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The Apple Dilemma For Japan’s Car Industry - Reviews

27th February 2021
"Apple has remained consistently silent about its car ambitions and it is unclear what exact conditions it is seeking from potential partners"

At the end of 2014, when Shinzo Abe, then Prime Minister, announced in a speech that Apple was building its first technology center in Japan, high-profile foreign investment was praised as a success of its economic policy.

Apple Car
It also fueled immediate speculation that the iPhone manufacturer might be looking for a Japanese partner for its secretive project to build autonomous electric vehicles.

So it was only natural that market scrutiny would once again fall on Japan’s eight carmakers after the US tech giant halted talks on an automotive tie-up with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia.

In the past two weeks of financial results, almost every Japanese carmaker has been asked whether it has been approached by Apple to take part in its car efforts. The responses from Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, and Honda have varied from a “no comment” to indicating vague readiness to work with tech companies. 

Apple’s search in Japan seems genuine, with Nissan being briefly approached by the group in recent months. But, with clashing visions of branding strategy, the chances of a car-building partnership between the two appear low. 

For Japanese carmakers, Apple’s courtship is double-edged. If the US group picks a Japanese partner and its foray into cars is successful, the alliance could be a powerful force in the global shift towards zero-emission vehicles. On the other hand, a tie-up to build Apple-branded cars could downgrade Japanese carmakers to what some outraged executives say is a supplier of “moving boxes”. 

Japan’s storied electronics industry has faced a period of soul-searching after companies such as Sharp and Panasonic shifted focus from being the face of consumer products to a supplier of components to Apple and Tesla.

But shifting from a parts supplier to an assembler like Foxconn would take Japanese manufacturing to a whole new level. The psychological blow will be even bigger for the automotive industry, which accounts for 20 per cent of the country’s exports — a contribution to the economy that is even larger than that of German carmakers, according to research firm Euromonitor.

In some ways, Apple’s interest is a testimony of the quality of the country’s just-in-time manufacturing, which is well-known to Apple through its existing relationship with more than 900 suppliers in Japan.

From the US company’s perspective, the fragmentation of Japan’s auto industry is appealing since smaller players will not be able to make the enormous investments required for the shift to electric vehicles. Even before the race for battery-powered cars has seriously kicked off, the country’s eight carmakers combined are worth less than half of Tesla’s $750bn market value. 

For now, companies from Subaru, Suzuki Motor to Mazda have formed capital tie-ups with industry leader Toyota, but such loose alliances will not be a permanent solution for survival. Faced with an uncertain future, some may be attracted to Apple’s capital and branding strength that has the potential to take electric vehicles mainstream. 

In recent weeks, talk of Apple interest has lifted the shares of Nissan, its partner Mitsubishi Motors and Mazda. Investors have tended to focus on struggling companies that have strong technology and presence in the US but weaker balance sheets and extra plant capacity due to sluggish sales. However, the gains have been short-term.

Apple Car

Not surprisingly, Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker by the number of vehicles sold, did not face any questions on Apple during its financial presentation. 

Worldwide, carmakers are already working closely with tech companies, with Google sibling Waymo working with Jaguar, Volvo, Renault, and Nissan. Toyota has also partnered with Aurora, the Amazon-backed start-up, which recently acquired Uber’s autonomous driving unit.

Apple has remained consistently silent about its car ambitions and it is unclear what exact conditions it is seeking from potential partners. As Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer, recently said, the existing tie-ups with tech companies have involved adapting their services to products of carmakers, but Apple may be looking to flip that relationship to adapting the vehicles to its technology and services.

However, delivering large volumes of high-quality vehicles is not easy for tech companies to replicate immediately. To turn a tie-up with Apple into an opportunity, Japanese carmakers would need to negotiate ruthlessly while they still have a strong hand.

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Compiled by : Rahul Shrestha Rahul Shrestha

New headphone by Apple, costs more than Iphone SE

25th February 2021
"Over-ear headphones AirPods Max launched with a heavy price tag."

New over-ear headphones AirPods Max has been launched recently by Apple. They are costlier than both the new Xbox and PlayStation with a heavy price tag of £549.

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Apple is expanding its popular AirPods list with a pair of very expensive headphones. The headphones are wireless, noise-canceling, and built-in Siri competence. According to Apple, they combine acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to deliver "the ultimate personal listening experience

Headband, which is designed in a way that the weight is distributed evenly and pressure is reduced is described as 'breathable knit mesh' by apple. The ear cups are cushioned with memory foam, which provides comfort, and a seal to improve sound quality.

Some features of the headphone include:

1. A digital crown, a dial that allows content to be scrolled through.
2. Automatic pause when you lift one ear up
3. 20 hours of battery life
4. Device switching, so that you can take a call on an iphone while listening to music on another apple device.

These headphones are tagged with a heavy price of $549. When compared, the iPhone SE starts at $399 and the newly launched iPhone 12 is $699.

Source: BBC

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Apple is said to be working on a MagSafe iPhone 12 battery pack.

27th February 2021
"Apple might have a separate magnetic accessory on its mind."

Apple is working on the battery pack accessory that will wirelessly attach to the iPhone 12 using the company's MagSafe device, according to Bloomberg's article on Friday.

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Apple launched MagSafe charging and attachments as part of its iPhone 12 collection last October. It's reminiscent of the MagSafe feature that used to be on all MacBooks, where the power cord was auto-attached and quickly snapped off. The battery pack, which is said to have been in production for at least a year, will join a bunch of MagSafe magnetic accessories that clip onto the back of the iPhone 12, such as covers, chargers, mounts, and wallets.

The MagSafe battery pack will only have an extra charge and not provide a full safety case like the previous iPhone battery add-ons. Any of the accessory designs had a white rubber exterior, according to Bloomberg.

Developing the battery pack has been slowed down due to technical issues and other concerns, according to Bloomberg, and there's a risk that the accessory could face delays or be scrapped together.

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