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Deeper Dive: The “Spring Loaded” Event

Apple Event Spring Loaded 2021

In retrospect, Apple’s April 20th “Spring Loaded” event was aptly named. The company loaded the hour-long event with announcements, some of which were a total surprise to me. Let’s take a closer look at the announcements and their importance for Apple users.

What Did I Predict Correctly?

On April 15, I looked into my crystal ball to predict what we were going to see at the event. For once, I was actually close! As you’ll see in the rest of this post, Apple announced the long-awaited AirTag, an M1-powered 12.9-inch iPad Pro with mini-LED backlighting and a new 11-inch iPad Pro with M1.

What Did I Miss?

I missed predicting one big announcement and a bunch of smaller ones! At the Spring Loaded event, Apple introduced a new line of 24-inch iMacs, an improved Apple TV 4K, a new Apple TV remote, new features for Apple Card and the Apple Podcasts app, and a new color (purple) for the iPhone 12.

Let’s get into the details of these announcements!

Apple Card Family

Apple Card Family (image via Apple)

One thing about having a shared credit card account with multiple cards is that just the primary cardholder gets the advantage of building a good credit history. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced at Spring Loaded that the company is changing all that. Spouses or partners can now co-own and share an Apple Card account, merging their credit lines while building credit together equally.

Parents can also share Apple Card with children, offering spending limits and controls to teach smart and safe financial habits.

Apple Podcasts Subscriptions

Ahhh, remember the good old days when podcasts were free? Apple is now offering premium subscriptions (AKA Apple Podcasts Subscriptions) so those podcasters with big audiences can bring in revenue. Of course, Apple continues to offer millions of free podcasts.

For creators, Apple has also added a new Apple Podcasts for Creators website. This site help creators learn more about podcasting, provides news and feature updates, and has in-depth guides outlining best practices.

Podcasters now have access to an updated Apple Podcasts Connect dashboard. This has new features to let creators manage shows on Apple Podcasts, edit metadata, schedule and manage show availability, and organize shows into channels. New performance metrics and visualization tools make it easier for creators to see how listeners engage their podcasts.

Creators can also enroll in a new Apple Podcasters Program that offers the tools for building and distributing premium subscriptions.

Purple iPhone 12

Purple iPhone 12
Purple iPhone 12 (image via Apple)

Hold the presses! The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are now available in purple. Pre-orders begin this Friday, April 23, 2021 with deliveries on April 30. While this was a toss-off announcement at “Spring Loaded”, it’s sure to make some people happy.


AirTag Accessories and Customizations (image via Apple)
AirTag Accessories and Customizations (image via Apple)

We’ve been waiting for Apple’s AirTag for over a year. The announcement of these location tags at “Spring Loaded” adds more juice to Apple’s Find My app, as they can be attached to just about anything to help you find lost items.

Over 1 billion Apple devices are currently part of the Find My location system, and AirTag uses that vast network to pinpoint the location of your lost keys, purse or backpack by passing anonymized information to any Apple device that happens to wander by.

Once that information is passed to the Find My network, Apple owners can use the Find My app to locate items. Anyone with an iPhone 11 or 12 using the U1 Ultra Wideband chip gets direction and distance to their lost items using what’s called Precision Finding.


Each AirTag can be customized with text or one of 31 emoji. Apple also offers key rings and polyurethane or leather straps to hold AirTag, although they aren’t needed. The company also teamed with Hermes on a line of luxury accessories. The devices use a user-replaceable CR2032 battery and Apple says battery life is about one year.

Although it wasn’t noted during the Spring Loaded event, Apple has also opened the door to other manufacturers building AirTag technology into their products. Can you imagine an electric bike that uses the technology? And who needs an expensive GPS tracking unit for a car when you can just throw an AirTag into the glove compartment?

AirTag can be ordered starting Friday, April 23, 2021 with delivery starting on April 30.

Apple TV 4K Update

The redesigned Apple TV 4K and new Siri Remote (image via Apple)
The redesigned Apple TV 4K and new Siri Remote (image via Apple)

The Apple TV 4K received a significant update yesterday at Spring Loaded. The new device is available in 32GB ($179) and 64GB ($199) models and comes with a redesigned Siri Remote. Pre-orders begin on April 30, with deliveries the second half of May.

With an A12 Bionic chip at its core, the Apple TV 4K now supports High Frame Rate HDR with Dolby Vision. For the first time, users can color balance the output from their Apple TV 4K using an iPhone. That means video appears with more accurate colors and contrast.

Siri Remote

The new Siri Remote uses a clickpad control that uses a circular jog gesture similar to the one we old folks used to use on our iPods (remember those?). A power button controls the power of a TV, and there’s another button for muting. The Siri button is now on the side — just like an iPhone.

M1-Powered iPad Pro

New M1-Powered iPad Pro
The new iPad Pro features the M1 system-on-chip and Thunderbolt (image via Apple)
…and on the desk to the left sits an OWC Envoy Pro FX

Now we’re getting to the meaty announcements of Spring Loaded. The iPad Pro in both 11- and 12.9-inch sizes has been redesigned, now featuring the same M1 system-on-chip that powers the new Macs. (Off-topic, my writing buddy Dennis Sellers published a post on another site wondering why Apple doesn’t offer macOS on the new iPads Pro. I wonder the same thing…).

The new iPads Pro also come with cellular + Wi-Fi models that boast 5G connectivity. Both work with the Magic Keyboard. now available in white as well as black. Storage options begin at 128GB and run up to 2TB.

The 12.9-inch version uses Mini-LED technology to bring Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR) to the iPad Pro for the first time. The Liquid Retina XDR display offers a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 1000 nits of brightness and up to 1600 nits of peak brightness.

New Camera Technology

Use your iPad Pro for FaceTime? The 12MP Ultra Wide front camera has a 122° field of view that uses the M1’s machine learning capabilities to recognize and keep users centered in the visual frame. Center Stage automatically “pans” the camera to keep a moving user in a shot. When others join a video, the camera zooms out so everyone is visible.

The back cameras are 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide coupled with a LiDAR Scanner. Apple notes that the Image Signal Processor in the M1 allows the iPad Pro to support Smart HDR 3.

Thunderbolt and USB 4

The new iPad Pros support Thunderbolt and USB 4. Here one is driving the Pro Display XDR and there's an OWC Envoy Pro FX at left (image via Apple)
The new iPad Pros support Thunderbolt and USB 4. Here one is driving the Pro Display XDR and there’s an OWC Envoy Pro FX at right (image via Apple)

Now the BIG news about the new iPad Pro models – they support Thunderbolt and USB 4. That supplies four times the bandwidth – up to 40Gbps – for wired connections than was available with the last iPad Pro models. Want to hook a Pro Display XDR up to an iPad Pro at full 6K resolution? It’s possible now.

OWC produces Thunderbolt accessories that are perfect companions to the new iPad Pros. The Envoy Pro FX gives these iPad Pros up to 2TB of rugged, waterproof fast external storage. How fast? How does up to 2,800 MBPS sound?

Pricing for the 11-inch starts at $799 and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is priced starting at $1,099. For a limited time, Apple has a deal where you get $200 back when you purchase an iPad Pro with Wi-Fi + Cellular and activate it with AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint/T-Mobile.

24-inch iMac with M1

The full color range of 24-inch iMacs (image via Apple)
The full color range of 24-inch iMacs (image via Apple)

The one announcement at Spring Loaded I was really thrilled about was the new 24-inch iMac powered by Apple Silicon. This replaces the 21.5-inch models and I’d speculate that the next “big screen” iMac may be a 30-inch M1 model. Pre-orders begin on April 30 for delivery in the latter part of May. Pricing starts at a low of $1,299, with educational pricing available.

The new design is stunning. Think of a non-touchscreen iPad mounted on a slim stand, splash it with colors (green, yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and silver), and add matching input devices, and you have the picture. How thin is the new iMac? 11.5mm. That’s 0.45 inches. The back bulge of the old iMac is gone. The entire computer weighs 9.88 pounds (4.48kg) or less.

I love the way that the front of the device and the stand is finished in a somewhat pastel tone, while the back is a bold companion color. In a way, the new 24-inch iMac colors remind me of the “Life Savers” G3 iMacs of 1999.


These iMacs sport a 24-inch 4.5K Retina display at 4480 by 2520 resolution with a pixel density of 218 pixels per inch. The display supports 1 billion colors, pushes out 500 nits of brightness, supports the P3 wide color gamut, and of course has True Tone technology.

Oh, Yeah – There’s an M1 Inside

Lest we forget, the big feature of this desktop computer is the Apple Silicon. There’s an 8-core CPU, an 8-core GPU, unified memory architecture (up to 16GB), and the 16-core Apple Neural Engine.

Apple says that translates into 85% faster CPU performance over the 21.5-inch iMac, and up to two times faster for apps like Affinity Photo and Photoshop. Want to edit up to five streams of 4K footage or one stream of 8K footage in Final Cut Pro? You can do it with the new iMac.

FaceTime Camera, Microphone and Speakers

Finally, the iMac comes with a decent FaceTime camera. The new model supports 1080p resolution, and since the M1 has a built-in image signal processor, you’ll look great on conference calls.

Audio is going to be much better as well with the new iMac. It uses a studio-quality three microphone array with a high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beam forming. On the output side, the slender iMac has a high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers so playing games or music at full volume won’t cause the computer to shake.

If you watch movies or play games on the new iMac, there’s support for spatial audio when playing video with Dolby Atmos.


Not surprisingly, the iMac has two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports. Those give support for DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 up to 40 Gb/s, USB 4 up to 40Gb/s, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 up to 10 Gb/s. The computer can also be configured with two additional USB 3 ports, and by using adapters it can support Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, DVI and VGA.

Now, why would you need those extra ports when you can hook up the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dock and get up to 36TB of storage, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, DisplayPort, and Gigabit Ethernet?

Touch ID

This iMac is also the first Apple desktop computer with Touch ID. An optional Magic Keyboard with Touch ID is available in colors that match the computer. There’s even an option for a Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad and Touch ID. Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpads are also available in those machine hues.


As with all of the new Apple computing devices, the iMac supports Wi-Fi 6. There’s a unique Gigabit Ethernet adapter that’s built into the power adapter, with the signal passing through the same braided cord as the electricity. Remember the old MagSafe power adapters on Apple’s laptops? There’s a modern version of that connecting the cord to the back of the computer.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • I really want to know if Apple has solved the #1 problem of Find My devices: the battery. Putting an Airtag on the devices you’re worried about losing, isn’t useful if the Airtag sits there for a couple years, there is no way to be notified when the battery starts dying, and then the battery dies.

    • The battery is replaceable and your phone does receive low battery notifications. If you loose something in the boondocks fit two years before you go back, it will not help you.

  • I am a Apple guy and own many of their products. I got an Apple credit card just before I upgraded to my newer iPhone. Boy was I disappointed with the new approach to their credit and how I handled payments to their card. Basically they were oriented to using iOS rather than MacOS to handle their card. Why in the world would I want to handle my finances on my phone when I have a computer at home with all my many years of financial information on it and an existing system to manage my finances.
    So I am disappointed to hear what they are doing to “improve” the card rather than make it easier to download your statement and transaction data to financial programs like Quicken or See Finance (my choice).

    • @James We are simpatico. See my post below?

      I really don’t understand it either, but I’m guessing (really just guessing here) that Apple thinks iOS is more secure? Same issue with AppleCash not available on the Mac.

      One can’t help but wonder what Apple’s plans are for the firstborn MacOS with all of this attention to the baby in the family. I have a lot more love for the older sibling, but there are rumors that Uncle Timo favors his iPad more than his Mac. It really looks like Apple expects them to share a room with bunk beds, but I hope not.

      Older kids need more space than that.

  • Hi Steve,

    Apple has obviously wanted to maximise returns from development of the M1 chip before announcing any defined timeline for the next M version of Apple Silicon.

    I was hoping that chip would be imminent but obviously not so. Hence I feel justified in buying the 2018 Mini fully specced to replace my 2015 iMac.

    There must be heaps of power users looking for a more beefed-up Mac now that the iMac-Pro is discontinued and and they cannot quite justify the newer Mac-Pro.

    • The entire transition to ASi Macs is expected to be done in two years. Looks like M2 MacBooks will be out end of this year. The M1 probably beat both your IMac and Mini. If you wanted power, why go with the old Macs?

  • Surprised they are using yellow…They chose not to with the original iMacs so as to not have the iMac be called a lemon.

  • So Apple released some new stuff. None of it will likely be in the hands of regular Jills and Joes till late May, so in the meantime, we’ll have to wait for those lucky reviewers who were given hardware (and a stout NDA) to review. But with every release, we do get to peek behind the curtain of the world’s most secretive wizards.

    If I’m being honest, I was not prepared to be excited about the event.

    I’m crotchety old-school, and iPads have little use in my all-Apple ecosystem. My wife loves hers, and we have an old one on the elliptical in the garage for streaming, but for me, it just doesn’t fit into my work or play hierarchy. I’m an AppleWatch, iPhone, M1 MBAir, and Mac mini guy. That’s more than enough to trigger my ADHD. I was thinking this was going to be an all-iPad event with AirTags, and maybe something else small.

    But the “one more thing” moment? It was something that apparently Steve Sande and I both were not expecting: the new iMacs.

    But first, let’s get some of the other announcements out of the way?

    Okay, so AppleTV has finally been upgraded along with the #1 worst, least user-friendly piece of hardware Apple has ever made–> the AppleTV remote. Yay. Rah. We already have 2 AppleTVs in our home and barely use them because our Roku Ultras are just better at streaming. And uh, yeah. That remote. Apple decided not to put a tracker in the new AppleTV remotes. If you want to find it in the sofa (where everyone but me always leaves it), you will have to slap a bulky AirTag on it. There’s also the issue that AppleTV’s interface is lacking, and hard to navigate, so maybe there will be a massive update of that as well?

    Sorry if I sound cynical, but for me, it’s like an abuser who returns to your life to say they’re sober and sorry about being such a pain, but now they’ve found religion. Forgive me if I have my doubts. We’ll see….

    There’s a new odd fangled twist on the Apple Credit Card where people can share a credit line? Hmm…. I guess it might help youngsters who don’t have any, but one wonders what will happen when the parents stop paying the bills?

    I still sense some ambivalence in Apple’s financial forays. Even with the success of ApplePay, Apple Cash is still limited to iOS devices. And want to download your Apple CC data into QuickBooks like we did? For once, the ironically named Intuit is actually more intuitive than Apple on this one. You cannot download a tax year or a custom date range, only month by month… There’s so much possibility for Apple to really shake up the credit and finance world but there seem to be mixed feelings at the top about this. Apple could also make their credit card dominant if they kicked back 3% everywhere. We only use ours at the AppleStore.

    So, one single AirTag is $27-$31?! WOW. It might be cheaper just to lose your wallet or keys? Kind of a shame with those monster profit margins on every move Apple makes that they couldn’t come up with something in the $10-$15 range. I imagine they’ll find their market, but I’m just not a person who loses anything of value that could be found with an AirTag. I’ll pay twice what Apple’s asking if they start making them to find my lost youth.

    Purple has been my favorite color since before I had cognition, so that’s cool.

    M1 in an iPad? Not sure what my crystal ball says about that, but I’m hoping it doesn’t mean iOS will swallow the MacOS. That would make me very unhappy. Timo really likes his iPads. If there are people who really want to make their iOS device their primary device that’s fine with me. As long as they don’t take my MacOS away from me. I will be watching this carefully with some trepidation.

    Okay, the iMacs!

    First, we need to gesture like a Jedi, and say aloud: “these are not the high-end iMacs you’re looking for.”

    This is Apple’s low to medium-end consumer line. This is the 24” to replace the 21.5” iMac and it’s a compelling upgrade. Pros and Prosumers need not worry. My sources say that we’ll be looking at 30” (or greater) iMacs by Christmas, likely powered by the M2 that will address more RAM.

    Quarantine or no, I expect these new M1 iMacs to sell well.

    Imagine, if you will, you’re a typical majority iMac user. You’ve got this 4-10-year-old 20-21″ iMac and you know it’s time to upgrade. Think like the typical Mac consumer does.

    Instantly, you get a bigger, brighter 24” screen.

    You also get all the colors of the rainbow to choose from.

    You get a better camera (1080p), a better mic, and better speakers (with spatial sound which is pretty cool on the brand new AirPod Max I was treated to on my birthday).

    Can we argue that better should have been “better?” Of course, we can. Will most consumers? Nope. It’s better enough.

    It’s also got a nice looking design without the silly Jonny Ive paper-cut edges. It kind of resembles a giant, fat iPad, which looks better to me than the 2012 IveMac series we had to live with till now. It’s funny that it’s thinner because I’m not sure it will actually look thinner because of the reasonable looking edges.

    Oh! And the MagSafe! I like it! It should obsolete the 3-finger salute, but it also will save a few iMac trip cord moments. Those were not nearly as common as they were for MacBooks, but we still saw them enough back in the day. I suspect we’ll see MagSafe return to the MacBook lines as well.

    And I’m wondering if Touch ID will allow us to send Apple Cash payments from Macs.

    Either way, all of the proof will be in the pudding once this gets out in the wild late next month.

    Hoping my Mac mini will cling to the ghost until the M2 iMacs (which I believe are coming) are finally released. Then we’ll get to see what Apple does with a 30” screen as well as how 32GB of RAM (and more) might address an Apple second-gen SoC.

    I confess I slept through my CPU science class and copied the notes from my lab partner, but I think it might be safe to assume the M1 is simply not designed to address more than 16GB of RAM. I suspect some M2 iMacs will be out in time for Christmas shopping, but that may depend on Taiwan Semiconductor and how much the chip shortage will affect Apple.

    In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the reviews are from those lucky enough to get an early version of the machine.

    I think this is going to play as a solid refresh and upgrade cycle, regardless of what the stock decides to do. I was not expecting anything particularly exciting yesterday, and I think the iMacs have stolen the show.


    • Although you’d probably be able to use a USB-C to USB adapter to physically connect the trackball to a new iMac, you might not be able to find drivers for the trackball that would work properly with the M1. However, there are new trackballs from Kensington and Logitech that use the USB-C connection, and one of those might have compatible drivers.