New Kindle update makes it much easier to switch to an Amazon ereader
Recently news broke that Amazon Kindle ereaders will now support the popular EPUB file format for books, as well as Kindle, PDF and many more types of documents - we covered the story when it broke .
If you're thinking "well, that's good news" then you're right - EPUB is a very popular file format for digital books, and many publishing trade groups consider it the format of choice for sending ebooks. On top of that many websites and libraries use it, meaning you can now use a greater range of books on your Kindle.
But there's actually another great reason that EPUB support is big news for Kindles - and it all comes down to Amazon's ereaders and their place in the market.
A standard format
Not only do lots of digital book repositories online use EPUB files, but so too do plenty of other ereader companies.
Google Play Books uses EPUB files, as do Kobo and Onyx devices and their respective smartphone apps. It's very much the standard for this kind of digital file.
Now that Amazon Kindles take the format, every single device on our list of the best ereader can now read and understand the format - and that's great for switching devices.
The main thing that'll put people off from switching tech ecosystems, is the data they could lose. If you switch from an iPhone to an Android device, none of your App Store purchases will carry over - you'll need to pay again for the same apps.
That would previously have been the case for ereaders - if you have a Kindle, with all its proprietary files, you wouldn't consider moving over, or vice versa. But that's changed.
Now, if you've got a Kobo but want to buy a Kindle, you've got a much easier job of transferring your entire library over. You don't need to individually convert each file - you could easily get a 'Send to Kindle app' as well as the Kobo app, and use them to easily send your entire collection of books to the new device.
This update really does help Amazon in that regard, removing one hurdle it has in convincing ereader fans to pick up one of its devices.
Saying that, the benefit for the users can't be overstated either, and support for EPUB files means there are far more digital books ready to be used on Kindles. So this is good news for everyone - well, unless you have a Kobo or Onyx device.
How Apple could make the AirPods Pro 2 perfect running earbuds
Apple may not market the AirPods Pro as earbuds made for runners, but for anyone that’s plugged them into their ears to stretch their legs down the park or on the treadmill, they actually make a pretty good set of running headphones .
The sound quality is solid, they possess strong ANC powers when you want to block out ambient noise, and a sweat and water resistant design means they offer some protection against the elements. Plus, if you can find a snug fit, the AirPods Pro are buds that stay secure whether you’re on a run or relaxing at home.
The AirPods Pro aren’t perfect running earbuds, though, and there are a lot of features we’d like to see from future AirPods to make them more suitable for exercise. Apple already offers the Beats Fit Pro and Powerbeats Pro as more workout-friendly options, so it’s not a massive stretch to suggest those buds could influence future AirPod Pro models.
It’s rumored that we’ll see the second-generation in the AirPods Pro line later this year. So, if Apple decided to give the AirPods Pro 2 more running appeal, what would it have to do to give them that added appeal? Having spent a lot of time run-testing Apple’s current AirPods Pro and a host of different sports headphones from Jabra, JBL, Beats, Sony, Jaybird and Shokz, here’s what we think needs to happen.
1. Up the sweat protection
The current AirPods Pro offer an IPX4 water resistance rating, which means you’re putting something in your ears that’s splashproof. However, there are a host of other fitness-focused true wireless earbuds that offer stronger waterproof ratings and cost less than the Pro.
While we can’t say we’ve encountered any issues with that level of protection running with the Pros, the idea that they could be better protected against sweat, rain and moisture in general would be welcomed.
Apple recently made the move to give its Watch 7 smartwatch an improved dustproof rating, so it’s not out of the question that it’ll bolster the ruggedness on its popular wireless earbuds too.
It shouldn’t stop with the buds themselves either. Other headphone-makers like Jaybird have added that extra durable protection to cases too, and it would be good to see the pocket and running belt-friendly case Apple already offers with the Pro get some extra protection too.
2. Give us some physical volume controls
A very simple suggestion for Apple, but it’s one based on the simple fact that runners definitely prefer physical controls. They’re easier to get to grips with, especially when you’re running at your quickest. Yes, Apple does offer Siri voice controls, but sometimes keeping things simple is often the best option.
The stem-based touch controls on the AirPods Pro actually work well, but unlike Apple’s Beats Powerbeats Pro and a host of other sporty true wireless earbuds, they don’t offer the ability to physically adjust volume controls.
Granted, the Powerbeats Pro have more space to play with, but there are also buds that are a similar size and stature to the AirPods Pro that have managed to successfully implement physical volume controls. Jabra’s Elite Active 7 are a good example of that. Something as simple as pressing and holding the stems to adjust volume, would be the kind of addition runners would absolutely eat up.
Another way Apple could make the AirPods Pro controls easier for runners to use is by implementing a similar kind of technology to the Wide Tap Area featured on the Sony LinkBuds , which allows you to tap your face to adjust your music playback.
This gives you a larger surface area to work with, so you’re less likely to miss the buds themselves while you’re running. We’ve already seen Apple patents that describe futuristic gesture controls , and now that Sony has proven it possible, we’re hopeful that the AirPods Pro 2 will improve upon their predecessors’ touch-sensitive stems.
3. Add tracking features that make sense
Apple patents that could relate to future AirPods Pro models have suggested the company is looking to offer some fitness tracking features with its future earbuds .
Apple has already planted a motion detecting accelerometer sensor inside of the AirPods Pro, and at WWDC 2020 , the company announced it was opening up its Motion API on the AirPods to enable developers of fitness apps and games to make use of the head tracking used for the buds’ Spatial Audio feature.
Bringing biometric and tracking sensors isn’t new territory for truly wireless earbuds. Jabra and Amazfit offer buds that pack in optical heart rate monitors that work well - as long as you manage to get a reliable and precise fit throughout your run. If you don’t, they’re not as accurate as you’d want them to be.
Amazfit also used accelerometer motion sensors to track runs via the ears, though unsurprisingly, the tech wasn’t extremely reliable and ever going to rival a GPS running watch for accuracy.
What we’re saying here is that, while it would be great to see some form of run-tracking feature included on the Pro 2, it would need to be reliable, compelling and offer something better than what other run-tracking devices can already offer.
4. Focus on coaching and posture
Another way Apple could introduce useful running smarts to its next set of AirPods Pro is by borrowing some Apple Watch features. Apple’s smartwatch offers one of the best run tracking experiences you can find on a wearable right now, with a built-in heart rate monitor, blood oxygen monitor, and reliable GPS. We’ve already heard rumors that the AirPods Pro 2 will be able to tell you your blood oxygen levels , and adding in heart rate tracking would make them ideal earbuds for runners.
However, there’s a great deal more being done in the wearable and hearable space around the idea of helping us pay closer attention to running form and technique. Posture is a part of maintaining that good running form and it’s not unfeasible to think that Apple could explore posture monitoring from higher up the body and use that information to offer insights into form. The Amazfit PowerBuds Pro included posture tracking features using similar accelerometer motion sensors already present in the AirPods Pro.
The idea that the AirPods Pro 2 will be able to coach you through your workouts seems even more feasible when you consider that Apple has filed a patent for a pair of in-ear headphones that use inbuilt sensors to "gather orientation information such as accelerometer measurements during user movements".
Apple already has a pretty good platform in Fitness Plus where it leads users through indoor running workouts, so bringing elements of that together with additional motion data you could generate from Apple’s earbuds could be a recipe for a more comprehensive tracking experience - and not just for how far or quick your run but also how you run, too.
5. Throw in some hooks
There’s no getting away from the fact that the fit of the AirPods Pro isn’t going to work for everyone. The only thing keeping the AirPods Pro securely in your ears are their silicone ear tips - and that becomes even more problematic if you decide to add swift running movements into the equation.
While the AirPods Pro definitely feel secure enough for casual runs where you’re not chasing a PB or racing, there’s always that fear they might fall out when you increase the speed.
If you look around at the truly wireless earbuds that do feel like a better fit for picking up the pace, there’s usually a key design element in place - and that’s ear hooks or wing tips. This approach usually means earbuds feel better locked into the ears and with the right pair, will reduce the chances of them falling out.
A simple solution for Apple could be to include its own interchangeable ear hooks or tips that you can reach for and slip on when you do want to run.
Non-detachable earfins could also be built into the design of the AirPods Pro 2. It’s rumored that the next generation of Pro earbuds will come with a radically different design to their predecessors, getting rid of the protruding stems altogether.
That would mean Apple would need to find a way to keep the AirPods Pro 2 securely in the ears without the stabilizing effect of the stems - and integrated fins would be a great way to achieve that security.
The Nintendo Switch’s best feature? Letting me play all the games that came before it
The Nintendo Switch is the Swiss army knife of games consoles. It’s a portable handheld, as well as a home box. It caters just as well to kid-friendly platformers and gut-wrenching shoot ‘em ups, as it does to turn-based strategy games.
For me, one of the Nintendo Switch ’s greatest triumphs has been introducing me to all the games that came before it. I wasn’t born for the classic Nintendo era. The original Metroid, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, and all the other iconic games Nintendo super fans talk about to this day, have always looked ancient to me. I can appreciate they have a place in gaming history, but I never played them with my own hands.
The Switch changed that. Nintendo Switch Online comes bundled with a library of NES and SNES classics. The original Mario games are there, the first few Zeldas, Star Fox, Ninja Gaiden, EarthBound, F-Zero, and more. It’s a greatest-hits of Nintendo that has dragged me into the world of 8- and 16-bit gaming.
It’s so easy to start playing these Nintendo classics. There’s no fiddly (and likely illegal) emulator to install, no hardware to buy. If I have a sudden craving for 2D platforming, I can load the SNES app that’s already installed on my Switch’s home screen, and boot up Super Metroid in seconds. With the games ready and waiting, I’ve no excuse to avoid them, or inconvenient installation work to get through just to get them running on modern hardware.
They’re cheap, too. So long as you keep up your Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which is more affordable than its rivals’, you’ll have access to them for as long as you want. They might not be free, but they're pretty close to it.
Besides ease of access, the portability of the Switch has kept me coming back for more SNES goodness time and again. The ability to pick up and put down the games whenever I want means I’m engrossed in them. When Draygon pincers me to death for the fifth time in Super Metroid, I don’t need to throw my controller across the room in disgust. I can step away from Samus’s troubles to pick up the game later, during a convenient moment cooking dinner, or sitting idly on the sofa. The easier a game is for me to access, the more likely I’ll actually dive in.
No better alternative
The Switch isn’t the only way to play older Nintendo games. The popular SNES and NES microconsoles that launched in 2016 both came bundled with a collection of built-in games, spanning most of the classics and some that are yet to be ported to the Switch. The cute replica models were praised for bringing the games to a modern audience, and faithfully emulating them for new players to experience for the first time.
But that ship has sailed. Nintendo halted production of both mini consoles in December 2018, meaning you have to pay a pretty penny on the second-hand market, or pay through the nose at a retailer to pick them up now. Even if they were still affordable, I’m not sure they’d be my platform of choice. I want to play the classic Nintendo games I missed out on, not experience every dated design flaw of the consoles. I’d much rather use the Switch’s Joy Cons than the NES’s rigid, oblong controller to stamp on Goombas.
A better way to play
For the most part, the Switch ports are faithful adaptations, but they do introduce one essential feature I couldn’t do without. Taking a nod from the emulators I’ve disparaged above, each includes an overlaid save state system that lets you record your progress wherever you are. That means you won’t lose hours of progress after a pesky Bobo drops you to zero health Kirby’s Dream Land, or be forced to replay an entire level because one, tiny, honest platforming mistake has sent you back to the beginning.
Although certainly a product of contemporary gaming, which is, for the most part, more forgiving than the NES and SNES games of old, I’m a willful user and abuser of save states. We’ve moved on from finite lives and painfully unforgiving level design. Even games like Elden Ring, which make their brutality central to their appeal, are meticulously designed so as never to feel unfair. Use as many save states as you want, I say. I wouldn’t be playing older games without them.
As much as the Switch has encouraged me to explore Nintendo’s back catalog, the publisher is no hero of game preservation. Its decision to close the Wii U and 3DS eShops by next March will effectively remove access to many older games that aren’t available elsewhere. Hundreds of NES and SNES games are currently available on the digital storefronts, many of which aren’t listed in the Switch’s comparatively meager collection of classic titles. When the eShops disappear next year, those games, and many other download-only indie gems, will go within them.
I may never have got around to playing them, but I’ll be sad to see them go. The Nintendo Switch opened the door to 8- and 16-bit gaming for me by lowering the barrier of entry. Here’s hoping Nintendo keeps porting classics to the Switch and sees the value in historical accessibility.