The new Homepod mini from Apple, a high-tech sock with a warming function, and a mini drone that doesn’t require a driver’s license: new technology in check.
Mini 2 drone from DJI
Legislators have set some hurdles for drone pilots before conquering the skies. Not too high, not too far, not over houses, not over people, not in nature, not near major roads, not without insurance or license plates – there are a lot of prohibitions to be observed. That won’t get much better by December 31st if the new EU drone regulation takes effect. But at least one rule will be spared pilots of the new Mini 2 from DJI: You don’t have to get a drone driver’s license. Like its predecessor, the aircraft falls below the weight limit of 250 grams, but it is anything but meager equipment.
In October 2019, the tech company DJI presented the previous version. The company boss, it is rumored, should not have been satisfied with the performance of the small drone. That is why the Mini 2 follows after a very short time. With dimensions of 14 by eight centimeters, the device is as compact as a smartphone when folded and fits in any pocket. It measures six centimeters in height. The drone now uses a remote control with the OcuSync system from DJI, which also comes with the larger Mavic Air 2. The radio connection is very stable. Thanks to OcuSync, the Mini 2 has a range of six kilometers in Europe and even ten kilometers in the USA. Even in this country, however, the pilot must have visual contact with his drone at all times – which requires two eagle eyes with the small Mini. Next, a big change from its predecessor: the camera. The Mini 2 now records videos in high-resolution 4K quality. The images are razor-sharp. Thanks to the gimbal and GPS stabilization, recordings hardly shake even in strong winds.
All of this is controlled via the smartphone, which is clipped into the remote control. The DJI Fly app allows some automatic video and picture modes for the Mini 2. Bargain hunters take a look at the Mini anyway. With the alternative Litchi app, the predecessor has more functions than the new model, such as tracking objects, which otherwise only large drones can do. But the Mini 2 is also a fine gadget in the Fly More Combo for a little more than 500 euros with accessories such as batteries or a carrying case.
Homepod mini from Apple
Pretty cheeky, the little one: only as big as a grapefruit, but a bass, well, almost like a big one. Apple’s network loudspeaker Homepod is of course not just a replacement for kitchen radios or clock radios. It also wants to be a control center for the networked home à la Apple.
The setup couldn’t be easier: plug in the power cord, wait for the sound, then point the iPhone towards it – done. The iPhone, of course. Because the Apple universe is largely sealed off. Whoever wishes to be admitted has to submit to it. But what then also means that devices are usually easy to put into operation and use. So here too.
The Homepod has no buttons, but a touch-sensitive surface. If music is playing, it can be stopped with a tap, there are also sensor surfaces for increasing and decreasing the volume. Actually, however, the device is of course intended to be controlled with voice commands. Apple emphasizes that the commands for evaluation in the cloud are encrypted, not linked to the user’s Apple ID, and not passed on to advertising companies.
All voice commands are introduced with the code word “Hey Siri”. A new function for this is called intercom. This means that messages can be sent quickly from one device to another, and above all, the entire family – who of course must have all Apple devices – can be reached at once, motto: “We’re going now folks”. Very nice for presentations, in practice, it is probably rather irrelevant to annoying.
Apple’s assistant Siri, who recently fell behind the competition from Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, has crammed specialist knowledge and now has an answer to more questions. You still have to groove yourself a bit and learn which command to use to get what you want. It doesn’t always work either. Siri can play Beethoven’s fifth symphony, even if only the first movement, but claims she doesn’t have the sixth in her program. Of course, Apple Music has many different recordings.
It is exactly the right thing for hypochondriacs: Apple’s latest wristwatch can now also measure the oxygen content of the blood, in addition to detecting atrial fibrillation using a simple EKG. Heart rate measurement? Sure, anyway. Counting steps? Anyway. Noise measurement? Is in.
There is a real variety of functions that such a computer in a watch case can fulfill. Most of them, however, already brought the previous model with it. So the jump from the fifth version to the sixth is not really big. The processor runs faster and is more efficient, which is why the constantly lit clock display can now be a little brighter and therefore easier to read.
What has unfortunately remained: the short running time. Even with moderate use, the battery is empty after a day and a half at the latest. This is worse than with a cell phone because you need a special cable for inductive charging to charge. Inductive charging pads also do not work, not even the new inductive fast-charging adapter just introduced by Apple.
Picking the right one from the multitude of app symbols is not particularly easy, some symbols are very similar. The operation with the crown (rotatable and pushable), touch and the on-off button cannot exactly be described as intuitive. But a watch is small and the functions are many.
Some of the functions can only be set using a smartphone, which must be from Apple. The watch cannot be operated with Android devices. With a (newer) iPhone, however, it works very easily. Competitors should take a look at this.
Because the new top model is quite expensive – the cheapest model costs just under 420 euros, the most expensive just under 810 euros – version three remains available, it starts at 213 euros. In addition, a new model was presented, the Apple Watch SE. It has a faster inner workings than the three-way model. Plus, someone with an iPhone can set up the watch for someone else.
iPad with pen
Anyone who has a market share of almost 60 percent in a product category must have done something right. Just like Apple with its iPad. No other manufacturer achieves such dominance, pursuer Samsung is quite behind with 22 percent, not to mention the others in the competition. At best, they come to medium single-digit values, most of them have even less market share (figures from the market research company Statcounter).
This is mainly due to the fact that Google is not particularly eager to adopt its Android mobile operating system better to the requirements of tablets. There is still a system for smartphones and tablets. At Apple, on the other hand, the paths have separated, for the tablets, the group is developing its own operating system, iPadOS. Overall, Apple can therefore offer the rounder, more balanced package – as always, of course, at a higher price.
The eighth-generation iPad starts comparatively inexpensively at 370 euros, but if you want 128 gigabytes instead of 32 gigabytes of memory, which is far too measly, you will find almost a hundred more going on. An LTE module costs about 130 euros more. And if you want to use the device with a pen, you have to budget another 100 euros more. That puts you at around 700 euros – there are decent laptops for that. And the user still does not have a protective cover, which is highly recommended if you often want to take the iPad with you somewhere.
There’s not much to complain about the device itself, it doesn’t look quite as valuable as the iPads with the addition of pro, but they are in a completely different league in terms of price. The 26-centimeter screen is bright and sharp, the device responds well to pen inputs, but artistically ambitious users should look at the Pro devices, which use the second generation pen, which enables even finer drawing.
The inner workings have been improved as usual compared to the predecessor, the main chip calculates faster and also includes the Neural Engine, a special processor for machine learning. This helps, for example, with image processing tasks.
Overall, iPad number eight is successful, you only have to spend more if you need the better pen of the pro models or considerably more computing power. But then it gets more expensive.