Apple Event: My Thoughts (April 20, 2021)

Special Edition #3

This isn’t going to fit in Wednesday’s regular edition, so I figured, why not spin up the presses and print an extra.

If you have zero interest in Apple, you can skip this one entirely, because it’s just about what the company announced today.

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Pre-show

Going in, what I’m most looking for are new iMacs that are fully redesigned (the current design is old) and are built on Apple’s new ARM-based chips.

I’m curious what variations they’ll make to the M1 that we’ve seen in the low-end Macbooks, will they have any biometrics (FaceID or TouchID), will the screens be bigger (because of the much smaller bezels), what other improvements (I’d love some upgraded sound, like the Macbook Pros had a little while ago), etc.

Actual Event — My Thoughts

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to cover everything, you can get those details on any of the 10,000 sites that will live-blog and create summaries of everything that was announced. This is just my highlights/thoughts on what stands out to me.

Apple Podcasts

New App. Trying to improve discovery via channels. Makes sense since there are so many podcasts that discovery is the #1 issue for both listeners and creators trying to break through.

Paid subscriptions built-in!

Now I understand why they changed the wording from “subscribe” to “follow” a little while ago. This is possibly sherlocking Supercast to some extent… Though it can also make the concept a lot more popular and if they stay ahead of Apple by offering a lot more, it could actually boost their business.

This built-in subscription stuff is going to send shockwaves through the podcast ecosystem.

Paid subs were possible before, but human nature means that by lowering friction and building something in, you’ll get a lot more of it — a lot more! I bet it’ll be very non-linear.

Joe Rogan should’ve just waited a bit longer (look at the replies to this Tweet — it’s very lopsided)… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AirTags (finally, after years of rumors)

That unveiling video with the guy falling through his couch cushions was great.

Not sure I have any use for this… Maybe I need to put this on my kids? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Apple TV 4K Update

Upgrading the SoC to A12…

The color-balancer feature that uses an iPhone to help calibrate the colors on your TV is very clever. Since they know exactly how the iPhone is calibrated, they can use it as a yardstick. Neat.

Hopefully this leads to a lot of people calibrating their TV, or at least, turning off all the crap that manufacturers turn on by default (I have a whole rant in my notes about the soap opera effect (motion interpolation), I need to post that at some point).

Looks like they finally fixed the remote (or at least, it seems an improvement — let’s wait until people try it in the real-world), one of the worst things designed by Apple that was inexplicably kept around for years and years.

MAC TIME!

Yes! iMacs!

“Built from the ground up around the M1”

Very colorful. Looks like they finally got bored of various shades of gray.

Throwing shade at Intel… “Until now, we haven’t had the technology to move to our vision […] of making the computer disappear… Because the M1 is far more energy efficient…”

Whole computer is 11.5mm thick. It’s basically a big iPad Pro on a stand.

Small is now 24” instead of 21”, and big is now

Truetone: This adjusts the color temp of the screen based on room lighting. Basically it’s the principle that if you’re looking at a piece of paper outside in the sun or at night under a yellow-ish light, the white balance will be different. This matches your screen to that, so your screen’s white doesn’t look blue or out-of-place (our brains do their own white balancing, so consistency matters more than accuracy unless you’re editing photos/video and need accuracy).

Very cool, Truetone is great on phones (you don’t notice it until you turn it off, which is when you realize how much it improves things).

Camera improved to 1080p with much better signal processing via the M1, and microphone system improved with 3 microphones.

Speakers also improved (on my wishlist!) and uses computational audio to create spatial audio. Sounds like HomePod tech that has been repurposed.

CPU: New 24” iMac 85% faster than previous 21” model.

GPU: New 24” iMac 200% faster than previous 21” model.

M1 in 24” has 16 cores of Neural Engine.

(I’m starting to wonder if they’ll release the new 27”-equivalent iMac today, or if they’ll just do the small one and do the big one on some other day…)

It’s the same M1 as in the Air, base MBP and Mini: 8 cores for CPU, 7 or 8 for GPU, and 8gig of unified memory (looking at the specs page, it says you can configure it to 16 gigs — but feels like they clearly have to release another more powerful model with more expandability for pros). Of course, this type of unified memory doesn’t behave the same as the more traditional non-shared RAM, but still, some people will need more than 16.

TouchID built into the keyboard! Awesome. And since they’re now on their ARM architecture, they have the secure enclave from the mobile devices, so they can reuse all that security framework.

(I’m getting the feeling that maybe they’ll call the big one “iMac Pro” and that it’ll be a bunch more expensive, but be differentiated with a M1x, more RAM, maybe FaceID? etc. Let’s see..)

Damn, they moved on. No more iMacs today? — Looks like I’ll have to wait a while longer…

iPad Pro

(Ok, that mission impossible spoof was kinda funny)

iPad Pro is getting the M1 chip. In many ways, it’s kind of a marketing move, since the M1 is very close to the A14 in the first place. I guess this mostly means it gets the larger number of cores vs the iPhone chips, and the larger amount of RAM (Apple’s website says that if you get the 1TB or 2TB models, you get 16 gigs of RAM instead of 8).

Ah, adding thunderbolt port to iPad. Makes sense that the M1 SoC would have support for that while the A14 doesn’t.

Also adding 5G support to the iPad Pro. Makes sense. Theoretical 4gbps download speeds on millimeter wave in the US. Crazy stuff.

The larger iPad Pro is getting a mini-LED screen that has a million-to-one contrast ratio and brightness similar to the $6k XDR display that they sell.

Insane.

Especially at 6.4mm thick and on battery.

Final Thoughts

I’m sad that there wasn’t a bigger iMac update, but the small one gives us a taste for what is likely to come, and it seems pretty good, especially if they just push everything further.

They are clearly segmenting the lineup more than it was in the past, so I actually expect for the big one to have some real firework. We’ll see… Maybe it’ll be released at WWDC this summer if it’s more pro-oriented (WWDC is Apple’s developer conference).

The video of the event is archived here.

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