Hot Take: Apple Spring Loaded event
Apple’s Spring Loaded event brought forth a cornucopia of announcements. This is easily the most action-packed event we have had from Apple in the Spring and certainly beats last year’s announcements. There was a new iMac, two new iPad Pros, an updated Apple TV, AirTags, and even a new color for the iPhone 12. Oh, and there were also Apple Card Family and Apple Podcasts Subscriptions announcements.
We covered all of these announcements, but some of them deserve a closer look because there are a lot of questions that need answers. For example, does the new iMac look good or is it just colorful? Is there even any point to the mini-LED display on the iPad Pro? Is spending $99 on a four-pack of AirTags easier than being careful with your things? Does the $449 Hermès version find you when you lose it? Read on to find out.
After living in people’s minds rent-free for the last couple of years, the AirTag was finally announced during the event that will henceforth be known as the AirTag event. Finally, people can deliberately start losing things instead of just accidentally.
For what it’s worth, the AirTag is a simple, no-nonsense device that does one thing and one thing only: profit off clumsiness. All facts jokes aside, it’s a neat little device for which there clearly is a market, considering Apple wasn’t the first to the segment. If you want to keep track of your belongings in case you misplace them, and you use an iPhone, then the AirTag can come in handy.
Having said that — and not that it is advertised as such — but I doubt it will do much to deter theft. It’s a pretty obvious looking thing if just dangled outside of whatever it is attached to and any clever thief would be careful enough to detach it immediately before pilfering your belongings. So it should probably not be purchased to keep track of potentially stolen goods. Although you can always count on a dumb thief.
The pricing is pretty decent considering it’s made by Apple and even supports standard button cells that last over a year, making them more reliable in the long term than AirPods. But the cost of the Hermès edition seems like a crime against humanity. With a starting price of $299 and going all the way up to $449, I’d be more worried about losing the AirTag than whatever it is attached to.
Purple iPhone 12
I just have one thing to say about the purple iPhone 12. It’s violet. You don’t have to agree with me, but you’d also be wrong.
iPad Pro and Proer
Apple had two new iPads to show during the AirTag event, both updates to the previous 11-inch and 12.9-inch. The main new feature of the 11-inch model is that it now comes with the M1 chip. The M1, if you remember, was such a monumental leap forward in laptop hardware that Apple’s previous supplier Intel, having run out of actual hardware to compete with, launched a new CEO instead. And even that wasn’t enough.
The switch to M1 alone would have been a game-changer, especially since the iPad hardware was already industry-leading in many ways. But while Android tablets are still going through the several year-long phase of deciding whether or not they need to exist, Apple decided it wasn’t enough to just be light years ahead but be so far ahead that the mere thought of buying any other tablet would produce the heartiest of chuckles and a knee slap.
So now the 11-inch iPad also gets up to 16GB memory, up to 2TB storage, Thunderbolt 4 with support for an external 6K display, 5G, and a new 12MP ultra-wide front camera that follows your movement and watches you sleep. All of this on top of an already impressive design and spec-sheet.
Then there’s the 12.9-inch model, which decided it wasn’t content just being the bigger version but that it’s literally going to outshine its smaller sibling. The display now has mini-LED backlight with over 10,000 lights clustered in 2596 zones across the entire panel. For those who don’t know, mini-LED is currently the best way to get localized backlight on an LCD and while it’s not as pixel-precise as a self-emitting display technology like OLED, it can get much brighter because it’s made from non-organic materials. The iPad Pro display can reach 1600 nits peak brightness while displaying HDR content and 1000 nits full field.
Apple calls it Liquid Retina XDR, which of course it does even though it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s not important. What’s important is that this is likely the brightest and most well-calibrated HDR display you can get for under $1100. And this includes professional monitors.
However, beyond just bragging rights, the point of such a display on an iPad is somewhat lost on me. As much as Apple wants to will it into happening, most people aren’t producing and editing professional HDR videos on their iPad. And most other types of workflows, such as drawing and image editing don’t require an HDR display, let alone one this bright.
Moreover, HDR workflows and mastering is something that’s done under controlled light environments. This is why professional HDR monitors lock their brightness depending upon the chosen color space, including Apple’s own Pro Display XDR, because you are expected to use them in a dark room with ambient lighting of just a few nits above zero. An iPad is meant to be used on the go outdoors, which isn’t the best place to grade HDR videos.
Moreover, Apple still hasn’t given the iPad Final Cut Pro, which would at least give you an excuse to use the display the way it’s intended. But right now, the best use for it that I can see is to just absolutely sear your eyeballs out while watching the latest Netflix or Apple TV+ show in Dolby Vision.
Maybe I’m being cynical and perhaps there is a real-world use of this display that goes beyond just watching content. I’ve seen and heard of enough people who use their iPads as computers. But as has been the case for a while now, the iPad hardware department just seems several steps ahead of the software department and the device is still lacking several key apps that would make it a worthwhile replacement for a computer. But right now it still just comes across as a tablet with ambitions, not an actual replacement for a computer.
The last thing announced at the AirTag event was the new 2021 iMac. I’m just going to go ahead and say the thing everyone has been too shocked and dazzled by the colors to notice. This thing is ugly. It just is. You could disagree with me but it’s just going to be the purple thing all over again.
When I say it’s ugly, I don’t mean it’s ugly in a Windows desktop PC kind of way. Those things obviously have very little effort put into them so it makes sense they are ugly. The new iMac very obviously looks like designers at Apple spent months designing it. Which is why it’s so hilarious that it’s so ugly. They really thought they were on to something with this thing but they just weren’t.
The redesign is also weirdly degrading and infantilizing. The previous iMac was a classy workhorse of a machine. It had customizable hardware, lots of ports to connect a bunch of things, and looked like it was made to get stuff done. The new iMac looks like it was designed to sit on a receptionist’s desk or a hotel front office. A computer you buy for your kids who will be more impressed by the color than what the computer can actually do. It looks like what characters from other franchises look like when they get added to Fortnite.
I know that the iMac once came in various colors in the G3 era. But macOS also had the Aqua UI back then and there’s no way we would tolerate that today. Also, I’d argue the colors on the iMac today are more in line with Apple’s current products (iPad Air, iPhone 12) than any past product. And while I can get over the colors (there is a silver model after all), the front looks like they forgot to design it because they were so busy with how it would look from the back when you walk into the office and see the receptionist using it.
The only hope for those who loved the old iMac and especially the now-defunct iMac Pro is that this new model is just a replacement for the old 21.5-inch model, which means there may be a larger or even a Pro version in the making with possibly faster, newer generation Apple silicon. A black one perhaps? With a matching black front bezel? I’d be willing to excuse the iPad-on-a-stand design for that. Until then, this thing can go back to the Fisher-Price catalog, from where it came.