It was a bumper hour-long Apple launch event on April, with the Cupertino company’s Apple Spring Loaded event introducing loads of new products and features to its existing slate of software and applications.
From slick new M1 iMacs to a revamped Apple TV 4K box, it ran the gauntlet from entertainment to work and business, with a showcase that seemed keen to acknowledge the shift many of its customers have made to a new work-from-home routines.
But alongside the big computing and iPad Pro 2021 launches, there were some smaller, but still significant announcements made by CEO Tim Cook and his team of developers, engineers and marketeers.
Here are seven things you may have missed among the bombardment of announcements – and one secret reveal that Apple kept outside of its event altogether...
1. Apple Podcasts app gets redesigned and adds subscription options
Apple was the first major tech company to popularize the podcasting format with its iTunes player, and, seeing increased competition from the likes of Spotify and Amazon’s audible, it’s looking to secure its place in the market for years to come. It’s putting out a new-and-improved Apple Podcasts app, that will include some cool new features.
A fully redesigned app will give greater emphasis to personalized recommendations, and colorful landing pages for the podcasts themselves. New channel sections will be introduced to collate similar podcasting content across genres and creators. It’s a great opportunity for podcast creators, too.
There’s a new Apple Podcasts Subscriptions option that creators can tap into, letting them set annual and monthly pricing for their shows and offer up additional premium content for their most loyal listeners, including ad-free listening. It’s an option rolling out to 170 regions as of next month, with Apple of course taking a sizeable cut of the profits (seemingly 30% in the first year of a podcast's lifespan, and 15% thereafter).
2. New Apple TV 4K will auto-calibrate your screen
Apple wants to take the guesswork out of whether or not your TV is calibrated properly for the best possible image quality. The new Apple TV 4K doesn’t just feature the speedy A12 Bionic mobile chipset, and doesn’t only come with a redesigned remote with easy Siri voice recognition access and playback scroll wheel controls. No, it’ll auto calibrate your Apple TV box’s output to ensure your screen is looking its best.
This is an interesting approach from Apple – rather than asking the user to tweak the image using the television’s menu options, it instead tailors the output from the Apple TV box itself, based on a reading that’s given from your iPhone’s camera in an accompanying calibration app. It means the Apple TV can do the hard work of tweaking the image quality, without you messing with settings that might ruin the image for other sources connected to the TV.
It’s the benefit of Apple’s interconnected ecosystem at work – Apple knows how its iPhone cameras perform, so can be sure of the quality of the reading and information it can send back to the TV box. Very smart.
3. You can now get a purple iPhone 12
The rather lovely iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini is getting an all-new color option, for fans of Prince and MacDonald’s Grimace mascot. Pre-order this Friday, and it’ll be available in store from April 30.
Launched with The Simpsons “Mmm… purple" reference, this is as brave as it gets.
4. AirTag might have just killed off Tile trackers off
The long-rumored AirTag Bluetooth trackers were finally revealed – coin-sized devices that you can attach to any item you like in order to help find them if they become lost.
Using the same “Find My” network as the Find My iPhone app, the speaker-equipped tags use Bluetooth LE and Apple’s U1 chip to pinpoint where a lost item is, and offer up directions on where to find them on your iPhone screen. Promising that they “track items, not people”, Apple has made sure that privacy concerns are covered with the AirTags, and lets users customize the small trackers with things like emoji engravings and a selection of luggage and strap accessories. Accessories for the accessories. Yep.
Costing $29 dollars each, you can get a pack of four for $99 when order start this Friday, before becoming generally available on April 30. It’ll come as worrying news for rival Tile and its trackers, which has pioneered the concept with its own similar devices for the past eight years.
5. The iPad Pro has a new rear camera trick
While the introduction of the M1 chip to the iPad Pro range will get most of the attention, the rear cameras have also been upgraded too. The dual-lens array now includes a 12MP ultrawide camera to take in more of a scene, and that's enabled a feature Apple is calling Center Stage.
With Center Stage enabled, the iPad Pro keeps subjects in shot during a video call. If you move to the other side of your desk or stand up, the camera will try and follow you. Even better, it works with multiple people – if someone else comes into the frame, the camera extends the scope of the shot so that everyone can be seen.
Obviously it can't work magic – the iPad won't move to follow you if you walk out of the door – but it should make framing on video calls a little bit more automatic and intelligent.
6. iMac is colorful again – with a Touch ID keyboard option
Apple’s launched a brand new range of iMac computers, and they’re back to that wonderfully-colorful styling that the first wave of Jony Ive iMacs offered, back in those plastic bubble days. Running on the Apple M1 chip (which is now also in the iPad Pro), seven shades will be available, starting at $1,299.
A new range of Apple keyboards, Magic Mice and Magic Trackpads will be available, in colors to match the new iMacs. But the keyboards will finally come in a configuration that offers Touch ID fingerprint security, keeping prying eyes away from your personal files. Unfortunately, the Magic Mouse still has to be charged from that ill-placed underside port.
7. Apple commits again to carbon neutrality
Finally, the first announcement Apple made tonight. From the supply chain to the use of its products, CEO Tim Cook stated that Apple is committing to becoming net-zero in its carbon output by 2030, right across its business. Removing 1 million tonnes of carbon every year from its operations, it’s interesting to see Apple prepared to offset the energy costs of the use of its products, too.
One more thing: iOS 14.5 is coming next week
Cheeky sneaky Apple decided not to put this into the actual pre-recorded announcement event itself, but made a side announcement stating that iOS 14.5 will be rolling out to iPhone users next week.
Its new features include the option to change how Siri sounds, improved privacy features, the ability to unlock a Face ID iPhone with an Apple Watch, and connect the new PS5 DualSense and Xbox Series X gamepads to devices, too.