Not that there’s a shortage of black-and-gray computer accessories, but if you happen to like Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Trackpad, and Mouse, and you like things in black, and you don’t mind paying a $20 premium just for the color, you should hop to Apple’s site and grab these while they last because Apple has discontinued them.
If you were hoping for Apple to sell you a $350 keychain, I have good news!
7 min read
It’s that time again—Apple has announced products, and now we will talk about the products that were announced!!!
I did not watch today’s event live, because I had other things going on: my newly vaccinated in-laws are visiting, I had to pick up lunch carryout, the dog needed walking, and then I had a meeting. I kept one eye on The Verge‘s liveblog, and have spent a chunk of the afternoon catching up on everything, so I may have missed some stuff and, if so, will update this post with additions or corrections as needed.
Finally. Apple’s Tile-like location tracking dinguses have been rumored for years, and now they’re here. I like that they’re relatively inexpensive ($30, or $99 for four), and I like that you can get them personalized. I’m less wild about how keychain or lanyard attachments cost extra — on one hand, it means you can choose how they attach to your stuff, but on the other, it’s more money on top of the cost of the tracker. (At least the battery is replaceable!)
Another way of looking at AirTags’ pricing and pitch: Apple will bring the “play a sound or look at a map to find that thing” feature from your iPhone to any object you can attach a small round puck to, for as little as $30, which seems like a bargain after the hundreds or more you’re already paying for a phone.
Tile’s trackers start at $25, and while they do have a lanyard loop, they are bigger, less personalizable, and more utilitarian-looking than AirTags. Not to mention, they aren’t nearly as well integrated into Apple’s ecosystem.
Before Covid, when I left the house regularly and there was a non-zero chance I might leave my keys at the office, I used to keep a Tile Pro on my key ring. It worked okay, but the Tile app had a bad habit of alerting me that I’d left behind my keys anytime I walked more than a block from my house without them. I told it that home was a normal place for them to be… but then it started to think that the keys were a few doors from my house because that was where my phone lost the Bluetooth signal.
If nothing else, I expect Apple to do quite a bit better at that, for only a bit more money, and an AirTag will look like a nice, engraved steel keychain to boot.
Speaking of nice steel keychains, check this out hiding at the bottom of the pricing page for the very affordable and accessible AirTags:
Confession time: I actually own an Hermès strap for my Apple Watch. It was over $300, and it’s easily the best watch band I own — the leather is supple, and unlike some other, far cheaper leather goods I own, it actually has gotten more supple and better looking with time and wear.
That’s to say, I’m willing to grant that a Hermès leather-encased AirTag with an exclusive Hermès engraving is something someone would pay $350 for. I’m not quite there — I think these look pretty hot, but it took four or five years for me to work up to wanting a luxury Apple Watch strap, and AirTags are -1 week old.
I did just pre-order Nomad’s AirTags glasses strap, because as ridiculous as I may look having a glasses strap (at all, let alone one with a tracker on it), I feel more ridiculous when I lose expensive sunglasses (again).
The next iPad Pro
I gotta hand it to Apple: they’ve now stuck with the same form factor and accessories for the iPad Pro for not one, not two, but three years. (Well, almost.) This is the fourth iPad model that works with the Pencil 2, and the third that will work with the Magic Keyboard. If you (like me) have spent $400 or more on iPad Air/Pro accessories, but worry that someday Apple’s designers will get bored and make you buy new stuff that’s only a millimeter larger or smaller, like they do with iPhone cases every year, well, we dodged that bullet for another year.
Apple’s big headline for these iPads is that they are powered by the same M1 processors as new Macs, and in fact support the same Thunderbolt 4/USB4 connectivity. They are, in essence, tablet-shaped Macs that run iPadOS—or are the new Macs laptop-shaped iPads that run macOS?!
It is unclear what Apple thinks we’ll do with all this power. They say the new iPads have “console-quality graphics”, but they’ve been saying that for years. It’s been true for years! But nobody is using an iPad as a PS5-replacement, even if it’d be fine at it. Maybe there’s something waiting in the wings, maybe Apple (as ever) is hoping the ecosystem will make fetch happen with these devices if the specs get good enough.
Currently, I’m using an 11″ iPad Pro from 2018. I’m a little bit interested in these new models, especially the extra-bright XDR screen on the new 12.9″ Pro. But I’m also quite happy with my 11″ — it’s plenty fast enough for me, and while I am certain this new iPad can do more than my current one, I have no idea if I need more. (Also, on the topic of those accessories I’d rather not buy again: I have a $299 sunk cost, in the form of the 11″ Magic Keyboard, incentivizing me to stay on the 11″ iPad.)
But you know, that’s probably fine. The iPad is what it is, and Apple seems to be OK with that.
The new M1 iMac
The other day I was thinking about what Macs, if any, Apple might announce now, with the Apple Silicon platform still very new, amid a massive global chip shortage.
And that got me thinking about the iMac, which started out as Apple’s flagship computer for families and everyday users, but has ended up their de facto pro model for most use cases, owing to the Intel-based ones having very robust specs (not to mention the only 27″ 5K Retina displays in the industry). Before the last big chip transition, anyone with any sort of demanding use case needed a Power Mac G5, and the rest of us could get by with an iMac. In the Intel era, eventually Mac Pros became absurdly high-end supercars, while iMacs gradually became powerful enough to do all but the most demanding work. The short-lived iMac Pro, which Apple apparently made as a stopgap to tide those highest-end users over until the current, absurdly powerful and expensive, Mac Pros were ready, was one of the best Macs Apple ever shipped.
Now, with these new M1 iMacs, we have a return to the original concept for the product: a simple, beautiful, impeccably designed computer for everyday use. That idea extends even to the display: it only comes in one size, around 24″, which is not big enough for the kinds of pro workflows iMacs had found themselves in, but perfectly fine for home use.
Like the other M1 Macs, the new iMac will probably be absurdly fast, but with something of a performance ceiling especially when asked to do sustained high-CPU work. They seem like great computers, which if anything only whets one’s appetite more for what kinds of true pro-level ARM Macs are coming later this year.
One of the most exciting, then disappointing, announcements today was the new Magic Keyboard that comes with these iMacs. The new keyboards have a feature I’ve wanted for a long-ass time: Touch ID. In theory, there’s no reason why Apple couldn’t put a Touch ID sensor on their keyboards and use it to allow users to unlock their Macs or pay for things while their laptop lids are closed. Microsoft sells a $130 keyboard with a built-in fingerprint sensor that works with any PC that supports fingerprint-based biometrics. I have one; it’s great. I want something like that for my Macs.
Sadly, these new keyboards are available only with the new iMacs, and as far as I can tell, only support Touch ID when paired with the iMac. (I guess if your color-matched keyboard, mouse, or trackpad breaks, AppleCare has to send you a new one. Likewise, if you choose a mouse over a trackpad and then change your mind, you’re stuck with a non-matchy trackpad later on.)
On the marketing page for the new iMacs, I find it interesting how much emphasis Apple puts on these being the 24-inch iMacs — both by way of comparison to the old 21.5″ models, and in contrast to the 27″ ones. It makes me think that Apple isn’t done with the iMac this year, but that they’re planning for a bigger-screened iMac to have more pro-level specs, in line with what higher-end users have come to expect from the bigger iMacs.
Apple Card now supports family accounts — not only shared cards between spouses, which had been a common request, but the ability to share a Card account with kids, teens, or anyone else in a Family Sharing group. This is a really interesting move that is Apple’s first truly differentiated feature in the world of money and payments. Banks like Chase offer kid accounts (either traditional or prepaid) that are somewhat integrated with parents’ banking, but nowhere near this sophisticated, and without the ability for the less credit-experienced users to rely on their parents’ credit to help bootstrap their own, while also giving parents tools to monitor and control kids’ spending on the account.
iPhones now come in purple. I mean, it’s a small announcement, but I think it’s the first non-PRODUCT(RED) new color announcement for the iPhone since the white iPhone 4 first dropped a decade ago. (There are purple cases too, if you already have an iPhone 12.)
Oh, and iOS 14.5 is coming sometime next week. When? Apple didn’t announce a date for the new update, but they did say that AirTags will ship on April 30 (next Friday), and that they require 14.5, so…
In addition to enabling AirTags, the new OS update will let you unlock your phone with a paired Apple Watch if you’re wearing a mask — I’ve been beta testing this feature for over a month and it’s a godsend — and will also include a revamped Podcasts app with support for paid podcast subscriptions, which, OK whatever.
What wasn’t announced? No new AirPods yet. No less expensive standalone Mac display. No AR goggles, ambient smart display, or FaceTime-on-the-TV gadget. No car, obviously.
Seriously, this may be the kind of thing that only I care about—as far as I know, real photographers with real problems to solve don't bother trying to understand or rehabilitate iPhoto. The main benefit to these two apps sharing a data format is the ability to use Aperture's somewhat more powerful editing and organization tools to import photos, but still retain the freedom to use iPhoto's simpler interface to browse and share them.
Neither app is as good for developing RAW photos as Lightroom, but at least now I can take advantage of Aperture's more flexible importing tools and catalog format to make iPhoto behave the way more like I've always wanted it to.
Michael Lopp, explaining why the Exposé and Spaces features of Mac OS X never really caught on, and why Apple's completely re-imagined them in Lion:
How would you react if, whenever you were wondering where something was on your desktop, I’d show up, pull every single thing off it and show it to you in a manner completely different from how you organized it?
You’d yell, “Don’t touch my stuff!” because in an instant you’d realize how much organization was hidden inside your disorganization.
Whoa. Apple has announced they've revised some of the most controversial provisions of the App Store developer agreement—including section 3.3.1, which banned apps created using third-party tools like Flash. Executing code on the device still is not allowed, but so long as all apps submitted are native iOS code that meets Apple's review guidelines, they'll be cleared for sale.
Oh, and about those App Store review guidelines: after two frustrating years, Apple is going to release them. Hopefully, this means no more spending time and money developing an app that will never ship.
Turns out almost everything you need to know about the differences between these companies can be found out by just looking at how differently they show off their flagship products on the Web. Apple's iMac site is clean, focused, and packed with ad-formational detail. The other guys' sites are, well, less so.
Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our developers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen. We want to continually enhance the platform so developers can create even more amazing, powerful, fun and useful applications. Everyone wins – we sell more devices because we have the best apps, developers reach a wider and wider audience and customer base, and users are continually delighted by the best and broadest selection of apps on any platform.
This works just as well as an explanation of Apple's overall strategy—their products are platforms for other people's content (e.g. music, movies, apps, books), and if you make the best platforms you'll attract the best content, which'll attract customers and make everyone money.
First thing I thought when I saw this: "huh, so for all that trouble Gizmodo only beat the iPhone 4G announcement by what, 7 weeks?" (It's expected Steve Jobs will announce the next iPhone at WWDC, as he's done the last two years in a row.)
Tickets are $1,599, and will sell out. Also worth noting: this year Apple Design Awards will be given out for iPhone and iPad apps, but not for Mac apps.
Last night I had the following brief Twitter exchange with a fellow about the whole Gizmodo-stolen iPhone affair:
ddemaree: @esoneill @chartier Property != information. If the seller had sold them photos of the stolen iPhone, they might've been in the clear.
esoneill: @ddemaree @chartier But, arguably, all property contains information of some kind. The Watergate tapes were property as well.
ddemaree: @esoneill – True, but 1) the Watergate tapes were surrendered, not stolen and 2) Presidential records aren't exactly private property.
esoneill: @ddemaree Agreed, but imagine if the physical tapes themselves were stolen. Does that make Watergate the journalistic equivalent of this?
Yeah, what if?
All of you listen to me very carefully: There are no meaningful similarities between Gizmodo's alleged involvement in the iPhone theft and Watergate, and it worries me that some of you seem to think that there is.
Which is why, if you'll indulge me, we're going back to school for the next however-long-it-takes-you-to-read-this.
To start, I think Edmund here is confusing the Watergate tapes—i.e., the ones Nixon secretly recorded in the White House—with the Pentagon Papers, the latter of which were leaked to a New York Times reporter by a Defense Department analyst named Daniel Ellsberg. The Papers' contents were a classified DoD study, detailing the history U.S. involvement in Vietnam up to and during the Vietnam War (which at that time was still going on), which showed the government had misled the public about the war on numerous occasions.
Nixon's Watergate tapes are arguably less significant as historical documents, but are far more infamous, maybe because Nixon makes a far more compelling villain than the entire U.S. military establishment. Regardless, they're a poor point of comparison for the stolen iPhone since (unlike the Pentagon Papers) the Watergate tapes were not leaked directly to the press. The press got them, sure, but only after they'd been subpoenaed by the Justice Department and surrendered by the Nixon White House after a weeks-long constitutional crisis.
These days Ellsberg is seen as a hero for blowing the whistle on a war most people see as, at best, a military failure, but at the time things weren't so clear cut, and the Pentagon and White House made a serious effort to prosecute him for treason. (As in full-blown, punishable-by-death treason.)
It's also not true that the New York Times simply published Ellsberg's (according to the Pentagon) stolen files without troubles of their own. Before publishing the Pentagon Papers the Times did talk to their lawyers, who advised them against publishing the material. After the Papers were published the Justice Department sought and got an injunction against the paper preventing them from publishing any more classified material, which the Times appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and ultimately got declared as unconstitutional prior restraint.
All that is to say: the Pentagon Papers leak may be the most obviously right example of a news outfit publishing something they shouldn't have had access to in American history, and even then it wasn't obvious they'd get away with it. And, unlike the way Gizmodo obtained their secret iPhone prototype, the Times didn't solicit the documents or pay for them.
So, while we're on the subject, let's talk about another important distinction that's been glossed over in the discussion of iPhonegate: the difference between intellectual property and real property.
Property laws are some of the oldest, and simplest, laws we have here in the U.S. On a basic level they're not much more complicated than that one of the commandments about not stealing. Even though the law refers to private information (like trade secrets) as "intellectual property," there is a major distinction drawn between information crimes and crimes such as destruction of property or theft.
California state law defines theft in terms of misappropriation: if you take possession of an object that's not yours for any reason other than trying your damnedest to give it back to its owner, you've stolen it. If you sell it to a third party, not only have you stolen it, but the people you sold it to are (at the very least) accessories to theft. And if those people, having knowingly bought stolen property, then take apart and effectively destroy the object before posting photos and video of it to their blog, they definitely are guilty of something.
(I think that last point is very important, and I'm surprised it hasn't been talked about more. Gizmodo didn't simply take possession of the prototype iPhone—they dismantled it, and took pictures of themselves dismantling it. That's not journalism, that's destruction of property.)
I'm not a lawyer, which is why it's good for armchair legal scholars like me that Gizmodo seems to have gone out of their way to turn this into an open-and-shut property crime case, masquerading as a battle over whether bloggers are journalists. Engadget wisely limited their coverage to just photos, which is why (as far as we know) they're not a target of this investigation. It's possible Gizmodo may be able to claim protection under the shield law, but if so that's a legal hack, not proof that they're innocent.
The facts of this case lend themselves to extreme examples, and it's annoying and frustrating to not only see people compare this affair to one of the saddest recent chapters in American history, but to do so incorrectly.
Laws like California's shield law are meant to ensure a news organization's right to blow the whistle on public or private misdeeds, but the intent of the law presumes that the information being published is in the public interest. In other words, it's designed around the Pentagon Papers, or the Watergate tapes, or a secret memo about MegaAgroCorp infecting cabbages with baby-killing toxins. It's for things people need to know.
The public doesn't have a right to know anything it wants just because it wants to. Certainly not to see the insides of Apple's next iPhone a few weeks early.
So, they don't have any known crashing bugs, and until now haven't seen much need to actually write a Mac-optimized version of Flash Player. Except now they're rewriting Flash's graphics engine, going from a direct port of the Windows version to new Mac-optimized code that makes use of Apple's Core Animation framework.
While a lot of the attention has focused so far on iPhone/iPad, this is the part really worth watching: Adobe knows Flash is a performance hog on Macs, and Macs are now finally a big enough (consumer) deal for them to address it.