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Apple Discontinues macOS Server—Start Your Migration Plans

In a move that should surprise no one, Apple has discontinued macOS Server, which started out as a server-focused version of Mac OS X and eventually morphed into a set of add-on network servers for macOS. Exactly what was in macOS Server varied over time, but in 2018, Apple trimmed it to just Profile Manager, Open Directory, and Xsan. That was made possible in part because Apple integrated Caching Server, File Sharing Server, and Time Machine Server into every installation of macOS 10.13 High Sierra and later. If you’re still using macOS Server, you can continue to download (look through your purchases) and use the app with macOS 12 Monterey, but it’s time to start planning your migration since Apple says macOS Server won’t work at all in the next version of macOS. Contact us if you need advice on the best way to proceed.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Daniel Megias)

Apple Wows with Mac Studio and Studio Display, Updates iPhone SE and iPad Air

At its March 8th Peek Performance event, Apple freshened its iPhone and iPad product lines with a new third-generation iPhone SE and fifth-generation iPad Air, along with new green hues for the iPhone 13 line. Then Apple focused on the big announcements of the day: the entirely new Mac Studio, powered by the insanely fast M1 Ultra chip and accompanied by the stunning 27-inch Studio Display.

Mac Studio with M1 Ultra and Studio Display Redefine the Mac Lineup

In 2020, Apple started to transition Macs away from Intel processors to Apple silicon, beginning with the M1 system-on-a-chip and a year later adding the even more powerful M1 Pro and M1 Max to the family. The performance of those chips, particularly when measured against their low power requirements, was stellar. Apple has now unveiled the M1 Ultra, which bonds two M1 Max chips together for double the performance.

To hold the M1 Ultra—or a less expensive M1 Max—Apple introduced an entirely new Mac that looks like an inflated Mac mini. The Mac Studio has the same 7.7-inch (19.7 cm) square outline, but is more than twice as tall, clocking in at 3.7 inches (9.5 cm) high. Much of that vertical space is occupied by cooling fans, but Apple says the Mac Studio makes minimal noise.

The Mac Studio also expands the Mac mini’s price, with the M1 Max model starting at $1999 and the M1 Ultra model at $3999. You can kit a Mac Studio out with an impressive set of options:

  • Chip: For $1999, the M1 Max model offers 10 CPU cores, either 24 or 32 (add $200) GPU cores, and 16 Neural Engine cores. The $3999 M1 Ultra model doubles those numbers with 20 CPU cores, 48 or 64 ($1000) GPU cores, and 32 Neural Engine cores.
  • Memory: With the M1 Max, you can choose between 32 GB or 64 GB ($400) of unified memory. With an M1 Ultra, you can opt for either 64 GB or 128 GB ($800) of unified memory.
  • Storage: Internal SSD storage starts at 512 GB, with options of 1 TB ($200), 2 TB ($600), 4 TB ($1200), and 8 TB ($2400).

Because of Apple’s focus on creative professionals, the Mac Studio offers a solid set of ports. On the back, it has four Thunderbolt 4 ports, a 10-gigabit Ethernet port, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 is built in, as is Bluetooth 5.0. For ease of access, Apple finally put ports on the front, too. The M1 Max model features two USB-C ports, whereas the M1 Ultra model offers two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Both provide an SDXC card slot.

To address the Mac Studio’s lack of a screen, Apple introduced the $1599 Studio Display. It’s a 27-inch 5K Retina display with a native resolution of 5120-by-2800, P3 wide color, and True Tone technology. Nano-texture glass is a $300 option if you need less reflectivity. There are three stand options: a 30º tilt default, a VESA mount adapter, or a tilt- and height-adjustable stand for $400 more. Note that you can’t swap one for another later. The Studio Display offers one Thunderbolt 3 port to connect to a Mac—complete with 96-watt charging—and three USB-C ports for connecting peripherals.

What sets the Studio Display apart from other monitors is that it uses an A13 Bionic chip—the same brains in the iPhone 11—to power a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide camera with Center Stage (Apple’s technology for smoothly keeping you in the frame as you move around on a video call), a three-mic array with directional beamforming, and a high-fidelity six-speaker system. In short, this is the ultimate Mac videoconferencing setup. It even supports spatial audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos, and you can use “Hey Siri” with it.

There’s one other fact you need to know before we put all this together: Apple said that the only remaining Mac to transition to Apple silicon is the Mac Pro, which means that it’s dropping the popular 27-inch iMac from the lineup. We’re sad since that iMac was a terrifically good deal, but if you’ve been waiting for an Apple silicon 27-inch iMac, the Studio Display suggests four alternative directions, depending on your needs. Remember that even the entry-level M1 chip outperforms the most recent Intel-based 27-inch iMac.

  • Minimize desktop cost: If keeping costs down while sticking with Apple-designed desktop gear is important to you, couple a Mac mini with the Studio Display.
  • Maximize desktop performance: Need the maximum performance on your desk? A Mac Studio driving one or more Studio Displays is the ultimate professional setup today.
  • Minimize portability cost: Those who need portability and desktop screen real estate can get both without breaking the bank by combining a MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Studio Display.
  • Maximize portability performance: For top-notch portability, performance, and productivity, a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro is unbeatable when matched with one or even two Studio Displays.

Finally, don’t discount the 24-inch iMac. Although its screen is smaller than the 27-inch iMac’s, its Retina screen resolution isn’t far off, and it’s notably less expensive. If you mostly like the all-in-one nature of the 27-inch iMac and don’t need the performance of the Mac Studio or MacBook Pro, you won’t go wrong with a 24-inch iMac.

Both the Mac Studio and Studio Display are available to order now, with shipments starting on March 18th, although demand is already pushing some ship dates into April. Note that the Mac Studio doesn’t include any input devices, but Apple also introduced a new silver-and-black Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Numeric Keypad ($199), Magic Mouse ($99), and Magic Trackpad ($149) designed to complement the Studio Display.

Third-generation iPhone SE Gains A15 Bionic and Better Camera

Not everyone wants—or at least wants to pay for—the latest and greatest. For those looking for a small iPhone at a reasonable price, the new third-generation iPhone SE is still a bargain. Prices start at $429 thanks to its 4.7-inch screen in an iPhone 8 design and Touch ID-enabled Home button. That’s $30 more than the previous generation, but you get the same A15 Bionic chip that’s in the iPhone 13 line and Apple’s promise that iOS will support it for years to come. The new iPhone SE also gains 5G support for faster cellular Internet connectivity, though it doesn’t support the fastest millimeter-wave flavor of 5G.

The A15 Bionic’s processing power enhances the 12-megapixel camera, providing computational photography capabilities like Smart HDR 4, Photographic Styles, Deep Fusion, and Portrait mode. The A15 Bionic’s image signal processor also improves video quality, particularly in low-light situations. Despite the increased performance, Apple says the new iPhone SE features better battery life than the second-generation iPhone SE and all previous 4.7-inch iPhone models. (Generally speaking, the bigger the iPhone, the better the battery life, thanks to additional room inside.)

You can order the new iPhone SE, which comes in midnight (black), starlight (white), and PRODUCT(RED), starting at 8 AM Eastern on March 11th, with delivery starting on March 18th. The 64 GB model costs $429, 128 GB costs $479, and 256 GB is $579.

Fifth-generation iPad Air Moves to M1 and 5G

For many people, the $599 iPad Air is the sweet spot of the iPad line, fitting nicely between the $329 iPad and the $799 11-inch iPad Pro. However, the fourth-generation iPad Air had fallen behind in a few ways, making its price less palatable.

The new fifth-generation iPad Air makes the price compelling again, thanks to the move to the same M1 chip used in the iPad Pro (and many Macs). It boasts up to 60% faster CPU performance than the previous model and twice the graphics performance. Even more noticeable in this age of videoconferencing is the addition of an Ultra Wide front-facing camera with Center Stage. Those who need speedy connectivity on the go will appreciate the new 5G support, though it doesn’t support the fastest millimeter-wave 5G. Apple also doubled the throughput for the iPad Air’s USB-C port, but it remains slower than the Thunderbolt port in the iPad Pro models.

Other key specs remain the same, including the size and industrial design, Touch ID in the top button, support for the second-generation Apple Pencil, rear-facing camera, and battery life.

As with the new iPhone SE, pre-orders for the new iPad Air open at 8 AM Eastern on March 11th, with delivery starting on March 18th. It comes in five new colors: space gray, pink, purple, blue, and starlight (white). $599 gets you 64 GB of storage, whereas 256 GB costs $749. Add another $150 for a cellular-capable model.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its March 8th Peek Performance event, Apple unveiled the impressive new Mac Studio—powered by the M1 Ultra chip—and Studio Display. The company also introduced an updated iPhone SE and iPad Air. Read on for details:

New M1 Pro and M1 Max Chips Power the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros

Last year, Apple started to transition Macs away from Intel processors to its custom M1 system-on-a-chip. The M1’s performance is stellar, but Apple has used it only in low-end models so far: the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and new 24-inch iMac. For professionals looking for more power, Apple unveiled the future of high-end Macs at its October 18th Unleashed event.

Two new chips—the M1 Pro and M1 Max—increase performance significantly beyond the M1, and Apple built them into new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models along with features that respond to criticisms of previous models. Welcome as these new MacBook Pros are, many people were also hoping to see an Apple silicon refresh of the popular 27-inch iMac. That didn’t happen, but Apple released several other music-related products and services at the event.

AirPods, HomePod mini, Apple Music, and Monterey Announcements

In a quick set of announcements at the start of its event, Apple revealed an update to the popular AirPods, new colors of the HomePod mini, and a budget pricing tier for Apple Music. Plus, press releases revealed the ship date for macOS 12 Monterey.

  • Third-generation AirPods: Building on the success of the classic AirPods and AirPods Pro, Apple redesigned the third-generation AirPods to have shorter mic stalks, force sensor controls, support for spatial audio, Adaptive EQ, longer battery life, wireless case charging, and sweat and water resistance. They cost $179; the second-generation AirPods remain available for $129.
  • New HomePod mini colors: Looking to coordinate your electronics with your decor? In November, the $99 HomePod mini will be available in blue, orange, and yellow, as well as the traditional black and white.
  • Apple Music Voice Plan: A new $4.99-per-month Apple Music Voice Plan reduces the cost of Apple Music for those who interact with the streaming service largely through Siri, but it lacks lyrics, music videos, spatial and lossless audio, and support for non-Apple devices.
  • macOS 12 Monterey release date: Hidden in the fine print in Apple’s press releases was the fact that macOS 12 Monterey—along with iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1, watchOS 8.1, and tvOS 15.1—will become available on October 25th. We strongly recommend that you do not upgrade to Monterey until we give the go-ahead. If you’ve already upgraded to the other new operating systems, it should be safe to install those updates a week or two after release.

New 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros Answer Customer Desires

Apple’s professional MacBook Pro has been a workhorse of the Mac lineup for years, offering high-end performance in a portable package. Since 2016, however, customers have expressed irritation at Apple’s removal of ports other than Thunderbolt 3, the loss of MagSafe magnetic charging, and the Touch Bar replacing traditional F-keys. Here’s how the new MacBook Pros respond to those concerns.

  • Ports: Previously, the MacBook Pro had just four Thunderbolt 3 ports, forcing users to carry dongles to connect to legacy devices. The new models still lack USB-A ports but supplement three Thunderbolt 4 ports with an HDMI port for video, an SDXC card slot for camera media, and a headphone jack.
  • MagSafe: Although you can charge using the Thunderbolt 4 ports, most people will rely on the dedicated MagSafe 3 charging port. The MacBook Pros (apart from the low-end 14-inch model) include powerful chargers and a USB-C to MagSafe 3 charging cable capable of fast-charging the devices. They should also provide longer battery life than previous models.
  • F-keys with Touch ID: The Touch Bar hasn’t been a success, never migrating to any other Mac models and eliciting tepid support from developers. With these new MacBook Pros, Apple has reversed course, replacing the Touch Bar with traditional F-keys. A Touch ID sensor remains available for authentication at the top-right corner of the keyboard.

Although Apple did equip the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 chip in November 2020, it wasn’t notably faster than the cheaper but largely comparable M1-based MacBook Air. We suspect no one will be complaining about the performance of the new 14-inch and 16-inch models thanks to the addition of Apple’s just-released M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

  • M1: For reference, last year’s M1 chip—widely acclaimed for providing excellent performance—offers an 8-core CPU with four performance and four efficiency cores, a 7-core or 8-core GPU, and either 8 GB or 16 GB of unified memory.
  • M1 Pro: The M1 Pro offers up to 1.7 times the performance of the M1 thanks to a 10-core CPU that has eight performance and two efficiency cores. Plus, its 16-core GPU is up to twice as fast as the M1. The M1 Pro provides either 16 GB or 32 GB of unified memory, and it increases the memory bandwidth by nearly three times, up to 200 gigabytes per second (GBps). To provide lower price points for 14-inch MacBook Pro configurations, Apple offers versions of the M1 Pro with an 8-core CPU (six performance and two efficiency cores) or a 14-core GPU.
  • M1 Max: The M1 Max has the same 10-core CPU as the M1 Pro but provides a massive 32-core GPU with up to four times the performance of the M1. The largest chip Apple has ever made, the M1 Max offers either 32 GB or 64 GB of memory, and it doubles the M1 Pro’s memory bandwidth to 400 GBps, nearly six times faster than the M1. A lower-cost M1 Max configuration has a 24-core GPU.

Both the M1 Pro and M1 Max feature an Apple-designed media engine that accelerates video processing while maximizing battery life. Both also have dedicated acceleration for the ProRes professional video codec for working with 4K and 8K video. The M1 Max doubles the M1 Pro’s performance for video encoding and provides two ProRes accelerators. In other words, if you’re working with video, these new Macs are going to scream, particularly with an M1 Max.

Apple didn’t stop after radically improving performance and bringing back beloved features. The new MacBook Pros feature new Liquid Retina XDR displays based on technology used in the latest iPad Pro models.

Most notably, for those who need more screen space than the 13-inch MacBook Pro can provide, the new MacBook Pro models have higher resolution displays. The 14-inch screen has a 3024-by-1964 native resolution that’s slightly larger than the previous 16-inch MacBook Pro (3072‑by‑1920), and the new 16-inch model offers even more pixels with a 3456-by-2234 resolution. The new displays are more than twice as bright as the previous models, and they support ProMotion, which adjusts the screen refresh rate (and thus power consumption) to match the needs of the onscreen content.

On the downside, Apple brought the new displays so close to the case edges that the new 1080p FaceTime HD camera (better videoconferencing quality but no Center Stage support) lives in an iPhone-like notch that cuts the Mac menu bar in half. Full-screen apps can avoid the notch. Although the notch isn’t ideal, iPhone users seldom notice it after a short while, and we expect the same will be true here.

The only other negative for the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models is weight. They’re both about 0.4 pounds (0.18 kg) heavier than the models they replace, at 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) for the 14-inch model and 4.7 or 4.8 pounds (2.1 or 2.2 kg) for the 16-inch model—the M1 Max configurations are a bit heavier.

Despite the notch and the weight, these are impressive new entries in the Mac lineup, and we anticipate they’ll be well-received by users who are happy to pay more for top-of-the-line machines. The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1999 and the 16-inch model at $2499. Numerous options are available, so you can choose an M1 Pro or M1 Max for either size, and pick from 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB unified memory configurations. When it comes to storage (which Apple says is also more than twice as fast as previous SSDs), your choices are 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 4 TB, and 8 TB. Beware that the 8 TB SSD will cost you $2400.

We can’t make informed recommendations about what options you should choose until users start testing their real-world workflows against the M1 Pro and M1 Max and see how much memory is really necessary. For now, let your budget be your guide, and aim for an M1 Max if you work with video. You can place orders with Apple now, but be warned that global supply chain issues may mean waiting for some configurations.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its October 18th Unleashed event, Apple unveiled the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, powered by the impressive new M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. Read on for details:

Apple’s 2021 Crop: Four iPhones, Two iPads, and an Apple Watch

September is traditionally when new iPhones are ripe for the picking, and this year’s crop is no exception. At its California Streaming event on September 14th, Apple unveiled four iPhone 13 models. Apple also announced the expected Apple Watch Series 7, but entirely unanticipated were an upgrade to the iPad and a redesigned iPad mini.

Left to the fine print in Apple’s press releases was the fact that iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 will become available for download on September 20th. As we’ve said before, you should wait at least a week or two before installing them on essential devices, just in case some unpleasant bug manifests itself. Regardless of when you upgrade, make a backup right beforehand, just in case something goes wrong and you need to erase and restore.

Let’s look at each of the new products.

iPhone 13 Models Evolve from Their iPhone 12 Equivalents

Some new iPhones are revolutionary, others are evolutionary. The iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max fall into the latter category, improving on their iPhone 12 equivalents in numerous ways while maintaining the same industrial design (albeit with a smaller front notch) and core capabilities. There’s no shame in that, and these are without a doubt the best iPhones Apple has ever made. So what’s new?

Most of Apple’s attention went into improving the cameras and photo- and video-related functionality. The rear-facing dual-camera systems in the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have larger pixels and the sensor-shift optical image stabilization that was previously available only in the iPhone 12 Pro Max, providing better images in low-light photos and videos. The triple-camera systems in the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max receive new sensors and lenses that also improve low-light performance and enable 3x zoom (up from 2x and 2.5x in the iPhone 12 equivalents). The new ultra-wide camera in the Pro models also significantly improves macro photography, capturing tiny subjects with a minimum focus distance of 2 centimeters.

All the iPhone 13 models offer three new and improved computational photography features: Photographic Styles, Smart HDR 4, and Cinematic mode. With Photographic Styles, the camera system automatically applies your photographic preferences (a bit like custom filters) to photos in real-time. Smart HDR 4 provides improved color, contrast, and lighting for each subject in group photos.

Cinematic mode brings to iPhone videos a cinematic technique called rack focus that emphasizes people or objects in a shot by focusing on them while blurring the rest of the scene. When enabled, Cinematic mode makes focus changes automatically during shots, for example in response to a person looking in a different direction or someone walking into the scene. You can also manually change the focus during or after capture.

Beyond the cameras, Apple put effort into several other important iPhone subsystems:

  • A15 Bionic: Apple says the new A15 Bionic chip is the fastest smartphone chip ever, though it never said how much faster it is than last year’s A14 Bionic. Nevertheless, the A15 Bionic provides stellar performance that enables the near-magical computational photography features like Cinematic mode.
  • Improved displays: The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have a brighter Super Retina XDR display with a higher contrast ratio for true blacks, all while being more power-efficient. The display in the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max is brighter yet and supports Apple’s ProMotion technology that dynamically changes the screen refresh rate as needed from 10 Hz to 120 Hz, either preserving battery life or offering smooth video for games and movies.
  • Longer battery life: Apple improved battery life with more power-efficient components, larger batteries, and technologies like ProMotion and Smart Data mode (which switches to LTE when 5G isn’t needed). The iPhone 13 mini and iPhone 13 Pro offer 1.5 hours more battery life than their predecessors, while the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max provide 2.5 hours more than theirs.
  • 5G in more countries: The iPhone 13 models support more 5G bands for broader coverage and faster performance. Apple says that 5G support on the iPhone 13 will include 200 carriers in 60 countries and regions by the end of the year.

All four iPhone 13 models now start at 128 GB of storage, and the Pro models offer a new 1 TB tier for those shooting a lot of video. Here are the 128 GB prices; add $100 for 256 GB, $300 for 512 GB, and $500 for 1 TB:

  • iPhone 13 mini: $699
  • iPhone 13: $799
  • iPhone 13 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max: $1099

You can pre-order starting at 5 AM Pacific on September 17th, with delivery and in-store availability on September 24th. The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini come in five colors: pink, blue, midnight, starlight, and (PRODUCT)RED. In contrast, the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max come in graphite, gold, silver, and sierra blue. The second-generation iPhone SE ($399), iPhone 11 ($499), and iPhone 12 ($599) remain for sale as well.

Generally speaking, we wouldn’t recommend upgrading from an iPhone 12 model unless you’re switching to the iPhone 13 mini to get a smaller form factor or to one of the Pro models for the ultimate camera capabilities. It’s easier to recommend an upgrade from an iPhone 11 model or earlier, given the easier-to-hold squared-off industrial design and innovations like 5G and MagSafe that debuted with the iPhone 12 and continue in the iPhone 13.

Apple Watch Series 7 Is Bigger, Brighter, and Incrementally Better

Much as with the iPhone 13, the new Apple Watch Series 7 doesn’t offer any new sensors or surprising new features. Instead, it improves on last year’s Series 6 in subtle yet welcome ways. Most notably, it boasts a larger display with nearly 20% more screen area than the Series 6 and over 50% more than the Series 3.

The larger screen can display about 50% more text than on the Series 6, making it easier to read text messages or emails with less scrolling. Apple also took advantage of the extra real-estate to add a full keyboard in watchOS 8, enabling you to enter text by either tapping or sliding your finger from letter to letter using Apple’s QuickPath technology.

A couple of new watch faces take advantage of the larger display. The dynamic Contour face animates throughout the day, pushing the dial to the edge of the display and emphasizing the current hour. Plus, a new Modular Duo face leverages the extra space to provide a pair of large, data-rich complications.

A physical consequence of the larger display is that the Series 7 comes in 41 mm and 45 mm sizes, replacing the 40 mm and 44 mm Series 6 models. However, existing bands remain compatible. The front crystal has a stronger and more robust geometry that’s over 50% thicker than on the Series 6, making it more crack-resistant. It’s also now IP6X dust-resistant for dirty environments, and it retains its WR50 water-resistance rating for swimming (but not scuba diving).

When your wrist is down, the Series 7’s always-on display is 70% brighter indoors, making it easier to check the time discreetly. Despite this, it continues to provide 18-hour battery life, and it charges 33% faster than the Series 6, thanks to a new charging architecture and Magnetic Fast Charger USB-C Cable. Charging for 45 minutes will get you an 80% charge, and 8 minutes of juicing up before bed is enough for 8 hours of sleep tracking.

There are a few new fitness-related features, such as automatic detection of Outdoor Cycle workouts and better fall detection algorithms during workouts—including cycling—but most of them come with watchOS 8 and will work on older Apple Watch models as well.

Pricing for the Apple Watch Series 7 will start at $399, although it’s easy to spend a lot more on different case materials, bands, and Hermès models. The aluminum models will come in five colors: midnight, starlight, green, a new blue, and (PRODUCT)RED; the stainless steel and Apple Watch Edition models continue in existing colors. There will also be new band colors. Apple hasn’t provided a date when you can order a Series 7, saying only “later this fall.”

We can’t recommend an upgrade from the Apple Watch Series 6 or Series 5, but if you’re limping along with an older watch whose battery is getting weak, the Series 7 will be a compelling upgrade.

Upgraded iPad Gets Better Camera, True Tone, and More Storage

The base-model iPad has long been Apple’s best value, and with the changes the company brought to the ninth-generation iPad, it’s even more so. Apple improved the ninth-generation iPad in four ways:

  • New front-facing FaceTime HD camera: This is the big one. Apple replaced the anemic 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime HD camera with a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera that supports the Center Stage technology previously available only on the iPad Pro. Center Stage zooms and pans to keep whoever is on camera centered and in focus. And yes, the front-facing camera is now nominally better than the 8-megapixel rear-facing camera, which is a little weird.
  • A13 Bionic chip: It’s not the latest and greatest, but the A13 Bionic is a generation newer than the previous iPad’s A12 Bionic, and it should provide plenty of performance.
  • True Tone display: Another feature swiped from the iPad Pro, True Tone automatically adjusts the display’s color temperature based on the ambient lighting conditions, making the screen easier to read in different environments.
  • Double the storage: Previously, the iPad started at 32 GB of storage, which wasn’t enough to do much. Apple has now doubled the base storage level to 64 GB and the next level to 256 GB.

Despite these improvements, the price for the basic iPad remains $329 ($299 for education) in silver and space gray. It jumps to $479 for 256 GB of storage, and another $130 gives you 4G LTE connectivity at either storage level. Overall, the ninth-generation iPad is a better value than ever, and if you’re buying an iPad for anyone who doesn’t need lots of power, it’s a no-brainer. It’s available now.

Redesigned iPad mini Mimics iPad Air

Even more surprising than the upgraded iPad was the redesigned sixth-generation iPad mini. It resembles nothing so much as a smaller iPad Air, with the same squared-off case design, an edge-to-edge 8.3-inch Liquid Retina display, Touch ID in the top button, and USB-C charging and connectivity. It’s powered by the same new A15 Bionic chip that’s in the iPhone 13 Pro.

Apple also significantly improved the iPad mini’s cameras, outfitting it with a pair of 12-megapixel cameras. The rear-facing camera can now shoot video in 4K resolution, and the front-facing camera supports Center Stage. For ultimate portable connectivity, you can now get the iPad mini with optional 5G wireless connectivity.

The main place where the sixth-generation iPad mini falls behind the iPad Air is in accessories. It does support the second-generation Apple Pencil, which sticks magnetically to the side, but it lacks the Smart Connector that enables Apple’s well-regarded keyboards. You can still use Bluetooth keyboards, but they don’t provide as integrated an experience.

Storage options remain the same, but Apple dropped the price by $30, making it $499 for a 64 GB configuration and $649 for 256 GB. Add $150 to either configuration for 5G wireless connectivity. The iPad mini comes in space gray, pink, purple, and starlight, and it’s available now.

Realistically, you’re buying an iPad mini only if you value its diminutive size over all else. It may not be worth upgrading from a fifth-generation iPad mini unless it no longer meets your needs in some way, but anyone who wants full iPad power in a small form factor will appreciate the redesigned sixth-generation iPad mini.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its California Streaming event, Apple introduced the new iPhone 13 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 7, a redesigned iPad mini, and an upgraded iPad. Read on for details and our upgrade recommendations:

The Ten Upcoming Mac/iPhone/iPad Features We Think You’ll Most Like

At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote on June 7th, Apple shared details about what we can expect to see later this year in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8, tvOS 15, and HomePod Software 15. It was a firehose of announcements, but one thing became clear: Apple wants to spread its technologies across its entire ecosystem of devices. Although each platform—Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod—retains its unique qualities, nearly every feature that the company announced works across as many platforms as make sense.

Before we get into the ten features that we think you’ll most like when everything ships in September or October, we should note that Apple was surprisingly silent on one topic: future Apple silicon chips. Many observers had expected Apple to announce an M1X or M2 chip that would power professional laptop and desktop Macs. We’ll have to satisfy ourselves with the impressive performance of the M1-based Macs we have now and wait a little longer for whatever comes next.

On to the hot new features!

Account Recovery and Legacy Contacts Simplify Recovering Account Data

It’s all too common that people forget their Apple ID passwords and can’t access their accounts. Apple hopes to make that a little less stressful with Account Recovery Contacts. Specify someone as your Account Recovery Contact, and they’ll be able to help you reset your password and regain access to your account, with no need to call us or Apple for assistance.

Also welcome will be the addition of Legacy Contacts. Once this feature is available, everyone should make sure they have appropriate family members or friends set as Legacy Contacts. Then, in the event of your untimely death, your Legacy Contacts can access your account and personal information. Using Legacy Contacts will be far easier than having to provide the legal paperwork to Apple to request access to a deceased family member’s accounts.

FaceTime Gains Features That Make It Competitive with Zoom

During the last year, we’ve all spent vastly more time in videoconferencing apps for work, school, and socializing. Alas, Apple’s FaceTime has been a weak entry in that market. With the features Apple is now promising, however, it should compete well with the likes of Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet. FaceTime will finally get a standard grid view, blur your backgrounds with Portrait mode, and offer two microphone modes: Voice Isolation to cut down on background noise (for standard meetings) and Wide Spectrum to leave ambient sound unfiltered (for performances, say). FaceTime will even be able to alert you when you’re talking but muted.

More important yet is the fact that you’ll finally be able to invite Windows and Android users to FaceTime calls using standard Web links. Non-Apple users will have to use a Chrome-based browser like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or Brave. Plus, when you create an event in Calendar, you’ll be able to make a Web link for the call that you can share. And when it’s time for the call, a Join button makes it easy to get in.

Universal Control Lets Macs and iPads Share a Keyboard and Pointing Device

With Sidecar in macOS 10.15 Catalina and iOS 13, Apple made it so you could use an iPad as a secondary screen for a Mac. In macOS 12 Monterey and iPadOS 15, Apple is taking that concept further. With Universal Control, if you merely set a Mac and an iPad next to each other, you’ll be able to use the Mac’s keyboard and mouse or trackpad to work between the two devices (in fact, Universal Control supports up to three). No setup is required—just move your pointer to the edge of the Mac screen and push it “through” the edge to move it to the iPad screen. You can even drag and drop content between devices.

Live Text Lets You Work with Text in Images

Have you ever taken a photo of something just to capture a phone number or address? We have, for sure. Apple’s new Live Text feature treats text in images just like text you type, so you can use functions like copy and paste, lookup, and translate. Live Text will work in Photos, of course, but also in Quick Look, Safari, and Screenshot, and in live Camera previews on the iPhone. It’s an impressive use of image recognition technologies.

Along the same lines, in Photos, you’ll also be able to use the information button on any photo to highlight recognized objects and scenes and get additional information about them. Apple says you’ll be able to learn more about popular art and landmarks, plants and flowers, books, and pet breeds.

Siri Gets Faster, More Reliable, More Private, and More Useful

Thanks to the ever-increasing power of the Neural Engine in Apple devices, Apple says it will bring all processing of Siri requests onto your device. That may not sound like a big deal, but it means that Siri should work faster, more reliably, and more privately. It will be faster because there’s no need to send speech to and from Apple’s servers for processing. It will make Siri work more reliably when your iPhone doesn’t have strong cell service and enable offline support for many types of requests. And Apple won’t know what you’re saying at all.

Other Siri improvements will include the capability to announce reminders when you’re wearing AirPods, improved conversation context so you can refer to what you just asked, and support for controlling HomeKit devices at specific times. HomeKit developers will even be able to add Siri support to their products through a HomePod.

Improved Multitasking Controls Come to the iPad

The big problem with Apple’s multitasking options on the iPad has been remembering how to use them. With iPadOS 15, Apple hopes to solve that with a new menu that will appear at the top of apps, with buttons for entering full screen, Split View, or Slide Over.

Apple also added a new multiwindow shelf that appears at the bottom of the screen at launch and provides a Dock-like view of all the open windows in that app. If you ignore it, it fades away quickly, but it should help you remember which windows you have open and access them quickly.

The iPad Finally Gets the App Library and Home Screen Widgets

Last year, in iOS 14, Apple introduced the App Library and Home Screen widgets. The App Library holds all your apps so you can declutter your life by removing them from the Home Screen. And Home Screen widgets let you add app-specific widgets that provide at-a-glance information. Sadly, iPadOS 14 didn’t include those features.

iPadOS 15 rectifies that oversight, adding both the App Library and Home Screen widgets, complete with some larger widget sizes for the larger iPad screen. They’ll work just like on the iPhone. It’s about time!

Locate Lost AirPods Pro and AirPods Max with Find My Network Support

As it stands now, you can theoretically find AirPods using the Find My app. However, it shows only the last position of the AirPods at a general level, and you have to get within range of them to play a sound. In the future, however, the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will support the Find My network, so other people’s devices can report their location generally, and once you get within Bluetooth range, you can play a sound to locate them.

Hopefully, that will happen less often thanks to new separation alerts that, when enabled, will alert you when you leave an Apple device, AirTag, or Find My-compatible item behind.

Private Relay Protects Safari Traffic for iCloud+ Subscribers

Apple has been adding lots of privacy-protecting features over the past few years, but Private Relay goes even further to ensure that even your ISP can’t track where you go on the Web and sell that data to advertisers. Private Relay encrypts your Safari traffic and passes it through two Internet relays. No one—not even Apple—can then use your IP address, location, and browsing activity to create a detailed profile of you. Everyone who pays for extra iCloud storage will transition to the new iCloud+ for the same cost and will get Private Relay for no additional fee.

While we’re talking about iCloud, Apple also says that you’ll be able to get custom domain names for iCloud Mail addresses and invite family members to use the same domain with their iCloud Mail accounts.

Use AirPlay to Send Audio or Video to Your Mac

Many people have discovered how neat it is to use AirPlay to display photos or videos from an iPhone or iPad on a TV attached to an Apple TV. Macs could also broadcast their displays to an Apple TV. But what you couldn’t do is use AirPlay to send audio or video from another Apple device to a Mac. With macOS 12 Monterey, that will become possible, enabling you to use a Mac’s large screen to play a video, share a Keynote presentation, and more.

Apple’s upcoming operating system releases boast many other new features, and we plan to explore more of them once everything ships in a few months. We’ll let you know when it’s time to update!

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: At its Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, Apple announced a boatload of new features that we’ll see in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8 later this year. Here are the ten features we think you’ll most like:

Apple Announces New M1-Based 24-inch iMac, iPad Pro, AirTag, Apple TV 4K, and More

On April 20th, Apple took to the Internet to stream its “Spring Loaded” event. Pundits had been unable to figure out a theme based on the name, but Apple was being blunt: the event was taking place in the spring, and it was loaded with announcements.

With Apple CEO Tim Cook bookending the presentation—and doing a cameo as a master thief at 37:26 into the presentation—the company announced an M1-based 24-inch iMac, M1-based iPad Pro models, the long-rumored AirTag item tracker, and an enhanced Apple TV 4K with a redesigned Siri Remote. All these items can be ordered on Friday, April 30th, but some won’t ship until the second half of May.

More on these shortly, but briefly, Apple also unveiled the new Apple Card Family program, which allows two people to co-own an Apple Card and share it with their children, complete with spending limits. And for those still looking for a colorful iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini, it now comes in purple.

M1-Based 24-inch iMac Comes in Spring Colors

Apple has continued replacing Macs at the lower end of the product line with new models featuring the company’s homegrown M1 chip. While the first Macs to get the M1—the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini—didn’t receive any design changes, Apple radically overhauled things for the new M1-based 24-inch iMac.

At 11.5 mm thick, the 24-inch iMac is thinner than the original iPhone. It comes in seven colors: green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue, and silver. The back of the iMac—which is often visible, such as on a receptionist’s desk—is a bold, vibrant color, whereas the front uses a muted version of the color and a light gray bezel. It looks like a 24-inch iPad clipped to an aluminum stand. It’s so thin that there’s no room for a standard power jack, so it comes with an external power adapter that includes an optional Ethernet jack.

Behind the iMac’s “chin” is the guts of the computer, most notably the same M1 chip as in other M1-based Macs. Overall performance will be stellar thanks to the M1’s 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, but you can tweak the price/performance curve slightly by choosing a 7-core GPU instead and by picking either 8 GB or 16 GB of unified memory.

The screen, which actually measures 23.5 inches diagonally, offers 4480-by-2520 resolution, making it a 4.5K Retina display, between the 4K display on the now-discontinued 21.5-inch iMac and the 5K display on the 27-inch iMac. It’s topped by a 1080p FaceTime HD camera that, with help from the M1 chip’s image signal processor—and advanced microphones and speakers—should offer excellent out-of-the-box videoconferencing quality.

Apple introduced three new color-matched versions of the Magic Keyboard as well. One adds dedicated keys for Spotlight, Dictation, Do Not Disturb, Lock, and Emoji; the second trades the Lock key for the first Touch ID sensor on a standalone keyboard; and the third includes both Touch ID and a numeric keypad. They come with color-matched models of the Magic Mouse, or you can upgrade to a color-matched Magic Trackpad instead.

Two models of the 24-inch iMac are available:

  • $1299 gets you that 7-core GPU, two Thunderbolt ports, 256 GB of storage that’s upgradable to 1 TB, optional Gigabit Ethernet, and a standard Magic Keyboard. It’s available in only blue, green, pink, and silver.
  • $1499 gets you the 8-core GPU, 256 GB of storage upgradeable to 2 TB, two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3 ports, standard Gigabit Ethernet, and a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. And you can pick from all seven colors.

Our take is that the new 24-inch iMac is a fabulous Mac for a family, student, or front-office worker where everyone will appreciate its striking color and design. It may not offer everything a pro wants, but the Intel-based 27-inch iMac remains available, and Apple will be releasing even more powerful Macs based on Apple silicon for professionals, likely later this year.

M1-based iPad Pro Gains Thunderbolt and Liquid Retina XDR Display

Unlike the 24-inch iMac, there are no major industrial design changes in either iPad Pro model, but Apple has made significant upgrades under the hood, most notably switching from the previous A12Z Bionic chip to the M1 chip that now powers an increasing number of Macs. The M1 chip offers roughly 50% greater performance, significantly differentiating the 11-inch iPad Pro from the highly capable fourth-generation iPad Air introduced late last year.

Apple also updated the iPad Pro’s port from USB-C to Thunderbolt/USB 4, allowing users to take advantage of higher-performance hardware, such as external storage devices and high-resolution external displays. You can even connect Apple’s Pro Display XDR at its full 6K resolution. As welcome as Thunderbolt is, iPadOS could use enhancements to enable users to take full advantage of it.

For those who need constant connectivity while out and about, the cellular models of the iPad Pro now support 5G wireless networking, including the millimeter-wave version that offers the greatest throughput. Although 5G coverage is still extremely spotty, it’s only getting better, and supporting it will help future-proof these iPad Pro models.

Both iPad Pro models also receive a new 12-megapixel Ultra Wide TrueDepth camera on the front. Along with help from the M1 chip’s machine-learning capabilities, it enables a new feature called Center Stage that recognizes you in video calls and pans and zooms to keep you in the frame as you move around. It will work with FaceTime, of course, and Apple says third-party services will also be able to support it.

Last but far from least is a new display for just the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Based on the technology behind Apple’s $5000 Pro Display XDR, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s Liquid Retina Display XDR is lit by more than 10,000 miniature LEDs, combined into nearly 2600 dimming zones. (The previous model’s screen had 72 LEDs.) The result is a display that’s brighter and offers more contrast than before, making it ideal for photo or video editing. If you think screen quality is the deciding factor between the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pros, we encourage you to compare them in person with the same images or videos.

Pricing has changed a little for the iPad Pros. The 11-inch model continues to start at $799 with 128 GB of storage. However, the 12.9-inch model is $100 more expensive than previously, thanks to the Liquid Retina XDR display, starting at $1099 for 128 GB. Both are upgradeable to 256 GB ($100), 512 GB ($300), 1 TB ($700), or 2 TB ($1100), and note that the models with 512 GB and less come with 8 GB of unified memory, whereas the 1 TB and 2 TB models have 16 GB of memory. Adding 5G cellular now costs $200, up $50, although special deals with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon may reduce or erase that cost.

Find Your Keys, Purse, or Backpack with an AirTag

The long-rumored AirTag has finally appeared, promising to help us all stop misplacing our keys, purses, backpacks, and more. An AirTag is a small disc that you put inside or attach to something you might need help finding. Should that item go missing, you use the Find My app on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, or in iCloud to locate the associated AirTag, just as you can use Find My to locate missing Apple devices or find family members. The Find My network leverages nearly 1 billion Apple devices to relay the location of lost items back to you, all without compromising anyone’s privacy. Plus, Apple has built in alerts if someone tries to track you with an AirTag.

AirTags are 1.26 inches in diameter and .31 inches high—roughly the size of four half-dollar coins—and run on a standard user-replaceable CR2032 battery. They communicate with nearby Apple devices via Bluetooth and Ultra Wideband, the latter of which works with an iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 to provide Precision Finding that directs you to the exact location of the AirTag. (“You’re getting warmer…”)

To make it easier to attach an AirTag to your keys or backpack, Apple offers a variety of key rings and loops, including some pricey Hermès versions. We anticipate third-party manufacturers will offer numerous alternatives.

A single AirTag costs $29, or you can buy a four-pack for $99. Apple offers free engraving, although the company limits the emoji available to prevent pictographic rudeness. We’re looking forward to giving an AirTag a try, assuming we can still find our keys when it ships on April 30th.

Apple TV 4K Offers Enhanced Video and Redesigned Siri Remote

After four years, Apple has finally updated the hardware inside the Apple TV 4K, giving its second-generation model a faster A12 Bionic processor, HDMI 2.1, and 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking. The speedier processor enables playback of HDR and Dolby Vision video at 60 frames per second, and the other hardware changes could enable new capabilities in the future, like 4K video at 120 fps.

In software, Apple added a new color calibration feature that lets you use any Face ID-enabled iPhone running iOS 14.5 or later to calibrate the colors on your TV; it will also be available to the Apple TV HD and first-generation Apple TV 4K. Also new is support for Thread, a cross-platform mesh networking protocol for home automation devices, which could play a role in the future of HomeKit.

But the big news is that Apple redesigned the much-reviled Siri Remote, adding more buttons and reducing the emphasis on the touchpad surface. The new Siri Remote features a circular clickpad controller with five-way navigation, a touch-sensitive surface for swiping in the middle, and a touch-sensitive outer ring that works as a jog control for navigating within a video. It also features dedicated power and mute—at last!—buttons for your TV. Finally, there’s a new side button for invoking Siri so you don’t accidentally press it in the dark. It has a rechargeable battery that should last for months. The only thing lacking? The necessary hardware so you can use the Find My app to ferret it out from inside the couch.

Apple is bundling the new Siri Remote with the new Apple TV 4K ($179 for 32 GB or $199 for 64 GB) and the old Apple TV HD ($149), and if you already have an Apple TV HD or 4K, you can buy the new Siri Remote by itself for $59.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event was indeed loaded with announcements, including the M1-based 24-inch iMac, M1-based iPad Pro, AirTag item tracker, updated Apple TV 4K with redesigned Siri Remote, and more. Details at:

Apple Unveils New M1-Powered MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini

Continuing its pandemic-driven approach of short, focused announcements, Apple once again took to the Internet to stream its “One More Thing” event. On center stage this time was the Mac, or specifically, three Macs, all of which replace the longstanding Intel chip with Apple’s new M1 chip. All three Macs can be ordered now and will be available within a week or so.

What Is the M1 and Why Should You Care?

Before we talk about the Macs that are now based on Apple’s custom-designed M1 chip, let’s explain what it is and why it’s important.

First, the M1 is what’s called a “System on a Chip” or “SoC.” Instead of having a separate CPU (main processor), GPU (graphics processor), and RAM (memory, which both the CPU and GPU need), the M1 combines those components onto a single chip. The M1 also has a special 16-core processor, called the Neural Engine, that helps with machine-learning tasks, along with a custom storage controller, image signal processor, and Secure Enclave.

Within the 8-core CPU, Apple has four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. When you need maximum processing power to edit a video, for instance, macOS dynamically brings the high-performance cores into play. However, if you’re just reading email, macOS switches to the high-efficiency cores to avoid wasting power and draining laptop batteries. Another way the M1 achieves its performance gains is through “unified memory.” By putting the RAM on the chip and sharing it among the CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine, those processors can access it more quickly than when it’s elsewhere on the motherboard. The downside is that the M1 chip comes with only 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM; there’s no option for more.

Second, since 2006, Macs have been powered by CPUs from Intel. Switching to its own M1 chip benefits Apple in three ways:

  • Performance: When Apple moved the Mac to Intel chips, it did so because IBM’s PowerPC chips couldn’t compete in performance per watt. That measurement is key for battery-powered laptops and has come home to roost again. With the M1, Apple has customized the design in many ways to provide up to three times the performance per watt.
  • Control: By designing its own chip, Apple can optimize performance in all sorts of small ways that integrate perfectly with macOS. Previously, Apple had to work with whatever Intel shipped, forcing Apple to make trade-offs in macOS. Plus, Intel’s roadmap and production schedule often conflicted with Apple’s.
  • Profit: Apple won’t say this, but Intel processors have high profit margins, and Apple would far prefer to keep that money rather than giving it to Intel.

In essence, the M1 will enable Apple to make Macs that are faster and cheaper, and that have better battery life. It will also allow Macs to run all iPhone and iPad apps, since the M1 is similar to the A-series chips that power those devices.

The first three Macs to take advantage of the M1 are the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. Apart from a few small exceptions, the main thing that has changed about these Macs is the M1 chip. They look the same, feel the same, and work the same, although they do all come with—and require—macOS 11 Big Sur.

MacBook Air

The new M1-based MacBook Air confidently replaces the previous Intel-based model that Apple released in March 2020. It does so thanks to massive M1-powered performance improvements: up to 3.5x faster processing, up to 5x faster graphics, and up to 9x faster machine-learning workloads. The M1’s integrated storage controller and the latest solid-state storage technology also combine for up to 2x speedier SSD performance.

Because the M1 is so much more efficient than Intel chips, the MacBook Air no longer needs a fan to keep its cool. It’s now silent. Apple significantly improved battery life as well, promising up to 15 hours of “wireless web” and up to 18 hours of video playback, up from 11 and 12 hours for the previous model. More relevant is that videoconferencing should last twice as long on a single charge.

There are a few other small improvements:

  • Support for P3 wide color on the 13-inch Retina display
  • Two Thunderbolt 3 ports that support the new USB 4
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 networking, up from 802.11ac Wi-Fi 5
  • Better image quality on the (unchanged) 720p FaceTime HD camera, thanks to the M1’s dedicated image signal processor
  • Instant wake from sleep

Note that the MacBook Air lacks the Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro—which may be a pro or a con—but its Magic Keyboard does include traditional F-keys and a Touch ID sensor for login and authentication.

The MacBook Air comes in two configurations: a low-end model whose M1 chip has an 8-core CPU and a 7-core GPU, plus 8 GB of unified memory and 256 GB of storage for $999. The high-end model switches to an 8-core GPU and 512 GB of storage for $1249—that’s $50 cheaper than the previous high-end model. You can bump the RAM to 16 GB for $200, and the storage levels include 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB.

Frankly, it’s a great machine.

13-inch MacBook Pro

Things get a little more confusing with the M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro. Previously, there were four configurations, priced at $1299, $1499, $1799, and $1999. Apple replaced the bottom two with M1 configurations but left the top two with Intel chips. Why? Probably because the higher-end Intel models can take up to 32 GB of RAM. They also have four Thunderbolt 3 ports and a 4 TB storage option.

Apple doesn’t say if or by how much the new M1 MacBook Pro is faster than the Intel models, but it does say that it’s up to 2.8x faster overall than what it replaces, has up to 5x faster graphics, and is up to 11x quicker for machine-learning tasks. It should outperform the M1 MacBook Air, even though they share the same chip, because the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a fan that lets the M1 chip run faster and thus hotter than in the MacBook Air. Nonetheless, battery life is excellent, with up to 17 hours of “wireless web” and up to 20 hours of video playback—the longest battery life ever for a Mac.

The M1 MacBook Pro shares most of the small improvements in the MacBook Air, including the two Thunderbolt 3/USB 4 ports, 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, better image quality from the 720p FaceTime HD camera, and instant wake. New is a “studio-quality three-mic array” that promises better audio for videoconferencing. It already supported P3 wide color, and the Retina display remains gorgeous.

The M1-based 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1299 with an M1 chip that has an 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 8 GB of memory, and 256 GB of storage. Going to 16 GB of RAM costs $200, and you can upgrade the storage to 512 GB ($200), 1 TB ($400), or 2 TB ($800).

It can be hard to choose between the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Our take? Pick the MacBook Air for its lower price, fanless design, and F-keys, or go with the MacBook Pro if you’re willing to pay for more performance and a Touch Bar.

Mac mini

The third Mac model to switch to the M1 chip is the Mac mini. Like the 13-inch MacBook Pro, not all models make the jump, however. Previously, there were two Mac mini models, one starting at $799 and the other at $1099. The M1 Mac mini replaces the low-end model and drops the price to $699.

As with the other two M1-based Macs, the M1 Mac mini boasts impressive performance improvements. Apple says its CPU performance is 3x faster than the model it replaces, it has up to 6x faster graphics, and machine-learning tasks complete up to 15x faster.

Although Apple made no comparisons with the remaining Intel-based Mac mini, we suspect the M1 model will be faster, and it has the new 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6. So why is that Intel Mac mini sticking around?

  • The M1 Mac mini offers only 8 GB or 16 GB ($200) of RAM, whereas the Intel Mac mini is configurable to 32 GB ($600) or 64 GB ($1000) as well.
  • The Intel Mac mini can drive up to three displays, whereas the M1 Mac mini supports only two. On the plus side, the M1 Mac mini can drive Apple’s 6K Pro Display XDR at full resolution, which the Intel Mac mini can’t.
  • The M1 Mac mini has only two Thunderbolt ports, whereas the Intel Mac mini has four.
  • The Intel Mac mini has a $100 option for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, whereas the M1 Mac mini is limited to Gigabit Ethernet.

Our feeling is that, at $200 cheaper, a comparable M1 Mac mini is a better deal unless you need any of the hardware options that exist solely on the Intel Mac mini.

macOS Big Sur on November 12th

Finally, Apple said that it would release macOS 11 Big Sur on November 12th. The new Macs require it, but put bluntly, we strongly recommend that you do not upgrade any other production Macs to Big Sur yet. Along with a complete user interface overhaul, it has significant under-the-hood changes that could pose compatibility problems for many workflows in the near term. We’ll be evaluating Big Sur with common productivity apps shortly and will update our advice about when it’s safe to upgrade as we learn more.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Apple’s “One More Thing” turned out to be the company’s new M1 chip, which powers new models of the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini to new heights of performance and battery life. Learn more at:

Apple Releases Four iPhone 12 Models and the HomePod mini

For the second time in less than a month, Apple has made a splashy announcement. In its “Hi, Speed” event, the company unveiled a new lineup of four iPhone 12 models along with the new HomePod mini.

HomePod mini

Just as Apple did in its event, let’s get the HomePod mini out of the way first. The HomePod mini is easy to explain—it’s just a smaller, cheaper HomePod. For $99, you get a flat-topped sphere that’s about half the height and two-thirds the width of the HomePod, which currently lists for $299. It works just like a HomePod, accepting commands via Siri and integrating tightly with the rest of your Apple and HomeKit devices. You can even combine two HomePod minis into a stereo pair, though you can’t combine a HomePod and a HomePod mini in this way.

The only technical advantage the HomePod mini has over the HomePod is Apple’s U1 chip. Apple promises that, later this year, the U1 chip will improve the handoff experience when transferring audio playback to or from an iPhone by holding it near the HomePod mini. Otherwise, as you might imagine, the larger HomePod has better sound thanks to its additional speaker hardware and spatial awareness capabilities.

Apple is also introducing an Intercom feature that makes it easy for family members to send voice messages from any HomePod to another. Intercom also works with the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and even vehicles equipped with CarPlay.

It may not be world-changing, but we’re bullish on the HomePod mini thanks to its lower price. It will be available for pre-order on November 6th, with delivery and general availability starting the week of November 16th.

iPhone 12

Given how important the iPhone is to Apple’s business, it’s not surprising to see the company pulling out all the stops with the iPhone 12 lineup, split between the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro. It includes four different models, incorporates support for the emerging 5G cellular networking standard, introduces the MagSafe wireless charging and accessory ecosystem, and delivers the most advanced camera systems ever. And all that comes in a flat-edged industrial design, last seen in the first-generation iPhone SE, that many people thought prevented accidental drops. (If you do drop an iPhone 12, its new Ceramic Shield front glass promises that cracks will be up to four times less likely.)

For those with smaller hands and pockets, the biggest news may be the iPhone 12 mini, with a 5.4-inch diagonal screen. It’s the smallest iPhone we’ve seen in years, measuring in at just a bit bigger than that first-generation iPhone SE. It’s joined by the larger iPhone 12 with a 6.1-inch screen, the similarly sized iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which boasts a 6.7-inch screen. Speaking of the screens, the Super Retina XDR OLED screens are gorgeous, and they all incorporate a notch for the Face ID cameras. Alas, there’s no Touch ID, which would have been nice while we’re all wearing masks in public.

Apart from the size differences, camera systems, storage options, and battery life, the four iPhone 12 models have very similar specs (battery life will be fine for all of them, but the larger the phone, the longer the battery life).

They all support 5G cellular networking, which promises significantly faster speeds than today’s LTE. However, what counts as “5G” varies between cellular carriers, coverage is weak in many parts of the world, and the real-world performance may be significantly less than promised. That’s not to say that 5G is bad, just that it may not make any difference to you in the near future. Further out, it will likely be a big deal, so it’s good that the iPhone 12 is hopping on the bandwagon.

Another innovation is MagSafe, a circular magnetic coupling and wireless charging technology built into the back of each iPhone 12 model. A $39 Apple MagSafe Charger snaps on to the back for wireless charging at 15 watts, and Qi wireless charging is still supported as well, at up to 7.5 watts. MagSafe also enables an entire ecosystem of accessories, including chargers, cases, car mounts, and wallets. Apple even briefly showed a charger that could charge both a MagSafe iPhone and an Apple Watch. You can still charge with a Lightning-to-USB cable, but Apple no longer includes a charger and EarPods in the box, given that we all have so many of them around.

Regardless of which iPhone 12 model you pick, you won’t be making any performance tradeoffs. That’s because they all rely on Apple’s newest chip, the A14 Bionic, for the utmost in performance and the most advanced computational photography.

The camera systems are what separate the iPhone 12 Pro models. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini have a dual 12-megapixel rear camera system with ultra wide and wide cameras with 2x optical zoom. They have optical image stabilization and support Night mode and Deep Fusion, which provide better photos in low-light situations. They offer 1080p and 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second and introduce HDR video recording with Dolby Vision at up to 30 fps, which provides higher quality video in challenging lighting.

That sounds impressive enough, but the iPhone 12 Pro models go further. Their triple 12-megapixel camera system has ultra wide, wide, and telephoto cameras that provide better optical zoom among much else. A new LiDAR Scanner gives them faster autofocus in low light and Night mode portraits. They also support a new Apple ProRAW format that provides professional photographers with the benefits of Apple’s computational photography combined with the flexibility of a raw image format. In terms of video, the Pro models enhance HDR video with Dolby Vision to 60 fps. Finally, the iPhone 12 Pro Max also features something Apple calls “sensor-shift optical image stabilization” for both photos and video—it promises better optical image stabilization than the iPhone 12 Pro.

If you’re a pro photographer or videographer who’s already invested in the iPhone as a working camera, the iPhone 12 Pro models will provide the ultimate in camera capabilities. For others who are curious about how these new iPhones stack up against previous models, the photography sites will undoubtedly be publishing head-to-head comparison shots soon.

When can you get your hands on one of these iPhone 12 models, and for how much? You can pre-order the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro starting at 5 AM Pacific on October 16th, with delivery and in-store availability beginning on October 23rd. They come in five colors: black, white, Product(RED), green, and blue. In contrast, the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be available for pre-order at 5 AM Pacific on November 6th, with delivery and in-store availability on November 13th. Their colors include silver, graphite, gold, and blue.

Here’s how the costs break down by storage level:

  • iPhone 12 mini: $699/$729 (64 GB), $749/$779 (128 GB), $849/$879 (256 GB)
  • iPhone 12: $799/$829 (64 GB), $849/$879 (128 GB), $949/$979 (256 GB)
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999 (128 GB), $1099 (256 GB), $1299 (512 GB)
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1099 (128 GB), $1199 (256 GB), $1399 (512 GB)

There are two prices for each storage level of the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 because AT&T and Verizon customers pay $30 less than everyone else. Apple hasn’t said why.

In the end, Apple has once again released new iPhones that advance the state of the art. The diminutive iPhone 12 mini is particularly welcome for smaller people, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max boasts the most capable camera systems available on any smartphone.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Read all about the four new models of the iPhone 12, including the iPhone 12 mini for those with smaller hands and pockets! All four feature 5G networking, MagSafe wireless charging, and impressive camera systems that advance the state of the art.

Apple Releases Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, new iPad Air, and Subscription Services

In its “Time Flies” special event on September 15th, Apple cleared the decks of some secondary releases to make room for the anticipated unveiling of the iPhone 12 in a few weeks. Secondary though these products may be compared to the iPhone, the new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, fourth-generation iPad Air, and eighth-generation iPad are nothing to sneeze at.

Apple also announced a new subscription service, Apple Fitness+, and three discounted Apple One bundles of its subscription services.

Lastly, Apple said that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 would ship on September 16th, and they did indeed. We’ll have more about those releases soon, but we recommend that you wait at least a few weeks before updating devices you rely on. Although the betas have been pretty stable, nasty bugs may surface as millions of users start using the new operating systems.

Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE

With the Apple Watch, Apple usually makes incremental enhancements that improve each successive generation, and the Apple Watch Series 6 is no exception. Most notably, it includes a Blood Oxygen sensor and app that report on the oxygen saturation of the wearer’s blood. Low readings can indicate problems with health and fitness, and research suggests that blood oxygen numbers may help identify COVID-19 or flu infections. Low blood oxygen levels could also encourage those who are infected to seek additional medical attention.

The Apple Watch Series 6 also features a new S6 chip, a next-generation always-on altimeter, and an enhanced Always-On Retina display that is up to 2.5 times brighter than the Series 5 display outdoors when the user’s wrist is down, so it’s easier to view in bright sunlight.

Prices for the Apple Watch Series 6 start at $399 for a 40mm GPS-only aluminum model, with cellular capabilities adding $100. The larger 44mm model costs $30 more, and you can spend more on stainless steel (+$300) and titanium (+$400) cases and various watch bands. The aluminum model comes in silver, space gray, and gold, plus (PRODUCT)RED and a new blue color. The stainless steel model comes in graphite or gold, and the titanium case in natural and space black.

If $399 is too high of a starting point for you, consider Apple’s other new model, the Apple Watch SE. Based on the S5 chip used in last year’s Apple Watch Series 5, the Apple Watch SE includes some of the sensors in the Series 6, such as the always-on altimeter, and it supports fall detection, but it lacks the Series 6’s ECG and Blood Oxygen capabilities. Nor does it have the Always-On Retina display—its display goes black when the user’s wrist is down.

Those tradeoffs drop the Apple Watch SE’s starting price to $279 for a 40mm GPS-only model. A larger 44mm watch bumps the price up by $30, and cellular capabilities add another $100. You’re limited to aluminum cases in silver, gold, and space gray, but any of the Apple Watch bands will work with it. Is $279 still too expensive? The Apple Watch Series 3 remains available in a GPS-only model starting at $199.

The Apple Watch SE might be particularly attractive to families or those caring for seniors, thanks to Apple’s new Family Setup, which lets you manage cellular Apple Watches (Series 4 and later) for others from your iPhone instead of each person having to manage their Apple Watch from their own iPhone.

Apple also introduced two new bands: the Solo Loop and the Braided Solo Loop. Both have no buckles or clasps and come in nine available lengths—they expand to fit over your hand and contract to fit snugly on your wrist. The Solo Loop is made of soft silicone, and the Braided Solo Loop combines 16,000 polyester yarn filaments with ultrathin silicone threads—it costs an extra $50.

New iPad and iPad Air

On the iPad side of things, Apple’s first announcement was the simplest. The new eighth-generation iPad replaces the previous seventh-generation model and sports only a single change. Instead of the 4-core A10 Fusion processor in last year’s model, the new iPad relies on the 6-core A12 Bionic processor. It promises up to 40% faster CPU performance and twice the graphics performance of the seventh-generation iPad. Otherwise, it retains the 10.2-inch Retina display, capable cameras, and support for the first-generation Apple Pencil ($99) and Smart Keyboard ($159). Its price also remains the same, starting at $329, with education pricing for a broadly defined set of individuals at $309 and education pricing for institutions at $299.

More interesting is the new fourth-generation iPad Air. The third-generation iPad Air was essentially a stripped-down version of the older 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and the fourth-generation model continues that trend with the current 11-inch iPad Pro. The new iPad Air features the same squared-off design, full-screen display, and 12-megapixel rear camera, and it has an almost identical form factor. It’s compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil ($129) and both the Magic Keyboard ($299) and Smart Keyboard Folio ($179). Finally, it swaps the traditional Lightning port for the USB-C port also used by the iPad Pro.

However, the new iPad Air also features Apple’s newest chip—the A14 Bionic—and eliminates the need for a Home button by building a Touch ID sensor into the top button. That clever approach lets Apple reduce the size of the bezels around the screen while avoiding the cost of the TrueDepth camera necessary for Face ID and simultaneously making the iPad Air easier to use for those wearing masks.

The new iPad Air with 64 GB of storage starts at $599 for Wi-Fi–only models and $729 for cellular-capable models. Bumping the storage to 256 GB adds $150 to the price. It’s available in five colors: space gray, silver, rose gold, green, and sky blue.

Apple Fitness+ and Apple One Bundles

Finally, Apple unveiled its latest subscription service: Apple Fitness+. It’s a “workout experience” that combines metrics from an Apple Watch Series 3 or later with studio-style workouts that you view on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. World-class trainers present classes across a variety of disciplines, including cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, yoga, dance, core, and mindful cooldown. For novices, there’s an Absolute Beginner program.

When you start a workout on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, the correct workout type automatically starts on your Apple Watch. While you’re exercising, heart rate and workout times are shown on the screen. When Apple Fitness+ launches, sometime before the end of the year, it will cost $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, and you’ll be able to try it free for a month.

If you’ve found yourself subscribing to multiple Apple services and paying for additional iCloud storage, you may be able to save money with the new Apple One bundles:

  • Apple One Individual: For $14.95 per month, you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage, a savings of $6.01 per month.
  • Apple One Family: For $19.95 per month for up to six family members, you get Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200 GB of iCloud storage, a savings of $8.01 per month.
  • Apple One Premier: For $29.95 per month, you get everything: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+, and 2 TB of iCloud storage, all of which can be shared among six family members. That adds up to a savings of $24.95 per month.

Of course, these bundles are worthwhile only if you’re interested in all the included services, but for those who are already paying for a collection of Apple services, they provide a nice discount.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Looking for a new Apple Watch or iPad? The new Apple Watch Series 6 tracks blood oxygen saturation, and the Apple Watch SE cuts the price by 30%. The new iPad Air has great performance without the iPad Pro price, and the new iPad remains cheap at $329.

Apple Significantly Enhances the 27-inch iMac

Apple’s workhorse desktop Mac, the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display, hasn’t seen an update since March 2019—nearly a year and a half ago. Happily, the company has finally released a new version of the popular iMac, outfitting it with 10th-generation Intel processors, increasing its RAM and storage capacities, and improving its audio and video capabilities. Prices haven’t changed, with the low-end model starting at $1799, the mid-range model at $1999, and the high-end configuration at $2299.

Separately, although Apple didn’t update either the 21.5-inch iMac or the iMac Pro, it tweaked both of their configurations. The company finally stopped selling the small, inexpensive 21.5-inch iMac with a performance-robbing hard drive. It now comes with SSDs standard across the line, with a 1 TB Fusion Drive as an alternative. For the iMac Pro, Apple dropped the 8-core Intel Xeon W processor configuration, making the base model a 10-core processor configuration.

There are no industrial design changes this time around, unsurprisingly, but the rest of the enhancements will be extremely welcome to anyone who has been holding out for a new iMac.

Faster Processors

For those who are concerned about performance but don’t want to spend thousands more on an iMac Pro or Mac Pro, Apple increased the 27-inch iMac’s specs in noteworthy ways. You have choices of four of the latest 10th-generation Intel Core processors: a 3.1 GHz 6-core i5, a 3.3 GHz 6-core i5, a 3.8 GHz 8-core i7, and a 3.6 GHz 10-core i9. Performance and cost both rise through that list.

Higher Performance Graphics Chips

Apple also moved to the next-generation AMD Radeon Pro graphics chips, with the Radeon Pro 5300 with 4 GB of memory in the low-end and mid-range models. The high-end model starts with a Radeon Pro 5500 XT with 8 GB of memory, and you can upgrade to a Radeon Pro 5700 with 8 GB for $300 or a Radeon Pro 5700 XT with 16 GB for $500. The more expensive options would be useful for graphics-intensive workflows, complex video editing, or developing 3D content.

Higher RAM Ceiling

All configurations of the 27-inch iMac start with 8 GB, but you can expand that to 16 GB ($200), 32 GB ($600), 64 GB ($1000) or, for the first time in the iMac line, 128 GB ($2600). Unlike on most other Macs, RAM is user-accessible through a panel on the back, so you’d be smart to buy RAM separately, where it will be far cheaper—perhaps as much as two-thirds less.

Increased SSD Storage

Storage is locked at 256 GB for the low-end model, whereas the mid-range model starts at 512 GB and lets you upgrade to 1 TB ($200) or 2 TB ($600). The high-end model also starts at 512 GB, offering the same 1 TB and 2 TB upgrades and adding 4 TB ($1200) and 8 TB ($2400) options. The Fusion Drive is no longer an option for the 27-inch iMac.

Stronger Security and Processing with the T2 Security Chip

New to the 27-inch iMac is Apple’s T2 security chip. Along with encrypting all data on the SSD and ensuring that macOS hasn’t been tampered with at boot, the T2 chip includes custom processors that provide computational improvements for both audio and video. On the downside, the T2 chip’s added security makes certain kinds of troubleshooting and hardware repair difficult or impossible, so it’s extra important to have reliable backups.

Improved Glare and Ambient Light Handling

For those who have problems with screen glare, the 27-inch iMac now offers a $500 option for “nano-texture glass,” which Apple says provides “better viewing under various lighting conditions, such as a bright room or indirect sunlight.” Previously, nano-texture glass was available only for Apple’s Pro Display XDR screen. The iMac’s Retina display also now supports True Tone, enabling it to adjust its color temperature automatically for ambient light conditions.

Better Video and Audio for Videoconferencing

Those who spend their days on video calls will appreciate the new 1080p FaceTime HD camera, a notable improvement on the previous 720p camera. Apple also says the 27-inch iMac now features higher-fidelity speakers and a studio-quality three-mic array for better audio output and input.

Faster Networking

Finally, if you need the ultimate networking performance, a $100 option gets you 10 Gigabit Ethernet.

Overall, if you need a powerful desktop Mac with a gorgeous display, you can’t go wrong with the new 27-inch iMac. It’s significantly cheaper than the iMac Pro and more powerful than both the Mac mini and the 21.5-inch iMac. Just remember that some of the options are available only if you start with the high-end configuration.

(Featured image by Apple)


Social Media: Looking for a powerful desktop Mac? At long last, Apple has updated the 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display, outfitting it with 10th-generation Intel processors, increasing its RAM and storage capacities, and improving audio and video quality.