We really thought the 2021 quota of Apple Events (and kidney jokes) were over, but some held out hope for the announcement of new MacBooks – and they were right. Shortly after the ‘California Streaming’ virtual keynote (reviews coming soon on the new iPhone 13 models, Watch Series 7 and 9th Gen iPad), the California tech giant surprised us with another keynote titled ‘Unleashed’.
(Sign up to our Technology newsletter, Today’s Cache, for insights on emerging themes at the intersection of technology, business and policy. Click here to subscribe for free .)
In less than an hour, Tim Cook and his team announced major upgrades to the classically loved MacBook Pro with more vivid displays and AirPods with Spatial Audio capabilities and a more robust battery, among other things.
Our breakdown of the goings-on should bring you up to speed.
Apple Music’s new Voice Plan
Apple is really making sure Music remains a strong competitor in the music streaming race, and this year many an overhaul has been made to its audio and UX experience.
Also Read | All you need to know about Apple’s Lossless Audio and Spatial Audio technologies
The introduction of a new subscription tier for Apple Music called Voice Plan. Once subscribed to the new plan (that comes with a one-week free trial), users will be able to request music be played across all of their Siri-enabled devices, including HomePod mini, AirPods, iPhone, or any other Apple device, and when using CarPlay. Users can also look forward to adding hundreds of new mood and activity playlists created by Apple Music’s editorial team that are fully optimised just for voice.
The price for this new tier, however, may not please everyone given this could be a tool for specially-abled users who may find use in this feature in the accessibility space.
The Apple Music Voice Plan will be available later this fall in 17 countries and regions, including India where it will be available for ₹49 per month.
HomePod mini in fresh colours
There is really nothing much to say here. The 3.3-inch-tall HomePod mini has proven to be a pretty successful smart speaker for Apple; buy two of them and you can use them as an impressive home theatre system at home.
Also Read | Apple HomePod review: An amalgam of mesmeric bass and progressive design
The only new update there is that, as well as the space grey and white, they now come in three additional colours – yellow, orange and blue – right down the woven power cable, the tinted touch surface, mesh fabric and volume icons.
With the new colours available in November, all variants of the HomePod mini is priced at ₹9900.
AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple Music’s Lossless Audio and the introduction of Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos enhanced a cinematic texture to listening sessions; so it was only natural that the AirPods got an upgrade, but these are not as pricey as the AirPods Pro.
The new AirPods (3rd Generation) leverage the H1 chip with an Apple-designed acoustic system, as well as computational audio with Adaptive EQ. They are sweat- and water-resistant and feature a force sensor for intuitive control of music and phone calls.
Probably the more exciting spec of the new AirPods is the extended battery life of up to six hours of listening time and up to 30 hours of total listening time with the charging case. A much-needed update, given the earbuds and headphones from this year, are pretty robust in this aspect.
AirPods (3rd Generation) will be available for ₹18,500 and are available to order from Apple’s official online store starting October 18, with availability in stores beginning October 26.
M1 Pro and M1 Max silicon
What we expected: new Mac silicon chipsets probably called MX or M2. What we got: new Mac silicon chipsets called M1 Pro and M1 Max.
Rather than introducing a whole new chipset, Apple has chosen to scale up its existing M1 that was announced at the 2020 Worldwide Developer Conference. While M1 Pro aims to deliver better efficiency with improved GPU and CPU performance, M1 Max offers the same – but on steroids.
Also Read | What went into Apple’s M1 chip?
The 5-nanometer process technology sees the M1 Pro packing in 33.7 billion transistors and a new 10-core CPU, including eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, is up to 70% faster than M1, which should see some impressive pro CPU performance.
Compared with the latest 8-core PC laptop chip, M1 Pro delivers up to 1.7 times more CPU performance at the same power level and achieves the PC chip’s peak performance using up to 70% less power.
The M1 Max is Apple’s largest silicon so far with 57 billion transistors, a 10-core CPU as M1 Pro and adds a massive 32-core GPU for up to four times faster graphics performance than M1.
But it still strives for efficiency; the GPU delivers performance comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop while consuming up to 40% less power, and performance similar to that of the highest-end GPU in the largest PC laptops while using up to 100 watts less power.
Increased memory bandwidth and capacity are key changes to help the M1 Pro and M1 Max along. M1 Pro offers up to 200 gigabytes per second of memory bandwidth with support for up to 32 gigabytes of unified memory. M1 Max delivers up to 400 gigabytes per second of memory bandwidth — according to Apple, that is two times that of M1 Pro and nearly six times that of M1 — and supports up to 64 gigabytes of unified memory.
MacBook Pro with M1 Pro and M1 Max silicon chipsets
Here it is, what everyone has been waiting for: the new MacBook Pro.
Available in 14- and 16-inch models, MacBook Pro – that come macOS Monterey-ready – also features a Liquid Retina XDR display, a wide range of ports for advanced connectivity, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, and a surround-sound audio system.
Its aluminium enclosure optimises internal space for more performance and features, precisely machined around an advanced thermal system that can move 50% more air than the previous generation, even at lower fan speeds. The thermal design enables MacBook Pro to deliver phenomenal sustained performance while staying cool and quiet.
One of the most remarkable visible changes is the Magic Keyboard set in a double-anodised black well highlighting the backlit glyphs on the keys and featuring a full-height function row. This means no more Magic Touch Bar, which has consumers split.
Then there’s the Liquid Retina XDR display delivering up to 1,000 nits of sustained, full-screen brightness, an incredible 1,600 nits of peak brightness, and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. ProMotion technology also comes to the Mac on this new display, featuring an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz. ProMotion automatically varies the refresh rate to match the motion of a user’s on-screen content to help preserve battery life and makes tasks more fluid and even more responsive.
Speaking of the display, let’s talk notch. The notch in the MacBook Pro display has also divided a lot of consumers. Apple has shrunk the bezels around the display, with the camera hanging slightly lower, which could be a visual annoyance for when consumers go on Full Screen Mode for something. It has also upped the pixel counts on both displays, with the screens also supporting 120Hz refresh rates for smoother scrolling. The 16-inch model offers an expansive 16.2-inch display6 with 7.7 million pixels, the most ever on a Mac notebook. And the 14-inch model gives users more screen real estate than before, with a 14.2-inch active area7 and a total of 5.9 million pixels.
With the in-notch camera, it was about time Apple actually announced major improvements to its camera. For far too long, MacBook users shelled out extra cash for external webcams and I guess Apple finally paid attention, introducing a 1080-pixel FaceTime HD camera that doubles resolution and low-light performance… but this is a wait-and-see game.
The new 14-inch MacBook Pro model starts at ₹1,94,900 while the 16-inch MacBook Pro model starts at ₹2,39,900. Prices also vary with the chosen silicon chipset.