Apple held its first event of 2021 earlier today, and the company wasn't kidding when it called it "Spring Loaded." More specifically, the company apparently had a lot of products to unload. Seriously, it's almost hard to know where to start.
There were things I wasn't expecting at all -- like a new purple color for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini -- along with some things we had all but given up on, like AirTags. And, of course, there was the device everyone expected, a new iPad Pro. Here are the five most important things Apple introduced today:
It might not seem like a particularly big deal on its own, but Apple's new creator platform for podcasts is both interesting and potentially game-changing. Essentially, it will allow podcast creators the ability to offer subscriptions to their shows from within Apple's podcast app. Users can subscribe to a specific show for, say, $5 a month, to get extra content or an ad-free feed.
Apple's Podcasts app is also getting an update in iOS 14.5 to make it easier to discover content through search, as well as the Top Charts. Considering Apple runs the most important podcast directory, all of that is good news for podcast fans, as well as creators.
AirTags are small location-tracking devices that you can attach to your backpack, or suitcase, or bike, for example. The idea is that you can use the Find My app to locate whatever is attached to the AirTag using an ultra-wideband chip that Apple calls the U1. That allows precise location and range to be transmitted to your iPhone, which can then tell you that your lost keys are 20 feet to your right.
Apple had long been rumored to be working on such a thing, but every time there was a report that they were getting ready to launch, nothing would happen. Now, however, they are official. If you'd like, you can even spend a few hundred dollars on a Hermès leather strap to attach your AirTag to your keyring.
Apple TV 4K
Honestly, the new version of the Apple TV is mostly the same as the previous version, with one important exception -- the remote. To be fair, it also includes a better processor (the A12), which allows it to handle high-frame-rate HDR, and Dolby Vision video. It also features some really cool tech that will help you calibrate the color balance on your TV using the sensors on your iPhone.
All of that is great, but the new Siri Remote is probably the best thing about the new Apple TV 4K. Now, instead of a slippery, touch-sensitive slab of aluminum, it has a much more tactile layout with a far better clickpad control that replaces the previous touch area that was a constant source of frustration for anyone who has ever tried to pick it up out of the couch cushions only to end up accidentally interrupting whatever you were trying to watch.
Last year, Apple said it planned to transition its entire lineup to its own M1 processors. In the fall, we got new MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis. Now, Apple is adding the iMac to that list. Except, for the iMac, not only is Apple adding the M1, it's introducing a completely redesigned 24-inch form factor that includes a range of seven different colors.
Apple also said it will introduce new keyboards, two of which will feature Touch ID, which has previously only been available on laptops and some iPhones and iPads. That means you can unlock your device, use ApplePay, or switch users using your fingerprint on the keyboard, instead of typing in your password.
All of that tech aside, I suspect that Apple will sell a lot of these based on the fact that it's been a long time since the company made a computer with personality -- something that made the original iMac so popular.
The iPad Pro was probably the one device everyone was expecting at this event. It was long overdue for a real update. The introduction last fall of the iPad Air had made the Pro version look like it had been forgotten, or was headed out of the lineup entirely. It turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.
The iPad Pro is now powered by the M1 processor, which, in terms of tablets, isn't even fair. Apple's flagship tablet is now powered by a chip more powerful than what you can find in most laptops -- and even many desktops. It also now includes Thunderbolt, meaning it can run a 6K external display, and 5G ultra-fast wireless, meaning if you happen to live in an area with coverage, you can use your iPad as your primary device anywhere.
Finally, the 12.9-inch version has what Apple is calling a Liquid Retina XDR display. It's a mini LED display, and it looks amazing. Apple had been reportedly having a tough time sourcing these displays, but it seems to be confident enough to start shipping "in the second half of May."