Updated Apr 20, 2021 - Technology

Apple announces AirTags, new iMacs and iPads

Apple's new colorful M1-powered iMac lineup

Photo: Apple

Apple on Tuesday launched a bevy of new hardware and software products, building on the strength of its homegrown M1 chip to retool its iMac and iPad lineups and also introducing the long-awaited AirTags item trackers.

Why it matters: Apple is getting a later-than-usual start this year on product launches, perhaps due to a mix of factors, including a global chip shortage.

Here's what Apple announced via the online-only press event:

New iMacs feature Apple's M1 processor as well as a complete redesign that slims the all-in-one desktop while offering it in seven colors. The 24-inch display fits in roughly the same size case as the prior 21-inch model due to thinner bezels.

  • Apple is also touting a new 1080p camera, noise-cancelling microphones and software improvements for better video calls.
  • The new iMacs feature an optional Touch ID capable keyboard, bringing fingerprint recognition to the iMac for the first time.
  • The new iMac starts at $1,299, and will ship in the second half of May, with pre-orders staring April 30. The base iMac comes in four colors, with all seven shades available on the $1,499 model, which includes more ports and the Touch ID-capable keyboard.
  • Our thought bubble: The M1-powered Mac laptops introduced last year have been widely praised, but this is the first time Apple has married the new processors with completely redesigned hardware and the iMac was due for a revamp.

The iPad Pro now includes the same M1 chip used in the latest Macs, optional 5G wireless technology and support for up to 2 terabytes of storage. The larger-screen model includes a a new kind of display, known as mini-LED, that offers significantly brighter images.

  • The smaller 11-inch model starts at $799, while the 12.9-inch model with the new display technology starts at $1,099. Both models will ship in the second half of May, with pre-orders starting April 30.
  • Our thought bubble: Apple continues to bring the iPad and Mac lines closer together under the hood, while keeping separate operating systems and reserving touchscreen capability for the iPad. Also look for the mini-LED display technology to expand further into the iPad and other product lines over the coming years.

Apple TV 4K also gets an upgrade, including a more powerful Apple processor and redesigned remote. It will come in two models, starting at $179 and will be available in May, though pre-orders start April 30. Plus, a new season of "Ted Lasso" is coming July 23 to the Apple TV+ subscription service.

  • Thought bubble: The updates to the hardware are fairly modest, but lots of pandemic-weary folks have been eager for some fresh "Ted Lasso."

AirTag is a $29 circular product tracker that uses Apple's Find My app to keep tabs on physical objects, like keys or backpacks. AirTags will be available starting April 30 and also sold in a 4-pack for $99.

  • Thought bubble: AirTags could be super useful, and Apple can more tightly integrate its object-finder than a third-party company like Tile. But that’s also why Tile and others are complaining to regulators that Apple is abusing its market power.
  • "We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition," Tile CEO C.J. Prober said in a statement. "Unfortunately, given Apple’s well documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we're skeptical."

Changes to the Apple Card allow anyone over 13 in a household to use the credit card and also make it possible for couples to build credit equally on a shared account.

  • Thought bubble: Hopefully this more equitable approach will be adopted more broadly in the credit card industry.

1 color thing: There's a new purple hue for iPhone 12, available April 30.

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