PHONE REVIEW REVIEW Tech News

New 13-inch MacBook Pro, Windows 10X puts Surface Neo/Duo on hold, plus more

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Monday, May 4. Yes! May the fourth!  (DGiT Daily was published that iconic crawling text as an optional read!)

1. Apple refreshes the 13-inch MBP, Windows 10X halts dual-screen PCs

Apple 13 MBP

First, Apple announced a refresh of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The main change is that Apple did away with the controversial butterfly keyboard, putting back the old/new Magic Keyboard with scissor switches. But it didn’t launch a new 14-inch MBP, either, making this a tweak/polish refresh.

  • Enough words have been let out regarding Apple’s attempts to make a new thin butterfly keyboard work. It just didn’t. It was a sorry chapter mostly for consumers battling too-regular keyboard issues.
  • Finally all Apple MacBook Pros now avoid the pain of the butterfly keyboard.
  • Although it’s not over: if you own a MBP with a butterfly keyboard right now, you’re still stuck. So, should you upgrade now if you’ve been waiting for a 13-inch MBP? Hard to say.
  • The rumored 14-inch MacBook Pro is still coming, based on the reports that said it’d be a laptop with next-gen mini-LED display. That alone may well be good enough to consider upgrading, but that’s down the line.
  • The current spec bumps aren’t quite game changers though. Useful, but need explaining: Intel’s new 10th-gen CPU is on board higher-end models, and Apple’s doubled the storage for all models, plus made 16GB of RAM standard on higher-tiers. But price-points matter a lot.
  • No reviews yet, so we’ll be keeping an eye out to see what insights emerge from those.

The $1300 model is not what it seems:

  • Apple says the 13-inch MBP now starts at $1,299. And that is true. But that money gets you a new keyboard only: otherwise, you’re back with Intel’s 8th-gen CPUs, 8GB of older RAM, and 256GB SSD storage, and just two Thunderbolt 3 ports.
  • You’re much better off pretending that doesn’t exist, and going for at least a $1,799 model: four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 10th-gen 2.0GHz quad-core Core i5 CPU, 16GB of faster LPDDR4X RAM, and 512GB SSD.
  • Maybe you’d add 1TB for another $200, or $200 for a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 chip. It depends on the fit for purpose, but spending the extra cash above the entry-level will see you with a device that ages better.
  • But also: the pricing and wider Apple ecosystem changes had more than a few people saying that if you don’t want to pay over $1300 for a laptop, but must have Apple, get the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard. I can’t say if that makes sense or not, but it’s an argument that is becoming louder.

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s promised Surface Neo dual screen Windows tablet (above) is on hold, as Windows 10X grows in importance:

  • The new Windows 10X, originally announced as being designed for dual-screen devices like the Neo, will now be focused on “single-screen” devices. And that shift implies dual-screens can wait while Microsoft brings what Windows 10X offers to single-screens running Windows 10. That is, about a billion PCs.
  • What happened: Microsoft’s Chief Product Officer Panos Panay revealed in a blog post that the company will now “look for the right moment” to release dual-screen devices, shelving the Surface Neo for the foreseeable future, and moving Windows 10X to “single-screens”.
  • Windows 10X was announced as showing a more modern, simplified Windows interface, although we haven’t seen deep detail about it yet.

What does it mean?

  • This seems to be Panay’s first (big) decision since he was promoted to lead both Windows and Devices this year, from previously being the Surface hardware chief.
  • It may be that Panay saw Windows (Core) needed proper care and attention that Windows 10X can provide, and dual-screens can wait.
  • “The world is a very different place than it was last October when we shared our vision for a new category of dual-screen Windows devices … Our customers are leveraging the power of the cloud more than ever, and we believe the time is right to lean into this acceleration in a different way,” wrote Panay.
  • “With Windows 10X, we designed for flexibility, and that flexibility has enabled us to pivot our focus toward single-screen Windows 10X devices that leverage the power of the cloud to help our customers work, learn and play in new ways.
  • “These single-screen devices will be the first expression of Windows 10X that we deliver to our customers, and we will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market.”
  • And here’s a number for you: “Over 4 trillion minutes are being spent on Windows 10 a month, a 75% increase year on year.”
  • That’s 133 billion minutes a day on Windows 10, which is reportedly about one billion PCs, and about 70% of the PC market. So, just over two hours a day on a PC?
  • In any case, we don’t yet know what this means for Microsoft’s dual-screen Android tablet, the Surface Duo. Panay’s words ‘we’ll need the right moment to bring dual-screen devices to market’ appear to include the Surface Duo, but isn’t specific, and the wider blog post was more about Windows 10X, while the Duo runs Android.
  • If I had to guess, I’d say he meant no Surface Duo any time soon, too.

2. Google, Apple lay out strict rules for Exposure Notification API: no location tracking/GPS data (Android Authority).


3. Following a “we’re back” announcement from Poco yesterday, a leaked/unintentional Poco F2 Pro GearBest listing shows a copycat Redmi K30 Pro with 865 SoC, ‘most affordable’ tagline (Android Authority).


4. New patent: This could be what Xiaomi’s first phone with an in-display camera looks like (Android Authority).


5. The new Samsung Galaxy A51 is now available unlocked in the US, and comes with a free set of Samsung Galaxy Buds ($110), all for $400 (Android Authority).


6. Intel’s 10th-gen desktop CPUs are here but still on 14nm (desktop, not laptops, to be clear) (Ars Technica).


7. UK will begin testing its COVID-19 tracking app this week (Engadget).


8. Fan releases Super Mario 64 port for PC, no emulator required (Polygon).


9. Oscar winner Taika Waititi will co-write and direct a Star Wars movie. That franchise, celebrated widely yesterday, is in considerable flux but the next movie is scheduled for a December 2022 release (starwars.com). Speaking of: watch nearly all the Star Wars movies for free via Sling TV this week.


10. NASA says its next Mars rover is getting its most advanced cameras ever: the Mastcam-Z camera rig features: zoom, infrared and ultraviolet sensing, and should send back the best panoramas ever seen to get people excited about Mars and space (Input Mag).


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