Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the company’s Spring Loaded event earlier today — and true to its name, it was jam-packed with new hardware refreshes and announcements all around.
Apple announced a new iMac desktop that was redesigned around the company’s new ARM-based M1 silicon, as well as refreshes to the iPad Pro tablet lineup that bring some major under-the-hood upgrades, and added to its rich device ecosystems with new AirTag and tracker accessories, an update to Apple TV 4K, and a new shade of springtime color for the iPhone. No matter where you’re at in Apple’s ecosystem, there’s likely something for you.
An all-new 24-inch iMac with M1
“The all-new, completely redesigned iMac is more personal, more powerful, and more capable than ever,” Cook said during his keynote. “And it’s incredible from every angle.”
This year’s redesigned iMac is like an homage to Apple’s earlier all-in-ones, coming in seven bright, bold hues. Apple claims that it reserved the bold colors for the rear to help you make a statement, while the front appears more muted, with a softer color for a more neutral look to allow creatives to focus on their workflows.
The redesign is about more than just colors, though. The entire shape and size of the all-in-one is completely new, drawing inspiration from the iPad Pro’s hinge and flat back. It’s insanely thin at just 11.5mm, with the guts of the computer moving to the bezel below the screen.
While that means the iMac retains the large bottom bezel, the side and top bezels have been reduced. Apple claims it was able to squeeze a 24-inch screen inside a body that’s only slightly larger than that of the 21.5-inch iMac. The screen supports 11.3 million pixels in a 4.5K Retina display. The screen supports a wide P3 color gamut, 500 nits of brightness, and True Tone display technology to adjust the screen’s color temperature based on the ambient lighting around you for more natural colors.
Under the hood, the iMac makes a big jump from its aging Intel processors to Apple’s new in-house M1 silicon, just like the recent MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini refreshes. The jump allows Apple to shrink the internals, which helps to make the iMac slimmer — up to 50% slimmer by volume because the M1 processor’s logic boards and internal fans are smaller and have moved from behind the screen.
Apple said CPU performance compared to the previous 21.5-inch Intel-powered model is 85% faster.
“And when it comes to GPU performance for certain apps, like Affinity Photo and Photoshop, iMac is up to two times faster than the previous models, and it’s even up to 50% faster than the most powerful discrete graphics in the fastest 21.5-inch iMac,” executives added.
The smaller fans also run quieter, allowing the iMac to run at just 10 decibel levels of noise when on full power, which is whisper level.
With it debuting in the midst of the global pandemic, Apple also made some refinements to make the iMac a better work-from-home tool. The new desktop comes with improved microphones, speakers, and cameras for video calling, Apple said.
A three-array microphone system comes with beamforming to reduce background noise, focus on your voice, and improve video call audio quality.
And the iMac also comes with a new speaker system that supports Dolby Atmos audio thanks to its six-speaker array, complete with two pairs of force-canceling woofers. Together, this delivers better bass and accurate highs and mids, the company said, for room-filling sound that’s powerful and free of distortion.
Apple said the new model has the best camera, best audio system, and best mics that the company has ever placed inside an iMac.
The iMac comes with four USB-C ports, of which two support Thunderbolt connections that can support a 6K display, like the company’s pricey ProDisplay XDR. The iMac also comes with a power cord that magnetically attaches to the back of the computer, and the power cable is color-matched to the desktop’s color and woven for better durability. The power brick, which now is long enough to sit on the floor, can also connect an Ethernet cable for clutter-free desk setups.
Rounding out Apple’s iMac announcement are color-matched keyboards, mice, and trackpads. The new iMac comes with a Magic Keyboard that also supports new keys, like emojis, along with Touch ID, which can enable Apple Pay on the desktop, as well as quick user switching. All peripherals are now color-matched to the same hue as the desktop.
The iMac starts at $1,299 and begins shipping in mid-May.
A new iPad Pro
That’s right, Apple’s powerful Mac processor is now landing on the company’s newest iPad Pro, which should give the already-powerful tablet even more performance! The iPad Pro is getting even more “pro” than ever with big under-the-hood improvements.
This marks a big change for the iPad, which had historically been based on Apple’s A-series chips. The shift to M1 should make the iPad and the Mac more closely aligned, blurring the line between PC and tablet.
The M1 offers 50% better performance than the prior-generation iPad Pro. Compared to the first iPad, the M1 delivers a 75x boost, Apple said. There’s 40% faster graphics performance. Compared to the first-gen iPad, the new iPad Pro delivers 1500x faster performance, Apple said, adding that it also delivers console-level graphics.
There is now a new 2TB configuration with more storage and 2x faster storage to access your data even faster.
“A new 2-terabyte configuration gives you enormous storage capacity, so you can keep up to 60,000 ProRaw photos at your fingertips, or up to 220 hours of 4K HDR video content with you wherever you go,” Apple said.
Another big change is that the USB-C port on the new iPad supports Thunderbolt connectivity, thanks to the change to M1. This means that the iPad Pro has 4x the bandwidth through the port, and the tablet has access to a wider ecosystem of accessories and docks.
The iPad Pro also supports 5G connectivity, like the company’s latest iPhone models, along with fast mmWave 5G support.
It also boasts more capable cameras. Along with studio-quality microphones and the LiDAR Scanner, the iPad Pro is now a more versatile content creation tool. The image signal processor on the M1 allows the iPad Pro to have better HDR captures.
The new iPad Pro comes with a new 122-degree ultrawide camera lens called Center Stage with auto tracking.
“It uses the new ultra wide camera and machine learning to recognize and keep you in the center of the view,” Apple said of Center Stage. “What’s amazing is as you move around, it automatically pans to keep you in the shot. And that’s not all. When others join in, it recognizes them too, and zooms out to fit everyone into the view. So whether it’s a whiteboarding session with co-workers or a family get-together, the experience of connecting is now more engaging than ever.”
Apple is bringing its ProDisplay XDR display tech to its 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This gives the iPad Pro 1,000 nits of full brightness to the tablet and 1,600 nits of peak brightness to the Liquid Retina XDR panel on iPad Pro’s 6.4mm thin form factor.
To achieve the higher brightness, Apple is using an array of LEDs in the back of the display. Also, 10,000 mini-LEDs are on the display of the iPad Pro, up from just 72 LEDs on the prior-generation tablet. There are also local dimming zones for better contrast.
Apple also announced a new white color for the Smart Keyboard folio.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, while the larger 12.9-inch model starts at $1,099. Pre-orders start April 30, and the tablets will be available in the second half of May, Apple said.
“In every way, this is a giant leap forward for iPad,” Apple said of its new iPad Pros with M1 and Liquid Retina XDR screen.
New AirTag trackers
Following Apple’s recent update to its Find My App, which is now used on nearly one billion devices, Apple took the wraps off its official first-party tracking accessories. Dubbed AirTag, the trackers can be attached to your personal items to help you locate them with the Find My App in the event that they’re lost or stolen.
“The next time the couch eats your keys, air tag will help find them,” said Apple’s Caroline Wolman-Estrada.
The AirTag uses Apple’s U1 ultra wideband chip to guide you to your lost or misplaced items, and is part of Apple’s expanding ecosystem of trackers.
“We call this precision finding,” Apple explained of how the technology works. “As you move, precision finding uses our U1 chip to get the precise distance to your AirTag. [The] iPhone fuses that data with input from the camera, accelerometer, and gyroscope to give you visual, haptic, and audible feedback, guiding you right to your AirTag.”
Apple emphasized privacy with AirTag and the Find My network, noting that anyone can join without sharing their iPhone’s device location with anyone else, including Apple.
“AirTag is designed to track items, not people,” Apple said of its privacy-focused feature. “So we included safety features to discourage unwanted tracking, like unwanted tag detection, rotating identifiers, and audible alerts from unknown tags. These capabilities are an industry first, and are driven by our commitment to privacy.”
Each tag is $29, with a four-pack costing $99. There are accessories such as key rings that will help hook your AirTag up to your belongings.
Apple also announced a robust ecosystem of accessories to help you attach AirTag to your belongings, including straps, keychain rings, and loops. Leveraging its partnership with Hermès on the luxury Apple Watch models, Apple also announced there will be Hermès accessories for AirTag, though pricing was not disclosed for the leather AirTag straps that can be attached to keys, luggage, and other items.
Purple iPhone color for spring
Apple also announced a new purple hue for its iPhone and iPhone mini, with color-matched aluminum frame and rear glass panels.
“It looks stunning with the precision milled back glass a new design,” said Cook. “It has elements of sophistication and brightness with color-matched aluminum edges.”
The purple shade will be available for pre-order Friday and will be available by April 30, Cook added.
A new Apple TV 4K with new Siri Remote
Apple also announced a refresh to its set-top box to help you take advantage of its Apple TV+ service at the Spring Loaded event today.
“Apple TV is built on the same world-class silicon we put into the iPhone,” Apple said.
Today’s Apple TV 4K refresh introduces the new A12 Bionic processor to Apple TV 4K, which supports Dolby Visionand HDR in high frame rates for smoother videos. Enhanced AirPlay also supports high frame rate HDR, Apple noted.
Now, Apple is allowing iPhone owners to use the advanced sensors on their phones with an on-screen guide to adjust color balance, bringing more accurate colors to their television sets with more natural colors and improved contrast.
“Of course the way you interact with Apple TV is with the Siri remote,” Apple said. “So this year, we completely redesigned it with new functionality and controls. It starts with a new one-piece aluminum design that fits perfectly in your hand, and with contrasts and controls, you can easily find and hit just the button you want.”
“We also have a brand-new click pad with five-way navigation for better accuracy, and the entire click pad is touch-enabled, preserving the fast directional swipes users love,” Apple said of the new remote design. “And we did something pretty cool with the outer ring. We’ve given it a new circular gesture that turns it into a jog control. Perfect for finding just the scene you’re looking for.”
The circular ring is great for scrolling and is very reminiscent of the old click wheel on the iPod. The Siri button has been relocated to the side, and the remote now has a power button that controls your TV.
Prices start at $179 for 32GB or $199 for double the storage for the new Apple TV 4K.
Apple has boasted about Apple Card’s features that help people manage and understand their credit better, and today the company announced a new update to Apple Card called Apple Card Family.
Apple Card fFamily allows spouses and partners to share and merge their credit lines, Cook said, while also allowing their kids access to Apple Card. The update “helps deliver equity” and is touted as a “game changer” by Apple.
“And Apple Card can now be used by anyone in your family over the age of 13 with optional spending limits, and controls for kids,” Apple said. “We call this set of features, Apple Card family. These benefits reflect our ongoing mission to reinvent the credit card and help you and those closest to you experience a healthier financial life.”
Apple announced the biggest change to Podcast since its debut with a redesigned Apple Podcasts app. The redesign also introduces paid features through the new Podcasts+ subscription service.
There are now channels to help you find new shows, as well as ad-free listening, early access, and more, Cook noted.
It will launch in 170 countries and regions next month. Apple did not disclose how much the subscription service or paid features will cost at the Spring Loaded event.