Apple’s AirPower charging mat delayed until fall due to “technical hurdles”

Alongside the debut of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 handsets, Apple talked about a wireless charging mat it would debut to complement those new devices. But the company has been incredibly quiet about the mat, dubbed AirPower, ever since.

According to a report from Bloomberg, “technical hurdles” have delayed the launch of the AirPower wireless charging mat. The device was slated to be released in June 2018, but it will now likely be released either before or in September of this year.

Apple has had to address issues regarding overheating and the “complexity of the circuitry” within the mat. The device will be designed to wirelessly charge up to three devices at once; compatible products include the iPhone X, iPhone 8 models, Apple Watch Series 3 devices, and AirPod earbuds once their rumored wireless charging case comes out.

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watchOS 5 Beta 2 Includes Functional Walkie-Talkie App

In the first watchOS 5 beta, the Walkie-Talkie app, which is one of the key new features in the update, was unavailable and said only “Coming Soon,” but in the second watchOS 5 beta, the Walkie-Talkie feature is available.

When you launch the Walkie-Talkie app after installing the second beta update, you’ll be able to scroll through your contacts and choose a person to connect to. The person on the receiving end of your Walkie-Talkie message will hear their Apple Watch beep and then they’ll see a screen that will allow them to approve a connection.



At the current time, it appears that you can only choose “always allow” when opting to enable a connection with a person.

Once a two-way connection is established, you simply press and hold down on the talk button to communicate, as does the person on the other end. Conversations, which we’ve been testing, are crisp and clear even over long distances.



If your Apple Watch is on silent mode, Walkie-Talkie ignores it, so you’re still going to hear Walkie-Talkie beeps and incoming conversations. The same is true for Do Not Disturb Mode and Theater Mode, but there is a Walkie-Talkie volume toggle accessible by turning the Digital Crown. With a push-to-talk connection turned on, you and the person you’re connected to can chat at any time, with no additional approval options available.

You can have multiple Walkie-Talkie conversations going at once, with each conversation listed in the app.



While a Walkie-Talkie conversation is enabled with another person, both of you will see a yellow Walkie-Talkie icon at the top of the Apple Watch.



If you want to mute a Walkie-Talkie conversation so you can no longer be contacted, you can scroll up on the Walkie-Talkie app interface and toggle off the “Available” icon. When unavailable, if someone tries to speak to you, they’ll see a message that you are unavailable, and you’ll receive a notification.



If you want to resume your conversations with people, you can turn the toggle back to “Available” and everything will work as normal. Both people in the conversation need to have themselves set to “Available” in the Walkie-Talkie app for it to be fully functional.

Walkie-Talkie and the other watchOS 5 features will be limited to developers until watchOS 5 is released in the fall, as Apple does not provide betas of watchOS to the public.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Apple Releases Second Beta of New watchOS 5 Operating System to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 5 update, two weeks after releasing the first beta following the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote and one week after releasing an updated watchOS 5 beta 1 with a bug fix. watchOS 5 is the newest version of the software that runs on the Apple Watch.

To install the beta, you’ll need the proper configuration profile, which can be obtained through the Apple Developer Center. Once the profile is in place, the watchOS 5 beta can be downloaded using the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software Update.



To update, the Apple Watch must have 50 percent battery, it must be placed on an Apple Watch charger, and it must be in range of the iPhone. It would be wise to install the beta on a secondary device instead of a primary device given that this is an early version of the watchOS 5 software that still has bugs to be worked out.

The first version of the initial watchOS 5 beta was pulled by Apple shortly after it was released due to reports that the beta had been bricking some Series 2 Apple Watches, rendering them unusable. Apple on June 11 released an updated version of the first beta.

watchOS 5 is a major update to watchOS, introducing Activity Competitions so you can compete on workouts with friends, Walkie-Talkie with push-to-talk functionality for quickly communicating with the people you talk to most, and auto workout detection to make it easier than ever to start and stop workouts.

Other new features include an improved Siri watch face with support for third-party apps, a dedicated Apple Podcasts app, new Workout types that include Yoga and Hiking, new features for runners, WebKit support for viewing some web content on Apple Watch, and enhanced notifications, which will make notifications on the Apple Watch interactive.

watchOS 5 is only available to developers and will not be provided to public beta testers (because there’s no way to downgrade Apple Watch software), so non-developers will need to wait until the software is officially released in the fall to try it out.

The watchOS 5 update runs on all Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 Apple Watch models. It is not available for the first-generation “Series 0” Apple Watch models, likely due to performance and battery issues.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Hands-On With All the New Features in watchOS 5

watchOS 5, the operating system that runs on the Apple Watch, was introduced last week alongside iOS 12 and macOS Mojave. The update doesn’t include design changes or new watch faces, but it does introduce some fun new features that make the Apple Watch more useful than ever, like Walkie-Talkie.

We went hands-on with the new watchOS 5 update in our latest YouTube video to give MacRumors readers an idea of what to expect from the software when it launches this fall.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.


Walkie-Talkie, the coolest new feature in watchOS 5, will let you use the Apple Watch like, well, a Walkie-Talkie, with opt-in push-to-talk communication. In the first beta of watchOS 5, which is available to developers, the Walkie-Talkie app is unfortunately not functional, listing a “Coming Soon” message when you open it up. We’ll have a separate video when it launches, so make sure to stay tuned for that.

There are other great new features in watchOS 5, though, like a new Podcasts app that lets you listen to podcasts right on your wrist without needing to open up your iPhone.

For those of you who like competition, Apple’s added a new Workout option that lets you challenge your friends to a 7-day fitness competition to see who can earn the most activity points, which is great for motivation.

Yoga and Hiking, two new Workout types, have been added, while runners will be pleased to see rolling mile pace, custom pace alerts, and cadence for better than ever tracking. Automatic Workout detection means your watch will never fail to start or stop recording your workouts, even if you forgot to manually use the Workout app.

The Siri Watch face now supports sports, maps, heart rate, and third-party apps, so you’ll see more useful suggestions, plus notifications are now actionable so you can do more right from your wrist. watchOS 5 also introduces limited support for WebKit, so you can view website menus, see full Mail messages, and click links in the Messages app without needing to pick up your iPhone.

It’s worth noting that watchOS 5 is going to be limited to Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 Apple Watch models. That means that it won’t run on the original Apple Watch.

What are you most excited for in watchOS 5? Let us know in the comments and make sure to check out our watchOS 5 roundup for more details on the new operating system.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Apple Seeds Second Beta of watchOS 4.3.2 to Developers

Apple today seeded the second beta of an upcoming watchOS 4.3.2 update to developers, two weeks after seeding the first watchOS 4.3.2 beta and two weeks after releasing watchOS 4.3.1, a minor bug fix update that addressed a startup issue.

Once the proper configuration profile has been installed from the Apple Developer Center, the new watchOS beta can be downloaded through the dedicated Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General –> Software update.

To install the update, the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50 percent battery, it must be placed on the charger, and it has to be in range of the iPhone.

No new features were discovered in the first watch watchOS 4.3.2 update, but as a 4.3.x update, it’s likely to be minor in scale, addressing bug fixes discovered since the release of watchOS 4.3.1 and making other small improvements to the operating system.

watchOS 4.3.2 is likely to be one of the final updates to the watchOS 4 operating system. Apple has begun work on watchOS 5, which was provided to developers at the 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Apple Watch Series 3 LTE Now Supported by Regional Carriers C Spire and US Cellular for as Low as $5/Month

When the Apple Watch Series 3 launched last fall, United States customers were able to add the cellular model onto a plan offered by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Over the last few days, supported carriers have expanded to include regional companies C Spire and US Cellular.



C Spire shared the news in a press release today, confirming it has begun selling the Apple Watch Series 3 in both GPS and LTE, available both online and through a call to customer telesales. Orders placed can be sent to the user’s home or picked up at any C Spire retail store, and for a limited time the carrier is marking Series 3 models down by 50 percent when purchased with eligible iPhones on a device payment plan.

Additionally, C Spire offers Apple Watch Series 3 customers a free three-month introductory cellular trial on the carrier’s 4G LTE network, allowing them to use the Apple Watch without an extra cost on their monthly plan. After the three months end, the Apple Watch Series 3 plan will run for $10/month — the average price of Apple Watch cellular plans at most carriers.

On its device and support information page, US Cellular also offers three free months for Apple Watch Series 3 LTE coverage, and afterwards the plan will cost $4.99/month. At this price, US Cellular has one of the cheapest monthly plans for a Series 3 LTE model, and like C Spire it must be paired with an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11 or later.

– If you are on one of U.S. Cellular’s Total Plans, there is no charge to connect your Apple Watch to the Cellular network.

– If you are on any other U.S. Cellular plan, you will get 3 months for free trial and after that there is a $4.99 monthly charge to connect your Apple Watch to the Cellular network.

In terms of coverage areas, US Cellular offers coverage in as many as 23 states and 426 markets with 5 million customers. Comparatively, C Spire is more focused on the southern area of the country, including Mississippi, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, and the Memphis Metropolitan Area.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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Garmin’s new Vivoactive 3 Music is the best competitor to the Apple Watch

Valentina Palladino

Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 held one of the top stops in my list of last year’s best wearables. With its sleek design, comprehensive fitness capabilities, GPS navigation, and NFC payments, the 3 more than held its own against the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Fitbit Ionic.

Today, Garmin announced a new version of the Vivoactive 3 with a feature that brings the device up-to-par with the newest versions of its competition: music storage.

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Patent Applications Reveal Apple’s Research Into 3D Chip Packaging

Apple’s persistent quest for better performance, longer battery life, and slimmer form factors appears to be driving its research into advanced chip packaging technologies. So-called “2.5D” and “3D” packaging methods stand to offer significant gains in all of these areas by increasing memory bandwidth, reducing power consumption, and freeing up space for higher-capacity batteries.

Apple has been an aggressive adopter of new device packaging methods, mostly thanks to integrated fan-out (InFO) innovations provided by foundry partner TSMC. TSMC’s success has spurred it into further developing and diversifying its packaging offerings, and TSMC has emerged as an industry leader in packaging techniques.



While versions of TSMC’s InFO packaging have brought performance improvements to Apple devices, such as better thermal management and improved package height, it has largely not been a direct enabler of improved electrical performance. This is set to change with future packaging techniques and is already seen in some products that utilize interposers for higher density interconnects to on-package memory, such as High Bandwidth Memory (HBM).

The primary memory candidate for inclusion in such a package would be conforming to the Wide I/O set of standards described by JEDEC, and mentioned by name in several of the patents. This memory improves on LPDDR4 by increasing the number of channels and reducing the transfer speed per channel, thus increasing the overall bandwidth but lowering the energy required per bit.

Interposers do, however, pose several issues for mobile devices. Significantly, they introduce another vertical element to the package, increasing total height. Interposers must also be fabricated on silicon wafers just like active ICs, with their dimensions driven by the footprint of all devices that need to be included in the package. These solutions are typically termed as “2.5D” due to some components being placed laterally with respect to one another rather a true stacking of chips.

Rather than adopt interposers for its products as a next step in advanced packaging, the direction of Apple’s focus, according to several patent applications [1][2][3][4], appears to be on true “3D” techniques, with logic die such as memory being placed directly on top of an active SoC. Additionally, a patent application from TSMC seems to suggest a level of coordination between Apple and TSMC in these efforts.

3D stacking process flow


The process has similarities to the existing InFO techniques in that they both involve a redistribution layer (RDL) where contacts on a logic die are routed inside a molding compound with the help of vias directly in the molding compound. Where the 3D process diverts from this is that there is now RDL content on both sides of the die, necessitating the use of through-silicon vias (TSV) directly in the logic die so that interconnections can be made with the top of the die. A key feature of these RDL layers is that interconnect pitches finer than available substrate or interposer types is possible.

Subsequent dies could then be attached to the molding compound, mating with the vias and RDL placed in the previous step. This step could be done multiple times, provided each stacked component has TSVs for the next level of integration, and this is already seen in HBM, which allows for the stacking of up to eight DRAM dies.

Side view of memory die (110) attached to SoC (150) in 3D package


Still, this approach has many technical challenges that have prevented its commercialization. TSVs are expensive to implement and are a serious yield detractor to ICs. Electrical isolation from nearby components’ radiated energy can also be a concern, particularly when integrating RF and analog components in a package with other components that would have been separated by space and EMI shielding before. Apple describes techniques to incorporate shielding directly in the package to mitigate this.

Package with integrated EMI shield


This approach also presents thermal challenges since active dies become so closely coupled in mediums that have poor thermal conductivity and shared thermal paths. These concerns extend not only to normal device usage, but also the package integration and any solder reflow steps. Thermal stresses can induce warpage of the packaging components due to differing coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE) amongst the materials utilized in the package. This warpage can lead to broken or separated contacts, resulting in device failure.

The use of a carrier substrate in the process flow mitigates some of the thermal concerns. The direct integration of heatsinks into device packaging is also addressed at various levels of the package assembly, such that higher dissipating die, such as a SoC featuring CPU and GPU cores, could be placed on the bottom of the stack or at a higher level of integration, providing stackup flexibility not seen in previous PoP arrangements.

Package with integrated heatsink component (310)

Embodiments may be applied in applications such as, and not limited to, low power and/or high I/O width memory architecture. Embodiments can enable a short double data rate (DDR) channel to neighboring function units (e.g. SOC, chipsets, etc.) by using RDL and direct chip attach. Embodiments may be particularly applicable for mobile applications that require low power DDR at target performance including high speed and I/O width.

The benefits of the methods described are many. The use of higher bandwidth memory will yield performance improvements. The flexibility of component placement shortens the distance between connected active and passive devices, either lowering the energy required to communicate between them, or reducing parasitic effects that can cause unwanted power loss or dynamic performance degradation. The most notable tasks that stand to benefit are gaming and image processing tasks, which often require large amounts of bandwidth over short time intervals.

Apple Watch Implications

These enhancements would be applicable to all of Apple’s mobile devices, but multiple patent applications specifically mention methods of multiple components married together in a System in Package (SiP), as seen in the current Apple Watch. The methods described below are an enhancement on the existing SiP solutions found in Apple Watch in that they introduce true 3D stacking elements enabled by both TSV and Through Oxide Vias (TOV).

Array of TOVs for connecting stacked die to package pins

In one aspect, embodiments describe system on chip (SoC) die portioning and/or die splitting within an SiP structure (e.g. 3D memory package) in which IP cores such as CPU, GPU, IO, DRAM, SRAM, cache, ESD, power management, and integrated passives may be freely segregated throughout the package, while also mitigating total z-height of the package.

Additionally, the patent describes TSV and TOV pitch in explicit detail, suggesting that keeping package heights down allows them to create very small width vias, with the TOV forming interconnect rows at sizes smaller than even the TSVs. The effect of TSVs stressing active parts of the die, including hurting transistor performance, is also discussed, and the reduced pitches help to mitigate this.

Active die keepout zones around TSVs


Inclusion of RF transceivers and active devices on substrate types not currently used in Apple mobile devices are covered, indicating all types of active and passive components found in Apple Watch products could be housed in the SiP proposed.

Bottom level view of an SiP with stacked heterogenous die interconnected with TSV and TOV

Timeline

Packages featuring 2.5D and 3D connected components have been in consumer devices for several years, but most of the methods described above have yet to debut in mobile devices. The steps described are set to increase manufacturing complexity, and cost and throughput will likely suffer as a result.

Due to cost and yield concerns, a primary candidate for first inclusion of these methods would be a high-margin, low-quantity device. While the iPhone is the highest margin of Apple’s mobile products, it is also the largest volume category, with a huge initial demand for each generation. The iPad Pro is a good candidate because of its low volume nature and its classification as a high-performance device. The inclusion of 120Hz refresh rate is something that will benefit from increased memory bandwidth, specifically.

The focus of many of these patents seems to be specifically on SiP methods seen in Apple Watch internals. The Apple Watch is a lower-volume device, and it stands to benefit because its internals are extremely sensitive to package size given the importance of its form factor and battery size. It seems reasonable to expect some of the methods described to be incorporated as soon as the next revision of the Apple Watch, and more progressively in future revisions.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4, watchOS 5
Tag: TSMC
Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

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