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DroneSeed is planting trees from the air – TechCrunch

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Wildfires are consuming our forests and grasslands faster than we can replace them. It’s a vicious cycle of destruction and inadequate restoration rooted, so to speak, in decades of neglect of the institutions and technologies needed to keep these environments healthy.

DroneSeed is a Seattle-based startup that aims to combat this growing problem with a modern toolkit that scales: drones, artificial intelligence and biological engineering. And it’s even more complicated than it sounds.

Trees in decline

A bit of background first. The problem of disappearing forests is a complex one, but it boils down to a few major factors: climate change, outdated methods and shrinking budgets (and as you can imagine, all three are related).

Forest fires are a natural occurrence, of course. And they’re necessary, as you’ve likely read, to sort of clear the deck for new growth to take hold. But climate change, monoculture growth, population increases, lack of control burns and other factors have led to these events taking place not just more often, but more extensively and to more permanent effect.

On average, the U.S. is losing 7 million acres a year. That’s not easy to replace to begin with — and as budgets for the likes of national and state forest upkeep have shrunk continually over the last half century, there have been fewer and fewer resources with which to combat this trend.

The most effective and common reforestation technique for a recently burned woodland is human planters carrying sacks of seedlings and manually selecting and placing them across miles of landscapes. This back-breaking work is rarely done by anyone for more than a year or two, so labor is scarce and turnover is intense.

Even if the labor was available on tap, the trees might not be. Seedlings take time to grow in nurseries and a major wildfire might necessitate the purchase and planting of millions of new trees. It’s impossible for nurseries to anticipate this demand, and the risk associated with growing such numbers on speculation is more than many can afford. One missed guess could put the whole operation underwater.

Meanwhile, if nothing gets planted, invasive weeds move in with a vengeance, claiming huge areas that were once old growth forests. Lacking the labor and tree inventory to stem this possibility, forest keepers resort to a stopgap measure: use helicopters to drench the area in herbicides to kill weeds, then saturate it with fast-growing cheatgrass or the like. (The alternative to spraying is, again, the manual approach: machetes.)

At least then, in a year, instead of a weedy wasteland, you have a grassy monoculture — not a forest, but it’ll do until the forest gets here.

One final complication: helicopter spraying is a horrendously dangerous profession. These pilots are flying at sub-100-foot elevations, performing high-speed maneuvers so that their sprays reach the very edge of burn zones but they don’t crash head-on into the trees. This is an extremely dangerous occupation: 80 to 100 crashes occur every year in the U.S. alone.

In short, there are more and worse fires and we have fewer resources — and dated ones at that — with which to restore forests after them.

These are facts anyone in forest ecology and logging are familiar with, but perhaps not as well known among technologists. We do tend to stay in areas with cell coverage. But it turns out that a boost from the cloistered knowledge workers of the tech world — specifically those in the Emerald City — may be exactly what the industry and ecosystem require.

Simple idea, complex solution

So what’s the solution to all this? Automation, right?

Automation, especially via robotics, is proverbially suited for jobs that are “dull, dirty, and dangerous.” Restoring a forest is dirty and dangerous to be sure. But dull isn’t quite right. It turns out that the process requires far more intelligence than anyone was willing, it seems, to apply to the problem — with the exception of those planters. That’s changing.

Earlier this year, DroneSeed was awarded the first multi-craft, over-55-pounds unmanned aerial vehicle license ever issued by the FAA. Its custom UAV platforms, equipped with multispectral camera arrays, high-end lidar, six-gallon tanks of herbicide and proprietary seed dispersal mechanisms have been hired by several major forest management companies, with government entities eyeing the service as well.

These drones scout a burned area, mapping it down to as high as centimeter accuracy, including objects and plant species, fumigate it efficiently and autonomously, identify where trees would grow best, then deploy painstakingly designed seed-nutrient packages to those locations. It’s cheaper than people, less wasteful and dangerous than helicopters and smart enough to scale to national forests currently at risk of permanent damage.

I met with the company’s team at their headquarters near Ballard, where complete and half-finished drones sat on top of their cases and the air was thick with capsaicin (we’ll get to that).

The idea for the company began when founder and CEO Grant Canary burned through a few sustainable startup ideas after his last company was acquired, and was told, in his despondency, that he might have to just go plant trees. Canary took his friend’s suggestion literally.

“I started looking into how it’s done today,” he told me. “It’s incredibly outdated. Even at the most sophisticated companies in the world, planters are superheroes that use bags and a shovel to plant trees. They’re being paid to move material over mountainous terrain and be a simple AI and determine where to plant trees where they will grow — microsites. We are now able to do both these functions with drones. This allows those same workers to address much larger areas faster without the caloric wear and tear.”

It may not surprise you to hear that investors are not especially hot on forest restoration (I joked that it was a “growth industry” but really because of the reasons above it’s in dire straits).

But investors are interested in automation, machine learning, drones and especially government contracts. So the pitch took that form. With the money DroneSeed secured, it has built its modestly sized but highly accomplished team and produced the prototype drones with which is has captured several significant contracts before even announcing that it exists.

“We definitely don’t fit the mold or metrics most startups are judged on. The nice thing about not fitting the mold is people double take and then get curious,” Canary said. “Once they see we can actually execute and have been with 3 of the 5 largest timber companies in the U.S. for years, they get excited and really start advocating hard for us.”

The company went through Techstars, and Social Capital helped them get on their feet, with Spero Ventures joining up after the company got some groundwork done.

If things go as DroneSeed hopes, these drones could be deployed all over the world by trained teams, allowing spraying and planting efforts in nurseries and natural forests to take place exponentially faster and more efficiently than they are today. It’s genuine change-the-world-from-your-garage stuff, which is why this article is so long.

Hunter (weed) killers

The job at hand isn’t simple or even straightforward. Every landscape differs from every other, not just in the shape and size of the area to be treated but the ecology, native species, soil type and acidity, type of fire or logging that cleared it and so on. So the first and most important task is to gather information.

For this, DroneSeed has a special craft equipped with a sophisticated imaging stack. This first pass is done using waypoints set on satellite imagery.

The information collected at this point is really far more detailed than what’s actually needed. The lidar, for instance, collects spatial information at a resolution much beyond what’s needed to understand the shape of the terrain and major obstacles. It produces a 3D map of the vegetation as well as the terrain, allowing the system to identify stumps, roots, bushes, new trees, erosion and other important features.

This works hand in hand with the multispectral camera, which collects imagery not just in the visible bands — useful for identifying things — but also in those outside the human range, which allows for in-depth analysis of the soil and plant life.

The resulting map of the area is not just useful for drone navigation, but for the surgical strikes that are necessary to make this kind of drone-based operation worth doing in the first place. No doubt there are researchers who would love to have this data as well.

Now, spraying and planting are very different tasks. The first tends to be done indiscriminately using helicopters, and the second by laborers who burn out after a couple of years — as mentioned above, it’s incredibly difficult work. The challenge in the first case is to improve efficiency and efficacy, while in the second case is to automate something that requires considerable intelligence.

Spraying is in many ways simpler. Identifying invasive plants isn’t easy, exactly, but it can be done with imagery like that the drones are collecting. Having identified patches of a plant to be eliminated, the drones can calculate a path and expend only as much herbicide is necessary to kill them, instead of dumping hundreds of gallons indiscriminately on the entire area. It’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Naturally, the opposite approach could be used for distributing fertilizer or some other agent.

I’m making it sound easy again. This isn’t a plug and play situation — you can’t buy a DJI drone and hit the “weedkiller” option in its control software. A big part of this operation was the creation not only of the drones themselves, but the infrastructure with which to deploy them.

Conservation convoy

The drones themselves are unique, but not alarmingly so. They’re heavy-duty craft, capable of lifting well over the 57 pounds of payload they carry (the FAA limits them to 115 pounds).

“We buy and gut aircraft, then retrofit them,” Canary explained simply. Their head of hardware, would probably like to think there’s a bit more to it than that, but really the problem they’re solving isn’t “make a drone” but “make drones plant trees.” To that end, Canary explained, “the most unique engineering challenge was building a planting module for the drone that functions with the software.” We’ll get to that later.

DroneSeed deploys drones in swarms, which means as many as five drones in the air at once — which in turn means they need two trucks and trailers with their boxes, power supplies, ground stations and so on. The company’s VP of operations comes from a military background where managing multiple aircraft onsite was part of the job, and she’s brought her rigorous command of multi-aircraft environments to the company.

The drones take off and fly autonomously, but always under direct observation by the crew. If anything goes wrong, they’re there to take over, though of course there are plenty of autonomous behaviors for what to do in case of, say, a lost positioning signal or bird strike.

They fly in patterns calculated ahead of time to be the most efficient, spraying at problem areas when they’re over them, and returning to the ground stations to have power supplies swapped out before returning to the pattern. It’s key to get this process down pat, since efficiency is a major selling point. If a helicopter does it in a day, why shouldn’t a drone swarm? It would be sad if they had to truck the craft back to a hangar and recharge them every hour or two. It also increases logistics costs like gas and lodging if it takes more time and driving.

This means the team involves several people, as well as several drones. Qualified pilots and observers are needed, as well as people familiar with the hardware and software that can maintain and troubleshoot on site — usually with no cell signal or other support. Like many other forms of automation, this one brings its own new job opportunities to the table.

AI plays Mother Nature

The actual planting process is deceptively complex.

The idea of loading up a drone with seeds and setting it free on a blasted landscape is easy enough to picture. Hell, it’s been done. There are efforts going back decades to essentially load seeds or seedlings into guns and fire them out into the landscape at speeds high enough to bury them in the dirt: in theory this combines the benefits of manual planting with the scale of carpeting the place with seeds.

But whether it was slapdash placement or the shock of being fired out of a seed gun, this approach never seemed to work.

Forestry researchers have shown the effectiveness of finding the right “microsite” for a seed or seedling; in fact, it’s why manual planting works as well as it does. Trained humans find perfect spots to put seedlings: in the lee of a log; near but not too near the edge of a stream; on the flattest part of a slope, and so on. If you really want a forest to grow, you need optimal placement, perfect conditions and preventative surgical strikes with pesticides.

Although it’s difficult, it’s also the kind of thing that a machine learning model can become good at. Sorting through messy, complex imagery and finding local minima and maxima is a specialty of today’s ML systems, and the aerial imagery from the drones is rich in relevant data.

The company’s CTO led the creation of an ML model that determines the best locations to put trees at a site — though this task can be highly variable depending on the needs of the forest. A logging company might want a tree every couple of feet, even if that means putting them in sub-optimal conditions — but a few inches to the left or right may make all the difference. On the other hand, national forests may want more sparse deployments or specific species in certain locations to curb erosion or establish sustainable firebreaks.

Once the data has been crunched, the map is loaded into the drones’ hive mind and the convoy goes to the location, where the craft are loaded with seeds instead of herbicides.

But not just any old seeds! You see, that’s one more wrinkle. If you just throw a sagebrush seed on the ground, even if it’s in the best spot in the world, it could easily be snatched up by an animal, roll or wash down to a nearby crevasse, or simply fail to find the right nutrients in time despite the planter’s best efforts.

That’s why DroneSeed’s head of Planting and his team have been working on a proprietary seed packet that they were unbelievably reticent to detail.

From what I could gather, they’ve put a ton of work into packaging the seeds into nutrient-packed little pucks held together with a biodegradable fiber. The outside is dusted with capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy food spicy (and also what makes bear spray do what it does). If they hadn’t told me, I might have guessed, since the workshop area was hazy with it, leading us all to cough and tear up a little. If I were a marmot, I’d learn to avoid these things real fast.

The pucks, or “seed vessels,” can and must be customized for the location and purpose — you have to match the content and acidity of the soil, things like that. DroneSeed will have to make millions of these things, but it doesn’t plan to be the manufacturer.

Finally these pucks are loaded in a special puck-dispenser which, closely coordinating with the drone, spits one out at the exact moment and speed needed to put it within a few centimeters of the microsite.

All these factors should improve the survival rate of seedlings substantially. That means that the company’s methods will not only be more efficient, but more effective. Reforestation is a numbers game played at scale, and even slight improvements — and DroneSeed is promising more than that — are measured in square miles and millions of tons of biomass.

Proof of life

DroneSeed has already signed several big contracts for spraying, and planting is next. Unfortunately, the timing on their side meant they missed this year’s planting season, though by doing a few small sites and showing off the results, they’ll be in pole position for next year.

After demonstrating the effectiveness of the planting technique, the company expects to expand its business substantially. That’s the scaling part — again, not easy, but easier than hiring another couple thousand planters every year.

Ideally the hardware can be assigned to local teams that do the on-site work, producing loci of activity around major forests from which jobs can be deployed at large or small scales. A set of five or six drones does the work of one helicopter, roughly speaking, so depending on the volume requested by a company or forestry organization, you may need dozens on demand.

That’s all yet to be explored, but DroneSeed is confident that the industry will see the writing on the wall when it comes to the old methods, and identify them as a solution that fits the future.

If it sounds like I’m cheerleading for this company, that’s because I am. It’s not often in the world of tech startups that you find a group of people not just attempting to solve a serious problem — it’s common enough to find companies hitting this or that issue — but who have spent the time, gathered the expertise and really done the dirty, boots-on-the-ground work that needs to happen so it goes from great idea to real company.

That’s what I felt was the case with DroneSeed, and here’s hoping their work pays off — for their sake, sure, but mainly for ours.

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Google says Google should do a better job of patching Android phones

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Google’s “Project Zero” team of security analysts wants to rid the world of zero-day security vulnerabilities, and that means it spends time calling out slacking companies on its blog. The group’s latest post is a bit of friendly fire aimed at the Android and Pixel teams, which Project Zero says aren’t dealing with bugs in the ARM GPU driver quickly enough.

In June, Project Zero researcher Maddie Stone detailed an in-the-wild exploit for the Pixel 6, where bugs in the ARM GPU driver could let a non-privileged user get write access to read-only memory. Another Project Zero researcher, Jann Horn, spent the next three weeks finding related vulnerabilities in the driver. The post says these bugs could allow “an attacker with native code execution in an app context [to] gain full access to the system, bypassing Android’s permissions model and allowing broad access to user data.”

Project Zero says it reported these issues to ARM “between June and July 2022” and that ARM fixed the issues “promptly” in July and August, issuing a security bulletin (CVE-2022-36449) and publishing fixed source code. But these actively exploited vulnerabilities haven’t been patched for users. The groups dropping the ball are apparently Google and various Android OEMs, as Project Zero says that months after ARM fixed the vulnerabilities, “all of our test devices which used Mali are still vulnerable to these issues. CVE-2022-36449 is not mentioned in any downstream security bulletins.”

The affected ARM GPUs include a long list of the past three generations of ARM GPU architectures (Midgard, Bifrost, and Valhall), ranging from currently shipping devices to phones from 2016. ARM’s GPUs aren’t used by Qualcomm chips, but Google’s Tensor SoC uses ARM GPUs in the Pixel 6, 6a, and 7, and Samsung’s Exynos SoC uses ARM GPUs for its midrange phones and older international flagships like the Galaxy S21 (just not the Galaxy S22). Mediatek’s SoCs are all ARM GPU users, too, so we’re talking about millions of vulnerable Android phones from just about every Android OEM.

In response to the Project Zero blog post, Google told Engadget, “The fix provided by Arm is currently undergoing testing for Android and Pixel devices and will be delivered in the coming weeks. Android OEM partners will be required to take the patch to comply with future SPL requirements.”

The Project Zero analysts end their blog post with some advice for their colleagues, saying, “Just as users are recommended to patch as quickly as they can once a release containing security updates is available, so the same applies to vendors and companies. Minimizing the ‘patch gap’ as a vendor in these scenarios is arguably more important, as end users (or other vendors downstream) are blocking on this action before they can receive the security benefits of the patch. Companies need to remain vigilant, follow upstream sources closely, and do their best to provide complete patches to users as soon as possible.”

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3 Best USB-C Desktop Chargers Reviewed in 2022: Hyper, Ugreen, Anker, and More

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Enlarge / GaN desktop chargers in their native habitat. From left: Ugreen Nexode 200W, Hyper 245W GaN Desktop Charger, and Anker 727 Power Station.

Kevin Purdy / Ars Technica

USB-C has made it easier to plug things in and connect them. Charging, though? Charging is still complicated. You get a different amount of power based on the device, the port, the battery level, and whatever else is drawing current. It can make you wish for a few ports that power whatever you plug in, whatever the size.

You used to need a big surge protector, packed with charging bricks crowding each other out, to get that kind of juice. But these days, gallium nitride-based chargers can put out serious power from a small space. We’ve scanned the marketplace, tried out a few of them, and have some recommendations for different power needs.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

What we were looking for (and how we reviewed)

It’s not too hard to find a little cube that can deliver a good amount of charge these days, even for a 15- or 16-inch laptop. And there are multi-port chargers that can do that, too, though they typically plug in directly, require long and expensive cords, and drop their power output when multiple devices are plugged in.

We sought the best mix of size, maximum output, output across all ports, and (to a lesser extent) port variety, like USB-A or standard A/C plugs. More generally, we sought devices that could simultaneously keep a laptop powered while also charging a phone, a laptop, and, in some cases, a few other incidental gadgets, too.

Gallium nitride (GaN) chargers use a newer, more efficient technology that allows for smaller charging circuits yet produce less heat than traditional silicon models. We monitored our tested chargers’s temperatures, both with hands and with an infrared thermometer. We also listened close for any coil whine while our chargers were under heavy load.

We’ll save you the suspense: none of our tested models felt notably warm, even near their top output for a drained device. And we didn’t notice coil whine in any chargers, though that’s an issue that could develop over time.

The Ars pick

Hyperjuice 245 W GaN Desktop Charger

Buy: $150 at Hyper, B&H, eBay (ships from Japan)

Specs at a glance: Hyperjuice 245 W GaN Desktop Charger
Ports Four USB-C (PD 3.0)
Max single port output 100 W (two simultaneous)
Dimensions  4.13×3.93×1.28 inches (105×100×32 mm)
Weight 1.28 lb (582 grams)
Price (MSRP) $149

Hyper’s 245 W GaN Desktop Charger removes the guesswork from charging. It’s just four USB-C ports, each one capable of a maximum of 100 W (over Power Delivery 3.0), sharing a total of 245 W. That’s plenty for almost every loadout with a laptop, phone, and other gear, and it all fits inside a nondescript box not much bigger than most battery packs—all at a price that’s reasonable for the category.

If you have multiple battery-drained devices pulling more than 245 W across the ports (what a day you’ve had!), you’ll get proportionally less power across them. That means you can charge and run a 100 W laptop and a 60 W laptop and still have room left over to charge a pro-level tablet and standard-size phone at or near their top charging capacity. Few people will max out this power station.

The Hyperjuice’s front has no branding except on its underside, just a small power indicator light and four ports labeled with faint 100 W markings. They’re a little too faint, so if you’re working in a dark space, the device might require some DIY labeling. The shell is a smooth, lightly ridged plastic, which can slide a bit on a smoother desk texture. Its power cord is a simple two-prong C7 cable, so you can swap it for something longer or buy a second one for your bag if you want to take your charging station with you.

Hyper’s charger doesn’t come with any USB-C cords, so you’re on your own to build out a set that works best for you and your gear. Note that Hyper issued voluntary recalls for two of its power products recently, both due to overheating concerns. We didn’t encounter any heat issues during a few weeks of cycling Hyper’s desktop charger on and off our desktop.

The good

  • Simple, powerful charging scheme
  • No branding on front or sides, blends in with most desks
  • Standard, easily replaced or duplicated power cord

The bad

  • No grip points (unless you add them)
  • USB-C only (if that matters to you)
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The 5 Best Black Friday Apple Deals: MacBooks, AirPods, Apple Watch, iPad, and More.

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Andrew Cunningham

Black Friday is in full swing, and that’s great news if you’ve had your eyes on an Apple device but have been waiting for a solid discount to pull the trigger. Apple devices are notoriously expensive, and you typically don’t see many discounts throughout the year. Fortunately, Black Friday brings notable Apple deals not only from retailers, but Apple itself. Just as we do every year, we’re cutting through the noise to bring you the best Black Friday Apple deals we can find.

Below are a few of the most worthwhile Apple deals we’re seeing as of this writing. As always, we’re focusing on products we’d actually recommend based on our time reviewing them and excluding any we don’t think are worth your money. Lastly: there haven’t been any huge iPhone deals we think are worth your time, so the focus here is on other products.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

More Black Friday 2022 Coverage

The 2022 iPad Air.
Enlarge / The 2022 iPad Air.

Samuel Axon

Apple iPad Air 2022 10.9-inch for $500 ($560) at Amazon (discount at checkout)

Also at Apple for $680 with a $50 Apple gift card

These days, it’s not hard to make the case that Apple makes <em>too</em><em> many</em> iPad models. The lineup has gotten convoluted and confusing, and some models offer better value than others. Fortunately, if you can afford it, there’s one clear recommendation for the significant majority of would-be tablet owners: the iPad Air.

The iPad Pro’s 120Hz display, Face ID authentication, and other bells and whistles are all nice-to-haves, but they’re not essential. And on the other end of the lineup, the new 2022 iPad sacrifices a bit too much compared to the Air, given the price difference.

The Air doesn’t skimp on anything essential: it has the fast M1 chip, second-generation Apple Pencil support, a great screen, and strong accessory support. It’s currently on sale at Amazon for $500 ($60 off typical street price), but Apple’s also offering it for full retail at $680 with a $50 Apple gift card incentive.

For scale, here are the brick and cable next to the laptop.
Enlarge / For scale, here are the brick and cable next to the laptop.

Samuel Axon

MacBook Air 2022 for $1,050 ($1,200) at Amazon

The Mac has been through many permutations (and ups and downs) over the years, but the recent transition away from Intel processors to Apple’s own custom-designed silicon has made clear that this is as good a time to go Mac as any there ever was.

While many of Apple’s Macs (like the MacBook Pro or the Mac Studio) are specialized products for certain audiences, the 2022 MacBook Air is the Mac that makes the most sense for the most people. Its M2 processor is frankly faster than most desktop processors, and a recent redesign modernized a classic laptop—even if it did so at the cost of some its unique identity.

You can buy the Air at a $150 discount from Amazon ($1,050 for 256GB or $1,350 for 512GB) or you can buy it directly from Apple and get a $150 gift card.

If you need more power or a bigger screen, check out our Best Black Friday Laptop Deals post, where we have discounts on the well-equipped, multi-port-toting 14-inch MacBook Pro on sale for $1,600 ($400 off) and the most powerful Apple laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro for $2,000 ($500 off).

Jeff Dunn

Apple AirPods Pro (second generation) for $249 with a $75 Apple gift card from Apple

Also at Amazon for $199 and first generation for $159 at Walmart

AirPods are more convenient than any other wireless headphones we’ve used, they offer essential features like spatial audio and transparency mode, and the sound quality isn’t generally too bad for the price, either. You can absolutely find other headphones that beat any of Apple’s comparably priced AirPods models in either sound quality or noise cancellation (though you’d be hard pressed to find anything that’s as easy to use wirelessly) but as a complete package, let’s just say that AirPods are wildly popular for a reason. Just don’t bother if you don’t have an Apple device to pair them with.

The best AirPods for most people are the AirPods Pro; they strike a perfect balance between price and performance. Both the first- and second-generation AirPods Pro are on sale right now. While both deals offer solid value, the second-generation is an objectively better pair of headphones in all relevant ways, as you might expect. If you can find use for a $75 Apple gift card, then we’d recommend grabbing Apple’s deal for the second-gen AirPods Pro.

Noise cancellation is improved, as is spatial audio performance, lending to a more immersive sound experience. The second-gen also improves listening time from four and a half hours on the first-gen to six on the latest-gen, while adding goodies like a MagSafe charging case with a built-in speaker and chip for new Find My capabilities, in case your AirPods ever go missing. The first-generation AirPods still sound very good, and noise cancelation is on the higher end of the spectrum compared to most earbuds. So, again, if you have no uses for a $75 Apple gift card, we can’t fault you for saving a few bucks and getting the first-generation Pros instead.

The Apple TV 4K with Apple's improved Siri Remote.
Enlarge / The Apple TV 4K with Apple’s improved Siri Remote.

Jeff Dunn

Apple TV 4K 2021 64GB for $100 ($130) at Amazon

Apple TV HD 2021 32GB $59 ($99) at Walmart

Apple just recently released a new revision of its Apple TV 4K streaming box, but it wasn’t a huge upgrade over the prior model unless you are using a TV that only supports HDR10+ instead of Dolby Vision. With the new one on the market, though, last year’s mostly-the-same model is steeply discounted, making it the best deal out there for a streaming TV platform. As always, its appeal compared to offerings from Roku and others is lessened if you’re not already living in Apple’s ecosystem, but if you have an iPhone or AirPods, the current discount is a steal.

If you don’t need 4K quality, the Apple TV HD is also on steep discount for the lowest price we’ve ever seen on a new Apple TV at $69.

The Apple Watch SE.
Enlarge / The Apple Watch SE.

Samuel Axon

Apple Watch SE second generation (40 mm) for $229 ($270) Amazon

Apple offers a plethora of Watch models now, including the new flashy, outdoorsy Apple Watch Ultra. But truth be told, the entry-level Apple Watch SE (available at 40mm or 44mm) includes most of the features most people would care to have. We’re not knocking the Series 8 or the Ultra—they have a lot to offer. If you want the most health-feature heavy device, the Apple Watch Series 8 is the way to go, and it’s on sale for $350 ($50 off) right now. But if you’re just looking for something to help you track your workouts and stay connected, the SE will do the job for a lot less money.

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