Talk about ‘Spring Loaded’: Apple event sets my head spinning

By

We finally got our first legit look at an AirTag.
We finally got our first legit look at an AirTag, but that was just the beginning!
Photo: Apple

Wow, that was the speediest, most jam-packed Apple event in recent memory.

It was so quick-moving, we all got whiplash. There was barely time to catch your breath between announcements: Here’s a new purple iPhone. Fuggedaboutit, here’s a new Apple TV, and new AirTags. Oh, and hers’s new iMacs — and iPads!!

In an hour, Tim Cook and Co. managed to introduce a raft of products with dozens of new features and technologies while dazzling us with some pretty jaw-dropping promo videos.

Once again, the prerecorded format worked well. The promo videos in Tuesday’s “Spring Loaded” event looked super. They hit us with a great mix of head-spinning effects and angles, humor and product placement.

Here are some thoughts and initial reactions to some of the major announcements:

The color purple

The iPhone 12 and 12 mini now come in purple
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini now come in purple.
Photo: Apple

It’s so rare that Apple introduces new colors or finishes mid-cycle, I can’t remember the last time it happened. The new purple iPhones look great. It’s a nice hue. But who’s it for? The Barney crowd? And I thought the iPhone mini was dead? I guess not. Maybe this is an attempt to revive it?

Apple hasn’t ruined podcasts (yet)

Apple's new Podcasts app looks great, and podcasters can now charge subscriptions
The new Podcasts app looks great, and podcasters can now charge subscriptions.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s new podcast service is going to take 30% of subscriptions for the first year and 15% thereafter. On top of that, there’s a $20 annual fee to publish shows and track performance. If that seems like some pretty sweet rent-seeking from us poor, cash-strapped podcasters, well, it is. The new Podcasts app looks nice, though.

Still, it could be worse. The best thing Apple did for podcasts was leave it the hell alone. Blogging was ruined by intrusive ad-tracking and analytics. Podcasting is thriving without surveillance ad tech. At least Apple isn’t adding any of that.

Apple TV

The new Siri Remote comes with exciting new input options, like a jog wheel.
The new Siri Remote comes with exciting new input options, like a jog wheel.
Photo: Apple

Thank goodness for the new Apple TV remote. The faster A12 Bionic chip in the sixth-gen Apple TV 4K is nice, but it’s the redesigned Siri Remote everyone is thirsting for. Luckily, Apple will sell the new remote separately for $60, so current Apple TV owners can pick one up.

The color-matching technology coming in iOS 14.5 using your iPhone’s Face ID cameras is next-level. I remember when companies used to sell color-calibration devices for thousands of dollars. Now your iPhone does the same job for free.

Unfortunately, the season 2 Ted Lasso trailer bombed. None of the jokes landed.

AirTags

AirTags look well-designed and nicely thought-out -- especially the privacy protections
AirTags look well-designed and nicely thought-out — especially the privacy protections.
Photo: Apple

As usual, when Apple enters a new category, it thinks things out. We’ll see if the AirTags trackers work as well as Apple says. But at first blush, they look very well-designed and implemented, especially the privacy stuff.

On the hardware side, AirTags are packed with tech and look durable. For $29, you get an ultra wideband radio, NFC, accelerometer and Bluetooth, which seems pretty good. They are splash-, dust- and water-resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. The battery is a bog-standard CR2032, lasts up to a year (which is great), and is user-replaceable, thank goodness.

When a lost AirTag is detected by an Apple device — and there’s more than a billion in use, so it’s a very big network — you get a notification. You can then choose to share your contact info, or not, allowing the finder to contact you about your lost item.

Only you can see your own AirTags. No location data or location history is stored on the AirTag itself. Relay devices are anonymous, and all location data is encrypted at every step. Even Apple doesn’t know anything about the location or the devices that found it. Pretty solid.

But some of the accessories, oh my. The Hermes luggage tag retails for a mind-boggling $450!

iMacs

The new M1 iMacs come in a range of vivid colors.
The new M1 iMacs come in a range of vivid colors — but not space gray.
Photo: Apple

The new iMacs look likely to sell well. It’s a good idea to bring back colors, harking back to the original iMac range. I’ll bet the purple is this year’s hot hue. But where’s the space gray? Perhaps that color is being saved for the M1 iMac Pro?

And what about that huge, Jay Leno-esque chin? And the lack of an Apple logo on said chin? It looks like a good spot for Post-It notes, but the lack of a front-facing logo makes it look generic.

Amazingly, the entire iMac is contained in that bottom section. The computer is so thin, in fact, that the headphone jack can’t fit on the back. The jack’s too deep, so it went on the side. (The average headphone jack is 14mm, the new iMac is 11.5mm.) The iMac is half-as-thin as the original iPod!

The addition of Touch ID to the keyboard is long overdue, but to be honest, I’m waiting on the bigger iMac (27- or 30-inch screen). It should come with a mini-LED panel, Face ID built into the camera, and a crazy M1x chip.

iPad Pro

The new iPad Pro's 12MP ultra-wide camera allows a Center Stage feature that follows you around the room during video calls.
The new iPad Pro’s 12MP ultra-wide camera allows a Center Stage feature that follows you around the room during video calls.
Photo: Apple

I was most impressed by the ultrawide selfie camera that pans and zooms to keep you in-frame during video calls. It’s like Facebook’s Portal videoconferencing device without the spying.

The new iPad Pro is so ridiculously overpowered it’s like putting a Hemi engine in a tiny Fiat. Its specs are amazing, but my current iPad Pro is plenty fast enough. I’ll take it from the pros that this extra horsepower is indeed needed for pro apps. I certainly don’t need it to touch up a few photos.

But given that, the new iPad seems to be relatively well-priced. A maxed-out 12.9-inch iPad Pro with an M1 chip, 5G, 16GB RAM and 2TB storage costs $2,400, which compares well to a similarly specced MacBook.

To sum it all up:

Talk about ‘Spring Loaded’

Apple rolled up all that magic into a fast-paced, one-hour event. It was the perfect way to get my head spinning on 4/20.