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Everything you need to know from Apple’s Spring 2021 special event
Apple puts on a handful of big events each year to unveil new products, and though the iPhone launch in September and WWDC in June get the big headlines, we often see some pretty interesting reveals earlier in the year too. This year, that came in the form of a special “Spring Loaded” event, pre-recorded from Apple Park in Cupertino and live-streamed around the world from Apple.com.
It was a jam-packed even with plenty of exciting reveals – with way more announcements than we expected in our event preview – including stunning new iPads, news Macs, and even entirely new products. We’ll dig into more detail on these juicy announcements through the week, but for now, here’s our five-minute recap. Consider this your water cooler cheat sheet to the biggest talking points of Apple’s latest event.
Last year, Apple kicked off the transition of its Mac line to home-grown “Apple Silicon” processing chips. Put simply, these M1 chips are the biggest game changer to performance in many years and blow away the competition. Not only has the iconic iMac been given access to these powerful chips, it’s also had a first major redesign in a very long time.
The new iMac rocks a 24-inch display but thanks to thinner bezels is only marginally bigger than the previous 21.5-inch model. And from the side it’s remarkably smaller, with a flat back and a thickness of just 11.5 mm, made possible by the relatively tiny M1 chip and its power efficiency requiring smaller fans. Apple says its aim is for the computer to “disappear”, a concept only slightly at odds with a gorgeous rainbow of color choice, harking back to the translucent candy-colored iMacs of the 1990s.
There’s also a new color-matched set of accessories including Magic Mouse, Magic Keyboard (with wireless Touch ID sensor), and Magic Trackpad. In addition to the performance boost, Apple has also made major improvements to the camera, mics, and speakers built into the iMac – largely in response to the pandemic forcing so many people to rely on video calls these days for work and socializing.
That M1 chip, along with a bunch of internal upgrades, makes it something of a beast – with the two spec configurations starting from a pretty reasonable $1299 and $1499 respectively.
iPad Pro 2021
As expected, perhaps the biggest news from the event was an upgrade to Apple’s flagship tablet. iPad Pro’s last redesign came in October 2018, with a spec bump following in March 2020. Now, this fifth-generation tablet makes a pretty huge change to the formula: like the iMac, it too now runs on Apple’s powerful M1 chip!
iPad Pro has always run on “turbo-charged” versions of the iPhones A-series chip, so moving to M1 will give the iPad Pro even more of an edge over its cheaper siblings. It has an 8-core CPU and GPU, a very impressive Liquid Retina XDR that mirrors the quality of Apple’s expensive Pro Display XDR using 10,000 Mini LEDs, and a new storage configuration of a whopping 2TB.
It has support for 5G as well as even faster “mm wave” 5G connections in the US, and is much faster than previous generations of iPad. Graphics performance is an eye-watering 1500x faster than the first-generation iPad, a stat which sounds cool but we’re not sure is a particularly helpful comparison.
The other big draw of the latest iPad Pro is its upgrade to the TrueDepth camera system, adding a new Ultra Wide camera that enables a feature called Center Stage that automatically pans and zooms the video to keep you in frame as you move around.
Despite these big changes under the hood, the design and sizes haven’t changed. The 11-inch model starts from $799 with the 12.9-inch model starting at $1,099, and both are available to order from April 30.
Earlier this year, Apple opened up its Find My network to third-party manufacturers, allowing anyone to use its technology to create Tile-like Bluetooth tracking devices. But that didn’t stop Apple from finally releasing its own trackers, a move that has been on the lips of pundits for literally years.
AirTag will use the secure, anonymous network of nearly 1 billion Find My devices to make it easy to find any lost items you attach the tags to. And recent Apple devices with a U1 chip go a step further with Precision Finding, which guides you to its exact position with a giant arrow that swings towards the AirTag.
AirTags can be personalized and Apple sells accessories like key rings and bag tags which neatly clasp an AirTag. There’s even a fancy Hermès leather collection. They will cost $29 each, with a discounted 4-pack available for $99, and can be ordered from April 30.
There’s a new version of Apple TV 4K coming, with some notable improvements. First of all, it’s upgraded to the Apple A12 Bionic chip, making it way more capable for gaming as well as displaying high frame rate HDR content like that from Dolby Atmos. There’s also a slick Color Balance feature that uses the sensors and camera from your iPhone to perfectly adjust the picture for best results with your specific TV, without any manual fiddling with settings.
But the big change for Apple TV is a brand new remote, replacing the unintuitive Siri Remote that many users are fed up with. The new aluminum design is taller, looking more like a conventional remote while keeping the general iconography of Apple’s first effort.
Instead of an unmarked swipe pad with a hidden click that baffles new users, there’s a 5-way click pad with arrows and a middle button that’s much easier to grasp. It looks similar to the click wheel from the original iPod and even utilizes a similar circular gesture to scrub through playback – and the whole thing can still be used as a swipe pad for those who are used to the old system.
Add to that dedicated buttons for your TV’s power and mute controls, and a Siri button on the side to better replicate how Siri is summoned on iPhone, and we think the new remote looks like a big improvement.
Apple TV 4K’s next iteration costs $179 for 32GB of storage or $199 for 64GB.
Apple has revamped its Podcasts app, with a new design that better highlights podcast artwork and new channels and recommendations to aid discovery of new shows.
It’s also adding Apple Podcast subscriptions, allowing users to access exclusive, early access, and ad-free content from their favorite creators by directly supporting them – a little like Patreon.
A small update for Apple Card, too – the “most successful credit card launch ever” according to Tim Cook. Sadly it wasn’t the news that the card is going global.
Rather, spouses and partners can now merge accounts to build credit equally, something that’s not possible with conventional cards. And a new feature called Apple Card Family means that anyone over 13 can now use your account, with spending limits in place to keep tabs on whoever is using it.
Tim Cook opened the presentation with a message of optimism, saying he wants to make a difference in people’s lives not just with Apple’s products but also its values. One way in which that is made real is through Apple’s environmental initiatives.
Apple is currently carbon neutral across all its stores, offices, and factories – and promises that by 2030, the same will be said about its entire supply chain too.
Finally, there was a tiny announcement for iPhone at the event, too – a brand new purple color will be available from the end of the month for the iPhone 12. It’s a slick-looking lilac shade that isn’t quite like any iPhone we’ve seen before, and it’s bound to appeal to plenty of potential buyers.
That’s all the iPhone news we got a the event, though.
That’s everything you need to know for now, but stay tuned for more details and opinions on these announcements through the week.