On Tuesday morning, Apple held its first hardware announcement event of the year. We were expecting to see some new iPads, and Apple did show those off. But the company also unveiled a whole lot more: Newly redesigned iMacs, a new Apple TV 4K with a refreshed remote, and a location-broadcasting iPhone accessory called AirTags.
The slickly produced virtual event was packed with information and even more new products. Here’s everything Apple announced.
Last fall, Apple updated the 27-inch iMac with faster processors and greater graphics capabilities, but it’s been years since Apple truly overhauled the iMac. Thanks in large part to the company’s relatively new, custom-designed M1 chip, Apple was able to ditch the bulky thermal system in earlier iMacs and finally give the desktop PC a proper makeover. The company revealed completely redesigned hardware today, a super-slim all-in-one machine that has about 50 percent of the volume of previous models.
The new iMac has a 24-inch, 4.5K display, and comes in seven bright colors: green, yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, and silver. It has an updated, 1080p front-facing camera with a new sensor, new microphones (Apple says the best mics ever in an iMac), and six speakers that support spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. It also has a new foot, supports TouchID (Apple’s fingerprint-based authentication system), and has a smaller charging block that includes an Ethernet port. But the big sell with the new iMac will undoubtedly be its power and speed. It’s supposedly fast; Apple is claiming it wakes instantly, and it's expected to be a whopping 85 percent faster overall than the previous iMac (which, of course, ran on Intel silicon).
You’ll pay for that power and speed: The new 2021 iMac starts at $1,299 and will cost $1,499 if you want to bump up the specs even more. They're available to order now.
New iPad Pro
The iPad Pro now runs on the same M1 processor as recent Macs. This gives the high-end tablets a considerable speed boost: The CPU is 50 percent faster than last year’s iPad Pro, with 40 percent faster graphics, according to Apple. The other big change is specific to the larger 12.9-inch model, which now uses Mini-LED technology on the LCD display for backlighting. Apple calls this Liquid Retina XDR as it attempts to match the quality out of its pricey Pro Display XDR monitor (read: better contrast, colors, and brightness).
Be sure to read our full rundown of the new iPad Pro features.
The USB-C port on both iPad Pro models now supports Thunderbolt, so you can hook your iPad up to multiple monitors or storage devices, and that connector port has much faster data transfer speeds. There’s also the option to add 5G connectivity to your iPad Pro so you can get high-speed internet in the park, in the Uber, and on the ferry. Peculiarly, Apple took a page from Facebook’s Portal: The new iPad Pro’s selfie camera has such a wide field of view that it can zoom in and follow you around during video calls, ensuring you never leave the frame.
The 11-incher starts at $799, and the 12.9-inch model starts at $1,099. Preorders start on April 30, and the tablets will ship in May.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K is getting some pretty compelling upgrades, most relying heavily on the added speed from the newest A12 Bionic chip that’s now inside. The new silicon allows high-frame-rate HDR—perfect for sports fans and for those shooting 5K at 60 frames per second on the iPhone 12 Pro.
The tiny box that connects to your TV looks the same as before but now comes with a 100-percent-recycled-aluminum remote that’s been fully redesigned. A clickable, touch-sensitive pad sits in the middle of the silver clicker, with all-new power and mute buttons, and a iPhone-mirroring Siri button on the side.
The most exciting feature of the new Apple TV 4K for cinephiles is a special color-calibration tool that pairs your iPhone with the TV 4K, allowing it to use your camera to ensure your TV is perfectly calibrated to what’s appearing on-screen, thus bypassing many of the complicated menus in modern TVs. Time will tell how well this works, but it seems similar to the EZCal app (available for iPhone and Galaxy phones) that Samsung announced during CES this January.
The new model will cost $179 for 32 gigabytes of internal storage and $199 for 64 GB. It will be available for preorder April 30. Products are expected to ship in the second half of May. The remote will be available separately for $59.
AirTags are finally here. It feels like the first rumors for Apple’s little tracker pucks were found painted on ancient cave walls. They’ve been predicted to show up at the last several Apple events but never materialized until now.
AirTags can clip onto a suitcase, keychain, backpack, or any personal item. Then, if that item ever gets lost or stolen, its location can be detected with Apple’s Find My app. The Find My app hunts down the errant AirTags with a feature Apple calls Precision Finding. To prevent your AirTagged items from being swiped by nefarious Find My users, Apple says it is including additional security measures in the AirTags. We'll get more details about those security features later.
The AirTags are located by an iPhone using geolocation, input from the camera, audible signals, and haptic feedback. The most interesting technological mechanism in the AirTags is the ultra-wideband signal tech used to pinpoint location. UWB has been around for a while but hasn’t made it to a broader market until recently. It’s a technology that allows fast wireless data transfer and location tracking down to a matter of centimeters. (WIRED’s Brian Barrett called UWB “Bluetooth on steroids.”)
Apple has touted the UWB capability of its U1 chip in the iPhone 11 and 12. Now it’s clear that UWB is making its way into more Apple products, which could pave the way for hitherto unimaginable possibilities of being able to find your keys. Apple Tags cost $29; $99 for a four-pack. They'll be available April 30.
Seeing AirTags in FindMy will require an update to iOS 14.5, which Apple says will be released next week.
The podcast-discovery experience on Apple's mobile devices is getting a refresh. Apple’s Podcasts app has been redesigned to include more suggestion options, including some new curated channels to make finding good shows a little easier. But the news sure to cause a stir among content creators is that Apple will soon launch a podcast subscription service. Paying to subscribe to certain podcasts will earn listeners access to exclusive episodes, early access to regular episodes, and an ad-free listening experience. Subscription podcasts will become available in most of the world next month.
Podcast creators will need to join a creator's program for $20 a year in order to charge listeners a subscription fee, and Apple will take its standard 30 percent off the top of any earnings.
A New Purple iPhone
As if that wasn’t enough, the company also showed off a new color choice for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini. It’s a soft purple hue, which appears to touch on a trend—the Nintendo Switch recently came out with a purple choice as well. Or maybe the new Switch is actually blue? Either way, the new purple iPhone is most definitely purple.
Everything about this iPhone (except the color) is identical to the iPhone 12 that's been on sale since October. This purple color will be available for preorder this Friday.
That’s it for Apple’s April 20 event. Feel free to watch the full presentation here.