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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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
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 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?
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.