By Joanna Stern
What do the new Apple TV Siri remote, M1 iMac, 12.9-inch iPad
Pro and AirTags have in common?
You'll never lose any of them.
The Apple TV remote, because it's no longer the size of a pea.
The iMac, because it's a desktop that, well, stays on your desk.
The big iPad Pro, because with its fancy-schmancy new mini-LED
display, it's the tablet equivalent of the Hope Diamond. And
AirTags? Because that's their whole deal: tiny trackers to help you
find stuff you usually end up misplacing.
At a virtual event on Tuesday, Apple Inc. executives announced
all these products, plus a few more.
I wasn't able to see any of it for myself -- and I would have
liked to have fixed my eyes on that fancy new iPad Pro screen and
new iMac design -- but that doesn't mean I don't already have
preliminary thoughts to help you plan your spring spending. Here's
my take on all the new stuff, going from smallest to largest. Just
don't forget to watch for our full reviews, coming soon.
Not counting the Apple 3.5mm dongle, AirTags might be Apple's
smallest product yet. Yet it might be all-powerful for those of us
who would lose our socks if they weren't attached to us.
On the surface, AirTags work similarly to other lost-item
trackers. You attach the $29 Mentos-looking object to things you
often lose: keys...wallet...spatula. (Just me?) The tracking
devices use Bluetooth and ultra-wideband technology to report back
to your iPhone.
If you're looking for a missing item -- not for use with people,
says Apple -- you open the Find My app on your iPhone and see if
it's plotted on the map. A feature called Precision Tracking will
guide you with a helpful arrow to the object if it's in close
proximity. And if you can't see it, you can sound an alarm on the
AirTag's tiny speaker. AirTags, which are available April 30, with
pre-orders starting Friday, have replaceable batteries. Four-packs
will be sold for $99.
Lost your keys on the side of the road? Apple's new Find My
network can leverage all of Apple's devices with Bluetooth --
iPhones, iPads, etc. -- to help locate these devices wherever
someone might be passing by. Apple is also working with third-party
accessory makers to build Find My capabilities into their
This is an entirely new product category for Apple but it's not
a new idea. Companies such as Tile and Chipolo have similar
devices. Tile, a pioneer in the find-my-lost-stuff space, has been
vocal about Apple's entry.
The company will testify on Wednesday at a Senate antitrust
hearing. "We think it is entirely appropriate for Congress to take
a closer look at Apple's business practices specific to its entry
into this category," Tile Chief Executive CJ Prober said in a
"We have always embraced competition as the best way to drive
great experiences for our customers, and we have worked hard to
build a platform in iOS that enables third-party developers to
thrive," an Apple spokesman responded.
Readers of my column have known my pain: The Apple TV's
notorious Siri remote has been the bane of my existence, since it's
so small it gets lost in the couch, and when it's in your hand, you
can't tell which end is up. The biggest Apple TV news? Its new
remote might actually not suck. It's bigger, brings back the click
wheel and puts the Siri button on the right edge.
The actual Apple TV announced Tuesday has the same body, with
internal improvements in performance. With a new A12 Bionic chip,
it promises better HDR playback. A new automatic calibration tool
lets you use an iPhone to improve the picture quality without
messing around with your TV's confusing settings. But Apple didn't
remove the biggest pain point: the device's exorbitant price.
Honestly, with a starting price of $179, Apple TV is a hard sell
for anyone looking for a connected streaming device. Roku, Google
Chromecast, Amazon Fire sticks and others cost just a small
fraction of that.
But hey, look at it this way: Current Apple TV owners will be
able to buy a Siri remote for $59. Pre-ordering starts April 30,
and the product will ship in the second half of May.
What's the difference between a Mac and an iPad? No longer
speed. It all comes down to software and touch screen now.
Both iPad Pro models were upgraded to the Apple M1 chip that's
been powering Macs since last fall. They'll also now come with the
option of 5G cellular connectivity, if you're confident there are
enough towers in your area to justify the cost. (Since you do more
data-intensive stuff on your tablet or laptop, I think 5G could
actually make sense.)
And because their USB-C connectors will support Thunderbolt
accessories, they'll be able to access faster Ethernet networks and
storage devices, and be compatible with monitors including Apple's
6K Pro Display.
The hugest tablet in Apple's lineup, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, is
getting a visual improvement in the form of a new display powered
by mini-LEDs. Translation: Over 10,000 tiny lights embedded behind
the screen adjust constantly to provide extreme contrast. This
technology isn't unique to Apple, but it's still cutting-edge.
The iPad Pros also get a new webcam. The front-facing
12-megapixel ultrawide camera works with a new feature called
Center Stage, which recognizes people and virtually pans and zooms
to keep them framed during video calls. It's something we've seen
(and appreciated) on other devices, most recently the Facebook
Portal. While the iPad's webcam is still in the wrong place -- at
the top of the screen, which means at the side if you use the
tablet horizontally during a video call -- Apple says Center Stage
should keep things looking more balanced.
The new 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799; the 12.9 inch at
$1,099. And that doesn't include any accessories, like the $129
Apple Pencil, the $179 Smart Keyboard Folio or the $299 Magic
Keyboard case. Both tablets will ship in the second half of
What we didn't get? An updated iPad Mini. The thing is still
saddled with a lower-resolution screen and old design.
Purple iPhone 12
That's it. The iPhone 12 now comes in purple. It's certain to
appease Marie Schrader from "Breaking Bad." It's the same price as
the other iPhone models and will be available on April 30.
For those with an increasingly ancient iMac, Apple has a new
model -- and the company pulled out all the tricks (and colors!)
for it. The first notable iMac redesign since 2012, this one has a
24-inch screen but is only a bit bigger than the older 21-inch
iMac. Plus, the display sounds like a real upgrade with what Apple
is calling "4.5K" resolution.
The slimmer design is available in a rainbow of colors (seven
options in all) and it's all powered by that same M1 chip in the
iPad Pro -- and the 2020 MacBooks that we love so much.
Apple says the new iMac's webcam is the "best camera ever in a
Mac." Of course that's not saying much. And at 1080p, it's lower
resolution compared with the front camera on the iPad Pro and
iPhone, but Apple says its sensor is improved and the new chip
makes for far better video processing. You know I'll be testing
that soon enough. The new iMac also has better microphones and a
six-speaker sound system.
The lower-end iMac models will start at $1,299, with only four
color choices; the higher-end configurations start at $1,499 and
come in all the colors. If you spring for the $1,499-and-up models,
you'll also get a keyboard with built-in Touch ID for easy logins
and Apple Pay purchases. (There's even an optional extended
keyboard with Touch ID and a number pad.) The M1 iMacs go on sale
on April 30 but don't ship until the second half of May.
Probably the biggest Apple product of them all, because it's in
most of its devices, and you don't have to pay for it: iOS 14.5.
The overdue software update is arriving next week, says Apple. This
isn't a full operating-system overhaul like we get in the fall but
it does have notable new features, two of which I've been talking
about for some time.
If you have an Apple Watch you'll now be able to unlock your
iPhone when wearing a mask without inputting your password.
It also features App Tracking Transparency, a privacy feature
that will now ask your permission before an app starts tracking
you. See our full explainer here of the feature and my video
explaining why it's made Facebook so angry.
And maybe not Apple's biggest but its best? "Ted Lasso." Apple
said its show about a charming American coach bumbling his way
through English football will return on July 23. You do need an
actual Apple product to watch: a $4.99-a-month Apple TV+
subscription. It's included, of course, with your purchase of any
of these new iPads or Macs. (But you can still watch it on a Roku,
if you prefer.)
Speaking of services, I didn't even mention Apple's new podcast
subscription service, yet another way the company is finding to
enclose you in its walled garden. It may be happy to offer new ways
to keep from losing your stuff, but it sure doesn't want you to
find your way out of its ever-expanding ecosystem.
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Write to Joanna Stern at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 21, 2021 12:37 ET (16:37 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.