The Spring Loaded Event – Everything Apple Announced

Apple has finished up their new Spring Announcement event, and it was indeed “Spring Loaded”. There’s quite a few things to talk about, so let’s get right into it.

AirTags and “Find My”: They’re here!

The new Airtag, A round item with a silver circle inlaid with the Apple logo in a darker metallic color.  The tagline reads: "AirTag: Lose your knack for losing things".   Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

Let’s start right off the bat with the newest addition to the Apple family: the long rumored Apple Tags are finally here! We’ve been seeing rumors and hints of them in Apple’s code for a long time, and they have been delayed internally repeatedly, but now they’re official. These little pucks can slip into your bag or attach to your keys with a little leather case (sold separately).

If you’ve ever used the Tile trackers or similar ones, then these will be pretty familiar, but with a lot more features. Like other trackers, they attach to something or fit somewhere (say your keys, wallet, or purse). They are connected via Bluetooth to your iPhone. If you can’t find them, then you can ring them from your phone and listen for the little chimes or tune the device plays. Apple’s trackers take this a step further though, by integrating NFC and the U1 UltraWide chip that Apple calls “Precision Finding”. If you need to go searching for your AirTags, then you’re not only listening for the chime, but your iPhone can point you in the direction of the tracker and even given you an estimated distance to them. That’s major step up from other Bluetooth trackers.

If the item the AirTag is connected to is ever stolen or lost, you can put it in Lost Mode. As it goes by in the world and passes by other compatible devices, those devices can phone in for you saying where they’ve “seen” the tracker (since the trackers themselves don’t have GPS or cellular connection). You can use this to get them back (safely of course) or just realize you left your stuff in the office again. All this tracking will be done through the FindMy app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 14.5 or later.

An iPhone with a green background with an error pointing to "Debra's Keys" and saying it's 3 feet nearby and straight ahead.   Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

While not directly announced, Apple’s website shows that not only will they be water resistant according to the IP67 spec (maximum depth of 1 meter up to 30 minutes), but they will run of a standard CR2032 coin cell battery like other trackers or watches do, and that they’re user replaceable. This is not only a more sustainable step, but also is much more user friendly since it means you won’t have to replace those trackers every year or two.

Now if you haven’t used these trackers before, you might be concerned about privacy, both from Apple and from others who may try to track you. Apple has tried to address both of them. For Apple’s part, the data between your tracker and device is encrypted as well as to Apple. Furthermore, Apple is using rotating identifiers, meaning Apple internally won’t even know where you and your AirTag are located when reporting back to you.

If you’re worried about others dropping an AirTag in your car or purse, Apple has also provided precautions for that. If your iPhone detects that an AirTag that isn’t yours has been with you for a while, then you’ll get a notification on your phone to look through your stuff. If you haven’t done anything about it in a while or can’t find it, a little tune will start playing from the tracker to help you find it. Apple does note that this is only if said tracker is away from it’s owner for a long time, meaning that you won’t be bombarded with false positive alerts if you’re around other people using their own AirTags as intended.

The AirTags will be available for preorder this Friday, the 23rd, and will become available April 30th. You can buy 1 for $29 or get a 4 pack for $99.

Apple TV 4K: A little more power, and a better remote

The new Apple TV and Remote. Image Courtesy of Apple.
Image Courtesy of Apple

Apple revamped the Apple TV 4K (and only that one). After showing off a teaser for the new season of “Ted Lasso” (arguably their most successful show to date), they started talking about the new box. This new one will come with the A12 chip, which is a very powerful chip, but it’s surprising they didn’t go with the A14. Perhaps its for costs or maybe the TV doesn’t do enough to justify that hefty of a chip. Regardless, the ATV-4K will now be able to play HDR in high frame rates, with Apple giving the example of sports and the sports organizations and broadcasters they’re working with to help get more content like this available and using the newest technology. In the meantime, you can still take advantage of this with better AirPlay support for those high frame rate HDR videos taken on your iPhone 12 Pros and other similar devices

The TV does have a new software feature called Color Balance. To summarize Apple, the TV may be able to show off great pictures and videos, but the TV needs to be able to show it off correctly. Normally this is done by adjusting the colors, white balance, and other features on the screen itself. But Apple is now making that easier with their own Color Balance feature. When you set this up in the Apple TV, you’ll be able to hold your iPhone screen up to a box highlighted on your TV screen. The Apple TV will then flash a series of colors in that box that your iPhone will be able to read. Using that info, the Apple TV will adjust how it displays colors and balances to show you the most color correct video without you adjusting any settings on the screen’s hardware or from their menus. I’m interested to see how well this works in practice, because I’m sure to get the best picture you probably still need to adjust the screen’s own settings. But if it works, Color Balance could be a real step up for a lot of people who probably have never even messed with those settings on their screen.

The new Color Balance Feature:  A black tv screen with a blue iPhone sized square to hold up your iPhone to, with an iPhone off to the side being prompted to begin Color Balance.
Image Courtesy of Apple

Apple did show off one arguably big new feature of the Apple TV 4K but not on the box itself. Instead, the ATV is getting a brand new remote. This one is silver, Instead of a blank slate, square trackpad, the remote now has a circular design with arrows at the four corners that you can click on, and has a power button in the top right hand corner that will turn off your TV when setup properly. A lot of this is a call back to the previous iteration of little Apple remotes that came with the Gen 2 Apple TV’s. The buttons on the base of the Remote are the same with 2 major alterations. First is the “Menu” button on the previous remotes is now just a back button similar to Roku’s remote. The Siri button has now been moved to the side of the Remote (similar to the iPhones) and the button has been replaced with a dedicated Mute button that also works with the TV screen you’re connected to. Now you really do have one remote for everything.

This new Rounded movement circle is better overall in my opinion. This is going to make movement on the screen a lot more accessible, as well as easier to know if you’re holding the remote the right way without looking at it. But if you’re a fan of the trackpad functionality like I am, fret not. The circle still has trackpad functionality, meaning you can still swipe and scroll around as you did before. Apple even introduced a new gesture, one where you run your finger clockwise or counter-clockwise around the edge of the circle to either fast forward or rewind the video.

All of this honestly going to make for a much more accessible, easier to understand, remote that more people can get on board with. I’m not even a hater of the existing remote, I generally like it. but even I admit it can throw some people off, and I certainly have picked it up without looking and wondered why things weren’t work, only to discover I was holding it the wrong way. The only downside for me is my guide to using the Apple TV Remote video is now dated, and I’ll have to make a new one.

The new Apple TV 4K will be priced at $179 with 32 GB of storage, $199 for the 64 GB model. It will be available for preorder April 30, and available in May.

Mac

Image Courtesy of Apple

Coming as a bit of a surprise was the announcement of a new M1-based iMac, but one I also feel is both exciting and controversial.

Let’s start with the details. This is a new design revamp, and looks a lot like those near-future thin screen computers you see then filmmakers want to make a computer look sleek, professional, or futuristic without calling out any one brand or making it seem to far in the future. The new iMacs replace the 21-inch models and come with a 24-inch screen instead. They also come in 7 colors – a literal rainbow and a white one. The screen side is a lighter shade of the color and light gray bezels, while the rear side are a darker, more saturated shade of the color in question. And they weigh only 10 pounds (4.54 Kg) with a 11.5 mm thick body. It’s kind of impressive actually.

Now let’s get techy. That 24-inch screen is now a 4.5K screen. The iMac comes with 2 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, but the more powerful models come with an additional 2 USB-C (non-Thunderbolt) ports. A standard 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack is on the left side of the machine. There is still an ethernet port, but it’s part of the new power cord in a little charging brick, which now magnetically attaches to the back of the machine rather than being the more typical desktop computer power cord. But the real power Apple wanted to show off, besides the M1, is revamped cameras and audio system.

These new iMacs are not only getting the revamped image processing that comes with the M1, but are the 1st Macs to come with a 1080p webcam with a larger sensor inside. Which honestly, it’s about time. On top of that, the iMacs now have a 3-mic array inside with beam forming capabilities, meaning it will be able to better focus on your voice when you’re speaking and pull out extraneous noise. To go along with the better speakers, a 6 speaker setup inside that lets provides better bass while reducing vibration while also having better tweeters for the higher frequencies.

A picture of the teal green Apple keyboard with the Touch ID and emoji picker.   Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

On one last technical note, the Magic Keyboards now come in 3 forms. The base model comes with an emoji key and a function row with some new functions for Do Not Disturb, Spotlight, and Siri Access. These will be on the F4-F6 keys. The eject button has also been changed to a lock button. However, there is also a new model of the same keyboard that comes with TouchID instead of the Lock button. This will not only let you unlock your iMac with Touch ID, but also pay for things with Apple Pay, allow you to install apps and run admin functions, or even switch to other Mac profiles based on whose finger is being scanned. This Touch ID also extends to the larger Magic Keyboard with a number-pad attached. These keyboards, along with the Magic Mice and Magic Trackpads, are all available in the same colors the iMacs come in.

Opinion time: These look awesome, but are kind of weird from a usability perspective. While it looks great, one of the benefits of the existing Intel iMacs was getting those more traditional collection of ports and the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. This revision makes the iMac a really big MacBook Pro. Plus, it also seems weird that only 2 of the ports are Thunderbolt, whereas Apple hasn’t had a USB-C port that wasn’t also Thunderbolt since the MacBook “Nothing” was released. If you’re not careful, you might get something that uses Thunderbolt but doesn’t have enough ports to deal with it. And even weirder when you consider the Mac Mini, the new M1 model from Apple, also came with more traditional ports like USB-A (traditional USB) and HDMI. And that’s assuming they don’t get the base model that has just 2 ports and no Ethernet. This is a really odd choice for Apple. I could see this base model as being the “mom and pop” model, the one you might give to someone that isn’t going to be using a whole lot of accessories or doesn’t need a powerhouse machine, but I’d almost be willing to argue the Mac Mini is a better deal for professionals.

The new iMacs starts at $1299 for 4 colors (White, Red, Green, and Blue with 256 GB of storage, 8 GB of RAM, and 2 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. If you want more ports, Ethernet, or an iMac in orange, yellow, or Purple iMac will start at $1499 (another one of these interesting choices). They are available for preorder on April 30 and will come out in May.

iPad Pros: Almost a Mac Tablet

The new iPad Pro in a black Apple Pro keyboard.
Image Courtesy of Apple

Not going to lie, when Apple showed the video of that guy stealing the M1 out of MacBook and putting it in a tablet, I thought they were announce a Mac tablet. Not my brightest moment.

So now the M1 is replacing the AZ chips in the Pros (and maybe the X’s too) in the iPad Pros, potentially making the iPad Pros even more powerful. While the design of the Pros hasn’t really changed, there are some cool internal changes.

With the new M1, the iPad Pros now have Thunderbolt built into the USB port as well as USB-4 capabilities (that’s about speed and performance, the physical port itself is still USB-C). And of course, it will be powerful. Apple had developers from names like Adobe and Filmic Pro, to game makers like those who made “Devil May Cry” and “Divinity: Original Sin 2” on talking about the power and capabilities of the M1 chip for their processes.

The cameras in the Pro, both front and back, got some enhancements. The rear facing cameras now have a 12 MP wide camera, a 10 MP Ultra-Wide camera, and still have the LIDAR sensor for AR uses. The front facing camera is now a 12 MP UltraWide camera with TrueDepth, meaning that it will let you take Portrait Selfies and have better FaceID.

A picture of the new iPad Pro with a woman in a FaceTime call with another woman.  The side text is discussing Center Stage and the new UltraWide front facing camera.  Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

The UltraWide camera didn’t seem like a big deal at first, until Apple showed off Center Stage. Using that camera and machine learning, the camera can follow you around when you’re in video call. The camera will pan and Zoom as you move around in its field of view, and even adjusts if other people enter the frame. Not only will FaceTime have this functionality, but other video-calling apps will be able to take advantage of this feature. This could be really handy in video work to, almost acting like a robot-cameraperson, but we’ll have to see what Apple does with that. It’s also really good Apple is opening this up to all video-calling apps.

The displays also received an update, though depending on which model you’re looking at this it’s a bit different. The 11-inch iPad will have a ProMotion adaptive 120 Hz, 600-NIT bright, P3 Gamut, Liquid Retina Display. The 12.9 inch model is receiving the Liquid Retina XDR Display, the same one in their big XDR monitor. It’s also capable of a P3 color gamut and has an adaptive 120 Hz ProMotion display. However, it is powered by 10,000 Mini-LED’s organized in 2500 dimming sectors. It’s capable of 1000 NIT brightness, peaking at 1600 NITs, and a 1,000,000 to 1 contrast ratio. Meaning that thing will be fast, bright, and very color accurate.

With the M1 chip, the iPads come with more RAM. The iPad Pros seem to start out at 8 gigs of RAM, but users who get the 1 or 2 TB options will have 16 GB of RAM inside!

A few last technical notes worth mentioning is that the iPad Pros now have WiFi 6 support, are 5G capable for the cellular models (including millimeter wave in the U.S.), and the Scribble feature in the Apple Pencil now supports French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. And the iPad Pro keyboard now comes in white.

This 11 inch iPad Pro starts at $799, and the 12.9 inch model at $1099.

Services and Other Things:

There are few more things worth mentioning in this announcement.

iPhone 12 is purple:

First, the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini (not the Pros) now come in purple, completing the Apple rainbow that the iMacs also are following.

Apple Card Family:

Apple Card Family Spending interface with multiple people listed.   Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

Secondly, Apple Card is now expanding. Apple Card Family will now allow you to digitally share your card within your family that is 13 years old or older, while letting you track and set spending limits. It can only be shared with 5 people who all have to be part of the same “Family Sharing” group. Apple will also let you set a co-owner to your Apple card, allowing you to merge Apple Card credit lines, share a credit history, and jointly control it. Apple gives the example that then you could keep your lower interest rate while getting the higher credit limit of your spouse. It’s important to note what will be shared. For example, any late payments or other negative history would be shared with both parties. If one person messes up, everyone takes the hit. Also, you will be able to see both parties’ transaction history, so be careful if you plan on buying gifts. What isn’t shared, is the Daily Cash reward. That is still tied to your individual purchases, so others in your family won’t be able to use those rewards for themselves.

Podcasts Subscriptions and App Improvements:

Picture of iPhones with the new Podcasts interface and showing off the Subscription feature.  Image Courtesy of Apple
Image Courtesy of Apple

Podcasts are also getting some improvements. Creators will now be able to add “Subscriptions”. Under Apple’s nomenclature, you can still follow a podcast for free and get episodes, but now creators can now have Subscriptions where people pay each month for extra features such as ad-free listening, extra episodes, early access, and more. It’s not a requirement, only an option, and will give podcast creators a new way to support. themselves. All this as well as more control over shows, metadata, and tools to create better podcasts will be provided by Apple to Creators via the Apple Podcast Connect Dashboard and the Apple Podcasts for Creators website. The Subscriptions feature will be available in over 170 countries and regions, though creators will need to pay a fee of $19.99/year to allow access to Subscriptions through the app.

Speaking of the Podcasts app, it’s getting some refinements itself. Podcast pages get some more color with banners, including image pages for every show and episode, and more customizable pages. Users will also be able to access “Channels”, groups of shows and episodes curated around themes, content, unique titles and artwork, and made more. These will be curated by podcast creators and can be either free or behind paywalls. There will also be improved recommendations both in and outside of these channels. Lastly, the new Smart Play feature will let users start listening to episodic podcasts from the latest episode and then work backgrounds through the back-catalog, or start with the first episode in episodic series and move forward through the episodes.

All these changes will be made available in the 14.5 update coming next week. Also iOS and iPad OS 14.5 is coming next week.


So those are all the new updates and announcements made by Apple. What did you think? What has you the most excited? Let me know in the comments below and on social media.

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