Apple announced beefed-up iPad Pros and Apple TV 4K streaming devices, a colorful new iMac family, a revamped podcast offering, a second season of Golden Globe winner Ted Lasso, and the long-delayed AirTag tracking devices, among other news in a pre-recorded, kitchen-sink-style online event today.
The new Apple TVs, iMacs and iPads will leverage the company’s powerful home-brewed CPUs, which include M1 chips that first appeared in low-end versions of its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro last November to excellent reviews.
The iMacs will come in seven candy-coated colors (with matching keyboards, mice and track pads), an homage to the original, far more bulbous iMacs of a quarter century ago that helped undergird the company’s return from near death in the 1990s.
The new iMacs in profile are vanishingly slender, resembling nothing so much as very large, very thin iPads on an even thinner aluminum base.
But face on, the lower-end offering will feature much bigger 24-inch screens, compared to older models’ 21.5-inch size.
They will include up to four USB-C connectors, including two with high-speed Thunderbolt functionality, and the ability to drive an external 6K-resolution screen such as the company’s pricey Pro XDR monitors.
In a bow to pandemic-driven #WFH realities, the iMacs will feature much better cameras, microphones and speakers, including 1080P-resolution streams that use computational photography technologies used heavily in iPhones to improve streaming video on the fly. The 12-megapixel cameras will capture 122 degrees of view.
In similar fashion, the new iPad Pros have been goosed up with much better cameras, including an ultrawide front-facing lens that will be a boon to video journalists and vloggers.
Paired with a new CenterScreen technology that pans and refocuses as a subject moves or other people join the conversation, it could be a boon for one-man-band video operators on the go.
The devices also get LiDAR scanners that will improve camera focusing in low light, and help power more accurate augmented-reality experiences.
The iPad Pros also will offer 5G capability, including in the United States so-called millimeter-wave 5G. That’s in line with the latest generation of iPhones, and Thunderbolt connectivity to super fast storage or even those high-end external monitors.
The next generation of the Apple TV 4K, meanwhile, will get a different kind of Apple Silicon, the A12 Bionic, which will provide what Apple execs called “a massive upgrade to your TV.”
Most notably, it will add the ability to play back not only High Dynamic Range (HDR) video at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second, it’ll also add High Frame Rate playback, to further smooth video especially in sports and other action video.
The company said it is working with “leading providers” around the globe to encourage them to stream in HDR and HFR.
More beneficially for many Apple TV users who’ve ground down their teeth in frustration, the new model will come with a revamped and more capable remote control that also can turn off the TV screen and other devices. It will retain a touchpad and Siri voice control, but adds new buttons that are similar to Apple TV remotes of a couple of generations back.
The new design enables a jog-wheel gesture to make it easier to scrub back and forth across a video onscreen.
Most of the new hardware will be available for order on April 30, with deliveries in mid-May.
A revamped Apple Podcasts app will give creators more ways to make money, with subscriptions to individual streams, additional content, ad-free listening, early access and other tactics that have become standard-issue moneymakers elsewhere in the burgeoning sector.
But the monetization options mark the first notable addition to Apple’s podcasting efforts since it created the genre (and gave it a name) 15 years ago.
It comes amid intense interest across the tech giants in audio of all kinds: Amazon bought podcast powerhouse Wondery, and year-old social-audio startup Clubhouse recently raised $100 million on a $1.4 billion valuation, while spawning a herd of copycats.
The biggest of those copycats, Facebook, on Monday announced a slew of planned audio-focused services, including podcast discovery, Clubhouse-style audio rooms, and an audio shorts function.
Spotify, Apple’s biggest streaming-music competitor, has bought a string of podcasting companies in recent years and splashed out $100 million in an exclusive deal with top podcaster Joe Rogan.
The moves were seen as efforts by Spotify to gain exclusive access to a swathe of popular audio content, rather than just paying out licensing fees to music companies for access to the same 70 million or so tracks available on all the major services.
Other announcements included:
> A second season of Apple TV Plus hit Ted Lasso, the biggest hit so far for the SVOD service. Star and co-creator Jason Sudeikis won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for his fish-out-of-water portrayal of a homespun American football coach hired to run an underachieving English soccer (or their version of football) team. The second-season renewal wasn’t a surprise, but the air date is, July 23. Apple also ran a lengthy trailer for Season 2 at today’s event.
> The long-awaited AirTags, which can be attached to devices such as luggage and keys and tracked down using the Apple Find My app in recent iPhones and other devices with Apple’s U1 chip. Third-party companies are creating add-ons, including Hermes, which already sells a special-edition Apple Watch and wristbands.
David Bloom of Words & Deeds Media is a Santa Monica, Calif.-based writer, podcaster, and consultant focused on the transformative collision of technology, media and entertainment. Bloom is a senior contributor to numerous publications, and producer/host of the Bloom in Tech podcast. He has taught digital media at USC School of Cinematic Arts, and guest lectures regularly at numerous other universities. Bloom formerly worked for Variety, Deadline (opens in new tab), Red Herring, and the Los Angeles Daily News, among other publications; was VP of corporate communications at MGM; and was associate dean and chief communications officer at the USC Marshall School of Business. Bloom graduated with honors from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
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