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Reviews of Apple Watch Ultra and iPhone 14

Apple’s newest devices are designed to help you be more adventurous outdoors, become a better content creator, and—according to the company—keep yourself alive.

That’s the vibe I got after testing the new iPhone 14 lineups, Apple Watch Ultra, and AirPods Pro 2—Apple’s latest top-of-the-line products. They’re expensive, yes, but many will feel the new offerings make them worth the money.

Apple is releasing three new watch models (Apple Watch SE, Series 8, and Ultra), two iPhone models (the 14 and 14 Pro, each in two sizes), and the second-generation AirPods Pro. As a Bloomberg Pursuits journalist who focuses on lifestyle products, I’m going to home in on those packed with the most features and therefore the priciest ones—the Apple Watch Ultra (from $799) and iPhone 14 Pro (from $999).

Apple Watch Ultra

With a 49mm titanium case and a rugged appearance, the Apple Watch Ultra is not your ordinary smartwatch. Yes, it has all the features other Apple Watches have, but it’s able to handle extreme outdoor conditions.

The customizable “action button,” available only on the Apple Watch Ultra, is on the left side of the device and coated in a color called “international orange.” It’s a new hardware addition to make the watch easier to navigate. By pressing the physical button, you can track workout intervals, start up a built-in diving computer (the Oceanic+ app by Huish Outdoors LLC, available this fall, which automatically launches after you submerge, and calculates and monitors dive parameters), set up a stopwatch, or drop waypoints—geographical pinpoints—along your route.

Coupled with dual-frequency GPS, the waypoints feature allows anyone from hikers to people living in dense urban areas to accurately document the locations they’ve been to and retrace the route they took in case they get lost. Although I didn’t go into the woods to test the GPS system, the working of the function felt intuitive. One push on the action button will drop a pin on the location you’re at, and a simple scroll of the crown on the watch’s right side can take you to the previous point you dropped. Selecting the “Backtrack” function within the Action Button app will map the route you’ve taken.

The regular Apple Watch Series 8 also has the upgraded compass that allows waypoint dropping and backtracking, but it requires more manual maneuvering without the action button—which is probably fine for many folks who don’t worry about getting lost in the wilderness on a regular basis.

In a noisy environment—say, because of the harsh wind on a mountaintop or the hustle and bustle of a big city—the Apple Watch Ultra has an upgraded microphone system to pick up your voice for clear phone calls, as well as a new speaker that can blast a loud emergency siren that Apple says can be heard up to 600 feet, or 180 meters, away. (The demonstrator at the presentation said it was too loud to test there.) Another lifesaving function, also available for the Series 8, is a new sensor to detect a car crash and notify emergency services.

Along with older features for tracking sleep, ECG, heart rate, and blood oxygen, both watch models added two sensors, one on the back of the device and the other inside and behind the display, to discern changes in body temperature. Apple pitches the feature as a family planning tool: By wearing the watch all the time, women can track their ovulation cycles (after it analyzes at least two months of temperature readings) and decide on the best time to get pregnant. The idea seemed cool, but I have reservations about wearing a chunky device on my wrist to bed. And to voluntarily relinquish so much data and control to a piece of technology gave me a bit of Black Mirror flashbacks.

The Apple Watch Ultra, priced at $799, can also sustain 36 hours of battery life, or 60 hours on a low power setting, endure temperatures from -4F to 131F, and remain water-resistant to a depth of 100 meters.

iPhone 14 Lineups

As mentioned, Apple is prioritizing the “lifesaving” aspect of many of the new features. All the iPhone 14s are capable of sending an emergency SOS via satellite (the service will be available in November). That means even without Wi-Fi or cellular data the phones can make emergency calls using satellite technology. They also have a crash detection sensor that will alert emergency services if you’re in an accident.

Other than the lifesaving functions, there are cool features like setting up multiple lock screens, taking better photos in low light, and more stabilized action videos. I tested the autofocus front camera while uncomfortably taking a selfie under the gaze of a model dressed in all kinds of shades of green, who eventually joined me in a photo and exclaimed, “Look, it can focus on both of us.” It did. In a dim-lit room, I captured another model’s bored face with cameras on both an iPhone 14 Plus and iPhone 14 Pro. The trio of cameras balanced the dark purple and brown colors while showing the person clearly.

The iPhone 14 (from $799) and iPhone 14 Plus (from $899) seem like a standard upgrade from the iPhone 13—including better 12-megapixel wide cameras and different colors (midnight, blue, starlight, purple, and (PRODUCT)RED). Apple offers a 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screen, respectively, for the two identical designs and eliminated the Mini option.

In comparison, the most exciting features are packed in the pricier iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. Available in a 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch screen, the two cost at least $999 and $1,099, respectively. A notable addition is the pill-shaped black area at the top of the screen, where the speaker and front camera are located. Apple calls it the Dynamic Island. It’s a multitasking tool that helps people track what they’re doing. Say, if you’re listening to music and need to switch to another app, the music app will be automatically shifted up to the island. You can later expand the island to change songs or pause the music. You can also glance at it for a phone call’s duration and an animated waveform of the audio; a voice memo’s recording; a timer’s progress; or see a combination of apps working in the background.

The camera system is a big deal for the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, which each have three cameras in the back. The main wide camera is 48 megapixels, a monumental boost from 12 megapixels for the iPhone 13 Pro.

The Always-On display for the new models dims the screen instead of completely turning it off, so users can see essential information such as the time, date, and temperature without tapping the screen—the essentials are customizable, and you can turn off the Always-On display, too.

And the Fitness app that used to appear on your iPhone only after pairing with an Apple Watch? It’ll show up on your home screen once you upgrade to iOS 16, even if you don’t own an Apple Watch. The Fitness+ tab within the app (coming this fall) is filled with workouts, meditations, and motivational episodes. New Apple Watch buyers get Apple Fitness+ for free for three months (existing owners get one month free), then the subscription is $9.99 a month or $79.99 annually.

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Wall Street hit with $2 billion in fines over employees using WhatsApp and other unauthorized messaging apps

U.S. regulators reached settlements with a dozen banks in a sprawling probe into how global financial firms failed to monitor employees’ communications on unauthorized messaging apps, bringing total penalties in the matter to more than $2 billion. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced $1.1 billion in fines and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission disclosed $710 million in penalties in separate statements Tuesday. Those levies — against firms including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — combined with JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s $200 million in fines from December, bring the total to $2.01 billion, making them the biggest penalties ever against US banks for record-keeping lapses. 

“Finance, ultimately, depends on trust. By failing to honor their record-keeping and books-and-records obligations, the market participants we have charged today have failed to maintain that trust,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in the agency’s statement. “As technology changes, it’s even more important that registrants appropriately conduct their communications about business matters within only official channels, and they must maintain and preserve those communications.”

Tuesday’s announcements cap months of discussions between regulators and the banks. Morgan Stanley said in July it was nearing a settlement that would see it pay a $200 million fine, with other major banks also disclosed setting aside similar figures as part of their second-quarter results without specifying the reason.

JPMorgan had been the only bank until now to reach a settlement with the regulators, and was the first to report the fines, in December. Even managing directors and other senior supervisors at the largest US bank had skirted regulatory scrutiny by using services such as WhatsApp or personal email addresses for work-related communication, regulators said at the time.

Finance firms are required to scrupulously monitor communications involving their business to head off improper conduct. That system, already challenged by the proliferation of mobile-messaging apps, was strained further as firms sent workers home shortly after the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In the SEC probe, eight firms agreed to penalties of $125 million each: Barclays Plc, Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS Group AG. Jefferies Financial Group Inc. and Nomura Holdings Inc. agreed to pay $50 million apiece, and Cantor Fitzgerald LP agreed to pay $10 million.

Bank of America had the biggest CFTC penalty, at $100 million, followed by Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS at $75 million each. Nomura was fined $50 million, Jefferies $30 million and Cantor Fitzgerald $6 million.

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Ray Dalio says the U.K.’s policies ‘suggest incompetence’ and warns other governments not to make the same mistakes

Ray Dalio added his name to a growing list of critics of the U.K.’s new spending plan, unveiled last week by Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng.

The billionaire investor—who founded what is now the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, in 1975—argued the plan’s aggressive tax cuts will raise the U.K. debts to an unsustainable level and cripple the pound.

“Investors and policymakers: Heed the lesson of the UK’s fiscal blunder,” Dalio wrote in a Tuesday tweet. “The panic selling you are now seeing that is leading to the plunge of UK bonds, currency, and financial assets is due to the recognition that the big supply of debt that will have to be sold by the government is much too much for the demand.”

On Monday, in response to Truss’ new spending plan, the U.K.’s bond market experienced the largest one-day sell-off in its history, pushing the total losses in the country’s stock and bond markets since Truss’ appointment as prime minister on Sept. 5 to over $500 billion. Meanwhile, the pound sank to a record low of $1.05 against the U.S. dollar on Monday morning, and although it has since risen to $1.07, the currency remains near a 40-year low vs. the dollar. 

After the new Truss spending plan was announced, the U.K. Debt Management Office said that it will raise its debt issuance by 72.4 billion pounds for the current fiscal year to 234.1 billion pounds.

The new spending plan will also push the U.K.’s debt to GDP ratio to around 101%, the highest level of debt the U.K. has held since 1962, according to Deutsche Bank.

Deutsche Bank, UK Office of Debt Management

In Ray Dalio’s view, this rapid increase in debt, coupled with the lack of demand for the pound on the global stage, is a recipe for disaster.

“That makes people want to get out of the debt and currency. I can’t understand how those who were behind this move didn’t understand that. It suggests incompetence,” Dalio said. “Mechanistically, the U.K. government is operating like the government of an emerging country, it is producing too much debt in a currency that there is not a big world demand for.”

The investor went on to argue that this should be a teaching moment for governments around the world to not increase their debts to unsustainable levels.

“I hope, but doubt, that other policymakers who are doing similar things…will recognize that they are risking a similar outcome—and that investors will see this too,” he said.

Analysts are also worried that the U.K.’s new spending plan, which was designed to spur economic growth and help alleviate the effects of high energy prices in the short term, could end up exacerbating inflation in the U.K. overall. And consumer prices already jumped 9.9% from a year ago in August.

“The government is trying to balance support for consumers and businesses with measures that might trigger further inflation, whilst also trying to reinvigorate a stagflationary economy,” Giles Coghlan, chief market analyst at global Forex broker HYCM, told Fortune. “Such a large fiscal package could contribute to elevated prices in the medium to long term that could inflict further damage to an economy and currency that are already on their knees.” 

The potential inflationary impact of the new spending plan has increased calls for the Bank of England (BoE) to dramatically hike interest rates, with some economists even calling for the U.K.’s base interest rate to move from 2.25% to as high as 6% next year

That’s bad news for the U.K.’s homeowners. Monthly mortgage rates will increase immediately for 2 million people on tracker or variable interest rate plans if the BoE follows through with its next rate hike. And another 1.8 million homeowners with fixed-rate deals will also be forced to pay significantly higher rates next year, according to U.K. Finance.

With the U.K. facing more interest rate hikes ahead, rising government debts, a sinking pound, and a European energy crisis, Deutsche Bank’s chief economist, David Folkerts-Landau, said he now believes the country will experience a severe recession that lasts three to four quarters.

“We’re thinking in terms of a recession that will be deep and long,” he told Bloomberg on Tuesday. “It’s the price we have to pay for financial stability and for getting on the right track.”

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Artificial Intelligence: A.I. is solving traffic problems to get you where you’re going safely

“I haven’t met anyone that really loves traffic,” says Karina Ricks of the Federal Transit Administration.

Except, possibly, professionals like her who are tasked with reducing it.

Ricks has made her career out of caring about traffic patterns. Before her current role as the associate administrator for research, innovation, and demonstration at the FTA, she was the director of mobility and infrastructure for the City of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. She has spent countless hours thinking about cars, public transit, roads, and pedestrians—and how to make it all flow more smoothly.

“When you’re in the peak times for travel, when the system is so full, it only takes a small disruption to cause really big problems,” Ricks says. “The work is to quickly flag those disruptions and rapidly retool the system to operate around them.”

What Ricks aims to optimize affects anyone moving from point A to point B, especially in cities. She explained that congestion is the number one problem when it comes to traffic, and a common occurrence in metropolitan areas. Add to that the number of variables at any given time, including human operators of vehicles and geography, and it results in a mind-boggling puzzle to even attempt to solve.

If there were an easy way to reduce traffic, it would have been actioned in the past 50 years, she said. Instead, she, government organizations, and startups in the space, such as Lyt, are all looking at an immense amount of traffic data available—from traffic sensors to ride share data and even bike and scooter data from smartphones—and using it to inform decisions on how to get people to work, home, and the grocery store safely and quickly.

That solution involves artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“There are tasks that humans just aren’t good at that machinery is, and that’s recognizing patterns,” explains Tim Menard, founder and chief executive officer of Lyt, a software technology platform providing mobility solutions for cities. “A.I. is a great technology to use, because you’re looking at all parts of the system. You can start feeding it different information, and you can put that into a system that can make operational changes.”

Menard started Lyt after studying intelligent transportation systems for more than 13 years. His company uses vehicle data to solve traffic problems, especially when it comes to the efficiency of public transit options. For Menard, the end goal is to “make more cities equitable by making public transit reliable, predictable, and faster.”

Both Ricks and Menard believe that the way to reduce traffic is to get more people onto public transportation, such as buses, subways, and light rail systems. Public transportation is the safest surface transportation mode, with fewer injuries and fatalities. It’s also a speedier way to move a larger number of people.

Ricks explained that most of congestion is caused by “low-volume vehicles,” ie. single-occupant cars. Those drivers are human; some drive faster, some slower; some change lanes often, others stop abruptly when a traffic light flashes yellow before red. Because humans behave so differently, there is a level of unpredictability in the traffic system. Much of her work aims to make mass transit more enticing for commuters.

“You’re reducing the rate of crashes that might occur when you’re reducing the number of vehicles that are there,” Ricks added.

With that in mind, Menard started looking at the Internet of Things for his cloud platform, pulling data from smartphones, automotive sensors, public transportation logs, and delivery vehicles to understand traffic patterns at various times of the day as well as during special one-off events, such as a sports game at a local stadium. He said that the first hurdle was to operate from a place of known information rather than guessing; in the past, he explained, it took a human looking at a video screen for hours and hours to even begin to make an estimate on next steps.

He launched in San Jose, Calif., where for the past three years, he has collaborated with the city to optimize bus routes by 20%, thereby reducing fuel consumption by 14% and emissions at intersections by 12%. Using a predictive estimated time of arrival at each traffic light, his platform reduced the travel time between bus stops by optimizing bus lanes and traffic lights to ensure buses could move as effectively as possible without disrupting other traffic. He now works in other northern California cities, including additional Bay Area towns and Sacramento, as well as in the Pacific Northwest: Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Menard is also looking at bicycle and pedestrian traffic, something he says is of interest and priority to many transit authorities. He has worked to make bicycling safer by creating dedicated, curbed bike lanes with their own traffic signals synced with those of vehicle traffic to help avoid car-bicycle collisions. For pedestrians, Ricks explained that foot traffic uses sensors and adaptive controls to adjust settings in real time based on needs—a moment when the A.I. algorithm and real time data intersect.

Another benefit of A.I. technology for traffic patterns surrounds first responders. Menard employed machine learning to analyze data from emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks to improve speed. He noted that in many urban environments, congestion and traffic patterns prohibit first responders from promptly arriving on scene or to a hospital with a life-or-death situation. In Sacramento, Calif., he tackled this problem.

“It was literally night and day better in under 15 minutes,” he said of taking a look at amassed data from all the relevant stakeholders in the city. There, he improved the slowest 10% of the emergency vehicles by more than 10 miles per hour, allowing them to arrive 70% faster on any response. Even the performing top 10% of vehicles saw an improvement of 6 miles per hour.

For every single-occupant car that swaps to public transit, there is one less vehicle on the road causing congestion. Menard regularly reminds people that when they are sitting in their car, stuck in traffic, they are surrounded by many other people doing the exact same thing. If they traded to a shared vehicle—a high-occupancy mode of transit—they may speed along very quickly.

But it’s always challenging to inspire commuters to change habits, so the new option needs to be compelling enough to motivate them to adjust the way they operate. “What you want in a transit system is to show up now [and] there’s a bus ready to get you in a timely fashion,” Ricks said. “We need to address traffic in order for transit to be that attractive alternative. There’s quite a bit of work to still do.”

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