Not since Apple’s late-1990s cotton-candy computer world vision have I seen such a joyous color explosion from Cupertino. The new slim, tall, 24-inch iMacs (starting at $1,299) should be imposing, but thanks to the Apple silicon M1 heart and a stunning array of colors that run from white to green with pink in between, they’re a cheerful bunch of macOS Big Sur–running confections.
According to my informal Twitter poll, these radically redesigned iMacs were an Apple Spring Event highlight, falling right behind the M1-running iPad Pro.
For those who missed Tuesday’s event, I counted a total of four major new products:
- New Apple TV Siri Remote
- M1 iMacs
- M1 iPad Pros
There were a few notable odds and ends, like the new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID that’s designed to live with the new iMac. An updated Apple TV with the A12 Bionic. (No idea why it didn’t get the A14 Bionic.) The iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard, which makes the iPad appear to float, now comes in white. There’s also a new Clips app with lidar support that might be of interest to TikTokers. Apple Card got some family and credit-management features, and there’s a new Podcast app with a new premium subscription option. Finally, there’s the new purple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini. Prince fans must be beside themselves.
If you step back for a moment, though, the inarguable star of this event is still Apple’s custom silicon, the M1 chip. Sure, Apple didn’t bother to update it—at least there was no indication of any clock nudging in the online presentation—but the new iMac would not be possible without it.
Even at 24 inches, the iMac’s striking design is remarkable and tablet-like, especially when viewed from the side—it’s just 11.3 millimeters thick. That perspective does fade when the iMac is viewed head-on, revealing a sizable chin for the computer’s Dolby Atmos–supporting six speakers. (There are three mics.) Some people on Twitter complained about the overall bezel around the 4.5K Retina display, but to be fair, it’s roughly the same as what you’ll find on the iPad Pro.
Generally, the new system looks gorgeous, and though it’s hard to know what it will feel like to use, I do think Apple took advantage of the M1’s low power consumption—and relatively lower heat—and avoided obvious mistakes like sticking with classic iMac power supplies. I have no explanation for why Apple avoided calling a power supply that connects with magnets “MagSafe,” but it is essentially the same thing.
I’m also glad Apple thought to put a decent 1080p FaceTime camera on the system. Microsoft, which delivers 1080p cameras with every Surface Pro, has long bested Apple in this area.
Such a thin, tablet-looking device screams for a touchscreen, but Apple won’t do it, especially not as long as Steve Jobs’ memory survives. (He famously argued against touchscreen Macs.)
Now, though, we have an iPad Pro 12.9 (starting at $1,099) with the M1 chip (the 11-inch, $799, also has it), as well as 5G and Apple’s first micro-LED screen effort. Apple said it stuffed more than 10,000 mini-LEDs into the XDR display. This is a pro-level display on a touchscreen device that’s likely going to make MacBook Pro and even M1 iMac users jealous.
Apple didn’t touch the iPad Pro body—no new colors, either—but it did update the front-facing camera to a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera. It also has a feature called Center Stage, which slides the virtual frame around the full-sized image to keep you in the FaceTime picture, similar to what Facebook’s Portal devices do.
I’ll be curious to see how photo, video, and animation pros choose between the new iMac and the iPad Pro 12.9 (with, I’m sure, a Magic Keyboard).
Apple’s other two major announcements, AirTags and the Apple TV Remote, might seem minor, and they would be except for some extenuating circumstances.
In the case of AirTags, it’s the verification of the years-old rumor that Apple was working on tracking technology. AirTags turn out to be exactly what we thought they were: little disks that slip neatly into leather holders that you can attach to most anything. (Apple would prefer you don’t attach them to people, please.)
Unlike the industry-standard Tile trackers, which use Bluetooth, Apple’s AirTags rely on Ultra-Wideband (UWB), that U1 chip the company introduced with the iPhone 11, and the ever-evolving “Find My” platform. If you’ve used AirPlay and noticed how the phone shows you both who is up for contact and where they’re standing, then you understand the kind of precision AirTags bring to the “find my stuff” game. I’m also relatively pleased with the bundle price—four for $99—but do think Apple should’ve started with one for $19.99.
Apple’s new Siri Remote, which also ships with the updated Apple TV, is notable because of the unadulterated disaster that is the current Apple TV Remote.
The new Siri Remote isn’t beautiful and would probably make former Apple design director Jony Ive wince, but it looks like the picture of utility. The glass trackpad is gone, replaced by an iPod-esque scroll wheel. (I don’t think it physically scrolls.) It looks thicker, longer, and laid out in such a way that you could never get confused about which end is which, even in the dark. Plus — thank the gods — it’s available separately for $59.
Also notable is what Apple didn’t mention during its first event of 2021. Aside from the native privacy features of the new AirTag, Tim Cook said nothing about data privacy, App Tracking Transparency, or iOS 14.5. As I write this, that update has yet to arrive.
My guess is that iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, plus the latest tvOS update, are tied in part to these new products and may not arrive until later this month. (Most of the products go on sale April 30. Others go on sale in May.)
That exclusion doesn’t minimize what Apple did here—deliver a bunch of powerful, useful, and very colorful updates. Apple fans have a lot of vibrant choices on their hands.