underscored apple spring event - imac 2
CNN  — 

Apple announced a range of exciting new products during its Spring Loaded event, including a powerful new iPad Pro with an upgraded screen, a redesigned iMac powered by Apple Silicon, the AirTag item tracker and a new color option for the iPhone 12. On the services front, Apple is updating the Apple Card with new features and is launching a redesigned Podcasts experience that includes better curation and premium, ad-free shows.

Better yet, most of Apple’s new gadgets are available to purchase or pre-order now, with shipments launching by mid-May.

There’s a whole lot to dig into from Apple’s new lineup of gadgets, so let’s break it down product by product.

iPad Pro gets super-fast speeds and a big display upgrade

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The 2021 iPad Pro will feature the M1 chip, something that impressed us with the M1 MacBook Air. So there’s reason to believe that the 2021 iPad Pro is poised to deliver big improvements, even considering last year’s model was the fastest tablet we’ve ever tested.

It’s still an 8-Core CPU, which Apple says delivers a 50% boost over last year’s and a 75x increase over the original iPad. We suspect iPadOS 14.5 will run blazingly fast on this iPad Pro, and expect that to extend into graphics since the M1 sports an 8-Core GPU. That will likely mean faster content creation on the go.

The iPad Pro already sported a USB-C port, but now it’s a Thunderbolt port, bringing it in line with the ports found on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Thunderbolt provides faster data speeds and expanded support for accessories that you can plug in — everything from external storage to displays. We’d hedge that this makes it a better-suited computer replacement.

And like the iPhone 12 family in the fall, iPad Pro is getting support for low- and ultra-wide 5G bands. You’ll likely still need to be in an area that has the right network, so it remains to be seen if everyone will be able to take advantage of the 1,000 Mbps down or up speeds.

The iPad Pro’s display is getting a significant upgrade as well. Previously, it was a Liquid Retina display that used backlighting technology. Now the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will feature a Liquid Retina XDR display. For the tech nerds, it’s capable of 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness and a 1,000,000-to-1 contrast ratio —- that’s really, really bright and accurate. And the real advantage here is a much wider range of what the screen can likely produce in terms of colors, contrast points and whites.

Apple is achieving this through a Mini-LED display, similar to what Samsung is doing with its Neo QLED TVs. Apple packed more than 10,000 LEDs into the 12.9-inch display, a huge increase compared to the 72 in the 2020 model.

The 11-inch iPad Pro is sticking with a liquid-crystal display that should still look sharp. We really enjoyed the previous iteration of it on the 2020 iPad Pro. Both the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros will support Pro Motion, Apple’s term for a variable refresh rate. So when you’re taking notes with the Apple Pencil, the iPad Pro will refresh the screen faster to make it seem more life-like and equivalent to writing on paper. And when you’re doing more basic tasks like browsing the web, it can slow things down to save battery.

Housed inside the TrueDepth sensor (which powers Face ID) will be a new 12-megapixel ultrawide lens that aims to keep the person speaking in frame.

In the realm of accessories, the Magic Keyboard is getting a small update. You can now get it in black or white. The second-generation Apple Pencil will still magnetically attach to the iPad Pro and charge while it’s hanging out.

Apple’s 11-inch ($799) and 12.9-inch ($1,099) iPad Pros are up for pre-order now. You can expect these to start shipping in mid-May.

iMac is back, and it’s incredibly attractive

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The new iMac is absolutely stunning. Apple’s latest all-in-one computer is much thinner than its predecessor, with a super-slim design that looks more like a svelte monitor than a full-on PC. It also comes in a splash of seven attractive colors, including pink, orange, yellow, blue, purple, green and silver. Yes, colorful iMacs are finally a thing again.

That compact design houses a promising 24-inch 4.5K Retina display, which packs in more than 11 million pixels and 500 nits of brightness — two stats that should make photos, videos, games and spreadsheets look vibrant and crisp. It also features Apple’s TrueTone technology, which allows the display to automatically adjust its color temperature based on your surroundings to make sure things look as colorful and natural as possible in any environment.

This is the first iMac built from the ground up for Apple’s new M1 processor (which gave us blazing performance on the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air). This means that apps should open faster than ever, and multitasking between intensive creative tasks and hopping into Apple Arcade games should be incredibly smooth. Apple also says the new iMac stays whisper quiet under heavy workflows. The desktop features up to four USB 3.0 ports for connecting to your accessories, two of which are Thunderbolt ports that allow for lightning-fast transfer speeds.

The new iMac seems ideal for working from home, with a 1080p webcam – that’s the same resolution found on last year’s iMac, but the M1 processor allows for better image processing that should make you look even more present and true to life. It also packs what Apple calls a “studio quality” microphone array for taking calls as well as more powerful speakers over the previous generation, complete with Spatial Audio for getting fully immersed in Dolby Atmos-supported shows and movies.

Apple’s latest iMac can be configured with one of three new versions of the wireless Magic Keyboard. The latest Magic Keyboards will be the first to allow Touch ID on iMac, meaning you can do things like log in to the computer, authorize credit card payments and even switch user accounts with a simple tap of the finger. You’ll have a choice between a more compact model and a larger option that includes a full number pad. Apple’s wireless Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad will also be available in new variations that match the latest iMac colors.

The new 24-inch iMac starts at $1,299 with a choice of green, pink, blue and silver, and at $1,499 in the full range of colors, including green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue and silver. The latter model will get you a more powerful graphics processor as well as more USB 3.0 ports, a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and an Ethernet port.

You can pre-order the new iMac now, with orders expected to arrive in the second half of May. We can’t wait to put this powerful and sleek new desktop through our testing, so stay tuned for more.

iPhone 12 now comes in a sweet purple shade

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Apple announced a brand-new color option for our top pick for a smartphone, the iPhone 12: purple. Generally a new color isn’t the most exciting, but it’s a snazzy shade that matches the performance and features of the iPhone — including a clear and bright OLED display, a super-fast processor inside and a dependable set of cameras.

The shade extends across the iPhone 12 ($799) and iPhone 12 Mini ($699). Preorders for the purple iPhone 12 range begins on April 23, with shipments set to start arriving on April 30. New iPhone 12 cases are also available today, including a MagSafe Leather Case and Leather Sleeve in Deep Violet, a Silicone Case in Capri Blue, Pistachio, Cantaloupe and Amethyst and a leather wallet in Apple’s Arizona hue.

AirTag lets you find your lost stuff

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Apple finally took the wraps off of AirTag. You can attach the Tile-like Bluetooth tracker to items such as your keys or wallet so that you can track them down via your iPhone if they go missing. AirTag works with the Find My app to help you find your missing items, much like you already can for things such as your iPhone and AirPods.

Similar to Tile’s trackers, each AirTag is a small plastic gadget you can attach to pretty much any household object, allowing you to track it down via an app on your phone. Where AirTag stands out is with Precision Finding, which allows iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 owners to get highly specific directions (e.g., “walk 20 feet to your right”) when looking for their lost stuff.

AirTags don’t appear to have adhesives for attaching to items like Tile trackers do, but they’ll be compatible with accessories from Apple such as bag charms and luggage tags. We expect lots of third-party add-ons to pop up as well

You can personalize your AirTags upon purchase with a variety of different emojis and text. Apple also stressed that the AirTag was built with security in mind, and that they won’t be detectable or make noises when you don’t want them to.

AirTag is one of the cheapest Apple products yet at $29 for a single tracker, or $99 for a pack of four. The new trackers are available to buy right now; check out our full AirTag review to find out why we recommend them.

Apple TV 4K gets more power and a new remote

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The Apple TV 4K is getting a well-deserved update. It’s now powered by the faster A12 Bionic processor, but it’s paired with a redesigned Siri remote. Let’s break it down starting with the processor. It will make using the Apple TV 4K more instant and seamless, while also reducing the time it takes to start streaming content.

And for those who want the best picture possible on your TV, it supports high frame rates with either HDR or Dolby Vision (two leading content format standards). It will work in real time to upscale the content you’re watching and ensure that the frame rates don’t skip or drop. This is a boost over the previous Apple TV 4K, which just supported the standards and not the high frame rates.

Even cooler, you’ll be able to use your iPhone’s light sensor to color balance your TV. Just hold it up to the screen and it will analyze the color, contrast and brightness levels to ensure a balanced picture.

The remote gets a much-needed redesign. The all-new Siri remote, constructed from recycled aluminum, ditches a touch surface for a clickpad that’s touch enabled — basically combining physical controls and the ability to swipe when you need to — and Apple has shifted the Siri button to the side. And the new Siri remote will be able to control power and volume for the TV it’s connected to while still allowing you to control tvOS. The interface itself is remaining the same, meaning you’ll still have access to a ton of streaming services, games and general apps.

The all-new Apple TV 4K is up for pre-order now and will ship in May. It starts at $179.99 for the 32GB model and jumps to $199 for the 64GB model.

Apple Card gets new sharing options

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Some of Apple’s biggest services are getting upgrades, starting with the Apple Card. Apple’s credit card will now let spouses and partners share and merge credit lines to better build financial equity. And with the new Apple Card Family feature, anyone over the age of 13 in your Family Sharing group can use your Apple Card, complete with optional spending limits and parental controls.

This new feature, which is essentially a simplified way of adding an authorized user to a credit card, can help young adults with little or no experience using credit cards in building a credit history of their own. On the other hand, the ability to combine credit limits across two Apple Cards is unique, as most mainstream credit card issuers don’t allow cards to be merged. Being able to share credit limits offers couples greater flexibility in utilizing their financial resources, and merged Apple Cards will retain the lower APR of the two accounts.

However, when combining or sharing credit, it’s important that all Apple Card purchases be paid for on time, as delinquent marks will filter down to all users of the account. According to Apple, once a card is shared, all account activity — including positive or negative payment history — will be reported to credit bureaus for participants who opt in to credit reporting, as well as all Apple Card co-owners. Note that while any family member 13 years of age or older can be added to an Apple Card, only those 18 years or older can opt in to credit reporting.

A new Apple Podcast experience

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Apple’s Podcasts app is getting a major refresh as well, with a fresh interface that allows you to browse curated channels of podcasts, such as a collection of everything from The Washington Post or a roundup of true-crime shows. Apple is also launching Apple Podcast Subscriptions, which are premium memberships that allow you to enjoy perks such as ad-free listening and early access for a small monthly fee.

iOS 14.5 arrives next week

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Alongside a slew of new products, Apple also announced that iOS 14.5 will be arriving as a free software update next week. As a mid-cycle software update, it does bring some notable new features. Topping that list is a solution for unlocking your iPhone with Face ID while wearing a mask.

Similar to how an Apple Watch can unlock a paired Mac laptop or desktop, your iPhone will check to see if you’re wearing your Apple Watch, when it detects you’re wearing a mask. This gives confirmation that it is indeed you and unlocks the iPhone. In our testing, it takes under half-a-second and is pretty seamless. Keep in mind that the Apple Watch will need to be unlocked on your wrist to confirm it is you. It’s pretty handy and solves a common problem for iPhone owners. This functionality works with the Apple Watch Series 3, Series 4, Series 5, SE and Series 6 — and, in our opinion, makes the Apple Watch a more intriguing buy.

Additionally, iOS 14.5 pushes transparency and privacy further with new rules around how apps can track you. Apple is also rolling out a number of new emojis including an updated syringe, a head in the clouds and a heart on fire – the latter is perfect for when you’re covering an Apple event and a gorgeous new iMac is announced. There will no longer be a default voice for Siri and Apple’s introducing a few new options.

You can expect iOS 14.5 to roll out next week.