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.


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.

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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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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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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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Everything Apple Announced: Apple Watch 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad Air, Fitness+

Apple also announced a subscription service for streamed workouts that seems aimed squarely at taking on Peloton and other companies capitalizing on the home fitness trend.

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The new Fitness+ service offers video streams of workouts in an array of categories like yoga, cycling, strength training, high-intensity interval training, and dance. You can follow along with videos on an iPhone or TV. Data gleaned from an Apple Watch will display on screen in real time so customers can track calories burned and other metrics. All that data then syncs to Apple’s existing fitness app for later tracking. If paired with a Watch, on-screen instructions will also show up on your wrist. So, if a trainer reminds you to check heart rate, those numbers will get larger on the Watch so they’re easier to spot at a glance.

Apple says classes will feature Apple’s own workout instructors, and new sessions will be added every week. Fitness+ will be available later this year. It costs $10 per month, or $80 per year if you pay up front.

Bundle Up

But why subscribe to just one Apple service when you can subscribe to all of them? Apple is embracing the bundle by making the bulk of its subscription services available for a single price. The bundle, called Apple One, will include Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud storage.

Prices start at $15 a month, which includes 200 GB of iCloud storage. A Family plan lets you share all of those basic services and ups iCloud storage to 50 GB, all for $20. The Premier level adds the new Fitness+ service and Apple News+, and gives you 2 terabytes of storage, all for $30. Apple says these bundles will be available this fall.

There Are Also Two iPads

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Photograph: Apple

On the cheap end, Apple has a new base-model iPad. Not much has changed on this eight-generation iPad. It’s the same tablet you’ve come to expect, just with a performance bump. It’s available Friday for the same standard iPad price: $329, or $299 for customers in the education market.

Apple has reserved its most exciting design changes for the new iPad Air. The company has squeezed a larger 10.9-inch display into the same footprint, giving the new Air a more dense 2,360 x 1,640-pixel resolution. Touch ID is now integrated into the top sleep/wake button, which has a sapphire crystal on the top so it can see your fingerprint. The device charges with USB-C—a welcome change, since you can now use the same cable to charge your MacBook and your iPad Aid. Even more important is the new chip inside, Apple’s own A14 Bionic. It’s a six-core design that’s more energy efficient and gives a boost in performance. It’s also the first chip to be built on a 5-nanometer process that is set to become the new standard in the computer industry over the next year. The new iPad Air starts at $599 and goes on sale next month.

Software Updates Tomorrow

When you wake up Wednesday morning, you’ll see some notification badges on your Apple devices. The big update is iOS 14, which will be rolling out to iPhones tomorrow. You can read about all the new features coming to the iPhone in our breakdown of iOS 14. The iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV will also get software updates on Wednesday.

No New Headphones

We were expecting some personal audio gadgets, like a new set of over-ear headphones and possibly a new HomePod speaker. But they didn’t make their way into today’s event, which was unusually short at just over an hour. However, Apple will most likely be holding another hardware announcement even in October, which is when we expect to see the next iPhone revealed. Any additional products, especially ones that sync to the iPhone, could debut then. So stay tuned.

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10 Best Android Phones (Unlocked): Our Top Picks for 2020

Google’s Pixel series are regarded as the best camera phones on the market (though the iPhone 11 Pro is also very impressive). The Pixel 4 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is Google’s most recent flagship, and its dual-camera system is excellent. Portrait Mode lets you effectively blur out the background of a subject, which adds some drama to the photo. The 2X-zoom telephoto lens is handy for close-ups, and Night Sight mode lights up the darkest scenes—you can even use it to capture starry skies. It packs great performance, with a 90-Hz screen refresh rate that smooths out video game action, scrolling in apps, and animations. Similar to other high-end models, you can use your face to unlock the phone. (We should note that Google finally issued a fix so the Pixel doesn’t unlock when your eyes are closed.)

That’s without mentioning all the software smarts that put it a rung above the rest. For example, Call Screen will monitor robocalls for you so you don’t have to answer them, and Now Playing uses on-device machine learning to show you songs playing in your surroundings, so you don’t need to go look them up. The biggest downside is battery life, which barely lasts a full day if you’re a heavy user. If you’re going to buy one, opt for the bigger Pixel 4 XL, since it has a beefier battery.

The camera experience on the Pixel 4A is very similar to the Pixel 4, but if you want extras like wireless charging, a nicer 90-Hz fluid screen, better performance, and a telephoto camera, then go for the flagship. Google has officially discontinued the Pixel 4 and 4 XL, but you can still nab it from other retailers. However, if you want the high-end Pixel, wait until October. That’s when we expect Google to launch a successor, the Pixel 5, as well as a Pixel 4A with 5G.

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Knife Aid Review: A Decent, but Not Great, Mail-in Sharpening Service

Several months ago, back in the time we used to travel, I encountered a man in Mexico blowing a whistle and pushing around the back half of a bicycle. When someone heard the whistle and flagged him down, he sat on the half-bike and pedaled in reverse, spinning the wheel, which turned a tiny grinding stone so he could sharpen knives.

I’d seen versions of this elsewhere around the world. Old men on bicycles in Barcelona, dudes on mopeds in Paris, setting up shop on the sidewalk and sharpening the knives of shop owners, restaurants, and local residents. These weren’t masters of the trade, but they got the job done. Walk outside with your dull couteaux, return to the kitchen with sharp happiness.

At home in Seattle, however, my local knife-sharpening shop shuttered a few months back. Perhaps that’s why Knife Aid, a mail-in knife-sharpening service recently caught my eye. I liked this idea, especially now that we’re all home all the time, perhaps bruising the bejeezus out of an onion with our dull blades. Plug the number of knives you’d like to sharpen into a form on the Knife Aid website and the company sends you a large, sturdy envelope. You send in your knives, Knife Aid ships them back, nice and sharp, all in less than a week. It’s pretty clever.

The service sharpens all kinds of blades: the kind of things you’d expect, plus stuff like cleavers, scissors, and hunting knives. I sent in kitchen shears, two chef’s knives, a pocket knife, a paring knife, a slicer, a bread knife, and (my favorite) a medium-fancy santoku with a carbon-steel edge. My friend Dave contributed more shears and a pocket knife.

This Is the Edge

Sharp knives make life in the kitchen much easier. You work faster, cleaner, better. Prep work becomes surprisingly pleasurable. Yet sharpening is a skill that takes time to learn; even when you’re OK at it, it still takes a while to make a dull knife sing. While some folks say that everyone should sharpen their own knives, there are all sorts of good reasons to have an expert do it for you. Perhaps you’re currently doing some combination of working remotely, homeschooling some children, feeding people, and trying to take care of yourself. I would understand if you’d prefer to flop onto a couch or lie in the grass at the end of the day, rather than taking up a new hobby.

Knife Aid Pricing

The company charges you based on the number of pieces you’d like sharpened. The minimum order is four knives for $59, which breaks down to $14.75 per knife. The more blades you send in, the cheaper the per-knife cost gets. Ten knives will cost you $119, or $11.90 per knife. A pair of shears or scissors counts as one knife.

I love putting a new edge on a dull knife, but I draw the line at repair. If that edge has dings or chips in it, I leave it to the professionals.

Knife Aid uses sharpeners with ceramic sander belts for most of its work, splintering into different belt types, grits, and other tools depending on the blade. Sharpening is about $10 to $15 per knife.

At first flush, things looked good when I got my knives back. The blades were pleasingly sharp. My favorite way to test this is by holding a sheet of newsprint by the top corner and drawing a blade across the paper’s edge. It should slice through easily, and the Knife Aid blades did a good job here. I also made a little before-and-after spreadsheet of everything I sent in and was able to note that things like the tiny dings had been removed from my santoku, the slicer, and both pairs of shears. I was particularly impressed with the work done on Dave’s pocket knife, a Gerber with a half-lentil sized chip in the center of the edge; the Knife Aid sharpener worked the whole blade down to remove the ding and preserve its original swoop.

Similarly, a bit of the curve was restored to an old favorite, my Wusthöf Grand Prix chef’s knife that I got as a gift at the beginning of my cooking career from my friends Shannon and Eric. That knife had been fairly ruined 20 years ago by a drive-up lawnmower blade specialist in Mill Valley, California. He’d been overzealous, creating a gap that was quite noticeable when chopping a pile of parsley; the bits under the inch of the blade closest to the handle wouldn’t be sliced all the way through. A subsequent repair effort here in Seattle left it better but lifeless. Now, with Knife Aid, a bit of that swoop had been restored.

Once I started using my newly sharpened knives in the kitchen, though, a different picture emerged. Several knives appeared to have a defect in the sharpening similar, though less drastic, to what happened with my old Wusthöf, creating a space known as a “swale” or hollow at the back end of the blade, where the edge didn’t come in contact with the cutting board. Here’s a photo that shows an exaggerated example of what that looks like.

pAn exaggerated example of a swale. This isn't a blade that Knife Aid sharpened it's just a beater I had lying around.p

An exaggerated example of a swale. This isn’t a blade that Knife Aid sharpened, it’s just a beater I had lying around.

Photograph: Joe Ray

If one knife had come back with that swale, it would have been disappointing. Two knives would be bad. But four? I felt gaslit. Every time I chopped a pile of parsley or sliced a leek, there was a part where the knife didn’t slice clear through. I knew I couldn’t be wrong.

To make sure, I asked a chef friend to put me in touch with his favorite local sharpener, Bob Tate, who ran Seattle Knife Sharpening and Supply. Without telling Tate the name of the service I was reviewing, I sent him photos of the knives in question, with the edge of each on the cutting board and the sun behind them so you could see the light streaming under the blade.

Image may contain Plant Sliced Food Vegetable and Onion

After slicing leeks, I could see places where the knife didn’t cut clear through.

Photograph: Joe Ray

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The best way to see if a knife has a swale is to place the cutting edge on a flat surface and look for a gap near the bolster.

Photograph: Joe Ray

“Ah. Yes,” he said, with a note of resignation to his voice. “I deal with this all day, every day.”

To understand “this,” let’s learn a little knife lingo. Often, between the handle and the blade is the chunky metal collar known as the bolster. On some knives like my santoku, the bolster looks like an extension of the handle, merging into the back end of the blade. On many chef’s knives and other old-school blades, the bolster descends all the way down to the edge. It’ll typically be fine for the first few sharpenings, but eventually, it needs to be ground down so the edge can come into contact with the board the way it should. Most of us can’t do this at home—even close to the edge, the bolster can be a quarter-inch thick or more. It’s too much for sharpening stones, and unless you have a bench grinder in the basement, you’re out of luck.

While I could see Knife Aid had gone after the bolsters on my knives a bit, it wasn’t enough. The sharpener didn’t remove enough of the bolster to prevent that swale from forming.

I sent the company a note, with the same photos I’d sent to my Seattle knife-sharpener, gently asking if something was amiss. My Knife Aid contact promptly apologized, saying, “That quality of sharpening is not to our standards,” and offering to resharpen my knives “so they are fully functional.”

It was The Right Thing To Do, and I appreciated the honesty and the offer to correct the error. But these were my knives, and the company knew I was reviewing its work. It made me wary. I decided I’d bring the knives I really cared about—the tools I use for my work—to Bob Tate at Seattle Knife Sharpening.

Once I’d made that decision, Knife Aid sent another note. It said the company’s master knifesmith pointed out that the knives in my photos had hollow bolsters—which was only true of two of the four knives in question. Hollow bolsters make long-term sharpening difficult. One tends to find them on cheaper knives. If you grind them down too much, you’ll run into the hollow center and end up with a knife with a hole in it. I really wished Knife Aid would have called or emailed before working on my hollow-bolstered knives. They were in decent condition when I sent them away, and I would have just asked for them to be shipped back without having any work done. Instead, they’ve become beater knives.

As for the knives I brought to Bob Tate, they were dazzling. I love sharpening knives and putting a great edge on them, but none of my knives have ever been this sharp. It is an utter joy to use them, and he did such beautiful work that I considered bringing my favorites to him once a year. He was also more expensive than Knife Aid, and I had to drive across town to drop them off and pick them up, but he did offer mail-in sharpening. It might be worth looking into whether someone near you does the same. (Mr. Tate recently closed shop and moved to Bozeman, where he plans to open a new shop next year—look him up, Montana!)

Other items I sent to Knife Aid turned out well; this was the case with the two pairs of kitchen shears, the pocket knives, and my precious santoku knife. I was pretty amazed at what the service was able to do with my serrated bread knife, breathing new life into it.

Despite the issues I had with Knife Aid, I still might recommend the service. I would hope, however, that before plunging into the gray area we ended up in with my knives, that somebody on the Knife Aid team gives the customer a call before starting trickier work. The service is a great idea, especially considering how many people live nowhere near a good kitchen-knife sharpener—or have someone who rides by on a bicycle, plays a little tune on a whistle, and sharpens your knives on your front stoop.

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Skin Care and Makeup Get the High-Tech Treatment

Most of the attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show, in January, were on the hunt for self-driving cars and improved smartphone cameras, but I arrived at the Las Vegas expo looking for high-tech innovations in beauty. I walked past the AI chemistry teachers and the robot puppy, and headed straight to the at-home lipstick maker and plaque-detecting toothbrush. Over the course of three days, I discovered that our makeup and skin-care routines will be just as high-tech as our living rooms—and change is coming faster than you’d think.

The Smart Toothbrush

Brushing your teeth is possibly the least sexy part of your daily routine, which is probably why the average person only spends about 45 seconds doing it. (The American Dental Association recommends a full two minutes.) But new electric brushes are making this mundane experience more fun, more efficient, and more worthy of 120 seconds.


This story originally appeared on Allure.

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Remember those chewable tabs that made your teeth glow pink to show where you needed to brush? Well, the 2020 version of that is the Colgate Plaqless Pro brush, which can actually pinpoint the buildup that leads to plaque. “We use blue light fluorescent technology and the toothbrush itself can see, as it is being used, where you have buildup,” explains Derek Gordon, VP and GM of global toothbrush at Colgate Palmolive. If you have biofilm on your teeth (and we all do, from bacteria), the brush handle shows a blue band to indicate you’ve got more work to do. After you’ve cleared the area of debris, the band turns white.

When developing the iO Toothbrush, Oral-B’s research team studied and decoded the movements of thousands of toothbrushers to create a custom algorithm. The result: The brush’s handle can sense the angles you’re using to determine exactly where you are brushing and identify where you need to focus more time. (Spoiler alert: You probably missed your molars.) Sync with the app to see your real-time progress across 16 different zones inside your mouth. This advanced brush also has a next-generation linear magnetic motor that reduces noise and vibration.

And oral hygiene may get even better: “You’re putting this brush in your mouth every day,” says Sherrie Kinderdine, senior scientist with Oral-B Research and Development. “You could, in theory, collect [data] and turn this from a cleaning tool into an oral health diagnostic tool.” By analyzing this data, dentists could make links between oral health and certain diseases. At the very least, you won’t be able to convince anyone that you floss daily if your toothbrush can reveal the indisputable truth —Jessica Cruel, Allure

The Next-Level Sleep Aids

If you’re tossing and turning, you’re not alone. In a good year, 30 to 35 percent of Americans have insomnia (defined as difficulty going to sleep, staying asleep, or waking too early). Those numbers have likely skyrocketed during the pandemic, say researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Big changes to your quality of life, like rarely leaving home, can trigger short-term insomnia.

Sleep-tracking wearables (which are similar to, or built into, fitness trackers) promise a better night’s sleep. Out of all of them, I found the Fitbit Charge 4 wristband has the best hardware and software available. It records your time spent asleep and in different stages of sleep (using a heart rate sensor and a motion sensor called a three-axis accelerometer) and blood oxygen levels throughout the night (using an optical SpO2 sensor). Fitbit inputs these factors into a proprietary algorithm to calculate your “sleep score.” If you’re not getting enough sleep or adequate deep sleep, Fitbit suggests personalized recommendations, including wind-down times, avoiding exercise before bed, and sticking to a new bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Still burning the midnight oil? Apps like White Noise Lite and MyNoise turn your phone into a soothing sound machine, can be played through Bluetooth speakers, and offer a sound catalogue that gets very specific—”Cat Purring,” “Grandfather Clock,” and “Tibetan Singing Bowl” are some options on White Noise. Or you can choose pink or brown noise, which have sound waves on the lower end of the spectrum than white noise, and have been shown to be more relaxing.

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8 Best Portable Grills (2020): Charcoal, Propane, Electric, Infrared

The Big Green Egg is a Kamado-style cooker (Kamado is a Japanese word that roughly means “stove”), which really makes it much more than a grill. The ceramic construction retains heat and turns it into a portable oven as well. The MiniMax Big Green Egg is identical to its larger cousin in nearly every way, it’s just smaller. It weighs 75 pounds, making it by the far the heaviest grill I tested, but the double-handle carrying system makes it easy for two people to lift it around. The problem is that the 13-inch grilling surface of the MiniMax can only grill for about four people.

It’s big enough to roast a chicken, sear a couple of large steaks at a time, or fit about six 12-inch skewers. But if you’re doing meat and veggies for a family of four, you’re going to be cooking in batches. In practice, this isn’t so bad. Most meats need to rest when they’re done cooking anyway, giving you time to do your veggies. In my testing, the Mini Big Green Egg has excellent heat control and, like the larger version, is extremely fuel efficient.

Big Green Egg’s MiniMax costs $598 and can only be purchased in retail stores, including Ace Hardware. You can find a local store that carries the MiniMax here

8. Best Grill and Fire Pit Combo

Biolite FirePit ($250)

This image may contain Food
Photograph: BioLite

Do you know what’s cooler than a grill? One that doubles as a fire pit, with the ability to recharge your phone, and do your bidding via Bluetooth. BioLite’s FirePit is all of these things and more.

The FirePit is a sleek, portable, mesh box with removable legs, a hibachi-style grill, and an ash bin. It packs a rechargeable battery that can power its air jets for up to 26 hours. There’s even a Bluetooth-compatible app to precisely control the airflow, which in turn controls your cooking temperature. Be sure to read through my colleague Adrienne So’s full review for all the details, but I set out to specifically see how it grills, and the answer is: very well.

It will burn wood or charcoal, though I mainly used wood to test. With the right kind of wood (I used oak and pecan since that’s what grows around my house), the FirePit may produce the best flavor of any grill here. The main drawback when using it as a grill is its size. It’s big enough to cook for four, but it’s long and narrow, which makes some things awkward (I suggest you don’t try a whole chicken). It’s best suited to grilling kabobs and the like; food on a stick.

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What to Expect From Tuesday’s Apple Event

September has a special kind of significance, particularly in the northern hemisphere. The ninth month of the year means back to school, the change of seasons, the autumnal equinox. From a young age we’re attuned to these rhythms, and then sometime in adulthood they’re muted by all of the Other Things that occupy our brain space. Unless, you work in tech, love to read about tech, or are employed to write about tech. In that case, September is for tech events—Apple events.

For more than a decade Apple has hosted a “special event” in September, capitalizing on those fresh-start feelings and presenting its new wares well in advance of the critical holiday buying season. The scene-stealer is supposed to be the iPhone. Over the years, more product categories have crept on stage, like watches and headphones and tablets and a smart speaker. But the iPhone is September, and September is the iPhone.

I probably don’t need to tell you that this year is different. There are no predictable rhythms. We’re fumbling our way through a global pandemic, while millions of people are in economic distress and the American west, Apple’s backyard, is literally burning. Apple executives have already warned that this year’s new iPhone would be delayed by a few weeks, into October. The information, shared on the company’s last earnings call, was both unsurprising and symbolically jarring: A “one more thing” for the pandemic era.

Still … Apple is hosting an event next week. The event will be livestreamed and hosted virtually, like the software conferences we attended on Zoom and WebEx and Teams this spring. The event is unlikely to be centered around new iPhones, but there are other products that Apple will want us to all pay attention to—with whatever sliver of attention we have left.

Watch This Space

The digital invitations sent out by Apple contained the phrase “Time Flies,” a not-so-subtle reference to watches. Bloomberg has also reported that new Apple Watches are in the works.

Yup, watches plural: Expect a new watch that showcases some kind of new technology and sits at the top of the Apple Watch pricing structure; as well as a lower-cost model, which might replace the Apple Watch Series 3. The Apple Watch has, in a relatively short amount of time, become one of the best-selling watches in the world, and is an important part of Apple’s pitch that all of your gadgets should work seamlessly together. But it’s also a popular health tracker, and it’s been rumored that this year’s top model could include a blood oxygen sensor.

A new iPad is also expected to be revealed, a next-generation iPad Air with a design that more closely resembles the iPad Pro. Notable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that some kind of 10.8-inch iPad would come to market in the second half of 2020, along with a new iPad mini in the subsequent months.

The big question is how, exactly, Apple will distinguish something like this new, sleek Air from the 11-inch iPad Pro. Reports suggest that Touch ID will get some sort of revamp, whether that’s an in-screen touch sensor or one built into the iPad’s tactile power button. (Ideally, the new iPad would also have a front camera that’s centered when the iPad is in landscape mode, which would make it much better for video chats—but that’s just a feature on my personal wish list and not based on any evidence.)

September is also usually when Apple rolls out final versions of the new software it showed off at WWDC in the spring. At this point, the official release date for iOS 14 is unclear, since new iPhones won’t be launching until October. But millions of people will still upgrade to the latest version of iOS on their “old” phones, so it’s possible that Apple may keep the software release consistent with prior years.

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