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iPad Pro update: Apple's tablet gets an M1 chip, 5G and Liquid Retina XDR display in 2021
Apple gives its high-end tablet a much-anticipated speed bump and screen overhaul.
by Katie Collins

Apple has finally announced the upgrade to its iPad Pro that we've all been waiting for, as part of its 2021 Spring Forward on Tuesday. The iPad Pro has been due for a processor refresh, as well as some more advanced camera and screen technology, and now Apple has delivered -- primarily with the addition of its homegrown M1 chip.

Last year, Apple's 2020 iPad Pro refresh saw little that excited us in the way of design improvements and new additions -- a small processor bump and a depth-sensing lidar sensor aside. That means we've had our hopes pinned on 2021 as the year the iPad Pro gets a more significant overhaul.

"iPad is a magical sheet of glass that can become anything you want it to be," said iPad product marketing manager Raja Bose while introducing the upgraded tablet during Apple's event.

The new iPad Pro will be available in two different sizes: 12.9 inches and 11 inches. The devices will come with up to 16GB of memory and up to 2TB of storage. The 12.9-inch model price begins at $1,099 (999, AU$1,649), with the 11-inch model starting at $799 (749, AU$1,199). Preorders will open on April 30, and Apple expects devices to start shipping in the second half of May.

Key among the 2021 upgrades is the addition of Apple's M1 chip, first announced last November and "by far the highest performance" processor the company has ever created. The addition of the eight-core chip to the iPad Pro could mean a huge speed boost and better battery performance, with Apple promising a 50% performance improvement over the previous version.

The existing iPad Pro with its A12Z processor offers a zippy experience as is. But more speed is always appreciated, and will hopefully mean the iPad becomes even more of a multitasking monster and can also offer true second monitor support. The M1 chip will also bring a boost in graphics performance, which is over 1,500 times better than the first-generation iPad, according to Apple.

The 2021 iPad Pro is also the first Apple tablet to offer 5G connectivity. With 5G rollouts speeding up around the globe, users who rely on high-speed connectivity on the go will likely appreciate the option to take advantage of the fastest data speeds available.

Another first for iPads (and tablets everywhere) is the introduction of a high-speed Thunderbolt port on the iPad Pro. Until now, Thunderbolt has only been available on Macs and Windows PCs. It uses the same connector as USB-C, but allows for expanded and higher-speed external storage, improved monitor connection and more advanced docks.

As part of the iPad Pro's screen overhaul, Apple is introducing a Liquid Retina XDR display to its top 12.9-inch tablet. With 5.59 million pixels, this technology is the same as the tech that can be seen on Apple's top-end XDR pro display. It offers brilliant brightness peaking at 1,600 nits, along with a wider-than-ever spectrum of color and extreme high contrast.

Perhaps in recognition of the fact that we're all spending a lot of time on Zoom calls these days, Apple has moved its forward-facing camera from a portrait position on the top of the iPad Pro down to the landscape position on the side. The TrueDepth, 12-megapixel, wide-angle camera should still enable you to unlock your device with Face ID no matter what rotation you're using it in. A new "center stage" feature means that if you're on a video call, the iPad will pan to keep you in the center of the camera's field of vision even if you're moving around the room. If other people join you in the room, it will also zoom out to ensure everyone appears on screen.

The new M1-powered iPad Pro will work with Apple's Magic Keyboard, which now comes in a new white color. From next week iOS 14.5 will be available for all iPads, including the new iPad Pro when it's available, which will offer expanded language support for Apple Pencil and support for the latest games controllers.

As was to be expected due to current circumstances, Apple's spring event on Tuesday was fully virtual. Though Apple hasn't been able to lean on its typical stage format due to the pandemic, it has been able to replicate much of the slick presentation through livestreaming videos instead.

We're also only weeks away now from the second all-virtual WWDC, Apple's annual developer conference, where we're sure to learn about software updates coming to the new iPad Pros, along with other iPad models, later this year. So for all that we got with the new iPad lineup, there's sure to be more to come soon.

Apple debuts colorful 24-inch iMac with M1, upgraded camera and audio
By Neil Hughes

Apple's all-in-one desktop became the latest Mac to make the transition to Apple Silicon on Tuesday, with a new iMac sporting the M1 chip and an array of color options.

The redesigned 24-inch iMac sports an updated and sleeker design that's much more compact than its predecessors, thanks to the smaller footprint of the M1 system-on-chip design. It features softer edges and a front panel that's created from a single sheet of glass. On the display side, the new iMac sports a 24-inch Retina display with True Tone support.

Apple has also given the new iMac a major upgrade across its audio and video channels, including a three-mic array, a 1080p FaceTime camera, and increased speaker power. It also supports Dolby Audio and Spatial Audio.

Boasting Apple Silicon in the form of the M1 chip, Apple says it's the fastest iMac to date. Apple says the iMac is up to 85% faster than the previous models across apps like Xcode, Lightroom, and iMovie. It also sports graphics that are up to 2 times faster than past models.

In a move that recalls the original iMac G3 released in 1998, the new iMacs come in a range of new color options, including green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver. On the rear, it has up to 4 USB-C ports, of which two are Thunderbolt 3, as well as a new magnetic power connector. The device also features an updated Magic Keyboard with Touch ID.

It starts at $1,299 and becomes available for preorder on April 30, 2021. The device will start shipping out to customers in the second half of May.

The iMac becomes the fourth Mac to transition to Apple Silicon, following the debut of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac mini last fall.

Apple's all-in-one desktop became the latest Mac to make the transition to Apple Silicon on Tuesday, with a new iMac sporting the M1 chip and an array of color options.

Now this is a product I have use for.  Not only can I attach it to my keys and my luggage, I can hide one in my cars in case they are ever stolen.  All those expensive subscription geo locator services just took it on the chin courtesy of Apple.

Apple's AirTag helps you keep track of your things for $29 each, $99 in a four-pack
By Andrew O'Hara

After a series of leaks and rumors spanning years, Apple's AirTag tracker system has arrived to help you keep track of all your gear from your iPhone. Integrating with Apple's "Find My" app, the accessories are priced at $29 apiece, or $99 for a four-pack.

The new circular trackers can be affixed to different devices and located using the updated Find My app included as part of iOS 14. The updated app is broken out into four tabs for "People," "Devices," "Items," and "Me."

Objects can be placed into "lost" mode where when another iPhone user comes in proximity it sends the device location back to the owner, similar to Tile's community feature. When in lost mode, anyone who finds them can tap them via NFC to learn more about the lost item.

When ordering, users are able to customize their AirTags with emojis to make them representative of what you are tracking with them.

The device trackers will utilize Apple's U1 chip, have an internal accelerometer, sport IP67 water and dust resistance, and have a built-in speaker for easier discovery. The back is laser-etched polished stainless steel while the top is plastic and can be personalized.

The battery is user-replaceable so they aren't discarded when the battery dies. The battery will also last over a year with regular use.

When trying to track down your item, a precision fiding feature in the Find My app gives you exact directions and distance to where your device is.

Setup mimics Apple's AirPods experience. Just bring AirTag near your iPhone and a card appears on screen to help you onboard the device and add to the Find My app.

To go with AirTag, Apple is introducing a line of accessories. Apple has its own Polyurethane Loop, Leather Loop, and Leather Key Ring.

Apple was rumored to launch the trackers for some time. Ming-Chi Kuo reiterated the rumor just prior to Apple's iPhone 11 event in 2019 though the trackers never surfaced. Code in builds of iOS 13 revealed the shapes and even the name of Apple's then-unannounced tracker and the final release of iOS 13.2 revealed a first look at the revamped Find My app.

As Apple finalized the tags for release, additional rumors and renders spread online including a slew of third-party covers and accessories to attach the tags to various things.

In April, Apple officially brought its third-party Find My network online after announcing it at the 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference. Supported third-party Find My devices including the new Belkin SoundForm earbuds, VanMoof's e-bikes, and the Chipolo ONE Spot tracker.

Really?  This retail store effort seems pathetic to me. ::)

Google's New York City store is part retail site, part 'exploratorium'
The search giant will open its first-ever retail store Thursday, as it tries to capture some of Apple's success in retail.
by Richard Nieva

Google this week is opening its first-ever retail store, a 5,000-square-foot hub in New York City, as the search giant pours more investment into its consumer device business.

The store, which opens Thursday in the city's Chelsea neighborhood, is located on the ground floor of the company's New York headquarters. It will sell Google hardware, from the company's Pixel phones to Nest speakers and displays, and showcase services including the Google Assistant and Stadia, the company's streaming video game platform. 

The location is part store, part "exploratorium," said Ivy Ross, Google's vice president of hardware design, who helped develop the look and feel of the site. The location has interactive elements, like an exhibit where customers can say a phrase and have it translated into 24 languages in real time using Google Translate. Another exhibit lets people go into a darkened room with neon lights to try out the Nightsight mode for low light on Pixel phones.

"We did this with the same design principles we use in designing our products," Ross said during a press briefing this week. "It has a sensorial, tactile feel to it."

The store is Google's attempt to capture some of the retail success that Apple has had with its stores across the planet. Some of Apple's locations, like its glass cube storefront on 5th Avenue in New York City, are considered tourist destinations that attract visitors from around the world.

Amazon has been experimenting with physical retail too. The e-commerce giant has Go stores in San Francisco and other cities that use cameras and sensors to charge people for items instead of using traditional checkout. The company also owns the Whole Foods grocery store chain.

Google said it's putting health restrictions in place for the time being, as the US tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. A limited number of people will be allowed at the store at a time, employees will wear masks and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the location, said Jason Rosenthal, Google's vice president of direct channels and membership. 

Rosenthal declined to comment on the possibility of Google building more stores in the future.

The Chelsea store, designed by New York City-based architect Suchi Reddy, isn't Google's first effort at retail. The company has set up pop-up stores since 2016, when Google first released its Pixel phone and made a more serious push into consumer hardware.

But the company's retail aspirations go back even further. In 2013, Google built a fleet of barges that were intended to serve as floating showrooms for its Google Glass eyewear and other consumer devices. The project, which touched off a frenzy of speculation after CNET discovered Google's connection to a barge floating in the San Francisco Bay, was meant to be a tony, invite-only experience for VIPs. The initiative was eventually scrapped before the showrooms could open.


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