Apple held its virtual “Spring Loaded” event Tuesday (April 20) and delivered on what industry professionals were expecting, namely a new screen for the iPad Pro, a more feature-rich Apple TV, a refresh for the iMac and a few other goodies. One of the big unknowns heading into the event was whether or not the company would finally introduce its “AirTags,” tiny Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices that would work over the company’s Find My App networks, meant to compete with the likes of Tile in terms of providing lost-item location services. The company delivered those as well.
But much of the day’s presentation, which was staged at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, focused on new tech — particularly that built around Apple’s proprietary M1 chip — and one of the early announcements that would be of particular interest to readers of PYMNTS had to do with the company’s credit product Apple Card.
First introduced in 2019, the Apple Card has a little over 2 percent of the overall credit card sector, which translates into about 3.1 million users, according to Forbes. Today, CEO Tim Cook announced Apple Card Family, which allows users to share the same credit card with members of the family. The goal seems to be twofold. First, Cook said that Apple wanted to address an imbalance in the credit card world in which an authorized user on a primary user’s account doesn’t build their own credit.
“One of the things that became apparent to us in the beginning was a lack of fairness in the way the industry calculated credit scores,” he said. “When there were two holders of credit cards, one got the benefit of building a good credit history, and the other did not. We will reinvent the way this works soon. But today, we’re happy to announce that Apple cards will allow spouses and partners to share and merge their credit line, have equal rights under the account, and build credit equally. This solution helps deliver financial equity. And it’s a game changer.”
Second, the new Apple Card Family will enable users to add anyone aged 13 or older to use a linked card with spending limits applied if the main account holder desires.
AirTags And Podcasts
Apple also said it is introducing a new skin for its podcast app that is designed to make finding and listening to programs easier, such as grouping content according to channels. The company will also offer podcast subscriptions, which will allow podcast creators to charge listeners for access to their programming, and could have a major impact on the industry where much of the content is currently free.
The newest ground-up product announced today was the AirTag, a round tracker that can be used with Apple’s Find My app to locate lost items using an iPhone. The device debuted with an elaborate commercial featuring a man getting lost inside his couch while searching for his keys.
The tags will sell for $29 each or $99 for a set of four and can be customized with engraving or a selection of 31 emoji. In typical Apple style, while users can drop the discs into items like a backpack or piece of luggage, they will need an extra accessory to hang them from something like your car keys. The cost of those accessories wasn’t revealed, although the company did announce that it would be selling custom-designed leather holders from French fashion house Hermès. A bag charm from the partnership runs $299; a key ring is $349; and a luggage tag will set consumers back $449.
The Find My app will use the iPhone camera, accelerometer and proximity sensor to provide a range of haptic, visual and audio cues to guide users to their missing device. While that sets it apart from tracker maker Tile’s keychain-ready devices, it will be interesting to see if the slightly higher price tag (four Trackers run $69.99 as part of a package deal) and need to remain in Apple’s ecosystem will pay off for the tech giant.
The real meat of Tuesday’s announcement was mostly driven by the use of Apple’s M1 chip in a range of devices — most notably, the iMac. Thanks to the thin, efficient, and relatively cool piece of silicone, which was introduced by Apple last November, the iMac has gotten exceptionally thin and looks very slick with a choice of seven different body colors. Much of the focus on the iMac announcement had to do with the desktop computer’s much improved camera, mic and speaker, as Apple seemed to be pitching it as a communication center, no doubt in response to the increased digital communications due to the pandemic. The new iMacs will be priced at $1,299 for those with a 7-core GPU and $1,499 for those with an 8-core GPU. The upgraded model adds three color choices (for a total of seven) as well as two additional USB 3 ports and ethernet capability.
The M1 chip will also find a home in the company’s refresh of the iPad Pro, which is set to get a range of significant upgrades best summarized by Apple senior VP Greg Joswiak.
“The revolutionary M1 chip has been a breakthrough for the Mac, and we’re incredibly excited to bring it to iPad Pro,” he said. “With M1’s huge jump in performance, a groundbreaking extreme dynamic range experience on the 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display, up to 2TB of high-speed storage, Thunderbolt expansion, a four-speaker audio system, pro cameras with LiDAR Scanner, blazing-fast 5G connectivity, an amazing video-calling experience with Center Stage — combined with the advanced features of iPadOS and a powerful pro app ecosystem all in a device users can hold in one hand — there’s nothing else like iPad Pro.”
The new iPad Pro screen was one of the more expected announcements and marks a shift to a mini-LED display that will replace the tablet’s current Liquid Retina-fueled LCD screen. Mini-LED technology tends to be a little less contrast-enabled than OLEDs, but they can get brighter, discourage burning images into the screen, and are lighter on batteries, so the upgrade certainly makes sense for a portable device.
In a somewhat less dazzling announcement, Apple said it is introducing a new skin for its podcast app that is designed to make finding and listening to programs easier, such as grouping content according to channels. The company will also offer podcast subscriptions, which will allow podcast creators to charge listeners for access to their programming, and could have a major impact on the industry where much of the content is currently free.
A new purple color for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini was also announced — to the tune of “The Candy Man” in a slick commercial-like video.
Apple also announced the next-generation Apple TV with a new, more intuitive Siri remote. Inside the new streaming box lies another piece of Apple silicon, the A12 chip, which speeds up graphics performance to dramatically enhance picture quality. A fun piece of accompanying tech was also announced involving the use of an iPhone to analyze the TV picture using its light sensor and then fine-tuning the picture the Apple TV delivers to make the color as accurate as possible.
Lastly, Apple’s presentation was sprinkled with nods to the company’s efforts to become more eco-friendly. In fact, Cook started the day off by reiterating the company’s pledge to be completely carbon neutral across the board in 2030, and reminding viewers that the company is already carbon neutral for all global corporate operations with all offices, stores and data centers running on 100 percent renewable energy.
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