12 gifts for the holidays: Between Apple, Google, DJI, and Amazon there’s something for everyone

12 tech gifts for Christmas: Something for everyone
Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani cover their top tech gift recommendations this holiday season in this week’s episode of Jason Squared. Read more: https://zd.net/2OV0Xu0

The holidays are upon us, and that means it’s time to go shopping. Tech gifts usually sit near the top of everyone’s list, but if you’re struggling to come up with ideas this year, we’re here to help. 

Below you’ll find 12 gift ideas for the holidays, sprinkled in with some additional gifts for those who want to save a little bit of money or are looking for another recommendation. 

Keep in mind the prices listed below are the usual retail prices, but you’re likely to find some of, if not most, of the tech products on sale leading up to Christmas. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple AirPods Pro (regularly $250)

The AirPods Pro is arguably the best wireless earbuds you can get for an Apple user, and to Jason Cipriani, they’re worth every penny of the $250 asking price. Jason Perlow likes Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro, currently priced at $110 (with a regular price of $150). 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple iPhone 11 (regularly $699)

Apple’s iPhone 11 may be the least expensive iPhone, but it’s still more than enough phone for most users. From battery life to its two-camera setup, the iPhone 11 is one of the best deals you’ll find on an iPhone this year. If you’re looking for an Android phone, Samsung’s Galaxy S10, ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro, or Motorola’s Moto G7 are all respectable — and affordable — options. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple Watch Series 5 (regularly $399)

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch on the market, with the latest hardware available from Apple right now. At $399, it’s expensive, but will be supported for years to come. If you’d rather save some money on an Apple Watch, the Series 3 starts at $199. 

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple iPad (regularly $329)

Apple’s iPad is the best tablet available right now and has been for some time. The latest base model has a slightly larger display and now works with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Cover. At $329, it’s hard to beat. 

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DJI

DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo (regularly $499)

The DJI Mavic Mini is a steal. It’s a fully capable drone with a range of up to 4km, a good camera, and a battery life of nearly 30 minutes. The Fly More Combo includes the drone, a controller three batteries, a charging pack, extra propellers, and a charging case. Or if you only want the drone and a controller, you can get the basic package for $399.

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Nintendo

Nintendo Switch (regularly $299)

The Nintendo Switch is a powerful gaming device that’s fully portable, or it can be connected to your TV. The Nintendo Switch Lite is slightly cheaper at $199, but it can’t be connected to a TV. If you’d rather not get a dedicated gaming device, the iPod Touch is a versatile device that comes with the iOS ecosystem of games, including Apple Arcade. 

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Disney+ subscription (regularly $70 for a year)

Disney+ is one of the hottest streaming services that launched in 2019, with a content library that never seems to end. Not to mention Baby Yoda has all but taken over the internet. You can sing up for an account for a loved one, or purchase a Disney gift card in a Disney store to cover the cost of a year’s subscription. Jason Perlow is a Star Trek fan, so he recommends doing the same for a CBS All Access subscription.

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Amazon

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (on sale for $35, regularly $60)

The Echo Dot with clock gives your gift recipient an Alexa-powered speaker for controlling smart home devices or asking random questions, as well as a constantly visible clock. Amazon keeps adjusting the price, but right now it’s $35 down from $60. Jason Perlow recommends spending a little more and getting the standard Amazon Echo with a better speaker for listening to music for $99. 

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Image: Google

Nest Hello for (regularly $229)

Nest’s Hello Doorbell provides peace of mind and helpful alerts while monitoring your door. It’ll let you know when a package has been left, or when it sees someone it recognizes (or doesn’t recognize). Jason Perlow likes Ring’s $249 Video Doorbell Pro, which if you watch for the right promotion can also get you a free Echo device. Right now, for the same price, you can get a free Echo Show 5. 

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Image: Goal Zero

GoalZero Sherpa 100PD (regularly $136)

The Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD is a portable battery pack that does it all. It has Power Delivery of up to 60W, a wireless charging pad and multiple USB ports. It’s a little pricey, but worth it. Jason Perlow recommends the Zendure SuperTank USB-C PD and SuperPort 4.

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Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

1Password subscription (regularly $60)

Not enough people take password security serious enough, but with a little nudging and guidance, you can help get them on track. 1Password is a password managing service with apps for nearly every platform. It creates and stores random passwords and will even enter them for you. A family plan that includes five users is $60 a month, and it just so happens 1Password sells digital gift cards. 

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Sonos Beam (regularly $399)

See it now: Amazon

You can’t go wrong any of the Sonos lineups. Sonos speakers connect wirelessly to each other and the internet allowing you to stream your music library from nearly every streaming service, and if you opt for something like Sonos Beam it acts as a soundbar for a TV. Jason Perlow has been testing the Anker Nebula Soundbar and recommends it, partly because of its sound quality but also because it pulls double-duty as a Fire TV device.

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Apple: Here’s why iPhone 11 uses location data even though you’ve told it not to

Owners of an iPhone XS: Is it worth upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro?
Apple just announced the first iPhone with a Pro name. But is it really that much better than the iPhone XS?

Apple has finally explained why the iPhone 11 continues to use location data even after its owner denies all apps and system services access to it. 

Since September iPhone users have complained on Apple’s user forum about a “privacy location bug” affecting iPhone 11 devices. 

Apple didn’t bother responding to user reports and offered a sparse answer to security reporter Brian Krebs for his report earlier this week about a “possible privacy issue” affecting iPhone 11 devices. 

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)    

An Apple engineer said Apple didn’t see “any actual security implications”, adding that it was “expected behavior” for the Location Services icon to appear at the top of the phone screen when Location Services is enabled. 

The engineer explained: “The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings”. However, Apple offered no further explanation for the presence of the icon, even though all individual location services are disabled. 

Apple now has offered a more detailed explanation to Krebs. However, the answer is so mundane it doesn’t make sense that Apple didn’t provide it immediately, other than it possibly contradicts the company’s advertised promise of the iPhone delivering simple privacy. 

At the same time, the explanation shows that iOS is transparent about when the device shares location data – even when Apple can’t explain it.  

According to Apple, the location data is being used by iPhone 11 devices due to a feature called Ultra Wideband (UWB), which is available on iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max in most countries, but not Russia, Iran, Argentina, and Indonesia. 

SEE: Tech turkeys: Apple and Google dominate the year’s menu of failures

The feature enables a better experience with the AirDrop file-sharing feature, allowing iPhone users to just point the device at another compatible device. The location icon appears because the iPhone periodically checks to see whether it is being used in a country where Apple hasn’t received approval to use UWB. 

“Ultra Wideband technology is an industry-standard technology and is subject to international regulatory requirements that require it to be turned off in certain locations,” Apple said. 

“iOS uses Location Services to help determine if iPhone is in these prohibited locations in order to disable Ultra Wideband and comply with regulations. The management of Ultrawide Band compliance and its use of location data [are] done entirely on the device and Apple is not collecting user location data.”

In a future iOS update Apple will include a dedicated toggle in System Services to disable the UWB activity.

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Your next iPhone may not have a Lightning port

How attached are you to your iPhone’s Lightning port? Do you use it to connect to devices and peripherals, or perhaps even your car? Well, you might have to live without it if analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is right.

According to a research note by Kuo, seen by 9to5Mac, CNBC, and MacRumors, big changes could be on the way.

Must read: Weird and super useful gadgets that make great gifts

The first change Kuo is bracing for — based on supply chain chatter — is a high-end iPhone that does away with the Lightning port. Apple dumped the headphone jack, so it’s not that much of a stretch to see Apple dumping the Lightning port and moving on to a completely wireless iPhone.

This could mean dumping a whole raft of hardware that uses Lightning — maybe even your car is you use it for CarPlay. But that’s Apple’s way.

But don’t panic yet, as Kuo isn’t expecting this to land until 2021. But if you were expecting high-end iPhones to make the switch to USB-C, well, you should probably stop holding your breath.

But this is just one of the many changes that Kuo is predicting. Another release Kuo says is incoming in 2021 is a follow-on to the iPhone SE. According to the research note, an iPhone SE 2 featuring a 4.7-inch LCD display and a form factor similar to the iPhone 8 will land in during the first half of 2020, and this will be followed by an iPhone SE 2 Plus I 2021. What does the “Plus” mean in this context? According to the report, it will feature a 5.5- or 6.1-inch display in an all-screen design with no Home button, but no Face ID. Instead, the Touch ID sensor will be built into the on/off button.

But there’s more.

Kuo expects Apple to release five new iPhones over 2020, with Apple staggering the releasee, with the budget iPhone SE 2 launching early in the year, followed by four models featuring OLED displays and different combinations of cameras — 5.4-inch OLED with dual-rear cameras, 6.1-inch OLED with dual-rear cameras, 6.1-inch OLED with triple-rear cameras, and 6.7-inch OLED with triple-rear cameras — landing during the usual fall slot.

According to Kuo, Apple’s motivation for this switch to two launches is to even out sales throughout the year. I would also expect this to take the pressure off the supply chain and allow Apple to better accommodate changes in demand.

Kuo makes no predictions related to pricing, and this could be key as Apple is at present ignoring the budget end of the sales spectrum, and this could be important in keeping sales buoyant and keeping the ecosystem growing.

See also:

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Don’t buy these Apple products — Holiday 2019 edition

Apple has updated a whole swathe of products in its store over the past few months, but there are still plenty of shiney gadgets that are a bit old and aging that you should avoid.

Must read: Four must-have travel essentials

#1: HomePod

Why you should avoid: The current HomePod is a first-generation device that was released over 18-months ago to offer a challenge to devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home speaker. But a year-and-a-half in the tech industry is a long time, and so it might be worthwhile holding out on buying one until we get a clearer idea of whether Apple is planning a refresh. 

Hardware last updated: February 2018.

#2: Apple TV fifth-gen

Guidance: Probably not going to see a refresh this year, so it’s worth it if you feel like paying top dollar for last year’s tech. 

Apple’s 5th-generation Apple TV, built around the A10X Fusion processor and coming with a choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage, was last updated over a year ago. It’s still a great device, but the starting price of $179 feels hefty for something over a year old.

Don’t be confused between this and the 4th-generation Apple TV (without the 4K branding) which is also still for sale. This was first released in October 2015.

Hardware last updated: The 5th-generation Apple TV 4K was launched in September 2017.

#3: Mac Pro

Why you should avoid: Old, outdated, and Apple has already teased us with a replacement due in 2019.

Once the apex of Apple’s computer line, the Mac Pro is now a dinosaur.

Now that Apple has unveiled the new Mac Pro, and slated it for release later this month (if all goes well), the old Mac Pro should be off everyone’s list (unless you rely on it and you have to replace one that’s been taken out of action).

Hardware last updated: Price cut April 2017, but the Mac Pro has been unchanged since December 2013.

#4: iPad Pro 11-inch and 12.9-inch

Why you should avoid: The current iPad Pro line was updated a year ago, and a year is a long time in technology. What’s worse is that the memory management in iOS 13 has made multitasking on this supposed laptop replacement frustrating and annoying.

Hardware last updated: October 2018.

#5: Mac Mini

Guidance: Getting old, but a unique Mac that’s super useful and affordable.

The last Mac Mini was four years in the making, so we could be having to wait three more years until we see the next Mac Mini update. However, the Mac Mini is unique in the macOS ecosystem in that it is a gateway system into the macOS ecosystem for people currently on Windows. It’s also a low-cost way to get a macOS workhorse for those times when another beefier system would be overkill.

Hardware last updated: July 2019, but there could be a 16-inch MacBook Pro in the pipeline.

#6: Apple Lightning cable

Why you should avoid: Buy something cheaper that will last you longer!

I would never buy another Lightning cable from Apple, as there are far better alternatives on offer from companies such as Anker, Amazon, Nomad, and Paracable.

But what about USB-C-to-Lightning I hear you ask? Well, for the first time you have an option outside of Apple now that Anker has released its Powerline II USB-C-to-Lightning cable, which is fully compliant with Apple’s Made For iPhone (MFi) standard.

Status: Too expensive!

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Jony Ive, iPhone designer, has now left Apple

Apple without Jony Ive: Are massive overnight changes coming?
ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes sits down to discuss with Karen Roby, what does the future look like for Apple now that its Chief Design Officer has left? Will there be massive changes overnight, or will Ive’s presence be felt for years to come? Read more: https://zd.net/2JvNk1W

Apple’s chief product designer Jony Ive has now departed the company, and his profile has been removed from the Apple leadership page. 

Apple announced in June that Ive would be leaving the company “later this year” to form his own design outfit, which would include Apple as a primary client. Ive at the time revealed plans to create LoveFrom along with fellow Apple designer Marc Newson.        

Ive and his design team helped create Apple’s best-selling devices, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Watch, and MacBook. In recent years he’s also worked on Apple’s $5bn spaceship campus, Apple Park.

“Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the time. 

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)

Apple’s software and hardware design team now report to chief operating officer Jeff Williams.  

Ive joined Apple in 1992 and was seen as instrumental in Apple’s revival after Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. Since 1996, Ive has led Apple design as its senior vice president of design – a role he retained until Apple in 2015 gave him the newly created position of chief design officer. 

The move allowed him to step back from management duties and a make a slow exit from Apple without negatively impacting its share price.       

Ive is no longer on Apple’s leadership page, however his profile is still on Apple’s investor-relations page. 

Apple says Ive as chief design officer was “responsible for all design at Apple, including the look and feel of Apple hardware, user interface, packaging, major architectural projects such as Apple Campus 2 and Apple’s retail stores, as well as new ideas and future initiatives”. Ive also holds over 5,000 patents. 

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Apple’s leadership page used to list Jony Ive as the company’s chief design officer.


Image: Apple

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HEX 4-in-1 case for the Apple iPhone 11 Pro: Folio, wallet, case alone modes are up to you

Owners of an iPhone XS: Is it worth upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro?
Apple just announced the first iPhone with a Pro name. But is it really that much better than the iPhone XS?

Over the past decade I have tested plenty of folio cases for my smartphones, but after a couple of weeks of use I end up setting them aside. Unlike all the people I see using these types of cases daily, the folio form factor doesn’t work for me all of the time and thus can’t be my primary case for the long term.

The folks at HEX recently sent along the 4-in-1 case in black leather for me to test with my iPhone 11 Pro and it may indeed be the perfect case for me as it gives me options for specific use cases. BTW, HEX is holding a Cyber Weekend sale that gets you 30% off all of its products using code BFCM19 so now is the time to pick up one of its cases or bags.

Also: iPhone 11 Pro review: Apple scores near perfect 10, thanks to battery life, cameras and phenomenal performance

Case design elements

HEX currently has its 4-in-1 case available for all three new iPhone 11 models in brown leather, black leather, and camo leather color options. Each case is priced at $99.95, but take advantage of that Cyber Weekend code above to save nearly $30!

There are three pieces that connect in various arrangements to create the 4-in-1 HEX case. The main piece (known as the hybrid case) is a polycarbonate shell case with inlaid black leather material on the back and TPU impact bumpers on the side. The TPU bumpers rise above the display 0.85mm to help protect the display. The inside of the case is lined with microfiber material to protect the back of your iPhone 11 Pro from scratches and help protect it during drops.

There are raised buttons for the volume and right side key with openings for the ringer switch, speaker, and Lightning port. A large opening for the rear cameras is present with the case matching the height of the lenses to also help protect them when you set the case down. The back is also further strengthened with embedded N45H magnets. Wireless charging and Apple Pay still work thanks to the magnets being offset internally in the case.

The second piece is the folio assembly. It is composed mainly of microfiber-lined premium full grain leather with a supple soft feel and texture to help you grip your iPhone in the case. On the left inside flap there is a long card/money holder with the pocket extended nearly all the way across to keep the card/money in place while not impacting your display.

The backside is cut to allow for the large rear camera assembly and is also stiffened by N45H magnets. A small leather strap extends around the open side of the folio and magnetically attaches to the front to keep things closed securely.

The last piece of this case is a small card wallet that has three credit card slots with RFID blocking to keep your cards secure. The card wallet is composed of premium leather with embedded magnets.

Also: iPhone 11 review: The best iPhone for most people

Four carry modes

These three pieces can be configured, thanks to the embedded magnets, to be used in four modes. The four modes are:

  1. Hybrid case: The shell case itself is the first element that is required for all modes and is the way I carry my iPhone the majority of the time.
  2. Hybrid case and card wallet: Magnets allow you to slap the card wallet right on the back of the hybrid case and the magnets keep it very securely in place. The three cards face towards the back of the case, but the slots are tight so that your cards should not slide out.
  3. Hybrid case and folio: Set the hybrid case onto the right side of the folio and then you have a very nice folio case to carry around your iPhone 11 Pro, some cash or cards, and protect the display of your iPhone too.
  4. Hybrid case, card wallet, and folio: The ultimate HEX 4-in-1 package is present when you place the hybrid case into the folio and then position the card wallet on the back of the folio. This entire assembly is a bit big for my tastes every day, but it is convenient when you are traveling or going somewhere for an extended period of time and want everything packed with you.

Actually, you could add a fifth mode that doesn’t include your iPhone 11 Pro. That would be carrying the card wallet itself as a minimalist wallet, which is the type I carry on a daily basis since I don’t want the bulk of a full large wallet in my pocket.

The beauty of this case is that you get four cases in one and have the flexibility to carry your iPhone as you desire while also protecting it from drops. The only feature I would love to have with this case is the ability to prop up my iPhone 11 Pro for viewing media.

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Apple’s iPhone 11 Smart Battery Case review: This battery case proves useful in more ways than one Review

Last week, Apple announced a Smart Battery Case for its iPhone 11 lineup. There’s a version of the $129 case for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The case is available in soft white or black for the iPhone 11, or pink sand, white or black for the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. 

I received a case for my iPhone 11 Pro Max from Apple on Friday and tested it over the weekend. I wasn’t sold on the idea of needing a battery case for my Pro Max, but the new camera button has added some functionality that I wish more iPhone cases had. It might actually be enough to convince me to always put a case on my phone. Let’s take a closer look. 

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Same design, with a new trick

The Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 11 lineup uses the same overall design that Apple has used for all previous battery cases it has released. The inside is lined with a soft fabric to protect your phone from scratches. An indicator light is found just above the Lightning connector so you know when the case is charged.

The outside of the case still features a pronounced bump on the back, along with a larger cutout for the iPhone 11’s new camera array. On the left side of the case is another cutout, this one for the mute switch just above the volume buttons. On the right side of the case is the sleep/wake button.

It’s near the bottom of the case on the right side where you’ll find the Smart Battery Case’s new trick — a dedicated button that launches the camera app on your iPhone 11. The button is recessed just enough that it should cut down on the number of accidental presses while it’s in a pocket or bag. It’s an interesting addition to a case that’s primary function is to prolong the (already great) battery life of the iPhone 11. More on this below. 

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Charging the case itself can be done via a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad, or using the Lightning port on the bottom of the case. 

The case adds a respectable amount of thickness and weight to the iPhone 11, but that’s standard with any battery case. 

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

More battery, quicker photos

I’ve been using the iPhone 11 Pro Max since launch day, and my favorite feature is easily battery life. I consistently end my day with around 30% battery left, and that’s with heavy use. I would say roughly 4.5 hours of screen on time, on average. 

Apple’s listing for the battery case says the case will deliver up to 50% more battery life. For me, it added a full day of use to my iPhone 11 Pro Max. I woke up with a fully charged iPhone and battery case on Saturday, and it wasn’t until late Saturday night that I noticed the iPhone’s battery icon no longer had the charging indicator on it — telling me that the case had run out of power. 

Late Sunday night, as I went to bed, I still had a charge of 10% left on the iPhone. I went an entire weekend without charging my iPhone’s battery, thanks to the Smart Battery Case. 

Extending the battery life of your iPhone is the batter case’s main job, and until the latest version of the case, it was its only job. But with the addition of a dedicated camera button, you can quickly open the camera app and take a photo or video without even touching your phone’s display

To use it, you long-press the button until the camera app opens. Then, you press again to take a quick photo, or if you hold in the button again your phone begins recording a video. As soon as you let go, it stops recording. 

I’ve only had the battery case for a couple of days, but I’m starting to get used to reaching for the camera button instead of using the lock screen camera shortcut — or even navigating to the home screen and tapping on the camera icon to launch my camera. 

The ability to take a quick video with just a couple presses of a button is something parents will surely love. I was able to catch some fun clips of my kids at a trampoline park over the weekend because I didn’t have to fiddle with switching camera modes. 

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Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Peace of mind

If you’re a frequent traveler or really hard on your iPhone’s battery, the Smart Battery Case makes a ton of sense. At $129, it’s not cheap, but it’s also tightly integrated into iOS as is evident by the new camera button. Knowing that I can go for two days on a single charge is reassuring for business trips or even personal vacations. The last thing I want to worry about while in a different city is having to charge my phone.

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Best Black Friday 2019 smartphone deals

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Now is the time to pick up that Google Pixel 4 or 4 XL

We review the latest smartphones when they are released, but that doesn’t mean that you should purchase one of these new phones on the release date. A bit of patience on your part can turn into hundreds of dollars in savings as we now see Google and Samsung offering compelling discounts during Black Friday.

Also: More Black Friday deals at CNET

There are plenty of good deals on unlocked phones that you can use on your carrier of choice, but also check your preferred carrier since there are often sales and discounts when you activate phones on that carrier. Make sure to also check out other great tech deals in the ZDNet best of Black Friday post.

Smartphones today are commonly priced from $600 to more than $1,000, so if you can save $100, $200, or more, then you can use those savings to purchase cases, wireless headphones, screen protectors, and cables.

Black Friday 2019: Best smartphone deals

Disclosure: ZDNet may earn a commission from some of the products featured on this page.

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Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL ($100 off)

Google shifted its smartphone strategy a bit this year by offering up two value-priced devices as the Google Pixel 3a and 3a XL (see the full ZDNet review). These two phones have some mid-level internal specifications but retain the amazing camera performance found in the more expensive flagship models.

These two Android phones launched at a starting price half that of the Pixel 3 models, $399, and with this Black Friday offer you can shave off another $100 and gift someone one of the best cameraphones ever for just $300.

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Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL ($200 off)

The Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL were released just over a month ago, and if you are interested in Google’s latest smartphones, you should always wait a month to see what Google offers up for Black Friday. The new Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL $200 discount started before Black Friday so you can get your new phone at a great savings right now.

Google’s smartphones continue to set the bar for smartphone photography and offer phones that are assured of getting the latest major software and monthly Android security updates on a timely basis. Check out the full ZDNet reviews of Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL to help you with your purchase decision.

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Samsung Galaxy S10 models ($200 off, free Galaxy Buds with some models)

The Samsung Galaxy S10 models were released earlier this year, but remain one of the best smartphone options available today. Four models make up the S10 lineup, including the Galaxy S10e, S10, S10 Plus, and S10 5G. Samsung is offering $200 off on each model, with models priced over $339.99 also including a free pair of Galaxy Buds ($129.99 value).

Selected carriers are also offering additional savings on some models while Samsung increased trade-in discounts when you send them an eligible device. There is a range of color options and storage capacities to consider, so configure your preferred model and check out the major savings on a Samsung smartphone.

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10 models ($200 off, free Galaxy Buds with some models)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 launched in August with three options for consumers. The Note 10, Note 10 Plus, and Note 10 Plus 5G all support the iconic S Pen that is required in Note models, but the size and camera options differentiate these models. Samsung is offering $200 off on each model, with models priced over $309.99 also including a free pair of Galaxy Buds ($129.99 value).

Selected carriers are also offering additional savings on some models while Samsung increased trade-in discounts when you send them an eligible device. There is a range of color options and two storage capacities to consider so configure your preferred model and check out the major savings on a Samsung smartphone.

More Black Friday 2019 smartphone deals

While Google and Samsung have excellent deals on the latest flagship smartphones, there are other great offers worth considering this holiday season. New Apple iPhone 11 models are only available with discounts with carrier activation so check out your preferred carrier for these newest iPhones.

Black Friday 2019 smartphone accessory deals

Most people I see with a smartphone wrap the phone in a case. After buying your new phone, check out these deals on some great cases.

  • Totallee thin cases for Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel phones. Use code BFCM40 for 40% off everything.
  • The folks at Nomad have various savings on cases, cables, and more. Take 70%, 50%, 30%, 20%, or 10% off with no coupon code.
  • From 27 November until 3 December get 50% off all BodyGuardz products. This includes cases and screen protectors.

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iPhone, MacBook repairs a rip-off? We’ve lost money on them for years, insists Apple

Bulletproof your latest iOS update following these steps
If you are the type that is security conscious, here are some steps you should take to lock down an iPhone running iOS 13.2 and iPad running iPadOS 13.2.

Given the cost of repairing an iPhone or MacBook screen, it would seem very unlikely that Apple isn’t making money off your broken devices.   

But the company has suggested to a US House of Representatives subcommittee on antitrust that its repairs operations loses money. Asked to detail its yearly revenues from repair services since 2009, a top Apple lawyer said it had no revenue to reveal. 

“For each year since 2009, the costs of providing repair services has exceeded the revenue generated by repairs,” Apple said in its written response.

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)

Any Apple customer who’s paid the company for repairs would find this statement a surprise at the least. Apple is known for using technical measures to encourage and ensure customers buy genuine Apple components and, where possible, to do so from Apple itself. 

iPhone 11, for example, recently started displaying system warnings if iOS detected a non-genuine screen replacement. Apple said it was for safety and security reasons. 

The warning didn’t prevent owners from using these devices as it did in the Error 53 bricking scandal, but informed users that Apple had “updated the device information maintained for your iPhone for service needs, safety analysis, and to improve future products”. 

Similarly, its T2 chip on new MacBook Pros serves a security function, but also prevents third-party repairs for some components. 

But Apple may be losing money on repairs because of employee training issues. The T2 chip was behind a $10,000 repair bill that Apple unnecessarily footed under warranty because several Apple Geniuses didn’t know how a T2-enabled firmware password affected display behavior prior to signing in. 

Apple Genius workers replaced two motherboards on the device before one brighter Apple Genius realized the screen was just dimmed because the user had not logged in. 

Consumers often feel Apple overcharges for replacements, too. Apple’s US website lists the cost of replacing an iPhone XS screen at $279, but that’s without tax. Consumers in the UK are charged £282.44 ($366) inclusive of tax for the same repairs. The cost is similar across Europe. 

And thousands of MacBook Pro owners have complained that Apple designs laptops in a way that makes, for example, a $6 repair job cost $600.      

These were some of the issues the subcommittee touched on in its questions to Apple’s vice president of corporate law, Kyle Andeer. 

To questions about Apple preventing independent repair shops from accessing Apple components and repair manuals, Andeer responded that these business can now apply to participate in Apple’s independent repair provider program (IRP), which launched in August.

Andeer also denied Apple blocks consumers from using non-authorized repair shops.

“Apple does not take any actions to block consumers from seeking out or using repair shops that offer a broader range of repairs than those offered by Apple’s authorized technicians. Customers are free to obtain repairs from any repair shop of their choice,” he said.

SEE: Tim Cook’s dream: Every enterprise run on an iPhone

As for difficultly of repairing components, such as a damaged screen on a MacBook Pro, Andeer had this to say. 

“We currently do not provide same unit repairs for all products due to the challenge of reliably reassembling devices after disassembling the unit for repair. For example, it is not possible to reliably repair some products because it is not feasible to split products into their component parts without significant risk of damage to those components.”

Andeer also denied that Apple would refuse its customers repair services in future if a device owner had received repair work from an unauthorized technician. 

But there were several exceptions, such as when repairs required “special tooling” to reassemble the device and when “repairing the device would result in greater cost to the customer than replacing the device”.

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Apple: “For each year since 2009, the costs of providing repair services has exceeded the revenue generated by repairs.”


Image: Angela Lang/CNET

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Apple plans to make iOS upgrades less awful (and knew how terrible iOS 13 was)

Unlucky iOS 13. This was one of Apple’s rockiest, buggiest releases to date. It was a release plagued by battery bugs and memory bugs, and so much more. And apparently, things have become so bad that Apple is implementing changes.

Must read: Best gifts: IT pro toolbox & Tech gadgets for non-techies

According to a report by Bloomberg, the problem up to now has been that developers would cram new, unfinished, and buggy features into daily builds used for internal testing, but that the resulting instability might mean that “testers would go days without a livable [Apple’s internal word for usable] build, so they wouldn’t really have a handle on what’s working and not working.”

Starting with iOS 14 development, daily builds used for testing will ship with unfinished or buggy features disabled by default, with testers having the option to enable the features. This new process will also apply to iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and tvOS.

It seems that Apple became aware of what a mess iOS 13 was in the weeks leading up to its release.

“By August, realizing that the initial iOS 13.0 set to ship with new iPhones a few weeks later wouldn’t hit quality standards, Apple engineers decided to mostly abandon that work and focus on improving iOS 13.1, the first update. Apple privately considered iOS 13.1 the ‘actual public release’ with a quality level matching iOS 12. The company expected only die-hard Apple fans to load iOS 13.0 onto their phones.”

Shame Apple didn’t communicate to iPhone owners that iOS 13 was not ready for prime time.

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