Several things stand out about Apple’s ‘Spring Loaded’ event today. But the first remains a meta point. Apple has gotten very, very good at producing these presentations. So much so that I think it’s fair to call them a “show” at this point. The Apple Show.
The first such show, created nearly a year ago for WWDC as the world was first grappling and coming to terms with the reality of COVID, was already good. I mean, it’s Apple. But I honestly thought Snap’s first attempt at such a show was better. More “native” as it were. More focused. Now, a few shows in, I think Apple has these nailed. Right down to the run time. Today’s event was almost exactly one hour. Again, it’s like a TV show.
And it’s especially impressive when you consider what Apple announced today. It was sort of all over the place. Apple Card stuff. Podcasts+. Purple iPhones. AirTags. Apple TV updates. Colorful iMacs. New iPads Pro. Aside from the continued migration to the M1 chip for the latter two, there was nothing really tying everything together today. And yet the event still flowed and felt nice and light and fun. Some of our favorite recurring characters were there, and some new faces. A solid sitcom.
I know I’m hardly alone in hoping that Apple sticks with this format for events going forward. But I also know that they certainly won’t for something like WWDC — well, after this year, HOPEFULLY — where convening the developer community is so important. And hands-on time has been paramount for things like the iPhone event in the past. But I’m not sure they can’t just do that as a separate event with the press and keep streaming these unveils. It’s great television!
A few other thoughts…
Apple Card Kids
You knew the event would be a bit all over the place product-wise when Tim Cook kicked off talking about Apple Card (after a bit on renewable energy, while walking outside). He called it the most successful credit card launch ever, which may very well be true, but I also have no idea how you measure that. Number of cards activated? Purchase volume? Something else? Making the card more accessible to spouses/partners is a smart/good move, as are the tools for kids.
This is something that’s going to be talked about a lot more after the fact than it was in this presentation. In noting that Apple basically launched the entire category 15 years ago, Cook said today’s update would be the largest since then. And while he may have meant design-wise, the design actually doesn’t seem all that different. The real difference is in the model and what it means for the medium as a whole.
With the launch of subscriptions, which sounds a lot like Apple “Podcasts+” though it’s interesting he explicitly did not call it that,¹ Apple is clearly joining Spotify and others in moving the system off the RSS rails on which it was built. This will freak some people out, and piss off others. But it was inevitable. In our creator economy world, we need better infrastructure for all of this. Details were light today, but we should expect to hear a lot more on this in the coming weeks.
Okay, when I said there was no unifying factor in today’s announcements, if there were to be one, it would undoubtedly be color. The ‘Spring Loaded’ logo, the intro, the iMacs, and Cook’s sign off at the Apple Park Rainbow. And… a purple iPhone!
Not gonna lie, it looks beautiful. It’s just a great shade. Personally, I probably would have intro’d it to Prince, but the “Candyman” song was fun. I wonder if this becomes a thing for Apple, to launch a new phone color in the spring. I believe they’ve done it with the (Product) Red phones in the past, but it could be a nice little mid-cycle refresh.
Of course, that also points to one thing not launched today, or at least not talked about in the event, new color iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands for Spring. Presumably they’ll just do that more quietly, but it would have played into the color motif!²
Apparently, Apple is approaching a billion devices which have opted into some level of “Find My” at this point. That’s wild. And exactly why Apple can do something like AirTags. It was a fun little “couch-diving” commercial to announce them. And the engraving is a nice touch. The U1 chip would seem to be the other real killer feature, as you can seemingly pinpoint the tags via a clever software layer.
And, of course, Apple played up the idea of privacy when launching um, tracking devices. But yes, they’re perhaps the one massive tech company that can do this at scale. And with 4-packs for $99, they should scale nicely.
Oh, and a Hermès version, naturally. I’m surprised we didn’t get a solid gold version. Like an old gold coin.
Apple TV 4K+
This one was underwhelming and it would seem that Cook knew that going in as he kicked off with the trailer for Ted Lasso season two. Play to the crowd. And the crowd ate it up. The crowd includes me. July can’t come soon enough.
As for the new Apple TV hardware itself. Again, sort of ho-hum. We get an A12 Bionic chip in the era of M1. We get HDR at a higher frame rate? Cool, I guess. The color balancing using the iPhone is legitimately cool — though there’s a reason such things are buried deep in settings. BORING. It’s still called the “Apple TV 4K” though I might suggest the “Apple TV 4K+” with the addition sign denoting a minor uptick in this case. They barely even mentioned gaming for like the 10th year running. And of course no mention of any sort of “FacePod”-like functionality (though the iPad Pro is moving in that direction — more on that in a bit).
Oh would you look at that? I’ve buried the lede. WE HAVE A NEW GODDAMN REMOTE. In the history of “finally” this may be the biggest FINALLY. The current version of the Apple TV remote isn’t just bad, it’s an abomination. It’s user-hostile. It’s one of those things they thought would look nice and sounded interesting conceptually but didn’t consider Steve Jobs’ most important element of design. How it works. In that, this remote for the most part doesn’t.
The new one? I mean, the fact that they added buttons galore says pretty much all you need to know. If you can’t beat ‘em, go back to the drawing board and find the designs of your old, original Apple TV remote and go with that, basically. I kid, I kid. This looks like a solid melding of old and new. An aluminum finish so you can distinguish the actual buttons you wish to press. A touch pad that’s actually a click wheel too — and, in a nod to the OG iPods, a jog wheel too! A power button! A MUTE BUTTON! Siri shoved to the side, quite literally. We are cooking with gas now.
Why on Earth there is a $179 32GB version and a $199 64GB version I have absolutely no idea. It almost seems like a mistake? I get having a cheaper version, but $20? For half the storage? If you want to do a fully streaming version, why not do a 16GB version for $99? Or better yet, a stick/dongle/remote smaller version? Weird.
Lickable Macs Are Back
Cook noted that not even halfway through the two-year transition to Apple Silicon, the M1 machines are already a majority of the Mac sales. This shouldn’t be too surprising, they’re that good. But it’s still impressive.
Then we cut underwater (?) to a secret layer that looks suspiciously like one of Batman’s R&D caves (good eyes, Aaron) where John Ternus, clearly a rising star in the Apple universe, talked about the first Mac “built from the ground-up around M1”.
And then we cut to a video filled with color. Glorious, beautiful colors. Lickable Apple is back. And these look like popsicles.
The full glass front has a neutral color accent and notably no Apple logo. It looks so good. And while it’s business in the front, it’s a party in the back with bright, bold colors to “bring joy to any space”. Does this mean we’re going to start to see MacBooks with such colors? It might be a way to make us forget the glowing Apple logos we all miss… But the side view here is the real killer angle and highlights the intention to “make the computer disappear”.
Speaking of, a dive inside the device reveals a device that is basically all screen and little else. It’s wild how tiny a computer can be these days, but we already know that thanks to the iPad and more specifically, the iPhone. The overall volume of the iMac is down over 50% apparently. I’m reminded of my old CRT monitor. That was 44 lbs. This is 11.5mm thin. Wow.
The display itself, now 24” — notably, only one size option — seems great. But it’s not 6K like the Pro Display, it’s 4.5K. Still, my current 8-year-old iMac isn’t even a “Retina” display at all. This will be a massive upgrade. As will be the front-facing camera now that it’s 1080p. It’s wild that the iPhone/iPad cameras are still so much better, but compared to how bad the cameras on these devices were previously, this should be a nice upgrade.
Talking through the M1 specs, I’m mildly surprised that it’s the same M1 in the laptops (and Mac mini) and not some new variation since energy efficiency and battery life are of no (or less) concern here. I suppose that speaks to how powerful these chips are, and the fact that Apple can throttle them up and down but doesn’t really want or need to talk about that. Presumably these machines will run faster than, say, my M1 MacBook Air? But we’ll have to wait to see!³
More ports? Nice. Two of which are Thunderbolt? Great. Color-coordinated cable? Awesome. And it leads to a brick which has a built-in Ethernet port? Clever!
Not one, not two, but three keyboard options. A simple one with a lock button. A less simple one with Touch ID (and a processor in the keyboard to make that happen). And a more robust one with Touch ID and a numeric keypad. And yes, all the colors of the wind.
Speaking of, it’s interesting that the $1,299 entry-level version of the iMac “only” comes in four color options (Green, Red, Blue, and Silver as best as I could tell). If you want all seven options, it will cost you an extra $200 (at least). And, just as with the M1 MacBooks, that upgrade will also get you access to one more GPU core, it seems. (And more ports.)
iPad Pro and iPad Pro for Pros
Next thing I know, I’m watching someone who looks like Andy Dick repelling down an air shaft Mission: Impossible-style in order to steal an M1 chip. Wait, that’s not Andy Dick, it’s Tim Apple! And he put the M1 into… the iPad!
That may have been the biggest, albeit subtle surprise of the show. Everyone was expecting the new iPad Pros to run a chip akin to the M1, but it’s running the actual M1. Again, there may be some tweaks to the chip that Apple doesn’t wish to talk about. But it’s interesting while at the same time very Apple to have so many of their machines running on the same chip. What does this mean for this year’s iPhone? Presumably it’s another A-series chip, but I would not have guessed the iPad to get an M-series. Maybe they really want to convey that the iPad Pro is not only Pro, but it’s “desktop/laptop class”? Not sure.
Again, the proof will be in the tests of these running versus the M1 MacBooks and now the iMacs. Apple claims these new iPads will be 50% faster CPU-wise than the last iteration — and, humorously, 75x faster than the first generation of the iPad.
You knew the event would be a bit all over the place product-wise when Tim Cook kicked off talking about Apple Card (after a bit on renewable energy, while walking outside). He called it the most successful credit card launch ever,
- harder to make a deal and convince someone you deserve a better price on a vehicle if you are draped in expensive clothing. While you want to appear neat an ct
- All moms and dads want by far the most advantageous education and learning for their kids, probably none further so than homeschooling mother and pa.