thing about this is that you can leave the camera in 5K video mode and then pull out high-quality still images later, so there’s never a chance you’ll miss the action.

Shooting in the dedicated photo mode still has some advantages, particularly the ability to shoot RAW images, but in my testing I was more than happy with the JPG results pulled from video 95 percent of the time. That’s primarily how I’ve been using the Hero 9—always in video mode. I figure it’s better to have the image in 14.7-megapixel JPG than miss the shot entirely in a quest to get a RAW image.

The other major new feature is the full-color front screen. The DJI Osmo Action camera beat GoPro here by several years, and it’s something I’ve missed whenever I switched back to GoPros. But while DJI got there first, GoPro has one-upped it with an always-on design that somehow doesn’t affect battery life. With the Osmo Action, you manually switch from front to rear screen as needed; the Hero 9 has both ready to go at all times. It makes the Hero 9’s front screen considerably more useful.

It’s worth noting that battery life has improved too, thanks to a larger battery. In a side-by-side 4K test with the Hero 8, the Hero 9 lasted 23 minutes longer, running for a full 2 hours and 11 minutes. In a more real-world test, the Hero 9 usually lasted me half a day, so you’ll still want to pack an extra battery if you’re planning a full day of shooting. Unfortunately, if you’re upgrading from an older Hero model, your extra batteries won’t work with the Hero 9.

Also, GoPro is claiming that battery performance in cold weather, in particular, is much better, but I have no way to test this yet.

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Photograph: GoPro

The last physical change of note is the new removable lens cover. This was my biggest gripe about the last model, so it’s nice to see GoPro address this shortcoming, but the company also added the ability to put a new mod on the existing lens. The Max lens mod adds a wider field view and potentially opens up some new filming possibilities. It’s not a full 360-degree lens like Insta360’s One R, which can be either an action camera or a 360-degree camera depending on which lens you use, but it’s nice to see GoPro moving in a similar direction.

The other mods introduced with the Hero 8 are still available and compatible.

Software Power

While the hardware upgrades are welcome, much of what’s really exciting about the Hero 9 lies in the software. In fact, there are too many software upgrades to cover them all in detail, but two deserve special mention. The first is Scheduled Capture. If you’ve ever wanted to do a sunrise time-lapse but hate waking up early, this one is for you. You can set up your shot, leave the camera outside your tent, and sleep in while the Hero 9 does all the work.

The second major update is to HyperSmooth, which is now at version 3.0. Designed to cut down on camera shake even in incredibly jolting and bumpy filming scenarios, the latest version is nothing short of astounding. GoPro sent me a radio-controlled car to test this out, and I drove it through the roughest stretches of the woods around my house. The resulting video looks like it was shot on a professional gimbal; it really is that smooth.

GoPro has also revamped and simplified its online subscription, offering perks like unlimited video storage space for backups, total camera replacement, and discounts at the GoPro store. You can buy the Hero 9 for $350 and get a 1-year subscription, but if you don’t need the subscription, you’ll have to pay $450. I suggest getting the discounted price and the subscription—you can always cancel when it’s time to renew it if you didn’t see much value after a year.

That’s still a lot to pay for an action camera. Thankfully, if you don’t need all the new bells and whistles, the Hero 7 and Hero 8 are still on sale for less.

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Hong Kong Is a Troubling Case Study in the Death of Democracy

Her campaign message was based more on continuing the protest movement from within government than traditional electoral promises. “We are not telling our voters, ‘Hey, vote for us and we will achieve the demands that you want,’ or ‘Hey, vote for us and we can pressure the government into giving in to our demands.’” she says. Such promises, she says, would be lies.

Ho was part of a loose alliance of younger politicians, whose ideas skewed more toward “localism”—a posture roughly rooted in promoting and protecting a Hong Kong identity and way of life separate from the mainland, though it has at times given rise to xenophobia, nativism, and ugly incidents of anti-mainland violence. Localism “includes a multitude of groups with different goals, ranging from advocating greater autonomy to independence for Hong Kong,” academic Ying-ho Kwong wrote in a paper examining the rise of the movement. “Most of them have developed a strong sense of local identity and object to growing political encroachment by the Beijing government into Hong Kong’s political, economic, and social affairs.”

Others in the loosely affiliated group included Winnie Yu, a nurse and chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, which led a medical workers’ strike in February to force the government to take faster action against the pandemic, and Jimmy Sham, a protest organizer and gay rights campaigner who was physically attacked on multiple occasions last year.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, a former land activist and current lawmaker became—at 43, more than two decades older than its youngest members—the elder statesman of the group. Despite some minor controversies—printing her campaign banners at a shop owned by Beijing supporters and effusive praise from activist Joshua Wong that rankled some journalists—Ho won convincingly, capturing some 26,000 votes in the July primary. Yu, Sham, and Chu, as well as 13 others from their camp were victorious as well, sweeping aside more traditional pro-democracy candidates and setting the city up for the possibility of a wave of boisterous, youthful lawmakers who had little time for diplomatic pleasantries and a seemingly bottomless reserve of anger toward Beijing.

Their plan, dubbed the 35-plus strategy, was hatched by legal scholar turned pro-democracy tactician Benny Tai and was audacious in its forthrightness. Protesters a year earlier laid siege to the city’s legislative council building, breaking through its glass doors and windows from outside, before storming the chamber. Now, they planned to use September’s elections to win, as the title suggested, 35 or more seats, seizing control of the city’s main political mechanism from the inside. Then they would set about upending the lawmaking and governance mechanisms, monkey-wrenching the system to “initiate a political crisis,” Ho says. “We are heading to a very dark period,” she added, her message and tone somewhat undercut as she paused to snap a picture of a dainty slice of cake shaped like a wedge of cheese.

It was a high-stakes gambit against an opponent, the Chinese Communist Party, that has for the past seven decades ensured its dominance through control, intimidation, and rule-rigging. The approach fits with the “laam caau” philosophy adopted by more radical protesters last year. The Cantonese phrase, drawn from gambling lingo, suggests a strategy of shared destruction, a sort of Pyrrhic victory that, while damaging Hong Kong, strikes a blow to city leaders and Beijing as well. The idea, for its most fervent adherents, is distilled in the slogan “If we burn, you burn with us.”

With majority control, Tai argued, lawmakers could wield their “most lethal constitutional weapon” and take drastic actions, like withholding approval of the city’s budget, thus forcing Lam to resign. In the most extreme circumstance, Beijing could intervene and dissolve the legislative council altogether—laying bare to the world that the “one country, two systems” formula under which Hong Kong has been ruled since it was handed back to China from Britain in 1997 has become irreparably broken.

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The Best iPad (2020): Which Apple Tablet Should You Buy?

If you’re thinking about getting an iPad Pro, we think you should consider the new iPad Air. It’s probably good enough for you and has a similarly large edge-to-edge display for less money.

The iPad Pro is the absolute best iPad, but it doesn’t come cheap. Unlike the others, it doesn’t have a home button or Touch ID, but it uses the front camera for Face ID just like most modern iPhones. It has slim edges around the screen, which allows for a larger display that comes in two sizes. The 12.9-incher is about the size of a magazine, and it’s wonderful for drawing with the Apple Pencil (a separate purchase), but the 11-inch model is plenty for most people. The Pencil is like the one on the new iPad Air—it magnetically sticks to the edge of the iPad Pro and wirelessly charges.

The 2020 Pro is still one of the most powerful iPads you can get, not just in performance but with other facets as well. It has more speakers for better sound quality, more microphones to pick up your voice clearer, and you get an extra camera. The 12-megapixel main camera is joined by a 10-megapixel ultrawide lens for snapping sweeping scenes, like on the iPhone 11. There’s also a lidar sensor, the kind used to measure depth for self-driving cars, but here it’s used for better augmented reality. However, as senior writer Lauren Goode notes in her review (9/10, WIRED Recommends), it’s not a drastic improvement, especially if you barely use AR apps. It’s also the only iPad in the lineup with a 120-Hz screen refresh rate, which makes everything look silky smooth.

Like the Air, it’s compatible with the Magic Keyboard and the Smart Keyboard.

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How ‘Cuties’ Got Caught in a Gamergate-Style Internet Clash

Even before Netflix released the French film Cuties in the United States, review sites were brimming with emotional audience judgements. The movie, which centers on a panicked Parisian preteen named Amy (Fathia Youssouf) as she joins a rebellious clique and navigates her family life, currently holds an 11 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Absolutely shocking that this was allowed to be broadcast,” one reads. Another: “Extremely inappropriate.” One more: “The world is worse for having this film in it.”

The debut film of director Maïmouna Doucouré, Cuties is a sensitive, small-scale character study of a French-Senagalese girl—not, historically, the sort of movie that attracts that much mainstream attention in America at all, let alone intense hatred. Yet members of Congress are calling it child porn, Doucouré is receiving death threats, and conspiracy theorists obsessed with secret elite cabals of pedophiles are targeting Netflix under the pretense that the streaming service is part of a global scheme to normalize the sexualization of children. Caught in the internet’s crosshairs, Cuties has become a lightning rod, but not an anomaly—it’s a new front in a culture clash that’s been going on for years.

Cuties is part of a growing subgenre of intimate indie movies focused on outsider girls. Catherine Hardwicke’s Thirteen is an obvious predecessor. In both Cuties and Thirteen, confused young female leads rebel in upsetting, age-inappropriate ways to win peer approval and avoid stressful family lives. Both treat the bonds between female friends and mothers and daughters as their primary concerns. No romances, no epic endings. Not exactly traditional box-office catnip geared to grab the masses. Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, which focuses on an East London girl named Mia, also has thematic overlap. Like Amy, Mia takes solace in hip-hop, lives in public housing, and has a single mother. Like Amy, she leaves a dance competition when she realizes it’s way too much for her. In its exploration of how social media can distort a young person’s sense of identity, Cuties recalls Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. In French film, it echoes Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood, which also follows a Black French girl as she joins a mischievous clique. Thirteen did provoke some hand-wringing upon release, but for the most part, these films have been well-regarded, auteur-driven dives into the experiences of young women. When it premiered at Sundance this year, Cuties looked poised to join this canon.

Maybe it will. But first it has to navigate a backlash of unprecedented proportions, as its reputation gets dragged through some particularly fetid mud.

To be unambiguous: Cuties is not a pornographic film. Doucouré drew from her own experiences—like Amy, she’s a French-Senegalese woman who grew up in Paris—and from the stories of young girls she interviewed to create an intimate, funny, painful coming-of-age story. There is no nudity. There are no sex scenes. It does feature disturbing sequences where its young actors dance provocatively in inappropriate clothing, and it shows Amy taking a picture of her crotch and posting it to social media. These scenes are intended to horrify the viewer, and the plot hinges on Amy understanding that she’s tried to grow up too fast. And, look, France does have a history of producing some frankly gross art about young girls—but Cuties has a fundamentally moderate message. Amy rejects aspects of her traditional Islamic upbringing, but she also ultimately turns away from her misapprehension that growing up means turning yourself into a sex object. In interviews, Doucouré has been very clear on this point. “Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she’s successful. Our children imitate what they see, trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s dangerous.”

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Apple Watch Series 6 and SE: Price, Details, Release Date

The products Apple announced in its short, one-hour presentation Tuesday morning were in line with the rumors and speculation that preceded the event. We’ve known the company’s September product showcase was going to focus on wrist-worn wearables ever since Apple invited us to watch the streaming presentation with a graphic titled “Time Flies.”

So, we were expecting a couple of Apple Watches, and today, they’re here. There’s a premium model called Apple Watch Series 6 and a lower-cost model called Apple Watch SE.

The premium model starts at $399 for the version with GPS; the model that adds cellular capabilities starts at $499. It runs off a modified version of Apple’s A13 processor that was introduced in the iPhone 11. The SE model, with a lower-powered processor, starts at $279. You can ready your wrist now: Both will ship this Friday, September 18.

As usual, much of Apple’s Watch pitch focused on features that help improve and maintain its users’ health. The company delivered the same message last year, when it highlighted features like emergency calling and fall detection. This time around, of course, that appeal to safety might hit a little harder than in years past, with much of the country living through multiple life-threatening disasters. And while a wearable computer might not be able to protect you from wildfire smoke or a deadly virus, Apple is still keen to point out how it can do a body good.

Gas Light

The big health feature announced for the Watch Series 6 was a long-rumored blood oxygen sensor. A cluster of LEDs on the Watch’s belly shines a red light through your skin, and a set of photodiodes measures the light that bounces back. Based on the perceived color of your blood, Apple says, the Watch can measure the level of oxygen saturation in your blood within 15 seconds. Apple framed this announcement by pointing out the increase in interest in blood oxygen level measurement due to the respiratory effects of Covid-19, but then was quick to note that the Watch’s new feature is to be used for general “fitness and wellness purposes.”

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The new Watch gives you detailed reports about the levels of oxygen in your blood.

Photograph: Apple 

The budget-conscious Watch SE doesn’t have the blood monitoring tech, always-on display, or ECG capabilities of its more expensive brethren, but it still has some of the new features introduced in Watch Series 5. Inside is an S5 chip that powers an accelerometer, an altimeter, and a compass. The lower-priced SE doesn’t quite replace the Apple Watch Series 3, which is still available as the true budget option at a price of $199.

Band Together

In terms of accessories, Apple showed off several new watch band styles, including a new one called the “Solo loop” that is just one stretchy piece of silicone with no clasp or buckle. It’s available as a smooth band or in a braided style. The Series 6 is also available in a variety of new colors, including blue aluminum, a shiny Product Red finish, or a couple of stainless steel options.

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