Are we high?!? 10 ways Apple blew our minds on 4/20

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Apple Spring Loaded event: 10 ways Apple blew our minds on 4/20.
Man, that was one powerful presentation.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

It’s 4/20 and Apple’s big iMac and iPad Pro launch event was a total trip. The new Mac desktop comes in a rainbow of colors, and the M1 processor in the latest tablet will blow you away. And there’s AirTag too, at long last.

Grab some snacks and get ready to find out what the new products mean for Apple users and for the company’s future.

1. Like, look at all those crazy colors, man

After years of austere aluminum designs — which we loved, by the way, even if they did get a little same-y — Apple is embracing bold colors in a big way. The new M1 iMac lineup comes in seven, count ’em seven, gorgeous hues. And the new purple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini? Totally did not see that coming.

In some ways, this playful new approach feels like a flashback. The original iMac stunned us with Bondi blue in 1998, and a fun array of fruity-looking colors followed. Those pivotal all-in-one computers cemented Apple’s place as a premium brand unafraid to let its freak flag fly.

We aren’t quite in Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian territory yet. But the fresh new look of the colorful new iMacs will light up of plenty of COVID-19 “offices” (i.e. living rooms and studies) very soon. And you can look forward to them greeting you at dentist and veterinarian offices around the world as society emerges from lockdown for real this summer. — Lewis Wallace

2. M1 iMacs look so skinny it’s like your eyes are playing tricks on you

The 2021 iMac is crazy thin.
Is that really how thin the 24-inch iMac is? For sure?
Photo: Apple

Apple design is not all fun and games in 2021, though. The new iMacs pack a punch, thanks to the Apple-built M1 processor inside. But that power-efficient chip also allowed Apple’s engineers to make the new iMac incredibly, unbelievably thin.

I gasped when I saw that provocatively slender profile for the first time. Flashy colors aside, the new iMac basically looks like an iPad on a stick. Am I hallucinating? — Lewis Wallace

3. Whoa, Apple is totally more serious about iPad Pro than we thought

The 2021 iPad Pro is a tremendous step forward. The mini-LED screen is nice, but what’s important for the future of Apple tablets is the M1 processor, 16GB of RAM and the Thunderbolt port. These carry enormous potential.

An iPad running macOS is unlikely — too many Apple execs have stomped on the idea. But an iPad running macOS applications as well as iPadOS ones just became a real possibility. Maybe this only happens when an external display is connected. The Thunderbolt port means iPad Pro can drive very high-resolution screens.

Here’s hoping history is about to repeat itself. When the 2018 iPad Pro launched, it came with a USB-C port that was nearly useless. The next iPadOS update brought the functionality. So iPad users should keep an eye on WWDC 2021 — it could bring some amazing improvements. — Ed Hardy

4. That iPad camera, like, keeps looking at me, man

With all the other cool features in the new iPad Pro, don’t overlook Center Stage. There’s now a 12MP wide-angle camera on the front of the tablet, and it’s smart enough to keep users centered in the frame during video calls. You can move around and the camera follows you … within limits, of course.

If another person joins the call, the camera zooms out to include them. All on its own. That’s just freaky. — Ed Hardy

5. Dude, the supply chain looks a little shaky

Not everything that shook us up during Tuesday’s “Spring Loaded” event was awesome. It’s quite odd that Apple announced so many astonishing products today that don’t go up for preorder until April 30. Even more troubling, the ship dates for new iMacs and iPad Pros are squishy. They won’t become available until the “second half of May,” according to Apple’s website.

The fact that Apple unveiled new products that won’t ship for nearly a month surely must mean the company continues to experience problems with its international supply chain. We already knew about a global shortage of chips that power our must-have machines. On Tuesday, we got another big indicator that Apple is not immune to the problem.

It’s not the first time Apple faced a supply-chain pinch. COVID-19 delayed the iPhone 12 last year, and plain old production problems delayed the iPhone X in 2017.

But if you’re the paranoid type, dwelling on it might be a real bummer. Best to just think about something else. — Lewis Wallace

6. AirTag will revolutionize item trackers, bro

The reaction of some people to AirTag varies from boredom to confusion. They say something like, “I don’t see the need for item tracker tags. Why is Apple making them?”

Here’s why.

Scratch the words “item tracker tags” out of that sentence and write in “MP3 players.” Or “smartphones.” Or “tablets.” Back in the day, people said those same words about all three of those products. Look at us now. Apple sees potential in product categories that aren’t selling well, makes an amazing version, and creates a whole new market.

Now its AirTag’s turn. — Ed Hardy

7. Your iPhone will totally be tweaking your Apple TV

The new Siri Remote looks cool, but Apple TV is also getting a totally surprising new feature thanks to iOS 14.5. The new set-top box will deliver high-frame-rate HDR with Dolby Vision video — and it will use your iPhone to adjust your TV set for optimal viewing!

“Through a new color balance feature, Apple TV works with iPhone and its advanced sensors to tailor its video output and deliver more accurate colors and contrast,” Apple said in a press release. Better yet, that feature isn’t just for the sixth-gen Apple TV. The software update adds the feature to the previous two Apple TV models, too. (You’ll need an iPhone with Face ID, though.) — Lewis Wallace

8. Apple finally admits Siri Remote needed rehab

The long-reviled Siri Remote finally gets a real makeover with the new Apple TV 4K. Previously, Apple addressed concerns about the reed-thin remote’s horrid user experience with the equivalent of the Dude’s “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just like uh, your opinion, man.”

While helpful, 2017’s incredibly minor upgrade didn’t really fix the Siri Remote’s very real problems. It was still too easy to lose and too hard to handle. The new version — which packs a click wheel and a spinning ring that lets you jog backward and forward through video — looks like it finally sets things straight. We’ll know for sure once we get one in our mitts, but for now it seems like a very sober decision. — Lewis Wallace

9. Send the kid for snacks with Apple Card Family

Almost lost in the hardware announcements is a nice feature for users of Apple’s credit card. Parents can soon give their teenagers limited access to the card. The kids can find out what it means to have a credit card, and a set purchase limit keeps them from going crazy online. As a bonus, the adults share the credit history.

Apple Card Family debuts in the United States in May. — Ed Hardy

10. Apple sets a really high bar for virtual events

The cinematic sequence that introduced the new iPad Pro looked lifted from a heist flick. The high-octane clip starts with a shaggy-haired thief sprinting around the top of the circular Apple Park building. He jumps over the edge, swinging on a rope and eventually lasering a big hole into one of the enormous building’s glass walls.

More Mission: Impossible-style stunts ensue as he makes his way deep into the heart of Apple’s HQ. Then, like the cat thief from The Pink Panther, he swipes the crown jewel of computing — Apple’s M1 chip.

Finally, he pulls off a rubber mask, revealing … oh, just watch it for yourself:

Once again, Apple flexed its marketing muscle by making a tech event supremely entertaining. Mind officially blown. — Lewis Wallace