Apple generates a lot of news, and it can be hard to keep up. If your mind was on other things this week, our Saturday-morning roundup of Apple-related headlines will bring you up to date.

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Apple's office obsession

Right now, an awful lot of us are having to accept drastic Omicron-induced alterations to our Christmas plans. (RIP, les vacances françaises.) And even the richest tech company in the history of the world is not immune to the effects of the pandemic.

Regular readers of this website may stifle a yawn on hearing the news that, yet again, Apple has postponed its return to the office. Having previously hoped to restore office-based normality by February, the company is now back to "a date yet to be determined". We heard the same story in the summer, and even that wasn't the first time.

It sounds like the right decision, of course: the safety of the company's employees should always come first. But for the same reason it strikes us as odd that Apple has been so repeatedly keen, since early in 2020, to end lockdown restrictions as early as possible. We recognise that in-person interactions are highly valued at Cupertino (if you recall, the horizontal and vertical layout of Apple Park was carefully optimised for exactly this reason) but rushing back too early can only be counterproductive.

Given that Apple is a technology company with its own messaging and videoconferencing software packages, it's hard to understand what it has against remote working. Maybe there's a concern about secrecy: product leaks seemed to be more common when designers had to take prototypes home to work on. Or maybe we're seeing that old-fashioned suspicion that people are not as efficient when they haven't got a boss looking over their shoulder.

Whatever the reason, Apple's obsession with onsite working risks further alienating its put-upon workforce, who pushed back against office plans this summer and have this year raised other concerns about working conditions. This year, businesses in every sector have been discovering that employees are perfectly happy to leave if remote-working policies are not to their liking, and the last thing Apple needs right now is an exodus of talent.

News in brief

Apple's App Store monopoly needs to end, argues Anders Lundberg in this week's controversial Different Think column.

Private emails released as part of Apple's lawsuit with Epic Games reveal the lengths Microsoft was willing to go to in order to launch Xbox Cloud Gaming on the App Store. The company even offered several Xbox exclusives to iPhone gamers, but negotiations broke down when Apple insisted that Microsoft would have to package the entire streaming tech stack into each individual game and update thousands of apps over and over again.

Apple's anticlimactic 2021 was all too predictable, reckons Jason Snell.

An outspoken critic of Apple Music claims to have received a personal response from none other than Tim Cook.

The Apple Music Voice Plan is a small step toward an iPhone-less future, prophesies Michael Simon - although Tamara Palmer, who's tried it out, describes it as "equal parts fun and frustration".

Want to know some great ideas for tech presents? Take a look at Hack The Holidays, a new site devoted to gift ideas put together by our colleagues on PC World.

Video of the week

Talking of Hack The Holidays, here's one of our favourite videos from the site: Gordon Ung unwrapping and demonstrating a cool Star Wars gift for, as Gordon and Princess Leia both put it, the scruffy-looking nerf-herder in your life.

Software, bugs & problems

The iOS 15.2 update was finally made available to the public on Monday 13 December 2021. The iOS 15.2 update allows Apple to address bugs and add some of the previously announced features that hadn't yet made it into iOS 15. The new features include SharePlay, Apple Music Voice Plan, Legacy Contact, and much more. For more details read: What's in iOS 15.2.

iOS 15.2 also offers some new protections for children, including a warning about explicit content in iMessage and protection for searches via Siri, Spotlight and Safari. These changes were announced by the company earlier in 2021.The protections mean that in iOS 15.2 parents can activate warnings should their children receive or send explicit content. What the update doesn't include is a scan of iCloud Photos for pictures that represent child sexual abuse material, which was something Apple said it would be doing, but Apple appears to have backtracked on this following a backlash.

At the same time Apple also made an update to macOS Monterey available, which introduces many of the same new features along with new options in Memories in Photos and changes in the TV app. For more details read: What's in macOS Monterey 12.1?

Safari also got an update that means that it can support more colours. Read about that in Safari 15.2 brings better pictures.

Unfortunately a bug seems to have prevented some M1 Mac users from seeing the macOS 12.1 update - but there's a workaround.

Apple also Apple issued security updates for older versions of macOS: Big Sur version 11.6.2 closed 31 vulnerabilities. Another 27 gaps were closed in an update to macOS Catalina.

The Log4Shell bug paralysed IT departments around the world last week, but Apple was quick to patch the vulnerability in iCloud.

The rumour mill

The long-awaited folding iPhone won't launch until 2023 at the earliest, according to a reliable analyst. At the earliest. And it's more likely to be 2024. And now we're depressed.

Apple from 2015 to 2021: We'll keep the iPhone's rear-facing cameras at exactly 12MP. There's no reason to offer more than that. Apple in 2022 (reportedly): GREAT NEWS! WE'RE QUADRUPLING THE NUMBER OF MEGAPIXELS.

Miss the iMac Pro? It looks like we'll get a new one in the spring. Curious about the even more powerful Mac Pro? Read about how a quadra M1 Max could be used for the Mac Pro.

A few years back we amused ourselves speculating about possible names for the next version of macOS, from Eureka to Shafter. But recent trademark activity suggests that Apple is thinking of something slightly hairier for 2022: Mammoth.

The 2022 Mac generating the most excitement is, arguably, the MacBook Air, which is said to be getting a redesign and a M2 chip. But when will it arrive? Find out more in our roundup of all the leaks and rumours: Everything you need to know about the 2022 MacBook Air.

Apple deals of the week

I've embedded a list of the best current Apple deals below, but other than that, we're done for this week. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley!

1. Apple AirPods Max

From: Laptops Direct

Was: £549

Now: £399  (£150 off)

This £150 saving on the AirPods Max is the best around. It only applies to the models in pink and green, but you can find discounts across the other colour finishes too, with £120 off the silver version and £49 off the blue version.

2. Apple Magic Mouse 2

From: Smartfone Store

Was: £79

Now: £59.99  (£19.01 off)

Apple may have discontinued the Magic Mouse 2, but you can pick it up from the Smartfone Store with £20 off. Very has the second-best price at £64.99.

3. Apple AirPods 3 (2021)

From: John Lewis

Was: £169

Now: £159  (£10 off)

Considering how new they are, this £10 discount on the new AirPods is well worth having. AO and Amazon are both matching the deal.

4. Apple Watch SE (44mm, GPS + Cellular)

From: Amazon

Was: £349

Now: £301.37  (£47 off)

The Apple Watch SE may not have all the bells and whistles of the Series 7, but at £301 with a 44mm case and cellular connectivity, it's a tempting buy. 

5. Apple Watch Series 6 (44mm, cellular)

From: Amazon

Was: £509

Now: £329  (£180 off)

Save £180 on the 44mm Watch 6 with cellular connectivity from Amazon. It's the lowest price we've seen for this variant.

6. Apple AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case

From: Laptops Direct

Was: £239

Now: £179  (£60 off)

This is an excellent saving on the AirPods Pro, Apple's excellent true-wireless earphones with ANC, but look out for the delivery fee. John Lewis is charging £189 but charges less for delivery and includes a 2-year guarantee.

7. Apple iPhone SE with iPad 10.2in (2021)

From: Virgin

Now: From £29 per month (2GB)

If you were looking to buy the new iPad along with a new iPhone ahead of Christmas, why not pick this offer from Virgin where both come bundled together.

See our dedicated articles on the best iPhone SE deals along with the best iPad (2021) deals.

8. Apple iPad Air 4 (64GB, 2020) Wi-Fi Only - Refurbished "Good"

From: Music Magpie

Was: £579.99

Now: £509.99  (£70 off)

Music Magpie has £70 off a Space Grey refurbished iPad Air 4 (2020) in "Good" condition. It's not the best price it has ever been, but it includes a free 12-month warranty for peace of mind and free delivery too. 

9. Apple iPad Pro (2021, M1, 12.9in)

From: Amazon

Was: £999

Now: £956.92  (£42.08 off)

Apple's super-powerful flagship tablet is a bit less expensive if you buy from Amazon, but note that this has gone up since the turn of the year. The same retailer had it for £899 before Christmas.

10. Apple Watch Series 7 (41mm, GPS + Cellular)

From: Amazon

Was: £469

Now: £440.86  (£28.14 off)

The Apple Watch Series 7 offers a larger, brighter display, slimmer bezels and more. Right now you can nearly £30 from Amazon on the 41mm cellular option.

11. Apple MacBook Air, M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 512GB (2020)

From: Amazon

Was: £1,249

Now: £1,099.97  (£149 off)

Amazon has a great deal on the 512GB MacBook Air with M1. This price means it's only £100 more than the entry-level model would usually cost, plus you get twice as much storage and that all important extra graphics core.

When we checked it was out of stock, but it's worth checking in case Amazon gets more in.

12. Apple 13in MacBook Pro, M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 256GB (2020)

From: Amazon

Was: £1,299

Now: £1,159  (£140 off)

This is a decent saving on the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro with M1.

 

13. Apple Mac mini, M1, 8-Core CPU / 8-Core GPU, 256GB

From: Amazon

Was: £699

Now: £648.97  (£50.03 off)

Amazon has a decent discount on the M1 Mac mini. If it sells out, you can also find it for £657.66 from the BT Shop.

14. Apple iPad Air with Apple Pencil

From: Virgin

Now: £26 per month (2GB data)

Get an Apple Pencil with the cellular iPad Air from Virgin – a great bundle if you were already after the Apple Pencil! It's a £19 upfront cost and £26 per month with 2GB of data to play with.  

15. Apple iPhone 12 with Watch SE (GPS, 40mm)

From: Mobile Phones Direct

Now: £79.99 upfront, £55 per month (60GB)

This bundle from Mobile Phones Direct includes a 40mm Watch SE (GPS) and 60GB of data. You also get free next day delivery.

16. Apple iPhone 13 mini with iPad (2021)

From: Virgin

Now: From £40 per month, no upfront cost

Pick up the latest iPad and iPhone 13 from Virgin in this Black Friday bundle, which is still available in December 2021.

17. Apple Watch Series 6 (44mm, cellular, Stainless Steel) - Refurbished

From: Music Magpie

Was: £699

Now: £389.99  (£309 off)

The Stainless Steel, 44mm cellular Apple Watch 6 is the most premium option you can buy - but not if you buy refurbished from MusicMagpie, where it currently costs less than £400. 

18. Apple iPad Pro (2021, M1, 11in)

From: Amazon

Was: £749

Now: £717.45  (£31.55 off)

Apple's exceptionally powerful M1-equipped iPad Pro for 2021 has a chunky price tag to match. But it's a little less chunky if you go to Amazon - and note that it's dropped by another couple of quid since before Christmas.

19. Apple MacBook Air, M1, 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 256GB (2020)

From: Currys

Was: £999

Now: £889  (£110 off)

Everyone seems to have this deal right now! You can get the £999 MacBook Air with 8-core CPU and 7-core GPU in gold for £889 from Currys or Amazon, AO and John Lewis.

 

20. Apple Watch Series 6 (40mm)

From: John Lewis

Was: £379

Now: £279  (£100 off)

It cost £379 when new, so this is a generous saving; bearing in mind that the Series 7 does not represent a huge step forward, making this an excellent at under £300. It's a better deal than the Black Friday price of £289.